Category Archives: blessings

Are Christians Allowed To Enjoy Life Following A Major Sin?

I’ve got a fallen pastor friend that I’ve grown close to. I don’t think he reads my blog, but I hope he does. He has gone through some of the same issues I went through three and a half years ago when I fell from ministry when I committed adultery.

He fell a while back from his place of ministry. He called several months ago and we had a conversation I won’t forget:pastph

Him: “I know you’ll be able to identify with me on this. At least I think you will. You’re the only one who seems to understand what I’m going through.”

Me: “Go for it.”

Him: “Since my wife and I divorced a while back, I’ve been seeing someone. Everything is going great, you know? I feel like despite everything, life is good. I couldn’t work things out with my wife. We tried, but we moved on. I have been working things out with God. I’m cautiously seeing this woman. I’m part of a church and that’s going well. But…”

Me: “Let me guess. You feel like the bottom is about to drop out because you don’t think you should be happy.”

Him: “How did you know?”

Me: “You said you thought I’d understand because I’d been there before.”

Him: “That’s right. It’s been a long road and I know I have a long way to go still. I don’t believe in karma, but I can’t put my finger on what it is. It’s like I’m waiting on the other shoe to drop. It’s like I don’t deserve to be happy after what I’ve put everyone else through. Like I don’t deserve to feel this good. It’s almost like God is out there waiting to punish me or put me down the second things really start going.”

Me: “I know exactly what you feel. But I need you to do something. Take a deep breath for a moment and listen. What you’re feeling is normal. But what you’re feeling comes from several places.

“First, guilt. I know you’re still working things out with God. You have a long way to go with the sin you committed. God is still working on you and I know He’s forgiven you, but you still have to reconcile that to yourself. You still have a lot of guilt stored up. You don’t feel like you deserve anything good after you cheated on your wife and hurt an entire congregation, right?”

guiltHim: “Yeah, you’re right.”

Me: “Next, your view of God has suffered a little. In fact, it may not have ever been exactly right. Mine never was. A lot of people see God as some dude up in heaven ready to strike us down the second we get a little bit happy. Worse, we see him as a cosmic killjoy.

“I’ve told you before about how much John 8 and the story of the woman caught in adultery means to me. She was taken to Jesus and they were ready to stone her. Jesus sent them away and He did not judge her. What did He say to her after that? ‘Is anyone left to condemn you?’ I would ask you the same question, friend. If you’ve reconciled to God, is anyone left to condemn you?

Him: “No.”

Me: “No one can stand as your judge if you are forgiven by the judge of all mankind. Only God can know that. And what does Jesus say next to her? ‘Then go and sin no more.’ Listen, Christ sees our flaws, took those sins and sacrificed Himself for them. We are, indeed, awful, wretched people. But He loves us. And thank God for that. But we are free from those sins when we are forgiven, right?”

Him: “Right. We are, but it’s difficult.”

Me: “Sure it is. Both me and my wife Allison still, at times, feel like we don’t deserve anything good in life. After we committed adultery, after I hurt an entire church, hurt my ex-wife, disappointed a community, hurt my family, I didn’t feel like I ever deserved to be happy again. And still those feelings come up once and again. But Christ doesn’t withhold His blessings from me. Do I still suffer consequences because of my sin? Sure. But I have been made pure by Christ and He no longer holds my sin against me.”

Him: “You’re right, but it’s still a struggle for me.”

Me: “And it will be. It should be. It takes time. Broken relationships with people take a long time to heal. Work on your sinrelationship with God. Live a life pleasing to Him. Work on the relationships you have that are good. When you have a chance to make things right with people, do it. Say kind words to those you have hurt. Let them see the progress Christ is making in your soul. It happens, just not overnight.”

Him: “It does take time. Thank you.”

Me: “We can sin in a moment, but coming back from it can take a very long time. But Christ is worth it. And I promise you, He wants us to be happy in His will and the life He has for us. Enjoy the life before you. Don’t spend time worrying about the sin behind you that He has forgiven. Mend those broken relationships when you can. But embrace the gracious future.”

