1254) The Man Who Led the Attack on Pearl Harbor Meets Jesus

MitsuoFuchida.jpg

Captain Mitsuo Fuchida  (1902-1976)

————–

     Mitsuo Fuchida was born on December 3, 1902 in Nagao, Japan.  Thirty-nine years and four days later he led the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.  His story, told in his own words, tells of the mark he left on history— and the mark God left on him.

     I must admit I was more excited than usual as I awoke that morning at 3:00 a.m. Hawaii time.  As General Commander of the Air Squadron, I made last minute checks on the intelligence information reports in the Operations Room before going to warm up my single-engine three-seater plane.

     The sunrise in the east was magnificent above the white clouds as I led 360 planes towards Hawaii.  I knew my objective:  to surprise and cripple the American naval force in the Pacific.

     Like a hurricane out of nowhere, my torpedo planes, dive-bombers, and fighters struck suddenly with indescribable fury.  It was the most thrilling exploit of my career…

     Four years later, when the war ended, it was the end of my military career.  I became more and more unhappy, especially when the war crime trials opened in Tokyo.  Though I was never accused, General Douglas MacArthur summoned me to testify on several occasions.

     As I got off the train one day in Tokyo’s Shibuya Station, I saw an American distributing literature.  He handed me a pamphlet entitled “I Was a Prisoner of Japan.”  What I read eventually changed my life.  On that Sunday while I was in the air over Pearl Harbor, an American soldier named Jacob DeShazer had been on K.P. duty in an army camp in California.  When the radio announced the sneak attack which demolished Pearl Harbor, he shouted “Japs, just wait and see what we’re going to do to you.”

     One month later he volunteered for a secret mission with the Jimmy Doolittle Squadron– a surprise raid on Tokyo.  After the bombing raid, they flew on towards China but ran out of fuel and were forced to parachute into Japanese-held territory.  During the next 40 long months in confinement, DeShazer was cruelly treated.  After 25 months the U.S. prisoners were given a Bible to read…  There in a Japanese P.O.W. camp, he read and read— and eventually came to understand that the book was more than a historical classic.

     After DeShazer was released, he returned to Japan as a missionary, and in God’s providence gave Fuchida the tract he had written.  Fuchida continues:

     The peaceful motivation I had read about in the pamphlet was exactly what I was seeking.  Since the American had found it in the Bible, I decided to purchase one myself, despite my traditional Buddhist heritage.

     In the weeks that followed I read this book eagerly.  I came to the climactic drama— the Crucifixion.  I read in Luke 23:34 the prayer of Jesus Christ at His death: “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.”  I was impressed that I was certainly one of those for whom He had prayed.  The many men I had killed had been slaughtered in the name of patriotism, for I did not yet know anything about the love of Christ  that he wishes to implant within every heart.

     Right at that moment I seemed to meet Jesus for the first time.  I understood the meaning of His death as a substitute for my wickedness; and so in prayer, I requested Him to forgive my sins, and change me from a bitter, disillusioned ex-pilot into a well-balanced Christian with purpose in living…

     I believe with all my heart that those who will direct Japan— and all other nations— in the decades to come must not ignore the message of Christ.  He is the only hope for this troubled world.

Image result for mitsuo fuchida

For Jacob Deshazer’s story  go to:

http://www.emailmeditations.wordpress.com/2016/01/19/1013-forgiving-the-enemy/

**********************************************

I Timothy 1:13-14  —  Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief.  The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.

I Timothy 1:15-16  —  Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance:  Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners— of whom I am the worst.  But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life.

Romans 5:10  —  For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!

**********************************************

“Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

–Jesus, Luke 23:34

1064) “It’s Not Easy”

Ruby Bridges, 1960

———

     Robert Coles, the distinguished child psychiatrist, went to New Orleans in the 1960s to help black children living with the trauma of trying to integrate their schools.  Ruby Bridges was the first black child to help desegregate her public school in New Orleans.  Every day Ruby would walk to school guarded by Federal Marshals who escorted her through an angry mob of protesters, some of whom were yelling terrible things at little Ruby.  Dr. Coles was quite concerned about Ruby and what effect all this hatred would have on the rest of her life.  He knew, as a psychiatrist, that she was probably having trouble eating, sleeping, and carrying on her normal routine.  Every day he interviewed her and would ask, “Ruby, how are you sleeping?”  She would reply, “I’m sleeping just fine.”  Coles would pursue the question, “Then I bet you aren’t eating too well, are you?”  And Ruby would answer, “I’m eating just fine.”  Every day he would ask the questions and she responded in the same say:  “I’m just fine.”

     Finally, one day he heard Ruby’s teacher say that she had noticed that Ruby seemed to be talking to herself when she walked through the angry mob every morning.  Dr. Coles asked her what she was saying as she walked through that line of angry people.  She told him she said, “Please be with me God, and be with these people too.  Forgive them, because they don’t know what they are doing.”

     What strength Ruby received from prayer and forgiveness!  God was with her, and she was ‘just fine.’

————————-

Ruby Bridges (quoted by Robert Coles in Walker Percy: An American Search):

I ask myself if it’s worth it.  I ask myself why God made people like those white people who shout all those bad words at me.  I ask myself if it makes any sense, to keep walking by them, and trying to smile at them, and trying to be polite, when I’d like to see them all dead.  I would!  But the minister says we are tested; that’s why we’re put here in the world, to be tested.  So, I guess I ought to thank those white folks.  They’re testing me.

