Forgiveness (2)

By MeL Scribe, Australia

How can we find the strength to forgive?

On the cross, Jesus prayed with his dying breath, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” This man, who had done no wrong in his life, had every right to demand their destruction, and every power to carry out their sentences justly. They wanted him dead, and they accomplished it, but instead of cursing them, this innocent man chose to plead for their souls, hard as their hearts were against him. Who is this Jesus guy? Why should I care about what he did or said? Maybe he was an important man, sure, but why should I be concerned with him? Yes I’ve heard of him somewhere sometime, but why should he worry me? So what if he’s such a controversial man?

Well, it looks like you missed the bit about his never doing anything wrong in his life. That’s only comprehensible if you believe that Jesus is God. There! I should have said this earlier, and it’s taken me so long to say so, but we both needed a chance to warm up to each other and to the topic at hand. Because Jesus is God, He is perfect. Everything about Him is perfect.

The road to self-discovery starts here, my friend. Either you can choose to completely reject all I have written to you and keep living your own way, or you can live this new and better life, giving God control over your life, which He already has, anyway. That’s right. Control over your life. God won’t bring you to anything you can’t get through, and He’s not going to completely and utterly annihilate you because He loves you.

Am I going too fast for you to catch onto me? I’ll strain out my ramblings. God loves you, more than anything you can possibly imagine. Well, unless you can imagine someone sending his or her son to hell to save you, which is what God sent Jesus to do, then yeah. Why would He do that? Because we have all rejected God and pushed Him away because we didn’t want Him in our lives—that is the one thing He can’t forgive. We deserve the death sentence, and to be separated from God for the rest of eternity, but Jesus took our sentence on Himself when He died for us on that cross. Every wrong thing you have ever done can be forgiven—if only you believe it.

So, you can choose to reject God for who He is and what control He actually has over your life and ignore His love for you, try to run your life in your own haphazard way, and face the consequences of being condemned by God and facing death and judgement, which I know isn’t going to be pretty. Or you can choose to submit to Jesus as your ruler, rely on His death and coming back to life, and be forgiven by God and receive His gift of eternal life.

If you want to know more, you should—you guessed it—start going to a church near you, where you can learn more about Christianity.


Forgiveness (1)

By MeL Scribe, Australia

The world is in need of forgiveness, now more than ever. In times of crisis, one’s first instinct is to shift the blame to someone else, or when an appropriate scapegoat is discovered, all eyes and hatred are turn to him or her, ready to begrudge that person of everything. We are a flawed and cruel people.

The media portrays some just reasons for anger, especially in the last season of the Victorian bushfire crisis. No person can be held responsible for an earthquake, but the thirst for revenge is stirred at the news of a disaster deliberately started. It is a natural response for us to want our loved ones avenged, but this desire is not a beneficial or healthy one.

Such is the cold and harsh emotional climate in which I endeavour to reach you, my audience. Hear me out if I have lost you with my first two paragraphs. Each and every one of us makes mistakes or bad decisions over both trivial and important matters at some point in our lives. Some of these foibles are more significant than others, but all of us have fallen short nevertheless. We are as guilty as Eve who bit into the forbidden fruit.

Yet there is room for us to show the better side of our character. Each of us has the capability to be a considerate, self-disciplined citizen of a loving world—if we would only try. A world where no one is ostracised, excluded, ignored or rejected. Why bother? You ask me. Why should I be nice to everyone around me, even toward those whom I don’t like? Because we can make this wretched world a better place in ways beyond our wildest imagination. And you, yes, you, have that power just by choosing to make the right decision. You have the power in your words and your actions to make someone’s day. You could choose to smile and show appreciation to the person at the supermarket checkout, or the bus driver who brings you to where you need to be, or the boss who pays you every month so you have money to spend. You have the power to positively rock their world. What a great privilege!

But even my enemies? You think. Yes, even your enemies. In fact, your enemies will be the first people to notice the change in your attitude. Initially they may be wary of you and suspicious of your motives, but your persistence will win them over, and eventually you will see how valuable your enemy can be to you as a friend. So what’s holding you back? Why do we refuse to improve ourselves in order to make a positive difference in this world? All of us have a need for others to recognize our identity and purpose as an agent of change; a desire of ours is to make the world we live in a better place.

One of the things that may be stopping you could be pride. Why should I treat my enemies with mercy and forgiveness when they started the war against me? If anyone should make peace, it should be them, not me! They’ll think me weak and susceptible to attack; like a doormat they’ll wipe their feet all over me! Not a chance. But I tell you, that may not be true. At the end of it, they will see you a strong and determined individual for the worthy cause of a peacemaker.