But then again, there’s always a dissenting opinion:

When The Heart Needs Healing

I’ve been off the grid for about a week and I have a pretty good reason. And it turned into a good illustration for a blog (I hope).

Last Monday, I was finished up with covering a basketball game in a neighboring county for my sports medicine job. I went to my car and when I got in, I had terrible chest pain. I’d had indigestion all day, so I just dismissed it. I started the hour long drive home and it kept getting worse. So, I kept ignoring it even more.

There came a point about halfway home that I couldn’t ignore it anymore. My heart was racing, my chest was throbbing, my head was hurting and my neck was aching. I pulled over and called Allison. She told me to call an ambulance. I explained to her that I was in the middle of nowhere and that I was perfectly fine. I wasn’t.

When I got to the county where I work, my left arm started to hurt. Left arm pain. Yeah, that kind of left arm pain. I couldn’t ignore it anymore. I drove to the hospital where I work and went into the emergency room. They got me right back and hooked me up to the EKG.

The nurse said, “Oh, you’re having an SVT.” One of them jogged out to tell the ER doctor.

“Excuse me? I said? What is an SVT?” I probably should have listened better in one of my medical classes. But Lord, that was almost 15 years ago.

“Tachycardia. Your heart is beating at 250 beats a minute,” she said.

I’m a bottom line guy. Don’t tell me anything but facts. “So,” I said, “what’s next?” A thousand things ran through my mind. Surgery, helicopter ride to Nashville, getting buzzed by those paddles, whatever.

“It’s fixable with a shot,” she said as they wheeled me to “Room 7.”

They quickly hooked me up to an IV and the doctor said, “We’re going to give you this medicine and it’s going to feel like your heart has stopped for a second.”

Not reassuring. I was concerned as I watched my heart rate race across the monitor next to me. The medicine went in and I waited. And suddenly, everything slowed.

They told me as I lay there that it wasn’t an uncommon thing, that lots of people have SVTs. Lots of things can trigger it. Caffeine, sickness, stress. The nurse said, “Looks like you’re going to live.”

I said, “You just disappointed a lot of people.”

Of course, it was an emergency room, so I had to wait a while. I had a lot of time to think. And count the ceiling tiles. And pray. And thank God for another day in this world.

Then I started thinking about the past two or three years. The tough times, the stress, falling in the ministry, God putting me back on my feet, people helping restore me, writing a book. Then I really, really started to think.

People ask a lot of questions about ministers who fall. Just that afternoon, one woman had bought a book. Her pastor had fallen and she asked a question that many ask – “Why did he do it?” I still don’t have a standard answer for that. There are a lot of issues in the book that I deal with that lead up to a pastor falling. There are environmental things, crises, relationships, and personal problems.

But as I lay there in the hospital, I started thinking about the heart condition of the pastor.

Before we are saved, the Bible tells us that we are dead in our sins and trespasses. (Ephesians 2:1) We have no spiritual pulse. That’s when God comes in, regenerates us and gives us life. We become a new creation. Similarly, Jeremiah 17:9 says, The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?

We don’t expect our church leaders to fall. We expect them to be people with renewed hearts, following God. But sometimes, they sin. Sometimes, they give into their sinful passions. I’ve never had a good way to explain that to people. Until last Monday.

Sometimes, all of us, our spiritual heartbeats (which have been made alive by Christ) get out of whack. We turn from Him. The only way we can have it fixed is when we seek Him out and repent. When we do, He makes us right again. My heart was messed up Monday and I had to seek out medical help and I got it. I couldn’t have been made right without medicine. Two years ago after I fell, my heart was messed up for a long time. I wasn’t made right until I sought God out and He made me right. But even my seeking Him out was His work.

He’s never given up on me. He’s always been there, even when I’m at my lowest. Even when I constantly reject Him or try to drown out the symptoms of a failing spiritual life.

