We Plead for Good Pastors

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I always felt that being a pastor was a lot like this

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Within our personal issues of vulnerability, there are usually troubling problems. These are bruised and painful areas, things that result in terrible devastation in our lives and loved ones. Here are just a few of them:

  • alcoholism and drug abuse
  • mental illnesses
  • homosexuality
  • sex addictions, internet porn
  • physically disabled
  • chronic depression
  • suicidal thinking
  • religious deception, cults
  • on and on…

This isn’t a definitive list by no means. (Although each are substantial issues of pain and conflict.) But as defeated strugglers we feel intimidated by leadership in the Church. We feel frustrated, and very much alone.  This is a problem.

It seems all we can see is their authority, and we are afraid.  Typically, in our fellowships, our pastors and elders are men.  And that alone can sometimes create issues in hearts looking for a tenderness that will heal. (We need to make room for our sisters to help us out. Just a thought.)

Often rather than opening our brokenness up to our shepherds, we fabricate illusions of self-sufficiency and invulnerability. But we are still afraid deep down, and our weaknesses affect us profoundly. We are afraid of disclosure. We fear that some will find out who we are really.

Because we’re strugglers filled with great deal of pain and confusion, we can label ourselves as “hopeless” and very much lost.  Some of us secretly believe that they have committed the unpardonable sin. (But this is a lie, as God forgives every sin but one.)

Some have heard (or misheard) that they are going to hell no matter what they do, and that they are truly lost and irrevocably separated from God. They need to know this is a lie, because whenwe confess our sins, the blood of Jesus covers them ALL and cleanses us from ALL unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).

Many of us who struggle have an ugly and a twisted sense of our leaders in the Church. We get really strange whenever we meet them– a sort of a deep craziness I suppose. We are afraid of the ‘man of God’ and think he is going to ‘see’ an unresolved sins in our lives and shame us publicly (see Joshua 7).

Pastor, you should understand that some of us feel pretty much lost all the time.

Typically, we avoid those who are sent to pastor us.  As a result of our flaws and weaknesses we will separate from the Church. This reality is we feel like we don’t belong. We may feel like a hypocrite just coming to church. That is a warning light of trouble.

Often we try to live a life insulated from any outside intervention.  We avoid people who could really help us.  We are terribly sick, and need a pastor or elder to help us work through these things. Certainly that there is often a need for scriptural correction, but always in love– and even then with some tears.

There is a spiritual war that encompasses us. The torrents of hell are released on us and  we discover Satan working in various ways. Admitting you’re under attack is not weakness. (If you knew what you are really facing you’d be terrified.) But Jesus Christ stands to intervene for us.

Continue reading “We Plead for Good Pastors”

Hearing Voices

 

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I guess I’m in a wandering/wondering frame of mind.  I’ve been hearing voices off and on.  They are clear, distinct and I suppose  rather commanding.  Previously I’ve dealt with ‘tinnitus’, but this is definitely different.  The voices are not incredibly sophisticated–its usually just one or two words.  Quite simple actually.

Perhaps the full reason of why this is a problem,  because I wonder about some sort of ‘mental degradation’.

  • Am I getting worse?
  • Are the ‘voices’ the sign of the end for me?
  • Will they take over?
  • Will I turn into a blathering idiot?
  • Could they be ‘demonic’ or worse?

I have this image of a stark raving crazy guy, hung up on religion and ‘right-wing extremism’, foaming at the mouth and ‘heading for a bunker up in the mountains.’  But I am none of these things.  Maybe that’s why it scares me so.  I cannot relate to any of this, and I don’t want to.  I am not that person. This is not me.

The voices by themselves, not extrapolating their content, are disruptive enough.  They don’t have to be specific, all they have to be is loud and insistent.  It really doesn’t matter if I obey them.  They disrupt me just by speaking. (I hope they never decide to expand their vocabulary!)

I have a new insight to my brothers and sisters who struggle with schizophrenia/bipolar.  Many are on the streets, and they are desperately homeless.   On almost a ‘medieval’ level they battle with dragons.  Sometimes they push back the beastie, and then sometimes they themselves are slammed back.  But no matter what will happen that day, God’s love meets the warrior, and He lifts them up.

