Forgiveness


prisoner

Some of the greatest miracles and healings have come into my life through forgiveness.  It is an interesting phenomenon–forgiveness.  When I forgive, it is not the person that I forgive who receives the miracle.  It was me.

I cannot say that I’ve had more to forgive than most because life is hard for all of us.  No matter what your circumstances or generational history, life has a way of taking each of us and wringing all the marrow from our bones.  Without Divine intervention, we eventually collapse from the weight of our own empty carcass and die.

moldForgiveness is one of the miraculous life-giving principles that the Lord has given to us to renew our minds and bodies.  At times, unforgiveness can be a tricky business.  Like damaging mold, it can hide behind walls we build to protect ourselves from harm.  We prance glibly along not understanding that a damaging parasite is growing in our bodies that will eventually kill us if it isn’t fumigated from our systems.

For years, I carried a hidden resentment toward my parents that seemed to remain under the surface. Because no one was hurt by the things I’d observed, I had no concern about dealing with this festering little pimple.  Nevertheless, I slowly realized that I had fallen into the same habit that had been abhorrent to me all during my childhood.

I could not seem to break the pattern until I discovered the miracle of forgiveness.  The scripture that set me free is Matthew 6:14 and 15.  “Yes, if you forgive others for their sins, your Father in heaven will also forgive you for your sins. But if you don’t forgive others, your Father in heaven will not forgive your sins” (NCV).

Even though I knew this familiar verse that follows the Lord’s example prayer, I had not applied it to this situation.  As soon as I told the Lord I forgave my parents and asked him to forgive me of my petty resentment,  I experienced a miracle in my spirit that still lingers in my memory decades later.

The sad part was that when I explained to my mother about the annoyance I held, she laughed.  “Oh, Honey.  I didn’t do that for your dad.  I did that for me!  It was only for my sake I did it.  At times, your father even resented my actions.”

I had kept that festering indignation for years and it was not even justified.  Had I not experienced the Lord’s miracle of forgiveness, I could still be hurting and following the same pattern of behavior that caused my animosity.

I had to learn that forgiveness is not a feeling but an act of my will.  The word Jesus used in the Greek means “to send away from one’s self.”  Feelings can trick you into believing things that are not true.  True forgiveness may not result in goosey feeling.  However, it will result in a miracle in the spirit man.

waterGod is Forgiving

Psalm 86:5

Central Theme:   God forgives everyone, even me.

Introduction–If I have a cup of water and I pour it on to this rag, what will happen?  The rag will get wet.  (If appropriate pour the water on to the floor.  If not pour it into a saucer or rag.)  This rag is wet and it will be wet for a long time.  If I slap Sam in the face, will it hurt?  Yes.  I can’t instantly make this rag dry again.  If I hit Sam, I can‘t take it back.  Folks, we find ourselves in a mess.  We sin and we can’t take the bad things back.  We can’t make the rag dry.  And a slap will always hurt. But there is one thing we have.  We can get God’s forgiveness when we sin. Have a member read Psalm 86:5.

I.     Tell the story of David and Bathsheba

1.  David slept with Bathsheba; then he killed her husband.

2.  God told David that he was a sinner.

II.     David asked God to forgive him.

A. God did forgive David.

1.  God says that David was a man whose heart was like God‘s.

2.  But David had sinned and even God’s forgiveness did not take away the results of those sins.

B. David‘s little son died and many other bad things happened to his family after that.

III.     God forgives but he does not always take away the bad effects of those sins.  –Ex:  a woman who became a Christian after she had killed someone.  She still had to die.

Conclusion–God forgives everyone who asks for forgiveness.

Walking tall and straight, she had a commanding effect when she entered a room.  Even after strokes, sickness and the loss of language, Frances sat erect in her wheelchair and her presence demanded attention.  Frances wasn’t a woman who entertained fools.  Frances spoke through the experience of years in prayer and studying God’s word.  Often, her words were stern and sharp, reaching into the souls of men and women and pulling out the most heart wrenching hurts.  Then she would pray for healing and release.  And God answered her pleas for mercy and grace again and again.

Roman 11 speaks of the kindness and sterness of God.  Our Lord is unbelievably kind to those who follow him. Yet, unrelentlessly stern to women and men who refuse to trust and release themselves into his saving grace.  It is a part of God’s nature from which even his most faithful worshipers turn away because of humanity’s lack of understanding into the nature of our Father.