Thanks be to God for His longsuffering. May we all seek Him out, especially when we don’t think we need help – because that’s usually when we need it the most.

____________________

Fallen Pastor: Finding Restoration in a Broken World is available at Amazon.com and is also available for the Amazon Kindle. It will be available soon at other outlets. Ask your local bookstore about availability.

Listen Closely On Father's Day, There Might Be A Hero

Thought I’d get a jump on all the Fathers Day blogging. There’s a wide range of it. It goes from the sentimental: “Dad, you mean/meant so much to me. Remember when you took me fishin’ the first time?”

To anger issues: “I hated my dad and he hated me.”

To resolution: “My dad and I never got along, but the longer we both live, the more wisdom I see in his weathered face . . . Cue clip to YouTube video of ‘In The Living Years.'”

I’m not making fun because I’ve probably written all of those.

I will say this. Everything I do bad is because of my father. I can say that thanks to the Human Genome Project. Seriously. I just read an article three days ago that said adultery is genetic. I had the article on my Mozilla Foxfire, but some inconsiderate person clicked it off. Bad person. They must have been carrying the “inconsiderate internet gene.”

I’m not making fun. Honest. A few years ago, one of my heroes, Albert Mohler, kinda said that if the homosexual gene is found, it means that homosexuality is just sin in the DNA code. So there.

My dad was a sinful man. Apparently, the Carroll men are sinful men. Going back a ways. Seriously. We’re outlaws, wretches, and then some. We like women. Our eyes wander. My great grandfather apparently rode with Annie Oakley. My grandfather is a proud veteran of the Battle of the Bulge. My father has a little bit of his past he concealed from me and my sister. However, I do know that he blew the whistle on his company, saving many lives, leading to a major class action lawsuit. He’s gone now, but many workers lives and family lives were improved. I’m proud of him.

All of us, all of us fathers, leave a legacy. Some of it we’d like to leave in the dingy closet or a hidden file on the hard drive. Sometimes, it gets to stay there. But sometimes it gets out in the open.

Sometimes, we do the heroic. Funny thing is, the heroic things we do, we are ashamed of more than the sinful things we do. Why? Because we’re trying to help other people. We’re just doing what’s right. Because “it’s nothing.” Just doing what anyone else would do.

So when we really mess up? We just want to repent, slide off in a corner and hope people will leave us alone and hope they’ll remember the good.

But it never happens that way.

So the pastor usually gets up on Sunday and tells fathers, “You need to do a better job! Love your wife more! Love you kids more! You’re a wretch! They need a hero!”

Yeah, they do. We’re trying. Amidst our mistakes and failings, amidst our tears, prayers and failures, we try. Just remember, all of those men you consider to be failures who aren’t trying very hard, they’re heroes. They’ve done their best. And they are downplaying their heroics.

My dad, me, and my grandfather. All of us have the genetic Carroll curl. I love these men. Not only do their genetics make me, but their hearts, souls, and love make me who I am.

Listen Closely On Father’s Day, There Might Be A Hero

Thought I’d get a jump on all the Fathers Day blogging. There’s a wide range of it. It goes from the sentimental: “Dad, you mean/meant so much to me. Remember when you took me fishin’ the first time?”

To anger issues: “I hated my dad and he hated me.”

To resolution: “My dad and I never got along, but the longer we both live, the more wisdom I see in his weathered face . . . Cue clip to YouTube video of ‘In The Living Years.'”

I’m not making fun because I’ve probably written all of those.

I will say this. Everything I do bad is because of my father. I can say that thanks to the Human Genome Project. Seriously. I just read an article three days ago that said adultery is genetic. I had the article on my Mozilla Foxfire, but some inconsiderate person clicked it off. Bad person. They must have been carrying the “inconsiderate internet gene.”

I’m not making fun. Honest. A few years ago, one of my heroes, Albert Mohler, kinda said that if the homosexual gene is found, it means that homosexuality is just sin in the DNA code. So there.

