Posts Tagged forgiveness

The Work of the Spirit – Rev. Andrew Shull – FBC Woodruff, SC

First Baptist Church in Woodruff, South Carolina, where I serve as pastor, has a long and very interesting history.  Tariff Acts were passed in 1828 & 1832 that adversely affected the economy of the southern states.  Under the leadership of John C. Calhoun, South Carolina voted to “nullify” the federal tariffs.  President Andrew Jackson threatened to send federal troops to SC to enforce their collection.  In Woodruff, loyalties in our church were split between the federal government and the state government.

  1. B. Woodruff describes “a terrible convulsion that shook the church to its very center, and came very near breaking it into atoms. The difficulty grew and increased until the church was literally torn into two distinct factions.  Hard sayings were indulged, bitter feelings ensued, and the future of the church was exceedingly dark.”

After numerous attempts at resolution, the Bethel Association asked the church to hold a day of fasting and prayer to “lay aside all party spirit and hardness, to forgive one another and unite as a band of Christians in the spirit of meekness.”  The day ended with the members forming a line in front of the church.  While hymns were sung, they went up and down the line giving each other expressions of forgiveness, fellowship and love.  It became “a time of general joy.”

  1. B. Woodruff ends his account by stating, “This was the settlement of this mighty difficulty, but like the ocean after being swept by some grand storm continues to lash and foam and fret long after the storm has died away, so the angry passions that had been raised in this tumultuous strife yielded slowly but steadily to the pressure of brotherly love which was re-occupying the hearts of those Christians. Satan was vanquished, but he retired muttering and sullen from a position he once thought was impregnable.”

It is natural to nurse hurts, flame the fires of bitterness, keep track of any offense or slight, hold grudges, keep wounds open and occasionally throw in some salt.  But we do ourselves great harm when we chose to live that way.

There is a better way to live.  It involves swallowing our pride – regardless of who is right and who is wrong, humbling ourselves, extending mercy and forgiveness, and receiving the healing that comes through the Lord.  Christians are commanded to: go the extra mile (Matthew 5:41); settle disagreements and disputes quickly (Matthew 5:23-25); be peacemakers (Matthew 5:9); love and pray for those who mistreat us (Matthew 5:44); forgive (Matthew 6:14-15); speak “only what is helpful for building others up” (Ephesians 4:29) and entrust themselves (their injuries and hurts) to God who judges justly (1 Peter 2:21-23.)  Christians are people who know what it is to be forgiven –  for they have experienced God’s incredible grace and mercy.  And they are people who know how to forgive – because you can’t really experience God’s forgiveness without it changing your heart.  Jesus said, “He who has been forgiven little loves little” (Luke 7:47.)

From our earliest years, we learn, often the hard way, the right things to say and the right things to do.  We learn what is acceptable, what will allow us to fit into our families, have friends and keep our jobs.  We learn how to monitor our words and behavior.  Whatever your job, there are some things you just won’t do.  Not because you don’t want to, but because of the consequences.  But sometimes we surprise ourselves and we say something or do something we thought was uncharacteristic.  Where did that come from?  It comes from our heart.  Jesus teaches us “For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks” (Matthew 12:34.)  We may learn to monitor our words and actions but we often let things like anger, hurt, jealousy, pride, resentment and selfishness get lodged in our heart.  We let things that happened years ago control us for they have been allowed to grow in the darkness.  Solomon writes, “Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life” (Proverbs 4:23.)  Your heart affects everything.

Jesus, the Great Physician, can change our hearts.  His grace can work in us from the inside out.  He can take what is broken and use it for our good and for the good of others.  He can address not just the symptoms but the root causes.  Because of His great love for us we can become people who genuinely love others and reflect that love not just in our choice of words and actions but also in our hearts.  “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh” (Ezekiel 36:26.)

 

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Take No Bitterness into the New Year

Many people regard New Year’s Resolutions with the same disdain they attribute to the much maligned fruitcake. I am a proponent of both. For several years now I have made the same New Year’s resolution and I do my best to keep it. I will take no bitterness into the New Year. Whatever has happened during the past twelve months that tends to sour my disposition, cause me pain and create separation, I resolve to let go. Whatever offenses I have suffered will not be dragged into the New Year. As the years pile up, keeping my resolution doesn’t get any easier.

Forgiveness is not as easy as it might sound. Partly it requires developing a thicker skin and realizing that I take far too many things personally. I need to lighten up. This is one of the concepts my friend, Dr. Monty Knight, discusses in his book, Balanced Living; Don’t Let Your Strengths Become Your Weaknesses. Continuing with Monty’s philosophy, I don’t have to go to every fight to which I am invited. That is a major concept. Let it go. Tom Newboult, a minister of religious education, once told me that sin is giving more importance to the moment than it is worth. In other words, don’t dwell in the negative. I think Tom hit the nail on the head. What a great concept!

