Sunday, August 5, 2007

So This Is How God Works

I'd been skipping church the last couple of months. I had a lot of reasons for this. One, I told my preacher late last August that I struggled with homosexuality. I asked him for help several times, and I just didn't particularly care for his way of trying to help me. He basically avoided me for two or three months and then tried to tell me how immature he thought I was. Not to imply that he wasn't accurate about a few things, because he was. Problem is, I asked him for help, for support, for some words of encouragement. All I got from him was a lot of judgemental hooey, and things just got really awkward between us. I felt so bad about this that I literally left church crying every Sunday from late March until late May. Besides having some harsh feelings toward my preacher, I also had began feeling as if their was no help or hope for me at my church. And as if that wasn't bad enough, I had also began wondering if God really cared about me. Why, if He did, would He allow me to find no help in the church He had placed me in? As a result of all those bitter feelings, I made a decision to quietly withdraw from church.

Some people would say this is a really dumb thing to do. Some may even say it's a sinful thing to do. I'm not sure I agree though. I didn't turn away from God during this time. If anything, I clung onto God with all that I had. Just because a person doesn't go to church, it doesn't mean that they're Godless, or living a life of sin. In my two months absence, I have prayed a lot. I have talked to others about Christ. I have read my Bible. I got hooked on listening to Christian songs on K-Love. I have tried earnestly not to give into certain temptations the devil has held me so captive to. I signed up for and am still involved in taking the Door of Hope course from Setting Captives Free. I've thrown away all the pornography I had left. I've tried very hard to forgive my preacher and to let go of any bad feelings I'd had for him. I feel as if I've humbled myself somewhat before the Lord as well. I know I'm nothing without Him. Overall, I think a lot of positive things have been happening for me lately in my Christian walk of life.

However, I'd missed being in church. I'd missed singing hymns. I'd missed taking communion. I'd missed being in the company of other Christians. I'd missed hearing sermons and being in Sunday School. I'd missed so many things about being in church. I missed the warmth I used to feel and the closeness I felt to God when there.

Throughout the last couple of weeks I'd been feeling more and more a desire to get back in church. I didn't make it last week. And I felt bad about that. I felt that God had wanted me to go. I'd wanted to go. But I had talked my way out of it. So, I prayed a few times throughout this last week for God to help me to go to church this week. Last night, however, I began dredging up some of those old feelings for my preacher. I knew it was just Satan's little way of trying to keep me from going this morning, but I still let that make up my mind not to go. So, I went to bed last night with plans to sleep in this morning.

I woke up today by rolling off the edge of my bed. I caught myself and sat up, noticing the time on the clock. It was the time I would normally have gotten up to go and get ready for church. I laid back down for a few minutes and found myself unable to think about anything other than how I'd prayed for God to help me. I couldn't get that out of my mind. So, I figured this was God's work, and that He wanted me to get on up, get ready, and get to church. And that's just what I did.

The first person I met as I walked through the doors was my preacher. I was so glad to see him. We talked for a minute or two, and none of that old awkwardness was there. I didn't care that he'd judged me. I was just glad to see him. I'd missed him something terribly the last couple of months. After all, this is the man who taught me more about the Bible and about Jesus Christ than any other man I've known. This is the man whom I'd prayed would return to our church after having left so many years ago. With God's help, I've forgiven him. Now, by saying that, I don't mean there aren't still some hurts there. I wish he would have helped me. I wish he'd have not judged me, but had reached out to me and embraced me, sent me an encouraging note, or anything other than what he did. But those hurts don't outweigh the fact that this man has done so much for me in other ways, and I'm called as a Christian to forgive those who hurt me and to love them anyway. It feels good to do that. I'm glad I went to church this morning. Even though a lot of other things had been improving, this was something I'd definitely been missing. I think it was good for me to be out of church for awhile. I think I did need that. I needed the time off to think. But I know it was time to go back.