My dad was a sinful man. Apparently, the Carroll men are sinful men. Going back a ways. Seriously. We’re outlaws, wretches, and then some. We like women. Our eyes wander. My great grandfather apparently rode with Annie Oakley. My grandfather is a proud veteran of the Battle of the Bulge. My father has a little bit of his past he concealed from me and my sister. However, I do know that he blew the whistle on his company, saving many lives, leading to a major class action lawsuit. He’s gone now, but many workers lives and family lives were improved. I’m proud of him.

All of us, all of us fathers, leave a legacy. Some of it we’d like to leave in the dingy closet or a hidden file on the hard drive. Sometimes, it gets to stay there. But sometimes it gets out in the open.

Sometimes, we do the heroic. Funny thing is, the heroic things we do, we are ashamed of more than the sinful things we do. Why? Because we’re trying to help other people. We’re just doing what’s right. Because “it’s nothing.” Just doing what anyone else would do.

So when we really mess up? We just want to repent, slide off in a corner and hope people will leave us alone and hope they’ll remember the good.

But it never happens that way.

So the pastor usually gets up on Sunday and tells fathers, “You need to do a better job! Love your wife more! Love you kids more! You’re a wretch! They need a hero!”

Yeah, they do. We’re trying. Amidst our mistakes and failings, amidst our tears, prayers and failures, we try. Just remember, all of those men you consider to be failures who aren’t trying very hard, they’re heroes. They’ve done their best. And they are downplaying their heroics.

My dad, me, and my grandfather. All of us have the genetic Carroll curl. I love these men. Not only do their genetics make me, but their hearts, souls, and love make me who I am.

Humbling Circumstances Do Not Equal Humility

I remember after my fall from the pastorate, it was a terrible four or five months there for a while.

My mother had died a half a year before, I got caught in adultery, left the church, was living on my own again, was getting some pretty nasty messages on occasion, was angry at everyone, and was working a lot. In fact, on several occasions, I fell asleep at work. (Don’t tell my boss).

I had about two or three of my friends who would call and ask me, “How are you doing?”

It’s a family friendly blog, so I can’t write out my actual response.

But some people would ask, “Are you being humbled?” I got really tired of that question. I don’t know, moron. What do you think? After falling from the ministry, losing my mom, being hated by everyone in the world, do you think I’m being humbled? Asinine question.

You know what though? I figured something out after a while. I wasn’t humble. Not by a long shot. In fact, it took me a while to fully repent before God.

But wait, all these horrible things were going on around me. Some well meaning Christians would say, “God is humbling you.” So why wasn’t I humble?

Glad I asked. Easy answer. Just because we are being beset about on all sides by humbling, horrible circumstances doesn’t mean we’re going to actually be humbled.

Two cases to review. First, Pharoah. Yeah, King of Egypt. Moses tells him over and over, “Let my people go.” He doesn’t. Plague after plague after plague. God hardens his heart (discussion for another blog post), Pharoah doesn’t humble himself before God. He darn well should have. Those were some cruddy days up in Egypt. But Pharoah’s thought process probably was, “I can’t believe all this is happening to me.”

Second case: Job. House falls down, kills everyone in the family except his nagging wife. Cattle rustled. Boils. Horrible, nasty, humbling circumstances that Job actually didn’t really do anything to deserve. Yet, Job’s response was to praise God and humble himself before Him. Job’s inner thought process? “I don’t know what’s going on, Lord, but you gave it all to me, so take it all back if you want. I love you for who you are, not what you do.”

Finally, after a year of humbling circumstances, I humbled myself before God. And even that was a gift of God.

Trials don’t make us strong unless we respond to them in the proper way. Until we see God’s beauty and glory in them. Sometimes, it takes a while, but He’s patient.

Adultery: A Lucrative Business?

Before I continue my story, I have to address an issue I’ve been contemplating for over a year. I’m in the process of writing a book on fallen pastors and have already written an essay on my experience. The essay won’t bring me any income. The book has the possibility of bringing me some, if any.

