My Horrible, Pastoral Understanding of Grace

I’ve had some good things happening to me lately. Let me be clear, I understand that it is all the grace of God. It has been a very humbling experience.

But I’ve had some guilt associated with it. I’ve thought, “I don’t deserve good things to happen to me. I committed adultery. I should be laying in a ditch somewhere. Better, I should be sweeping up after the pigs and eating their food. I don’t deserve anything good from God.

I had a pastor friend tell me a while back, “Ray, I know it’s sinful for me to say this, but I don’t think you deserve anything good to happen to you. I mean, I’m glad you get along with your ex-wife really well, that your kids are doing great, but the sinful part of me feels you should be failing because of your sin. I know that’s wrong.

I said, “I feel that way most days.

Here’s the axiom that creeps up in my mind – because I committed adultery, I don’t deserve success. In fact, I deserve utter failure.

But then, I pray and come to my senses. I know that the grace that I’ve been shown is a gift. I don’t receive “success” because I committed adultery. I wouldn’t even call it success. It’s grace God bestows so I can help other people. To pour myself out in humility. To let my weakness be his strength.

Now for the worst part. When I was a pastor and something good would happen to me, I’d think in my dark soul, “Of course I deserve this! I’m a pastor! I preach, take care of people, listen to complaining, and I’m doing the work of God. Heck yeah, I deserve something good to happen to me.” It wasn’t all the time, but I thought that way more than once.

Now, after my fall, when God extends His grace to me, I see it for what it is – a loving gift. Something I don’t deserve. That’s what it was all along, I just didn’t see it before. I didn’t fully understand grace as a pastor. But after falling into the pit, after having God rescue me from that place, I see His grace better now.

Thank you, Lord, for redeeming me from my sin, from myself, from a terrible understanding of your grace. Thank you for loving me despite my sin. Thank you for your gift of eternal love. Most of all, thank you for sending your Son to stand there, in my place, to love me like I’ve never been loved.

“So, You’re The Adulterer!”

(Over the next few posts, I’m going to talk about several reasons why the book “Fallen Pastor” is for anyone concerned about the future of the church. We are in the midst of a crisis and need to understand how to approach it).

I love talking to people who work in funeral homes. They have some of the most amazing personalities. They deal with people and care for them at the worst point in their lives on a daily basis. Yet, most of them have the best attitude when you get to know them.

The other day, I was riding in the pallbearer car back to the funeral home with a lady who helped manage the funeral home. We had been talking a bit and she said, “What do you do?”

We had already talked enough that she knew I worked in sports medicine. What this 50-something woman who knew people really wanted to know was, “What was I doing as a pallbearer at this funeral?”

I said, “I used to pastor this church that most of these people went to.

She said, half-joking, “What did they do? Kick you out?

I had to smile because she probably wouldn’t have asked it like that if she had known. Or maybe she would have. She had a great sense of humor and, like most funeral directors, shot pretty straight.

I committed adultery,” I said.

Her mouth dropped wide open, “Ooooooohhhh!” I thought for a second the car was going off the road as she adjusted her sunglasses. Then she looked at me and said, smiling, “I’ve heard about you.

I said, “Most of it is probably true, I’m sure.” Her statement would have bothered me two years ago, but thanks to a lot of helpful people, time and forgiveness, I just smile.

She said, “You wrote a book! Didn’t you?

Yes ma’am, I did. Did you read it?” I asked.

No, I didn’t think I needed to, I’m not a pastor,” she said.

Well, it’s not just for pastors,” I told her. “It’s for everyone. It’s about learning to forgive, what we expect of our pastors, how we can restore people, how we’re all sinners…

She stopped me and continued my thought, “You know, you’re just a sinner like me. You’re no different. We all mess up. Why is it people find it so hard to forgive pastors?

That’s a great question,” I said. “We are all sinners. I disappointed a lot of people who expected more from me. And they should have.

But that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t forgive,” she said with a slight frown.

No, it doesn’t,” I said. “It just takes some longer than others. Hurt can last a long time. I haven’t always been perfect and no one else is either.”

We talked about other stuff on the way back to the funeral home. For instance, I found out it was easier to make creme brûlée than I thought.

