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"Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, 'Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?' Jesus answered, 'I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.'" (Matthew 18:21-22 NIV)
"The mail must go through!" The brave, adventurous, and daring riders of America's Pony Express used that motto that properly expressed the indomitable can-do attitude of these young servants who kept the news of our developing nation flowing to towns from St. Joseph, Missouri to Sacramento, California. Even if one horse riding mail carrier sustained a life threatening injury, he still had to make an effort to get the mail through. If all else failed, how did the mail get through? The well thought out system of relay stations provided for a fresh horse and if need be - a fresh rider to take the reins, then with a quick jump in to the saddle and an exuberant yell, off went the mail to the folks waiting down the line.
"Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds," later became the motto for the Postal Service. Both of these mottos also reflect the attitude of modern missionary workers who dedicate themselves to making sure that the Gospel message of salvation gets to all people. When Jesus gave the marching orders for the church in the first century, those who heard his orders understood that nothing should hinder the work of answering the call to carry the Gospel to all people. After all, it is the message of truth that brings freedom. Every human soul longs for the freedom that is central to the Gospel message. All people are enslaved to sin, and if something is not done, the only hope for sinners is eternal death. The Gospel message contains hope for all people who will believe in Jesus Christ as the Son of God and accept the pardon that he offers. This pardon was made possible because Christ took the punishment for our sins upon himself. All who truly believe and obey Christ can live with an honest feeling of freedom as they walk along the straight and narrow road that leads to eternal life. The Gospel message continues to be published far and wide in America. It is not the same in many other countries. That is why people answer the call to take the Gospel to lost souls on the large continents and the island nations of the world.
This is my last column that I write as the local preacher for the Cedar Key Church of Christ. Galina and I have an unusual opportunity to spend more time in the Former Soviet Union teaching the Gospel and showing God's love to people there who have not yet heard about God's saving grace. We love our work in Cedar Key, and love people in the community. Our leaving now is just part of our continued work for the Lord. We believe, hope and pray that God will provide the church with someone else to do an even better job of leading by teaching and example. Thank you all our many dear friends in Cedar Key for making us feel completely at home in this special community. I promised the editor of the Beacon that I will occasionally send in some news about our whereabouts and activities. In the future when we are in the States, we plan to stop by town and after driving around the dock, we may just hang out for a few minutes at one of our many favorite restaurants, the City Hall, the Historical Society or the Church of Christ. We hope to see you before we leave town, but if not, we hope to see you later. Following is one of my favorite lessons to preach from a previous article.
In Mocksville, North Carolina where I was born and started school, we had the Low School and the High School. When I started the First Grade, my older brother and older sisters all got to use pencils with an eraser. However, in Miss Rose Kimball's class we had to use those big pencils without an eraser. That was my big terror. It seemed to me that those prissy girls who sat around me could already make their letters perfectly. No matter how hard I tried or how firmly I held my mouth, my alphabet letters never seemed to please Miss Rose. She would preach to us to take our time and make our writing exactly like the chart on the wall.
When I first went to do mission work in Russia, one of the first things I noticed was that all schoolchildren must use a ballpoint pen in their schoolwork. This also applies to homework. I could understand the pressure that puts on the kids to do their work right the first time. The pencil with an eraser is a wonderful invention for those of us prone to mistakes. It is often impossible to hide our mistakes - whether in handwriting or in life situations. That is why we must learn to own up to our mistakes, and be willing to forgive others who offend us.
Wouldn't it be wonderful in life if we had a big magical eraser that would allow us to just wipe away the times when we carelessly uttered a hurtful word at someone, or when we concocted a lie in order to make ourselves appear bigger than life. Such an eraser is just what Jesus recommends. We call it forgiveness. It is what we all desire - the chance to start all over with a clean paper.
How many people in your past are waiting for you to own up to the terrible things you did or said that hurt them? Are we carrying grudges against someone who said something to us in High School - and we constantly refuse to forgive them? This strong resentment leads to serious physical, mental, emotional and spiritual problems. The answer that Jesus gave to Peter is that we must learn to be quick to forgive and forgive as often as we are offended. After all, is that not what we expect God to do with us?
We have no doubt all heard and most likely spoken what we know as the Lord's Prayer. In that example prayer, Jesus is teaching that we should ask God to forgive our trespasses. Now listen to the commentary that Christ gives about asking God to forgive us. "For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins." (Matthew 6:14-15 NIV)
What are we waiting for? Are we waiting on someone to come crawling to us before the whole town or the church, and publicly degrade himself or herself so that we can be exonerated? Today is a good day to take out that pencil with the magical eraser of forgiveness and start a new life by wiping out those trespasses that people have made against us.
Are we guilty of trespassing upon the good nature of our fellow Christians or fellow citizens? Perhaps we are guilty of a greater misdeed of violating our marriage vows that we made before God and men. In that case, we must confess our sins in order to enjoy the benefits of forgiveness. "He who conceals his sins does not prosper, but whoever confesses and renounces them finds mercy." (Proverbs 28:13 NIV) Jesus very plainly teaches about the need to make things right with those we have offended. "Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift." (Matthew 5:23-24 NIV) We can all make a new start by repenting, forgiving and forgiving.
You are invited to attend the services of the Church of Christ at the corner of 3rd and E Streets. Write me with any questions or comments David Binkley, Sr., P.O. Box 186, Cedar Key, FL 32625 or E-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. You may also request to receive the daily WORD OF THE DAY by e-mail. Check out our web site at www.cedarkeychurchofchrist.com.