Forgiveness


Football is perhaps my favorite of all organized sports. Routinely I enjoy a game on television, and will even catch a few highlights on a sports channel. While relaxing at home recently, a game caught my eye. The offense was executing their play as the ball was snapped, and wide receivers ran up the field hoping to get open. The quarterback unleashed a long pass toward the goal line (and near the sideline) as one receiver ran a post pattern toward the pylon—the end zone/out-of-bounds marker. Near the two or three yard line, the player inadvertently stepped-out-of-bounds, but reentered the field of play in pursuit of the descending ball. It was a remarkable catch! The referee signaled a touchdown. The stadium erupted as the crowd went ballistic. The defenders objected and I stood up in utter amazement at the acrobatic reception!

Instinctively, the scoring team’s field goal unit ran onto the field to line up for the ensuing extra point when all-of-a-sudden the game was halted. The play was being reviewed by those in the replay booth. After a short delay, the umpire repositioned himself on the field and reported, “After further review, the call on the field is confirmed; it is a touchdown!”

It is no secret we are often sidelined and knocked out-of-bounds—e. g. mistakes, blunders, indiscretions, bad judgments, weariness, fatigue, etc.—by the opposition (our adversary) while attempting to execute our Lord’s play (God’s will for our lives). In fact, to go “out-of-bounds” (in the eyes of many) actually renders one ineligible to continue or even further to touch the ball. This new rule in professional and collegiate football is affording us some valuable insights into spiritual truths I felt worthy of sharing.

Here they are:

(1) The goal of the enemy is to render us disqualified and totally ineligible to continue in ministry. His strategy is to cause us to “cross of the line” or “step out-of-bounds” through any number of discomforting means—mistakes, blunders, indiscretions, bad judgments, etc. So be aware of his schemes and ward him off at every juncture!

(2) No matter what happens, keep running the route! Had the receiver stopped his course (even though he was clearly pushed out), he never would have caught the ball and certainly would not have scored. Get back onto the playing field as quickly and as responsibly as you can, and continue with the route you have been given! After all, the ball is already in the air.

(3) Remember, lastly, the ultimate decision is not your call to make (nor anyone else’s)! There is another Person (God)—Power, Authority—who sits aptly in the replay booth; and He alone is the Official who determines whether you are “in” or “out!”

Work hard to avoid being side-tracked or side-lined, my brothers and sisters! Let the Lord use you TODAY. If you have been knocked down or in some way pushed out, get back up (or back in) and keep running your route. There’s an entire team (believers) and a stadium full of fans (Hebrews calls them “a great cloud of witnesses” [12:1]) who are counting on you! They (We) need you to score!

As I exited my vehicle at Wal-Mart this past Thursday, I noticed a young couple exiting their vehicle at the same time. Strangely, we had to park a good distance from the main entrance since the parking lot was rather full. I couldn’t help but notice how the guy was dressed. He had on a bright yellow cap with a huge green “G” on it, with a grass-colored bib that was turned backwards on his head. He also wore a green jersey with a huge number four centered on it. White striped on both the shoulders and the sleeves accented his garb as he sported some khaki colored knickerbocker-type shorts that came down to his knees. A pair of sandy-colored sandals finished off his attire that plainly declared he was a Green Bay Packer fan.

Interestingly, earlier in the week, the Packers found themselves on the losing end of a widely publicized battle against their Chicago arch rivals—the Bears. It was a great game that kept fans (and viewers) on edge as it came-down-to-the-wire. In the closing moments, the Bears skillfully positioned themselves to kick a winning field goal to break the 24-24 tie. Green Bay was helpless to do anything realistic with the ensuing kickoff. The game ended 27-24, Chicago! Pundits indicate the Packers actually gave the game away. That was on Monday night! Yet, on Thursday, a man gracefully and publicly wore his Packers regalia without shame. I thought, “What would make a man continue to wear his favorite team’s paraphernalia even though his team lost a game they should have won; and sadly had let him down?” It’s really rather simple:

