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The Joel Osteen Hoax: How Much Do We Hate This Guy?

You’ve probably heard it by now. But you may be wrong in what you heard. Joel Osteen, the pastor of Lakewood Church in Houston, Texas, the man with the smile that never seems to stop, doesn’t believe in God anymore. At least that was the “headline” running across the Internet...

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What Does God’s Forgiveness Feel Like?

Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in forgiveness, God, grace, repentance, restoration, Uncategorized | Posted on 30-04-2013

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I had an interesting text conversation with a fallen pastor recently. He fell in the ministry some time ago and is still dealing with a lot of issues. He still has a lot of guilt over his actions. I was sharing with him about the forgiveness of God and he was telling me he has prayed for forgiveness many times.

forgiveHe then asked me a question I had never considered: “What does God’s forgiveness feel like? What does it feel like to be forgiven?

I had to consider that for a moment. His question cut through so many different layers of me that it really confused me for a moment.

The first layer it hit was my hardened seminary layer. My knee-jerk reaction was, “Forgiveness, in a theological sense, doesn’t feel like anything.” You have to understand my background to get that. I was raised listening to some staunch biblical teaching. It was solid, but there wasn’t a lot of grace in it. Feelings and emotion were acceptable, but only in a black and white world.

But I had to reject that. The whole purpose of my ministry here is that people need forgiveness. In the case of many fallen pastors who have been humbled, they are seeking forgiveness. They are thirsty for it. And when it is finally realized, it feels like nothing else.

The second layer the question hit was the world of the modern church in which we live. It’s not true everywhere, but the modern church is a place that is often devoid of forgiveness. When a church leader, pastor, or member sins, many times, there is often no seeking after restoration for that person in regards to Galatians 6:1.

A local pastor and I had lunch recently and he wanted to clarify with me what I meant about restoration. He was exactly right. The church should seek to reconcile with those who sin. I often use the terms interchangeably. Every church should seek out the fallen Christian actively, to restore them to the path to holiness.

Restoration to active ministry is a different story. I have my own convictions about that as did the pastor I had lunch forgiveness1with.

But reconciling one another to fellowship is non-negotiable. But too often, we are quick to throw sinning members and leaders overboard when they commit great sins by isolating them, gossiping about them, or sending them away after they sin. Those who sin may not feel any kind of forgiveness for a while. The lack of reconciliation/restoration by the church or attempt to do so may actually hamper it.

Don’t get me wrong – when someone sins, it is their fault. They bear the responsibility before God. But Scripture is clear that when one among us sins, we are to chase after them. If they are unwilling to listen, then that is to be taken into consideration as well.

The final layer his question hit was the essence of his question – “what does God’s forgiveness feel like?

I can tell you what it felt like for me. After months and months of running from God and justifying myself, He humbled me. I cast myself before Him and confessed my sin. I was overwhelmed by His presence and His grace like I had never been before.

It was not merely a theological process. It was an amazing and overpowering feeling of being free of the sin that had been upon me. At first, it hurt. It hurt because I had realized as David did in Psalm 51 that ultimately, I had sinned against God and God alone. My sin had been poured out upon Christ at Calvary. The pain that I felt in my confession was difficult, but necessary.

But that emotion was quickly followed by a sweeping away of my pain and a sudden realization of God’s grace toward me. I was undeserving of it, but in total need of it. He was under no compulsion to grant it to me, but He did. And He loved me. Even a pitiful sinner like me.

forgive2What did it feel like? Like the greatest thing ever. Like a man who had been starving who had just been invited to the banquet table. Like a man who had gone without water for weeks who had just been allowed to drink from a crystal clear stream that would never end.

I won’t lie to you either. There are days I struggle with guilt from the past. Where my old sin likes to creep up and say, “Hey, you’re still worthless. You’re still a fallen pastor who everyone hates.” There are moments when I listen to that voice in my head and it brings me down. There are days when someone will say, “You never really repented. You are still in your sin.

But Christ is there to remind me that I am His, that the sin I committed is gone. And because of Him, I have new life. And there is no one left to condemn me.

