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Gay Marriage, the Church, and the Jesus Response

Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in belief, bitterness, boundaries, brokenness, Christ, church, church members, community, compassion, current events, divisiveness, encouragement, gay marriage, grace, hate, hatred, homosexuality, judgment, love, religion, repentance, salvation, scripture, self-righteousness | Posted on 27-03-2013

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I was so thankful yesterday to get a Facebook inbox message from a friend who was concerned about the current argument in America over gay marriage. Like many Christians, she was concerned about the moral failure of the country. She had been watching Facebook and so have I. I too, have seen many comments like, “Why don’t people see what Scripture says?”

I’ll be honest. I don’t watch television news. For a good reason. It’s only purpose seems to be to rile people up over things that are insignificant. You get stressed out. I mentioned in an online magazine recently how watching TV news in a constant flow caused my mother anxiety.

She said she read my blog occasionally and never saw me write anything about the issue. I don’t. My blog is about fallen

Pic courtesy of PBS

Pic courtesy of PBS

pastors, mostly. Then, I write about issues secondary to that. Then, after that, I write about what tickles my fancy. I don’t avoid the big issues. I’ve written about big issues before, but they’re just not on the radar of what I do.

My response to her was probably not what she expected, but I hope it was biblical. (She did thank me for the sermon :)) I want to post it here then add some comments after. Here it is, verbatim:

Here is what I would say. And I pray it’s the biblical thing, because any response of my own would be wrong.

I’d take it back to the apostle Paul who wrote to a church that was probably going through more moral decay than we are, if you can imagine. In his time, it wasn’t just the culture, it was members of the church who were declining in morality. Members of the church were going up to the pagan temple and sleeping with temple prostitutes.

Paul was surrounded by a pagan Roman culture that was filled with violence, sex, child molestation, and hedonism – and all of it was legal. But Paul didn’t write against the evil around him in the world. He wrote about the sin within the church. He says something interesting in 1 Corinthians 5:

Please take time to read more important stuff after the jump:

Is Your Heart Right? & “Is Whitney Houston in Heaven?”

Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in Christ, compassion, criticize, forgiveness, God, grace, Heart, judgment, mercy, salvation, sanctification | Posted on 22-02-2012

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I’m taking a short hiatus for a few days. I’m having a procedure done on my heart called an ablation. I’ve been having issues with my heart speeding up whenever it darn well pleases over the past ten years. It came to a head over a month ago when I ended up in the emergency room with a heart rate of 250.

On Thursday, a surgeon will go into my heart, fiddle with it for about four hours and then burn a little place on it to make it stop. Good times.

Easy blog post topic. Is my heart right? Nope. Can I fix it? Nope. Only a trained medical professional can. And I trust him to put me under and make me right again.

In the same way, all of us have heart issues that need to be dealt with. Desperately. Whether they are sins that we continually struggle with or personality flaws, they need to be diagnosed. Guess who the worst person to diagnose them is? Us. When we ask ourselves if we have a problem, we rarely ever think we do.

That’s why we have God’s objective Word to root out our sin. Read it, cling to it, apply it to your heart and see if the Master Physician doesn’t give you a diagnosis. Don’t stay away from the parts you don’t like either. Read it all.

When you’re ready to be healed, he will heal. Completely.

Which brings me to one final thought before I head into my Thursday surgery. I wrote an article about the death of Whitney Houston for Provoketive Magazine. Since her death, a lot of Christians have been arguing whether she is in heaven or hell. If you listen to the overwhelming voices of the Christians, you would come to the conclusion that she is in hell.

I don’t have a dog in the fight when it comes to Whitney Houston. I know she was raised in a Christian home, claimed to have professed her faith in Christ and had many high and low points in her life.

I think what surprises me is how willing the Christian majority is to pass judgment upon someone and pronounce hell upon them. ¬†Frankly, it’s rather scary.

What I see in the New Testament is a call to be regenerated. Something only God can do. By Christ, we are justified. When God looks at us, He no longer sees us, but His Son. God no longer judges us on our merits or works but on the work of Christ. That’s a good thing.

In the words of Paul, does that give us license to sin more? Heaven forbid it!

We are called to live a life of sanctification, holiness, pleasing to God. We are, with the aid of the Holy Spirit, to persevere in our faith until the end.