I started my blog anonymously with the hopes of clearing my thoughts and wanting to help others. At some point, I hoped to write a book. That’s come to fruition.

I found myself asking before I even started writing, “What if I my speaking/book writing ever put me in a place where I profited off my story?”

If it did, I could see where people would view me as someone who would be making money off adultery. If I was standing on the outside looking in, I would be saying, “The only reason you are profiting (whether financially, with fame, or spiritually) now is because you’ve committed adultery. You should be ashamed of yourself.”

I’ll be honest. It was a struggle. So, I value your input.

Let me tell you where I am right now and hopefully it’ll give you some insight.

I told my ex-wife a couple of weeks ago everything about my current project. She was encouraging and happy for me that I was helping others. My current pastor knows. I’ve done nothing but be as transparent as possible. I’ve dropped my pseudonym.

About a year and a half ago, I wasn’t ready to proceed with this project. I was proud. I would have been doing it for my own selfish reasons. To get revenge and make my case. But a funny thing happened. God humbled me. He basically said, “Ray, you’re a vile sinner. If you want forgiveness from others, you have to humble yourself in the sight of others. You’re the one who sinned.”

There’s more.

I have a feeling if our local architect, plumber, or gas pumper wrote a book on fallen people, we wouldn’t care. But I’m writing on me. A fallen pastor. And other fallen pastors. Those in ministry who were supposed to hold high the standard of morality. And we failed you. We failed those within the body of Christ miserably. And it hurt. It will resonate for decades.

Forgiveness for those with high expectations placed upon them does not come easy, if ever. And I finally get it. I am ashamed.

I’m not in this to make money, whether anyone believes it or not. My core reason for writing to begin with is to help people. To help fallen ministers. To help hurt churches. Ever since I sinned, I have felt remorse, guilt, and pain for those I hurt. Every time I blog or write, it all comes flooding back to me. I don’t say that to create pity, I just state it as fact.

The real situation is this – the vast majority of people I have hurt have moved on. David says in Psalm 51 that his sin is ever before him. When he committed adultery, I doubt there was ever a day that went by that he didn’t grieve over the sin he committed before God. After talking to many fallen pastors across this country, I can tell you that they think of it daily. I do too. I think the former wives of fallen pastors think of it daily too. I think the women they committed adultery with think of it daily too. However, the churches eventually heal, they grieve, and they move on. They don’t think of it every day. They just move on. They may not be healthy, but they cast it aside.

Writing is a wonderful thing. It is the bridge that carries the emotions from the soul to the world, allowing us to heal. Writing allows us to open our hearts. In doing so, we can help others with their hurts, letting them know they are not alone. My blog has already done that – by the grace of God. I have made so many friends who hurt like I do.

If I was writing as a man who was still committing adultery, I would think that people would have a justified right if I made a single penny on my writings. They should come to my home and in a loving manner ask me why I kept money made from sin.

I will be accused for the rest of my life (if I ever make money for my sin) for profiting on adultery. Let me tell you about my profit.

But here I am. A former pastor. Because of my sin, I have lost a lot. I don’t say that to gain your pity. I made a choice. A choice I live with every day I wake up. I do not see my children every day. Each time I see a former church member who was hurt by my actions, I will watch them avoid me or cast about in anger. Every day I drive by my former church and feel a pang of guilt for what I did. The last two years have been the darkest of my life because of a choice I made.

Am I happy to be with my wife? Do I love her with all my heart? Absolutely. I wouldn’t trade her for anything in the world.

But I will live with the consequences of my sin forever. There is no joy in breaking the law of God. It is an offense to Him.

I write not as an adulterer. I write as a forgiven sinner. I do not write as a man seeking to earn money. I write as a man trying to help others prevent sin.

If someone was a former drug addict and found the redeeming grace of God, if someone was a former thief and discovered grace, if someone was a murderer and turned to Christ – if any of these people wrote a book and shared their testimony, most of us would revel in their story. But if a fallen pastor writes about his fall, his adultery, how he broke the heart of his church, his ex-wife, his children, we find a story of hypocrisy.

