We were over half-way home last Sunday afternoon when my daughter broke the news to me that she had left her phone in the locker room at school. Now, before I go any farther with this story allow me to give you an excuse, not for her, for me. When I leave the church building on Sundays around 12:30 I’m physically and mentally exhausted. Okay, thanks for listening to my excuse. So, after she gave me the unpleasant news, I was, let’s just say, less than pleased. In fact, I was very aggravated and frustrated and even pulled from my repertoire lecture # 10. You know, the one on responsibility. You’ve probably heard that lecture. If you’re a parent, I’m sure you’ve given that lecture a time or two. I have that lecture memorized and I proceeded to proclaim the lecture of lectures on the importance of responsibility as if I were in my favorite pulpit preaching to the masses. Oh, I was passionate, so much so that I think my blood pressure even raised a few notches. I knew she had heard all that I was saying before but I was determined that she would definitely hear it this time and I’d no doubt get my point across to her. Well, I was pretty tough on my little girl and she felt bad. She did get her phone back the next day at school, which is when I thought the story was over and done. How wrong I was. I typically don’t go to the office on Monday but last Monday I did with the intent of getting a few things done early in the week. Around 4:20 last Monday afternoon I turned off my office light, locked and closed the door only to then realize that I had locked my keys inside my office. I was in a real bind so I called my humble brother, Jim Higgins, who cleans up after all of us at the church building. Jim willingly came to my rescue and unlocked my office, cleaning up yet another of my messes. Thanks Jim! As I drove out of the parking lot that evening it hit me right in the heart. I couldn’t help but think about the lecture I had given that sweet little girl just over 24 hours earlier. Then I got it. I know, I’m a slow learner, stubborn and still faithfully attend the school of learning lessons the hard way. My teacher: the teacher of the year every year, the One who loves me like a son and treats me like one too, God, our Father in heaven. I was reminded of how patient God is with me, His son and I was challenged to be more patient with my own children. “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.”(Col.3:12) I’m so thankful that God is patient with me and still teaching me.
I have a list in my mind. It’s kind of like a “to do” list but not entirely. It consists of several names of individuals that I know and some that I don’t know. It’s my personal prayer list. Every day it is my goal to mention those names to our heavenly Father at least once. As I think about the names on that list, I realize that many of them are sick with different diseases and illnesses. Just the mere mention of a few of those illnesses would cause many to think, terminal. I’ll be honest, while in my personal prayer time with our Father the thought of “terminal” has crossed my mind, but probably not in the way you might think. I realize the harsh reality that I AM TERMINAL! To my knowledge, I don’t have a physical illness or disease but I’m terminal. You are terminal. We all are terminal. “Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.”(II Cor.4:16) “So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”(II Cor.4:18) Our physical bodies were created to be temporary and they are wasting away more and more each day. We are terminal. Some might feel this is completely depressing but it really shouldn’t be. Understanding we are terminal should help us to focus on the unseen eternal things. Realizing that no matter if we have a disease or not, that we all are terminal should help us to be more conscientious of our faith walk. “We live by faith, not by sight.”(II Cor.5:7) When we grasp our terminal existence and we take serious our relationship with God, we then can view death the way the apostle Paul did and the way all Christians should. “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.”(Phil.1:21) I am terminal and it’s not a bad thing.
For several years now I’ve studied and preached on forgiveness. In fact, it may be that I’ve given a little extra time over the years to the topic of forgiveness. I believe that forgiveness is so essential in our lives today. Everyone and I mean everyone, is in need of God’s forgiveness. Jesus said if we want forgiveness from God we must be willing to forgive those who sin against us. “For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.”(Mt.6:14-15) I do pretty well practicing Jesus’ teaching on forgiveness. I consider myself a very forgiving person and not one who is likely to hold a grudge. However, over the years there has been one individual that I honestly have a hard time forgiving. I’ve known this man all of my life. He’s a good hearted, God-loving Christian but at times he says and does things that he knows he shouldn’t and I struggle forgiving him. Okay, the man I struggle to forgive is me. I don’t have a problem forgiving anyone who hurts me but when I mess up and sin, I struggle to forgive myself. So what’s the point? Why be so transparent and share this with you? It’s really simple. Because I believe there are many Christians who believe in and accept God’s forgiveness and are willing to forgive others but, like me, struggle to forgive themselves. Bottom line is no matter what we’ve done, we must be able to forgive ourselves and forget whatever it was so that we can embrace the future and serve the Lord with a clear conscience. Satan so desperately wants us to remember our sins and failures in hopes that we’ll give up on God because of our struggle to forgive ourselves. “Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners- of whom I am the worst.”(I Tim.1:15) The apostle Paul had to forgive himself of his past sins so he could move on and be productive for the Lord. I believe he did just that. “Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”(Phil.3:13-14) Accept God’s forgiveness, forgive others and forgive yourself.