1. He was clearly a loyal fan and unashamedly loved his team.

2. He knew this game (Monday night’s) was just “one game” and the season wasn’t over.

3. He also knew that Sunday was coming and there likely would be an opportunity for redemption.

Are you a loyal fan of Christ’s church? Or are you someone playing the victim and participating in the negativity about others who fail or fall? My prayer is that we—Christ’s church—will soon embrace these principles. It does not matter who it is or what they have done (or what they may be accused of doing). True believers will (1) always remain as loyal proponents of the church of Jesus Christ just because they love the team; (2) they will work hard to remember this is only one game (e.g. one fumble, one dropped pass, one missed field goal, one flag, one fowl, one strike, one delay of game, or one un-sportsman-like conduct call, etc.), and that the season isn’t over; and (3) they will keep in mind that Sunday is coming; and there should arrive (prayerfully) a fresh opportunity for redemption.

Remain loyal, my brothers and sisters! Keep wearing the Lord’s regalia; and know that God alone is this game’s Official—He’s the Umpire, the Referee, and the Line Judge—and He alone has the power and is in the position to determine if any of us should remain on the team, or can continue to play the game!

In case you don’t know, Green Bay defeated Detroit today!

Here we go again! It should be no surprise that another Christian scandal has made it to the headlines and piqued the interest of believers everywhere, the viewing world, and especially the media. Although the truth is yet to be discovered, rumors continue to mount and many have already drawn conclusions on the innocence and guilt of the accused. The devil just doesn’t play fair, does he? It is most sad!

Let me be clear! Christ’s church is no stranger to controversy; and Christians and Christian leaders are never exempt from these routine and riotous hazards of the faith. Regrettably, some of these are self-imposed and the results of ones’ own undoing. Many are not! Throughout history God’s people have been under the microscope of constant judgment and incessant criticism. In fact, Jesus said, “…the kingdom suffers violence and violent men take it by force.” (See Matthew 11:12, NASB). As believers we will never escape satanic attack and the inequitable demonic strategies employed to destroy God’s work and our witness. What, then, are Christians supposed to do? How are we to respond when these tragic and unavoidable black-eyes occur? And believe me, this is undeniably a huge “black-eye!” Let’s see!

First of all, whenever a brother or a sister has been charged or is accused of a thing—a crime, an offense (a sin), an indiscretion, a fault, etc.,—as sad as it may be, don’t be surprised. In Revelation 12:10, our adversary is called “the accuser of the brethren.” Satan is still the “father of lies, the master of disguise, and the author of confusion.” These are the indisputable facts, and there’s no way around them!

Secondly, don’t judge. Any rash conclusions reached or quick judgments made about anyone who is accused is both premature as well as immature. “All the facts” need to be weighed! And even further, it is not our right or responsibility to ever reach a hasty “verdict” without giving those facts due consideration. Yes, believers will eventually judge angels (1 Corinthians 6:3), but these will surely be based on facts!

Thirdly, remember grace. Were it not for the grace (goodness) of God, any of us could be under attack (under seize, or even under fire) at any given moment. That means while you may not be on the witness stand or public display (today), you don’t have to be guilty of anything for the enemy to accuse you of something. We are ALL guilty of something(s), and it is only God’s grace that keeps ALL of us out of the lime-light and the public line-of-fire. Thank God for His grace and always be sure to extend the same to others who may be struggling or are presently under attack!

Fourthly (and most of all), PRAY! The fallout associated with these terrible misfortunes is incalculable. We should immediately begin to intercede and pray. Consider for a moment those who are directly affected:

(a) The accused—undoubtedly a human being with feelings, family, friends, some form of fortune, failures, faults, and flaws. It cannot be easy for anyone accused (whether innocent or guilty).
(b) The accusers—no doubt, there are some issues within the hearts and minds of anyone who would pursue a legal (and public) course of action to resolve an apparent personal problem or difficulty. The Bible is clear on the way believers are to resolve offenses and settle differences.
(c) The world of believers—whenever scandalous matters are aired before the world for open debate and public consumption it sadly damages the image of the church and the strength of every believer’s witness. There is absolutely no way around it!
(d) The unbelieving world—these (unsaved sinners) don’t need another excuse for failing to choose Jesus Christ as their portion. When you take a look at it, it’s a no-win situation and we all lose; and the only way to combat these kinds of heinous assaults is to engage the most formidable weapon in our arsenal and at our disposal—prayer!