However, Paul tells us that it is God’s sternness that allows us to see your own inability to handle even the most simple details of life.  It is the Father’s unrelenting pressure pushing us away from Him into greater depth of  sin–wrapped in our rebellion–which drives us to His loving forgiveness and grace.

As Frances’ daughter I was often the target of her sterness and the object of her love.  In pondering Roman 11, I’ve yearned for the Lord to teach me the truth of his character revealed in these startling verses.  He drew my thoughts back to my own mother, Frances.  She was never the tender and compassionate matriarch. Frances was the teacher and leader who gave firm directions with her eyes, her actions and her words.  However, there was never a doubt regarding her love for us.

Frances’ selfless love often extendied past her family into a lost and dying world.  While her words and actions seemed stern to those closest to Frances, we never doubted her heart was kind, forgiving and merciful.  This is the picture of our loving Father revealed by Paul in Romans 11.

32 God has given all people over to their stubborn ways so that he can show mercy to all.

 33 Yes, God’s riches are very great, and his wisdom and knowledge have no end! No one can explain the things God decides or understand his ways. 34 As the Scripture says,

“Who has known the mind of the Lord,
or who has been able to give him advice?” — Isaiah 40:13
35 “No one has ever given God anything
that he must pay back.” — Job 41:11

36 Yes, God made all things, and everything continues through him and for him. To him be the glory forever! Amen.

God is Forgiving

Psalm 86:5

Central Theme:   God forgives everyone, even me.

Introduction–If I have a cup of water and I pour it on to this rag, what will happen?  The rag will get wet.  (If appropriate pour the water on to the floor.  If not pour it into a saucer or rag.)  This rag is wet and it will be wet for a long time; but it will dry.  If I slap Sam in the face, will it hurt?  Yes.  I can’t instantly make this rag dry again.  If I hit Sam, I can‘t take it back ever.  Folks, we find ourselves in a mess.  Because we sin and we can’t take the bad things back.  We can’t make the rag dry instantly.  And we cannot make the slap not hurt.  But there is one thing we have.  We can get God’s forgiveness when we sin.

               Have a member read Psalm 86:5.

I.     Tell the story of David and Bathsheba from 2 Samuel 11 and 2 Samuel 12.

1.  David slept with Bathsheba; then he killed her husband.

2.  God told David that he was a sinner.

II.     David asked God to forgive him.

A. God did forgive David.

1.  God says that David was a man whose heart was like God‘s more than 200 years after this incident.

2.  But David had sinned and even God’s forgiveness did not take away the results of those sins.

B.  David‘s little son died and many other bad things happened to David’s family after that.

III.     God forgives but he does not always take away the bad effects of those sins.  –ex There was a woman who became a Christian after she had killed someone.  She was sentenced to death.  Even though she was a Christian, she still had to die.

Conclusion–God forgives everyone who asks for forgiveness.

God is Forgiving

Lord, you are kind and forgiving and have great love for those who call to you (Psalm 86:5).

Central Theme:   God forgives everyone, even me.

Introduction–If I have a cup of water and I pour it on to this rag, what will happen?  The rag will get wet.  (If appropriate pour the water on to the floor.  If not pour it into a saucer or rag.)  This rag is wet and it will be wet for a long time.  If I slap Sam in the face, will it hurt?  Yes.  I can’t instantly make this rag dry again.  If I hit Sam, I can‘t take it back.  Folks, we find ourselves in a mess.  Because we sin and we can’t take the bad things back.  We can’t make the rag dry or the slap not hurt.  But there is one thing we have.  We can get God’s forgiveness when we sin. Have a member read Psalm 86:5.

I.     Tell the story of David and Bathsheba

1.  David slept with Bathsheba; then he killed her husband.

2.  God told David that he was a sinner.

II.     David asked God to forgive him.

A. God did forgive David.

1.  Many years later, God says that David was a man whose heart was like God‘s.

2.  But David had sinned and even God’s forgiveness did not take away the results of those sins.

B.  David‘s little son died and many other bad things happened to his family after that.

III.     God forgives but he does not always take away the bad effects of those sins.  –ex a woman who became a Christian after she had killed someone.  She still had to die for her crime.

