Was reminded of this little beauty the other day. Wanted to share it. It’s become a favorite of mine in recent years.
Fire and Ice
by Robert Frost
I suppose you know by now that the world is coming to an end on Saturday. That’s the prediction made by Family Radio’s Harold Camping. True believers will be raptured and those left behind will be in for six months of terror. Camping’s followers have been traveling the country spreading the word...
Was reminded of this little beauty the other day. Wanted to share it. It’s become a favorite of mine in recent years.
by Robert Frost
Lately, both Allison and I have been ministering to fallen ministers and their significant others. A recurring theme has arisen in many of these conversations: “How angry is the ex-wife/husband in the relationship allowed to get?”
Obviously, I have experience in this arena. I hurt my ex horribly with my actions. Hurt is the emotion that arises first, then anger. Then, both of those actions work together in an often disastrous mix. I’m happy to say my former wife and I have a good relationship today.
The sin of adultery is one that cuts right to the core of humanity. Have I felt it? No, but I am the one who caused the hurt. Since my fall from ministry, I have talked to those who have been on both sides of the fence. I have heard stories of messy divorces, arguments in public, punches thrown, and angry things said to children. All of these are the consequences of sin.
The hurt doesn’t just extend to spouses. The hurt runs deep in the church as well. Weeks and months after the fall of the minister, church members hurt and anger can extend to gossip in the community, social media such as Facebook or personal altercations.
The fallen pastor may also take place in the lashing out process. He may engage in the same arenas of speaking out, justifying his actions, showing passive aggressive behavior, or getting defensive when approached.
All three of these groups show similar characteristics. All will probably say they are justified in their anger. The church, spouse and family of the spouse will point to the fallen pastor’s actions as the touchstone of their anger. It will continually be the reason for every angry action they take. “He’s the one who sinned. He caused all of this.”
The pastor who may or may not have asked for forgiveness from God may feel that he has been forgiven. He may say, “God has forgiven me, I’m moving on.”
To be sure, it is a difficult and anxious situation. I know that being in the midst of it is a continually stressful and awful time. For this blog post, I’m going to assume any range of possibilities – that the relationship between pastor and spouse could work out or that it could end in divorce. I pray that any situation be resolved. But I’d like to throw out some suggestions that might help for anyone on either side of the situation. (Also, as a disclaimer, I’m guilty of doing most of these things wrong.)
Christ calls us to be peacemakers. This applies to both sides. Being a peacemaker is not an easy thing. Especially when the other “side” is aggressive and angry. It’s especially difficult when you are also angry and want the other side to understand your position. But when you engage yourself into the position of peacemaker, you are taking upon yourself true humility.
To do so, you have to not allow things to escalate. Regardless of what someone says to you or how they say it, you must stay calm, even and at peace. Realize that peace doesn’t come from circumstances around you, but from Christ within you. Is it difficult? Yes, but it is possible.
Read more after the jump…
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 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.
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 gives 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.
It’s not easy to ask for forgiveness. It is the right thing to do and it takes humility and the right heart.
I deal with fallen pastors a lot. I’m a fallen pastor myself. Those who fall from ministry hurt a lot of people. Usually, our first apologies are insincere and riddled with defensiveness and self-justification. But eventually, we come around when we are humbled by God and do offer a sincere, “I’m sorry.”
But it’s not just fallen pastors who ask for forgiveness. All of us find ourselves in need of forgiveness from someone we know. Whether it was a harsh word we spoke, an action we took, something foolish we said and we didn’t mean to, an act that caused harm, or any number of things – we all will end up saying those two words at some point, and hopefully in the right way.
For the next few blog posts, I’d like to focus on the idea of when “I’m sorry” isn’t enough. The idea that when we approach someone to ask for forgiveness and they withhold it from us.
Today, I’d like to focus on those of us who ask for forgiveness. Let’s look at a few things that might impact us before or during our act of asking someone to forgive us.
1. Our repentance
When we sin, the first place we should go and ask forgiveness is to God. God requires us to be holy before Him. We are to repent and walk in holiness. Am I saying we are to be perfect? Nope. I am saying that whatever stage we are in past our sin, we are willing to toss it aside and cast it before God, asking Him for help.