Another thing holding your forgiveness back could be pain. You think that they have done you an unforgivable wrong, and your imaginary wound is still smarting from the hurt they have dealt you. In a short story I’ve written, Sandra has a clear reason for not wanting to forgive her enemies, but still the Captain trained her, or hoped to teach her the lesson on forgiveness. Was it too much of him to ask that of them? Perhaps to you it was, but let me explain the Captain’s demands from his point of view. He asked them to forgive the ruthless pirates not just because he needed them alive when the ship reached the port, but he knew that if they never let go of their hatred, they were never recover from their loss and would hence grant their enemies a victory from the agonizing invisible wounds remaining in their heart. (Look out for this story in my future post!)

By refusing to let go of the past pain, you would be allowing the enemies to achieve their goals. You would be granting those enemies a victory over you by letting your past hinder your present and control your future!

Forgive and forget, unless you want to grant them this satisfaction. It takes time, but it is possible.


Journey to Zambia

By Chaz Oswald, Michigan

All the way my Savior leads me, what have I to ask beside . . .

January 2009—I was packing my bags in preparation (and giddy anticipation) for a month-long journey orchestrated by God. I was not sure what God was going to have me do, but I knew where He wanted me to be—Zambia.

I gave up all the comforts and luxuries of home—no blackberry, no laptop, no air-conditioning. I left my family and friends to enter a world so contrary to my selfish being. Yet I was constantly encouraged with a peace and understanding that the safest place to be is where God wants you to be.

Before it all began . . .
The weekend before I set sail to bring God’s Word to a spiritually dry land, I was under attack by the “enemy.” I learned that one is never more targeted by the devil than when the person is doing the will of God.

Within the course of three days, my uncle was in the hospital receiving back surgery, my cousin had gotten into a car accident, my grandmother was admitted into the hospital for suspected brain tumor, and my 98-year-old great grandmother passed away. Around every corner, the devil was setting up traps of discouragement and disappointment to catch me in my weakness. In tears I pleaded with God to relieve me of my pain, my misery, and my hurt.

God reminded me that He would never give me more than I can handle. Hence, like Peter who walked on water, I was determined to step out of the boat, hold fast to my Christian faith and keep my eyes fixated on my Savior, Jesus.

First steps in Zambia
My journey began with three exhausting days and two sleepless nights of travel to the bush of Zambia, Africa. It was there that reality set in—I had no means of communication to family and friends. I was terribly homesick.

Lying on my face in prayer to my Father in Heaven, I looked to Him for comfort. God heard my prayer and answered me with sweet, refreshing peace. I was overwhelmed when I felt His holiness replenish my soul with a thirst quenching tidal wave of grace. This made me see that God was indeed working His grace in me, slowly but surely.

By this time, my heart was grieved with a spiritual burden to reach the destitute and disoriented surrounding me in this foreign terrain. I began by developing relationships with fellow Christians as we worked together on a dormitory building project at the Manna Campus Evangelical Bible College.

The labor was physically straining. Each day we laid another brick and the building grew another tier higher. The nights were always welcoming. My aching muscles and tense joints voided me of much rest, leaving me more tired as each day went by.

In addition to the aforementioned fatigue, nourishment was sparse as we survived humbly yet habitually on stale bread and sour meats. I found myself consistently praying the missionary prayer, “Lord, I will put it down, you keep it down!” God through His grace and mercy, kept me healthy all the way without illness befalling me.

The beauty of God in Zambia
With the blessing of good health, I managed to take advantage of my evening time and explored Zambia. I observed the lands inhabitants and found Africa enormously attractive with its colors, tastes, smells, wildlife, nature, culture, and especially its people.

The Zambians are a friendly, humble, and beautiful people who long for interaction and communication. They are peaceful, patient, and unhurried but it is their contentment that struck me the most. Their satisfaction in poverty left me utterly grateful to God and His providence in my life. God opened my eyes to see my self-centeredness, my soiled heart condition to desire worldly yet meaningless possessions.

My heart was ignited with passion and laden for the Zambian people, so I traded in my evening adventures and began working at a nearby school where I taught Bible stories to children.

Evidently, God was not only working in the lives around me but also in me. The Holy Spirit filled my mouth with His words and enabled me to teach the children. As a result, there were 61 children that were receptive to the Gospel, desiring and acknowledging Christ as their personal Lord and Savior. It was an overwhelming and humbling occurrence which was entirely dictated and written by God.

Lessons learnt
I have since returned to my home in Grand Rapids, Michigan, where life’s toils entangle, but my journey to Africa has been an experience of life altering proportions.

My longing is to serve God with every breath I have. I do so not just by attending church, meeting in fellowship with other men, and studying God’s Word daily. Furthermore, I want to follow Christ’s example by investing my time in the lives of people around me.

Each day I wake up with purpose and I intentionally live a life of servanthood. Now I no longer strive after worldly wealth but after my Father’s heart. My journey to Zambia was a journey of the soul.