Sad, shocked and sick to my stomach is the phrase that I would use to describe how I felt when I heard the news about Ted Haggard this past week. Many of us have observed the mantel of his leadership through the N.A.E. The church that he started in his basement in Colorado Springs had grown to multiplied-thousands. So what happened? What went wrong? What message should it send to us?
One of the most obvious lessons is how deep and dark sin works. Its power of deception and bondage are so strong that people falsely assume that you can continue in life without getting burned. We should all know that the devil and his plans are conceived best out from under the light and hold such an allure that some of the smartest, most devoted and naturally gifted people become vulnerable in certain situations. No one is immune! That’s at least one message that needs to be broadcast from the rooftop. And no one gets a free pass! To even assume that we’re an exception is evidence that deception has done its work.
It should also be clear that the enemy of our soul delights in inflicting pain. He doesn’t care who gets hurt. The more the merrier. And if he can torch the reputation of the church, bring out the cynics again, put us on the front page of every major newspaper or on every news channel, he’s delighted. If he can wreck a family’s peace, disgrace someone’s name, initiate mis-trust among friends, and ruin a person’s future, he will! The Word declares that he will “strike the shepherd and the sheep would scatter”. That makes your life and mine a primary battlefield. We’re smack dab in the middle of his battle plans. Just bring down the preacher and you’ll bring down a whole slew of others, as well. I don’t like it. I don’t like him and I despise his methods.
One weapon against the devil is to remember what Solomon said. He began by saying that the “fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom!” Boy, do we need wisdom. He further went on to say that “to hate evil is to fear the Lord!” That makes sense. By taking a clear stance against the kingdom of darkness and all of its ways, we have invited the spiritual gift of wisdom to reside in our life! But the opposite could also be said. When we don’t take a clear stand, when compromise or negotiations are the choice for the day, then we have robbed ourselves from this valuable gift. Right looks like wrong and wrong looks like right, and you won’t even know the difference. Before you know it, you’ve put your whole life, family and ministry at risk!
When lust is conceived, it brings forth sin and when sin is conceived in brings forth death. There are way too many casualties along this path of ministry. And it all started in a private moment. A time when no one was even aware that you were being tempted … bam … it stuck its tentacles deep. Without immediate spiritual surgery, the toxins begin to invade a larger area and you begin to learn to live with this infection. Without notice, it weakens the vital organs, waiting for an opportunity to pursue its final goal … death, of a marriage, of a ministry, of a life! There is a cure. It requires confession, honesty, courage and living in the light!
When the news broke, I was at a board meeting in Pasadena. My wife was back East with others helping prepare our Christiansburg campus for the launch of a “pastor renewal and resource center”. I said to Debbie. “Open my phone bills, check my credit card statements, expect to know where I am at any time, don’t knock when you’re coming to my office, I need to be accountable!” Living in the light may make your life a little more uncomfortable, a lot less private, but the chances of a major meltdown or a life of secrecy that will bring more pain than you could ever imagine just got tossed out the window! Hate evil, love God and make sure your spouse has your computer password! Declare as one pastor did “As for me and my mouse, we will serve the Lord!”
A few practical thoughts:
- If you’re looking at anything, anytime that would not pass the judgment of your spouse, it’s inappropriate
- If you are unavailable and no one knows where you’re at for considerable time allotments, it’s dangerous and needs to change.
- If you’ve created a web of lies and cover-ups, then the tentacles of sin have taken deep root.
- If repentance and accountability are not clearly present in your daily routine, then you are lion bait
- If you don’t practice what God says about the need for purity of heart and head (avoid all sexual immorality), then you’re headed for a great fall
Please, please don’t delay in making the necessary changes that will keep yourself tender before the Lord. A national ministry leader said this past week, “Humility or Humiliation … you choose!”
I am humbled by the present, repentant of my past and determined to live wisely in the future in the “Fear of the Lord!”
Please continue to pray for Ted and Gayle Haggard, their five children and the church at New Life in Colorado Springs!