Thursday, December 26, 2019

Forgive Quickly (Enduring to the End - Part 5)



By Bunni Pounds

(This is part of a series called Enduring to the End - Overcoming Offenses, Bitterness and Unforgiveness)

Forgiveness is a command. 

No if's, and's, or but's about it. We all know it is hard to make that choice - but it is a choice.

Mark 11:25 "And whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him, that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses."

Do you see anything in that passage that makes you think we can wait for a special feeling or tap on the shoulder by God? 

What about this one in the Lord’s prayer?

 “And forgive us our debts, As we forgive our debtors.”

Any part where the prayer stops for a feeling? 

No! 

Forgiveness is a command. We don’t have to feel it, we just have to be obedient. 

Just like the story in Part 4 of this series where I prayed over my previous Congressional race opponent’s Christmas card picturing his family for almost a year before I felt a thing; sometimes it takes a long time for feelings to follow. Many times, feelings will never follow, but we are still commanded to forgive. 

If we don’t choose forgiveness quickly, we will become an internally ugly person full of bitterness, anger, and a hardened heart. This is really not about the other person who has wronged us or the circumstances that have hurt us, this is really about us. 

Hebrews 12:14-15 “Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord: looking carefully lest anyone fall short of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled.”

I promised stories of our spiritual journey here and I won’t disappoint. I don't share these to cause pain to anyone involved, but only because I believe young people in this generation need to hear that many of us have walked through pain and hurts in church that they might also be experiencing right now. They need to know they can walk through disappointments, moral failings by leaders, and differences in opinions (even extreme cases) and still walk in love.

The church where my husband and I met is still pastored by a pastor we dearly love. This pastor and his wife have taught us so much about life, marriage, grace, freedom, and even were instrumental in me getting involved in politics. I say all that to say, even men and women of God are not perfect. We have to remember that and know only God is perfect. 

When Ben was a baby, this pastor and his team planted a church in Dallas, and I was asked by them to be the first worship leader. I had just spent a few years learning guitar and writing songs, so it was a great honor and a great learning opportunity that I took. 

We had a very rewarding first year. People were getting blessed and I was really learning and thriving as a worship leader.





One day about a year and a half after the church had started, the associate pastor called Tim and I and wanted to meet. He informed us that a man had joined the church who had the ability to lead worship and since he was a MAN - the head pastor had decided that he wanted me to step down and let the man take over. He held the philosophy that women were fine to do ministry until a man was raised up, but a man in all roles of ministry was God’s ultimate desire. 

I still remember that day like it was yesterday.

I remember telling the associate pastor who was a dear friend, what about Miriam who led worship before the people of Israel after they crossed the Red Sea on dry land? 

What about Esther leading her people out of death and destruction? What about Deborah- she was a prophet and a judge? 

What about Priscilla and Aquila who were co-laborers with the Apostle Paul, training up the churches in the early churches? 

This decision made no sense to any of us, but he just shook his head. The decision had been made. 

When I look back at this moment, it was one of many in my past where my gender tried to define me and keep me down - but I had a choice in that moment. Would I forgive? Would I forgive quickly? Would I let this decision that I strongly disagreed with define my relationship with these spiritual leaders for the rest of my life?

A root of bitterness starts as a seed. It starts small, but then grows into a giant plant and can soon take over your entire life as a tree. It is deadly. We have to watch for it in our own hearts and guard against offenses and bitterness taking root. 

It can take you out and cause you to not be able to endure to the end. Don't let it. Forgive quickly. 

In this case - I don't think it was more than a year later that I was recording an album and I asked this associate pastor to sing backup with me. I had to move on regardless of how painful it was. 

After I got into politics - I specifically went and thanked that senior pastor for his investment in my life - teaching me about history, about government, and about the Kingdom of God. His value in my life was not defined by this one decision that he made. I forgave....

Even though Tim and I knew in that moment - when I was asked to step down from leading worship - that it was our time to exit that specific church - over a decade later that associate pastor and his wife, our dear friends, stood with us at our ordination service as BOTH Tim and I were ordained and released to pastor a church that we had planted out of the overflow of our lives. It meant the world to us that they were there and that they signed our ordination papers as witnesses.

Forgive quickly! You don’t know what God will do through that act of obedience. He can bring redemption, blessing, and promotion, out of the ACT and decision to forgive. 

“Forgiveness is the fragrance that the violet sheds on the heel that has crushed it.”
Mark Twain

“Forgiveness is not an occasional act, it is a constant attitude.”
Martin Luther King Jr.


Thursday, December 5, 2019

Stay in the Place of Prayer (Enduring to the End - Part 4)


(This is the fourth part of a seven part series called Enduring to the End - Overcoming Offenses, Bitterness and Unforgiveness)

By Bunni Pounds

There is much opposition to us staying in the place of prayer - time that we cannot seem to prioritize to sit before God, our flesh that wants to run and do anything else, and our own pride that thinks we can live without God. 

