Friday, January 15, 2010

Why is Forgiveness so Challenging?

A couple of days ago a friend of mind posted a video link on his Facebook account that made me think about the topic of forgiveness in a fresh light. This video featured a man singing a song about God’s love (I assume for a music video he was shooting) and a homeless man approached him and began singing with him. While the homeless man did not know the words, he did grasp the topic of God’s love, and demonstrate his understand of the love of God for everyone. As I watched the two men sing praises to their Heavenly Father, I began thinking about the topics of acceptance and forgiveness.
It has been my experience that individuals who are homeless or down on their luck see God in a new perspective, which is different than many other people see Him. These “struggling” individuals see the best in people regardless of gender, age, or race. They are able to look past the superficial barriers that exist in the world today and look to the heart of people just as Jesus did. They are willing to be loving and accepting towards anyone they meet, not for a handout but rather to share the love that they have in their hearts, which in many cases is all they have.
As I started thinking about acceptance, I started contemplating forgiveness as well. I began to see the love in this man’s heart through a brief video and wondered if people would see that type of love in my life. The sad reality is that in the pit of my stomach I knew they would not. Rather than seeing love, they would see bitterness, resentment, or even hatred. In order to attempt to remedy this situation, I did something that I was challenged to do a few weeks ago by a dear pastor friend of mine. I chose to first ask God to give me the power and strength to forgive certain individuals that I felt had “wronged” me in certain ways. As I prayed through these situations, I was reminded of the hurt and pain that accompanied each situation, which led to my bitter attitude. After praying for the strength to forgive these individuals, I decided to take the next step, which was to send them an email explaining the fact that I had forgiven them, and hoped they would do the same. These emails were one of the most challenging things that I have ever done in my life; however, the “freeing” feeling that came after I hit the send button on the email was great. My desire during this upcoming year is to be more open and accepting of others as Jesus Christ is towards me. While I have not yet received any responses and may not, the fact is that I feel that in the eyes of Christ I have extended true forgiveness, which frees me from the bondage of these situations that I have carried for years.
After thinking about this topic and wrestling through it, are there people in your life that you need to forgive? Are there wounds on your heart that seem to cut to the core of who you are as a person, leaving you bitter, angry, or filled with rage? My challenge to you is to seek God’s counsel on extending forgiveness during these situations and to these individuals. Are you up for the challenge?

Thursday, January 7, 2010


The third and final component of this sermon asked the congregation to focus upon the anticipation of starting another year and another decade. After examining the events of this past year and this past decade, I firmly believe that the year of 2010 has a great deal in store for me personally and for my family. Listed below are a few of the anticipated events that either will or could transpire in the coming year.

1.) The birth of our third child, Ellie Kate Hart, who will be born sometime in February
2.) The finding of a job (may or may not be ministry related) in order for our family to be cared for financially
3.) The purchase or rental of a home that we can call ours again
4.) The second birthday of our son Corban Boyd Hart
5.) The remembrance of the third birthday of our daughter in heaven, Callie Grace Hart
6.) The completion of my Master’s degree from Indiana Wesleyan University
7.) The celebration of five years of marriage with my wonderful wife, Mindy

While this is, only a sampling of the things that we believe God has in store for our family during the upcoming year we hope and pray that God has wonderful things in store for you as well. While it may be challenging to review your past and look ahead to the future, may you remember what God has brought you through in the past and what wonderful blessings are still in store for you from God, Himself.

