Lessons on Forgiveness

What did we learn from the recent FORGIVEN series? I like to ask questions like that to assess the effectiveness of what we are doing as a church.  If we are having “God ideas” and teaching God’s word then lives should be changing.  Evaluation is healthy and necessary to avoid the deception that dead religious organizations fall into.

Before we answer that questions let me say that I am personally so very thankful for Charlie & Judy Pucillo, Ted & Gayle Haggard, and Bill Morgan for sharing their triumphant stories of forgiving and being forgiven.  Without them and their courage the series would never have had the impact upon the lives of so many.

What did we learn? Well, we learned that God could forgive our most heinous sins, that even an adulterer can be forgiven.  We learned that liars, homosexuals, prostitutes, drug addicts, criminals, hypocrites, and yes, even fallen preachers could be forgiven.  We heard from people who wore those labels like badges of honor.

Then came the hard part for most of us. We learned that we can and must forgive all sins against ourselves to be forgiven.  We learned that with God’s help we can forgive an unfaithful spouse, a trusted loved-one who lied to us, a friend who betrayed us, a pastor who let our trust down, a parent who abandoned us and more!  We heard that we can forgive a person who molested us when we were young. We can forgive rapists even when they have no remorse! Unbelievable, unthinkable, yet true and possible.

We learned that we can forgive God when He didn’t protect us the way we thought He would.  We can forgive God when He let’s a parent go to heaven when they are way too young instead of healing them.

We learned that all things are possible with God, even unforgivable things being FORGIVEN.

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Ted & Gayle Haggard

Someone asked me recently, “Why would you have Ted Haggard in your church?”  My response was “Because we preach that God can forgive anyone for their sin.”

For the two or three people out there who may not know who Ted is.  He was the most powerful Evangelical Leader in the United States three years ago.  The head of the National Association of Evangelicals with 30 million members, an advisor to the President of the United States and the Sr. Pastor of a church of 14,000 members in Colorado Springs.  Then came the scandal that rocked the church world.  He was caught with male prostitutes. All the major news sources covered the scandal. Some like CNN and Larry King featured the story for months. HBO did a one-hour special on the Haggards. They have even been on Oprah twice.

My initial response to the story was one of disgust.  I personally judged him very harshly and was privately critical. (Thank God I don’t believe in criticizing people publically or using the pulpit to bash people.)  I know many of my pastor friends felt the same way, “Hypocrites like Haggard give us all a bad name.”  So what changed my mind?

I saw an interview with Ted and Gayle at Steve Furtick’s Elevation Church.  I respect Steve and was curious as to why he had Ted in.  Their story broke my heart.  I actually cried watching it.  We always hear testimonies of people who were sinners then saved from their sin.  “I was an addict, then Jesus set me free.”  “I was hopeless and suicidal, then I became a Christian.”  We never hear stories of fallen Christians being restored.

I decided to have them tell their story, a story of forgiveness.  A story that is important for all of us to hear. First for those that think “It could never happen to me.” and more importantly for all the Christians out there struggling with a secret sin but who are too afraid of rejection to ask for help.  There’s hope for you.  We will help you get free and guard your dignity.

I can’t close this blog without mentioning the heroine of this story, Gayle.  She had biblical grounds for divorce, no one would have blamed her for leaving but as she told Oprah, “I prayed and felt God told me to stay.”  She shared that with God’s help she thought she could forgive Ted and with much counseling work to restore their marriage.  Wow.  She truly forgave “all sins against her” as scripture teaches.

Learn that we can all be FORGIVEN this Sunday at 10am. Then at the Women’s Meeting at 6pm, hear how you can forgive those who have hurt you.  God Bless.

Note: I did check with Tommy Barnett’s church and a church in Texas that have been in charge of Ted’s counseling, inner healing and restoration.  They fell he has done everything asked of him over the last three years.  Ted isn’t restored to ministry as of the writing this blog.  I will be interviewing them not having Ted preach.

Restart

I was talking to someone the other day who was discouraged because they hadn’t kept a comittment they’d made.  Last year many of us at the House of Praise made a commitment to give the Lord the first 15 minutes of our day reading His word.  Well this well intentioned friend made it six months and then got distracted and stopped.

This year they were afraid to try again because they didn’t want to make a comittment they didn’t keep.  I understand that thought.  The Bible does teach us it is better not to vow than to vow and not keep it.  However…I believe it is better to read God’s word 6 days a week for 6 months than to never have tried!

“It’s time to restart.” I said. You know?  Sometimes our computers get bogged down and aren’t working right  (Well not mine it’s a Mac, but most of you know what I mean.) sometimes the best thing you can do is restart it.  We need to restart our walk with God sometimes.

“Is there something in your life you need to restart Pastor?” They asked.  I thought for a moment about a couple things.  1. Date nights with my wife had grown too few. 2. I need a vacation.  3.  I miss blogging.

So here we are.  I took m y wife out ALONE for dinner and a movie and I’m restarting the blog.  Those of you who make comments and follow me, please come back again.  I’m even going to try and learn twitter to make it easier.  God Bless ad let’s get restarted!

40 Days of Love

We’ve started the 40 Days of Love at the House of Praise and I couldn’t be more excited.  For the next 6 weeks the Sunday services, the children’s church, the youth group and the church Connect Groups (home bible studies/small groups) will all be learning what Jesus taught about relationships.  What could be more important than that?

One of the main points last Sunday was “the best expression of love is time.”  Giving someone focused attention is one of the most important ways to communicate love.

Kids are crying, look at me daddy.  Turn the TV off.  Look at me mommy, stop cleaning for a minute.  Get off the computer and take a walk with your spouse.  All our relationships are damaged by hurry.  Eat fast, gotta run. Busyness feeds the ego but starves the family.

We shouldn’t be looking for more time to spend with family.  We should make spending the most time with loved ones the priority and try to fit other things into the schedule around your family and friends.

As Rick Warren says, “Stop watching reruns of friends and go make friends!”

Galatians 6:10 – Therefore, whenever we have the opportunity,  (NOW) we should do good to everyone—especially to those in the family of faith.

Don ‘t put off love.  Right now, think of one person you could tell that you love them today.  Who should YOU call and encourage?  Who should YOU visit?

Fireproof

We went to see Fireproof the movie tonight with a group of friends from church.  It was a poignant reminder that we all need to work on our marriages.  What I loved about the movie was it’s straight up message that you need to WORK at keeping your marriage fresh.  Also the movie had a very “in your face” approach to putting the gospel in the movie.  There was a very clear presentation of how to get saved and the importance of living for Jesus.  While a little hokey and predictable at times, the movie was surprisingly funny and had interesting characters.

My favorite part of the movie was the use of the “Love Dare Journal” to resurrect a dead relationship.  It totally made me want one! (http://www.lovedarebook.com/).  It’s a great tool for strengthening a healthy marriage or resuscitating a dead one.  The bottom line is that there is always hope for restoration with God.  He brings hope to the hopeless.

Remember to invest in your marriage because where your treasure is your heart will be also. (Matt 6:21)

Here are a few marriage sites that can give you some good info:

Remember that God won’t allow you to be tempted MORE than you can endure.  Don’t get discouraged during the rough times.  I’ll leave you with the best line form the movie:

“Fireproof doesn’t mean that a fire will never come, but that when it comes, you’ll be able to withstand it.”