____________________________

Ray Carroll is author of “Fallen Pastor: Finding Restoration in a Broken World.”

Christians As Accountants Of Sin: A Parable

Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in Christ, church, church members, churches, compassion, forgiveness | Posted on 22-04-2013

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Debbie was enjoying her new life in Christ. She had come to know Christ through a women’s bible study she had been wbsinvited to by a friend. Her past was dotted with alcohol, drug use, and some pretty crazy moments. She knew she didn’t have the best reputation in the community, but for the past few weeks, thanks to Christ and thanks to the supportive women in her bible study group, she felt a new peace and sense of direction.

She had slowly been able to put the past behind her and feel like the “new person” that Paul wrote about in the bible. One of her friends suggested to her that they try attending church.  Her friend told her that worship was a pretty important part of being a Christian and getting “plugged in” was the next step. She had also said that being baptized was important and that a church would talk to her about that.

Debbie wasn’t sure about any of that. It was a small town and everyone knew her – or so it seemed. It was like everyone over the age of 50 had witnessed her rebellious teenage life, her post-high school career with its mistakes and even her DUI. She felt uncomfortable with the idea of going into any public gathering where people could see her, especially where her peers were. Heck, she even felt uncomfortable shopping at Wal-Mart sometimes. It seemed like there was always someone pointing at her, or a perceived whisper.

Her friend assured her that with her new life, her repentance, that all of that was behind her. Her friend told her that this was a progressive church that welcomed everyone, that everyone was wonderful. Debbie would of course be welcomed with open arms.

Debbie decided to give it a try. She was glad to hear of the casual dress policy but leaned towards something business minded anyway that Sunday. Her friend picked her up that Sunday morning and she was nervous.

contchWhen they walked in, there was a welcoming station where she got some information and the first few people were kind. A lot of people talked to her friend first then she was introduced to them. Some of these people were newer to the community and wouldn’t know her.

Then she saw the first one. Someone she knew from long ago – with the accompanying sneer. It was a girl she had gone to high school with. She was a woman now who had two young children with her. The woman looked Debbie up and down and then herded her two children in the other direction as if Debbie would spew venom on them.

Debbie decided to chalk this wordless conversation up to a misconception on her part. Maybe it was nothing. Maybe the woman had a facial tic.

She snapped out of her thoughts when her friend was introducing her to a man named Dan, who apparently was one of the church leaders. Dan had a shocked look for a moment then he said, “Debbie?” He paused then said, “What are you doing here?”

Debbie said, “I came to know Christ recently and my friend invited me here.

Dan was distressed. Debbie knew why. They had been friends in high school and after. Dan had done some of the same things she had. He was comfortable here but wasn’t comfortable having her here.

Debbie’s friend said, “Dan, where’s your wife? I’d like to introduce them.

Dan said quickly, “She’s here somewhere, gotta run, nice to meet you.

The rest of the Sunday went at a pace like that. Some people were kind and friendly. They were the ones who had no idea talkignwho Debbie was or what she had done in her past. Then there were those who knew of her past sin and either didn’t approach her, or when they did, viewed her in contempt.

At the end of the service, Debbie was disheartened. Is this what the people of God were like? Holding on to people’s sin and not forgetting them? She was about to fill out the comment card she was given with her exact thoughts when she heard someone yelling, “Debbie!” from down the hall.

At first she didn’t recognize the woman. As she got closer, she recognized Michelle. In high school, she was a quiet thing, always keeping to herself. Michelle didn’t have many friends and there were probably a few times that Debbie had said a few rude things to her.

Michelle came right up and hugged her, “I’m so glad you’re here.”

Really?” Debbie said.

Michelle said, “I know we didn’t really know each other well in high school, but I always thought you were a neat person.”

Me?” Debbie said. “I made a lot of mistakes.

Michelle said, “Yeah, I know. But we all have. I heard you gave your heart to Christ. That’s great. I had an awful home life growing up. When I finally got out, I made a lot of mistakes of my own. But God extended His grace to me. And now, here you are too. And it’s going to be fine. Listen, I don’t have much time to talk now, but here’s my number. Let’s have lunch this week.