Turning a negative into a positive is another methodology for dealing with difficult situations. Since I administered a not-for-profit agency for most of my career, I am often attacked with, “Well, Mitch, you are just an idealist.” My reply is, “Thank you. I hope so.” The main thing about forgiveness for those of us who are Christian to remember is that we are able to forgive because we have been forgiven.

Susan Sparks in her book, Laugh Your Way to Grace, suggests that we rediscover the power of humor. She maintains that we take ourselves far too seriously. We need to repackage some of the comments that cause us pain.

Bitterness is a terrible task master. It will ruin your life and suck all the goodness you receive into a dark hole. I recommend a proactive approach. Go on an active campaign to make those around you glad that you are there. Build them up by helping them feel good about themselves. Say something nice. Compliment her or him in a real genuine way. Call the person by name. Offer a specific compliment about a real accomplishment. On the other hand when you receive a compliment acknowledge it graciously with a simple “thank you.” In my book, Christian Civility in an Uncivil World, I discuss the power of words, but I am by no means the first to come to that conclusion. The psalmist said, “Let the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable unto thee, oh God, my strength and my redeemer.”

The late Dr. Arthur Caliandro gets right to the heart of the matter with a three word solution. “Life is now.” That statement is stunning in its simplicity. Live in the present. Don’t drag past hurts into today. I was part of a vivid demonstration of this principle. We were planning one of the annual John Hamrick Lectures while Dr. John was still living. A potential speaker was being considered. I called the speaker to extend an invitation. He told me that because he and Dr. Hamrick had been involved on opposite sides of a controversy, he would only come if Dr. Hamrick approved. When I told Dr. Hamrick of my conversation he didn’t hesitate. “That was then. This is now.” Wow!

I make no claim that getting rid of bitterness is an easy task. You and I have experienced great hurts. Unfortunately we have also inflicted great hurts. I know that I am in the process of becoming and that God is not finished with me. Practicing my resolution of taking no bitterness into the New Year has helped me live a more productive, less stressful life. I believe you will experience the same happy results if you give it a try. It will not be easy, but it is worth the effort.

Mitch Carnell is a consultant specializing in interpersonal and organizational communication. He is the editor of, Christian Civility in an Uncivil World. He and his wife are active lay members of First Baptist Church of Charleston, SC. Mitch blogs at www.mitchcarnell.com.

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Take No Bitterness into the New Year

Many people regard New Year’s Resolutions with the same disdain they attribute to the much maligned fruitcake. I am a proponent of both. For several years now I have made the same New Year’s resolution and I do my best to keep it. I will take no bitterness into the New Year. Whatever has happened during the past twelve months that tends to sour my disposition, cause me pain and create separation, I resolve to let go. Whatever offenses I have suffered will not be dragged into the New Year. As the years pile up, keeping my resolution doesn’t get any easier.

Forgiveness is not as easy as it might sound. Partly it requires developing a thicker skin and realizing that I take far too many things personally. I need to lighten up. This is one of the concepts my friend, Dr. Monty Knight, discusses in his book, Balanced Living; Don’t Let Your Strengths Become Your Weaknesses. Continuing with Monty’s philosophy, I don’t have to go to every fight to which I am invited. That is a major concept. Let it go. Tom Newboult, a minister of religious education, once told me that sin is giving more importance to the moment than it is worth. In other words, don’t dwell in the negative. I think Tom hit the nail on the head. What a great concept!

Turning a negative into a positive is another methodology for dealing with difficult situations. Since I administered a not-for-profit agency for most of my career, I am often attacked with, “Well, Mitch, you are just an idealist.” My reply is, “Thank you. I hope so.” The main thing about forgiveness for those of us who are Christian to remember is that we are able to forgive because we have been forgiven.

Susan Sparks in her book, Laugh Your Way to Grace, suggests that we rediscover the power of humor. She maintains that we take ourselves far too seriously. We need to repackage some of the comments that cause us pain.

Bitterness is a terrible task master. It will ruin your life and suck all the goodness you receive into a dark hole. I recommend a proactive approach. Go on an active campaign to make those around you glad that you are there. Build them up by helping them feel good about themselves. Say something nice. Compliment her or him in a real genuine way. Call the person by name. Offer a specific compliment about a real accomplishment. On the other hand when you receive a compliment acknowledge it graciously with a simple “thank you.” In my book, Christian Civility in an Uncivil World, I discuss the power of words, but I am by no means the first to come to that conclusion. The psalmist said, “Let the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable unto thee, oh God, my strength and my redeemer.”