Read more after the jump below . . .
Then, I’ll get some from people who lash out at me for different reasons. I won’t say that I don’t take it seriously, but I don’t take it personally. What I will say is that most of the time, people write something like, “You are an unrepentant person. God doesn’t forgive people like you. You will spend eternity separated from him and you are living a lie.”
Stuff like that makes me sad. But more than that, it makes me reflect on how weak all of us are. It’s no secret about how judgmental I used to be before I fell from the ministry. When I was a pastor, I was very hard on sin. Yes, we should point out sin from the pulpit, but we shouldn’t be so hard on people that we become the judge. I did that at times.
I used to get to the point where I would take joy in thinking, “That person is going to hell because they aren’t repenting of the sin of living together/alcohol/adultery/not coming to church. Good. Let God judge them.”
After my fall, after my descent into the darkest pit I ever found, I learned better. I met a different God. He’s not like that at all. Does God judge sin? Yes. Does He separate Himself from it? Absolutely.
Before my fall, I saw God as somewhat of a vengeful figure, sitting in heaven, waiting to jump on our every sin, finger on the button, waiting to nuke us at every wrong move. As an extension of that, I was a pastor and my job was to go after people who were sinning greatly, pointing out their sins, warning them that if they didn’t straighten up, they were in serious, serious trouble.
I don’t know where I learned this view of God, but it was wrong. What made it wrong is that it wasn’t tied to the revealed nature of Christ as Savior. It was not coupled with compassion at all. In fact, it wasn’t even paired with what I knew to be true of God’s love, compassion and longsuffering in Scripture. I had a God who was a jerk. My God looked amazingly like me.
At the time, I had a short temper, was very impatient with people and wanted results right then. (Some argue not much has changed). Actually, a lot has changed. After my fall, I learned that God was always right there with me. Was He happy with my sin? No. But He was patient, not desiring that I should perish, but that I should turn to Him.
What if in that pit I was in, what if while I was in that place similar to the prodigal son, God had decided to treat me like I had treated others?
He would have said, “Ray, repent now. I mean now. You’ve sinned. You did something you knew you shouldn’t have done. You’ve got about 24 hours to do it. You have no idea how much my anger burns against you.”
I was so miserable and in so much confusion I wouldn’t have. My 24 hour time limit would have come and gone. Then, if God had been acting like me, He would have come back and said, “Time’s up. You’re done. Grace has been forever removed from you. You’ll never have a chance at repentance, grace or my love again.”
I’m not going to get terribly theological in this post. The old me would have, but the new me is not going to. However, I would like to run something by you. God hands Moses the Ten Commandments. The ten basic guidelines of how to treat God and neighbor.
Fast forward the timeline to King David. David is a man after God’s own heart. He’s a good King, a good dude and God shows favor on him. Problem – David has concubines, wives, commits adultery. He even commits conspiracy for murder to cover up his adultery. Has God suspended His law just for King David? No, absolutely not. Does God allow David to see the consequences for his actions? Yes.
Is God longsuffering in His punishment towards David and gracious at the same time? You bet. Do we find David as an ancestor to Christ? Yes.
What are we to make of this? Is God unjust in not exacting immediate punishment as He did with Ananias and Sapphira in the book of Acts when they were struck down immediately for their lies? Are Christians today not justified when they want fellow Christians or people struck down for sins immediately when they occur?
On a daily, weekly, and monthly basis, I observe Christian behavior that is very un-God like. And I’m guilty of it. Christians who withhold forgiveness. Say very unChristian things to one another. Refuse to help those in need. Talk poorly about others. Talk down to others. What if God did that to us?
We would be in very serious trouble.
But He does none of those things. And thanks be to God. He lavishes His grace and love upon us even while we are sinners. We deserve none of the love He gives, but He shows it to us. And in the ultimate show of grace, He sacrificed His Son so that we might live.
