Musings From A Musical Mind

Posts tagged ‘Paul’

Guest Post From Ray Carroll

I’m excited to feature a very special article today from my friend, Ray Carroll.  You can find his blog here at: Fallen Pastor. Ray knows first hand what it feels like to fail, be forgiven and restored again to health.  He is passionate about helping others.  His articles and story are compelling and encouraging.  Failure has made him a different man.  He has written a book about his experiences, available at Amazon.com entitled: Fallen Pastor.  If you know of anyone that needs a little help or someone to talk to – Ray is an excellent person.

Below is his response to the recent news events that touch the Christian community.  You will find his statements powerful and provocative, but right on.  I hope you will read it and enjoy it as much as I have.

Enjoy and God Bless!

Gay Marriage, the Church, and the Jesus Response

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:

For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? God judges those outside.

seekPaul tells the church that the church should be watching out for immorality within it, not outside of it. There’s plenty of immorality within to watch out for. He was right. Today, there is sexual immorality, pornography, adultery, gluttony, and all kinds of sin within our own four walls – I should know. We have our own problems to attend to. God will take care of the problems outside.

And on that issue – does that mean we aren’t to care about the world we live in? Of course not. In John 16:33, Jesus said:

“I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

If the world will change, it will be because of Christ and the Gospel. It won’t be because Christians get on Facebook and complain. It will be because we care about people in this world, show the love and compassion of Christ to those in this world who are not like us, those who are outright sinners, rejected and thrown away by 99% of most churches.

Does that mean we accept all types of sin? Nope. But we love them and let God work on them.

Does it hurt to call a Congressman or Senator when a bill comes up that we don’t like or want to support? No, we should. We should be good citizens. But we should be even better citizens of heaven. Loving the rejected.

Remember that Christ didn’t minister to those who were religious. He went first to the outcast, the ill, the worst sinners in the bunch. Who would religious people see those people as today? I think it’s something to think about.

One more thing that I think is important. I think it’s easy to get worked up on one issue today. I don’t think gay marriage or any one other issue is going to ruin our country. Sin has been around since the fall of man. There is good news – that’s what Resurrection Sunday is about. We aren’t fighting a losing battle, we are in a winning one. Because of Christ, all is won for those who believe. There is always victory and he has given it to us.

Be confident in the future of the world that God has created. Be joyous in this life and know that Christ was victorious at the cross and continues to be victorious today.

That’s it. But I want to add a couple of things.

outcastsIt’s been a while since I pastored. If I was still the same man I was before I committed adultery, I think I’d probably be in the pulpit speaking a different message. And I think I would have been wrong. Have I gone into a grey area? No, I don’t think so.

Here is what has changed. I’ve seen what Christ did when he came to us. He didn’t waste his time with the religious people of the day. He went straight for the outcasts. Those who knew they needed something to happen in their lives. And he made it happen. They were broken people and they were ready to listen. Go check it out. Any story where Christ saved someone. Any story in Acts where people were saved after Christ ascended. Those people were broken. Their sins weren’t called out one by one, they just wanted to know God and they were called upon to repent.

What I see today is a church that is the religious right of Jesus’ day. Christ corrected those people. He interacted with the religious people, but he mostly told them that their hearts weren’t right. He told them that they needed internal cleansing. Then, he spent no more time with them and turned his attention to the people the religious crowd wanted nothing to do with.

Ask yourself – who are the people most mainline denominations want nothing to do with? That’s an easy answer. Who isn’t visiting your church? Bikers, ex-cons, homosexuals, thieves, adulterers, drug addicts, single parents with bratty children, fallen pastors, people with tattoos all over their bodies, alcoholics, people who have been married three or more times, suicidal people, those who have severe depression, those with severe financial difficulty, and if you’re in a white church – African-Americans, Latinos, or any other ethnic group.

I am afraid that our churches have become safe-havens for the self-righteous.

Our immediate response is, “Well, those people need to repent before they come to Christ.” Friends, our job isn’t the same job as God. God’s job is the work of salvation. Ours is to love and speak truth and show compassion. Salvation is entirely the work of God.