Conclusion–God forgives everyone who asks for forgiveness.

This morning I got up to write as I normally do; but I couldn’t find anything hot to drink. (A hot drink is necessary for early morning writing sessions.) I’m staying with my wonderful granddaughter a few days.  She and her parents are moving.  Therefore, everything in the kitchen has been relocated or put away getting their home ready for resale.  I spent about 45 minutes trying to locate something hot to drink.  After finding the tea, I tried to find a comfy place to sit.  All their little nooks and crannies were deemed clutter.  Therefore, there is only a couch in the living room.

Before starting to write, I settled in to edit the last blog entry.  One of the wonderful things about writing on the Internet is that new edits are always allowed, even encouraged.  Once a book is published in paperback, there is no hope that you can change, correct or improve the thesis until the next edition is printed.  Yet, the Internet is much more forgiving.  If you know the password, you can always rewrite.

We often warn each other as Christians that once the present becomes the past, there is no changing what has been.  Of course, that is true.  Past hurts still string.  A wounded memory remains a tender bruise.  Broken relationships shatter beyond repair.

Yet, the present time has a wonderful ability to edit our lives if we are willing to do the hard work.  Forgiveness and reconciliation coupled with God’s love produce a marvelous effect.  Past hurts can be changed into lessons learned and the benefits can change our lives and the lives of others for generations.

Many years ago, I learned this lesson from my mother.  She had a sister who constantly looked down on everything my mother owned.  For years, we heard how her car was superior.  Her house had more room.  Her yard was a garden, not like mother’s.  Soon after my husband and I moved to Florida,  Mother’s entire family came to visit the two sister in Charleston, SC.  The plans were made to have the big gathering of the family at my parents’s home.  Everything else was happening at my aunt’s home.

The day before the big dinner, my aunt made her announcement.  “We can’t possibly have our dinner at Frances’ house.  There is no way everyone will fit into her tiny yard.  I decided that we must hold the dinner at my house.  After all, I have the large house and the large garden.

“I’ve been thinking about this for a while and I’m completely prepared to have the dinner here.  Frances, I won’t take no for an answer.”

My mother blushed but smiled at her sister’s rude insults.  I could tell Mother was hurt because she, too, had been preparing for the family to come to her home for the meal.  But Mother said nothing.

As Mother and I were doing the dishes after a light supper, I began to spill my anger, “Why do you let her do that to you?  She always insults you and you stand by and take.  Why?”

Grabbing a large stack of dished to wash, Mother expertly slipped the plates in to the water.  Then Mother smiled and looked at me, “Honey, when you have been hurt as many times as I have, you learn that it’s not worth the frustration to let insults effect you in a negative way.  My sister is an unkind, unhappy old woman.  I sure don’t want to be like her.”

Mother had learned to let hurts and insults strengthen her, rather than live with the residue of pain.

With God’s love, a wounded memory can become a reflection of what should have happened, not a tender bruise.  In fact, I’ve found that the most hurtful things in my life become such distant memories that I’ve lost the details.  Without their rehearsal in my mind and repeating details with my mouth, the shock and awe disappears.  Then, healing and forgetfulness replace the trauma.

I believe that broken relationship cannot be ever be repaired.  Nevertheless, with forgiveness, rather than living with a broken relationship, now a more wholesome one can be built.  Years ago, I hurt a dear friend with an unkind remark.  She was going through a hard time and I added to the wound.  Because of my insensitivity, I knew that our relationship was shattered.  There would be no repairing it.  Relationships are like expensive glassware.  When carelessly dropped on a hard surface, glass doesn’t break.  It shatters, into tiny pieces that defy repair.

But forgiveness is an amazing quality, I found.  It is true that my relationship was shattered beyond repair; yet she loved me enough to begin to build a new relationship built on forgiveness.  After a few years, trust was regained; but our friendship was not restored.  It was replaced by a new, less fragile but more tender love.  She made that happen for us.  I was much too embarrassed and afraid of hurting her again to pursue her with vigor.  It was as though my friend sensed my fear and her love rushed in to replace–rather than repair.

The Lord is such a redemptive savior that even the past can be edited through his gracious love.  Has there be a hurt that keeps festering?  What can you learn from that experience?  Is there a past wound that doesn’t want to heal?  While God doesn’t give us the ability to forget, remember time does bring forgetfulness, if we refuse to rehearse the event.  Is there a shattered friendship you have been able to replace with a new more sturdy relationship?

