Week 31 of 2023 is almost in the books. It’s been a busy week with school getting back in session, and church activities full speed ahead. I trust that you’ve had a great week and a fun weekend ahead! Thank you for joining me each week for the 4forFRIDAY.
Week 29 of 2023 is almost in the books. It’s been a week full of travel to Northern Michigan with dear friends. This is a most beautiful part of our country and We have enjoyed the cool temperatures, slower pace, and gorgeous scenery. I trust you are ready for a great weekend. Thank you for joining me each week for the 4forFRIDAY.
This Week’s 4forFRIDAY
A Quote from Coach Kirby Smart on Leadership
“Number one, you will have to make hard decisions that negatively affect people you care about. Number two, you will be disliked despite your best attempts to do the best for the most. Number three, you will be misunderstood and won’t always have the opportunity to defend yourself. Those are three costs that come from being a great leader.”
Go in Peace, Chuck
It seems as though this world is mesmerized by superheroes and superpowers. Many blockbuster movies over the best decades have included numerous superhero films. I like them like we all do, but what if you could select a superpower that could change your life and the world around you? It’s one of my favorite questions at a dinner party. If you could pick a superpower, what would it be? Most folks select strength, flight, being invisible, or even speed.
Much too late in life, I’ve discovered that we each have a superpower
that lies dormant in many lives. FORGIVENESS.
In our revenge and anger-filled culture, forgiveness is often portrayed as weakness or meekness as weakness. As a result, we are often offended – far too often – and carry around the ball and chain of unforgiveness. It is a heavy weight to walk through life with. It is intended to be directed toward the one who has offended, but it eats away at our souls like a rapidly growing tumor that sucks the life out of us. I know it first hand. I have carried that ball and chain through many years. I’ve missed the blessed life and the joy of the journey by simply not offering forgiveness and moving from a victim of offendability to a free man that lives unoffendably.
The common sense understanding of forgiveness is that we release someone from some claim that they did us wrong. Like forgiving a debt, we relinquish our grievance to another person.
And the way we typically forgive, by saying “I forgive you,” suggests that it’s something you do to or
for the other person. You’re reaching a judgment that calls for benevolence rather than vengeance,
and you relinquish any claim or demand for justice.
But the truth is that forgiveness is primarily for ourselves. It is an act that allows us to let go of the anger, frustration, pain, sadness, bitterness, and grief that we carry around in our hearts, and that is directed at this other person. It isn’t in any possible way a weakness. It is the strongest and most powerful tool in your human arsenal.
We forgive because carrying around anger and resentment is like poison to our souls. You and the other person remain tethered by your feelings – bad feelings that etch weary hieroglyphics on the insides of our hearts. When you forgive, you free yourself and this other person from that emotional strife and baggage. I contend that unforgiveness is at the heart of much of our anxieties, sadness, depression, and emotional distress.
We have so glorified, by way of film, politics, music, and pop culture, the art of revenge that we have forgotten that the strongest, wisest, happiest, most contented people on the planet have activated this superpower of FORGIVENESS.
We should start to think of forgiveness as an authentic superpower. Yes, a superpower to heal yourself and others. To leave a mark of strength and peace on a planet in desperate need of both.
It’s important to say what forgiveness is not: It’s not saying what the person did was right. It’s not saying the person should be allowed to do it again. It’s not saying that you have to forget that it happened. Forgiveness is, ultimately, an act of love for yourself because it’s simply saying that you let go of the anger and despair that occurred.
In that way, forgiveness is also not a way to bypass our feelings. Feeling anger and grief is okay, especially if those feelings are fresh. Feelings and emotions are meant to be experienced fully.
It’s just that we don’t want to live in those places.
We don’t want to live from our wounds. So when you forgive, you are saying that you are a powerful, spiritually minded, and Christlike person who can take responsibility for your emotions; therefore, this event doesn’t have emotional power over your life. It is a refusal to live with a prisoner’s ball and chain attached to your soul.
The true power of forgiveness is that it resets the clock by rewriting the past.
That doesn’t mean the event goes away or didn’t happen. It means you are now creating a new meaning for that event, with a new emotional relationship to what transpired. The pain and interpretation you had for that moment in your life, which is what matters, is what you get to rewrite. As Paul says in Romans, you are renewing your mind and living the Jesus life…the very story of the Gospel.
