Seeds of Opportunity – Quote

Innocence, Gentleness, PeaceSeeds of Opportunity – Introduction

We all face challenges as we travel along the journey of our lives. As the seasons of our lives change and unfold, do we view those difficulties as obstacles, or do we view them as Seeds of Opportunity?

Spiritual Quote

“Every adversity contains, at the same time, a seed of equivalent opportunity!”
~Napoleon Hill

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Way of Life 2 – Teaching

Innocence, Gentleness, PeaceWay of Life – Introduction

What if everything we do and say was a prayer? Would that change our thoughts, words, and actions?

In essence – it is. Everything we say or do is either a blessing or a curse.

Spiritual Quote

“Continuous effort – not strength or intelligence – is the key to unlocking our potential.”
~Winston Churchill

Thoughts

In 2 Corinthians 5:17, Paul states, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.”

As we strive to live Christ-filled and Christ-guided lives, more and more, it becomes our way of life. And, the more it becomes our Way of Life, the more peaceful and joy-filled our life becomes; and the more beautiful the world around us becomes. As we discussed last week, our faith, our “Christianity,” must be more than simply a faith or belief. We must allow it to permeate every aspect of our lives. Our faith, indeed, this Way of Life, literally changes us. It transforms our thoughts, our words, our actions. It also changes our perceptions of, and how we respond to, the world around us.

When we embark on the Christian journey, we will, at times, struggle and stumble. That’s okay. We’re not expected to be perfect. But, adopting this Way of Life should create in us the desire to change. And we should be passionate about that change. The more passionate we become, the more living our faith becomes a Way of Life. Oftentimes, we don’t even have to think about it – we just automatically think, act, and behave in ways that demonstrate our deep, abiding faith in Him, and our relationship with Him.

Last week we talked about being mindful of our thoughts, words, and actions in regards to anger, jealousy, greed, rudeness, unkindness, unforgiveness, etc. And, we spoke of the importance of being kind, generous, loving, forgiving, etc. There’s something else we can do to let our faith change us so that it becomes our Way of Life. That something is Pray.

Praying for specific things, or for changes we’d like to see take place in the world around us is important. But, I’m talking today about a different type of prayer. I’m talking about living our lives as if absolutely everything we think, say, or do is a prayer. The more we focus on that which is loving, good, and beautiful, the more love, goodness, and beauty we’ll experience. And, the more we put this Way of Life into practice, the more it becomes a habit.

The more habitual it becomes, the more our life is transformed. And the more our life is transformed, the closer to God, our ultimate destiny, we become.

Prayer Through Affirmations

In 1 Thessalonians 5:16, Paul said, “pray without ceasing.”

More and more frequently, people say to me, “You’re always so [calm, happy, at peace, etc.]…how do you do it?”

Now, the Lord knows, I still have my moments. I struggle, as some of you can attest. I have to say, though, that I’m glad that others see the transformation that Christ has made in my life. How? By making a conscious choice to let Him transform me, to change my outlook and my choices.

One of the ways is by constantly affirming good. This is a lesson I started to learn from my father. While I was growing up, when Dad was asked, “How are you,” he would respond with something like, “Well…not as good as some, but better than most.” As he, and I, got older, his answer changed to a simple, “I’m wonderful!” He would proclaim it emphatically – regardless of what was going on in his life. Even while he was undergoing cancer treatment, if I asked, “How are you doing, Pop?,” he would answer, “I’m Wonderful!”

I’ve learned to respond the same way. I generally respond with Wonderful, Fabulous, Fantastic, Joyful, or Blessed. I don’t have just one set answer, I mix it up. But, with that affirmation, I am claiming, and proclaiming, my good. I am affirming God at work in my life. It changes my perception of outside circumstances, and allows me the opportunity to offer a blessing to others instead of cursing them. As a result, I am more relaxed, more at peace, and more in tune with my connection to God.

Simply adopting the mindset that you’re wonderful, joyful, etc. changes your outlook. It changes the way you feel, it changes the way you respond to people and challenges around you, other people notice the change, and they, in turn, are changed. Their day becomes just a little brighter, and the next person they interact with is similarly blessed. It’s a kind of pay-it-forward.

There are so many ways we can state our intentions and affirmations as prayers. Simply add, “Lord, I want…” or “Lord, I pray…” in front of the affirmation.

