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Redemption and Restoration in Real Life
I conclude this morning with a story about what happened since a tragic event that took place 9 months ago around Christmas time at New Life Church in Colorado Springs. I share it because I think it makes a point about moving beyond the 'Who, Them?' To THEM!
The event was the shooting of several people in the church parking lot and building that left three dead and three wounded. The young man, who had done the shooting, killed himself after being shot by a security guard. Earlier that day, he had entered Youth with A Mission Headquarters in suburban Denver, shooting four and killing two. His name was Matthew Murray, and he had been raised in a Christian home.
The tragedy shook the church that had just started to come out of the painful and very public story about their former pastor's, Ted Haggard, sexual sin. Now they were faced with this terrible tragedy.
In a recent Christianity Today article, it was told that after granting the interview to talk about that day and its after effects, it was revealed that Brady Boyd, the current Senior Minister, called Murray's parents and asked if they would like to come to New Life and see where 'their son had passed away.' They said they had wanted to, but had refrained from do so because of their concerns for the church. They were also asked if they would be willing to meet with members of the family who had lost two teenage daughters that morning. They said yes. The same invitation was extended to the victim's family, the Work's. They said yes.
After showing the Murrays around the church where the tragic events took place, they met with the Work's in Boyd's office. "What happened there in the two hours in my office ... was the most significant ministry moment I've experienced, maybe in all of my life," Boyd said. When they first entered the office, the two families embraced. They sat, wept, and cried together, Boyd said, for "I don't know how long." Then they prayed together.
Later Jeanne Assam [the security guard who shot Murray] was invited to join them. When Jeanne, who had undoubtedly saved many lives but had been forced to shoot the Murray's son, walked into the room, "the Murrays embraced her and hugged her and released her from any guilt and remorse. The dad looked at Jeanne and said, "Please know we're so sorry that you had to do what you did. We're so sorry."
The article concludes with these words from Boyd, "We can talk philosophically about repentance and redemption and going forward with God," Boyd said, "but what I saw in that room in my office was the greatest testimony of forgiveness and redemption that I have ever seen. It was a testimony that God really can restore and redeem."
A RELIGION WORTH HAVING
Dr. F. E. Marsh used to tell that on one occasion he was preaching on the importance of confession of sin and, wherever possible, of restitution for wrong done to others. Afterward a young man came up to him and said: "Pastor, you have put me in a sad fix. I have wronged another and am ashamed to confess it or try to put it right. I am a boatbuilder, and the man I work for is an unbeliever. I have talked to him often about his need of Christ and have urged him to come and hear you preach, but he scoffs and ridicules it all.
"In my work, copper nails are used because they do not rust in the water, but they are quite expensive, so I had been carrying home quantities of them to use on a boat I am building in my back yard." The pastor's sermon had brought him face to face the fact that he was just a common thief. "But," he said, "I cannot go to my boss and tell him what I have done, or offer to pay for those I have used. If I do he will think I am just a hypocrite, and yet those copper nails are digging into my conscience, and I know I shall never have peace until I put this matter right."
One night he came again to Dr. Marsh and exclaimed,"Pastor, I've settled for the copper nails, and my conscience is relieved at last."
"What happened when you confessed?" asked the pastor.
"Oh, he looked queerly at me, and then said, 'George, I always did think you were just a hypocrite, but now I begin to feel there's something in this Christianity after all. Any religion that makes a dishonest workman confess that he has been stealing copper nails, and offer to settle for them, must be worth having."
--Emergency Post Knight's Master Book of New Illustrations.
Author and teacher, Dr. Howard Hendricks tells the story of a young man who strayed from the Lord but was finally brought back by the help of a friend who really loved him. When there was full repentance and restoration, Dr. Hendricks asked this Christian how it felt away from the Lord. The young man said it seemed like he was out at sea, in deep water, deep trouble, and all his friends were on the shore hurling biblical accusations at him about justice, penalty, and wrong.
“But, there was one Christian brother who actually swam out to get me and would not let me go. I fought him, but he pushed aside my fighting, grasped me, put a life jacket around me, and took me to shore. By the grace of God, he was the reason I was restored. He would not let me go.”
“Some Stings Are Worse Than Others!” 1 Samuel 18: 1-14 Key verse(s): 11-12: “Saul was afraid of David, because the Lord was with David but had left Saul.”