Dr. Arthur Caliandro gets right to the heart of the matter with a three word solution. “Life is now.” That statement is stunning in its simplicity. Live in the present. Don’t drag past hurts into today. I was part of a vivid demonstration of this principle. We were planning one of the annual John Hamrick Lectures while Dr. John was still living. A potential speaker was being considered. I called the speaker to extend an invitation. He told me that because he and Dr. Hamrick had been involved on opposite sides of a controversy, he would only come if Dr. Hamrick approved. When I told Dr. Hamrick of my conversation he didn’t hesitate. “That was then. This is now.” Wow!

I make no claim that getting rid of bitterness is an easy task. You and I have experienced great hurts. Unfortunately we have also inflicted great hurts. I know that I am in the process of becoming and that God is not finished with me. Practicing my resolution of taking no bitterness into the New Year has helped me live a more productive, less stressful life. I believe you will experience the same happy results if you give it a try. It will not be easy, but it is worth the effort.

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The Autumn of Our Discontent – Rev. Matt Sapp* – Heritage Fellowship Baptist Church

Now is the autumn of our discontent. On this second day of fall, Colin Kaepernick and countless other athletes are kneeling during the national anthem. More African-Americans have inexplicably been killed by police bullets. Bombs are going off in New York City. And protests are disrupting life in Charlotte and have at times turned violent.

As bombs go off in New York we’re forced again to grapple with challenging conversations surrounding Muslims and immigrants. And, sadly, much of the political and religious rhetoric surrounding all of the events of the last week betrays an unsettling level of prejudice and seems specifically calculated to prey upon our fears.

US Rep. Robert Pittenger, who represents a portion of the Charlotte community, said that the protesters there are angry not over the hard to explain death of another black man, but because they “hate white people because white people are successful and they’re not.”

This week of unrest follows a bit of a lull that may have allowed us to forget police shootings in Baton Rouge and Minneapolis, and the tragic targeting of police officers in Dallas just a few months ago. But now we are reminded.

And, this week happens in a context where it’s somehow become controversial to acknowledge that African-Americans continue to face daily obstacles and challenges that the rest of us don’t—controversial to acknowledge that prejudice is real and that the legacy of racism persists in every corner of our nation. But unfolding events seem to be removing any doubt.

So what are we to do? How do we act in this climate? Do we kneel or stand? Do we march in protest or stay home? Do we wade into political waters or stay silent? Those aren’t “one size fits all” questions. Those are decisions we each need to make for ourselves.

But there is one thing that’s true for all of us. Whether we kneel or stand before the American flag pales in importance to whether we’re willing to kneel before the throne of God—and not just to ask for guidance in challenging times, but to beg for forgiveness for the roles we have played in getting us to this point in our national history.

Forgiveness for our own prejudices. Forgiveness for giving in to our own fears. Forgiveness for feeding divisiveness. Forgiveness as white American Christians for our indifference to the needs of our more vulnerable brothers and sisters of differing races, religions and ethnicities.

I’m reminded this week of how important it is to model holiness, health and wholeness in our communities. So I hope that some of the things we’re doing at HERITAGE right now will help us as we seek to be faithful Christians in this unusual American climate.

I hope REST on Wednesday nights is helping us to be holy. I hope it’s helping us to listen for and recognize the real voice of God, so that when someone tells you that the voice of God is heard in terrorizing bomb blasts or the hateful rhetoric that inevitably follows, you can say, “No, you’re wrong. I spent some time with God last Wednesday, and that’s not what God sounds like.”

I hope that our HERITAGE Home Groups are helping us to form healthy relationships that encourage us to stand together to reject division, hatred and fear—relationships that encourage us to see that in our common humanity there is far more that unites us than divides us.

And, I hope that in our HERITAGE Home Groups we are forming healthy relationships with the larger purpose of building whole communities together.

We are a divided nation. Our communities are fractured across so many lines it’s hard to see a productive way forward. As we watch that fracturedness play itself out in hateful political rhetoric and kneeling football players, in bomb blasts and the religious divisiveness that follows, in the misfired guns of police officers and the misguided actions of protesters, we have a responsibility to represent something different–to model and embody some sense of wholeness.

As Christians, we have a responsibility to speak across the fracturedness to remind our neighbors that we need each other and to point through all the clutter to the true nature of God.

Holy. Healthy. Whole. Is that seared into your memory yet? At HERITAGE we seek to be HOLY individuals who are forming HEALTHY relationships to build WHOLE communities together. Our community needs us to model holiness, health and wholeness now more than ever.

Thank you for your partnership in that journey.

“Rev. Matt Sapp is pastor of Heritage Fellowship Baptist Church, Canton, GA.

 

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