At the end of 2018, after my loss for Congress in May and then quickly going back to work to make sure our 13 political clients left made it over the finish line for the general election, I collapsed in a chair in a prayer room in Dallas. It was the second week of November and I had to leave for Romania is less than three weeks to teach at the Bible School that our family supports. I sat there knowing that I was completely messed up and wanting to run from two hours at a time in a prayer room, but I knew I had to be there. 

I had walked with God intimately through 2018, it was one of the greatest adventures of my life, but it had also been the hardest battles of my life- raising almost a million dollars, the wounds from the campaign trail, my multiple opponents, and people that I knocked on their doors - but then shut it in my face. 

I had then gone straight into several other major battles and dramatic stories helping some of my friends get their seats in Congress during the fall. 

I was wounded and I was a mess. My heart was hard and I felt like I had nothing to give. As I prayed about what amazing messages I needed to share in Romania, Jesus invited me to sit with Him and let Him heal my heart. 

I wish I could tell you that I cried, felt the presence of God in that room and forgave everyone instantly. I did not. 

I instead paced along the wall - praying. I sat with my Bible in my lap starring at the words with a fog over my eyes. I felt lost and felt so full of anger and may I say it, even hate. 

As I showed up day after day, morning after morning from 6 am to 8 am in that prayer room, I fought through, I finally looked at all the ugliness in my heart and I whispered prayers for God to expose it and rip it out of my soul. 

Psalm 63:1- 3
“God, You are my God; Early will I seek You; My soul thirsts for You; My flesh longs for You, In a dry and thirsty land, Where there is no water. So I have looked for You in the sanctuary, To see Your power and Your glory. Because Your lovingkindness is better than life, My lips shall praise You.”

Psalm 26:8 - Lord, I have loved the habitation of Your house, And the place where Your glory dwells."

I was still busy, I still wanted to run, and my pride kept screaming - “you don’t need this....just keep moving forward.”

But I knew- I needed to feel again. I needed to weep. I needed to forgive.

We don’t have a choice on the injustices that come against our lives. I wish we did. Life happens and we get sideswiped.

For me, it was rumors being passed around cellphones about my family in East Texas and TV ads calling me a liar, but for many of you reading this, it is MUCH worse - it is abuse, betrayal, injustices, and wounds so deep just reading this is causing you to want to run. 

There is ONLY one path to healing. It is simple. Run to Jesus. Cry out! 

Look your pain straight in the face and run to the place of prayer. 

My friend Corey Russell says it so eloquently (maybe not eloquently but powerfully)  “What this generation needs is to put their butts in seats in the place of prayer and fight against everything that screams at them to get up.” 


Healing is only found in the presence of God and you can find that in your car, your closet, a prayer room, or in the woods beside your house, but you have to find HIM. 

In that place, we can see the eternal perspective on our circumstances and see His glory fully.

There is nothing like imperfect people that causes us to run even harder after a perfect God. 

Matthew 6:6  But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.”

Mark 11:25 And whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him, that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses.”

After two weeks showing up five days a week, here was my answer to my heart problem - I had to let the pain go. 

For two weeks, I was praying for my previous runoff opponent, his family, the people who had said horrible things against me and my husband. I prayed for them. I interceded for their needs - not with a feeling but by a command. I laid down my pride, my anger, and my own thoughts of injustice and I prayed. 

About two weeks into this, my heart cracked open and I could feel again. I wept tears of healing and I went to Romania with a heart of love rebuilt by the only one who could reach me. 

In December when I got back from that trip, I had a Christmas card from my previous opponent in my mailbox. It was just a general card sent to all the voters in the district but I placed it on my desk and took this precious family before the Lord day in and day out. Most days I didn’t feel anything but I kept on keeping on till love filled my heart for them and I could move forward. 

When it comes to prayer, we just have to show up with our hearts in tow. We have to force our flesh to sit down.

We just need to prioritize the place of prayer in our lives against ALL of the opposition in our own hearts because it is in this place before the Lord that we are changed. 

I am living proof - Letting God show us His eternal perspective changes everything. 

Love is produced in the place of prayer. 

Read Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3 of this series as well. 

Sunday, November 3, 2019

The Lord is MY Shepherd (Enduring to the End - Part 3)


By Bunni Pounds

We skip right over Psalm 23 in our Bibles because we have read it so many times that we don’t even think about the words anymore.

Regardless of the many pastors and spiritual leaders in our lives, there is really only one ultimate GOOD and perfect Shepherd of our lives.

If anyone tries to take that place in our hearts then we have to ask - why? Why are they trying to be the ultimate leader in our lives? Are they thirsty for control? Do they think we should serve them ultimately?

I led worship for over twenty years in multiple churches that we were placed in - always as a volunteer, never taking a paycheck for it.

One Sunday I told a pastor I served with that my mom was coming in from Indiana for just three days and that I would like the next Sunday off to spend some quality time with her. We lived in Dallas.

Instead of thanking me for everything I did as a worship leader and telling me that he wanted me to spend good time with my family and get some rest, he went in the opposite direction.  Going into a story about Jesus  when he was approached by the man who wanted to bury his father, but Jesus said something like - Who is your family? Let the dead bury the dead. Follow me. Your family are those who do the will of God.