I try to talk to God when I walk past them.  I ask Him to please help me do what is right and to know what I should do.  It’s not easy, knowing what to do.  I’ll bet you can find some people who have grown old, and they still aren’t sure how you’re supposed to live your life.  They’re still wondering what’s it all about.  My grandfather is one of those people.  That’s what he always asks:  ‘What’s it all about?’  He takes his whiskey when he comes home from his job, and he sits on the porch in his rocking chair.  While he’s sitting and he’s sipping, he does his asking.  He asks God a lot of questions, and he asks my momma and my poppa, and he asks himself, and he’ll even ask me.

The other day, he said to me, ‘Little one, why do you do like you do?’  I knew what he was asking.  I told him that I’d heard the Sunday School teacher tell us that we’re here to do the best we can to be good.  I try to be good.  When those white people tell me they’ll kill me, I bite my lip.  I don’t answer them back the way they talk to me.  I try to pray for them.  I don’t really want to, but I do.  I wonder, sometimes, if they ever stop and ask themselves why they are put here in this world.  If we don’t ask why we’re here, we’re lost in the woods.

———————————

The Problem We All Live With, by Norman Rockwell, depicting Ruby Bridges going to school

—————————–

Ruby Bridges Hall (1954- ) tells her story at:

http://www.rubybridges.com/story.htm

***************************************************

Luke 23:34a  —  Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”

Colossians 3:12-13  —  Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.  Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone.  Forgive as the Lord forgave you.

2 Corinthians 13:11  —   Finally, brothers and sisters, rejoice!  Strive for full restoration, encourage one another, be of one mind, live in peace.  And the God of love and peace will be with you.

***************************************************

Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.

–Lord’s Prayer

1050) Death Row Conversion

 Posted at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution website on Saturday, March 30, 2013, by Shelia M. Poole; with additional notes from and article posted as http://www.cbn.com

——————————–

Billy Neal Moore spent 16 years on death row for killing a man. Today, he is an ordained minister who speaks to inmates about an act of forgiveness that saved his life. photo

Billy Neal Moore spent 16 years on death row for killing a man. Today, he is an ordained minister who speaks to inmates about an act of forgiveness that saved his life. photo

Billy Neal Moore spent 16 years on death row for killing a man. Today, he is an ordained minister who speaks to inmates about an act of forgiveness that saved his life.

     William “Billy” Neal Moore stands in the gymnasium of the medium-security Floyd County Prison and meets the eyes of convicted thieves and drug dealers as they come into the room.  Many of the inmates hug Moore as they walk into the gym.  A handful hold back, perhaps thinking any show of emotion is a sign of weakness they can’t afford in prison.  The soft-spoken Moore is there for a three-day revival.  He stands before the prisoners and cites a passage from the Bible:  For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.  But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.  Then he pauses and meets their gaze, looking from one to the other, directly in their eyes.

     “Do you know what forgiveness is?” he asks them.  Most of the men nod in response.  But then Moore hits them with a question that makes many of them shift uncomfortably in their seats:  “What if someone murdered one of your family members?  Could you forgive them?”

     Moore was once on the other side of that question.  He spent 16 1/2 years on death row after he confessed to murdering a man during an armed robbery nearly 40 years ago.  And it wasn’t until the family of his victim forgave him, that he could forgive himself.  It was an act that saved his soul and his life…

     In 1974 Moore was a 22-year-old Army specialist stationed at nearby Fort Gordon.  He and his wife, who lived in Ohio, were having marital trouble, so he had brought his 2-year-old son to live with him.  But he had a problem paying his bills.  He had previously authorized the Army to send his paychecks to his wife, and now it would take 90 days to make the change.  But he did not have 90 days.  He had fallen behind on his rent, was running out of food, and needed money fast.  Billy sought help from various charities and pled with the military to speed up the process of getting his funds to him, but no one could help.

     He heard about a man who carried a lot of cash.  Moore had no criminal record, but late one warm night in April, while he was high on marijuana and Jack Daniels, Moore broke into the home of 77-year-old Fredger Stapleton.  Moore was met with a shotgun blast and he fired back with his .38-caliber revolver, killing Stapleton.  Moore rummaged around the house and found two wallets in a pair of pants under a pillow and stuck them in a pocket.  Then he grabbed both guns and took off.

     When Moore got home, he emptied out the wallets and discovered more than $5,000.  But instead of elation, he was overcome with fear and shame.  He knew the cops would be coming for him, so he called his sister and asked her to come and get his little son.  Then he waited…

     The sheriff and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation arrived the next day, and Moore confessed.  An officer said he would make sure Moore got the death penalty, but Moore said he didn’t care. 

     Those first few hours in jail were desperate ones for Moore.  “My heart was killing me,” he said.  “There was no way I could fix this.  When you take someone’s life, you can’t give it back.  Not only had I killed a man, but I hurt his family.  I destroyed my son’s life and hurt my family.”

     He was so grief-stricken by his actions, he borrowed a razor from a fellow inmate and contemplated slitting his throat.  He wasn’t a religious man, but Moore said he heard a voice that said killing himself would not relieve him of his guilt, shame or pain and would just be taking another life.

     On July 17, 1974, Moore was sentenced to death.  Execution was set for Sept. 13, 1974.

     A cousin in Ohio told Moore he needed to get right with the Lord, but Moore wasn’t hearing it.  But a week before Moore’s date with the electric chair, Pastor Nealon Guthrie paid the prisoner a visit.  When the minister arrived, Moore and some other inmates were playing cards through the bars for nickels, dimes and pennies.

     “My eyes fell on him and I said, ‘My God, that could be my son,’” said Guthrie, who still maintains a fatherly relationship with Moore.  The two men bonded immediately. “I could tell he was very remorseful.  He didn’t try to blame anybody.  He was never resentful.  He just said he was sorry.”

