When you get into stressful situations, you probably start to get a little irritated. Maybe you get angry. You might even snap! I haven’t always handled stress well. Sometimes I’ve been pretty bad at it.

Dealing with failure and conflict is part of being human.

In my baseball career, there was a lot of success. And there was a lot of failure! In fact, I succeeded so much at the end of my career because my early failures were so bad. Those failures taught me how to handle stress a little bit better.

Even when I got better at it, stress still presented a challenge. One season, when I was wth the Giants, I lost my temper during a game in Toronto. When I came out of the game I kicked some stuff, I punched a water cooler, and I kicked some chairs in the clubhouse. In other words, I did not handle it well at all.

It was humbling! I had to talk to some of my teammates, and I had to sit down with my manager. I had to tell them I was sorry, and that I knew I should have handled it better. We talked it out after the fact, and everything worked out in the end. But it wasn’t easy.

To humble yourself before athletes as an athlete, one who tries to carry himself with confidence (but not cockiness), is a real challenge. It’s a challenge in any situation to humble yourself and say, “I was wrong. That’s the truth, and I’m sorry.” A lot of guys can’t do that. But as Christian men, Godly men, that’s what we have to do.

You have to know that when you make a mistake, your first question should be, “How should I be like Jesus in this scenario? How can I share in the image of God?” You do it by apologizing, and asking for forgiveness from the people you affected.

I’ve learned to do that. I’ve learned to do it well! I did it through awareness. I maintain awareness of my true self as an image-bearer of God. And yet I remember that, in my flesh as a human being, I can fail. You have to accept that failure is part of being human.

There is strength in that. Part of our strength as Christian men and women is recognizing that we are human. We are going to make mistakes, and we have to apologize for them.

And that’s the easy part, because you also have to forgive yourself. That’s a huge challenge. To forgive ourselves, we have to overcome fear. Yes, fear is the obstacle!

The fear goes something like this: “If I forgive myself for something I did, and then I let it go, then I’ll forget how bad it was and I’ll do it again.”

Sound familiar? We have a hard time forgiving ourselves. We think we need to live in the guilt. We think that as long as we live in the guilt, we won’t repeat our mistakes. It’s our way of saying, “As long as I can feel the sting, I won’t make that mistake again.”

Trust me, this is the hard way to do things. And it’s not what God wants.

Once you’ve been forgiven, it’s time to move on. You don’t need to live in the memory. You don’t need the sting to keep yourself on track. You’ve humbled yourself and asked for forgiveness. You’ve handled your mistakes directly and with humility. You’ve learned. You’ve become a better person. That’s growth. You can let it go!

The people around you forget about it, and that’s your affirmation. That’s Jesus, reflecting back to you!

So don’t hold onto that sting. Trust in that forgiveness.

You have no condemnation now, because of what Jesus did on the cross. You’ve been forgiven by the King of Kings! And if He can forgive you, then it’s okay. Forgive yourself.

See you Tuesday.

When the Pastor Sins

I’ve been writing lately on the identity of the Christian. In God’s eyes, you are holy and righteous. Will there be times when you are weak? Yes, of course! Your flesh is your flesh. Your flesh is on your person. You can’t get away from it.

The church needs to quit trying to tell people that they can get away from the weaknesses of the flesh. We can’t do it! You know what? Neither can the pastor. That guy up there on the podium can’t avoid the flesh. He tells his congregation to quit doing something, but he has issues too. He might even have more issues, because he’s on a stage.

Forgive each otherAnd a lot of times, he has no accountability. No one’s checking on him. He’s the pastor! So when his sin is exposed, everybody is so shocked. “Oh no! Our pastor had an affair! How could he do that to his church?”

Why is everyone so shocked when this happens? I think it’s because the pastor has spent years teaching his congregation to avoid the sins of the flesh. He has made them think that he avoids sin all the time.