Will it always be easy? Will we fail? Will we falter? Will we fall? Yes. I’m living proof. But he picks us up over and over again. Who does he pick up? Those who seek him out. Those who belong to him.

He’s revealed to us as a Father. We’re his kids. We go astray like a bunch of sheep. Should we? No. But we do. He disciplines us when we do. But like a good Father, if we are truly His, He never gives up on us. Ever.

I’ve heard a lot of well-meaning Christians say that Ms. Houston is in hell. I don’t know. It’s not a topic to be thrown around on the Internet carelessly. I do know this. When we are chosen by God, when we become one with Christ, when He becomes our Father forever, nothing can take us away from Him. Can a person get caught up in a sinful lifestyle with guilt and regret, knowing they need to return to God? Yes.

What does this look like? When the sinner (backslidden alcoholic, addict, fornicator, etc.) comes to the church and says, “I messed up, can God forgive me? Will you forgive me?” The church’s response is, “Of course, we do. God forgives.”

Fast forward six months down the road. The same thing happens. Same words. The church says, “You’re still having trouble, we want to help you still because God helps you still.”

What if it happens over and over? Does the church give up? Does God give up? I think the answer is to be found in the heart of a person who is truly repentant over their sin and seeking restoration and holiness and a person who just doesn’t care. Those who return to the Lord for help are those who are seeking Him

And the Christian fellowship should be right there alongside those people with encouragement, love and offering hope. God gave us each other in this murky world. It’s not an easy place to be. I fear that those who cast the most judgment are those who have never fallen far, and I hope they never do. They are those who have never come face to face with the absolute need for grace and forgiveness of God.

May we all be more sensitive toward those in our world who need restoration and light.

Is Forgiveness For The Remarried Wishful Thinking?

Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in adultery, divorce, fallenness, forgiveness, God, gospel, grace, jesus, justice, law, love, mercy, remarriage, repentance, salvation, sanctification, theology | Posted on 07-09-2011

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There’s a question that keeps bombarding me from time to time. Usually, it’s shrouded in some level of judgmentalism, but sometimes, and surprisingly, it comes with an honest heart that seeks an answer.

How can anyone who has committed adultery and left their spouse to marry another ever be forgiven by God? The fact that they are now married to another person shows they are unrepentant and due to Christ’s command in the Sermon on the Mount, they are actually living in perpetual adultery.

It’s an interesting statement and something I’ve pondered, to be sure. You better believe I’ve thought about it. So have thousands of people who are now living in divorced relationships that didn’t necessarily come as a result of adultery. What is the evangelical answer to more than half of the population? “Well, I’m sorry, but you’re living in perpetual adultery. You’re out of luck.”

For some, that is the answer.

Let’s face the facts first. Adultery is a sin, horrible in the eyes of God. Divorce is a sin. It is not God’s plan for the married couple. I have no “but” or “however” to place here. Those are the facts of Scripture. I’m not going to make an excuse. That’s just it.

I don’t believe that those sins are unforgivable. Once we’ve trudged on and made our decisions before the face of God and despite His Word, we have a lot to consider. If we’ve remarried and forged ahead, there’s little to be done. Someone will say, “You shouldn’t sin to expect grace to abound.” To be gracious to that statement, I will only answer that there are millions of marriages that fail. If Christian marriages were as great as they could be, partnered by Spirit filled people who were doing what they should, within a Spirit filled community, I surmise that we would have a lot less problems. But it is futile to throw stones when we don’t have a grasp of the situation.

We do know that people sin. We do know that we shouldn’t. And we do know that millions and millions of Christian people are divorced and remarried and probably want an answer to this question.

Has Christ really looked at us and said, “Sorry, you’ve locked yourself in this box of sin. There’s nothing I can do for you this time. Unless you’re willing to divorce the person you’re with now and go back to the other person, regardless of how much has happened since then. I just don’t think I can ever forgive you. Ever.”

No, you’re not beyond forgiveness. Did you commit adultery before your marriage that led to a divorce? Then repent. Seek out your spouse and reconcile. If it doesn’t happen, don’t keep committing adultery. Stop. Repent. Turn to God.