     Guthrie told Moore that although a judge in Georgia had sentenced him to death, there was a “just judge named Jesus Christ” who “died to save people like you.”  He told Moore that somehow God would bring him through this trying time.  Then they prayed together, and before Guthrie left that day, he baptized Moore in a prison bathtub with two trustee inmates as witnesses.

     Moore said he felt a peace that he had never experienced before.  “I was freed me from a lot of the pain I had been carrying for years,” he said.

     Moore’s execution date came and went, and three days later he received a letter from his lawyer.  He had neglected to advise Moore that there is an automatic appeal for death penalty cases.  Moore fired the lawyer and decided to represent himself.

     He requested a copy of the police report and discovered it contained the names and addresses of the victim’s family.  Then he did something that changed the course of his life.  He wrote to Stapleton’s niece, Sara Stapleton Farmer, and apologized for killing her uncle.

     The letter was simple but hard to write.  “I want you to know that I am truly sorry for all the pain and suffering that I have caused each one of you,” Moore wrote.  “And if you can find it in your hearts to forgive me, I really would truly appreciate it.  But if you don’t, I understand because I don’t forgive myself for the terrible suffering I have brought you all.”

     A week later he received a response.  “Dear Billy,’ she wrote, “we are Christians and we forgive you and pray to God for your soul and hope for the best in your life.”  Moore was stunned.

     “This was showing me this is what real Christian people do,” he said. “That really helped me because I’m still hurting and I’m writing to hurting people.  And they’re helping me.”

     Then he began to wonder:  How do you do that?  How do you get to that place of forgiveness?  He wrote back and thus began a letter-writing relationship that lasted for many years.  Stapleton’s family even fed and housed Moore’s family members and legal team when they came to visit him in prison.

     “It took them six years of writing me to get me to the point I could forgive myself,” Moore said…

     People can be cynical about jailhouse conversions, but Moore seemed sincere.  He became an ordained minister through Aenon Bible College.  He led a Bible study group for other inmates.  He prayed with them.  He baptized some.  He became known as a peacemaker, settling disputes between inmates.  Even some of the guards, who used to hassle him, started leaving him alone.

     His death penalty case began to receive national attention as his execution was postponed 13 times over the course of 16 years.  Not only did world famous death penalty opponents including Mother Teresa speak out on Moore’s behalf, but members of Stapleton’s family also begged for clemency.

     Nevertheless, his appeals continued to be denied.  Eventually all of his appeals were exhausted, and his execution was set for Aug. 22, 1990.  But 20 hours before his scheduled execution, Moore’s sentence was commuted to life by the Georgia Board of Pardons and Parole.

     “This was a heinous crime and we do not excuse the conduct,” said then-parole board chairman Wayne Snow Jr.  “But to say the least, the board was impressed that we had the family of the victim urging clemency. That is not something we often see.”  Moore was released from Reidsville State Prison in 1991.

     “God was with me all the time,” he said.

     The old Billy Moore no longer exists.  The new Billy Moore travels the world telling his story to churches, colleges, prisons and high schools.  He’s spoken to Yale University, Berry College, Cambridge University, and Amnesty International.  He talks about redemption, forgiveness, and faith.

     When Moore speaks to a class, students are spellbound, said Stephen B. Bright, senior counsel of the Southern Center for Human Rights.  “It’s important for students to hear from someone who is actually guilty,” said Bright.  “Billy is a living demonstration that there is such a thing as redemption.  Somebody can be involved in committing a very bad act and spend the rest of his life doing very good things.”

     For Moore it’s payback.  “I think about (Stapleton and his family) all the time,” said Moore.  “That is one of the reasons I do what I do.  It helps to pay back what they gave to me to help keep young people from getting into trouble…”

       When he speaks to inmates, he talks about life on the outside and how it can be different when they’re released.  He feels most alive when talking with people who think they don’t have many options.  “This allows me to teach them what real forgiveness is, what God has done for us and what a family did for me,” Moore said.

     Sara Farmer died last year, but not before she was able to speak one last time with Moore.  Moore told her that the story about her family’s forgiveness was being heard around the world.  “Every place I go, I talk about Sara Farmer and her family and I put out a challenge: ‘Are you open to this type of forgiveness?’”

————-

“Christ forgave me and the same way and the same power is extended to everyone.  A lot of people think that I’m special and that God’s done something special for me.  But when we look at it, He did something special for all of us when He died on the cross.  As He said, ‘Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.’”

–Billy Moore

***************************************************

Romans 7:24-25  —  What a wretched man I am!  Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death?  Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!

I Timothy 1:15-16  —  Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance:  Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the worst.  But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life.

***************************************************

Forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us.

–Jesus, Luke 11:4

1032) Alone With Your Thoughts?

 

The Last Supper by Fritz von Uhde  (1886)

—————

     During his Last Supper with the disciples, on the night before he died on the cross, Jesus passed around some bread and wine, told the disciples it was his body and blood, and said it was given for the forgiveness of their sins (Matthew 26:26-28).

     Just before that (verse 21), Jesus had said to the group, “I tell you the truth, one of you will betray me,” and they were shocked.  Judas had told no one of the betrayal he planned and all were confused by what Jesus said.  But Jesus knew what was in the heart of Judas.  At the same meal, Peter had boldly and courageously proclaimed his loyalty to Jesus, saying he would even die for him.  But Jesus saw also into his heart, and knew Peter better than Peter knew himself.  Jesus said to him, “Before the rooster crows tomorrow morning, you will deny three times that you even know me.”  Jesus knew exactly what was in the hearts and minds of all the disciples, predicting that they would all run away that night and abandon him (verse 31).  Everyone acted in just the way that Jesus said they would.  He knew what was in their hearts.