  • Want more joy and beauty in your life? Simply state, “Lord, I want joy and beauty in my life.”
  • Want to drive more peacefully? “Lord, I want to drive safely and peaceful, I want others around me to do the same, and I want to arrive relaxed and calm.”
  • Want to have positive interactions? “Lord, I want to attract only those who bless and uplift me; and I want to be a blessing to them in return.”
  • Faced with a less-than-desirable interaction? “Lord, no matter what happens, I want to respond and act with love and kindness.”

You get the idea. Just like developing the habit of answering, “How are you?” with, “I’m Wonderful,” let your affirmations become habit. The more you say them, the more you’ll attract what it is you desire. And, before long, all you see around you is that which you attract.

I’ve been practicing using these affirmations for several months now. It’s been amazing to witness and experience the changes in my own life. Like I said last week, I freely admit that I’m not all the way there yet. But I can honestly say my life is much more calm, and – truly beautiful. Do things still happen? Sure. Are people around me still rude or mean or unkind? Sure. The difference is how I choose to respond. When these “negative” people or events happen, they simply don’t affect me the way they used to. And, I find I’m more forgiving and loving. I can bless them on their way, instead of curse them. I no longer wish them ill or harm, or desire vengeance. As a result – Life is Good!

Prayer in Action

Just speaking our intentions, affirmations, or prayers isn’t all we can do. We can fully embrace and live a Christ-filled life by also letting our actions speak for us. In that way, or actions also become prayers. Simply put, our prayers and are actions are in sync.

We’ve all heard things like, “Actions Speak Louder Than Words” or “You have to give in order to receive.” When it comes to prayer, this is also true. Our actions are living manifestations of our prayers. And, what we put out, we get back.

Want to develop financial stability? Actions could include making a budget, spending wisely, avoiding going into debt, identifying wants versus needs, and being sure to include giving in your budget.

Want better health? Actions might include eating healthier foods, exercising more and, yes, giving up unhealthy habits (this would help with financial stability, too!). And yes, I know, this is one of those areas that I, personally, need to work on.

Want better relationships? Be kind, generous, loving, and forgiving to everyone with whom you come in contact.

Want to improve your career or work environment? Regardless of what’s going on, be enthusiastic; be the best employee you can be; demonstrate joy and gratitude for the work and the income it provides.

Want a better relationship with God? Spend time with Him; let His Spirit live in and through you by helping others and being a constant source of peace, joy, and love in the world around you.

When our actions are in sync with our prayers, our desires, we are, in effect, saying, “Lord, this is what I have, this is what I’m thankful for, and, Lord, I’d like more of it.”

What we put out, in thought, word, or deed, becomes our reality. Remember, Scripture tells us:

  • Proverbs 23:7 – “As a man thinks in his heart, so is he.”
  • Luke 6:45 – “The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart…”
  • Proverbs 27:19 – “As water reflects a face, so a man’s heart reflects the man.”

Closing Thoughts

We can truly change our lives, and the lives of those around us, through prayer. Prayer of intention, and prayer in the form of action. Changes may not seem noticeable at first, and we may be tempted to give up. But, don’t give up…just keep praying – keep stating your prayers of intention, and let your actions speak, too. Like our quote says, we don’t have to be the most intelligent or the strongest – we just have to continually make the effort. It will, because it can’t not, unlock our potential of being so much more than we were. Our thoughts, words, and actions shape us, and the world around us – and they become our reality. And when that reality is truly living in the Spirit of Christ, not only are we transformed, our faith is transformed. It becomes more than religion, belief, or faith – it, quite simply, becomes our Way of Life.

I’d like to close with these words from Chinese Philosopher, Lao Tzu:

Watch your thoughts; they become words.

Watch your words; they become actions.

Watch your actions; they become habits.

Watch your habits; they become character.

Watch your character; it becomes your destiny.

Scripture

  • 2 Corinthians 5:17
  • 1 Thessalonians 5:16
  • Proverbs 23:7
  • Luke 6:45
  • Proverbs 27:19

Join the Discussion

If you would like to share your thoughts, please feel free to respectfully comment. And, if this message resonates with you, please fee free to share it.

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We Are A Community Of Spiritual Growth And Healing Where Everyone Is Welcome!

Way of Life 1 – Teaching

Innocence, Gentleness, PeaceWay of Life – Introduction

Christianity is not about a religion of rules and laws, it’s about a relationship…a deep, spiritual relationship with God, with His Son Jesus the Christ, and with the Holy Spirit. Far beyond being a simple belief or faith system, being Christian is who and what we are. When we aspire to truly live the teachings and principles of Christ, His light shines through us; and we become living examples of His love. Following Jesus, “being a Christian,” is more than something we do, it is our Way of Life.

