The Mark of Repentance

This is an excerpt from a sermon by Ray Stedman called When Discipline Ends . I thought this an excellent description of what true repentance is… He is writing about a situation in Corinth…  2 Corinthians 2:5-11 (Emphasis is mine…)

In this case in Corinth, the majority of the congregation had been involved in trying to reach the individual referred to here. But the point, of course, is that it had already happened; it had already worked; this man had repented. He had admitted that what he did was wrong; and that is what repentance is. It is coming to a conclusion about yourself that what you have done is hurtful and wrong. This man had reached that place and had demonstrated it by what I like to call, “the mark of repentance.” It is mentioned here in Verse 7. Paul urges them to comfort him that he may not be “overwhelmed by excessive sorrow.”

The sign that you really see that what you did was wrong is that you begin to see the hurt that you have caused by it; and it creates a sense of sorrow, of remorse that you have been the instrument by which many have been damaged in their faith or in their feelings. Therefore, the mark of true repentance is sorrow. I know that we are being taught oftentimes today that if you do something wrong, all you have to do is go and say to somebody, “Yes, I did that,” then you instantly demand, in a sense, forgiveness. Well, it is true that the other person should forgive right away, but the mark that shows him that you are really repentant is that, accompanying that admission of guilt, is a sense of sorrow because of the hurt that has been caused. This is a quite different spirit than what we see at times today where people get angry if they are not forgiven instantly.

The mark of genuine repentance is that you do not really believe anybody ought to forgive you, that what you have done is hurtful, and you do not think you deserve forgiveness. Therefore, forgiveness is something that is always freely extended to someone who does not feel that he deserves it; and that is what is clear here. You can see this, by the way, if you look ahead to Chapter 7, where Paul refers to this very incident again, and the congregation’s treatment of it. In Verse 8 of that chapter he says:

For even if I made you sorry with my letter I do not regret it (though I did regret it), for I see that that letter grieved you, though only for a while. As it is, I rejoice, not because you were grieved, but because you were grieved into repenting; for you felt a godly grief, so that you suffered no loss through us. For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation and brings no regret, but worldly grief produces death. (2 Corinthians 7:8-10 RSV)

So the mark of repentance is grief and sorrow over what is done. This man had come to that point, therefore, it was time to end the discipline. Of course, the purpose of the whole process of discipline at any stage is to bring somebody to recovery. The minute he achieves that, it is time to end all the sanctions and degrees of pressure that are being put on, and to begin to extend forgiveness and restoring love. That is what Paul pleads for in Verse 8:

So I beg you to reaffirm your love for him. (2 Corinthians 2:8 RSV)

Any form of correction is never to proceed from anger alone, but from love, and, therefore, the appropriate action is to reaffirm love. Paul suggests how that should be done when he says, “you should rather turn to forgive and comfort him lest he be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow.” Now, because this man had reached this place, Paul goes on to give us a statement of what restoration involves. Verse 9:

For this is why I wrote, that I might test you and know whether you are obedient in everything. Any one whom you forgive, I also forgive. What I have forgiven, if I have forgiven anything, has been for your sake in the presence of Christ, to keep Satan from gaining the advantage over us; for we are not ignorant of his designs. (2 Corinthians 2:9-11 RSV)

There are three things of great importance in that paragraph which help us to understand how you bring people to restoration: The first one, as Paul clearly indicates, is to begin with a faithful confrontation. He says, “I wrote to you to see if you would obey” — not obey Paul so much as obey the Lord. It was not the apostle giving orders, it was his calling attention to what the Lord had said. Their obedience, therefore, was not to him, but to the Lord. And it always is. No man has the right to give orders in the church, but only to call attention, as a brother, to the orders the Lord has already given. The Corinthians had obeyed; they had done what Matthew 18 required by telling it to the church. That is always a very painful, difficult thing to do.

