Sexual Misconduct vs. Redemptive Pre-Activity

When our kids were much younger, Bonnie and I would practice a pre-activity talk with Amy and Scott prior to entering an outing or event where they might be tempted to misbehave. In essence, we talked about what we were about to do and the consequences of poor decisions. Most of the time our children made us proud! I think the pre-activity talk made the difference as they were empowered to redeem the moment and not yield to behaving badly.

Honestly, I think church leadership needs to have more pre-activity talks. I have had too many experiences hearing about, ministering to, or mediating conflict centering around leadership misconduct - specifically sexual misconduct.

The following letter comes through Don Byers, a friend and a wonderful part of the family. Don writes, "I share this unusual blog from a fallen pastor because such repentance appears to be the exception these days, rather than the norm."

Open Letter to the Elders and to _____________ Church of ________________ in the State of _______.,

One year ago today, I spoke for the last time at _________ Church. For the first time since ________, I have gone a year and have not spoken in a church, not served in a church, not volunteered in a church, and have not been asked to...just months ago, I began attending a church again (sit in the back, head down, anonymous.)

It seems like the one year mark would be a good time and place to write this letter. I am so sorry for the pain and emotional upheaval my life and actions have caused you and the precious bride of Christ.

I'm sorry for the deceptions, the irresponsibility, and the sin of adultery that came from my life and infected others. I assume full responsibility for my actions with no excuses and no rationalizations.

As you can also attest, this has been the hardest two years of my life, with this past year especially crushing. With the help of our Lord, a dear Christian counselor, some medication, and a few close people in my life, I am seeing light at the end of a self-inflicted tunnel.

This is not the life path I would have chosen for myself or dear one wakes up and decides, "Today I will destroy my life and do harm to those around me." This path was a gradual one with many calls from God to stop, which I did not heed. HE was faithful. I was not.

The Bible says that when sin is fully formed, it yields death. So much has died in and around my life. What I cling to these days is the belief that God specializes in resurrections. He brings life to places there was once death.

_______________ Church, I loved you; and in many ways, served you well. My legacy, however, is one of failure and sin. I can't undo that.

I can only walk with Christ in authenticity--no longer hiding imperfections and failures, but living truthfully--honestly and with integrity (inside and outside matching). Will you see sin in my life? Yes. Am I striving to grow in Christ? Yes.

What I MUST do is offer this public confession, my sincere apology and my heartfelt request for your forgiveness.

With Sorrow...and yet with hope,

(signed) ________________

Pre-Activity Questions: If you had an affair, how would would you write this letter? How would you fill in the blanks?

As I read the letter, I could not help but think of an activity that Dr. James Cecy uses in his profoundly sobering conference on sexual purity, Ambassadors of Purity. This is one of the best conferences I have ever attended. Dr. Cecy does an excellent job communicating the harsh reality of sexual misconduct. He says, "If you decide to have a sexual affair, you better make sure it is the best sex you have ever had . . . because it will cost you the most."

To drive this point home, he uses a pre-activity to bring the notion of falleness to reality. He invites the attendees to ponder the devastating results of immorality. Dr. Cecy asks everyone to do the following assignment using names and stating specifics, "If you were caught in the act of sexual immorality, what would be the effect on your relationship with your Lord? Your family? Your spouse? Your church? The community at large? How might it hurt you physically, emotionally, spiritually, socially and economically?" Then he asks, "Considering all the consequences, is it really worth it?"

Thoughtful pre-activities can redeem us from the post-activity's devastating results and brokenness. Pre-activity can create the blessedness and wholeness of no-activity.

Proverbs 4:23, "Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life."

"And by faith he still speaks, even though he is dead." - Hebrews 11:4b

I am one of five, four brothers and one sister. Here's a picture of three of the brothers. Yes, I am the little guy sitting on the crossbar of my oldest brother's bike.  Jerry was thoughtful enough to provide me with a blanket to sit on. It was probably my na-na.

None-the-less, I want to talk about Marshall, the brother in the forefront. Marshall is a very important person to me. Marshall led me to my first concepts of God and in a way . . . he led me to Jesus when I was seven years old. That doesn't sound too strange until I tell that Marshall died when I was just under two years of age. He was almost five when he died. Yes, I did say he led me to Jesus when I was seven.

You see, through the years, I visited Marshall's grave many times with my bereaved mother. One time I started asking myself questions about eternity. Where was Marshall? And the bigger question for a seven year old - Where will I be when I die? Talk about coming face to face with death.

I grew up in a house of grief and I seem to understand the verse that says, "The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning, but the heart of fools is in the house of pleasure." Was I wise at such a young age? I don't know, but I am thankful for the questions I struggled with at my brother's graveside. Why? Because the redemptive value in my brother's death was the very fact that through my brother my heart was touched in such a way that made me ask the hard questions.  The answers would change my life forever. Was death the end?