It is inevitable that conflict will come when two people live, work, play or worship together.  An extremely quotable pastor from years past, Jack Green, once said, “If two people live together, there will be conflict, unless one of the two people is dead.”

I’ve always assumed that if there is a conflict between two people at least one of those people is angry.  That does not mean, of course, that one of the two people is sinning.  The Bible clearly says, “Be angry and sin not.”  This makes it pretty clear that you can be angry and not sin.

I am area director of Special Gathering of Indian River, which is a ministry within the mentally challenged community. Our mission is to do classic ministry, evangelizing and discipling the people we serve.  Like every other pastor who ministers to a particular group, we deliberately tackle issues that are relevant to our members.  We talk about the sheltered workshop and having a job on the outside.  We try to deal with the issue of having to live with your parents FOREVER.  Proper behavior with your girl/boyfriend is a scorching hot topic.  Yet, I’ve never squarely faced with our members the issue of siblings–until last week.

Our sermon was on Jacob and Esau.  We are all familiar with the bitter rivalry that these men faced, even in the womb.  Both mother and father were guilty of fostering these battles, which eventually led to resentments.  This week in our sermon I explained to our members that their brothers and sisters have given up a lot for them.  Because many of them were sick as children and they always have had special needs, their siblings lives were different from others.  I urged them to say thank you to their brothers or sisters for helping them and for being kind to them.

I was surprised because one especially sensitive young woman, Michal, spoke up and said, “I don’t have to, my sister loves me.”  While I don’t often welcome interruptions during our devotion time, I was happy for this one.  As she spoke several of our members vocally agreed with her.  Obviously, I’d not made my point clearly.

“No!”  I tried to clarify.  “I’m not saying that they resent you so you need to say thank you.  I’m saying they have given up a lot for you, and for that reason you need to say thank you. Recently, the Holy Spirit spoke to my heart and said, “You are so involved with what you don’t have that you don’t appreciate what you do have.”

It is true that our members are discriminated against almost everywhere.  But in their homes, they often receive preferential treatment.  Siblings see it.  They may even be angry but it’s been my experience that few of them sin.  They embrace their disabled partner in family life and move on, helping where they can.  Siblings deserve a big thank you for their love, understanding, and caring.

Is there someone in your life that you need to thank?  Perhaps your husband or wife who does so many little things to please you?  What about one of your members who is careful to help you each time you meet?

Perhaps the most important thing I have learned from the computer age is the wonderful power of forgiveness.  I remember that one of the first things I was told about my computer was “don’t worry they are very forgiving.”  Interestingly, this is also one of the great lessons I’ve seen in action within the mentally challenged community. My first foray into the world of computers was with an Apple 2E.  My husband, Frank, had purchased it and our third-grade daughter, Carol, gave him his first lessons in turning on and using the machine.

I had a red IBM Selectric Correcting Typewriter and I was reluctant to let go of my prize machine.  Then I got a job with a Christian magazine.  I was required to write at least 200 pages each month, in addition to numerous assignments with ridiculous deadlines.

My husband convinced me one night after supper that I should try the word processor.  At 2am after completing an unheard of number of pages, I slipped into bed next to Frank and whispered, “I will never use my typewriter again.”  The thing I loved was that the computer made corrections so simple.  You just backspace and, WaLa, all was forgiven.

When I entered into the world of disabilities, I found the same forgiving and loving spirit.  Yes, people who are mentally challenged are people like everyone else.  However, their life experiences have taught them the great value of forgiveness.

Maybe, it’s because their lives are so hard and so filled with missteps that they are grateful to receive forgiveness from others.  That is certainly the reason that they enthusiastically embrace the redemptive Christ into their lives and heart.

Maybe it’s because they experience so much mistreatment and misunderstanding that they have to forgive more than the rest of us.  However, I think the secret lies in what a mother told me several months ago.  We were talking about her family and some of the hurtful things they had done to her.  “Why do you continue to have anything to do with them?”  I asked.

“Oh, it’s too hard to hate and hold unforgiveness,” she said, while nonchalantly looking at her fingernails.  This dear mother had no idea the great secret of health, mental stability and happiness she had uncovered.  “It’s so much easier to love than to hate.”

