Saturday, May 23, 2009

God is good

But you O Lord, are a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness. Psalm 86:15

You are forgiving and good, O Lord, abounding in love to all who call to you. (vs. 5)

I am reminded today of how good God is. No matter what circumstances we find ourselves in, he has paved the way and He never abandons us. Even in sin, He provides a way of escape - but He leaves that choice to us.

For you were once in darkness, but now you are light in the Lord...have nothing to do with fruitless deeds of dakness, but rather expose is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret. But everything exposed by the light becomes careful how youlive-not as unwise, but as wise... Ephesians 5:8-15. (Also read Eph. 4:18-19)

We also have the chance to forgive, we learn from Paul that "what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel..." Phil. 1:12) His suffering and imprisonment were a huge trial for him, but he saw it as an opportunity. He forgave his captors and rejoiced even in suffering. Phil. 4:4

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Extending Grace - A powerful message

What a powerful message delivered today by the mother of one of the victims. I watched in amazement as she faced the man that she at one time respected and admired, and looked to for spiritual leadership – the same man that has been responsible for the pain, violation and destruction within her family and specifically to her daughter.

You would think that her message to him would be of anger and possibly asking “how could you?” Instead, she showed a true testimony to the world of what we are taught Biblically to do, to love our enemies and those that persecute us. I am blessed just to have been there to see this exchange, to see grace and mercy extended in the midst of much pain. Here are some of her words:

She began her message with one simple truth; the Bible tells us that If we are to confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins. However she pointed out one of the most overlooked points of that verse – IF – She proceeded to remind Darrell Gilyard that confessing sins, admitting failure, is exactly what prisoners of pride refuse to do.

And then Phil. 3:14 states “I keep trying to reach the goal and get the prize for which God called me.” She reads this to him and then asks, “Is this what God called you to do as you reached for the goal? God began a good work in you and I am sure He will complete it until it is finished according to Philippians 1:6”

At this point in the courtroom, it was silent, everyone was listening. I looked at Judge Weatherby and he was leaning forward a bit with his chin resting on his hand, listening. Hank Coxe had to have felt uncomfortable, he kept glancing over at her and then to Darrell. Darrell was still, head down, hands clasped behind his back. A surreal moment as this former parishioner is preaching to her former Pastor.

She goes on to tell him that “God uses Satan to fortify His church, even when Satan appears to win, ‘Darrell’, he loses.” And that “Confession does not create a relationship with God, it nourishes it.” She tells him that though he did not lose his position with God, he has lost his peace with God.

Isn’t that so true? God never stops loving us, but we feel a loss because we are separated due to our lack of repentance of sin.

Darrell was certainly an incredible speaker and knew God’s word, how odd and uncomfortable it had to be for him to hear this. She reminds him that he, as the Shepard abused her daughter inside of the Shepard’s office. Among other things she also reminds him that lives have been destroyed and that he will have to give an account for this.

Her final message is so amazing it is God talking through a wounded person right in the midst of tragedy…she says “Just know God loves us and wants the best for us. I will pray for you as always that at some point you get right with God. You are forgiven by me. I have no malice in my heart as we all have sinned and woe is the man or woman that does not confess and turn from their wicked ways.”

Hallelujah! Praise be to Jesus! To Him is all of the glory and honor and praise! Ministering to the man that hurt her daughter, the same man that was supposed to minister to her.

A dear friend called me tonight to pray with me, she was also abused at the hands of a minister as a young girl. We have talked and shared our stories before and one thing we are both aware of and thankful for is our stories. We have shared before that our stories have made us who we are today. They are testimonies of God’s power, His love, His grace and His mercy. He has taught us so much about forgiveness and trust, though by worldly standards we should be bitter, unforgiving and unable to trust. It is the contrary; God has allowed great strength, trust and healing to come from tragedy and heartache.
On this note, as we were talking she shared this thought with me and it touched me deeply and I feel is so appropriate to end on. I said in an interview today that it is time to lay down the label of “victim” and replace it with “overcomer”, I want you to know that you do not have to let his crimes against you define who you are, but it can define Who God is.
My sweet friend shared that out of the dark places in our lives, He will help us to sift through and “mine” through the rubble and discover riches that we wouldn’t have otherwise. No matter how devastating the storm, the aftermath can look so bleak and you are tempted to carry around this “victim” armor, lay it down and dig for the treasures that God will bring from it. They are there, waiting to be discovered.

You are no longer silenced

To all of the women in Texas that were told you didn't have enough witnesses;
To all the girls across the U.S. that were abused by Gilyard;
To the women and girls that didn't come forward here in Jacksonville and especially for the brave ones that did;
THIS WAS YOUR DAY - You have been heard!
Everyone is listening, your story is being validated. You are no longer silenced!
It was a powerful day in the courtroom! I am in awe at the strength and message delivered by the mother of one of the victims. It was such a powerful, bold, stern but loving message.
Darrell Gilyard had to stand there at the podium and listen first to the Judge read out his crimes and the penalties, then hear the mother of a victim describe the pain to her family and all of the lives his sin has touched.
But, how sad it was to sit there and watch a man with such gifts, such potential, hang his head as he received the sentence for crimes that he hoped no one would ever know of. The same crimes he has intimidated people from reporting, the ones he has tried to convince others did not happen, the ones he himself has adamantly denied - until now.
Sin is so powerful and once it takes root, it does not let go. If you allow it authority in your life, you eventually lose yourself to it, you become ill, sick in sin. As the mother pointed out today, God always plans a way of escape, she asked him why he did not take it. I honestly think he had gotten away with it all for so long, he was no longer afraid of getting caught. By statements made to many, he didn't seem to be afraid of even the Almighty God - what a scary place to be. I look at his face in the above picture and I do not gloat, I do not feel anger, I feel absolute pity. I hope that he finds in his heart some remorse, from what I am being told that hasn't appeared to be the case yet, but I hope it comes.