Thanks, Michelle,” Debbie said.

As she walked out the door, Debbie felt her heart pick up a bit as she thought about that final encounter.

__________________

Ray Carroll is the author of “Fallen Pastor: Finding Restoration in a Broken World,” which answers many of the questions I get asked on a weekly basis.

If you are a fallen pastor who needs to talk or you are someone who has been affected by a fallen pastor and would like to contact me privately, please click here. You are the main reason this ministry exists. I’m here to help you.

If you are a church, men’s group, association, conference, or news outlet and would like more information about this ministry, please click here.

 

Jesus, Can You Throw A Drowning Man A Line?

Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in peace, U2, youtube | Posted on 19-04-2013

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Thought of this song this week by U2, “Peace On Earth.”

Heaven on Earth
We need it now
I’m sick of all of this
Hanging around

Sick of sorrow
I’m sick of the pain
I’m sick of hearing
Again and again
That there’s gonna be
Peace on Earth

Where I grew up
There weren’t many trees
Where there was we’d tear them down
And use them on our enemies

They say that what you mock
Will surely overtake you
And you become a monster
So the monster will not break you

And it’s already gone too far
You said that if you go in hard
You won’t get hurt

Jesus can you take the time
To throw a drowning man a line
Peace on Earth

Tell the ones who hear no sound
Whose sons are living in the ground
Peace on Earth

No who’s or why’s
No one cries like a mother cries
For peace on Earth

She never got to say goodbye
To see the color in his eyes
Now he’s in the dirt
Peace on Earth

They’re reading names out
Over the radio
All the folks the rest of us
Won’t get to know

Sean and Julia
Gareth, Anne, and Breeda
Their lives are bigger than
Any big idea

Jesus can you take the time
To throw a drowning man a line
Peace on Earth

To tell the ones who hear no sound
Whose sons are living in the ground
Peace on Earth

Jesus in the song you wrote
The words are sticking in my throat
Peace on Earth

Hear it every Christmas time
But hope and history won’t rhyme
So what’s it worth

This peace on Earth
Peace on Earth
Peace on Earth
Peace on Earth

__________________

Ray Carroll is the author of “Fallen Pastor: Finding Restoration in a Broken World,” which answers many of the questions I get asked on a weekly basis.

If you are a fallen pastor who needs to talk or you are someone who has been affected by a fallen pastor and would like to contact me privately, please click here. You are the main reason this ministry exists. I’m here to help you.

If you are a church, men’s group, association, conference, or news outlet and would like more information about this ministry, please click here.

The Boston Bombing and Our Need to Place Blame

Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in blame, God, guilt, responsibility | Posted on 16-04-2013

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bostonmYesterday, bombs rocked the Boston Marathon. People were killed and it was an awful scene. I encourage you to be in prayer still for those effected. It will be a constant battle for years and months for those involved.

I pray no one you know was in the area. I know several people who were there and are safe. I know Facebook friends and family who had people there. I sincerely hope for all of you that you have heard from your loved ones.

The armchair sociologist in me began to wonder about how quickly blame would begin to be tossed about. Let’s get this straight. One or several people placed bombs in garbage cans and are guilty of murder and mayhem. They are guilty of their actions and should be held responsible for the consequences – as should anyone who breaks the law.

But you know what our society does – we play the blame game. We look at the one/ones guilty and we look elsewhere for people to blame. Let’s look at the usual suspects. Oh, and all of these people were there hours online with such theories. They were on message boards, blogs, Twitter, Facebook and just about anywhere else.

And hey, the point of this post is not to bash these people groups. The point comes in a bit. If you belong to one of these groups, go for it. I’m making a point here about blame shifting.

Conspiracy theorists: It was not the bombers. It was a secret organization who wants to control the world. The bomber is a patsy. This is more escalation to a greater, more terrible event to scare people/take away our rights/move us to a one world order.

Those who were at the scene/know the people involved: There wasn’t a good response to the event. There hindsightwasn’t enough security, enough care taken, people didn’t take the right measures, etc. Lots of hindsight. Not to say these things may not be true, but blame is shifted to prevention that can’t be taken anymore.