If we really, really believe that God can change a person who is not like us, then we will welcome them into our community of faith and treat them like Christ treated them. With love and compassion. When we rail against any people group with hatred, we’ve lost them. I’m not saying there isn’t sin in this world. There is. But God is judge of what is right. And He is the one who changes hearts.

Our job? Love. Embrace those in this world. Give them space, shelter, love, empathy and maybe for the first time a friendsteps who knows Jesus Christ.

Listen. Go ahead and do your Good Friday reconstruction of Jesus on the cross. Have some forty year old guy stand on some wooden platform for six hours this week. People will drive by on their way home from work, after 40 hours of torture, look up and say, “What in the heck are those people doing?” There’s no message for them there. They are looking for authenticity. They want people who just love them for who they are.

That’s what Christ did. He loved people for who they were. That’s what we are supposed to do. Let God sort it out after that. Our job isn’t to say, “Well, I don’t think that person will fit in here. They don’t dress well, they have personal issues, they sure are strange.” Nope.

You know what happened when Christ loved people? They responded with repentance. He didn’t excuse sin. But he showed them love beyond borders. He showed them something the religious establishment of the day wasn’t giving them. I say that’s what’s going on in the majority of churches today. I pray it isn’t so. But I believe it is.

We are to love. Plain and simple. Get over ourselves. Start loving like Christ did and then turn anyone who comes over to Him and see the miracle He can do.

This is what makes me want to start a church in my own county where anyone who walks through the door is accepted, loved and will be treated kindly. Anyone can come in, know they don’t have to give money, know they will hear the good news, and know that there is hope. May the compassionate Christ resonate during this Resurrection week.

Galatians 6:1-3

Laetare

Laetare (Photo credit: Lawrence OP)

For the last several weeks, our pastor has been talking about “fruit of the spirit” out of Galatians 5.  Yesterday he talked about “goodness and kindness”. Galatians 6:1-3 has been a theme throughout the series and was mentioned again yesterday.

This particular portion of scripture has been a puzzle to me since first reading it.  Here it is in the NIV:

1 Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted. 2Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. 3 If anyone thinks they are something when they are not, they deceive themselves.

Greg and I were driving to Seattle yesterday and the subject turned to this passage and my questions of what exactly does it mean entered into a long debate.  It seems clear that we should always restore a fallen brother or sister gently when caught in sin – but after that it is stated “But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted”.  Tempted with the same sin?  Tempted with some other sin?  What exactly is Paul saying here?

I researched parallel versions of this passage and most of them have the word tempted in them.  However – it is unclear how the person restoring is actually tempted.

Two thoughts here:

1)  Tempted by association with the person involved in the sin – such as a counseling situation that is unhealthy with no boundaries in place – allowing inappropriate sharing and confiding – therefore allowing the person “helping” to be brought down – even though more “spiritual”.

or

2) Tempted by “spiritual” self-righteous pride – looking down on others who are not as good and strong as they – blasting them for weaknesses and sins that are so far beneath them.  Creating their own “blind-side” for helping others – devoid of the proper amount of compassion and empathy for those fallen.  This is a “set-up” for failure in many areas – not necessarily the same one.

One thing is very clear.  Paul says to “be careful” or this will happen to you.

I was thinking that the true meaning was more like the first reason – and Greg was leaning toward the second one.  Until I found this passage in the New Living:

1 Dear brothers and sisters, if another believer[a] is overcome by some sin, you who are godly[b] should gently and humbly help that person back onto the right path. And be careful not to fall into the same temptation yourself.

This seems to support #1 above.  And here it is in the Message:

1-3 Live creatively, friends. If someone falls into sin, forgivingly restore him, saving your critical comments for yourself. You might be needing forgiveness before the day’s out.

This is probably my favorite version of all.  I love how it emphasizes keeping your critical comments to yourself – and saying you might be needing forgiveness.  And that forgiveness might be needed for many different things.

So it seems we do not have the exact meaning – still, I believe that the heart of that passage is whenever you confront someone caught in sin – or feel they are doing something inappropriate, you must be careful how you approach it – very carefully and lovingly – being sure to remember that you too are frail, weak and prone to sin and sinful situations all the time.  And you certainly are no judge and jury in and of yourself.  Be careful not to look down on those who slip and fall – or it will come back to bite you – maybe not that particular sin – but one that you don’t see coming.  So be ON GUARD – and live humbly and authentically with others.  Most sin happens because it hits our blind side.