She let me out at my car and said, “Thanks for sharing that. You’re a good person.”

I knew what she meant. And I appreciated her saying so. But I’m not good. None of us are. None of our heroes are good. They are all stained with sin and mere moments from a fall. When they do fall, I pray we all have courage to forgive.

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

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.

When Our Unforgiveness Turns To Hate

It’s been an interesting journey for me. I’m in a place now where I never wanted to be. Check that. I’m a man who desperately needed grace, received it from God, received it from many others, but still gets a lot of grief from those who are unwilling to forgive.

So, in a way, I am in place I never wanted to be. I used to be “king of the pulpit.” I thought I could forgive who I wanted, when I wanted. As a pastor, I could look down on the sinner. Looking down on any sinner reminded me that I was still better. Yeah, I was a whole lot better. Like the Ray Carroll from circa 1989-1993 would say, “Yeah, right.”

During my book signing last Sunday, I had a couple of people come up to me and say basically, “Guess what a few people around here are saying about you?” It wasn’t nice. Then someone from work came up to me and told me a few lies that were being spread about me. Then, tonight, I got on Facebook (the mother of gossip spreaders) and saw some wonderful things being said about me.

Now, if it were the Ray Carroll of five years ago, he would have said, “UNBELIEVABLE! How dare they! I’m not going to rest until they apologize to me! And if they don’t, I’m going to make them sorry!”

Well, the Ray Carroll of five years ago has been through a lot. God has made sure of that. My own sin has made sure of that.

Let me share with you a quote from Hershael York, preaching professor at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He was kind enough to be interviewed for my book and in one section, he let me know that fallen pastors need to find brokenness. When they are truly broken, they won’t care what others say about them:

“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.”

He was saying that the pastor sinned. He put them in a place of anger and resentment. They reacted. Is their reaction always right? No. Is it sinful? Sometimes.

But the fallen pastor has no right to react to it. He’s the one who put them in that place. His sin created their reaction. Darnit, he’s right. When he spoke those words to me a year ago, I struggled with them a bit. But a few months later, I imbibed them. Now, I live them. When I hear words of scorn or anger toward me, I accept them.

Those people are angry, but I put them there. They need love and grace just like I did back in the day when I sinned. And I will pray they receive it.

What’s more, I used to struggle with Christ’s words in the Lord’s prayer, “forgive our debts as we forgive our debtors.” We get the idea there as well as other places that we won’t be forgiven until we forgive others. I used to have a real big problem with that. I’d say, “Come on. Surely Jesus forgives us no matter what. He’ll forgive me even if I don’t forgive someone else.”

Guess what? The problem isn’t with Christ, it’s with me. When I’m in a state of unforgiveness toward someone, it’s not Jesus’ problem. It’s mine. When I harbor the state of unforgiveness, it’s an attitude that dwells within me. It surrounds me. It overwhelms me. I don’t want to love my brother or sister in Christ. I want them to burn for the sin they’ve committed, despite the fact that Christ has washed it away.

It’s not that Christ can’t forgive me because He isn’t capable. It’s that I’m not capable of receiving the love of Christ because I’m so mired in my own hatred of my brother. I’ve narrowed my thinking to this world and thoughts to anger that I’m not even concerned with the things of God. Christ’s forgiveness isn’t even on my mind. I’d rather think about the judgment of God upon an individual – an individual He’s probably already forgiven – instead of the sin I’ve committed.

Over time, if I can’t deal with it, my unforgiveness turns to something even more dangerous – hatred. It turns away from their sin and turns into an attitude about them. It consumes my life, my soul, my all.

I know this because I used to feel this way about people. I used to deny them grace from my heart. From my life. And it cost me. It cost me fellowship with Christ. And it cost me love towards other as a pastor. And I paid.

Friends, don’t deny others the forgiveness that Christ grants them freely. Find a way to give it to them. Love is a gift that cost Christ His own life, but it is a gift we can give others through our love in Him.

____________________

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.

Is Forgiveness For The Remarried Wishful Thinking?

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.

I Love My Wife, And I Love The Church

The last two years have been a trying time.

If you had shown up at my door two years ago and said, “Ray, after your fall, you are going to fall hard. People are going to reject you. Hate you. You will feel fall into depression like you’ve never known. You will think even God hates you.”