Theologians: Sin is to blame here. It’s the root cause of all evil in the world. Yeah, it is.

Sociologists/behavioralists: It has to do with environment, upbringing. People are shaped by the world they are raised in. Sometimes it has to do with a developmental or psychological disorder. Yeah, sometimes this is a factor.

Those who aren’t close to God or those who don’t believe: Where was God in all of this? Or, it’s fate. Things just happen.

Concerned members of a society who see evil around them: It’s society. Things are getting much worse. What do you expect when the government is like it is and prayer and the Ten Commandments are taken out of schools?

There you go. The blame gets spread like wildfire. You can count on it for any major news story. But it goes much deeper than that. It happens every day in your own life and town.

dcI write about fallen pastors mostly. So, I’m going to give you a different example for once, but you can put a different thought in easily enough. Imagine there’s a couple you know who is getting a divorce. They haven’t given a  reason, they have just stated publicly that they are divorcing. (Other examples: A politician steps down, someone is arrested, a pastor falls, a teacher is fired, a school board member gets into trouble, our personal relationship is bad with someone, the list goes on and on).

What happens? We don’t go to the root of the problem, we begin to talk out loud about where to assess blame. In our example of the couple who is divorcing, we might say, “Well, I know him. He was great to her. She must have been awful. You know she runs up those credit cards.” Someone else might say, “I hear he never was really in love with her. I heard he has trouble keeping a job.”

We say things like that without knowing the situation. Yet we have this dire, driving need to throw blame around.

We do it to ourselves too. For the months after my mom died in a car accident, all I could think was, “If I had just called her 30 minutes earlier that day. Maybe I could have slowed her trip down that day. Maybe her itinerary would have changed and she wouldn’t have died.” I blamed myself for her death.

If you know someone who has committed suicide, you probably do it. From what I understand, after a suicide, almost selfblameeveryone who is close to that person blames themselves for that person’s death. We have a  need for blame. Even worse, we have a desperate need for self-blame.

I think it comforts us to find reasons for what is happening in the world. Blame helps us make sense of things. Sometimes blame is right. People helps us find guilty parties. But blame is bad when it is placed in the wrong place. When it turns into guilt, hatred.

The person/people today who planted those bombs should be blamed for their actions. They should be held accountable.

How do we fight blame? By each of us taking responsibility for our actions. By not worrying so much about what everyone else does and spreading blame, but taking a stand and doing what is right ourselves.

Are we allowed to point out injustice? Yes. Are we to take a stand? Yes. But we are to do it in a  manner that is covered with love and the right kind of justice. Justice seeking for truth. The kind that says, “When I do something wrong, I need to set an example by taking responsibility for my actions.”

________________________

Ray Carroll is author of “Fallen Pastor: Finding Restoration in a Broken World.”

The Joel Osteen Hoax: How Much Do We Hate This Guy?

Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in anger, bitterness, church, criticize, current events, gossip, hate, hatred, hoax, pastors, preachers | Posted on 11-04-2013

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You’ve probably heard it by now. But you may be wrong in what you heard.

Joel Osteen, the pastor of Lakewood Church in Houston, Texas, the man with the smile that never seems to stop, doesn’t osteendrudgebelieve in God anymore. At least that was the “headline” running across the Internet days ago. There was an accompanying video, screenshots of stories from The Drudge Report, CNN and other media outlets. People shared this “story” and said thing like, “I knew he was a fake.”

Turns out, Joel Osteen never said any of those things. It was a hoax perpetrated by a guy who just wanted Joel to get “more real.” Impressively enough, even the one-stop shop for debunking Internet rumors, Snopes.com has a page addressing the issue. (Seriously, please go there if you read something or are forwarded something. Bill Gates does not really want to send you $5,000 for forwarding a text or Facebook message. Seriously.)

What would cause someone to do something like this? Why is Osteen so darn polarizing? Let’s look closer.