Fifthly (and lastly), trust God to work it out! God alone is judge, and we should trust Him and His power to work it all out for all of our good and more especially for His glory. It is still true whatever the enemy may mean against us for evil, God can (and will) work it out for our good! Trust Him!

Be encouraged, my brothers and sisters. This certainly won’t be the last attack (or perhaps fall) of a believer or man or woman of God. When it’s all said and done, God will still be God, He is still good, He will still be great, He yet remains gracious, and He will always be greatly to be praised!

A few years ago (1995) British doctors proposed a revolutionary course of action to save a girl with major heart problems. At two years old, they decided to implant a donor heart directly onto her faulty heart. With two blood-pumping organs co-existing inside her body for 10 years, Hannah Clark’s own heart began to do what many experts had thought impossible. It actually began to heal to the extent that doctors were able to remove the donated heart. While a donor heart sent blood throughout the rest of her body, it miraculously enabled her original heart the chance to be transformed and get well.  Commenting on the discovery, Dr. Douglas Zipes, former president of the American College of Cardiology said, “This shows that the heart can indeed repair itself if given the opportunity.” Though not associated with Clark’s operation and treatment, Zipes continued, “The heart apparently has major regenerative powers, and it is now key to find out how they work.”

A malfunctioning heart caused the Psalmist to beg God to “…give me a clean heart, and renew a right spirit within me.” (Psalm 51:10). No matter what is the cause, whenever the heart is not right, life is miserable and devoid of essential peace. Here are a few truths I discovered about good heart health for believers in God. A healthy heart:

1. is necessary for welcome engagement of worship. (Psalm 24:4)

2. allows one to know joy and gladness (Psalm 51:8).

3. enhances one’s effective witness (Psalm 51:13).

4. is crucial for acceptable giving of our offerings (Psalm 51:17).

5. for sure delights God to prosper us (Psalm 51:18).

Are you having heart problems? Is yours hurting because of your own sin, sorrow, or perhaps an injury caused by another? There is good news. We know a donor who is willing to lend you His heart until your own heart can heal and get better. If you would allow Him to attach His heart to yours, a miraculous transformation will take place. Before long, your heart will begin to repair—be transformed—and function like He originally designed it to.

 

Jesus can fix it! I dare you to let Him!

The year 2009 has been a real challenge for me. Having undergone two surgeries—one for my left knee and the other for my left shoulder due to a rotator cuff tear—God has yet been faithful and allowed me to move assuredly toward recovery. I am so grateful.

 

While seated in the waiting room during one of my scheduled office visits, I asked the receptionist to run off a copy of my account for me. She did and I was blown away at what I discovered. The costs for my knee operation were nearly $5000. My rotator cuff surgery was in excess of $39,000. Neither of these services includes the correlated office visits, x-rays, MRI procedures, medication, nor physical therapy. When it’s all said and done, already this year my medical expenses total over $50,000. As I reviewed the numbers, I was moved with joy in that I didn’t have to pay the balance. In fact, were I required to pay it, I wouldn’t have had it. Thank God for insurance!

 

Before I could fold the page and put it in my pocket, the Lord prompted me about another account. He reminded me there was another bill coming due. And for this balance, Mutual of Omaha, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Aetna, nor Cigna, had created a policy to cover these charges. Then it occurred to me that for these expenses, I didn’t need “insurance.” What I would need for this bill was “assurance.” I shouted; because I have exactly that! Blessed Assurance; Jesus is mine…

 

If you don’t have it, you should get it today! You’ll feel so much better!

 

It’s been nearly two weeks since my rotator cuff surgery to repair the tear.  I don’t recall any more challenging days than the ones I just negotiated.  Little do many of us realize the instinctive (automatic) reflex responses to everyday occurrences!  It takes tremendous energy to suppress your body’s natural tendency to react to something as simple as dropping a pen.  I’m still working at it.  The first week was really tough.  My orthopedist instructed me stay out of the shower to avoid getting the site wet, and to only take a sink bath.  So, I had to learn to bathe with one arm (and from a basin) for seven days.  Keeping the injured shoulder immobile made the entire exercise quite the chore.  Thankfully, I made it through.