Chuck Swindoll tell the story of a man who backed his bright, shiny new Cadillac out of the driveway and headed for the freeway on his daily commute to work downtown. He was busily shaving himself as he drove--a normal operation for him. I suppose he had his radio on, and he was listening to the news and traffic reports as he made his way to his office. Witnesses say that suddenly he reached up behind his neck and slumped over the wheel. The car swerved and went into a culvert, and he was killed. His car was completely demolished.
An autopsy was ordered. Ad they began to put together the details, a keen-thinking physician noticed a small pinprick behind the man’s ear where a wasp had probably flown from behind the seat, or some part of the car, and had stung him, temporarily paralyzing a particular area of the nerve and blinding him with pain. He slumped over the wheel, lost control of the car, and died. Normally a grown man with normal strength can just swat away a little wasp with no problem. But when that wasp struck its mark, it led to a fatal crash. (Swidoll’s Ultimate Book of Illustrations & Quotes, pg. 180)
When a loved one becomes an enemy, just swatting away at the problem will seldom attain the results so necessary for the restoration of that relationship. A loved one become an enemy may be an enemy whose sting can cause long-lasting, even fatal harm to a relationship. David knew this well. Saul had taken David in as his own son. He ate at the king’s table and shared in the relationship of Saul’s family. Jealousy, however, had caused Saul’s love to turn into a hatred for David almost overnight. Saul craved fame and glory and when he saw David garnering more than him, he turned on David and tried to kill him. David had a choice. He could defend himself against these attacks and possibly make Saul’s hurts even deeper or he could flee the relationship altogether in hopes that time and separation would bring repentance and reconciliation. David chose to flee and retain h...
Recently one of the testimonies at a Missions conference was so powerful it seemed to take the breath away from the people attending. It was the story of a blind woman by the name of Pani. She was listening to the Jesus film in her village as those with their sight were watching. Pani was greatly moved when, she heard on the film, Jesus restored the sight of the blind man. When Pani heard these words she cried out, “I want to receive my sight too.” At the conclusion of the film a miracle took place. Pani could see! Jesus restored her sight! As the mission conference attendees heard this wonderful story they began to show emotion for such a miracle. They were stopped of their emotional exuberance by the missionary as he gave them a reminder. The restoration of Pani’s sight was not the greatest miracle that evening.
A greater miracle took place than the restoration of her sight. Pani received forgiveness of her sins that night by trusting Jesus as her Savior! She heard Jesus speak the sweetest words of all, “Your sins are forgiven.”
A few years ago Calvin & Hobbes were my favorite cartoon characters - Calvin, the hyper-active little boy with a wild & vivid imagination, & his companion, Hobbes, a tiger.
Well, in one cartoon Calvin & Hobbes were lying in the shade of a tree on a summer afternoon discussing the important things of life. Calvin says, "What if there is no heaven? What if this is all we get?" Hobbes answers, "Well, if this is all we get I guess we’ll just have to accept it." Calvin replies, "Yeah, but if I’m not going to be rewarded for my good deeds, I want to know it now."
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As I was growing up with a younger brother and sister, one of our favorite games to play was baseball. We had a plastic bat and ball, and we would team up with some of the neighborhood kids and play ball in the back yard.
On one particular occasion my mom took our bat away from us because we were arguing, like all brothers and sisters tend to do. But this did not deter us from playing our favorite game. Mom took the bat, but not the ball. So we took the metal brace from the swing set (the metal bar that is used to brace two legs together on each end) and started using it as a bat.
I was at bat when I swung at a pitch and felt two distinct points of contact; one was with the ball, and the second was with my sister’s head. I didn’t realize that she had walked up behind me, and on my follow through I clobbered her on the forehead with the end of the brace.
I turned around only to discover that my sister was screaming and bleeding profusely. In fact, not much of her face was really visible because she was covered in blood. I knew I was in trouble, so while my sister bled and cried, I pleaded with her not to tell momma. I figured that washing her down with the water hose to get rid of the blood would be enough to take care of the situation. Once the bleeding stopped, I would be in the clear. But in my panic to discover a way to keep from getting a good whipping, I couldn’t see that the greater need was for my sister to receive medical attention. She had to be taken to the emergency room where she received several stitches to bind up her wound.
The point of this story is this. When my mom came out to find out what was going on, she didn’t stop to dwell on how guilty I was for disobeying her, or to find out every detail about what had happened. As soon as she saw the blood, she swept my sister up in her arms, carried her into the house to put a bandage on her head, and drove her to the hospital so that she could get the medical attention she desperately needed. As a matter of fact, the whipping I deserved never came. My mom’s actions showed that her concern for my sister’s health and well-being was more important than trying to blame somebody for the accident that had caused her injuries, or for punishing the one who was responsible.
