Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Confession of a messed up youth pastor

This letter is to the congregation of Grace Fellowship church and to those who have allowed me to have some spiritual influence in their lives as I have taken a leadership role in many places of worship, spiritual guidance and ‘Christian’ life over the past couple years in Cape Breton.
I am convinced that God is going to awaken this Island spiritually, and for whatever role I am going to have in that, I am also convinced that I need to be transparent.  We’re about to go into 30 days of waiting and I need to go in with a clean hands and a clear conscience, the rest of you don’t have to follow this approach.  Just come and hear from the Lord.   For whatever reason, the Lord convicted me of this today and has been speaking it to me for some time.  So here it is.

When I was about 8 years old I saw my first porn magazine and have struggled with lust ever since then.  I have had periods of freedom from this but am under a fairly steady attack from lustful thoughts.  About 3 years ago, after being convicted by a message spoken at Lighthouse Church by Rebecca Paavola, I got some light shed on the situation.  At the time of the Catholic Church sex scandal, she spoke on forgiveness and God’s ability to forgive people we have such a hard time forgiving, even those involved in sexual immorality.  I realized that night that God had forgiven me, even for this thing that I struggled so much with and wanted so badly to be kept in secret.  Not only that he had forgiven me, but that it was no secret from him.  He was also clear this lustful seed planted in me wasn’t something I was supposed to or able to overcome on my own.  I told Gemma about the struggle that night and asked forgiveness and received a huge release from the guilt and worry I had about her finding out.  The enemy, however, knows this is my stumbling block, and uses it whatever chance he gets to turn my thoughts from Jesus.  Especially times of stress and times when the spiritual focus is about to get turned up.  Lately it seems the attack has been worse and the lustful thoughts more frequent and more intense.  (stress of a new baby, stress of not knowing where our church is going, stress of not knowing where the young people are going, intense summer camp ministry,  30 days of waiting, all the while knowing that God told me not to worry about anything, which was causing me to worry about the worrying.  Ironic, right?)  Don’t worry, I’m not about to freak out and do something crazy, God’s been gracious to let me see the signs and know what’s going on.  Fortunately I haven’t fallen into watching porn online or looking at magazines, but Jesus said if I look or even think about a woman lustfully I’ve committed adultery, so by that standard I would be a failure.  I also know that it’s not a very big step to fall off the edge.  I have asked him for forgiveness, and I know he’s forgiven me, I asked to him help me and I know he does when I call out to him, so I guess this is just a matter of revealing things before he comes back and everything is revealed anyway.  Please pray for me in this battle.

Not to rate sin because that’s stupid, but that seems to be the one I struggle with, or notice the most, but this is a transparency letter so there are other things I struggle with. 

I’ve been working with the church for about a year and half and it may be no secret to some people that I have had some major resentment toward the church (not Grace but the church in general).  So just so everyone knows, sometime I really struggle and have bitterness and anger about the way we try to do things in the church, which sometimes spills over into bitterness and anger towards individuals.  It’s caused me to be judgmental and write people off because of their beliefs, basically turning me into the thing that I’ve judged others for being.  I know, that’s twisted and sick, but that’s what the sin nature does, it doesn’t just make me have some bad action, it messes up my whole patterns of thought sometimes.  I pray that Jesus will remove all the seeds and roots of bitterness and anger that I’ve caused and that I’ve been holding onto.

My whole life I’ve struggled with an intense fear of rejection.  It’s been almost crippling at some points in my life.  In university I would often miss classes or even drop classes because of the fear of having to talk to people or in front of people.  The Lord has given me amazing freedom from this so often, but I still struggle all the time with fear of talking to people.  There have been so many occasions when the Lord has given me things to say to people and I have straight up chickened-out.  Or he’s given me a task to do and I’ve totally ignored him because the fear of man, the fear of rejection, the fear of failure has won out.  If you’ve missed out on a word from the Lord because of my fear I am so sorry.  I know I’ve been in situations where I’ve made others feel this same rejection, my fear has kept me from talking to people or making them feel loved and important.  If I’ve made you feel this way I’m so sorry.  I don’t know how to receive love from others very well either, so if I’ve avoided or rejected (knowingly or unknowingly) some love the Lord has tried to give through you, I’m sorry for that too. 

I have been part of the huge problem of gossip that exists in Cape Breton.  I’m sure it’s a spiritual strong hold and I’ve fallen into it so many times.  I’ve been in so many conversations where I’ve spoken words of anger, judgment and criticism of other people; the way they live, the way they spend money, the clothes they wear, their work ethic, their attitude, the list goes on.  All of it straight from the devils trick book to keep the body at odds with each other and not focused on Jesus.  I don’t even know where I’d start to ask forgiveness for all these conversations, but I don’t want to be part of them anymore.  I am sorry to those of you who I’ve spoken badly of and to those who I’ve had the conversations with.

In my home growing up, people didn’t give encouragement or express love very well.  It was usually misguidedly done by teasing each other which often turned into jokingly insulting each other.  I know I’ve done this with some of the youth in our church, and although the intention was not to be hurtful I know what it’s like to be on the receiving end of a bad joke.  I am sorry if I’ve broken anyone down in this way, I will do my best to build you up from now on. 

I’m sure there are other things I need to confess but this is what’s coming to mind now, maybe over the next 30 days the Lord will help reveal some other things to help my old self get out of the way and make more room for him to be in charge of my life.  James 5: 15-16 says “…if you’ve sinned, you’ll be forgiven-healed inside and out.  Make this your common practice: Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you can live together whole and healed.”  I don’t quite know the reason or consequence of this letter, other than trying to be real with Jesus and real with all of you.  But as this “30 Days of Waiting” starts, I hope that Jesus is going to get busy in the healing and making whole business for all kinds of people and all kinds of struggles. 

Be Blessed

Joey Cook

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