The service opened with Brad sharing the new technology which has been provided to help people hear throughout the congregation. First, new speakers in the back which don't crackle, and second a new headset no unlike the one Anthony Robinson and other speakers use. Though a bit modest about wearing it, Brad agreed it improved his ability to be heard and the message doesn't quite have the same impact if you miss some of the words. So... it is a new chapter here.
After the welcome, and a review of the previous Lent messages, we wished a very Happy Birthday to Dorothy Thiry who turned 88 years old today.
There were a number of other announcements today. Paula noted that there were still some holes in the schedule for monthly coffee and cleanup responsibilities. Also, there are "Secret Friend" forms in the back for those interested in participating again this year. Easter's approaching and we could use a hand preparing food and get a sense of how many we'll be feeding.
Pam mentioned that there will be a brief missions/stewardship meeting after church next week after the service.
Norm stood up and shared that a number of people who participated in last year's Home Makeover experience have decided to try another such project called Modest Home Makeover (MHM). There will be a benefit concert at Duluth Gospel Tabernacle featuring Christina DeLoach and The Thunder Brothers in concert Saturday, March 20 at 7:00 p.m. The goal is to build a new home for Rick and Brenda Hallfrisch who has had serious health issues and insurmountable medical bills. The home has many unsolvable problems and a group of people have decided to raise a new roof. For more info call 218-393-9326.
The quartet led us in worship today, beginning with some of their own "just plain good music" and then inviting us to join in a few hymns and worship songs. The Scripture reading from I Corinthians 5:16-21 was followed by a time of prayer.
Pastor Brad began his message by reminding us that his focus during lent has been on "getting well." Themes have included Brokenness, Surrender and Fearless Moral Inventory, which means taking responsibility for one's actions.
Today Brad said we were going to address relationships because life is meant to be lived in the context of community. "Life is too short to not make things right with other people," he said. "People have hurts, and we hurt others."
So how do we repair the damage? Colossians 3:13 clearly states that we are required to forgive, as the Lord forgave us. Wellness comes with no other option. If I have been forgiven, I need to forgive.
We all know the trap we can get into when we say to ourselves, "They owe me. They hurt me and they're gonna pay."
But God did not give us what we deserved. He did not do us "fair" in that way. We tend to want payback. We want those who hurt us to "die hard with a vengeance." Revenge, however, is a lie. Revenge does not set you free.
As Job 5: points out, "Resentment kills a fool, and envy slays the simple."
Resentment can neither change the past, nor the person who has hurt you. It has no benefit. It blinds us spiritually, interferes with your prayer life, and steals your freedom. Many there are who get sick or stay sick because their being eaten inside by bitterness. (See: Job 21:23-25)
Forgive, because you will also need to be forgiven one day.
Brad then offered this practical advice. Take time to reflect and make a list of people you need to forgive. Add your own name to that list and forgive yourself. Then add God's name to this list, and forgive God for allowing others to hurt you.
He shared briefly what forgiveness is not.
1) Forgiveness is not forgetting.
2) Forgiveness is not something lighthearted where we can say, "No big deal." The hurts were real, and really hurt.
3) Forgiveness is not a feeling, it is a choice.
4) And finally, we have to forgive from the heart. Forgiveness is God's way of ending the cycle. You can't undo the past, but you can be free from it.
Paul writes in Romans 12:17, "Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody." There are consequences for our choices. We can live in the bondage of bitterness or the freedom of forgiveness.
Brad noted that forgiveness does not mean accepting future abuse.
As we go through our lists, forgive each one. Don't say, "God, I want to forgive." Say, "I choose to forgive."
Brad shared how Otis, the town drunk in the Andy Griffith Show, could reach the keys that held him in jail. He would let himself out and put himself in. We likewise have the power to imprison ourselves or set ourselves free, by letting go of bitterness and forgiving.
There are also people in our lives who need to hear us say, "I'm sorry." To help us we need to ask four questions.
1) Who have I hurt?
2) What did I do?
3) Why did I do that?
4) What happened as a result?
Don't expect forgiveness. But there is a good path to travel when we embrace Micah 6:8
8 He has showed you, O man, what is good.
And what does the LORD require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God.
Do the right thing. Fall in love with giving mercy away, and always walk humbly with other people. Especially walk humbly with your God.