Did you and your spouse divorce for different reasons and now you’ve remarried? Did someone tell you that you’re an adulterer because you remarried? Well, I’ll tell you what. That may be the letter of the law as some see it, but even if it is the case, it’s a one time sin. Fall upon your face, cry out to Christ and ask for forgiveness.

As one man said, “You can’t unscramble the egg.”

When they cast the adulterous woman at the feet of Christ, He didn’t waste his time with those who judged her. He spent His attention and time on her. When He finally answered them, they were ashamed and went away. Finally He said to her, “Is anyone left to condemn you? Go and sin no more.”

The act of adultery, like any other sin, does not have to be a continual act. Regardless of what the world says, when we repent, Christ makes us clean, new, sanctified people. It’s over. Now, the world may have a field day with us, but that’s all garbage. What matters most is what our Savior sees in us. He did atone for all my sins. Even the ones I committed while spitting in His face, God forgive me.

Go, sin no more. Live a life pleasing to Him. He has taken away our guilt.

1 Corinthians 6:9-11: Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

Getting Saved And Calling The Police

Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in book, Christ, Christianity, mom, parents, salvation | Posted on 10-07-2011

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Last time I blogged about a passage I found in one of my mom’s old books, Temptation: How Christians Can Deal With It.

Allison was reading it and began laughing out loud. She found some of my mom’s humor. Mom was a card. She could make anyone laugh. It’s where I get my sick, twisted, and somewhat Southern refined sense of humor.

In this book, she tells people how to get saved. How to reach out to Christ and ask Him into their hearts. (Allison found this little nugget.) Then she tells them what to do once they’ve made that huge, life changing decision, because a second cannot be delayed:

“Great! Now things are going to get better, maybe not all at once, but a little at a time. The next thing you have to do is tell someone what you’ve done. If you know some Christian people, call them and tell them you have made a decision and accepted Christ into your life. Don’t wait! Do it now! If you don’t know any people who are Christians, get the telephone book. Turn to the Yellow Pages and locate a church telephone number. Call it. If it is after hours, look for a minister’s home telephone number and call it.

If nothing else, call the local police station and tell them you need to talk to a minister or chaplain. Satan will tell you to wait until tomorrow, but don’t do it. Your decision is important to you and to God.”

Mom, that is impassioned and awesome. I love you.

I Hate Humility, But I Love Transformation

Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in apology, bitterness, deacons, dreams, forgiveness, hatred, pastoring, salvation | Posted on 17-11-2010

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So much has happened in the past week. Just when I think my story is over, something else happens. I just can’t believe this is happening to me. But, it is.

I blogged about dreams last time. I haven’t had a good dream in over a year. I had one last night. I’ll get to that some other time.

Cynthia and I have been looking for a church ever since we had a terrible experience at the last one – not Angel Falls.

We have been visiting the church of my friend Brad – Hope Hills Baptist. He’s a sovereigntist like me. He spends his time three ways – knocking on doors in the community trying to save souls, witnessing in downtown Richmond, and spending time with his beautiful family.

You know how I know Brad is serious about the kingdom? Richmond is a far cry from Angel Falls. As a pastor, I wouldn’t have dreamed about going there and witnessing. He uses the Way of the Master witnessing technique like I did. He’s not going to get anyone there to join his church. You know why he goes there? Because he loves sinners. He wants people to see Christ. He’s not pushy. He’s not overbearing. He just loves Christ. He loves people. You may disagree with Brad and think he’s out of line and should leave people alone. Fine. But he’s got a heart for people. He doesn’t judge. If they don’t listen, he leaves them alone. He just loves.

He has a passion that 99% of pastors don’t have. I didn’t have it. He preaches with a fire that men like Spurgeon and Whitfield had. Lord, is that even a fair comparison? No. I hate it when people do that. If someone could make a list of pastors throughout the ages of passion, some guy from North Dakota who pastored a church who no one ever heard of would top the list, not Charles Spurgeon. It’s not right of me to compare Brad to Spurgeon or Whitfield. If he knew I was making up a pseudonym for him and doing it, he would be embarrassed. He would say, “I’m just a preacher trying to glorify Christ.” But I’ll tell you. In this ragged county dearth of preaching, he’s like Spurgeon. And those of you who are hurting for good preaching, you know exactly what I’m talking about.