In Matthew’s gospel story. In chapter 18, we find what Jesus says about this superpower of forgiveness.
“Then Peter came to him and asked, “Lord, how often should I forgive someone who sins against me? Seven times?”  “No, not seven times,” Jesus replied, “but seventy times seven!  “Therefore, the Kingdom of Heaven can be compared to a king who decided to bring his accounts up to date with servants who had borrowed money from him.  In the process, one of his debtors was brought in who owed him millions of dollars.
 He couldn’t pay, so his master ordered that he be sold along with his wife, children, and everything he owned to pay the debt.  “But the man fell before his master and begged him, ‘Please, be patient with me, and I will pay it all.’  Then his master felt pity for him, and he released him and forgave his debt.  “But when the man left the king, he went to a fellow servant who owed him a few thousand dollars. He grabbed him by the throat and demanded instant payment.  “His fellow servant fell before him and begged for a little more time. ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay it,’ he pleaded.
 But his creditor wouldn’t wait. He had the man arrested and imprisoned until the debt could be paid in full.  “When some of the other servants saw this, they were very upset. They went to the king and told him everything that had happened.  Then the king called in the man he had forgiven and said, ‘You evil servant! I forgave you that tremendous debt because you pleaded with me.  Shouldn’t you have mercy on your fellow servant, just as I had mercy on you?’  Then the angry king sent the man to prison to be tortured until he had paid his entire debt.  “That’s what my heavenly Father will do to you if you refuse to forgive your brothers and sisters from your heart.”
Dwight Moody once said, “I believe that the sin causing Christians more difficulty than any other is the sin of an unforgiving spirit.” And he said he believed that unforgiveness, more than any other sin, was holding back the power of God in prayer in the hearts and lives of people.
Forgiveness is a problem that we all must learn to deal with sufficiently. Maybe your heart is hanging on to some heartache or hurt that somebody gave you, and you don’t know how to deal with it.
One of God’s greatest gifts to us is forgiveness. Thank God He has forgiven us. Thank God for His grace that forgives us. Now, to forgive means “to release a debt.”
Think of somebody who has wronged you. And, if you are hanging on to an offense in your heart—somebody who’s done you wrong—and you’ve not settled that in your heart, I want to give you some captivating reasons why you ought to forgive that individual right now.
Forgive Because God Has Forgiven Us
We need to give forgiveness to you because Jesus gave forgiveness to me.
If You Don’t Forgive, You Close the God’s Forgiveness
Jesus says in the Sermon on the Mount, “If you don’t forgive men their trespasses against you, neither will your Heavenly Father forgive you your trespasses against Him.” As long as you have an unforgiving spirit, you cannot get the forgiveness of God. It’s a dangerous thing not to offer forgiveness.
Not Forgiving Will Destroy You Emotionally
Observational studies, and even some randomized trials, suggest that forgiveness is associated with lower levels of depression, anxiety, and hostility; reduced substance abuse; higher self-esteem; and greater life satisfaction.
A Johns Hopkins study suggests that forgiving people tend to be more satisfied with their lives and to have less depression, anxiety, stress, and anger.
The American Phycological Association states that their research has shown that forgiveness is linked to mental health outcomes such as reduced anxiety, depression, and major psychiatric disorders, as well as fewer physical health symptoms and lower mortality rates.
Come on, people! This is spiritually, emotionally, and physically necessary and greatly beneficial. Then why is this superpower left untapped in so many of our lives? Because we are not a naturally humble species. We require a dose of humility to forgive.
Forgiveness requires thought, intention, and action. Forgiveness, however, starts as an inside job. Stating it matters for nothing without the heart and mind in cooperation with the Spirit of God, creating a new and fresh thought (renewing of the mind) and fresh cleansing of the human heart (a blessed power of God at work in us).
Forgiveness has a few requirements:
Forgive Freely • Forgive Completely • Forgive With Finality
It costs you to forgive. You have to taste a little bit of Jesus’ Cross when you forgive, and the way to do that is to let the Spirit of Jesus be at work in you. He is not in me by nature. By nature, we want revenge. Only with the power of Jesus having free and total control of our life can we earnestly forgive.