Thank God my mother took me to church. One day my Sunday School teacher (Thank God for SS teachers!) told the class of boys about Jesus and eternal life. This was the information that I was looking for - talk about good news. This was the gospel! God's gospel for me! This is what Marshall was showing me. You see, he led me to this point as the destination of all those countless times I visited his grave and stared down at his grave marker with so many deep questions. Marshall, though he was dead, spoke to my heart and led me to my Savior and Lord.

Is there redemptive value in the death of a child? I have to say yes. God works with us in all situations to bring good - even in a situation like Marshall's.

Oh, my dear brother, I had to say goodbye before I even said hello! Marshall, how sweet the reunion will be!

Nouwen, Edison, and John the Baptist (JTB)

Henri J.M. Nouwen in this book, The Wounded Healer, offers insights on a life well spent even in light of brokenness. I took liberty to adapt some of his thoughts into this blog. I have to keep asking the larger faith community to image what we could do together as we not only bear one another's burdens but also the brokenness of our community.

But before I offer Nouwen's thoughts, let me also write about what Thomas Edison said. One of my favorite Edison quotes is,

"If we all did the things we are capable of doing we would literally astound ourselves."

As Christ followers, I wonder why we feel so incapable of addressing the brokenness around us? You see, in Christ, we are extremely capable and we should be astounded! I love how JTB introduced Jesus - "the one more powerful than I." Jesus is the one more powerful that I and yet Jesus, the Living Christ by his Spirit, is in me making me more powerful than I could ever imagine! But power for what purpose?

Now Nouwen. What if our life purpose was to recognize the brokenness and oppression of our time, in our own heart, and make that heart-felt recognition the starting point of our work and ministry? Realistically, our work will not be perceived as authentic unless it comes from a heart wounded by the brokenness and oppression about which we speak. Therefore, we will have to make our own wounds available as a source of healing. For one person needs another to live. Therefore the deeper we are willing to enter into the painful condition which we and others know, the more likely it is that we can be leaders, leading people out of the desert into the promised land.

Let us say to others, “I will not let you go. I am going to be here tomorrow waiting for you. I expect you not to disappoint me for we will travel together. We are not alone. We are not unloved.”

Thankfully, we are redeemed to be redemptive.

The Christmas Redemptive Love Story

The essence of the Christmas redemptive love story is not difficult to find. These are the words of Christ speaking of himself. "For God so loved the world that he gave . . ." You see, love initiates. Love takes action. God gave his son, a babe born in Bethlehem who 33 years later died on a Cross, "his one and only Son." Why? "that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life." Love redeems what was lost . . . our life-lost to our life-eternal.

However, a redemptive love involves sacrifice - and Jesus takes us to a higher level of sacrificial giving for the sake of a redemptive love. Jesus taught, "My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends."

Certainly, at the cross Jesus practiced what he preached. But he also taught us to love our enemies. Would we lay down our life for an enemy? Amazingly, Jesus died for his enemies and not just his friends. Sounds treasonous, doesn't it? Talk about aiding the enemy! But that is exactly what he did.

In fact, Jesus went against the popular thought of his time. "You have heard that it was said, 'Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I tell you: Love your enemies . . ." Christmas, when God invaded our world, and the Cross, when love was demonstrated, prove that God loves his enemies.

And guess what? We are his enemies! "You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. [That's us along with the worst the world holds in contempt!]

[Now check this out.] Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. [Yes, it could happen. But now look . . .] But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God's wrath through him!

For if, [here it is . . .] when we were God's enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!

[But wait, there is more . . .] Not only is this so, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation."

The greatest redemptive love story ever told was when someone died for his enemy. What a rare story that is . . . but Jesus did exactly that on the cross. The greatest love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his enemies. Merry Christmas!

The Most Important Redemptive Number

Since the year 2000, Bonnie and I have helped thousands of people deal with or prepare for unresolved conflict or unreconciled loss. I am grateful for the effective ministry of NPC. Even so, after numbering of all the different people with whom we have walked, I am convinced the most important number is the number one, i.e one person. First, here are all the number "ones" since 2000:

Grief/Pastoral Counseling or Coaching: Over 70 people helped.

Community Mediations or Facilitations: Over 80 people served.

Family, Marriage, Workplace, or Business Mediations: Over 95 people served.

Church Mediations or Facilitations: Over 200 people served directly and over 2700 served indirectly working with 18 different churches in the states of Washington, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and throughout Northern California.

Trainings, Conferences, Workshops, and Retreats in conflict resolution or grief caregiving: Certainly hundreds if not thousands of people equipped to be better prepared to constructively deal with conflict, grief and brokenness.