My world was shaken.  Of course, she was correct but how had she discovered this wonderful promise?  I believe that the complexities of a hard life had taught her to seek for easy answers to life’s perplexing problems.  The mentally challenged community also seems to know the easy nature of love and forgiveness.  In the first verse of Psalm 131 David confesses, “I have learned to not try to figure out things that are too high and hard for me.”

Perhaps that is the real attraction that people see when they venture into our cloistered sub-culture.  Maybe when we slip away from the crowd, there is a deep knowing that rings in our hearts,  I’ll never be the same person because I have experienced something genuine and deeply moving.  I have seen forgiveness walking in flesh and blood and I have seen the easy nature of love.

What have you learned about forgiveness that has changed your life and direction?

 

2 Responses to “Forgiveness”

  1. SPG Says:
    February 15, 2008 at 4:16 pmeTwo things, you really write well and second, what verse are you referencing in the 145th Psalm?
  2. specialgathering Says:
    February 15, 2008 at 4:28 pmeOops! Thanks for the correction. It is Psalm 131 verse 1. I’ll change that. David said, “Lord, I am not proud. I don’t try to act important. I don’t try to do grat things. I don’t worry about things that are too hard for me.”This was one of my mother’s favorite verses.

Today, is Global Day of Prayer.  The international chairperson is Graham Power of  South Africa.  This is a day set aside to pray for people around the world.  Here is a suggested prayer for the nations.

Lord, we love and praise you for who you.  Though you dwell in heaven, you chose to bless the earth.  We pray for the world you have made and all the people who dwell on the earth.  We pray your blessings on each person.  We ask that you would provide for all needs.

Forgive the sins of the nations and for the transgressions of each person. We pray that your Son, Jesus, will make himself known to each person through your great power and love and that all  hearts will be softened to know and receive your Holy Spirit into our lives.  Let the peace of God flow from all who love you and impact all creation.

We pray that your kingdom will be known and rule here on earth.   Lord, you are good to us.  Thank you for today and for the blessings you will be pouring on us.  In Jesus name, we pray.  Amen.

Graham PowerGraham Power

Below  is some information about the Global Day of Prayer.

Vision

The glory of Christ and the blessing of the nations.

“For the earth will be filled with the glory of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea.” (Habakkuk 2:14)

Mission

To call Christians from all nations to unite in repentance and prayer,
and to collaborate as God’s instruments for the blessing and healing of the nations.

“If My people, who are called by My name, will humble themselves and pray
and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways,
then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”
(2 Chronicles 7: 14)

Purpose

To meet as God’s united church to worship Him, seek His face and intercede for the transformation of our city and the nations. We seek God for revival, intercede on behalf of our world, and collaborate with Him for the blessing and transformation of our cultures.

Core Values

Every local Global Day of Prayer organizer and team member should strive to live by the following core values:

The Bible and the Apostle’s Creed—These define the doctrinal foundation of our unity. Worship and Prayer—We strive to do everything we do out of a heart of worship and for our counsel and instruction to come from prayer.

Respect—We use a consultative style of leadership that expresses respect for every people and our desire to include every part of the body of Christ.

Humility and Repentance—We embrace a lifestyle of repentance, agree with adversaries quickly, and confront pride and arrogance in the opposite spirit.

Servant Leadership—We lead by serving. It is intimidating to lead leaders, even presumptuous to take on that role. It puts everything in proper perspective when we commit to serve leaders.

Quality—We are committed to serve the vision with excellence. Quality is not a financial decision.

Relationship—We are an expression of existing relationships and a growing network of people who recognize the value and significance of relationship. People are more important than the task.

Integrity—We are committed to honest communication without falsehood or exaggeration. We submit to a clear line of accountability and open financial records.

Inclusiveness—We celebrate diversity, seek inclusive leadership, and mourn the tragedy of any missing part.

Sacrificial Giving—The Global Day of Prayer is empowered by the sacrificial giving of God’s people. Each locality relies on its own resources.

Declaration of Faith

The Global Day of Prayer is designed to encourage the widest participation. Therefore we have chosen one of the simplest, oldest affirmations of faith, The Apostles’ Creed.