Is he seminary educated? Nope. And it’s probably to his advantage. He just loves people.

He told me last week that he had a wife and husband in his office at midnight. The husband was drunk off his butt. He was a gulf war veteran and was screaming at his wife. She was crying. He told me, “I felt like I was in over my head.” But he stayed in there and presented the gospel. The couple left. The man came back three days later and was begging to be saved.

Friends, in the past year, I’ve lost touch with Christ. I have hated church, I’ve hated religion, and I sure as hell hated to see anything associated with the Southern Baptist Convention. But seeing Brad and his passion has reminded me what it’s all about. It’s about Christ. It’s not about me. It’s not about parking lots or buildings or the weekly offering. And I’m downright ashamed of the pastor I used to be. In fact, I want to strip myself of that.

Cynthia and I met with him and told him we wanted to join the church. We told him we didn’t see any other way for us to join but to tell the church what we had done. He agreed. It’s going to be embarrassing this Sunday when he tells them. Cynthia and I had a heart to heart about that last night.

I told her, “Sweetie, in Nathaniel Hawhorne’s classic, ‘The Scarlet Letter,’ Hester Prynne is commanded to wear her ‘A’ on her chest. But the first time she shows up in public, she has embroidered it herself. It’s not a plain ‘A’. It’s adorned with gold and it’s absolutely beautiful. The people are stunned and are awed with her workmanship. She’s taken ownership of her sin. On Sunday, that’s what we need to do. We’ve been forgiven. In that congregation, there will be people there who are/have been/who will be committing adultery. We need to take ownership of what we’ve done. We aren’t proud of it, but God has set us free from it by the grace of Christ. And we can be an example to someone and maybe, just maybe someone can be helped by our story.”

There’s more, dear reader . . .

I told you in the last blog that I called Phillip Townsend. He was the deacon who called the shots after I committed adultery. When he found out what I did, he told me he “ought to beat the sh-t out” of me. We had a rocky past. I blamed him for a lot of my current problems.

Today, friends, I went to him with all humility and grace. I laid myself at his feet. I apologized to him and told him I was terribly sorry for all the pain I had caused him and the church.

As a sidenote, I have talked to many fallen pastors across the county in the past year. 95% of them tell me that for the most part, reconciliation with the church that was sinned against is IMPOSSIBLE. You know what? I’m a hard headed jerk. Today, I proved that percentage wrong.

Humility goes a long, long way.

The only issue I left with is this – Phillip told me he forgave me a long time ago. Friends, if you forgive a person, you need to TELL THEM. If you don’t tell them, forgiveness is not complete. But I understand the process. He also told me he had no intention of contacting me. He said he was going to wait for me to initiate contact. I said, “I get it. I’m a jerk. I would’ve just responded like a jerk, right?” He had a point. There’s a time for reconciliation and a right time to talk to people.

I left Phillip’s home with a good feeling. Does he feel the same as he did when I was pastor? No. Do I think he’s flawed and should have handled it different? Yeah. But you know what? I love him. And one day in glory, we’re gonna have to live next to each other. And today, for an hour and a half, we understood each other. And as a man, I looked him in the eye and I took the initiative to call him and make him meet me.

There’s no reason Christians shouldn’t be getting along in this world. Phillip told me there’s about 30% of that church that will never forgive me. That’s sad. Because if they’re really saved, they won’t like seeing me in heaven.

And when I’m there, I’m gonna rub it in.

I called Brad to tell him that I met with Phillip. He started to cry. I said, “What is it?” He said, “When I met with you and Cynthia last week, I wrote in my prayer journal that I was going to begin praying for you to reconcile with the people at Angel Falls. I just didn’t think that prayer would begin to be answered so quickly.” My faith is beginning to be restored.

By the way, I had a great dream last night. First good dream I’ve had in a while. A very long while. I love airplanes. I was at an airfield with my girls and Cynthia. There was an airshow. And we were free. And we were watching the planes go by. An
d we were happy.

Forgiveness is good. Do you have someone you need to talk to? Humility is so freeing. Is it hard? Sure. But it will free you from a lifetime of anger, hatred, and bitterness. Do it before you waste anymore time.