By Billie Marie Zal
Forgiveness is caring about someone when there is no earthly or sensible reason to care.
Forgiveness is accepting insults not with stoical indifference, but with praise - because we have a chance to die to pride.
Forgiveness is not giving up on anyone, ever.
Forgiveness is not expecting everyone to be just like everyone else. If we do not forgive because someone is not like us, we disturb God’s order.
Forgiveness is accepting people just like they are. It is looking beyond the faults, the complexities of their personalities and seeing them as our brothers.
Forgiveness is reaching out even when we seem rejected by the one to whom we offer God’s love. Sometimes, by the touching, walls are broken down and God’s love becomes a reality to that individual who lives in darkness.
Forgiveness is overlooking the meannesses and cruelties that often are poured out upon us from those who should love us. And it’s believing that those very meannesses will bring us into the fellowship of our Lord Jesus Christ, who was acquainted with such treatment when he walked this earth in human form.
Forgiveness is not judging our brother by the way that he walks, or talks, or dresses, or even by the way that he lives. Each human being is a unique individual created by our God. He alone has the right to judge, and instead He died for the very one who we believe is not worth saving.
Forgiveness is leaving individuals to themselves and letting them make their own choices, even if it is the choice which we might not have made.
Forgiveness is loving and caring and remembering even when we are not forgiven by someone whom we have offended. We love them anyhow.
Forgiveness is remembering that God’s Word says, “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” This includes ourselves along with the thief, the junkie, the murderer, the rapist, the child molester, the wife beater, the fornicator, and the adulterer. When we remember this, then we can see them as having been included in the Body of our Lord Jesus when He drank the cup which contained all the offenses against God that a person can ever commit.
Forgiveness is forgetting. If we do not forget an offense against us, we do not forgive like God forgives.
Forgiveness is waiting patiently on God to work in a life that seems doomed to ruin. In this waiting process, we are tempered by our God and when the life is ready to be healed we are ready to forgive without restrictions.
Forgiveness is not holding grudges. It is waving away the little doubts and fears that assail us when we truly love. Doubts and fears make forgiveness impossible.
Forgiveness is setting free a soul from some long ago guilt trip. Forgiveness is acceptance. It is overlooking rejection by the world, friends, and family. Forgiveness is loving them anyhow, just like Jesus asked us to do.
Forgiveness is permitting others to offend our love seventy times seven and sometimes ten thousand times ten thousand, and remembering that we can never again hold whatever it was against them.
Forgiveness is accepting a motive or attitude that appears to be unjust. Forgiveness does not even consider injustice.
Forgiveness manifests itself by an all encompassing love that surrounds us, and fills us, and makes us aware that we are indeed different because somewhere in the eternal plan of God, we have seen humanity as Jesus saw it on that awful night at Gethsemane.
Forgiveness is ours when we, too, drink the Cup that Jesus offers to every person who is willing to suffer for His sake that we might obtain the prize of the highest calling.
By Elisabeth Elliot
(From the book, Faith That Does Not Falter)
It is reasonable to expect that God will use whatever means may be appropriate at the time. The time I refer to is God’s time, not ours. We will know when we need to know, not before.
When I review “all the way which the Lord my God hath led me” - those segments of the way I can remember because they seemed to me significant - I realize that nearly all of my trouble with finding out the will of God came because I wanted it too soon. I like to plan. I like to have things mapped out well in advance, and uncertainty of any sort puts me on edge. Perhaps it is for this very reason God has often asked me to wait until the last minute, right up to what looked like the screaming edge, before I found out what He wanted me to.
My acceptance of His timing was a rigorous exercise in trust. I was tempted to charge the Lord with negligence and inattention, like the disciples in the boat during the storm. They toiled frantically until the situation became impossible, and then instead of asking for Jesus’ help they yelled, “Master, don’t you care that we’re drowning?” They weren’t perishing, they were panicking. It was not too late. Jesus got up and merely spoke to the wind and sea.
On that other occasion, many centuries earlier, when the power of God to command water was what was needed to lead His people, the priests of Israel actually had to get their feet wet before God did anything. Why does He put us to this kind of test? Probably to give us the chance to make a conscious act of faith, often a specific, physical act, a move of some kind toward Him. “And when . . . The feet of the priests bearing the ark were dipped in the brink of the water . . The waters coming down from above stood and rose up in a heap.”
Sometimes we are in a quandary because we have already been shown what we ought to do and we are not satisfied with it. We are saying, “Lord, when are You going to tell me?” and the truth is that He has told us.
Sometimes the word comes very slowly. In Psalms 112:4 we read, “Light rises in the darkness for the upright” (RSV). It may be a gradual thing, imperceptible at first as the coming of the dawn, but long before we see it, the cock crows and there are stirrings. There is no question at all that the dawn will come. We have only to wait.
I’m sure that everyone of us has at least once in our life asked the question, “Why did God let this happen to me?” I know I have.
There is actually a very simple answer to this question, and it has to do with the fact that God gave us all a free will.
We don’t know how many worlds God has created and destroyed throughout the eons of time. He is an awesome God, more powerful that we can imagine. Before man, He already had angels who were created to love and worship Him and be His messengers. But even they must have had some ability to choose for themselves, because satan, one of the chief angels, chose to lead a rebellion against God and took a large number of angels with him. They were cast out of heaven. They became evil as a result of turning away from God, the only goodness and light there was and is.