He is patient while we sin. He waits for us to come back to Him. When we sin, He allows us to suffer the consequences. But He waits on His children. Does that give us license to sin? Absolutely not. But it does let us know that God will not give up on His people.
Better yet, we are not to think that God acts like those who call themselves His followers. He is best known to us by His Son, Christ. He did come to redeem us, save us and show us how to live. Did Christ call out the hypocrites? Yes, He did.
In the end, I think it’s best to let God be God. It’s His universe. His justice, His grace, His plan. He is perfect in all things. We all deserve to be given the worst punishment for sin, but we are not. I should be a grease spot on the pavement, but I am thankful that I am not. I thank Him that He is longsuffering and patient. I thank Christ that He stood by me as He did the adulterous woman in John 8.
As a final thought, it’s great that God is not like us. We do share some common traits, the theologians say. But be happy that God exerts His love, mercy, judgment, grace and all else perfectly and without sin. And that He does so with perfection and with His perfect plan in mind.
Over the past three years, I’ve seen a lot of anger. Some of it has been anger I’ve produced. Sometimes, I’ll be counseling a fallen pastor and see others angry at him for the moral failure he committed and lash out at him for months or years.
I have images saved on my computer from Facebook from people who have stated things about me that were hurtful or harsh. They were church members, family, or friends. I was angry about them at the time when they said them. When they said them publicly, I thought, “How could they say such things in public? This is a private matter!”
When I was writing my book, Dr. Hershael York, professor of preaching at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary was a great help to me. I interviewed him for a take on fallen pastors, but he instead ended up being of great help and guidance to me. He helped heal a lot of wounds I had in my heart and set me straight on some prideful issues I had.
He told me that a fallen pastor has to come to a place of brokenness over his sin. There are ways to know when this has happened and I cover that in my book. I realized when I talked to him that I hadn’t come to that place fully.
Here are a couple of things he said: “If you’re genuinely broken to your sin, you realize the people who are all handling it wrong were put in that position because you sinned; you had the choice, they didn’t.”
“When I see a guy who is bitter and angry at somebody’s response to his sin, I realize he’s not completely there yet. He has to have a complete accepting of responsibility for his sin. Their sin is their sin. I’m not justifying a bad reaction, that’s sin too.”
Dr. York was telling me that when a fallen pastor gets nasty emails, texts or things written about him on Facebook, that’s a consequence of his actions. Deal with it. Those people were put in that place because of his sin. Is their reaction right? No. But the fallen pastor is not allowed to get angry about it. The fallen pastor wants grace and forgiveness so he must extend that same grace and forgiveness towards those who aren’t extending it towards him at the time.
Friends, it’s hard when someone we look up to disappoints us. When they let us down. When they betray us and hurt us. That hurt may last a very long time. It is very easy to depart from the words of Scripture and the loving ways of Christ.
Over the past three years, I’ve had a unique opportunity to counsel and listen to fallen pastors, their wives, their church members, their children, and just about everyone associated with them. It hurts when I talk to them and it brings back my own sin to the forefront. But it also brings to mind the grace God showed me when I sinned.
It reminds me each time how far I fell and how much it grieved God. But it also reminds me how much He loves me and how far he cast my sin from His memory – as far as the east is from the west.
At the same time, it also reminds me how cruel we can be towards those who sin. When the adulteress was caught in John 8, she was surrounded by a judgmental crowd. The only friend she had was Christ. None of us can imagine taking sides against Christ, can we? But there was a whole crowd aligned against Christ that day. Who was standing by His side that day? An adulterous woman.
I used to be very, very judgmental upon those who sinned. I was often there to cast the first stone. It was very easy for me to point out sin instead of showing compassion and grace first.
Unfortunately, I think that our first response when Christians sin and disappoint us greatly is this – “When is God going to judge this person?” As I’ve talked to fallen pastors who have found forgiveness, they still struggle with the pain of those around them who will not forgive them. People who will not let go of their sin. People who remind them of their fall, stare at them in public, hold them in public disdain, gossip about them and never let their sin go. Unfortunately, many of these people are those within the church.