 

At my one-week appointment the doctor told me I could resume showering.  It was music to my ears.  As I entered the flowing water the very next morning, I thanked God aloud for the privilege of bathing.  Few of us hardly think about it.  The fact that daily we become contaminated is not even a thought, because we have a remedy called a bath or a shower.

 

What a tragic existence the unrepentant world lives!  Remarkably, there remains a great aggregation who continue to live soiled, dirty lives; and with apparent content.  Oh, if they only knew!  No one has to remain unclean.  None are constrained to live out of the basin of filth.  We have at our disposal a Shower!  One dark Friday, a cleansing flood opened to all, and became readily available to whosoever would come.  For it, we should equally thank God!

 

William Cowper put it like this:

 

There is a fountain filled with blood

Drawn from Immanuel’s veins.

And sinners plunge beneath that flood

Lose all their guilty stains;

 

I never thought about the simple privilege of taking a shower until I couldn’t.  When once again I could, I discovered a new found joy.  You, too, can experience this joy if you would only take the plunge.

 

The Lord awaits your arrival.  Do it today!

“Shoulda, woulda, coulda!” Most everyone grieves over bad choices and wishes (at times) they could do it all over again. Tyrone Davis sang about it in a song that said, “…if I could turn back the hands of time.” You’ll never have to say anything close to this if you would simply think before you speak or act, and work hard to always make wise choices. Listening to (and respecting) others who know and love you could save you a lot of heartache and unnecessary pain.

I wrote this one a few years ago:

When I could, I wouldn’t; now I want to, but I can’t.

Felt, “I oughta to”, but I didn’t; then was able, now I ain’t!

It’s the story line of life, failing to do what we should,

Oh, the stress, the strain and strife, cause we would now…if we could.

Don’t spend too much time over spilled milk. Just wipe up the mess and get you another glass.

Fred called me in anger. He was desperate for an appointment. I consented. Ted, his brother, had conveyed something to his (Fred’s) son which would have allegedly happened before the child’s birth. He swore the claim was not true. He asked the heart-wrenching question, “But why, pastor, would he tell my son something like that anyway?” Fred continued, “I already told him that his concerns were unfounded, and that I had no reason to lie to him.” Futilely, I tried to console Fred. He was sorely distraught.

No poison can destroy relationships like the toxic venom of disloyalty. When families face seasons of discord and relational difficultly, there should exist a binding covenant (an unbreakable commitment) that disputing adults should honor for life. Parents, especially, must resolve to keep this covenant without failure. If they do not, it will cost them incalculably, and everybody (especially the children) is guaranteed to lose.

Clearly, Ted had some serious and unresolved issues (anger not being the least of them). While he had a right to his perceptions, sharing those with his brother’s innocent child showed poor judgment. Under no circumstances should children bear the brunt of any adult’s displaced wrath, frustration, hatred, rage, disgust, or irritation that is directed toward and designed for someone else. Such a miscalculation will eventually backfire on the perpetrator, and the resulting damage could be tragically irreparable.

Psalm 37 helps us. The admonition in verse one is clear: “Do not fret because of evil doers…” The word fret conveys the idea of becoming unduly consumed or especially irritated. My simple take on the word fret is plain: (1) just be cool, (2) be no fool, and (3) break no rule. Think about it. You actually have the power to avoid the correlated frustration when others get away with doing you harm. If you keep trusting God (and verse 3 actually tells us to do just that), it will all work out. So, let Him (God) help you, let Him have it (the problem), and let Him handle it! You’ll be fine!

We prayed. I reminded Fred of one irrefutable fact: “If it’s any comfort to you, kids do eventually grow up!” Now that good news!