Overseas teaching/missions trips: Twice to Democratic Republic of Congo and five trips to the Philippines teaching at churches, Bible schools, and seminaries.

Coordinated ministry efforts: 17 other ministries or agencies.

Church-based VORP mediation centers: Gratefully, 8 working for Restorative Justice.

The Redemptive City Project: Many small steps and little doses.

But back to the number one. Eric (not his real name), several months ago at a stalled mediation meeting with his family, left the meeting very angry and filled with hate. That one day he told his mother, "I hate you!" And he told me, "I will not come back here!" That was one very sad day. But another day came. This one day was different when he came to visit in my office. His heart was softer and he was more teachable. Eric was at a point of redemptive change. What a day! Eric is a very important one as all of the "ones" are with whom we have had the redemptive opportunity to serve.

Remember the 99 and the one! Remember God's mercies are new every day! Remember the redeemed Erics! What an awesome ministry to be able to take back what belongs to God. That is what the ministry of reconciliation is all about. And God gave this ministry to the church!

Let's go rob the house of darkness for just one more, and then another one. Agree?


Let's talk about the wonderful man with the hat. Web is ninety-five, greets everyone on Sunday mornings at church, quotes, by memory, tons of Bible verses, passages and even whole books of the Bible, always a smile, always an encouragement, always a good word, always a blessing to me. He is an amazing man. I told Web, "When I grow up, I want to be just like you." He said, "Oh, so you want to be old?" Yes, he's old but he has a young soul - a very young soul. He is the youngest old man that I know. What do I mean by young - young and foolish? Hardly.

Perhaps, the late Keith Green gives us insight in His song, "My Eyes Are Dry."

My eyes are dry, my faith is old,
My heart is hard, my prayers are cold,
And I know how I ought to be,
Alive to you, and dead to me.

Oh what can be done, for an old heart like mine,
Soften it up, with oil and wine.
The oil is You, Your Spirit of love,
Please wash me anew, in the wine of Your blood.

You see, Web has a soft heart - a product of God's Spirit and redemption.

And I do want to be like Web. By God's very Spirit, Web has been blessed to redeem his youth, his soft heart, even at his ripe old age. Every time I see Web, I experience a webinar. I keep learning from him. He has captured my deepest respect. I can only hope for a "toninar" someday that demonstrates a person with a young soul - just like Web.

By-the-way, the guy without the hat is another special person - the father of all my grandchildren! (Hey, look, he's enjoying a Webinar!)

Redemptive Steps – Taking back what is God’s.

The idea of finding or taking back what was lost is appealing to most. The one looking for lost car keys or credit cards is overjoyed when the lost items are recovered. My friend’s car has been stolen several times. But every time the car is missing from his driveway, the police find it, and call him to reclaim his stolen car. Even though his car has nearly 500,000 miles on it, he is always thrilled with the recovery because the old car has value to him.

One day, as recorded in Matthew 12, Mark 3, and Luke 11, Jesus recovered what was lost. He demonstrated that he came to release individuals from the oppression of darkness. While some observers were amazed or astounded, others were critical saying that Jesus could only do this because he himself was evil. Matthew recorded the logic path of Jesus’ response, “If Satan drives out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then can his kingdom stand?” Why would Satan want to cast out himself?

Luke recorded the following words of Jesus, “But if I drive out demons by the finger of God, then the kingdom of God has come to you. When a strong man (Satan), fully armed, guards his own house, his possessions are safe. But when someone stronger (Jesus) attacks and overpowers him, he takes away the armor in which the man trusted and divides up the spoils.”

Within the realm of darkness, the forces of evil are strong, but by a flick of God’s finger, redemption happens - a new life begins. Metaphorically, God’s finger is stronger than the whole realm of darkness. Jesus enters the house of Satan, overpowers him, ties him up, takes his defenses, and takes away his power. Jesus does this when he redeems God’s children and takes back what belongs to God – His people.

Simply said, Jesus redeems people and relationships. When Jesus redeems one from the realm of darkness, it is as if he buys a slave for the purpose of setting the slave free. But the concept is deeper than just that. When Jesus redeems, he is buying up for himself God’s children to be free to have a relationship with the Father. We are valuable to God. To Jesus, relationships are worth redeeming.

As a conflict mediator and grief counselor, it is always astounding to see redemptive steps in the mediation and counseling experiences. There is redemptive value even in grief and loss. Relationships with others are worth redeeming. Redemption is central to the life and teaching of Jesus. Redemption is the fulfillment of his message and mission.

“He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. And he stood up to read. The scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written: ‘The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor.’ Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him, and he began by saying to them, ‘Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing’" (Luke 4:16-21). What a wonderful fulfillment He is!

In the months to come, I will share redemptive steps as I see them happening in the midst of conflict, grief, and loss. Stay tuned. Check the “Redemptive Steps” blog at