     That is a frightening thought.  It is frightening because Jesus knows us in the same way, he knows everything that is in our hearts and minds.  John 2:25 says of Jesus, “He did not need anyone to tell him anything, for he himself knew what was in man.”

     Think about that the next time you receive Holy Communion.  Jesus not only sees everything you do, he also sees into your heart.  He knows your prejudices and hatreds; he knows who you are jealous of and what you are bitter about; and he sees your selfish spirit.  Jesus knows when you are unforgiving.  He knows your most secret and hidden sins.  He knows all about you are most ashamed of.  He knows you better than you know yourself.  Even when you are able to pull the wool over your own eyes with the excuses you tell yourself, Jesus knows better.

     I am amazed when I see on the news how much of our lives is now being filmed.  I think of that when I see those film clips of criminals the police are trying to find.  The cameras are all over.  If you go into the bank, you are being filmed.  If you go into a shopping center, your entrance is recorded, and, you have already been filmed out in the parking lot.  When you fill up with gas, the sign says you are on camera, and when you go into the convenience store, your every move is being filmed.  This is a little unnerving when you think about it.  But of course, unless you are trying to rob the place, who cares if someone you don’t even know is watching you pick your nose or sees do some scratching you wouldn’t otherwise be doing on camera?

     Still, I prefer my privacy and don’t much care for someone watching my every move.  But what about someone knowing our every thought; and that someone being not just some stranger, but Jesus?  The disciples had been with Jesus for three years, and they had seen him see into the thoughts of others.  It must have been very uncomfortable for them to know Jesus was also seeing into their hearts and minds, as he was at that last supper.  

     In the same way, Jesus knows all about you, all the time.  Don’t you sometimes, or even oftentimes, want to just be alone with your thoughts?  But you are never alone with your thoughts, and we all have much in our thoughts and in our memories and in our hearts to be ashamed of.  As one writer put it, “We all have thoughts that would shame hell.”

     Yet, as unpleasant as this is, it is that very thing that makes Holy Communion all the more wonderful.  Because it was at that same meal, after Jesus saw into everyone’s hearts and saw all the same dirt there that he had been seeing for the past three years with them; and then predicted their denial, betrayal, and desertion that very night; after all that, Jesus still offered them the bread and wine for the forgiveness of their sins, saying “This is my body and my blood, given for you.”  By that time the very next night, his actual physical body would be broken and bloodied and dead in the tomb, sacrificed for the forgiveness of all those sins and all of ours.

     Whenever you receive Communion, remember two things.  First, remember how well Jesus knows you and how he sees everything, even into the depths of your heart.  Then remember that even though he knows you as he does, Jesus has still invited you to come and receive His forgiveness.

********************************************

John 2:25  —  There was no need for anyone to tell Jesus about them, because he knew what was in their hearts.

Matthew 26:31a  —  Then Jesus told them, “This very night you will all fall away on account of me…”

Matthew 26:26-28  —  While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take and eat; this is my body.”  Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, saying,“Drink from it, all of you.  This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.”

********************************************

Lord, I am indeed unworthy that you should come under my roof, but I need and long for your help and grace so that I may walk in the right path.  Therefore, I come to you, trusting only in the comforting words which I have heard, in which you invite me to your table and say to me, who is so unworthy, that I will receive forgiveness of my sins through your body and blood, if I eat and drink of this sacrament.  Relying on this promise, I eat and drink with you.  Let it be to me according to your will and Word.  Amen.

–Martin Luther  (1483-1546)

1013) Forgiving the Enemy

     Jacob DeShazer was a young air force recruit in California when he first heard the news of the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941.  Furious at what the Japanese had done, he resolved to retaliate personally.  In April of 1942 he got his chance.  He was selected to be a B-25 bombardier when Doolittle’s raiders made their daring attack on Tokyo.

Jacob DeShazer (1912-2008)

     During that dangerous mission, DeShazer’s plane went down and the crew had to bail out over enemy territory.  DeShazer was captured and spent the next 40 months as a prisoner of war, most in solitary confinement.  Three of his buddies were executed and another died slowly of starvation.

     With plenty of time to think, Jacob began to wonder what it was that made people hate each other.  He thought he remembered that the Bible had something to say about loving and forgiving our enemies.

     He asked his jailers for a Bible and eventually received one.  He read and reread it with fascination.  Ten days into his study, he asked God to forgive his sins.  “After that,” he said, “when I looked at the enemy officers and guards, I realized that if Christ is not in a heart, it is natural to be cruel.  My bitter hatred was then changed into loving pity.”  Jacob remembered Jesus’ words from the cross, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do,” and he asked God to forgive those who tortured him.

     Fourteen months later, in August of 1945, American troops liberated the prison camp that held Jacob DeShazer.  After the war, a chaplain on General MacArthur’s staff was looking for ways to heal the animosity between the United States and Japan.  He heard about DeShazer’s prison conversion, and had the story written and printed.  Before long, DeShazer’s story was being circulated in a pamphlet called I Was a Prisoner in Japan.

     There was also much serious soul searching in Japan after the war.  Japanese Navy pilot Mitsuo Fuchida was the chief commander of the attack on Pearl Harbor. He had advised against attacking the United States, but when given orders to proceed, he led the assault.

Mitsuo Fuchida  (1902-1976)

     Throughout the war, Fuchida was involved in hundreds of combat missions.  But his closest brush with death was on the ground in Japan.  He was in Hiroshima the day before the atom bomb was dropped there.  His life was spared because orders had come for him to go to Tokyo.

