Psalm 85:15--But You, Lord, are a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger and rich in faithful love and truth
Teta peered at us from behind the counter of the small store nested next to the Kigali Genocide Memorial. Softly, we asked her if she had experienced the awful slaughtering that began on April 6, 1994 in Rwanda and she nodded her head yes. At the age of six her entire family was massacred. Crazed Hutus began ridding the earth of their Tutsi countrymen. Pastor David asked her if she was able to forgive the perpetrators who made her an orphan. She somberly replied, “Forgiveness is a big word.” Then she explained that 24 years later, she could not forget what was done to her family and to herself and, in that remembering, there was an unwillingness to forgive.
Jim Downing wrote in his book, The Other Side of Infamy, an amazing account of forgiveness. This 104 year-old survivor of Pearl Harbor shared how in 1953 he met Mitsuo Fuchida, the Japanese commander who led the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor and, who after the war, became a Christian. It was exceedingly hard for Jim to forgive Fuchida after losing so many shipmates. But he forgave him because it was the right thing to do.
Matthew 6:12—And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.
Psalm 20:4—May He give you what your heart desires and fulfill your whole purpose.
Whenever a new year approaches there is for many people a sense of optimism. Yes, now I can start afresh. Yes, perhaps this next year will be a better year. Yes, finally the hardships or struggles of this past season may come to an end. But beginning afresh requires finishing the old year well. Very rarely, if ever, can you have one without the other.
For ten days I underwent training to be an assessor as part of my responsibilities for a new job I will be taking with the military. By Friday night of the second week I was exhausted. This job is intense because it requires me (when I am on call) to make a final recommendation to senior U.S. or Canadian leaders at the critical point of what appears to be an enemy attack. Because I have no experience in aviation, I have to learn new terminology and methodologies in order to make key decisions for terrible contingencies that can occur rapidly.
Robert Lawless was born February 10, 1949 in Wheatland, Wyoming. His parents abandoned him when he was six months old along with his 18 month-old sister and 3 year-old brother. They were left in an apartment alone for two weeks and near death when Child Services found them. After spending several weeks in a hospital a Nebraska family named Lawless adopted Bob and his brother. He would never see his sister again. His new parents moved them to Salem, Oregon and then they divorced. At the age of fourteen, Bob went to live with an aunt and uncle. As a teenager his life was full of wildness, jail time and repeated failures.
It was an amazing show of sportsmanship. Tiger Woods walked into the gallery and was met by Jack Nicklaus, arguably the world’s greatest golfer. Jack complimented him for his performance—his winning score of 67 matched Jack’s own record. And then he told Tiger that his birdie on the 16th hole was one of the greatest shots he had ever witnessed.
Why was this conversation so remarkable? For the simple reason that Jack knew the heinous sins of Tiger. He witnessed the planet’s most popular golfer meltdown morally and behave in ways that were a complete embarrassment to the sport. He rendered grace and dignity to an athlete he could deliberately have avoided.
Thank God we are not a heap of ashes! 1. Do you know people who believe the Old Testament God is exceedingly harsh and not the same New Testament God? 2. Have you ever done something so bad there was just no way you thought God would forgive you? 3. Do you know someone who has committed some disgusting sin and Christians will have nothing to do with that person despite his or her repentance?
I apologize in advance for this illustration but I am not trying to be crude in making a crucial point. Each night I walk our two dogs, Hero the Labrador retriever and Saber the Sheltie. When the three of us walk, Saber has a habit that is extremely annoying. If he comes across what I suspect is dung from another animal (I’m guessing raccoon), before I can stop him, he literally does an in-the-air rollover dive into the mess and slides his chest and back all over it! Now I’m mad because I have to clean him (a difficult task with his thick and long hair) and he stinks. Furthermore, can you imagine what people would think of me as an owner if they came upon Saber in such a disgusting condition?
I am continuously amazed at how effectively Satan derails relationships among Christians through bad reports and conflict. Teams of people who functioned well in ministry become divided. Churches split. Friendships end often without either party working hard to find the source of the problem. How quickly we believe bad information about fellow believers without bothering to investigate the facts or appreciate the potential for misunderstanding. I realize why bad news sells newspapers—trouble is as attractive as a bug-zapper. But how sad it is that Christians so easily judge and condemn each other at the expense of God’s kingdom when we should be champions of forbearance.
When Nancy was thirteen years old she was diagnosed with a disease in her heart, osteoporosis, and the verdict that she would never bear children. She and her mother bargained with God. They would pray wherever they were every day for two months at six a.m. and six p.m. if He would heal her. At home they had no food and life was miserable. One day several Costa Ricans came to her Nicaraguan church. While the visiting pastor spoke with Nancy’s mom, his wife spoke with Nancy. On a Friday afternoon she told her that she would receive everything back in double for her faithfulness. On Monday when the doctors examined her, she was completely healed. Though He did not have too, God in His mercy, blessed the young girl.
One man was a Pharisee, a religious leader zealous to maintain a sinless posture. The other woman was in all likelihood a prostitute. The Pharisee invited Jesus into his home and whether by oversight or by intent failed to offer the common amenity of providing water for his guest to wash his feet. The woman, taking advantage of a custom that allowed the poor into a home for scraps, bathed Jesus’ feet with grief-stricken tears, wiped them with her hair, kissed them in profound reverence and perfumed them—perhaps with the very oil she once used to lure men.
Two friends drug him down. It started with watching mediocre movies and descended into pornography. Sambo felt miserable and tried to rationalize his actions against a brighter conscience. He felt trapped until one night he listened to his father, Titus, preach a message he’d heard countless times. On this evening in December of 1994, God’s Word pierced Sambo’s heart. He felt the potent pull of the Holy Spirit. Tears filled his eyes and plunged downward washing away built-up shame. Later that night he repented of his sin and honestly asked Jesus to become His Lord and Savior. Lingering guilt was replaced by enduring peace. Love came and filled a 14-year-old boy in Trivandrum, India.
When I wake up each morning, my first task is to let out the dogs and retrieve the newspaper. Before I read the headlines I wonder what new tragedy has rocked people from their illusive peace. In Israel, yet another Palestinian has blown himself up and taken the lives of bystanders. What propels these martyrs to so willingly die?
Under the Keene Road overpass, he drove his dusty white Taurus. The yellow line on his left stretched endlessly. At mile marker 268, four crop dusters flew into view, their lazy formation zooming to the south. Green fields smelled of spring, even the headless metal torsos holding miles of telephone wires seemed alive.
Outside it fell but until Tom called, I was oblivious. My children cheer at the rare sight of large white flakes gracefully tumbling earthward. Gone are the raindrops plopping their melancholic adagios. Silence. New measures of rest bring dramatic change.