Spiritual Quote

“You’re not likely to err by practicing too much of the cross.”
~Alexander Whyte

Thoughts

We’ve talked of some of this before, so our message today is brief. And, though brief, I believe the topic is one worth repeating. I hope that, perhaps because it’s briefs, it’s a message you will take with you, think about and pray over, and let the transformative power of Jesus’ love become your Way of Life.

When we accept Jesus as our Lord, our lives should be transformed by His Spirit living in and through us. Let’s take a look at just a few Scripture passages that speak to how we should live our lives when we proclaim ourselves to be Christian:

  • Proverbs 14:29 – “Whoever is patient has great understanding, but one who is quick-tempered displays folly.”
  • Galatians 5:22-23 – “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.”
  • 1 Peter 3:15 – “…but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy…yet do it with gentleness and respect.”
  • Ephesians 4:31-32 – Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, quarreling, and slander be put away from you, along with all hatred. Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.”

When things don’t go our way, do we respond with anger?

When someone gets something we wish we could have, do we get jealous?

How do we respond when someone cuts us off in traffic…do we pound our steering wheel, flip them off, or curse at them?

How about when others don’t behave in ways we think they should…do we call them names like idiot or jerk…or worse?

Do we swear like a drunken sailor?

How about when someone has wronged us…do we hold on to hurt, anger, and thoughts of vengeance?

Do we truly treat others as we would like to be treated? (Matthew 7:12 & Luke 6:31)

Though it doesn’t make me proud, I’ll be honest, I’ve done (or failed to do) all of these, and more. By the grace of God, over time, as I’ve grown in my faith, I’ve gotten much better. Am I all the way there yet – have I reached perfection? Absolutely not. I’m still on this journey. But I know I’m further along today than I was yesterday.

I’m sure the same can be said of each of you. But, think about it. Are you still plagued by anger, hate, jealousy, rudeness, unforgiveness, quarreling, filthy language, etc. How are these feeling, and the actions that result from them, ever helpful? How do they demonstrate we are followers of Christ?

The short answer is – they aren’t and they don’t. In fact, as Jesus said about the Sadducees and Pharisees, when we allow these thoughts, feelings, and actions to invade our lives we are hypocrites. We are not living the faith we so proudly claim. Which is why we must be ever mindful of these feelings and behaviors as they occur. And we must strive to replace them with thoughts, feelings, and actions that are an example of Christ at work in our lives. The more we do, the more it becomes ingrained in us, and the more truly living our faith becomes a part of who we are…it becomes our Way of Life.

Closing Thoughts

James 1:19-26 – “This you know, my beloved brethren. But everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger; for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God. Therefore, putting aside all filthiness and all that remains of wickedness, in humility receive the word implanted, which is able to save your souls. But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his natural face in a mirror; for once he has looked at himself and gone away, he has immediately forgotten what kind of person he was. But one who looks intently at the perfect law, the law of liberty, and abides by it, not having become a forgetful hearer but an effectual doer, this man will be blessed in what he does. If anyone thinks himself to be religious, and yet does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this man’s religion is worthless.”

As our opening hymn declared of His love – is our love for one another so genuine, so much a part of our lives that it is vast, unmeasured, boundless, and free? Does it roll like the ocean over us?

If we claim ourselves to be Christian, it must be more than a faith system. Christianity is about developing such a strong relationship with God, through His Son, that our lives are transformed. Following Christ, practicing the way of the cross, is so much more than a religion – it is a Way of Life.

Scripture

  • Proverbs 14:29
  • Galatians 5:22-23
  • 1 Peter 3:15
  • Ephesians 4:31-32
  • Matthew 7:12
  • Luke 6:31
  • James 1:19-26

Join the Discussion

If you would like to share your thoughts, please feel free to respectfully comment. And, if this message resonates with you, please fee free to share it.

Support Our Ministry

We are a very small church doing wonderful things within our community. In order to continue doing the work God has put before us, we need your help. Please consider making a donation, or sign up as a monthly pledge donor. All gifts large and small are greatly appreciated. Simply click the Donate link in the upper menu. Thank you, and may God bless your generosity.

We Are A Community Of Spiritual Growth And Healing Where Everyone Is Welcome!

Way of Life 1 – Quote

Innocence, Gentleness, PeaceWay of Life – Introduction

Christianity is not about a religion of rules and laws, it’s about a relationship…a deep, spiritual relationship with God, with His Son Jesus the Christ, and with the Holy Spirit. Far beyond being a simple belief or faith system, being Christian is who and what we are. When we aspire to truly live the teachings and principles of Christ, His light shines through us; and we become living examples of His love. Following Jesus, “being a Christian,” is more than something we do, it is our Way of Life.