     When the war ended, Fuchida returned home.  One day he was given a copy of the booklet that told the story of Jacob DeShazer.  Intrigued, Fucida began reading the Bible.  Despite his upbringing in the Shinto religion, he came to believe in the Bible’s message and accepted Jesus Christ as his Savior.

     Eventually, Mitsuo Fuchida and Jacob DeShazer met.  They became good friends, and for many years traveled together, speaking in churches about their experiences and their own conversions.  Tens of thousands of Japanese became converted to Christianity because of their story.

     It all began when Jacob Deshazer was moved by the example of Jesus Christ to forgive his enemies.

———————

“I read in Luke 23:34 the prayer of Jesus Christ at His death: ‘Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.’  I was impressed that I was certainly one of those for whom He had prayed.  The many men I had killed had been slaughtered in the name of patriotism, for I did not understand the love which Christ wishes to implant within every heart.  Right at that moment, I seemed to meet Jesus for the first time.  I understood the meaning of His death as a substitute for my wickedness, and so in prayer, I requested Him to forgive my sins.”  –Mitsuo Fuchida

———————

**************************************

Matthew 5:43-44  —  (Jesus said), “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’  But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”

Luke 23:33-34a  —  When they came to the place called the Skull, they crucified him there, along with the criminals; one on his right, the other on his left.  Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”

Acts 7:59-60  —  While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.”  Then he fell on his knees and cried out, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.”  When he had said this, he fell asleep.

Romans 5:10  —  For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!

**************************************

“Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

–Jesus, Luke 23:34

848) C. S. Lewis’s Essay on Forgiveness (part two of two)

     (…continued)  There are two remedies for this danger.  One is to remember that God knows all the real excuses very much better than we do.  If there are real “extenuating circumstances” there is no fear that He will overlook them.  Often He must know many excuses that we have never even thought of, and therefore humble souls will, after death, have the delightful surprise of discovering that on certain occasions they sinned much less than they thought.  All the real excusing He will do.  What we have got to take to Him is the inexcusable bit, the sin.  We are only wasting our time talking about all the parts which can (we think) be excused.  When you go to a doctor you show him the bit of you that is wrong – say, a broken arm.  It would be a mere waste of time to keep on explaining that your legs and throat and eyes are all right.  You may be mistaken in thinking so, and anyway, if they are really right, the doctor will know that.

     The second remedy is really and truly to believe in the forgiveness of sins.  A great deal of our anxiety to make excuses comes from not really believing in it, from thinking that God will not take us to Himself again unless He is satisfied that some sort of case can be made out in our favor.  But that would not be forgiveness at all.  Real forgiveness means looking steadily at the sin, the sin that is left over without any excuse, after all allowances have been made, and seeing it in all its horror, dirt, meanness, and malice, and nevertheless being wholly reconciled to the man who has done it.  That, and only that, is forgiveness, and that we can always have from God if we ask for it.

     When it comes to a question of our forgiving other people, it is partly the same and partly different.  It is the same because, here also forgiving does not mean excusing.  Many people seem to think it does.  They think that if you ask them to forgive someone who has cheated or bullied them you are trying to make out that there was really no cheating or bullying.  But if that were so, there would be nothing to forgive.  They keep on replying, “But I tell you, the man broke a most solemn promise.”  Exactly:  that is precisely what you have to forgive.  (This doesn’t mean that you must necessarily believe his next promise.  It does mean that you must make every effort to kill every taste of resentment in your own heart – every wish to humiliate or hurt him or to pay him out.)  The difference between this situation and the one in which you are asking God’s forgiveness is this.  In our own case we accept excuses too easily, in other people’s we do not accept them easily enough.  As regards my own sins it is a safe bet (though not a certainty) that the excuses are not really so good as I think; as regards other men’s sins against me it is a safe bet (though not a certainty) that the excuses are better than I think.  One must therefore begin by attending to everything which may show that the other man was not so much to blame as we thought.  But even if he is absolutely fully to blame we still have to forgive him; and even if ninety-nine per cent of his apparent guilt can be explained away by really good excuses, the problem of forgiveness begins with the one per cent of guilt that is left over.  To excuse what can really produce good excuses is not Christian charity; it is only fairness.  To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable, because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you.

     This is hard.  It is perhaps not so hard to forgive a single great injury.  But to forgive the incessant provocations of daily life – to keep on forgiving the bossy mother-in-law, the bullying husband, the nagging wife, the selfish daughter, the deceitful son – How can we do it?  Only, I think, by remembering where we stand, by meaning our words when we say in our prayers each night “Forgive our trespasses as we forgive those that trespass against us.”  We are offered forgiveness on no other terms.  To refuse it is to refuse God’s mercy for ourselves.  There is no hint of exceptions and God means what He says.

*********************************************

Psalm 103:8-12:

The Lord is compassionate and gracious,
    slow to anger, abounding in love.
He will not always accuse,
    nor will he harbor his anger forever;
he does not treat us as our sins deserve
    or repay us according to our iniquities.
For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
    so great is his love for those who fear him;
as far as the east is from the west,
    so far has he removed our transgressions from us.

*********************************************

Have mercy on us, O Lord, have mercy on us.  

Since we have no excuse for our sinfulness, we can only offer You this prayer, O Master: Have mercy on us.

–From an old prayer

847) C. S. Lewis’s Essay on Forgiveness (part one of two)

1 Church5

St. Mary the Virgin Church, Sawston, England, oldest part of church was built in 1066 A. D.