Even if the offender doesn’t receive your forgiveness, you get it off your heart. And, even if they don’t say I’m sorry, you can refuse to carry that spirit of bitterness in your heart. You have that power! But only in the strength of Christ. Exercise that and watch how your joy radically increases, your emotional health improves, and your attitude grows more like Christ. It’s a total win!
We are fools when we drag these unforgiving balls and chains with us! There’s no reason for us to live in a prison of bitterness or a prison of resentment. Is there anyone that you’re harboring hate against, or carrying a grudge against? Is there bitterness, anger, or revenge in your heart? If you don’t, you will have an acid eating away your soul and it will destroy you.
Friend, this world is full of revenge mentality, and hate-filled speech. Much of it is grounded in unforgiveness. Can we not recognize that unforgiveness will produce bitterness? And bitterness can be directly traced to the failure to forgive. It makes you caustic, sarcastic, condemning, and nasty. Harassed by the memories of what you can’t forgive, your thoughts become malignant toward others, and your whole view of life becomes distorted.
Of all the things that we relinquish when we choose to be unforgiving, peace is at the top of the list. My life, and your life – this world and its inhabitants – are in desperate need of peace. It starts with a forgiving spirit.
Where should you start, today?
Go in Peace, Chuck
Week 28 of 2023 is almost in the books. It’s been a week full of travel to the Yucatán Peninsula. While there, we dug a water well and helped plant a new church. They are amazing people. You can read about what we did in the Yuatán if you want to know more about it here. Enjoy the long days and warm weather. I trust you are ready for a great weekend. Thank you for joining me each week for the 4forFRIDAY.
This Week’s 4forFRIDAY
A really good article from Crosswalk: 10 Verses about Fear and Anxiety to Remind Us God Is in Control
A Restaurant that I loved! Secreto, in Brookhaven
Don’t miss the fried chicken!!
An interesting article: Feeling Exhausted by Your Friends? Here’s How To Identify Social Burnout Symptoms and Ways To Cope
A Quote from Jon Foreman
“The easiest thing to do is throw a rock. It’s a lot harder to create a stained-glass window. I used to get upset at the people who threw rocks, but now I’d rather spend my time building the stained-glass windows.”
Go in Peace, Chuck
I spent the last few days in Ichmul and Chikindzonot. Those are not prisons. They are quaint villages in the middle of the Yucatán Peninsula. I’ve traveled to these villages for several years with my good friend, Mauricio Menesses. Mauricio and his wife, Laura, started a mission work in Ichmul that is so fascinating. These villages and several more like them have a few thousand people each. Most families in the villages do not have floors in their thatch-roof homes. Most do not have running water, and many have no power. Windows are rare; families often share their homes with goats, pigs, and chickens. In short, these are desperately poor folks.
AND YET, they are gracious, kind, welcoming, and gracious. They have problems, but they proved something to me again this week. They proved that you can be at peace with little or much. They are dirt-poor yet keep what they have as clean as possible. They work hard with what they have. They have no healthcare, doctors, air conditioning, or entertainment. No WiFi, cable, or restaurants. They are predominately Mayan people with an odd mixture of faith. There is either a zero-faith system or a mix of witchcraft and catholicism. Clean water and food security is a massive challenge. They walk everywhere. A few folks have little scooters or bikes, but most of these kind folks never wander past a few miles from where they were born.
My purpose in traveling to Yucatán is to bring fresh, clean water, food, and faith to this forgotten part of the world. The goal is to build twenty water wells, twenty churches, twenty community gathering spots, food distribution systems, and meaningful work in each village. I know – like I need one more thing to do. But if you could see these folks, you would be amazed at their resiliency. Somehow, they keep going. They keep striving. They keep caring for their children and sweeping their dirt floors.
But all of that isn’t why I am writing today. I’m writing to convey a simple lesson I keep learning from the women, men, and children in these little villages.
THEY ARE GRACIOUS, KIND, WELCOMING, ACCEPTING, AND GENEROUS…AND HAPPY!
Every home that I have visited over the last few years has welcomed me into their homes without reservation. They share what they have. They are friendly. They are willing to accept you as you are without any judgment or comparison. I’m not sure how many homes I have been in, but I’ve easily been in dozens of homes. In each home, I’ve offered three things. I’ve prayed with the entire family. I’ve offered a listening ear and the story of Jesus and His love for them. In every single home, men and women have chosen to accept Jesus as their gift from a loving God. They have discovered a community of faith. Learned to worship together and enjoy the fellowship of a loving church led by men and women just like them!