One of the reasons so many churches are rife with splits, divisions, and problems today is because their leadership seems to be made up of gutless wonders who have no moral courage and who are not willing to act themselves in obedience to what the Scripture says. In the instances in the past when this church has had to take action of this sort, we have actually received threats, threats of lawsuits, of bodily harm, against the eldership if they acted. We have had to resist reproof by many people in the congregation, and around, who misjudged and did not understand the situation, who thought it was wrong to act the way we did. So it has taken courage to stand, sometimes, and obey the Word of God. But as Scripture says, “the effect of righteousness will be peace,” (Isaiah 32:17). If you will act rightly, in love, and frontally, with courage, the result ultimately is peace; and this is what was happening here in Corinth. The place to start, therefore, is with a faithful confrontation.

This is true also of individual difficulties. If you have a difficulty with somebody, do what the Lord says: “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone.” (Matthew 18:15a RSV). That is always the basis for working out peace in a relationship. But equally important is the readiness to forgive when there is an indication that he has acknowledged that what he did was wrong, or see the hurt that it caused, and there is grief and sorrow because of it. Then we are to instantly restore such a one.

Here again, the church often offends. I know that one of the frequent causes for hurt and damage to individuals in the church at large today has been unwillingness to forgive things in the past that an individual has cleared up long ago, but they are still being held over his or her head: Take divorce, for instance. I have been in many places where people have gone through a divorce, sometimes on the basis of the biblical reasons for it, but that has been treated as though it was the unforgivable sin. Those involved never could come back to any level of acceptance or leadership because of that. For some reason divorce is made much worse than murder or adultery or anything else. But that is wrong, and great damage is done because of that. If it is true in this situation that Paul himself had personally been insulted by the individual in question, notice how freely he extends forgiveness (Verse 10):

Any one whom you forgive, I also forgive. What I have forgiven, if I have forgiven anything, has been for your sake in the presence of Christ, (2 Corinthians 2:10 RSV)

There are no hard feelings expressed, no recriminations, no “well, I-can-forgive, but-I-can’t-forget” attitude. You often hear that, don’t you? That reveals a lack of understanding of what forgiveness is. Forgiveness, basically, is a promise that you make; it is a promise you make to three different individuals. This is true always, in every case of forgiveness:

First, it is a promise that you make to the individual who has offended you and now has repented, in which you are saying to him or her, “I will not let my attitude toward you be governed any longer by this offense. It has been put aside. My treatment of you from here on will be as though this had never happened.” It is a promise you make never to bring it up again. In marriage many problems go on for years and years because we tend to go back and dig up all the past, which is an indication that it has never been forgiven. Some mates don’t get hysterical, they get historical! That is the problem, and that creates a problem.

Second, it is a promise not to pass it on to anybody else. When a matter is forgiven it is to be forgotten. Now it may be that everyone knows it, because, as in this case in Corinth, it had been told to the whole church. But what it means is that nobody throws it at him again, or holds it over his head, or reminds him of it every time any further difficulty occurs. It is a promise to drop the matter, leave it in the past, and never bring it up to anybody again.

Third, and probably most important of all, it is a promise to yourself that, when your memory goes back to it, as it will occasionally, you are not going to allow it to seize hold of your heart and make you angry all over again. The minute it comes back to mind, you put it aside as something that belongs to the past, you are not going to dwell on it. It is a promise, therefore, to repeat your act of forgiveness, no matter how often the memory comes up. That is what forgiveness is; and Paul is so ready to do this.

The reason, of course, is because he himself had been forgiven. People tell me sometimes, “Well, I just can’t forgive in this case. The person said it was wrong, and has asked me to forgive him, but I just can’t do it. It hurt me too much.” Well, that is a revelation to me that that person has never realized how much he has been forgiven already. The basis for Christian forgiveness is always, “Forgive, because you have been forgiven.” If you cannot forgive it is because you have forgotten that you were forgiven. Paul says this to the Ephesians:

…be tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake has forgiven you. (Ephesians 4:32 KJV)

That means we are not to be self-righteous and condemning, and assume the attitude, “Well, I could never do a thing like that.” In the eyes of God you have already done worse, and been forgiven for it. That is the basis, therefore, for extending forgiveness to others: “Freely you have received, freely give,” (Matthew 10:8 KJV).

The third element here, brought out in Verse 11, is the need to keep Satan from gaining an advantage over us, for Paul says, “we are not ignorant of his designs.” It is Satan who keeps bringing back to your mind the hurts of the past; he keeps interjecting them back into a situation. He is trying to get hold of you through the situation and wreak havoc with you and your loved ones by taking advantage of it. It is Satan who makes the leadership of a church quail at confronting some situation, makes them say, “Oh, let’s not get involved; let’s forget it.” That is Satan. He is seeking to gain an advantage over that whole congregation so he can dilute their testimony and render them powerless in their effect upon the community.

We were discussing a situation just this last week, and one of our pastors said, quite understandably, “Let’s get hold of that situation and do something about it so it will never come up again.” I knew how he felt, but you cannot always do that, because there is an enemy who will bring it up again, whether you like it or not; he will interject the same situation into circumstances in the future and you will have to fight the same battle over and over again.

That is what Paul means when he says, “we are not ignorant of his designs.” When an arsonist is loose, you can expect fires; they are going to break out all over the place. We have an enemy who is like that, and when you have an enemy you can expect casualties. When you are engaged in warfare, you never can decide on your own terms that you are not going to have any more casualties, because the enemy is there; he is the one who keeps it going.

We often say in American history, “Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty.” That is true in the spiritual realm as well. It is only as we are aware that we are in a battle, and an enemy is constantly trying to take advantage of the situation, that we must realize that the thing that defeats him is to extend ready and full forgiveness when there are broken relationships within us. That is what keeps Satan from gaining an advantage over you.

Paul said that in Ephesians: “Do not let the sun go down on your wrath,” Ephesians 4:26-27). Settle this matter before nightfall, before you go to bed. Don’t carry it over to the next day and thus give opportunity to the devil. When you let it go on and on and on, unresolved, you are giving the devil an opportunity to get hold of everybody involved, to create more problems and spread it widely and turn the whole church upside down eventually. Therefore, one of the elements that restoration always involves is that spiritual awareness that we are in a battle, that we live in a crazy world under the control of a madman, basically, so we cannot expect to settle it all once and for all.

As an old movie once described it, It’s A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World. — I saw that title in Spanish on a marquee down in Latin America: Todo El Mundo es Loco, Loco, Loco, Loco!

We are to deal with these problems then in our own hearts. That is the way you turn off the attack of the enemy. Some years ago I read about a mental hospital that had devised a very effective test to know whether the patients were ready to go back into life again. The patients would be brought into a room where a water tap was flowing out on the floor and handed a mop and told to mop up the water. If they took the mop and just started mopping away, with the water still flowing, they would be put back in the hospital. But if they had the sense to go and turn off the tap first, and then mop up the water, they knew they were ready to go back into life.

There is no sense in trying to clear up a situation until we have turned off the devil’s tap by forgiving that which has been acknowledged as wrong. If we persist in bringing it up, over and over again, we are trying to mop up a situation where the water is still flowing. That is foolish; it cannot be done. That is why in many marriages, in many family relationships, and in a church, these kinds of hurtful things go on and on and on for decades. Nobody has turned off the tap; nobody has forgiven one another and let it rest in the past, realizing that we all are in need of forgiveness continually. When forgiveness happens, then marvelous healing begins to take place.

I could tell you story after story of how I have seen this happen. Whole congregations have been restored, whole family groups have been opened up by two people who were mad at one another deciding that they would forgive; and when there was any degree of acknowledgment at all that there was injury done, extending forgiveness.

Is there any more beautiful picture in all the Scriptures than the story Jesus told of the Prodigal Son? The story of the old father waiting at home, watching the horizon and knowing that, when that boy had reached the end and was ready to admit his wrongdoing, he would show up at the house again? At the first glimpse of his son on the horizon, the old man is running down the road to meet him, his arms wide open. Before the boy can utter a syllable of his memorized statement that he has been repeating to himself all the way home — “I am no longer worthy to be called your son” (Luke 15:19 RSV) — the old man has his arms around him and he is calling out for a celebration, to kill the fatted calf. (I remember the little story of the Sunday School boy when the class was asked, “Who was sorry when the Prodigal Son came home?” The expected answer was, “The elder brother,” but one little boy said, “The fatted calf!”) Well, there was one who was not sorry, and that was the father. He was overjoyed, because he knew that his son would never have been back if he had not acknowledged that he was wrong. And he did not wait for the boy to say that. He had already forgiven him. The very appearance of the lad on the horizon was enough to tell the father that his son was home again, sorry for what he had done. And, “lest he be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow,” the father forgave him from a full and free heart. Now that is God’s picture of what he does with us.

the-prodigal-son-feeding-swine-1660.jpg!Blog

We find all these marks of repentance in the story of the prodigal son…

He had admitted that what he did was wrong.

The mark of true repentance is sorrow.

The mark of genuine repentance is that you do not really believe anybody ought to forgive you, that what you have done is hurtful, and you do not think you deserve forgiveness.

Painting by Bartolome Esteban Murillo 1660

Treasure in a Clay Pot ~ Mark S. Mitchell

This is Chapter 8 ~ Treasure in a Clay Pot of a series called Portrait of Integrity by Mark S. Mitchell.  It is about Pastor Ray Stedman and his four daughters who all grew up in the turbulent times of the 60’s and 70’s, rebelling against their Christian roots in order to fit in with society. I think you will find this account encouraging, knowing once again you are not alone in this trial, but to see what the Lord accomplishes through the suffering of these parents of prodigals, and the faith and the joy of “the homecoming”.

Treasure in a Clay Pot by Mark S. Mitchell

Ray Stedman was not just a pastor; he was also a husband and a father. And during the sixties, the two-story Stedman home on Wellsbury Way in Palo Alto bustled with the busy lives of his four daughters: Sheila, born in 1948; Susan in 1950; Linda in 1954; and Laurie in 1962.

Because of his own experiences as a child–abandoned by his father, emotionally distanced from his troubled mother, and adopted by his loving aunt and uncle–Ray was devoted to his wife and daughters. Yet these childhood experiences and their resulting emotional effect on his life also ill-equipped him to deal with many of the demands of being a husband and father. Ray tended to be emotionally disconnected with the women in his home. Consequently, it was in the family arena, more than anywhere else, where Ray experienced the truth of the New Covenant–that God’s strength could be perfected only in his own weakness.

In many ways, the Stedmans were a typical suburban family of their day. They lived in a comfortable home, their daughters attended decent schools, they enjoyed family vacations, and they endured the normal squabbles associated with seven people and three generations living under the same roof (Elaine’s mother lived with them until her death in 1983.) But it was the underlying foundation of God’s love and truth that held the family together.

Good Times as a Family

RAY’S DAUGHTERS HAVE ESPECIALLY fond memories of camping trips with their father. Because of her weak back, Elaine usually did not participate in these adventures, and with good reason. It was never enough for Ray to simply find a convenient campsite with all the usual amenities. Instead, he drove a borrowed Jeep or Land Rover off-road to the highest lake or remotest river in the area. Ray loved to scare the girls by making his own roads up the side of a mountain or driving as close as possible to the edge of a cliff. During the night, as the girls snuggled in their sleeping bags, Ray would playfully scratch on the outside of the tent and growl like a bear. (Susan and Linda Stedman, interviews by author, July 14, 2001, Grants Pass, Ore., tape recording.)

Ray’s sense of humor took various forms. On one camping trip, he stood shaving with his electric razor plugged into a tree that looked as if it might have been struck by lightning. He convinced the girls that if they ever found a tree that had been hit by lightning, they could stick an electrical plug into it and get electricity. Ray collapsed with laughter when, on their next camping trip, Susan announced she was bringing her curling iron to plug into one of those trees! (Ibid.)