————————

There have been quotes from this essay in previous Emailmeditations, but the next two meditations will contain the entire piece.  Lewis wrote this as an article for a parish newsletter at the request of Father Patrick Kevin Irwin (1907-1965), who at that time was serving at the Church of St. Mary the Virgin, in Sawston, Cambridgeshire county, in England.  However, Father Irwin was transferred to another parish before it could be published.  Many years later, after Father Irwin died, family members discovered the manuscript among his papers.  It was first published in 1975.  

—————–

     We say a great many things in church (and out of church too) without thinking of what we are saying.  For instance, we say in the Creed “I believe in the forgiveness of sins.”  I had been saying it for several years before I asked myself why it was in the Creed.  At first sight it seems hardly worth putting in.  “If one is a Christian,” I thought, “of course one believes in the forgiveness of sins. It goes without saying.”  But the people who compiled the Creed apparently thought that this was a part of our belief which we needed to be reminded of every time we went to church.  And I have begun to see that, as far as I am concerned, they were right.  To believe in the forgiveness of sins is not so easy as I thought.  Real belief in it is the sort of thing that easily slips away if we don’t keep on polishing it up.

     We believe that God forgives us our sins; but also that He will not do so unless we forgive other people their sins against us.  There is no doubt about the second part of this statement.  It is in the Lord’s Prayer, it was emphatically stated by our Lord.  If you don’t forgive you will not be forgiven.  No part of his teaching is clearer and there are no exceptions to it.  He doesn’t say that we are to forgive other people’s sins, provided they are not too frightful, or provided there are extenuating circumstances, or anything of that sort.  We are to forgive them all, however spiteful, however mean, however often they are repeated.  If we don’t we shall be forgiven none of our own.

     Now it seems to me that we often make a mistake both about God’s forgiveness of our sins and about the forgiveness we are told to offer to other people’s sins.  Take it first about God’s forgiveness.  I find that when I think I am asking God to forgive me I am often in reality (unless I watch myself very carefully) asking Him to do something quite different.  I am asking him not to forgive me but to excuse me.  But there is all the difference in the world between forgiving and excusing.  Forgiveness says, “Yes, you have done this thing, but I accept your apology; I will never hold it against you and everything between us two will be exactly as it was before.”  But excusing says, “I see that you couldn’t help it or didn’t mean it; you weren’t really to blame.”  If one was not really to blame then there is nothing to forgive.  In that sense forgiveness and excusing are almost opposites.  Of course, in dozens of cases, either between God and man, or between one man and another, there may be a mixture of the two.  Part of what at first seemed to be the sins turns out to be really nobody’s fault and is excused; the bit that is left over is forgiven.  If you had a perfect excuse, you would not need forgiveness; if the whole of your actions needs forgiveness, then there was no excuse for it.  But the trouble is that what we call “asking God’s forgiveness” very often really consists in asking God to accept our excuses.  What leads us into this mistake is the fact that there usually is some amount of excuse, some “extenuating circumstances.”  We are so very anxious to point these things out to God (and to ourselves) that we are apt to forget the very important thing; that is, the bit left over, the bit which excuses don’t cover, the bit which is inexcusable but not, thank God, unforgivable.  And if we forget this, we shall go away imagining that we have repented and been forgiven when all that has really happened is that we have satisfied ourselves with our own excuses.  They may be very bad excuses; we are all too easily satisfied about ourselves.  (continued…)

*****************************************************

Matthew 6:14-15  —  (Jesus said), “For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.  But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.”

Luke 6:36-37  —  (Jesus said), “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.  Do not judge, and you will not be judged.  Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned.  Forgive, and you will be forgiven.”

Colossians 3:13  —  Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone.  Forgive as the Lord forgave you.

*****************************************************

Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.

–Jesus, Matthew 6:12

 

804) Forgiveness in Charleston

Vigil Held For Victims Of Charleston Church Shooting

—————-

By John Stonestreet, for Breakpoint, June 23, 2015, at:  www.breakpoint.org

——————————

     Today, we felt compelled to talk about the events of last week, the horrific killing of nine people at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina.

      Why?  Because we’re seeing in those events how light overcomes darkness.  How love overcomes hate.

     As you undoubtedly know, on June 17, a man described as “white, with sandy-blond hair, around 21 years old and 5 feet 9 inches in height, wearing a gray sweatshirt and jeans” entered Emanuel and participated in a Bible study led by the Church’s pastor, Clementa C. Pinckney.

      At about 9 p.m., the man, subsequently identified as Dylann Roof, opened fire killing nine people, including Pastor Pinckney.

     Scarcely had the news broken than pundits – both liberal and conservative – started using the shooting to further pet causes, from banning the Confederate flag to the need to permit people to carry guns in church.

     But, remarkably, the people of Emanuel wanted to talk about something far more important:  grace and forgiveness.

     In an interview with the BBC, the children of Sharonda Singleton, one of the victims, told the reporter “We already forgive [Dylann Roof] and there’s nothing but love from our side of the family.”

     And they weren’t alone.  Stephen Singleton, Emanuel’s former pastor, told NPR that “we’re people of faith, and people of faith know that we heal.  God helps us heal.  This doesn’t drive us away from God.  This drives us to God, and that’s why I’m here now.”

     When asked what his former parishioners had told him, he continued, “There are a lot of broken hearts, a lot of sorrow and a lot of healing to be done.  And that’s what we’re going to work on, and that’s what we’re going to focus on because if we get bitter and angry, we just make a bad situation worse.”

     Thus, Anthony Thompson, a relative of another victim, Myra Thompson, said:  “I forgive you, my family forgives you.  We would like you to take this opportunity to repent.  Repent.  Confess.  Give your life to the one who matters the most, Christ, so he can change your ways no matter what happens to you and you’ll be okay.  Do that and you’ll be better off than you are right now.”