Spiritual Quote

“You’re not likely to err by practicing too much of the cross.”
~Alexander Whyte

Potential Scripture

  • Proverbs 14:29
  • Galatians 5:22-23
  • 1 Peter 3:15
  • Ephesians 4:31-32
  • Matthew 7:12
  • Luke 6:31
  • James 1:19-26

Join Us

Join us every Sunday at 10:45 for worship and fellowship.

We Are A Community Of Spiritual Growth And Healing Where Everyone Is Welcome!

 

Through Earth’s Loveliness – Teaching

Innocence, Gentleness, PeaceThrough Earth’s Loveliness – Introduction

To those of you who are moms, or fill the role of a mom in someone’s life, Happy Mother’s Day.

For some, Mother’s Day is a special time filled with happiness and love. For others, the day is more difficult. Perhaps we didn’t have a loving, caring mother. Perhaps our mom has passed on, and the day is bittersweet – filled with memories, but also a touch of sadness. Because of the various emotions invoked, it gets a little tricky writing a Mother’s Day message.

Scripture is full of stories of wonderful mothers. But today, I’d like to talk about a different mother – a universal mother to us all; one that offers us unlimited beauty, one nourishes us throughout our lives, and one through whose beauty we can see and commune with God. She is known by many names – Mother Earth, Earth Mother and, more encompassing, Mother Nature, just to name a few.

Spiritual Quote

“My soul can find no staircase to heaven unless it be through earth’s loveliness.”
~Michelangelo

Thoughts

In Genesis, God created the earth. Mankind was formed of the earth, and God breathed the spirit of life into man. “God is Spirit…,” says John 4:24. 1 Corinthians 8:6 tells us, “…there is one God, the Father…,” and Ephesians 4:6 says, “One God and Father of all…” Genesis 3:19 tells us, “For you were made from dust, and to dust you will return.” Thus, in a sense, we have the two elements necessary to create life – male and female. God is our Father and, in a sense, Earth is our Mother.

God is defined as Spirit. The earth, indeed all of nature, is a physical world – the environment in which we live. Not only is it the earth, but that plants, animals, birds, fish, sky, clouds, trees, flowers, deserts, mountains, streams, lakes, and oceans. To our human minds, since God is our Father, and we refer to Him as He, it makes sense that we would refer to the earth, or nature, as she. Ancient cultures, focusing on nature as providing life, worshiped the earth and nature as goddesses.

The ancient Greek goddess Gaia, meaning earth, was considered to be the mother of all and was referred to as Mother Gaia – hence the term we use today, Mother Earth.

Now, let’s be clear. Although we may refer to our physical environment as Mother Earth or Mother Nature, it’s important to understand that, from the Christian perspective, the earth, or nature, is not a being, is not a god or goddess, and is not to be worshiped. We all appreciate and even love nature. And we should. It’s part of God’s creation. It is through nature that God provides for our physical needs – lumber for housing, food and water to nourish our bodies, etc. Even the sun itself provides us with Vitamin D. And it is through nature that we can worship and enter into a deep communion with God.

Unfortunately, we, as a society, tend to spend entirely too much time indoors. Jobs have become sedentary; we spend our entire day indoors behind a desk, at a computer, stocking shelves, behind a cash register, etc. Even our children spend most, if not all, of their time outside of school in front of a T.V., computer, or video game consul.

My own grandchildren are a wonderful case in point. My daughter and her husband recently moved their family from an apartment into a house. They now have a beautiful, safe, secure yard in which to run, jump, dig, roll around, and play. What do they want to do? They want to Watch TV, watch a movie, or play a video game. My daughter constantly encourages them to play outside, sometimes actually forcing the issue. She simply turns off all of the electronics and sends them outside.

How do they respond? They stand, and pout. They’ve gotten so used to being inside, and so accustomed to the technology, they’d rather stand and pout than play!

Many adults are the same. We get up, go to work, and stay indoors all day. Then we go home, too exhausted to do much of anything, and we flip on the TV, or we plop ourselves down in front of the computer. With the invention of remote controls, we don’t even have to get out of our chair to change the channels.

When we do venture outside, it’s not to spend any quality time appreciating nature all around us, it’s out of a sense of duty – we have to mow the lawn, trip the bushes, pull the weeds.

Now, some of us do find yard work to be a source of enjoyment. But, a lot of us do it not because we genuinely enjoy it, but because it’s something that needs to be done.