He asked me what was more important to me - God or my physical family?

In that moment, he thought I should put him and his church in the ultimate place in my heart.

WRONG! 


When we talk about "spiritual abuse", this is a perfect example of it.  I hate to even use that term but unfortunately if you have been around the church for any length of time, you know it is real. It makes me sick that people would twist scripture or allow themselves to think that they can be the ultimate Shepherd in people's lives. 

"The Lord is MY Shepherd - I shall not want."

My husband, Tim, as a young believer had a pastor tell him that serving at his church was more important on a Saturday night then going to his high school reunion. Tim doesn’t remember for one moment what happened that night at church, but he does remember that he missed his 10 year high school reunion and he regrets it.

Don’t ever let any leader, any church, or any movement take a place in your heart as an idol or you will be easily manipulated or swayed in the wrong direction. 

We, as believers in Christ, are to honor our leaders and pastors and move together in unity in the churches and organizations that God places us in, but we cannot let even the best of leaders take the ultimate leadership over our hearts. Only Jesus should have that place. Jesus is our Good Shepherd.

If we keep the first place the first place, then when leaders disappoint us or go astray, we just keep moving forward because we are shepherded by the faithful and true Shepherd.

Our heavenly Father is the one who makes us “to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.” (Psalm 23:2-3)

Jesus is the one who “anoints our heads with oil.” He is the one who “prepares a table before us in the presence of our enemies.”

He is the Good Shepherd! 

Read Psalm 23 again and ask God to give you fresh eyes to see His beautiful leadership in your life.

The pastor that I am referring to in this first story ultimately destroyed his church. He took on all the elders, wanting supreme control, causing them to resign. He become so full of anger and pride to a point where no one could work with him. He was a great preacher and a good worship leader but he tried to take the ultimate lead Shepherd place in people’s hearts and it destroyed a very good church.


There is much spiritual abuse going on in the church even now where people get sideswiped and their souls get bruised with disappointments and moral failings by their leaders.

We are looking for strong fathers and mothers in the faith, real discipleship, true community and unconditional love, and we get shocked when the leaders we love and trust fall into lust, immortality or get so full of arrogance and pride that they won’t listen to anyone else.


What do we do when that happens in our lives? How do we go on in the Body of Christ?

It is not easy. As I look back over my life in the church, I see a whole bunch of wreckage - people's lives destroyed by spiritual leaders. 

When we started our house church that lasted over a decade, we started by inviting those wanderers, those people that had been sideswiped by the church over to our home. That mission lasted for ten years and many hearts were restored and healed, but the work is not over. 

What do we do when we get knocked off the path by spiritual leaders - when we get so hurt and full of pain that we can't see the road ahead of us and we just want to get off the road? 

The answer is in Psalm 23. The Lord is MY Shepherd. 

We have to put our eyes back on Jesus - the true and faithful Shepherd of our souls. We have to cry out to Him for Him to heal our hearts and our souls and allow us to trust again.

The teacher-pastor in the second story about my husband’s high school reunion turned out to be a closet homosexual who died of pneumonia via AIDS a year after he married us. No one knew and saw it. We had no idea and it destroyed our church when people found out. 

As young believers that could have easily taken Tim and I out for the count. We could have stopped right there when right after our wedding, our church breaks up over this revelation. A spiritual teacher in our life who meant so much to us had a secret life. 

What do we do in moments like those? We were 21 and 28.

Do we drop out of church forever? How do we ever trust again?

Do we then discount all of the amazing Biblical and sound teaching that we had just been given (for my husband it was three years of his life)?

Was all the words of affirmation that he spoke over our lives all lies too?

How did we not have discernment? How stupid could we be? Maybe we don’t know God ourselves?

All of these are questions that go through your head when you experience something so traumatic. 


When I look back over our life during that season now, I think about all the amazing Bible truths I learned about our connection to the people of Israel, praise and worship, the depths of Passover and the biblical feasts, and so much more. 

We named our first son ISRAEL because we had been taught so much by this man concerning our connection as believers to the Jewish people that we loved the people of Israel. 

In the end, we had to move forward - throwing out the bad and keeping the good of what we had been taught in that season. God's Word will not return void even when it comes through imperfect vessels. 

In reality, all of us are imperfect as leaders and have blind spots somewhere. We shouldn't be in leadership if we have moral compromise, but even a leader who is trying to live out the Bible with a pure heart still will disappoint us at some point. No one is perfect because no one is the ultimate good and perfect Shepherd. 

"Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; For You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; My cup runs over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever." (Psalm 23:4-6)

Remember this is a promise today. If you have been sideswiped by leadership in your life. 

Don't stop. 

Don't quit. 

Take this promise - Goodness and mercy is following you and you WILL DWELL in the house of the Lord FOREVER. 

Run back to Jesus to heal your heart and tell Him all your disappointments and hurts. I can see Him pouring oil over your heart even now. 

I have found that He is faithful to my heart. The Lord is MY Shepherd. 

Read Part 1 of this series - Did Ministry Prepare me for Politics? or Part 2 - Looking Unto Jesus.