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Mercy And Forgiveness

James Dobson, noted author and founder of Focus on the Family, tells of seeing a sign on a convent in California. It read: “Absolutely no trespassing. Violators will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.” Signed, “The Sisters of Mercy.” I am so grateful that when we have committed “trespasses” and sins against God and others, that through Christ’s mercy and forgiveness, we are not prosecuted. I am sure that the good sisters did not intend to give that mixed message, even though the law and justice must be upheld.

Donna Rice discovered mercy and forgiveness. In 1987, she was involved in a national scandal with presidential hopeful, Gary Hart. Though he was married, she accompanied him on a yacht called “Monkey Business” on a pleasure cruise in the Bahamas. At the time, she was a backslidden Christian, who had met the Lord as a freshman in high school at a Cliff Barrows crusade. In high school, she was in youth choir and was active with the other students on mission trips and at First Baptist Church of Columbia, South Carolina. However, at college she began to gradually compromise and lost sight of the charge of 1 Thessalonians 4:1, that we “ought to walk and to please God…more and more.”

The Rice-Hart scandal put them on the front page of periodicals all over the world. As her life collapsed, she resigned her job and was hounded by the press. She was offered millions of dollars to tell her story, but could not escape the advice of her mother, “Before you make any decisions, get your life straight with God.” Donna said, “I was stunned, because I hadn’t yet realized I could put the entire mess in His hands.”

Donna’s mother gave her a tape from a former youth-group friend, who wrote a note with it: “Donna, I imagine you are in a lot of pain right now; God loves you and I love you.” Rice recalls, “When she began to share songs we used to sing together; I collapsed on the floor in my apartment and sobbed. I knew I – no one else – was responsible for my choices. I cried out, God, it took me falling in front of the whole world to get my attention; help me to live my life Your way.” Donna said, “God flooded me with His presence and forgiveness and surrounded me with Christian fellowship.”

As you hear the message this weekend, know that sanctification is an ongoing process demanding repentance and restoration. “God has not called us for impurity but in holiness” (1 Thessalonians 4:7). If you have fallen, get up, talk to one of our counselors, and run to the loving arms of the Father. Failure need not be final.

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