     Senator Tim Scott, appearing on Face the Nation said that while Roof may have intended to ignite a war between the races, he brought the people of Charleston closer together.

     And that’s because the people of Emanuel have responded in a way that is distinctly, if not uniquely, Christian:  loving those who hate you, forgiving those who sin against you, and blessing those who would persecute you.

     Christian ideas may no longer have power in our culture that they once had.  But to paraphrase the Apostle Paul, there is no argument against the kind of grace on display in Charleston.

     We even saw it on display in Roof’s capture.  A North Carolina woman, at great personal risk, followed Roof’s car until she was sure it was him and then called the police.  When asked why, she replied, “I had been praying for those people on my way to work . . . and the Lord put me in the right place at the right time.”

     The congregation’s response was reminiscent of the horrific event from years ago, the murder of five Amish girls in Nickel Mines, Pennsylvania.  The members of the Amish community forgave the murderer.  The families of the victims reached out to the widow of the perpetrator.  And on this program then, Chuck Colson asked questions we should ask again today:  “How are we working in our own communities to build cultures of grace?  Are we teaching our children to forgive?  Are we actively working to restore offenders and reach out in aid to victims?  Are we overcoming evil in the world by good, as we are commanded to do?”  And I would add:  “If evil and tragedy come our way, are we ready to respond in love the same way our brothers and sisters in Charleston have?”

     What happened in Charleston is a tragic reminder of the great darkness in the world.  But in the aftermath we see the truth that the “light shines in the darkness and the darkness cannot overcome it.”

———-

Statement by the sister of Depayne Doctor:  “That was my sister, and I’d like to thank you on behalf of my family for not allowing hate to win.  For me, I’m a work in progress.  And I acknowledge that I am very angry.  But one thing that DePayne always enjoined in our family … is she taught me that we are the family that love built.  We have no room for hating, so we have to forgive.  (To Dylann Roof) I pray God on your soul.”

****************************************************

John 1:4-5  —  In him (Jesus) was life, and that life was the light of all mankind.  The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

Romans 12:14-15  —  Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.  Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.

Matthew 5:43-45a  —  (Jesus said), “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’  But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven.”

****************************************************

Rev. Rick Warren’s prayer for Charleston:

Father, our hearts are broken again as we see the result of sin in our broken world.  We know that you are grieving for these who’ve lost their loved ones…  First we pray for the unity of the Body of Christ.  May our brothers and sisters at Emmanuel church not only feel the love and prayers of the other churches in Charleston, but from hundreds of thousands of other churches supporting them this weekend.  Second, we pray for comfort and peace and healing in the hearts of those who are overwhelmed with grief in this tragedy.  Thank you for saying ‘Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.’  Father, you know what it is like to lose a son.  Holy Spirit, we ask you to comfort the families, and the church, and the community.  May all of us recommit ourselves to doing the opposite of what the gunman intended to accomplish.  Help us to be uniters where there is division.  Help us to protect all life in a culture of violence and death.  When faced with evil, give us the strength to respond by doing good, and to show love in the face of hatred.  Help us to be bridge builders when others want to erect walls, and to be peacemakers when others create conflict.  In the name of Jesus we pray.  Amen.

700) III. Rules, Excuses, FORGIVENESS

     (…continued)  God has three very important things to say about rules.  First of all, he gives the rules for our own benefit and the benefit of others who might be hurt by our bad behavior; and God demands that we obey him.  Secondly, when we break the rules, that is to say when we sin, God offers us the opportunity to repent.  And then God is more than willing to forgive us, and give us another chance.  Third, God expects that we have that same willingness to understand and forgive others when they sin against us.  Or, as we pray when we pray the Lord’s prayer, “Forgive us our trespasses AS WE forgive those who trespass against us.”

     We can become very good at excusing our own wrongdoing.  “I couldn’t help it, I was up against it, I was afraid, I didn’t have time to think, I was having a bad day, and shucks, I’m only human, can’t you give me a break, nobody’s perfect, you know,” and so on.  But are we as quick to make allowances for those that hurt us?  Do we stop to think what might have been going on in their mind?  We are far quicker to understand and excuse our own behavior than the behavior of others.

     Frank McCourt’s brilliant idea for that English assignment helped those kids learn about writing, and the same exercise can help us in our life of faith.  Think of someone who has wronged you.  Then think about what you would say if you had to write their excuse note.  The old Indian proverb says, “Don’t judge another until you have walked a mile in his moccasins.”  It would be good to at least imagine what the other person was thinking.  It might surprise you to see that you may begin to understand why they did why they did.  This is not to excuse the wrongdoing.  There are all sorts of things people do that there is no excuse for and it is just plain wrong. That’s what sin is– a wrong done against someone else, and against God.  But making the same allowances for others as you make for yourself, might help you be more willing to forgive them.  To forgive someone is not to say it doesn’t matter.  If it doesn’t matter, it doesn’t need to be forgiven.  But to begin to see that person as a sinner, like yourself, you who have also done wrong, is to take a big step toward forgiveness and reconciliation.  When we read the Bible, it becomes clear that God is serious about sin and disobedience.  But God is also serious about forgiveness and mercy.

     Colossians 3:13 says, “Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another.  Forgive as the Lord forgave you.”  God’s rules are not made to be broken, they are made to be kept.  But God has another rule for when rules are broken, and that rule is this: ‘Forgive as the Lord forgave you.’  Don’t miss the promise that is contained there; AS THE LORD FORGAVE YOU, it says.  God doesn’t want our excuses.  God wants our repentance, and our determination to change our behavior and obey Him.  And God wants us to know we are forgiven.  Jesus died on the cross so we may know that, be comforted by that, and then, be willing to forgive others.

