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.
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.
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.
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.
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