And, some of us do spend a lot of time outdoors. Most of us, however do not. Personally, I believe we would all do well to spend more time outside – me included. How many times have we heard, or told someone else, “take time to smell the roses”? We should take time to admire and appreciate what we call Mother Nature. Not from the standpoint of worshiping Mother Nature as some sort of goddess, but with the desire to appreciate and admire what God has created and provided for us. There is great beauty all around us, if we would just slow down long enough to enjoy it.

Not only is spending time outdoors good for us physically and emotionally, it’s good for us spiritually, too. Spending time out in God’s creation can be a very prayerful time. Our quote for today points to this truth. The basis of meditative prayer is silence and stillness. When we’re out in nature, we can find those “sacred spaces” – that quiet spot next to the river, under the shade of a beautiful tree, or surrounded by fragrant flowers. When we quiet our minds and breathe in the beauty of God’s creation – what we call Mother Nature – the stillness enfolds us. Our thoughts begin to slow, our minds become less cluttered, and we come to a place of peace within. It is in this quiet, still peace that we hear God’s voice.

This way of worshiping God, being still and communicating with Him, surrounded by the beauty of the Nature He created, has a basis in Scripture, too.

With but a few exceptions, where did Jesus go to pray? He consistently went into Nature to spend time with His Father.

  • Luke 3:21 says, “When all the people were baptized, it came to pass that Jesus also was baptized; and while He prayed, the heaven was opened.” Now, we know from Matthew and Mark that heaven opened immediately, while Jesus was still in the river. So, it stands to reason that here, in Luke, that Jesus was praying immediately after being baptized, while he was still in the river.
  • If we look at Mark 1:35, we see that Jesus went out into Nature to find solitude and stillness in order to commune with God, “Now in the morning, having risen a long while before daylight, He went out and departed to a solitary place; and there He prayed.”
  • Later on in Mark, 6:46, we read about Jesus’ reaction to John the Baptists murder. After preaching to and feeding the crowd that had gathered, He sent His disciples away in a boat on the Sea of Galilee. Then, “…when He had sent them away, He departed to the mountain to pray.” He didn’t walk back to town to go to the synagogue. He went out into the splendor of God’s creation in order to find solitude and stillness, and to spend time with God.
  • Luke 5:16 tells us, “…He himself often withdrew into the wilderness and prayed.”
  • John 18:1 tells us that Jesus went to a garden to pray.
  • And in Matthew 26:36, Jesus told His disciples, “Sit here while I go and pray over there.”

Time and time again, Scripture shows us that one way to be silent, to be still, and to be at one with God is by spending time out in what we today call Mother Nature.

I like the way Pastor John Hickman says it:

“God’s Creation fills us with a sense of wonder and worship for the Creator. Psalm 111:2 says, “The works of the LORD are great, Studied by all who have pleasure in them.”

We take great pleasure in God’s Creation when we are outdoors looking at mountains and trees and take great pleasure when we are walking on the beach with the warm waves washing over our feet.

It is in God’s Creation that we sense and see the presence of the Creator. Have you ever seen such a glorious sunrise or sunset that your eyes were filled with tears at the beauty of God’s work? As if God was doing sky painting in His Creation?

People who admire the beauty of Nature appreciate the beautiful sunrise and marvel at how the rays of the sun light up the water vapor and impurities in the atmosphere. But when the morning sky turns to brilliant shades of red and orange, those who know God see Him showing off His Creation. We look at the heavens and God reminds us of His presence in all things. Psalm 19:1-4 [tells us] “The heavens proclaim the glory of God. The skies display His craftsmanship. Day after day they continue to speak; night after night they make Him known. They speak without a sound or word; their voice is never heard. Yet their message has gone throughout the earth, and their words to all the world. God has made a home in the heavens for the sun.”

When we meet God in His Creation, we are recharged and renewed in His presence. We need to be refreshed. Just our day-to-day life takes something from us. Going to school, working, caring for our family or for another person takes effort and energy that needs to be replaced. We soon find ourselves running on empty if we are not coming into God’s presence to be refreshed and recharged…

The Yosemite Naturalist, John Muir wrote “Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul alike.” John Muir was a devout Christian. He was in love with his Creator and Creation and John Muir understood “nature” to be God’s creation. With that understanding, lets paraphrase that quote. “Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where God can use His Creation to heal and give strength to body and soul alike.”

Without God, it’s just nature. It is ONLY when our worship is directed toward God that we can really see and appreciate His Creation. It is in His Creation, we come into His presence and it is there that we can find healing and wholeness. In His Creation we find the silence, solitude and stillness. It’s in His Creation that we meet the Creator.”