I would have looked at you like you were a crazy person.

But after two years of searching, repentance, writhing in sin and at points, even wanting to end my own life, I have found forgiveness.

I am sorry for what I did to my ex-wife. What I did to my former church. If I could stand before them today, I would tell them, “I am sorry for hurting you.” My ex-wife has forgiven me. My children have forgiven me.

But all that is behind me.

Why? Because a year ago, my God forgave me. He set me free. He covered me. By the love of His Son, He set me free. I don’t expect anyone to understand it or accept it, but He did it. I am no longer a fallen pastor. I am a forgiven, free child of God. My website becons people to come visit me to fallenpastor.com. I hope they do. But I am no longer a fallen pastor. God no longer sees me as that. Because of justification, He looks at me and sees His Son, Christ.

I don’t deserve that.

There are former church members who read my blog. I hope they know that forgiveness is available for all who cry out to all who believe. I’m no longer the fallen pastor. I’m Ray Carroll, fallen, redeemed and set free.

At this moment I am perfectly loved by a woman who is also set free. No more guilt. No more hiding. She is able to love because Christ loves her for who she is.

One day, all those who are equal in Christ will reunite together and worship Him together. Despite our differences here, we will worship Him together.  I hope before that day, we will be able to reconcile and love each other now.

Christ loved the lepers, the outcasts, the children, the poor of heart and the adulterers. If he were here today, he would reach out to those who were the poor in heart before he reached out to those who were proud of heart.

I love you, former church members. I am sorry for what I did. I grieve for my sin. I will ache for what I did for the rest of my life. But I want to reconcile now, today, with you. To alleviate the pain. Let’s not sweep it under the rug any longer. We had eight wonderful years together. I’ve made amends with my former wife. So please, for the sake of the church, let’s make amends now.

I am poor of spirit. Poor of everything. I am sorry to you all. Please. Let us find resolution. Let us find something. So we may all heal.

Sermon: What I Wish I Had Known Three Years Ago About Forgiveness

I got to preach last Sunday. It was pretty sweet. When I preached before, I’ll be honest. I took it for granted. I go months between chances to preach now. Before, it was all about me. Now? It’s a very humbling thing.

It covers things like, “When are we supposed to forgive? Who are we supposed to forgive? Am I supposed to leave a door open for someone who isn’t repentant?”

Sorry about the low quality audio. But if you close your eyes, you can pretend like you’re in a rural West Kentucky church. That’s where I was, thanks to my good friend Bro. Jimmy Stewart and Salem Baptist Church. Hope you enjoy.

(It’s only 32 minutes long…)

Part 1:

Part 2:

Part 3:

Part 4:

 

The Drug I Crave. Three Little Words.

I’ve talked to a lot of fallen ministers who are trying to live a life of repentance. There’s something we all need badly. But we rarely receive it.

Three words that for some reason are hidden from view. People hide them in their hearts like they’re a gold piece in a falling economy. Or even when a broken pastor approaches them with the most humble apology imaginable, they still withhold those words, even if they are able to say them.

“I forgive you.”

Fallen pastors yearn for those words. Some have been waiting to hear them ten or twenty years after a fall. Some have given up on hearing them and tell other fallen pastors, “Don’t hold your breath. They won’t ever forgive you. And if they do, they’ll never tell you. It’s easier for them to forget you than to forgive you.”

But the broken minister in his heart knows the Scripture. He desires for reconciliation. He desires for peace. Even though he knows things will never be the same, he knows that God’s people are at their best when there is forgiveness.

Those three words are the second hardest to say (behind “I’m sorry) but they complete the healing process.

They are a healing drug to the wounded pastor. The pastor who is trying to repent, to live, to heal. Trying to go forward although the memories of those around him keep dragging him down. Although his Scarlet Letter would imprison him, he fights daily from sunup to sundown to be free because of what Christ did and not what he did.

But each night before he goes to bed, each night in his dreams, each day as he recalls the events – even years later – he craves the drug of those words, “I forgive you.”

Knowing, “I forgive you” doesn’t equal, “I accept you back in my church” or “I want you back in the same role in my life as you were before.” No, “I forgive you” simply means one thing.