So when God created man He wanted something special. We were created in the image of God, with a body, soul, and spirit, able to think, feel, and choose; and given a God-conscious (a “religious nature”), something the animals do not have.
But we are all born with a rebellious nature. Some of us have been taught as children to use control, and some of us have taught to act like “Christians.” However, the rebellious spirit is still there ready to be acted upon, if we so choose.
Paul the Apostle writes in Philippians 2:12: “. . . work out your own salvation with FEAR and TREMBLING.” Those words in the Greek are actually “phobia” and “trauma.” That shows me that the human will is not so easily brought under God’s control.
When Adam and Eve rebelled and disobeyed God is was the end of a peaceful world - a world where all things lived and grew in harmony with each other. Notice in Genesis 1:30 that the fruit of the trees and every green herb was given to not only man, but to every beast of the earth, and every bird, for food. Nothing was killed and eaten. There was peace. That is a world we all long for, and some have tried to create it on their own without God’s help. It can’t be done.
With the fall of Adam and Eve came judgment. The very ground and earth was judged. Satan can bring nothing but evil. He is complete and perfect evil, so all things under his control become evil. The man was cursed to work for his food, to till the ground which now
grew weeds, thistles and thorns. The woman was cursed to bear her children in pain, and then watch them grow up with the same rebellious spirit that we all have.
So by turning away from God, from which all these blessings had flowed (for a moment using their own will), they lost it all. And the door was open to murder, lies, famine, disease, and wars. God could stop it all in a moment, but He will not intrude into our free will. And so the person who murders your loved one, steals from you, lies about you, or brings any form of evil into your life - that person is using the free will God gave him, and God in His mercy waits. Year after year He waits, that He may show His mercy to all. But in the end there will be a swift judgment on all evildoers, and those who have not repented and looked to Jesus Christ for redemption.
But when evil is done to us He gives us the opportunity to forgive, to pray for our enemies and those who despitefully use us and persecute us. Read Matthew 5:44.
Some of you know that my daughter was murdered 18 years ago. Peace came for me and I was able to thank God for her life and the time I had with her. He knew before her birth the hour she would die. How could I argue with that?
The message Billie wrote on forgiveness has touched my heart many times, and I’m glad that I have the choice to either forgive or be bitter. And it can be hard. Sometimes it even feels good to be angry and bitter for awhile. But in the end you are hurting no one but yourself, and how easy it is to remember the faults of others and forget all the times we have done wrong to someone.
I choose to put my will on God’s side and look for the day He will restore all things to their former state, and we will have peace.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Many years ago, when my son Mark was still living here, we had goats - lots of goats! He used to show them at the county fair. Of course we also had a good barn. But all things come to and end, and for many years the barn stood empty. As the years passed it became an eye sore and place of refuge for a few rats and ground hogs.
So about three years ago we gave Walnut the job of tearing it down. It was no easy task, having been built out of solid unfinished Oak lumber. They say that goat and rabbit manure is the best fertilizer to be had, and when the barn was gone it exposed a lot of good dirt. Walnut
took it upon himself to build stone flower beds and fill them with the good soil from the barn. He built stairs to the green house and bigger rock beds. It became somewhat of a masterpiece of rock building.
The following year Gail planted all kinds of flowers there. She has a green thumb so everything grew beautifully. But I noticed that even though she planted fewer flowers each year, more and more flowers grew, until they filled the beds and spread between the cracks of the steps, and on and on.
Seeds from annuals are not suppose to live through the winter, but they did anyway. And they have multiplied and spread more every year. And to me it was like God saying, “See what I can do?!” And then He created His own masterpiece. No picture can fully show how beautiful it is. The two pictures we are printing show only a part of it all. But I hope it will brighten your life a little.
Prayer Requests for October, 2008
For Frank Williams, Jr., Death Row, Grady, Arkansas. Frank’s execution scheduled for last month was stayed by the Arkansas Supreme Court. Pray that his sentence is reduced to life.
For James Devers at Cushing, Oklahoma, for healing of pain in his lower back and legs.
For Robert Heffernan, Grady, Arkansas, for his health and that he’ll be able to walk on his own soon.
For Ed Ewing. Dinuba, California, who has problems with his feet and legs caused by diabetes.
For Willie Scott, Pine Bluff, Arkansas, that he will still be “cancer free” when he has his checkup in November.
For Michael Small’s Mother, Suzanne, that her health will get better so that she can find a part time job. Michael is at Menard, Illinois.
For Lance Mundell at McAlester, Oklahoma, who is trying to get an interstate transfer and switch places with someone at Pine Bluff, Arkansas.
For William Holland, Menard, Illinois, and for his attorneys who are preparing his appeal.
For Pastor Scott and her ministry in Los Angeles.
For Anthony Grayson, Fallsburg, New York, who is working on his appeal.
For Earl Oswalt’s Mother, Lillian Boykin, who has Crohn’s disease and degenerative bone
disorder. Earl is at Cushing, Oklahoma.
For Sister Ann and all the Carmelite nuns in Little Rock.
For Willie Hoffman’s friend, Mita, for her health to get better. Willie is at Florence, Arizona.
For David Helmuth at Menard, Illinois, that his Schizophrenia becomes manageable enough for him to be able to live outside of prison.
For Jerry Herring at Huntsville, Texas, and for his friend, Sue Wayman, for her healing. She has had several surgeries and suffers a lot of pain.
For all of us at Wingspread.
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