Closing Thoughts

We here in Southern Oregon are blessed. We have mountains, rivers, trees, lakes, and streams. We have parks. Just a few hours west we have the ocean. And just a few hours northeast we have the high desert. We have the beauty of God’s Creation all around us. All we have to do is walk out the door!

In closing, I’d like to honor and bless all Mothers. I thank God for mothers everywhere who not only chose to give life, but who nurture us and fill our lives with love. I also thank God for His most wonderful Creation – Mother Nature. And I invite you to walk out the door, spend more time enjoying her, and, like Jesus and Michelangelo, climb the staircase to heaven that is found Through Earth’s Loveliness.

Scripture

  • John 4:24
  • 1 Corinthians 8:6
  • Ephesians 4:6
  • Genesis 3:19
  • Luke 3:21
  • Mark 1:35
  • Mark 6:46
  • Luke 5:16
  • John 18:1
  • Matthew 26:36
  • Psalm 111:2

Join the Discussion

If you would like to share your thoughts, please feel free to respectfully comment. And, if this message resonates with you, please fee free to share it.

Support Our Ministry

We are a very small church doing wonderful things within our community. In order to continue doing the work God has put before us, we need your help. Please consider making a donation, or sign up as a monthly pledge donor. All gifts large and small are greatly appreciated. Simply click the Donate link in the upper menu. Thank you, and may God bless your generosity.

We Are A Community Of Spiritual Growth And Healing Where Everyone Is Welcome!

Through Earth’s Loveliness – Quote

Innocence, Gentleness, PeaceThrough Earth’s Loveliness – Introduction

For some, Mother’s Day is a special time filled with happiness and love. For others, the day is more difficult. Perhaps we didn’t have a loving, caring mother. Perhaps our mom has passed on, and the day is bittersweet – filled with memories, but also a touch of sadness. This Mother’s Day, I’d like to talk about a different Mother – Mother Earth (Mother Nature); and how it is Through Earth’s Loveliness we can be one with God.

Potential Scripture

  • John 4:24
  • 1 Corinthians 8:6
  • Ephesians 4:6
  • Genesis 3:19
  • Luke 3:21
  • Mark 1:35
  • Mark 6:46
  • Luke 5:16
  • John 18:1
  • Matthew 26:36
  • Psalm 111:2

Join Us!

Join us each Sunday at 10:45 for worship and fellowship!

We Are A Community Of Spiritual Growth And Healing Where Everyone Is Welcome!

Sorry Isn’t Enough – Teaching

Innocence, Gentleness, PeaceSorry Isn’t Enough – Introduction

We’ve all wronged or hurt someone, and we’ve all been wronged or hurt. As Christians, we talk a lot about forgiveness. But, forgiveness isn’t the same as reconciliation. For Christians, forgiveness should be automatic. Reconciliation, on the other hand, may take some time. Reconciliation is a process; one that often begins with the words, “I’m sorry.” The truth is, most of the time, sorry isn’t enough.

Spiritual Quote

“It takes one person to forgive, it takes two people to be reunited.”
~Lewis B. Smedes

Thoughts

Events this week have given me reason to think and pray about two things – forgiveness and reconciliation. And, more specifically, I’ve thought about those instances when sorry isn’t enough. Let me explain…

As you know, our monthly movie night was scheduled Friday, April 25th. And, as some of you know, we had to cancel our movie night because, earlier that day, seven DVDs were stolen – including the movie that was to be shown.

On Tuesday I went to the police station and filed the report. Now, the street value of the movies is next to nothing – a buck or two a piece. But, the cost to the church is extremely high. To show the movies in a public venue legally, we are required to buy a license. The movies we show don’t fall under a “master license.” Each movie requires its own separate license. On average, each movie and license costs approximately $125.00. That puts our loss for the seven DVDs at $875.00! To put this in perspective, that’s enough to pay our electric bill for 5 months. Or, since we provide food and shelter to the homeless, given our current monthly expenditure for food, the cost of replacing those seven DVDs could buy almost 6 months worth of food. This seemingly inconsequential theft had a very definite and consequential impact to our very limited church budget.

Our local paper prints a public notice of all police reports filed. Low and behold, a woman called to ask me questions about the DVDs and the theft. It turns out she owns a local pawn shop and she saw the notice in the paper. She, indeed, was in possession of all seven DVDs. What had our thieves gotten for their trouble? $7.00! It turns out this couple had been in her store before, she knows them, and was able to provide a description and even their names! Unfortunately, that information left me extremely disheartened – it’s a homeless couple who comes here for food and shelter on regular basis. In fact, they were here when I discovered the theft. But, because of the situation at the time, the fact that I knew them and had had numerous conversations with them in which they freely discussed their faith, and I had no reason not to trust them, I hadn’t seriously considered them suspect.