I am a hypocrite of the highest degree. I used to preach the commandments. I used to preach morality. The things I preached were true – not because of me but because they were God’s truth.

If I write or preach those truths now, the same is true. God’s truth is still true. Whether it comes from the mouth of a morally sound mouth of a pastor who speaks to millions or the mouth of a disgraced pastor who has fallen greatly. I know God saves because He has save me from the depths of despair.

What will I do if I ever share my story in word or book form and receive a check for it?

I’ll say, “thank you Lord. I do not deserve your grace. I do not deserve your love. And I most certainly do not deserve any good thing.”

If I was still committing adultery, I would agree I don’t deserve any compensation for sharing my testimony or writing. Now, I am no longer an adulterer. If I ever receive a single dime, then I’ll cross that road when I get there.

I’ll just have to say, “Lord, like my life,  it’s yours. What would you have me do with it?”

A Day In The Life

I write a lot about the trials I’ve been through and the mistakes I’ve made. I write about the effects those things have had on my life and hope it has helped others.

I write under a pseudonym to protect those I’ve harmed, my kids and just because I don’t need the publicity in this area, frankly. It’s a sensitive thing when a pastor falls and I’ve written about a lot of sensitive issues pertaining to my fall. Thanks for understanding that.

For one post, I’m going to step outside of all that and let you know what I do in a typical day without divulging too much information. As if you cared, really. I’m just a normal guy trying to make it in this lovely world.

It’ll be kind of a mundane post. Maybe.

Cynthia wakes up early because she works early. Sometimes I get up and see her off, sometimes she lets me sleep in. But she always wakes me with a sweet kiss before she leaves.

When I rouse from my slumber, I call Cynthia at work then get some caffeine and take my daily medicine. I check my email on my iPhone then I go straight to the Internet to check my blog. I also check some of my favorite sites, including the news and favorite sports sites.

I don’t watch TV much. Only if there’s an interesting sporting event on.

If there are dishes or housework I think I can tackle, I’ll do that. Sometimes, I’ll ponder my blog and a topic, or I’ll make some work calls.

Then, it’s off to work. I’ve referenced that I do work in the medical field. I do. It’s hands on and I love it. It’s a second shift position and I work with a lot of people. I work in the community, indoors, outdoors, and come in contact with all sorts of people.

While I’m busy at work, Cynthia gets off work and heads home. We text a lot during the day and I love that. We’re always finding an excuse to talk.

When I’m at work, I love to write or read. Right now, I’m reading Greg Boyd’s “Repenting of Religion.” I highly recommend it.

When I get bored at work, I’ll make random phone calls to friends and irritate them for no reason.

Sometimes during the day, my mind wanders to my sin, or I’ll miss my mom, or I’ll think of sermons I’d like to preach one day. But my mind is never far from Cynthia.

Some days, work is long, depending on my schedule or the workload, and some days it’s really short.

On my way home is when I pray a lot. It’s a long commute on country roads and I get a lot of quiet thinking done.

Cynthia is always waiting for me with a smile and welcome home kiss. I check the Internet for an hour or so to unwind while she puts her daughter down and we unwind together.

In the evening, I always get a call or Skype from my girls and we talk for a little, unless it’s my weekend to have them (and that’s a different story).

I always look forward to cuddling next to my beautiful wife at night. We talk a lot, or share our worries. But she’s my best friend. She’s the love of my life and all I want to focus on at the end of the day.

I wait until she goes to sleep then I’ll get the coffee pot ready for her for when she wakes up the next day and a lot of the time I’ll make her lunch.

I don’t sleep real well. I’m a night owl and wish I slept better. I average about six hours a night and wish I could do it better. But that’s life, I suppose.

It’s a routine, I guess. And there are what seem to be a lot of meaningless details to most people.

But to me, they’re all very meaningful, God-sent, and blessed moments.