Monday, June 9, 2008

Transition Team Appreciation

Last night our congregation met for a pizza party and time to celebrate the work of the Transition Team. Everyone signed cards that were given to each team member along with a small monetary gift. I reminded the congregation of all the work that the team had done over the last year. The details of this work were listed in last week's blog.

But then the team turned the tables on me and surprised me with a unique gift. They had a lapel/tie pin especially made for me. It was shaped like a shield (of faith), had an image of a cross with a dove overlaid on the cross and the dove held an olive branch. In the very center of the pin a small diamond had also been set. There was a certificate of value included with the pin stating that the current retail value of the gold and diamond was almost $600. But, as they say, the pin is priceless to me. This is a special gift from a special group of people and I will cherish it for as long as I have my memory.

I concluded the service by telling the following story of a lady named Kiva. The story speaks for itself so here it is:

During our early days of my pastorate almost 4 years ago I told the story of Kiva. I told the story then as an example of how God can bring reconciliation and healing to broken relationships and revival to churches when people simply obey the Lord’s promptings. Let me briefly remind you again of this powerful story of obedience. Kiva was one of the prayer warriors of the church, her husband served on the church board, and both her children and grandchildren were very involved in the church.

But six years before I met Kiva a very hurtful event happened. Kiva’s son-in-law, who was also the church treasurer, had an affair with a lady who had also been raised in the church. This affair had gone on for quite some time even after repeated denials. This affair resulted in two divorces – both of key leadership couples in the church. The adulterous couple then got married and left the church.

Kiva was deeply hurt and offended at this wrong which her daughter had suffered. But Kiva had let the offense grow into a root of bitterness deep within. Over the course of my first two years as Kiva’s pastor I would from time to time preach on the core message of the gospel – forgiveness.

One day she told me that God had convicted her about her bitterness and that she had called the woman who had caused so much hurt to her daugther and asked her to forgive her of this bitterness toward her. I asked Kiva to pray about sharing this, in general terms, with the church when the Lord led her to do so.

A few weeks later she came to the platform as the congregation finished singing a song and turned to ask the congregation to forgive her for holding the church back for the last 8 years while she had carried this bitterness inside her. Her repentance, public confession, and obedience prompted a congregational revival. Over the next hour, others stood and made public repentance and private reconciliation. Many came to the altar for prayer. The church experienced a strong movement of God that lasted at least one full year after that Sunday morning.

In many ways our Unified Service last July reminded me of that Sunday morning. Some things were different – our service had been planned and prayed for; the other one was a spontaneous event. But in both God showed up and helped us to heal many past hurts.

I remind you of this story because there is a second chapter that I have not told you. This past February Kiva’s church had been instructed to prepare themselves for a scheduled revival. So, Kiva, now 85 years old, began to ask God to show her anything that she needed to repent of or make restitution for. God reminded Kiva of a very mean and vindictive letter she had written to her former son-in-law over 20 years ago. Though the man had terribly wronged her daughter, God told Kiva that she was wrong to say what she had said in her letter.

Within a week God opened a door of opportunity for Kiva to speak privately with her former son-in-law. She asked him if he remembered a letter she had written to him long ago. He said that he certainly did. Kiva asked for his forgiveness and he simply sat in silence. Still Kiva went home rejoicing because, once again, she had experienced the joy of obedience and the freedom that forgiveness provides.

A few days later Kiva received a call from her former son-in-law. He asked if he could drop by her house and she quickly said, “Yes”. When he arrived, he was holding an envelope. He had kept the letter for over 20 years and stated his desire, more than once, to use it against Kiva as an act of revenge. But now he turned to Kiva and asked if she would like for the two of them to burn it together. The two of them, along with Kiva’s husband, went to the fireplace. As the flames rose to consume the evidence of a by-gone hurt, the tears flowed down and God brought a measure of healing to a broken relationship.

Kiva found forgiveness for her wrong through an act of humble obedience. The next week God reminded Kiva of what her former son-in-law’s favorite dessert had been those many years before. So what did Kiva do? Into the kitchen she goes to make him a sugar cream pie. As she delivered it to his door, it became her token of the forgiveness that she had also granted him for the deep hurt he had brought into her life years ago.

I tell this story tonight to say that forgiveness is a process. Do not think that because we have completed a year of intentional interim ministry together that the work of God is completed in your life. Even if you took steps of reconciliation and forgiveness over the last few years God may remind you of further steps you need to take in the future. If He does, don’t dismiss His promptings because of your earlier obedience. Just keep obeying the Lord. If you do – God has greater things still in store for you and your church. I pray that you will see these greater things and find His favor in the future.

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