The pawn shop owner’s husband returned the movies Friday evening. I tried, but he refused to let me compensate them for their $7.00 loss. He said they wanted to return the movies because it was the right thing to do, and wouldn’t accept anything but our gratitude in return.

This situation prompted a lot of thought, and prayer, on my part. So many questions came into my mind. Once again our ability to forgive has been put to the test. But, beyond forgiveness, I began to question if reconciliation is possible. And, if so, what that should look like? What’s the difference between forgiveness and reconciliation? Does forgiveness automatically mean that this couple should be welcomed back as if nothing ever happened? Could we tell them they’re not welcome here and still live up to our Christian values?

Now, we’ve talked a lot about forgiveness before – about how it’s a duty of Christians to forgive. In fact, some of you are probably saying, “Oh no, not again.” Take heart – yes, I want to talk today about forgiveness but, more importantly, I want to talk about reconciliation. I want to examine what we do when sorry isn’t enough.

Forgiveness vs. Reconciliation

Although forgiveness is, or at least should be, automatic – reconciliation is not.

Forgiveness is the means by which we release all negative aspects of the situation – anger, retaliation, vengeance, etc. Forgiveness requires nothing from the offending party – it is solely the responsibility of the injured party. Reconciliation, on the other hand, requires action from both the injured and the offender.

Let’s take a look at Paul’s words in Romans 12:17-21: “Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. On the contrary: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”

Paul clearly shows that forgiveness itself is one-sided – not returning evil for evil, doing what’s right in the eyes of everyone (remember the old saying – two wrongs don’t make a right), don’t be vengeful. But, Paul also says to live peaceably with everyone – as much as it depends on you. In other words, Paul recognizes there may be instances beyond your control that make a relationship with someone else impossible. For reconciliation to occur – both parties must do their part.

Reconciliation is a process through which, it is hoped, broken relationships can be restored. Unlike forgiveness, reconciliation can take time, and often places requirements on the offender – they have to do their part.

For small infractions, simply acknowledging the wrong and saying “I’m sorry” is sufficient. For more major offenses, however, saying “I’m sorry” isn’t enough to rebuild or restore a broken relationship. Reconciliation requires a restoration of trust. We must be able to trust that the offending person is truly sorry, i.e. repentant. We must be able to trust he or she is sincere. We must be able to trust that the offense won’t be repeated. The offender must be able to trust that the injured party is sincere in his or her desire for reconciliation – that it won’t be constantly “thrown in their face.”

One of the first things that needs to happen is for the offender to admit his or her wrong and repent – which often comes in the form of “I’m sorry.” Saying “I’m sorry” should never be a requirement of forgiveness – because forgiveness should have no requirements. However, for the process of reconciliation to begin, the offender must acknowledge the wrong that has been committed, and demonstrate remorse.

There also needs to be a change in behavior and/or attitude. Saying “I’m sorry” without changing the offending behavior or attitude is superficial and meaningless.

What are some indications that a person is truly sorry? They accept responsibility. They don’t deny or downplay the hurt they’ve caused. They understand that rebuilding trust can take time, and they aren’t resentful that doubts as to their sincerity can arise. They don’t get defensive.

Now, even when the person is repentant, we may be hesitant to reconcile. In cases with safety concerns, such as violence or crimes against children, reconciliation may not be possible at all. Whenever possible, though, we must be open to the possibility of reconciliation. Jesus speaks to this in Matthew 5:23-24: “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.”

If we’re hesitant, however, there are some things we can work through to help us (inspired by Pastor Steve Cornell):

Examine your motives. If placing guidelines or parameters around reconciliation, make sure they are not retaliatory or vengeful in nature.