Pastors need to learn that lesson.
So many times we have been guilty of preaching on sin just so we can point a finger of blame at someone who has stumbled under the load of temptation that Satan brings to bear upon us. God forgive us for our arrogance and our shortsightedness. Forgive us for falling short of our God-given responsibility to preach the gospel to the poor, to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised (Luke 4:18). Our obligation as pastors is not only to warn people of sin and the consequences it brings, but also to bind the wounds of our brothers and sisters in Christ who have been victimized by the enemy, and to tell those who have never known the washing of regeneration that Jesus Christ died on the cross to pay their sin debt, that His blood can wash away all of your sins, and that He rose from the dead to prove that He has power over death, hell and the grave.
Christians need to learn that lesson.
How many of us have been guilty of shooting our wounded? How many have kicked a brother or sister when they were down, rather than bearing their burden, and helping to restore them back into the sweetness of full fellowship with our Lord? We ought to be ashamed, for the Church is to be our refuge, our safe haven, and our place of restoration. But all too often it becomes a place of torment and ridicule because of those who have forgotten to “consider themselves, lest they also be tempted.”
Some of you this morning have been through the ringer in your battle with sin this week. You’re battered and bloodied from the near lethal blows that Satan has inflicted upon you, and you desperately need medical attention, the kind of medical attention that only Jesus Christ can give. So I stand before you today, not with a pointed finger, but with outstretched hands, pleading with you to come this morning and be washed in the pure refreshing waters of God’s abundant grace and mercy. You need to be washed, to clean your feet. You’ve already been bathed in His loving grace and mercy. But you need to come to Jesus, confessing your sins and you will experience complete and total forgiveness and cleansing. Your fellowship will be restored, and your hope will be renewed. You’ve struggled with sin long enough. Now is the time to come back into the grace and mercy of the Lord.
Others of you may just simply be lost. You’ve washed your feet many times. You’ve turned over a new leaf only to find the same old dirty sin on the other side. You’ve attended church, and maybe even been baptized and joined the church. But you’ve never trusted in the Lord Jesus Christ to save you from your sins. Friend, let me tell you, because I love you, that if you don’t come to know Jesus Christ in the full pardon of sin, your eternal destination is hell. But if you come, you must come trusting in nothing but the shed blood of Jesus Christ to cleanse you all of your sins. You can’t do anything to earn His favor, and you can’t bring anything with you but a broken heart and a contrite spirit. You can’t get better to come to Him. You can only plead with Him to forgive you as you are, a worthless sinner begging for mercy and pardon. You can only come to Jesus Christ in absolute unworthiness to ask Him for His free gift of salvation.
Leonardo was “skilled at painting the difference between the sexes,” and the “delicate folded hands, and the hint of a bosom. It was, without a doubt…female.”
The reference to delicate folded hands as a proof that the figure traditionally identified as John was really Mary Magdalene is forced. In the Study for the Hands of John in the Windsor Castle Royal Collection (no. 12543), they do not appear distinctly feminine. They may be the hands of a woman, but then again they could as easily be those of a man. In The Last Supper itself, John’s hands are no less masculine than most of the other hands in the picture.
As for the hint of a bosom, this is entirely unjustified. Even if an overly fertile imagination might find such a “hint” on the character of John where his clothes are loose, on the other side, given the absence of the loose cloak, we should be able to detect even clearer evidence of a bosom, we see instead that John’s chest is conspicuously bosomless. Here again Brown’s assertion may derive from his reliance on the conspiracy book The Templar Revelation, where we read of “the tiny, graceful hand, the pretty, elfin features, the distinctly female bosom and the gold necklace” (p. 20).
Interestingly a more recent, post-1999-Last-Supper-restoration book by The Templar Revelations author Lynn Picknett now replaces the old distinctly female bosom claim, with the equally groundless assertion that there is “a dark smudge where ‘his’ breasts should be.” Picknett apparently wants us now to believe that the female bosom was originally there, but that it was subsequently rubbed out.
In a posting from ABC News (Nov 3, 2003) we read.
“Many art historians have dismissed the theory that the figure is a woman, saying it’s just a tradition to paint John as beardless and long-haired. ‘It looks like a young male. I see no breasts,’ art historian Jack Wasserman told ABCNEWS.” Wasserman is a well-known Leonardo scholar.