When was the last time you were judged harshly and not lovingly from someone?  How did it make you feel?  Did you wonder (like I did) when it would be their turn to be tempted with sin because of their harsh words of judgement and criticism?

Remember that God is the final judge – and that He knows your heart best.  Make things right with Him today – and don’t worry about others.  It will take care of itself in the end.

God Bless

What Are Your Chains?

The following is an excerpt from my daily devotional:

It has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ (Philippians 1:13).

Joni Erickson Tada is, in a sense, in chains for Christ. One day she was a carefree teenager, the next she was imprisoned in a quadriplegic body due to a diving accident. Yet her chains not only encouraged others but also increased her faith as she grew into more and more reliance upon Christ. Because Joni took her tragedy and gave it to God, He has used her in a mighty way.

Confined to a wheelchair, Joni creatively adapted her lifestyle and learned to paint by holding a brush in her teeth. Soon God began calling her to help others with limited abilities.

What would her life have been like if she hadn’t taken that dive? Would she still have a worldwide ministry? Would she have developed the strong character and courage to move into such a ministry?

From great tragedy can come great character. Reflecting on the ministries of both Joni and the apostle Paul, I ask myself, “What are my chains? What adversity or physical infirmity can I give to Christ for His glory?

Author Unknown

As I was reading this devotional thought this morning – I was aware of the fact that all of us have ‘chains’.  They are not always physical – as in the case of Joni – sometimes they are invisible and are harder for us to define and recognize.  Anything emotional can be dicey and complicated for us and because we cannot see it – we also cannot see the damage it has done or the scars that it has left behind.   But like anything that holds us down – visible or not – it can be a very difficult thing to ‘rise above’ it and simply move on.  Especially if those ‘chains’ leave us with feelings of regret and desperation.  But the real strength of character comes when we are at our weakest – lost and hurting.   It’s when we allow those ‘chains’ to change our course that the real miracle comes about – in our own hearts.  And sometimes a change in our hearts begins a new journey – a change in our course that God will use to bless someone else.

In my own life my ‘chains’ are invisible.  They are not something you can detect.  They are emotional. There was a hurt and a tearing apart of something that I thought was unmovable and strong.  It caused me to rethink everything in my life.  It caused me to ‘pull in’ and protect.  It took time to heal – I think I am still healing from it in some ways.  But I realized something after this happened.  I realized I had a choice.  I either trusted God or I didn’t.  I had to trust that He saw the bigger picture and that I didn’t need to.  That had to be good enough.  And then – I had to decide whether or not I would go on – or stay still and struggle in my own pain – alone.  I chose to go on.

I began a journey of healing through writing.  I wrote because I felt compelled.  I felt I had something to say.  I felt God speaking through me.  And though ‘handicapped’ now because of my ‘chains’ – I continued to write.  It was the only thing I could do – and I did it.  Along the way I met people in my life that had a powerful influence in my life – and their words of love and encouragement was like God speaking directly to me.  And that encouragement gave me courage over time – and soon I was able to help and encourage people – even when I myself was still hurting.

Those were my ‘chains’ used to glorify God.  Would I have had this tremendous opportunity without them?  Would I have had anything to write about?  Would God have been able to use me?  I don’t know.  But I do know – that He took my brokenness and my willingness to move forward and bless others.  And in blessing others – He has blessed me.

And so like Joni – I can truly say that I cannot regret this path and the journey I’ve been on.  The very ‘chains’ that I thought would break me and destroy me and my witness – have made me stronger and my witness more powerful than before.

What are your chains?  Is it something that you need to experience in order to better serve others?  Are you finding your life journey changing course because of those ‘chains’?  It may not be just a ‘coincidence’  or something that you’d like to think of as a ‘mistake’.  It may be something that God is going to use to make you stronger and increase your influence with others.  And like those ‘chains’ of mine that will always be with me – even though I have survived and am moving forward – those ‘chains’ will always be a reminder to me that He is stronger than any chains that would threaten to bind me or destroy me.

God Bless

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