——————————————

Two quotes from C. S. Lewis:

To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable, because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you.  

Everyone says forgiveness is a lovely idea, until they have something to forgive.

**********************************************

Matthew 7:1-5  —  (Jesus said), “Judge not, that you be not judged.  For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get.  Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?  Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye?  You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.”

Romans 2:1-4  —  You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge another, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things.  Now we know that God’s judgment against those who do such things is based on truth.  So when you, a mere human being, pass judgment on them and yet do the same things, do you think you will escape God’s judgment?  Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, forbearance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance?

**********************************************

PSALM 51:1-3…10:

Have mercy on me, O God,
    according to your unfailing love;
according to your great compassion
    blot out my transgressions.
Wash away all my iniquity
    and cleanse me from my sin.

For I know my transgressions,
    and my sin is always before me…

Create in me a pure heart, O God,
    and renew a steadfast spirit within me.

——————————————————————–

645) Broken

Unbroken book 

I am posting one more meditation on the amazing life of Louis Zamperini, told in the Laura Hillenbrand book Unbroken and portrayed in the recent movie by the same title.   This meditation, written by by Randy Alcorn for his blog at < http://www.epm.org >, tells a bit more of the story of how Zamperini’s spirit was broken not by hardship and suffering, but by the emptiness of a successful and prosperous life that was without God.  Alcorn also tells the story of Zamperini’s incredible forgiveness of his cruel captors.  Alcorn’s blog was posted January 14, 2015 and was titled From Brokenness and Hate to Redemption and Forgiveness.  (For more, go to the three links below by clicking on to the green letters)

——————————————————–

     One of the most compelling stories told in the past decades is that of Louis Zamperini.  He was an Olympic athlete and WWII airman who survived for 47 days on the open ocean; and then 26 months in Japanese POW camps, much of that time enduring torture.  Unbroken, the story of Zamperini written by Laura Hillenbrand, is a powerful and remarkable book.

     The movie is well done as a portrayal of the human spirit’s will to survive, but it leaves untold (despite the few pictures and words after the movie ends) the true redemptive story that followed Zamperini’s return from captivity.  Known as a hero for his incredible survival skills, he was deeply scarred, full of hatred, and plagued by nightmares of “The Bird,” his chief torturer in the camp.  The war hero became a carousing alcoholic, abusive to his wife, and neglectful of his young daughter.

     In contrast to the “triumph of the human spirit” message, Zamperini did not have in himself what it took to become a whole person, to put his horrific ordeals behind him, and survive in normal life.  The key to everything was that he did not know what it meant to be forgiven for his own sins, and therefore could not begin to forgive the Japanese prison guards for the horrific abuses they inflicted on him.  While freed from the Japanese prison, he remained imprisoned in his inner man and was as miserable, even more so, in his so-called freedom as he’d been in captivity.

     Ironically, in stark contrast to the title Unbroken—which aptly describes part one of the story (the part dramatized in the movie)—to find redemption Louie Zamperini had to become broken.  That’s when he came to terms with his sin and found forgiveness in Jesus Christ.  Once that happened he said he became free, and never again had his haunting dreams.

     Four years after his conversion, Zamperini returned to Japan and visited Sugamo Prison, where most of his torturers were incarcerated.  Looking at the crowd of prisoners, he recognized these men.  He ran to them and threw his arms around them, expressed his forgiveness, and shared with them the good news of Jesus.

     Zamperini said, “The most important thing in my Christian life was to know that I forgave them—not only verbally, but to see them face to face.  That’s part of conversion.”

     Sadly, most of the guards withdrew from him because they couldn’t comprehend his forgiveness.  But when he preached the gospel to them, all but one made a profession of faith in Jesus that day.

     Matsuhiro Watanabe, “The Bird,” who had tortured him most brutally, wasn’t there—despite being on the most wanted list of Japanese War Criminals, he’d escaped prosecution.

     When Watanabe was later found, by then a rich businessman, he refused to meet with Zamperini.  Louis sent a letter explaining that he’d given his life to Christ.  “Love replaced the hate I had for you,” he wrote, adding “I hope you become a Christian.”  (Zamperini is < on video  > reading the letter.)

     Having experienced God’s grace and forgiveness, and having extended it to those who tortured him, Louis was < declared by a pastor > who worked with him in his seventies, “The happiest man I’ve ever known.”

     As compelling as the first part of Louis Zamperini’s story is, it’s the second part that’s the greatest miracle, and truly redemptive. The first part, standing on its own, is a testimony to God’s remarkable common grace in a human life; the second is a testimony to His special grace in transforming a still-captive man with the freedom of forgiveness.  Only through Christ is such redemption and healing possible.

     Survival and redemption are not the same—though in the end it was Zamperini’s redemption that allowed him to survive.  And it’s only Christ’s redemptive work on our behalf, atoning for our sins, that will allow any person to survive the final judgment of God and experience the result of redemption:  eternal life.

—————————————–

See also a thirty minute video, < “Captured by Grace,” > the rest of Louie’s story as produced by the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.

  Louis Zamperini

****************************************

Psalm 34:17-18  —  The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them; he delivers them from all their troubles.  The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.

Proverb 18:14  —  The human spirit can endure in sickness, but a crushed spirit who can bear?

Matthew 8:43-44  —  (Jesus said), ““You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’  But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”

****************************************

O Lord my God, I have hope in Thee;

O my dear Jesus, set me free.

Though hard the chains that fasten me

And sore my lot, yet I long for Thee.

I languish and groaning bend my knee, 

Adoring, imploring, O set me free.

–Mary Queen of Scots, on the eve of her execution, 1587