I didn't fall out of bed this morning. I was pushed. God pushed me out of bed. He woke me up, filled my mind, and guided me through the doors of the church where He wanted me to be. I listened to a really good sermon, I worshipped with other believers, and I felt so very close to God this morning.

God, thanks for helping me!

3 comments:

Beast said...

Hey Brandon,
I'm so glad to read your posts again! Great that you're going to church again. I agree with you that you needed that time away from church. I guess your preacher has not been fair and biblical to you. How is he treating you now?
I don't know if you listen to Marhill Bible Church podcast. I do and find those sermons very encouraging. When I can't go to church or want to have some 'extra spiritual snacks', I listen to them.
I am at home right now and enjoying some good tropical weather. I miss reading your posts but internet isn't very good here. Bad luck then! Wish you're well. Do email me and let me know how you're doing!

RikFleming said...

Brandon,

My heart goes out to you. I don’t know if or where your pastor may have gone to seminary, but in my experience seminaries make good teachers and theologians but very poor shepherds. They spend a lot of time teaching doctrine, church history, how to exegete the Bible and so forth but not how to minister to the souls of God’s flock.

My suspicion is that your pastor is ill-equipped to minister to you. I had to go back to seminary to get trained in counseling but even then most of what I have learned has come from my own experience in helping others and in counseling myself. It was the Holy Spirit who had to break me, heal me and then give me a tender heart for His people. I know what Peter must have felt like when he denied Christ 3 times and then was restored 3 times by Jesus and told to “feed my lambs,” “tend my sheep” “feed my sheep.” (John 21:15-17).

If a man will not mourn with those who mourn, weep with those who weep and come along side a brother who is struggling with sin then he needs to cease calling himself “pastor” (which means “shepherd”) and go sell shoes or something.

I wish I could be your pastor. I have become convinced that Biblical counseling is essentially one broken sinner helping another broken sinner grow in Christ through Biblical admonishment, encouragement and prayer. There are no “expert” counselors and those that claim to be usually have way too much worldly Freudian psychology in their head.

I live and minister in the Northern California area and have preached here at a dozen churches or so. There are many fine pastors of various denominations and I know some great shepherds who are Presbyterian, Pentecostal and Baptist. So, I have to disagree with my very dear brother “Beast” you said that you needed to be away from church for a while. In Hebrews 10 Paul tells us that we are not to forsake the assembly (“church” or “synagogue”) of the brethren as is the habit of some (i.e. apostates). What you should have done is try to visit other churches in your area (wherever that may be).

If you ever feel let down, need help, need a word of encouragement, need advice or just a sympathetic ear, e-mail me (rikfleming@yahoo.com) and let me know.

Keep seeking Jesus. You are in my prayers at least three times a day.

I love you,

Rik

Brandon said...

Beast,

It's great to hear from you again. I've never listened to Marhill Bible Church, but I'll certainly look that up. And I'll try my best to send you an email soon.

Rik,

Thanks for being so understanding. I think you are right about my preacher. At least that's what I've been hoping the problem was--that he just didn't know how to help me with this issue. I really didn't mean to suggest that he is a bad preacher. He's actually a really good preacher in so many ways--better than pretty much any other preacher I've ever known my church to have. He just has his faults like everyone else. As far as how he treated me last Sunday, he was honestly very welcoming and warm toward me. I actually enjoyed being around him, and I think he was as glad to see me as I was him.

You are right that I should have went to another church. I shouldn't have just stopped going. I did need to temporarily stop going to the one I had been going to, but yeah, I should have went someplace else. Oh, and oddly enough, I too have found some great shepards in the Presbyterian church. Both my Exodus counselor and a really good friend of mine are Presbyterians, and they've both helped me a lot with some of this stuff.

Rik, I really do appreciate those prayers. I've certainly felt them here lately. I'm praying for you also. I want the very best for you. And thanks for the offer of help. You've already helped me a bunch, but I may take you up on that offer sometime. Likewise, if you ever need any help or anything, just let me know and I'll do whatever I can.

Love in Christ,
Brandon