Thursday, March 21, 2013

Healing in His wings...

On January 13, 2013, I shared with the church my annual “State of the Church” message and in that message I used Malachi 4:2 for the vision I believe God has for Calvary in 2013. Through the last Old Testament prophet Malachi, God had a word of encouragement for His people: “The Son of Righteousness shall arise with healing in His wings.” I believe with all my heart this message of encouragement is important for our church family to embrace and apply to our lives. Since August, we have been through a grueling and tragic chapter in our church life. The emotional toll and trauma on so many lives is really incalculable and only God can accurately quantify the far reaching impact of the sinful choices of one man.

On March 20th 2013, he had his day in open court and he finally plead guilty to the charges against him. The plea bargain agreement is a matter of public record with final sentencing to be May 30th of this year. He will spend time in the State Department of Corrections, followed by probation and a lifetime of restrictions and prohibitions. Quite frankly, while observing the proceedings, I did not get the sense of genuine remorse or sorrow from him. Actually I saw or heard nothing from him that would indicate he has repented for the wake of disaster he has left not only on his own family, his victims and our church family as a whole. I do not claim to have a window to his soul nor do I sit in judgment of his demeanor as only the Lord is accurately able to assess whether he has repented. I can only base my observations of him compared to the myriad of other cases I heard where several people took ownership of what they had done and apologized to the judge and those they hurt for their crimes. In those cases too, only the Lord can tell if they meant what they said.
In any case, I am choosing to forgive him as I have done many times when anger wells up in my soul since this first began; regardless of whether he seeks it or not. I must forgive not only because Jesus commanded it as I’ve been forgiven of so much; but also because it is the only way my soul can be healed from the cancer of bitterness that will take over if I don’t forgive. As the criminal aspect of this tragedy for all practical purposes is now over; I believe the Lord is extending to us the same invitation He has held out since his Holy feet walked the dusty roads and paths of Palestine on His way to the cross to pay for all sin. Jesus said in Matthew 11:28–30 “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”  
For every saint of God who cares deeply for the family of God at Calvary, this has been a heavy burden we’ve all been trying to bear. Yet the Lord invites us to “cast all our cares upon Him because He cares for you” (1st Peter 5:7). I know I’ve not always done a good job of casting this care upon Jesus through this and the reality is I’m probably not alone. Scripture is clear that biting comments and unloving attitudes will never lead to healing. Once again, I want to encourage our church family to heal together and your ministry staff is ready to aid in that healing with pastoral care. If you see your brothers and sisters having a hard time, remember the Romans 12:15 principle: “Rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep.” Take time to care for them and as we do life together, “the Son of Righteousness will arise with healing in his wings” as we lean on the faithful arms of our Savior and depend on His grace, mercy and comfort as He is the God of comfort (2nd Cor. 2:3). However, sometimes in our sadness and sorrow in the face of crises, we struggle to express the emotions and feelings we have verbally in a way that honors the Lord. I’m reminded of Paul’s encouragement to the Ephesian believers: Let no unwholesome (corrupt) word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear.”  (Eph. 4:29). The next verse makes it clear unwholesome words grieve the Holy Spirit of God and so we must be cautious in how we express our pain.
Recently in my morning time with the Lord in prayer and studying my Bible; as part of my additional devotional reading, I’ve been reading some of the great hymns of the faith and on the morning of the trial, I read the words to “Higher Ground” which encouraged me & I hope you also:
“I’m pressing on the upward way, new heights I’m gaining every day
still praying as I’m onward bound, ‘Lord plant my feet on higher ground.”
“My heart has no desire to stay where doubts arise and fears dismay;
though some may dwell where these abound, my prayer, my aim is higher ground.”
“I want to live above the world, tho Satan’s darts at me are hurled;
for faith has caught the joyful sound, the song of saints on higher ground.”
“I want to scale the utmost height & catch a gleam of glory bright;
but still I’ll pray till heav’n I’ve found, ‘Lord, lead me on to higher ground.”
“Lord lift me up and let me stand by faith on heaven’s table-land;
A higher plane than I have found – Lord plant my feet on higher ground.”

As we approach Resurrection Sunday, be encouraged my precious church family the Son of Righteousness has in fact risen! He has great plans in store for Calvary and wants to bring healing, unity, purpose and direction for us if we’ll seek His face. Let us begin a new chapter and move on to higher ground together; encouraging and exhorting one another toward holy and righteous living and to make an impact for His Kingdom. I am thankful God’s mercies are new every morning and His faithfulness is so great it knows no limits. I love you and thank God for you, from my little corner of the world to yours…
Ralph Green
Senior Pastor, Calvary Baptist Church 
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