Voices.  These are not dredged up, or manipulated.  I definitely do not ‘manufacture’ them.  I certainly not doing this for attention.  But when they do press me (with an order or command) I do know that it is an alien voice, coming from outside of me.   I know the presence of Jesus pushes them away. I call on His name and they flee.

I have to believe, that God is holding on to me with both hands. 

He will not let me slide into the night, alone.  He has determined that darkness will never claim me.  I turn as I can, to look at Him, face-to-face by faith.  “He has come to heal the broken-hearted.  A bruised reed,  He will not break.  A smoking wick, He will not quench” (Isa. 43:3). What an awesome promise! We serve a gentle and protective God.

There may (or may not) be spiritual warfare issues. I believe that there is a magnificent power in the name of Jesus. The blood and the cross are for my protection. I shelter in all He is and all He has done, If anything, they push me toward the Lord Jesus and He protects me.

 

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Dipped in Shame

“All day long my disgrace is before me, and shame has covered my face.” Psalm 44:15

Some of us truly understand shame. It’s like we have been dipped in it, we have wallowed in it and things are sticking to us. We live out our lives in disgrace and in the sense of nasty embarrassment which we can’t truly resolve. And it affects all that we do, even in those rare moments we are not aware of it.

I honestly wish I was “teflon.” (I would love to have a ‘non-stick’ heart.) There is often a constant sense of being totally insufficient as a person. It seems I can develop a deep awareness of being defective and unworthy. Many of us feel this way all the time. It is painfully welded to us, and we keep trying to figure how to break that dark bond that’s on our hearts and minds.

Mental illness thrives on that blackness. Depression feeds on that stuff, it seems to cycle through us. Our pasts become its nourishment, and at certain times it flourishes. Sometimes it explodes in our minds, just like when you give your roses a dose of “Miracle Grow” (but in a bad way.)

I read recently, that chemists are trying very hard to develop a drug that would erase bad memories. The thinking is that people suffering from PTSD and other mental illnesses will find freedom from very ugly events. Many of us, at certain points in our lives, truly absorb the evil. Some of us end up in prison, others are addicted, and a few go ahead and commit suicide. Shame truly is at its best when it can completely incapacitate and destroy a person.

Most end up with a mental illness, and because we are so complex, it is difficult to view it as a simple ’cause and effect.’ It really is much more complicated than that. Mental illness has many layers. But if we look at our issues from a different view point we can see things we might never see. A psychiatrist once told me that 90% of resident psych patients could go home, if only they knew were forgiven.

Shame is a monster that is constantly tracking us. At times we can put some distance between us. But occasionally it leaps up on our backs and drags us down. We are humiliated with our guilt. That is precisely when we should scream out for help.

There are pastors and psychiatrists, therapists and friends who are most helpful. Practicing prayer and soaking in worship can drive the monster away. Meds can very often provide a respite. All of these have helped me. But in all of this, we must be patient.

We are dealing with guilt, and there are spiritual issues that trump everything else. Human beings were never created to bear guilt, we don’t know what to do. Shame is vigorously parasitical and consuming. If it runs amok through your life it can and will destroy you. (It is caustic– a sure way to wreck you). Some Bible wisdom:

“You know my reproach, and my shame and my dishonor; my foes are all known to you.” Psalm 69:19

“…in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” Col. 1:14

“To the Lord our God belong mercy and forgiveness, for we have rebelled against him.” Daniel 9:9

God has made an incredible provision for your guilt. Your sin, though it is crimson red in its intensity and very obvious, it can become as white as snow. Your shame and guilt can be erased.

“Do not fear, for you will not be ashamed; Neither be disgraced, for you will not be put to shame; For you will forget the shame of your youth, And will not remember the reproach of your widowhood anymore.” Isa. 54:4

It was Mark Twain, who once said, “Man is the only animal that blushes, and the only animal that needs to.”  We are ashamed, are we not, of things we’ve done in the past? The fact remains, nobody is free from shame who is unforgiven. Instead of being able to look God in the face or to look one another in the face, we want to run away and hide when our conscience troubles us. But there is an infinitely a better way…

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