  • Maintain a humble attitude. Don’t take a holier-than-thou or superior stance. If we have vengeful attitudes, or if we set ourselves up as somehow superior, we are being motivated by pride and not a true desire for reconciliation.
  • Pray for the offender. When we hold those who have offended us in prayer, our whole attitude toward them changes. We remember that they, too, are children of God and we create a desire to extend love rather than vengeance. Remember Jesus’ words in Luke 6:27-28: “…Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.”
  • Admit whatever role we might have played in the situation. If we’ve responded in an unloving, unkind, unforgiving, or self-righteous manner, we may have inadvertently contributed to the breakdown of the relationship. This doesn’t excuse the offending person’s actions or behavior, but recognizing ways in which we might have contributed to the breakdown can help to speed the reconciliation process.
  • Be honest. If we need time to rebuild trust, or if there are specific actions or behaviors we feel are necessary, we must be honest with the one who hurt us. we must be careful, however, that this isn’t just a way of being manipulative and punishing.
  • If there are actions or behaviors that are required for reconciliation, be clear about them. But, again, be careful not to place guidelines around the reconciliation that are manipulative or vindictive in nature.
  • Make sure we are coming from a place of love and compassion, not a place of anger or resentment. Remember Paul’s words in Ephesians 4:29-5:2: Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”
  • Pray and look for ways that God can use this situation for good. Perhaps it opens opportunities for us to help and serve others; or to help others grown in the faith and relationship with God. Remember Paul’s words to the Romans in Chapter 8, verse 28: “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him…”
  • Finally, be realistic. Depending on the situation and the level of change in attitude or behavior required, the process take time and work. Even if we need to proceed cautiously, we must also realize that placing unreasonable demands on the offender, or expecting unrealistic guarantees will do little to foster a rebuilding of the relationship.

Back to our own situation and the couple that stole from us. Can we forgive them? Yes. But, that doesn’t mean we excuse their actions – that they don’t have to be held accountable. Will I notify the police that the DVDs have been returned? Yes – because it’s the right thing to do. Will I provide their names and description? Yes – because it’s the right thing to do. Will we welcome them back into the church? Ah…now we get down to the real question. If we say “yes” without any thought or hesitation, without placing some sort of guidelines around their coming back, we would simply be acting blindly – and we would not be helping them to grow in their relationship with God. If our answer is “no” – we must examine why. Are we simply acting out of anger, vengeance, and retaliation? If so, this wouldn’t help them to grow in their relationship with God, either. Nor would we be living our faith. So, I think it’s perfectly reasonable to say “yes” – with conditions – Sorry Isn’t Enough. They must admit to the theft. They must demonstrate true repentance, not just say the words “I’m sorry.” One way they can do this is to come before you all, admit their wrong-doing, and express their sorrow for betraying our trust. They must acknowledge, without resentment, the fact that it may take some time to rebuild our trust. They must be willing to face whatever legal consequences that may arise from their actions. And they must apologize and make restitution to the pawn shop.

Closing Thoughts

Forgiveness is one-sided. As Christians, we freely offer forgiveness and, in so doing, we free ourselves from the hurt, anger, and vengeance. Reconciliation, on the other hand, requires both parties. And, in many, many cases, Sorry Isn’t Enough.

We, the offended, must be genuinely willing to rebuild or restore the relationship; and the offenders must be willing to take responsibility for their actions, as well as take the steps necessary to rebuild our trust – Sorry Isn’t Enough.

That being said – 1 Thessalonians 5:18 tells us: “Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.” Upon reflection and writing this message, in some ways, I have to say I’m thankful this situation has occurred. Remembering Romans 8:28, that God can use all things for good, this situation has provided us with the opportunity to more fully examine forgiveness and reconciliation. It has allowed us to examine our own motives. It has allowed us the opportunity to examine what Scripture has to say, and, how we can apply it in our lives. And, it is through this process we strengthen our own relationship with God; we more fully live as followers of Christ; and we more deeply allow for the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

Scripture

  • Romans 12:17-21
  • Matthew 5:23-24
  • Luke 6:27-28
  • Ephesians 4:29-5:2
  • Romans 8:28
  • 1 Thessalonians 5:18

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Sorry Isn’t Enough – Quote

Innocence, Gentleness, PeaceSorry Isn’t Enough – Introduction

We’ve all wronged or hurt someone, and we’ve all been wronged or hurt. As Christians, we talk a lot about forgiveness. But, forgiveness isn’t the same as reconciliation. For Christians, forgiveness should be automatic. Reconciliation, on the other hand, may take some time. Reconciliation is a process; one that often begins with the words, “I’m sorry.” The truth is, most of the time sorry isn’t enough.

Spiritual Quote

“It takes one person to forgive, it takes two people to be reunited.”
~Lewis B. Smedes

Planned Scripture

  • Romans 12:17-21
  • Matthew 5:23-24
  • Luke 6:27-28
  • Ephesians 4:29-5:2
  • Romans 8:28
  • 1 Thessalonians 5:18

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We Are A Community Of Spiritual Growth And Healing Where Everyone Is Welcome!