THE APOSTLES’ CREED

I believe in God the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth;

and in Jesus Christ His only Son, our Lord; who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead, and buried; He descended into hell; the third day He rose again from the dead; He ascended into heaven, and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty; from thence He shall come again to judge the living and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Spirit; the holy, catholic church; the communion of saints; the forgiveness of sins; the resurrection of the body; and life everlasting. AMEN

Global Day of Prayer Video

Read more: http://blog.beliefnet.com/simplelife/2011/06/global-day-of-prayer-june-11-2011.html#ixzz1OtiV6Wzy

We forgive those people who hurt us–even those we love

Colossians 3:13

Central Theme:  Forgiveness must begin with the people we love.

Introduction–Bring the handle to a broken cup.  Pretend to drink without the cup.  Of course, I can’t drink from this cup because it is broken.  I have only the handle.  Pretending that I have a cup that is not broken doesn’t mean that I have a cup that is not broken.  Pretending that something did not happen does not mean that it did not happen.  As we look at forgiveness today, remember this cup is broken and can‘t be fixed.   Have a member read Colossians 3:13.

       I.     Tell the story of Joseph forgiving his brothers. 

              A. He could have had them killed but he forgave them instead.

              B. He did not pretend that they had not hurt him; but he forgave them anyway.

      II.     Forgiveness does not mean that the hurt or anger will go away when someone has been mean to us, especially when we are hurt by people we trust and love.

              A. Joseph told his brothers that he forgave them and he meant it.

              B  We can choose to forgive close friends and relatives, also.

              C. My mother once told me when I asked how she could forgive a close relative who was being mean to her, “When you have been through as much as I have been through you will see why I can forgive herpeople who have hurt ROS but he has chosen to forgive them.

                   1.  A pastor friend had been hurt by a close friend but this pastor continued to act in a loving way, seeking to continue to be friends with the man who hurt him.  I asked a pastor who had been injured if the things he had suffered didn’t hurt.  He said, “Yes, but what does that have to do with anything?”

     III.     Forgiveness gives us           

              A. Peace with God, other people and ourselves.

              B. Peace with ourselves means that we can heal easier.

Conclusion  Forgiveness does not make everything right, it just makes you right.

I attended a most unusual memorial service yesterday.  A Christian leader in his church, community and home-town committed suicide.  He was dearly loved and well-known.   This dearly loved and well-known husband, father and grandfather had been a model for hundreds of people.  The memorial service was called a Celebration of Life.

To myself, I mused, How will the family handle the circumstances of his death?  as I drove to the church.  I arrived 40 minutes early.  This was good because the church was nearly full by the time I creeped through the crowd of people endeavoring to enter the sanctuary. 

How did the family handle the death?  With open, honest and sincere sadness.  They were extremely brave.  The family members conducted the service.  It was truly a celebration of life and a tribute to a wonderful man.

However, there was frankness that is rarely seen in church during uncomfortable circumstances.  Three pastors read scriptures and spoke briefly.  But it was the family that lead the congregation into praise.  In addition, they led us through the past months in an acutely honest exploration of the problems they had faced as their husband and father struggled with extreme mental pain.  They confessed that they had more questions than answers.  “Please, don’t expect us to answer your questions,” they said.  “We have too many questions of our own.”

However, after the service, their ministry continued to all who attended the reception afterwards.  They hugged us and allowed us to cry and to share in their tears. 

Who was this person to Special Gathering which is a ministry within the mentally challenged community?  He was friend who lavishly welcomed and loved our members each time we visited the church.  He served as our representative on the missions committee and advocated for us for almost a decade.  One year, he purchased Bibles for our choir as Christmas gifts.  For at least eight years, he drove a church van every week more than 40 miles to a pick-up spot so that we could use the van in Vero.  His family told me that he prayed for us every day for almost ten years.  Behind the scenes, he was a most valuable asset to the Special Gathering ministry. 

Life isn’t always a pleasant trip down a garden trail.  Sometimes a Christ-like hero to many people falls, leaving us confused and questioning.  However, I know that this man loved Jesus and he loved Special Gathering ministry.  And I thank God for him and his life.

God is Love

I John 4:7

Central Theme:  God is love so He can do nothing but love even if we do not understand his love.