Finally, John’s face is admittedly effeminate, but not more so than th...
In his book “The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership”, John Maxwell tells the story of one of the most incredible restorations in American business history. It happened at the Chrysler Corporation in the early 1980’s. Chrysler was in a mess, despite a long history of success. At one point in Chrysler’s history they had captured an incredible 25% of the entire domestic automobile market. By the time the 1970’s rolled around, the Chrysler Corporation was in a steady decline. By 1978 they only had 11% of the market. Things looked bleak. The company was headed toward bankruptcy. In November 1978, Chrysler brought a new leader to take over the company. His name was Lee Iacocca. Iacocca had just left Ford in 1978 after serving as their president. When he left Ford, the company, under his leadership, was earning record profits of 1.8 billion in each of the last two years. The task of turning around Chrysler proved to be enormous. Iacocca described the company as having been run like a small grocery store, despite its size. There were no viable financial systems or controls in place, production and supply methods were a mess, products were built poorly, and nearly all of the divisions were run by turf-minded vice presidents who refused to work as a team. Morale was very low throughout the company, customer loyalty was low, and the company continued to lose money. Iacocca did everything he knew how to turn things around. He replaced 33 of the 35 vice presidents. He brought in the best leaders he could find. He reduced as many expensed as he could. He grudgingly and humbly went before Congress for loan guarantees so that Chrysler would not go bankrupt. Finally, he reduced his own salary to $1.00 a year. Iacocca brought about a total restoration to the Chrysler Corporation. By 1983, Chrysler was able to pay back its loans. Before he retired, Chrysler had gained 16% of the market, double what it was in the first years he took over. The company has fought its way back and been restored to a growing, profitable industry.
Bob had been a Christian for about 6 years and had come to Dallas to head up a major city wide evangelistic campaign, hosting a daily radio program and working with some of the largest churches in America. He was beginning to think he was close to reaching the ultimate in Christian maturity - until one day he took his wife shopping at the mall. Crowded and busy like this time of year parking was at a premium. Seeing 2 empty spaces right near the entrance as he approached his “answer to prayer” a guy driving a shiny new sports car pulled into that spot straddling the line.
At first Bob thought it was an accident, so he rolled down his window and said nicely, “Sir, you probably haven’t noticed, but you’ve taken up 2 spaces.” He gave Bob a quick glance and with a smirk said, “I know it.” As he got out of his car, Bob got a good look at him. He was middle-aged, with flecks of gray in his well groomed hair. His shirt was open down the front, revealing numerous gold chains dangling over what looked like a “chest toupee.” Bob felt instant and total dislike for that man. A little more forcefully Bob responded, “Well, would you please repark it, so I can use one of the spaces?” Holding out his arm to escort a much younger-looking girl, the man replied, “No.”
At that moment all those years of being a child of God didn’t mean a thing to Bob. His mood was now murderous. “Buddy,” He said through clenched teeth, “if you don’t move that car I’m going to stuff you in the tailpipe and move it for you!” Bob started to get out of his car, fully intending to do what he said. However, his wife Amy looked at him as if he’d lost his mind, and said so. Bob told her that it wasn’t his mind that he was worried about losing; it was that parking space! Suddenly Bob stopped. “What are you doing?” He asked himself. “You were perfectly willing – in fact, excited to give up your thriving, lucrative business to go into full-time ministry, but you are ready to fight another person rather than give up that parking space!”
Having finally come to his senses, He spent the next several minutes maneuvering his car through the lot, driving mostly in reverse. His goal was to keep the guy with the foreign car from seeing his rear bumper – the one with the sticker that said, “Smile! Jesus loves you.”
Have you ever been there? In spite of a sincere and genuine faith in Jesus Christ, have you ever suddenly found yourself acting in a stupid manner, as if you never heard of the gospel? If we’re totally honest, we’d all admit to such times. All of us can forget who we are and what we believe in an unexpected moment of time. We’ve all heard those voices, either real or imagined: “I thought you were a Christian!” comes the sneer. “I thought I was too,” we respond in disgust. “How could I do such a thing?” Of course besides “unexpected moments,” Christians can choose to live in a determined and long-term manner that’s contrary to what God’s Word says as well. In fact, we all have areas of our lives where we face ongoing struggles with temptation and failure. And we sometimes wonder if we’ll ever begin making progress in this Christian life. Growing in grace begins by being honest with ourselves and God by recognizing a need for God and for growing in grace.
(This illustration comes from the book "Growing In Grace" by Bob George pages 9-10.)