Can you imagine what would happen if those folks were to knock on your door one day? When you saw their dirty faces, darkened, leathered faces on Ring doorbell cameras,
would you call the cops or open your home to them?
Would you share your food, drink, and living room, even for a few minutes?
That’s okay. I’m not sure that I would, either. Truth.
But these people didn’t shut me down. They didn’t call the cops. They didn’t give me a lecture. They never turned me away. They welcomed me and shared everything they had. And in that small gesture, they proved Paul’s point in the New Testament. He said, “I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.” But did you know that the precursor to that statement is key to the promise given?
Paul wrote these words…
Not that I was ever in need, for I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little.
For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.
Maybe we folks, here in the Land of the Free and Home of the Brave, have chosen to forget the concept of contentment and exchanged it for greed, selfishness, barbed-wire fences, and our never-ending fight for our rights. Maybe instead of our rights, likes, friends, followers, and platforms, we need to slow this insane pace of life down a bit. We need to know our neighbors and talk with our family. I think we can learn a lesson from the Mayan Yucatán people. Be content with little or with much. Be generous with what we have. Be grateful for what we have instead of pouting and rioting over what we wish we had.
We live in a whacked-out, messed-up world. We live in a radically imperfect nation. But we are more than blessed people. We have problems, but we have problems that are, for the most part, self-inflicted!
Would you be willing to join me in starting each day through the end of July by jotting down two things you are grateful for? Would you be willing to consider opening your home to a neighbor? Would you hold your family tight and thank God for them? AND would you consider praying for the people in the twenty villages that we are attempting to love, serve, and share well?
Please do not read this and assume that I’m doing something special. I am not! I am a blessed man with the privilege of representing you and many more folks like you with the people of Yucatán. Friends, we must learn the secret of how we can do all things through Christ, who strengthens us. And that key is learning to be content with little or with much. Starting with me and my selfish attitude. You and your selfish attitude can join me in this contentment – and gratitude!
Thanks for reading my article today.
Go in Peace,
It was a Sunday afternoon, and I was awakened from my nap that had lasted through six innings of the Braves game. As usual, they were winning. I received a notice from Gwinnett County Police that a Police Chaplain was requested at the scene of a suspected suicide of a twenty-six-year-old male. After coordinating a few details, I grabbed my chaplaincy badge and headed out to meet a fellow chaplain at the home where this tragedy had occurred.
As a police chaplain, my role is to help support the fine women and men of the Gwinnett County Police and serve the folks that are involved in whatever the officers are responding to. I’m still relatively new to GCPD, but I’ve already had enough experience to know that these situations are never easy. They are not easy on the officers and most certainly not on the family.
Upon arrival at the scene, my fellow chaplain and I attempted to comfort the family, aid the officers and assist the family as best we could. As you can imagine, it is a chaotic scene at best. The grief and sadness were palpable.
As the Medical Examiner completed her work and the young man’s body was removed from the home, the mother collapsed in grief. It’s understandable. Grief – unexpected, horrible grief is like a tsunami of emotion that floods your body with a pain that cripples the strongest constitution.
As I attempted, poorly, and yet as best that I could, to comfort this mom, I was praying that the God of all creation might give me something to comfort her and the family that had gathered at her home. After praying with her, I felt led to offer my services and the services of Sugar Hill Church to assist her with any details we could. A simple gesture with a business card.
Two days later, I got a call from my good friend, Dr. Chris Martin. Chris is the principal of Lanier High School. I tell you that because Lanier and the five schools that make up the Lanier Cluster are some of Sugar Hill Church’s finest partners. Chris called to ask if I had heard that an Associate Principal at a local school had experienced a tragic loss and if I could help in any way. He’s that kind of good guy. Naturally, I thought, “Well, sure.” Before I could reach out, my ministry assistant, Beth Sudderth, sent me a note that the mom had reached out about funeral planning. I’m not the sharpest knife in the drawer, so it took me a few hours to put two and two together and realize that these two tragedies were the same.
Sugar Hill Church has a rich heritage of serving our community, but to see a ministry need through the lens of a police chaplain, school partner, and local church pastor converge into a mosaic of service is just beautiful.