 

Introduction

         1.      We talk a lot about choices.

         2.      Each of us is given the liberty of making some choices ourselves.

         3.      I chose whom I would marry.

         4.      You chose what shirt or dress you would wear today.

 

          I.      God is God but I wonder if there isn’t something that he has no choice in.

                  A.  Have a member read I John 4:7

                  B.   If God is love, can he choose not to love? 

                        1.   Has God limited himself so he must love?

                  2.   But God’s love is a perfect love

                        A.  We often hear about a soft fluffy love that will give us     everything we want.

                              1)   You know, “Ask and you will receive.”

                        B.   God’s perfect love will do everything for our best.

                        C.  We may not understand God’s love is good for us.

 

                  3.   When my daughter, Carol, my two older children could not understand why I would punish her when she put her fingers near the electrical outlets.

                                A.  They loved her but they did not understand that she could die from putting her fingers in those sockets. 

                                B.   I loved her with a more complete love and I disciplined her to teach her.

 

               II.      God said that we were to not have sex before marriage.

                        A.  We should have only one partner.

                  B.   But we think we know better than that.

                  C.  Sometimes we decide to do thing our own way.

                  D.  Now there are people dying of all kinds of diseases because they did not obey God.

 

Conclusion–We may not always understand God’s love but he loves us best and with a perfect love.  No matter what we might do, he will never stop loving us…but his love is perfect.  That means that he will disciple us when be do wrong things.

Leonard is an artist.  His bold brush strokes and the movement created on the paper defy the imagination and seem to go beyond his natural abilities.  He was a good friend and faithful member of our Daytona Special Gathering for about six years.  Then one Sunday night, he was gone. 

Leonard has no family.  I picked him up at the group home each Sunday night.  I inquired but the owners of the group home didn’t know where he had gone.  His social worker had called to say Leonard had a new placement and they wanted his bags packed by the early afternoon.   Four years later, I found him at a workshop in DeLand.  I was overjoyed but Leonard, who displays the deep effects of autism, didn’t remember me or he chose to not acknowledge my overly enthusiastic response to our reunion.

It’s been 10 years now but I miss his quiet enthusiasm and wish he was still a part of my life.

Howie was born with Down’s Syndrome.  He was a royal pain that extended from the top of your neck down to your toes.  He was moved to Miami by the State into a behavioral home.  I was able to keep in touch with him for many years because he joined a sister ministry located in Dade County.  For several years he would call every week because he got three free long-distance phone calls.  Then he started calling collect.  Knowing he could call for free, I stopped taking his calls.

Last month, I’d written about Howie in an article published in Space Coast Business Magazine.  Doing the rewrites I realized how much I had learned from him in my early years at The Special Gathering, which is a ministry within the mentally challenged community.  Because of his candor, I could always trust his reactions in regard to what was the appropriate way to conduct ministry for individuals who are mentally challenged. In many ways, he shaped the way I approach my life within this cloistered sub-culture.  I owe Howie a great debt of gratitude.

In almost twenty years, Lynne is the only one of my members who has ever hit me.  She is about a foot and a half taller than I am and out weighs me by at least 200 pounds. She was a faithful member of our Saturday programs and sang in the choir.  We had traveled all over the state together; and she had always shown the greatest respect for everyone.  Then her meds got out of whack and my dear friend quickly began to lose control.

 One evening, after the choir had sung in a large church, we were standing outside the auditorium waiting for an appropriate time to enter the back of the sanctuary. I wouldn’t allow her to leave the group to search for a plastic bag filled with some of her papers because I knew a volunteer had taken them into the auditorium for her. There was a slight verbal exchange between us when she cold clobbered me.  Stupidly, I turned my back on her and she wacked me again.  I was stunned and hurt.  But we had been friends for about six years. Therefore, after the appropriate punishment, it was easy to forgive her. 

Yet her life spiraled downward as her medications continued to effect her emotional equilibrium.  After a couple of confrontations with the city police who weren’t as forgiving, she was also moved to a behavioral home.  The last I heard, the home wasn’t quite sure what to do with her and her meds weren’t straight yet. 

Before Lynn moved, she would call everyday.  I didn’t think it would ever happen; but I miss her plaintive, “Me love you.  You love me?”