Friday, January 1, 2010

The Past Year

As mentioned in the previous blog, this series of posts stems from a sermon that was delivered recently by a dear friend of mine. During this sermon, the pastor asked the congregation to review the work of God in their lives during the past decade, which was completed in the first post. Secondly, he asked the congregation to review this past year in their lives, the manner that God had worked, and what implications this holds for the upcoming year. This particular blog will focus solely upon this past year in my life and the life of my family.
As this year started, it was one filled with anticipation, excited, and joy. We were beginning what would be our third year at a church where we were able to minister to an amazing group of students, work with incredible volunteers, and be a part of a loving staff. In January, we implemented a small group ministry in our student ministry for two reasons. First, we desired to focus upon a relational approach to ministry, which was easier to accomplish in a small group setting. Secondly, we volunteered to be guinea pigs for the remainder of the church who desired to start small groups in the fall of 2009. The implementation of this ministry seemed to carry a great deal of potential as we began to witness more students coming through our doors and a series of strong relationships being developed throughout the ministry.
As the year progressed, several wonderful highlights took place in the ministry and well as difficulties. Rather than merely focus upon the positives of the ministry, our volunteer team chose to tackle the difficult issues head-on, which was not always the most peaceful or easy route to take. By traveling down this path however a more beneficial ministry was established for our students. During this time we witnessed amazing growth in our students spiritually, we watched a true servant’s heart develop through a mission’s trip in the local area, saw several students stretched through a challenging week at camp, and witnessed deep spiritual relationships occur through our weekly programming.
While I am painting a wonderful picture of ministry that many youth pastors dream of, there was something unsettling in my stomach through all of this. It was that strange feeling that you get when you know something is not right, but you push through anyway because everything else looks so good. The events that transpired during this past fall drastically altered my personal view of the church and those who guide and direct it. I would like to be perfectly clear here and state that this is not an attempt to ridicule or write negative things about individuals in this church, but merely a statement of my interpretation of the events that transpired. During the past four months, my family has endured a great deal of speculation and hurt from the story not being told truthfully because of “confidential reasons.” Well after a great deal of self-examination, I feel that it is important for others to learn from my mistakes and hopefully glean from the insights that I have gained. In the early fall of 2009, I was made aware of a disagreement that a few people had with a practice we were utilizing in our ministry. While this practice was not contrary to the teachings of Scripture and did not endanger any teenagers, I was told my job was in jeopardy. I was told that my job was in jeopardy but I could not discuss it with anyone. Despite attempting to appear unfazed by this news during the departure of a dear fellow pastor, those close to me knew something was wrong. In just a matter of six days, I went from a youth pastor celebrating a wonderful ministry to an unemployed person seeking to provide for his family. While the decisions that followed my termination and the manner in which it was handled, along with the reasons provided (which are still being shared as “confidential” even to me) have caused a great deal of pain I decided to seek to glean insights from this situation. While I would like to say this has been an easy task it has not, as the unfavorable actions of a few have forever tainted the view of the church in the eyes of several people who once called this church home. Author Charles Spurgeon once said, “Fiery trials make golden Christians,” and if we were to put this into practice many people would be far better off. By examining the difficult situations that life provides us, we are reminded of a God who loves us deeply and cares for us intimately. With this in mind, along with the thoughts of Ralph Waldo Emerson, “When a man is pushed, tormented, defeated he has a chance to learn something,” the following are insights that I have gained from this challenging time in my life.
1.) God is ALWAYS in control even when we do not think so.
2.) Trusting in His peace and grace will enrich our lives far more than doing something we do not love for a paycheck.
3.) My family is and should always be my second highest priority, behind my personal relationship with God. Author George Santayana states, “The family is one of nature’s masterpieces.” May we all remember the importance of family in our lives.
4.) Being at peace with God is far more important than being “liked” by man.
5.) “Prosperity is a great teacher; adversity a greater.” (William Hazlitt)
6.) Seek to repay evil with good, rather than evil for evil because by doing this your character and heart shine through, which hopefully resembles the heart of Christ.

As I reexamine this past year it has been one filled with adversity due to the loss of my job as a youth pastor. With this loss, not only did the sole source of income in my family cease but we also lost our house due to it being owned by the church where I was employed. Despite the heartache and the poor treatment that was issued to my family, we are still continually and daily praying for this church. We desire to see the ministry continue and witness God working in the lives of His children. We are praying for the leadership of this church that it would be a staff guided by God, and not the selfish desires of man. We are praying for healing for the students, families and the members of the congregation who were affected by this termination. While we do not agree with the termination or that manner in which it was handled we will continue to hold our heads high seeking God’s approval and trust in His guidance for our future. While this time has been extremely challenging for our family I am reminded of the words of Henry Ward Beecher who said, “Every tomorrow has two handles. We can take hold of it with the handle of anxiety or the handle of faith.”
May you cling to the handle of faith during this upcoming year and throughout the rest of your life.