For starters, his theology has been tossed around as being weak. Now, I’m not a big Joel Osteen fan. His theology is suspect, to say it kindly. Dr. Albert Mohler, the cultural commentator of our times, keeps a close eye on Osteen and his doings. He’s written about him several times on his blog, here, here, and here for instance. He does a good job keeping things theological and not personal. I’ve heard a lot of people say, “I think if he would just say he was a motivational speaker and not a minister, I’d be more comfortable with him.

Or maybe it’s his smile. It throws a lot of people off. He’s been called a shyster, a liar, a used car salesman. To his credit, he’s run a very clean ministry. He has 7 million people who follow him regularly and you’ve probably met someone who just loves his preaching or books.

osteensmileSo what is it? What is it about him?

I really don’t know. But the hoax that came about did bring a problem to light. A very serious one. One that even hit me.

No, I don’t really care for the man’s theology. I’ve skimmed his work, watched him on television on occasion. I don’t wish ill will upon him and if someone asks me my opinion, they can have it. Personally? I don’t want anything awful to happen to the man. And the hoax that was perpetrated upon him was terrible. It was. No one should have to endure an attack of lies like that.

But here’s what bothered me. Thousands of Christians read the “hoax.” Their immediate response, regardless of how they felt about Osteen was to say, “Of course he did this.” And you know, I suppose if they had stopped there, no damage would really have been done. But they forwarded it to people they knew. It was a lie. Did they know? Nope, but they had a responsibility to check it out. I think we all know what that’s called – gossip.

And even if you don’t like the guy, it’s still wrong to do it. Even if you don’t like his books, his preaching, his theology, it gosssipgives none of the right to engage in character assassination. Even if you believe he’s not saved or he’s preaching the wrong gospel or whatever conclusion you’ve arrived at, it is wrong to perpetrate incorrect information about an individual.

But man, how much do we dislike some people in our world? We dislike them so much that we are ready to believe the first bad thing we hear about them, right? That’s how gossip gets continued. That’s how it continues and grows. This was a perfect example. And a few months down the line, you’ll still hear someone say, “I heard Joel Osteen doesn’t believe in God.

Friends, if you’ve been the victim of gossip, you know how it feels. You should always check facts before you hit “send.” In fact, if we hear something bad about a friend, church member, or relative, our first instinct ought to be compassion and love. To reach out and help, not to further destroy.

On a final note (and reiterating that I am not an Osteen apologist), I’d add that even if you don’t like the guy, he is to be commended for how he has handled this situation. He said in a statement that he wasn’t angry and he didn’t feel like a victim. Great response and very humble. If I had been in the same situation, I can’t say I would have been as gracious.

________________________________________

Ray Carroll is author of “Fallen Pastor: Finding Restoration in a Fallen World.” He also writes for Provoketive Magazine. He is available to speak at your event, church or function.

Cassandra Parkin,”Lighter Shades of Grey,” Part One

Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in authors, interview, Provoketive Magazine | Posted on 10-04-2013

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I did an interview with Cassandra Parkin, author of “Lighter Shades of Grey: A (very) Critical Reader’s Guide to ‘Fifty Shades of Grey.” The interview is up over at Provoketive Magazine. Whether you read Fifty Shades of Grey or not, this interview is interesting, fun and will give you some insight.

Part two should be up very soon.

Parkin is also an award winning writer and her ebooks on the “Grey” trilogy are very affordable over at Amazon.

Thanks for reading!

__________________

Ray Carroll is the author of “Fallen Pastor: Finding Restoration in a Broken World,” which answers many of the questions I get asked on a weekly basis.

If you are a fallen pastor who needs to talk or you are someone who has been affected by a fallen pastor and would like to contact me privately, please click here. You are the main reason this ministry exists. I’m here to help you.

If you are a church, men’s group, association, conference, or news outlet and would like more information about this ministry, please click here.

Do Christians Who Commit Suicide Go To Heaven?

Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in Uncategorized | Posted on 08-04-2013

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cxsuicRecent events have brought this question to the forefront again. It’s a question that, as a pastor, I was asked pretty frequently. The fact that this question is on the minds of our people should let all of us – pastors, concerned members, church leaders – know that it needs to be addressed and that a clear answer is needed.