It simply means, “Christ gave me all I have and forgave me everything. The least I can do is forgive you being human like me.”

For the hurt, wounded, broken pastor, there is an addiction to this drug of forgiveness. There is probably no relief coming soon. However, there are thousands of people who are able to dispense his remedy.

Repentance, Isolation & My Best Friend

I’ve had a lot of best friends in my life. You’re probably the same way. I remember Todd Winesburg at Oakland Heights Elementary School. We did everything together. We had all kinds of fun, playing imaginary games, hanging out, being kids. Then as time went on, I made new friends.

There was my best friend in high school, Mickey DuVall. We talked a lot. About girls, life, politics. We even did a talent show together dressed up as the New Kids on the Block. We shared secrets, passions and life ambitions. But, I left for college.

In college, I made a new best friend. Brian Trout. What a great man. He was a lot like Mickey. Quiet, reserved, but very wise. He kept me in line a lot of times. Any time I needed him, he was there. We spent a lot of hours playing Tecmo Bowl, talking and I had the honor of introducing him to his wife.

Then, I moved away again. In seminary, I made another best friend. Randy Johnson. We shared stories, theology, and struggles together. He understood my sarcastic sense of humor and loved me anyway. He’s seen me weep like a baby when I was hurting and has heard my worst secrets and loved me anyway. Then I moved again.

Pastors are in a bad situation. We’re told that we shouldn’t make close friends with those in our congregation. If we do, it can come back and bite us. If you become close friends with a church member, that person can betray you. It’s happened many times and the list of stories where it has happened would shock you. Pastors are a non-trusting bunch. I stayed very isolated for a long time.

I’ve learned that being isolated probably led to my fall in the ministry.

However, I’m happy to tell you that ironically, I’ve found my best friend.

The statistics tell us that 98% of marriages to the person one has an affair with end in divorce. That’s a horrible statistic. There’s a good reason for that statistic. Most of the time, people can carry on with an affair and have a devil may care attitude with that person. They don’t have to worry about bills, arguments, or life in general with that person. It’s only an isolated hour or so a week.

Let me get the point across as I have before – adultery is wrong. God says so.

I have no idea why things have worked out for me like they have, but for God’s grace. My life as it is right now is nothing more than a testament to God’s love for me working all things together for His good, not mine. My life should not be an example for anyone to commit adultery and go seeking after love outside their marriage. If you have problems in your marriage, fix it. Get help. End of story. If you’re struggling, figure out why. Don’t blame your spouse, fix yourself first.

I will tell you this. I am currently married to my best friend, Allison. She understands me and loves me like I’ve never been loved before. Again, our love is not a paradigm for people with marital problems, but we are an example of how God can make a horrible situation into one that reflects His grace.

And listen to me carefully. I don’t say these things in deference to my former wife. I don’t blame her for anything. I sinned and sinned horribly.

I don’t deserve the life I have now. In fact, the moment I committed adultery, I deserved the wrath of God. I deserved punishment in the form of a firebolt from heaven landing on my head and making me a grease spot to be remembered no more.

But I do know that right now, the love I have with Allison is wonderful. I am not ashamed to say it either. Despite my sin, despite my horrible wandering, God has shown me mercy instead of immediate justice. For that, I am thankful.

I am married to my best friend. A woman who understands my soul and my heart.

Am I sorrowful for the pain I have inflicted upon many? Yes. Everyday. As David said, my sin is ever before me. I cannot wipe that away. It drives me to tears over and over. It is a bitter taste in my mouth. However, even David, as he sits in heaven now, forgiven of his sin sees God’s mercy and grace upon his life after his sin with Bathsheba. He killed Uriah the Hittite, one of his best friends, over the lust in his heart. Did David deserve to be in the line of Christ after that? No. But God’s grace and mercy after David’s repentance bore that for him.

I deserve nothing. I deserve the worst. But I have many blessings. The best thing I can do is count all of them to the blessings of God and “go and sin no more.” I can do as David said in Psalm 51 and “teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will return to you.”

My heart belongs to my God who saved me and redeemed me from the pit. I thank Him for the gift of a new best friend despite my sin.

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?”

%d bloggers like this: