A year and a month ago, my wife gave birth to our baby boy, David. Eileen suggested naming him after my little brother who passed away in 2008 to Congestive Heart Failure at 39.
I’m in the office now, and cannot spend time writing, but I needed to jot down something quickly just to push me to start writing again when I’m off work. There is so much to be thankful for. My parents are still with us and are still a great blessing. My work is sustaining us, and I work for a great hospital with great friends for coworkers. So, it would seem life is about as good as it can get. Yet, I feel hungry to make a greater contribution to the world I live in.
In the past, I wanted to help save souls. I helped bring Evangelism Explosion to our church as a trainer perhaps 30 years ago, and then three or four years ago. I studied cult evangelism under Walter Martin together with my parents. I studied Finney’s revival lectures, Systematic Theology, and many if not most of his works.
Then after going through a tragic divorce, in the midst of the pain of it all, my pastor in Silicon Valley asked me to develop an evangelism program for the church and perhaps for the denomination as saving souls was dear to his heart. But, I struggled and prayed for wisdom, and kept getting little epiphanies here and there such as seeing that evangelism is not about making a sales pitch and getting someone to rattle off a prayer, but it is more about being a disciple of Christ and becoming what we should be, and then reproducing after our own kind.
After returning to Fresno to heal for a few years and after God brought Eileen into my life, we helped bring training from the Way of the Master to our church and provided two 8 week courses. Over several years I studied revival lectures and other materials by Charles Finney, and studied past revivals including works of Charles Spurgeon.
I prayed for wisdom and kept getting blessings or little nuggets of wisdom here and there but never felt ready to get to work on writing or developing any program, and felt inadequate to present it. I still had issues with anger–not so much over the divorce years before, but injustice in general. I wrestled to understand what forgiveness really meant. I heard people speaking of forgiveness. I read stories of extravagent forgiveness, forgiveness of rapists, murderers, terrorists, cheaters, and such. And yet so much was tainted by disingenuous calls to forgive continuing violations, calls to tolerate, calls to condone, accept, and defend, and even fight for that which is wrong, all in the name of “forgiveness”. And it angered me.
I remembered Jesus telling us to ask God to forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors. Yet I knew it was utterly insulting and insincere to call on God to forgive sins we intented to continue. It was a lie insulting the intelligence of God to pretend to repent when we had no intention of repenting or giving up the sin. And it left me wondering whether it was right or wrong to forgive someone who chooses to continue in sin. The Bible speaks of a disciple asking Jesus if someone came to him asking for forgiveness again and again seven times whether he should forgive, and Jesus said to forgive seven times seventy times. But, it speaks of that brother asking for forgiveness. It does not speak of trusting that brother–only forgiveness is spoken of.
If we’re asked to pray for God to forgive us the same way we forgive others, are we supposed to ask God to forgive us even though we don’t repent? Or are we to suppose God calls us to forgive in a way that He Himself is unwilling to forgive? What does it mean to forgive? My understanding it that it’s setting aside ill-will toward that person. Should that forgiveness be contingent upon that person’s repentance? Some say forgiveness a gift we give ourselves–that we forgive not because the other person deserves to be forgiven, but because we deserve to allow ourselves to heal, and bitterness stands in the way of healing.
When we call to God to forgive us, do we ask Him to forgive even though we are unwilling to forgive others? Or do we obey Christ and pray that God will forgive us the same way we forgive others? Do we show God how we want to be forgiven by the way we forgive? Would that go well for us?
Well, I have to stop here. My hope was to start something–not develop and complete it–to write down some thoughts, some concerns, some epiphanies, some questions, something that will stimulate me to search further and develop more completely something of importance and value–not something new, but perhaps a new exposition of what has been in God’s Word for centuries, an application, a revelation, a bringing to light something God wants us to grasp and take to heart and apply in our daily lives–something that will save souls and leave behind no false hopes but sacrifice the false hopes for real hopes, to exchange the empty promises for real promises, to bring healing where healing was promised but not delivered, to bring restoration for everyone involved.