Sara came up to my waist and she was the perfect lady.  Yet she was the first mentally challenged person who told me off.  It was Sunday afternoon my first year at Camp Agape. I was too exhausted to climb onto my top bunk bed to take a 10 minute nap.  I laid down on her lower berth.  She scolded me unmercifully with five words, “Get out of my bed!”  I’ve  never gotten on anyone elses’ bunk since that time.  Sara moved to the central part of Florida after the hurricanes of 2004.  I’ve not seen her since.  I speak to her mother often but I wonder if Sara would even remember me.  I hope so.

Perhaps the hardest thing about ministry within the mentally challenged community is the realization that friendship and deep relationship can be broken quickly and permanently.  Parents die and no provision has been made.  There are no group homes in the area and independent living would be difficult.  A friend is moved unceremoniously across the state. 

 Meds become unpredictable; the person changes in unhealthy ways, maybe tempers flair.  Of course, the public must be protected but you are left with a void where once a vibrant friendship had flourished.

There seem to be no good answers.  Only the realization that you must hold tightly to the love and friendship God gives you today.  Because tomorrow they could be gone. 

Are there people who have been snatched from your life?  Have you found an effective way to tract them down?  Or is it too painful to try?

Tammy was abused by her employer.  She is a high functioning young mother who also suffers from touches of mental illness.  While still a teenager, she was left homeless and took a job as the nanny for several young children.  The divorced father had been left with the three children and quickly Tammy became their surrogate mother.  Unfortunately, she also became the father’s surrogate wife.

After about five or six years, Tammy realized that she could no longer endure the abuse of her employer and left the position.  As she told me her story, I was greatly impressed with her attitude.  It was clear from the beginning of our conversation that she had been greatly wounded from the experience; but I could tell even before she expressed it that she had completely forgiven her abuser.

Tammy’s story–no, Tammy’s attitude–regarding forgiveness greatly effected me.  She knew from the first time her employer touched her that he was taking advantage of her precarious position.  She always knew that he didn’t care about her; but he was only using her because  he knew she had no other place to go.  (After she left the nanny position, she was homeless for several years.)  Nevertheless, she was willing to freely forgive him of his offensive and abusive behavior. 

This is not the first time that I’ve seem great offense forgiven by the members of The Special Gathering.  We are a ministry within the mentally challenged (mentally retarded) community.  While our members are developmentally delayed, they often have much to teach folks who are “normal.”  And forgiveness is one of those areas.

From them and from a study of Scriptures like Matthew 18, I have come to believe that forgiveness is not an emotional act.  In fact, I believe it has nothing to do with emotions.  It is an action, not an emotion.  We forgive in word and deed.  It is also an action that Jesus elevated to a commandment.  Even if I don’t feel I cannot forgive a person, that is not the issue.  Forgiveness is possible because it is an action, borne from the gracious act of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross and his resurrection from death.

There is a conversation and discussions that circulates around the Christian community at times regarding forgiveness.  The discussion goes something like this: 

 Forgiveness is something you must do whenever anyone does wrong things to you. 

No.  You can only forgive when someone seeks forgiveness.  God does not forgive us until we seek forgiveness.  Can we do something God does not do?  Can we forgive people who don’t seek forgiveness?  We must be willing to forgive but we cannot forgive, unless the person seeks forgiveness.

 Okay, I admit it.  This whole discussion leaves me totally confused.  Because the latter is certainly a reasonable argument.  And I can’t help but agree.  But I guess I choose to forgive the person who has wronged me even if they have not asked for forgiveness.  

You see, I know I have wronged people; and for years, I didn’t know that they were hurt.  I didn’t even know what I had done.  Maybe the first time I hear about the hurt is when they come and tell me they have forgiven me.  I would hate to take the position that I can’t forgive unless the person comes to me and then find out as I stand before God’s Throne that I’ve been wrong on this matter.  You know, Jesus was pretty plain in Matthew 18: 22.  “You must truly forgive your brother and sister, or my heavenly Father will not forgive you.” 

Perhaps, it is because of their limited cognitive abilities that it seems easier for members of the mentally challenged community to forgive; but I don’t think that is part of the equation.  Somehow, these people who have suffered a great deal of discrimination and hurt have been able to tap into a part of God’s grace that is difficult for most of us.  They have learned that forgiveness is an action and they willingly forgive. 

Have you found that forgiveness is something that your friends or members who are developmentally delayed do well?  Have you learned from them the importance of forgiveness.

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