A Forgiveness Community

Posted in: Forgiveness | By: Dean Smith
September 22, 2011

For those that don’t know, though I am one of the pastors at a church in Seattle, I live nearly an hour away from that church in a small farming community.  Recently, our community suffered a great loss when a man murdered his wife and then committed suicide. This tragedy affected the entire town, but none more than the two surviving children. Though I’ve had the privilege of mentoring the 13 year old son who was left behind, I’ve been told that some family and friends are saying they could never offer forgiveness in this situation. 

Forgiveness is God’s solution to a problem He calls sin.
If we deal with sin in this world in any other way than forgiveness, then we will find ourselves sinking into more sin, more misery, more tainted relationships, and an overall lack of peace and joy. Not to mention, both passing the methodology of bitterness onto our offspring as well as throughout our sphere of influence.

This weekend the movie, “Live To Forgive” is going to be screened in my home town several times. There may be hundreds of people attending the showings who are still freshly grappling with the recent tragedy and their accompanying emotions. We believe the movie will give them encouragement and hope, realizing that:

  • “Forgiveness sets a prisoner free, only to realize the prisoner was us.”  (Matthew 18:34-35)
  • Forgiveness doesn’t mean forgetting the events, but instead; allowing God to heal your heart and mind from the bitterness, rage, and anger associated with the events.
  • Forgiveness is God’s will for your life, and His will always works out His best for you.
  • The best way to honor those who have passed, is by forgiving the offenders and living a life full and free from any poisonous thoughts of hatred or revenge. What seems impossible (like forgiving a murderer), is possible with God.

After this weekend my hope is that we can get closer to becoming a community that is committed to forgiving anyone for anything, all the time, while knowing that forgiveness is God’s solution to the problem He calls sin. This will free us from the burden of unforgiveness and release us to love ourselves and others to our highest potential. Interestingly, that is what Jesus said is the most important thing of all!

Live at peace with everyone

Posted in: Romans | By: Dean Smith
August 2, 2011

Romans 12:18 (NIV)
“If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.”
This scripture seems so simple, yet to apply it in real time and to our real relationships can be quite challenging. It puts the total responsibility of effort onto the person reading it. Since you just read it, guess what? You have now been officially challenged by the word of God to go well past your comfort zone to forgive and love appropriately.
How far is “as far as it depends on you?” Well, a couple verses later it reads, “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.” 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Romans 12:20-21). 
The point that the apostle Paul is making in this scripture is that sometimes the wisest and most helpful thing to do may also be the toughest… blessing the person who bugs the heck out of you. 
It is my experience that very few people operate in the “as far as depends on you”, but instead, operate in the “as long as it’s easy and comfortable.” We can’t make someone live at peace with us, but we can be a reflection of Christ by forgiving and loving them (appropriately). This may be as small a thing as a kind email coupled with a sincere prayer for the person. It may be as much as blessing them in some unexpected way and apologizing for your part.
As the scripture continues, we learn that the thing that may bring a person to repentance and reconciliation is by blessing those whom you really feel are at fault. You are essentially, “overcoming evil with good.”
Today, l challenge you to live in the, “as far as it depends on you”! Don’t expect anything in return from another person and just simply go forward where “it is possible” and let the love of Christ in you, seep into your relationships. Today, choose to live at peace with everyone! (Even if they bug the heck out of you!)

Church Hoppers

Posted in: Faith | By: Dean Smith
August 2, 2011

My pastor was so great, until he really started ticking me off. When I began attending my church in the year 2000, I thought my pastor could do no wrong and I felt very committed to him and our church. His teachings were relevant, timely, and inspirational. After a couple of years, I began to see some of his flaws and began questioning some of his ministry decisions. I found myself becoming judgmental and the things he would say began to offend me. Bitterness set in and soon his preaching was no longer inspiring to me. My wife and I began plotting our escape to find a “better” church.
Christians today are dealing with the same predicament. They have become offended by someone or something and so they think they should leave for greener pastures. I realize there are some instances of legitimate reasons to leave a church, but today I’m talking about all the “other” reasons. Maybe you don’t like the way the pastor takes offering. The music is too loud. The services are too long. Many people are quickly leaving churches when they see faults with its  leadership or fellow members. Today, I’m recommending that we first take our offense to God to help us evaluate the legitimacy of our complaint.
If you are really in the church God wants you to be in, the devil will try hard to offend you to get you out and coerce you to leave. Jesus said, “It is impossible that no offenses should come” (Luke 17:1). The very word, “offense” is translated from the Greek to mean a trap or stumbling block. A trap is meant to lure you in and keep you locked down. Be aware: you will eventually be offended with someone at church. The apostle Paul says, “And herein do I exercise myself, to have always a conscience void to offence toward God, and toward men” (Acts 24:16). When we exercise our body, we undergo painful situations so that we can build our muscles. Paul was explaining that by enduring painful trials, he has built up his “forgiveness muscles”, so that he can live a life free from offense and unforgiveness. In this case, instead of bench pressing 200lbs or running on the treadmill, we acknowledge our bitterness toward members or leaders in the church and we ask God for help.
In my situation, what God showed me was that I was the one who had the problem. I was offended at trivial issues and it was negatively filtering both my church and Christian experience. A friend suggested that I should pray about the issue and let the Holy Spirit guide me to decide what I should do. So, instead of being rash and abruptly leaving my church home, I asked God for wisdom. I was then able to approach my pastor with peace in my heart to authentically get understanding about my issues. We had a conversation that was rooted in genuine love and although he didn’t change his methods, my offense disappeared. It’s amazing what a little prayer and communication can do. If God is the one who led you to your church, He should also be the only one who can lead you away from it.
Although I was close to just simply leaving my church and starting fresh somewhere else, God helped me to persevere. It has served as one of the better learning experiences of my life. If I would have run when I was offended, I would have brought that bitterness directly into the new church only to get offended there, too. If you are offended right now at one of the members or leaders in your church; don’t fret. You now have your best opportunity to exercise those forgiveness muscles and allow God’s love to see you through! Sometimes God will lead you to another church, but in most cases, all you need is prayer and loving communication.Having now attended my church for more than a decade, I can truly say it is a family I could not imagine leaving. Some of my best memories are with my church family. Thank God I didn’t leave when things got a little bumpy.

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