After meeting with the family, Beth (a bit like Superman) opened the church and set up the service and the reception to follow, all while the church office was closed and the staff was on vacation. The following Friday, Beth and I greeted the family in the Chapel at Sugar Hill Church. Zach Brown, our Worship Pastor, fired up the sound system, and a few hundred people gathered to celebrate the life of a young artist that had chosen to end his life far too early.
My father once told me that my role was simple as he assisted me in the first funeral I ever preached. I can hear him, like it was this morning, “Son, nobody wants to hear you preach today. Honor the deceased, honor their family, and honor the Lord, then pray and sit down.” That was great advice. I knew my role and have attempted to do just that for 200+ funerals.
As the crowd gathered and the family plans unfolded, I realized that Beth, Zach, and I were the only white people in the room. That this service was in this chapel, with musicians, speakers, and preachers that had never been here before, blessed me in such a special way. The music was spirit-filled and God-honoring, and those that spoke, including the female Evangelist that delivered the eulogy, was so on point.
All that was left to be said was my typical blessing. If you aren’t familiar with the blessing, it goes like this:
“May you allow Jesus to go before you and make a way and make your crooked path straight.
That is what He does.
May you allow Jesus to go within you as He delivers peace, joy, fulfillment, and contentment?
Because you are always loved, and He is always good.
And, when life gets difficult, and it will, may you allow Jesus to come along and carry you.
Not around your challenges but through the middle of them. That way, you can hear Him say, as He draws you up close to Himself, wipes away your tears, and kisses you on the forehead,
My Child…I LOVE YOU!”
The crowd worshipped, praised, and encouraged throughout the service and continued through the blessing. Did I say that I was blessed? It was electric. It was unlike any funeral I had been a part of. It was worshipful, and I saw dozens of people come forward to pray and be blessed.
At the graveside, it began to rain. It was 92 degrees, and a large crowd had journeyed to the gravesite. Again, I heard my father’s words. “Honor the young man. Honor the family. Honor the Lord. Pray and sit down. So I did.
We then returned to the church, ate together, and celebrated this young man’s life.
I tell you all of these things to make two observations.
- People. Black, white, brown, purple. When we choose to love people as Jesus loves people, our differences fade away, and the presence of God overcomes them. If you are a police officer, a principal, a pastor, or a hurting family, love does indeed conquer every difference! Great things happen when you choose to honor people and honor the Lord. When you offer to do the right thing, at the right time, for the right reason, God overwhelms you with His goodness.
- Jesus said that if you want to be great, serve others. This experience proves the point in tremendous ways. A broken-hearted mother is comforted by a school principal, police officers, a medical examiner, and police chaplains. All become a community that loves her. A church that opened its door and resources to people that had no connectivity to that church. A police department that invests in chaplains to serve both police officers and the community they serve, and a flexible, servant-minded church staff that loves people. And what did that bring forth? A blessed, gospel-centric, God-honoring worship that comforted and encouraged people into the Kingdom of God. I had the privilege to serve people in need, witness God at work in their grief, and experience what bonds us when the entire world is fractured – Jesus.
Yes, the world is brutal. Yes, this was a horrific tragedy. We were from multiple backgrounds, colors, faith systems, and career paths. We were, I’m certain, in different and varying political positions. But in the moments of grief, when ego, logo, and titles are set aside, and Jesus is lifted up, and service to others is front and center, GREAT THINGS HAPPEN.
Thank you, Gwinnett County Police.
Thank you, Gwinnett County Police Chaplains.
Thank you, Sargeant Michelle Pihara.
Thank you, Chaplain Randy Kennedy.
Thank you, Principal Chris Martin.
Thank you, Beth Sudderth.
Thank you, Zach Brown.
Thank you, Nathan Cooley.
Thank you, Sugar Hill Church.
Thank you to the family, friends, and fellow worshipers who honored the young man, the family, and the Lord.
As promised in the title of this article, REDEMPTION. The Divine has the most beautiful way to redeem our broken, sorrow-filled days with hope, peace, and promise. When we see other people as God intended, we see His redemption power at work in the midst of crisis. If ever there was a time for America to serve others, it is right now. If we were to choose the power of selfless service over political power, and kindness over personal gain, we might see unity over division and hope over despair.
I’ll say it again for the people in the cheap seats:
When we do the right things for the right reason at the right time,
GREAT THINGS HAPPEN.
Go in Peace,