It’s almost as if many around them are asking, “When will God unleash His judgment upon this fallen pastor? When will God punish him for this heinous sin? They don’t deserve to be happy!”
Friends, thanks be to God He does not punish us as we deserve every day. God does have the ultimate right to vengeance. It is not ours to wield. Maybe at times we hold on to anger to punish those we think God should be showing anger towards. But God is merciful – and thanks be to Him for that!
If He was not merciful, we would all be in a terrible, wretched state.
I’m pleading with all of you – if there is someone you are holding on to anger towards, let it go. Give it to God. Even if you are unable to forgive, allow God to take control of your emotions. He is the only just judge. He is the one who can settle all matters wisely as they need to be settled. He will make all things right in the end.
God asks we all cast our cares and burdens upon Him because He cares for us. Even when people let us down, He will take care of it all. Trust in God, know that He will take care of all things.
Do you ever get “seasonal depression“? Maybe not a disorder. But maybe you get down when the time changes and suddenly, it’s dark and dismal by the time 5:00 rolls around. I feel you.
I could go on and on and recite the usual statistics from my book. If you know anything about this blog, you know my book isn’t just for pastors, it’s for anyone in church. When we’re weak, we can fall. If you’re interested in the book, that’s it over there on the right.
I just have good ol’ regular depression. Medication helps the frequency. Yes, I believe people actually have chemical imbalances and that it can be inherited. Don’t tell that to some pastors. You might get, “You need to pray more. Find your joy in Jesus.”
I watched as pastors told that to my manic depressed mother for years. She read, prayed, ran the gambit and finally came to terms with an internal illness. Yeah, she loved Jesus and Jesus loved her, but when you have something that requires medication, take it. Of course, go talk to your doctor.
More after the jump…
(This is part three of a series of who is effected by the fall of a pastor. It’s been three years since my own fall from ministry and hopefully since writing Fallen Pastor: Finding Restoration in a Broken World, talking to people who have hurt and been hurt, I have some hopeful advice.)
When a pastor falls, a sort of shock wave goes out through the community at large. The church finds out first and word spreads through many different sources. Some of the stories are shared accurately and some of the details become distorted as the tale is passed on.
Let’s look today at how the fall of a pastor effects the different parts of the community.
1. Those attached to the church
The local church is typically considered to be those who are members and attend with some regularity. Those who are attached might be regular attenders who have never joined, those who are members who consider it their home church, those who live in the community who attend strictly for special services, or those who send their children to the church but do not attend themselves. All of them hold some fondness for the church for a particular reason.
In the years since my fall, I’ve had a chance to talk to some of these folks and how the pastor’s fall had an effect on them. For some, there was great anger toward him and his sin. They were angry that he could commit such a sin and some returned to the church during the turmoil to show support. Some, if they were still members, would willingly show up to vote him out if he had not yet resigned.
Read more after the jump…
For instance, if someone said to me, “You sounded like you didn’t care about Christian issues in your last post about “Chick-Fil-A.” I’d probably get a little upset. (But no one did because apparently since my server changed, my comments are disabled – haha!) I’d take it a little personal. One, because that’s not true and I’d assume they read it wrong. And two, because I do care. And under my strained sarcasm I do have a heart.
I’ve gotten better since I started blogging about not taking things personally, which is a good thing for all of us to learn.
I mention it today for a very serious reason. And this is a blog to be read very, very carefully.
Know why? Because I care about everyone on every side of this issue. Fallen pastors, their spouses, those they’ve been involved with, their churches, their families, their fellow pastors, their children – everyone. Know why? Because they are all worthy of the love and care of Christ.
When a pastor commits adultery and falls from the ministry, it hurts many people. Since my fall, I’ve had time to listen to people on every side of the fall. Of course, I was the adulterous pastor. I knew what it was like to be selfish, leave the ministry and not listen to anyone.
I’ve also had time to listen to the wives of fallen pastors. Hear their side of the story. I’ve also heard from the women who committed adultery with the pastor. I’ve talked to church members and friends of the fallen pastor. I’ve seen this issue from all sides and I must say, it has humbled me even greater than before.