I’m going to give an answer that I feel strongly about. But it’s not enough to feel strongly about it, it has to be connected to Scripture.

Let me start with this – I know that many people feel that Christians who commit suicide do end up eternally punished by God. Without mentioning denominations or religions, they have a reason they feel that way. Their arguments are their arguments. It usually has something to do with the person committing a very serious sin without repentance or confession or chance at confession.

The problem is that there is no direct reference to suicide and the fate of Christians who commit it.

So, here’s my humble position. It comes to you from a man who believes in Sovereign grace, a man who was forgiven by God of adultery, a man who was rescued by God from the depths of sin and understands what mercy and grace are.

I also want to say that this topic should always be approached with love and gentleness. Listen, if you are of the belief that Christians who commit suicide spend eternity separated from God and someone who just lost a loved one to suicide asks you about it – do us all a favor and just show some love, grace and common sense. I’m not telling you to tell them what they want to hear. But there is grace to be had in a kind response of, “We can always trust God to do what is right.” And that answer includes, “Even when my theology is wrong.”

I like to anchor my argument in John 10:27-30, where Jesus is speaking of His followers: “My sheep hear my voice, and I sheepknow them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.

When we belong to Christ, we are His. He takes us into His hand, we do not perish and we also belong in the hand of the Father. I’m not even going to address those who want to say, “Does that mean we can sin however much we want after we are saved?” No. Of course not.

There are Christians who sin. I did. I fell. There are a lot of Christians who sin but God does not give up on us. He didn’t give up on the believers in Scripture who fell. The heroes we find in the Old and New Testament who sinned were covered by Christ. God picks us up. He loves us in spite of our sin.

I suppose the opposing argument is, “If we can’t repent, then we die in our sins.” No dice on that one, friend. I suppose if while I was living in adultery without repentance, I would have died in my sin. I would guess that most of us could be caught in some form of sin during the day and that it is unrepentant.

Christ died to justify us. He stood in our place. For all of our sin. Oh, but not for suicide, right? Not for an unconfessed sin we had at the moment of our death. I don’t accept that.

He died so that we didn’t have to live under such judgment. We are to live a holy life, absolutely. But if suicide is the one thing that can do us in, even after we are secure in Christ, then why did He die? What was the cross for? Did He die for our sin or not?

Yes, He covered the sins of Christians once and for all.

It is a tragic thing that some believers get to a point, whether because of depression, mental illness, or circumstance, that they feel suicide is the only way out. But it is not the end of their life.

If you know someone who is suffering, thinking about suicide, contemplating it, giving away their possessions, showing strange or seriously depressive behavior, chase after them. Get them help. Ask for help. Prayer is awesome. Professional help and asking others for intervention is tremendous and necessary.

_________________

Further helps:

Dealing With Suicidal Thoughts & Feelings

How To Help Someone Who Is Suicidal

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

Help For Teens – My Friend Is Talking About Suicide

One quick note about Judas – I agree with the majority of commentators that he never was a true follower of Christ. He never bought into Jesus as Messiah and he was the betrayer. Therefore, his demise and ultimate separation is not evidence for everyone who commits suicide.

“You Aren’t Who They Say You Are,” Guest Blog

Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in blog, guest blog | Posted on 02-04-2013

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I had the pleasure of writing a guest blog for my friend Mark at his blog, “Here I Blog.” If you haven’t read his stuff, you’re missing out.

My post is entitled, “You Aren’t Who They Say You Are.”  It’s about how we perceive ourselves and how we perceive others perceptions of us. Make sense? Thanks to Mark for posting it. Head on over and take a look.

Please take the time to check it out. “You Aren’t Who They Say You Are,” Guest Blog

__________________

Ray Carroll is the author of “Fallen Pastor: Finding Restoration in a Broken World,” which answers many of the questions I get asked on a weekly basis.

If you are a fallen pastor who needs to talk or you are someone who has been affected by a fallen pastor and would like to contact me privately, please click here. You are the main reason this ministry exists. I’m here to help you.

If you are a church, men’s group, association, conference, or news outlet and would like more information about this ministry, please click here.