But he’s a man! He is a flesh-and-blood man! He’s a man that grew attracted to someone other than his spouse. And he probably didn’t do things with accountability. He was probably meeting with women in his office for counseling, and one of them was drawn to him. Maybe he was feeling disconnected from his wife and his marriage. Everyone goes through that. Then he made the kind of decision that a man who has flesh makes.

You need to decide if you want to keep him as your pastor, but no matter what you decide, you need to love on him.

Is he going to be held to a higher standard because he’s a teacher? James says yes! But you are not going to be the one to judge him. God is the one who will say, “Dude. I put you in this pastoral role for a reason.” God gave the pastor influence, and that pastor was supposed to protect it. Instead, it has been tainted. God gives as he chooses, so He says, “I gave you that influence, and you didn’t do what you needed to do. Now you’re going to lose it.” That’s pain! That’s frustration.

Judgment belongs to God, not us. It would be better for a congregation to understand grace. They could say, “We need to slow down and look at this. We need to hear from the leadership board. What kinds of checks and balances did he have when he was meeting with people? Were there policies and guidelines in place, e.g. always meet in an open place, or make sure there’s always someone there with you? If not, then as a congregation you want to put those in place.

Don’t just sit there and be shocked. Don’t condemn the guy. I know you feel like he’s a man of the cloth and he shouldn’t do things like that. But he’s a man! That’s it.

More on this Monday.

Intimacy and Judgment with Children

Last time I wrote about how the the Spirit can transform your intimate relationships. I used the example of approaching your spouse with an attitude of encouragement instead of criticism. How much more can you accomplish if you take the same attitude with your children?

I want a safe environment for dialogue with my kids. I want my kids to be able to talk to me without fear.

“Hey dad, I messed up.”

“What did you do?”

“Well, I was speeding. I got a ticket.”

“Right. So what are we going to do about that? Let’s talk about it.” Continue reading

New Wine in Old Skins

No one sews a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old garment; or else the new piece pulls away from the old, and the tear is made worse. And no one puts new wine into old wineskins; or else the new wine bursts the wineskins, the wine is spilled, and the wineskins are ruined. But new wine must be put into new wineskins. Mark 2:21-22

I think Christian families are putting new wine in old wineskins. I think churches are doing it too. They’re pouring the new wine of grace into the old skins of legalism. They’re doing it because they want control. They want to control their congregations, or they want to control their wives and husbands and children, and so they use this legalistic approach.

But then they teach grace within it! Continue reading

What Do You Do When You Just Want to Punch the Guy?

Everyone’s going through a refining fire sooner or later, but you’ll be well-preserved, protected from the eternal flames. Be preservatives yourselves. Preserve the peace. Mark 9:49-50

Preserving peace should be our goal as believers, but it’s hard for me. I compete every day, and I pitch with competitive anger. I’m not joking around out there. I don’t feel bad for the hitter. And then after the game is finished, I have to switch modes. It’s very hard to do. Sometimes I can’t, and then I have to rely on God’s grace to get me through. I said last time that God always give you an out. Here’s a story about the night I turned the other cheek. Continue reading

Intimacy and Judgment, Part 2

Last time I wrote about how the hot water of the Spirit can transform your intimate relationships. I used the example of approaching your spouse with an attitude of encouragement instead of criticism. How much more can you accomplish if you take the same attitude with your children?

I want a safe environment for dialogue with my kids. I want my kids to be able to talk to me without fear.

“Hey dad, I messed up.”

“What did you do?” Continue reading

As We Forgive Those Who Sin Against Us (Part 3)

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“I forgive you.”

That is one of the most powerful things you can say.

You see it in marriages. When a husband says to his wife, “I forgive you,” or when a wife tells her husband, “You know what, I forgive you,” a huge feeling of freedom enters that marriage. If you can forgive, then you won’t feel like your husband or wife is harboring something against you. You won’t feel like they’re keeping anything from you, or pushing you away. There are no walls between you.

Forgiveness is a selfless act. I think a lot of people don’t know how to deal with the power of forgiveness because selfishness is natural. It’s hard to let go of it. I have a hard time with it. It’s hard! Continue reading