After a pastor commits adultery, it breaks hearts. It wounds people. It makes a story for everyone. Sometimes it ends up on the front page of the newspaper if the church is big enough. It always makes the rounds in gossip in the community. Regardless, it is an act that hurts many people. It angers many. It leaves many asking, “Why? How? What are the reasons?”
Read more after the jump…..
I’ve been ignoring this whole Chick-Fil-A thing online. The founder of the institution was interviewed and said he opposed marriage between same sex people. That was his opinion. Those who disagreed jumped on him and decided to boycott. The Christians decided to make 8/1 a day to support his business.
I kinda felt like this: “Good for you. You have the right to make a freedom of speech statement. But you also have to carry the consequences of it.” All of us do. When we speak our feelings and thoughts, they carry weight.
Then I saw this posted online while everyone was rallying around Chick-fil-A.
It kinda made me think. Even a day after the Christian support of Chick-fil-A, there were a lot of people lined up at the restaurants.
My daughter asked me what it was all about. I told her, “The founder of Chick-fil-A, who makes the most tastiest chicken sandwiches (yum!), made a remark that he didn’t support gay marriage. And that’s his opinion. Some people decided they wouldn’t eat there anymore because of his opinion. And that’s their right.”
She said, “Okay, so what does that mean?”
She was thinking really hard. They have really good cheese dip.
I said, “No, I don’t think it would. We don’t go to restaurants because of the owner’s political views. We go there because they have fantastic food. Unfortunately, there are people who want to boycott some places because of their views.”
I challenged her again. I said, “What if the owners of Senor Lopez said, ‘We’re going to donate six million dollars to support gay marriage. Would that change your view?”
Now to another. I used to watch professional wrestling when I was growing up. My favorite wrestler was Brutus the Barber Beefcake. He’d wrestle, then put his opponent in a sleeper hold and cut his hair. AWESOME.
Lately, my doctor put me on a terrible anti-depressant that didn’t allow me to sleep. I’m off it now. But on those sleepless nights, I started watching old school wrestling. And I started watching new wrestling.
Please don’t email me and tell me wrestling is fake. Those guys go out there and put their bodies on the line and through horrible pain. It’s entertainment. I know that. The winner is determined beforehand. While I was watching, I was introduced to a new wrestler who has been around in the modern era – John Cena.
Now, back to the picture I posted earlier of the Christians who were surrounding the Chick-fil-A’s. They will stand in line to do a good deed for a few days.
John Cena, who does not brag about his off the mat performances and is a long time giver to the Make-A-Wish Foundation. You know, the Make-A-Wish Foundation that according to Wikipedia, that grants wishes to children with life-threatening medical conditions to enrich the human experience with hope, strength, and joy.
Do you know what athlete, person, superstar tops the list for kids wishes? Not Tiger Woods, not Michael Jordan, not LeBron James. It’s a man who takes time out of his extremely busy schedule and actually goes to see these kids in the hospital. It’s John Cena. He recently made his record breaking 300th visit.
Why? For notoriety? I bet a lot of you haven’t even heard of him. No, because he cares.
I honestly Googled to find out whether he’s a Christian. The evidence is scant. It seems like he probably is. Whether he is or not, he cares about kids. He’s not standing out in front of a Chick-Fil-A, he’s in the hospitals across America making sick kid’s dreams come true.
Good for Chick-Fil-A for making a stand. But better for men like John Cena to go to hospitals and touch the lives of children. I’ve heard that the Make-A-Wish Foundation even has a special “John Cena” room for the man.
John Cena is one of my new heroes, just for that fact. He cares enough to stand by sick kids on his days off when he could be seeing his family. Instead? He’s visiting kids who want to see him and feel hope.
Want inspiration? Go touch a life. Skip the restaurant. Donate clothes. Work in a Salvation Army refuge. Find out what your neighbor needs who is struggling. Look to your church member who is hurting. Find someone you know who needs help. Skip your chicken sandwich and make a difference in the world.
Ray Carroll is author of “Fallen Pastor: Finding Restoration in a Broken World,” and is a regular contributor to Provoketive Magazine.