It’s much easier to think about the pain others have caused us. To victims, such pain is real and often difficult to overcome. Conversely, we don’t give the same degree of attention to the harm we may have caused others. Just as real, most are guilty (whether intentionally or inadvertently) of doing or saying something that caused another much grief. For the Christian—one who truly loves God—the thing to do is to be genuinely remorseful and earnestly apologize.

The ensuing ode comes out of my reservoir of complicated experiences from which I have learned and grown. Perhaps it will encourage someone else to find a way to overcome a breach.

Words are really very small; yet they carry so much weight.
The problem with them all, though, once uttered it’s too late;
To take back what’s been spoken, erase what’s already run;
Or make like, “I was jokin,” when the damage has been done.

They sometimes help or hinder, they cause us so much pain,
They often make the sender sound like, “He’s insane!”
If one thought before one speaks, worked hard to be more kind;
Unlike old faucet leaks, words are born within the mind.

The sad truth about it, the danger I’d even say,
Is whether whispered or shouted, words often get in the way;
Of an otherwise good time, a really pleasant sorta date;
Subvert what was sublime, can even make you lose your mate.

Words are peculiar tools, may work in or out our favor;
Leave us looking like fools, no other words could savor.
Language, speech, communication, it’s all the same old thing,
Can make or break a nation, enthrone, dethrone a king.

The ones I said of recent, I know hurt you really bad,
They didn’t come out too decent; I’m sorry, and very sad!
Just know most times my head, and few, few times my heart
Is the big dummy who said, those things that weren’t too smart.

Please try hard to get by them; I’ll work hard to think twice.
My mind can supply them—kinder words that sound so nice;
That encourage and bless you, that give joy and help you live;
Words I want to caress you, if in your heart you can forgive.

Authored by Dr. Reginald D. Terry, 1992

Some things are a given—life is full of challenges; our circumstances will inevitably change; but to love, forgive, and move on are matters of choice. These are irrefutable truths we each need to resolve. Today! Negotiating the path to closure can be anything but easy. One has to make a clear distinction between rival concerns in order to reach a healthy and positive end.

The first concern is the ideal. What would be an ideal resolution to the situation? It may be for the offender—your partner, husband or wife, friend, loved one, co-worker, child, etc.—to stop doing whatever they have been doing and somehow be transformed into the perfect person you desire. The culprit could own responsibility for their actions and ask your forgiveness, give back what has been taken, rebuild what is broken, reconcile whatever discrepancies may have been created (financially, relationally, etc.) or even return from the dead and correct every wrong done. Of course, these may be virtual impossibilities; but if they could happen, it would be ideal for your personal closure and individual wholeness so you could meaningfully move on.

The other interest is called the real. When the ideal is impractical, a more realistic goal must be pursued. The offender may not be able to pay you back or fix what’s broken. Divorcing the new spouse and re-establishing family as it was may not be an option. The pregnancy and new baby did happen and cannot be undone. No dead person will ever return to remedy their abuse. I often say it like this: “You simply cannot unring some bells; you just cannot unscramble the egg and put it back into the shell.” So in order to find closure, one has to establish a reasonable compromise; one with which one can live and at last move forward. The key, however, is that YOU (the victim) get to decide where that compromise exists. You may designate it as sensibly close to your ideal as you find it achievable, but most importantly, you get to control it. You see, whenever you make closure something contingent on what another person does (or does not do), you have actually given them the “gavel” or the “remote control” to dictate your growth and maturity. No one should have that power but you!

Closure may be to simply and honestly express your feelings to the individual about whatever was done. An intelligent opportunity to unload is often sufficient for resolution. It won’t even matter how the other person responds (if at all). You will have reached closure because YOU have already established the terms and perimeters for it. Their response essentially is a non-issue. Should you be able to reach a compromise closer to your ideal than expected, you will have really won. Most importantly, you get to control closure for you.

Whenever you give someone else the advantage of deciding where closure is for you, you forfeit a great privilege and relinquish control of your own healing. Furthermore, continuing to allow others to routinely disappoint you really gives them TOO MUCH power! Take control of you (even when you cannot control your circumstances). You’ll be much closer to closure than you realize, and peace will gladly meet you there! The key is deciding when and where to “let it go!”