Ray’s love of adventure and risk was revealed clearly during these outings. His daughters remember him as fearless, possessing an unshakable faith that no matter how bad a situation became, everything would somehow work out. And Ray always seemed able to escape tough situations unscathed. On one occasion he took Elaine and Laurie out in a small boat on San Francisco Bay on a Sunday afternoon. In the middle of the bay, the motor hit bottom, severing the shear pin and leaving them powerless. The wind blew so hard that their small paddles proved useless. They wondered where they would end up, and if they would ever get back in time for the Sunday evening service. It was not uncommon for people adrift in the middle of the bay to spend the night on the mud flats! Finally, the direction of the wind changed and pushed them back close to the west shore, where Elaine’s brother picked them up in time to make it to church. To the girls, this was just another example that their father could escape any situation. (Laurie Stedman, interview by author, July 15, 2001, Grants Pass, Ore., tape recording.)

Ray’s daughters also remember their father’s love for music. Ray was not a musician, but he loved music and he taught his daughters to appreciate good music. Unfortunately, this did not keep Ray from singing Scottish songs and cowboy tunes in an off-key voice at the top of his lungs. Together the Stedman family sang everything from hymns to songs they learned on their favorite television program, Sing Along with Mitch. Ray’s love for music deeply influenced Susan, and she was accepted into the Wheaton Conservatory of Music after high school. (Susan, Linda, and Laurie Stedman, interviews by author.)

Ray’s unpredictable ways carried over into his spending habits. While Elaine was very frugal, Ray was an impulsive buyer. When he wanted something, he rarely shopped around or waited for a bargain, but would race to a store and buy it. Ray was also extremely generous and enjoyed purchasing impractical gifts for his family. Valentine’s Day was often an occasion for him to get red roses for Elaine and new dresses for the girls. Ray had exquisite taste, and they were never disappointed with the gifts he chose for them. (Ibid.)

Ray’s generosity also translated into hospitality. “We would always have a big meal after church,” remembers Laurie, “and my parents would always invite somebody home who looked like they didn’t have anyplace to go. Usually it was my dad who invited someone. If it was getting close to the time to leave the church, I would remind my dad to invite somebody. I loved having people over. I looked forward to that. We would also have people over on Sunday evenings after church.” (Laurie Stedman, interview.) As a result, a variety of characters came through their doors, and many stayed for more than a meal. When J. Vernon McGee preached at PBC, he stayed with the Stedmans, and the girls have never forgotten his bright colored pajamas. As mentioned earlier, Luis Palau stayed with the family for two months when he first came to the United States in 1960, and his Latin sense of humor brightened their home. When former Black Panther Eldridge Cleaver professed to becoming a Christian, Ray opened both his church and his home to him and his family, precipitating a media frenzy in the Stedman front yard. (Ibid.)

Ray and Elaine also created an atmosphere in which learning and thinking were highly valued. Ray prized reading so much that he paid his daughters to read books, including the Bible. When the girls were teenagers, he asked them to present him with a written outline of his sermon after they had listened to him preach. Although they resented it at the time, they say, it taught them to think logically–a skill they used in school and later in their careers. Ray also loved to play chess, and he rarely lost. When he was not beating a fellow staff member or the computer, he played with his daughters, often giving them a handicap so they had a chance to win. (Susan and Linda Stedman, interviews by author.)

But one of the greatest legacies Ray left his daughters was the model of a strong marriage that lasted forty-seven years. Though Ray and Elaine were reserved in their outward expressions of love for each other, their commitment to each other was unquestioned. Every morning when Ray was home, he and Elaine began their day together at the breakfast nook, reading from a devotional book and praying for the family. Ray and Elaine were partners in every sense, freeing each other for the work God had for each of them and thus allowing the Lord to use them in a deeper way.(Elaine Stedman, interview by author, July 15,2001, Grants Pass, Ore., tape recording.) Ray’s one-sided authoritarianism, which characterized their early years of marriage, eventually mellowed into servant leadership. As the years passed, their marriage became even more of a mutual partnership as Ray recognized Elaine’s tremendous gifts. This truly came to the fore in 1975 when Elaine distinguished herself as an author with her book, A Woman’s Worth. When Ray read the manuscript, he was stunned and delighted by Elaine’s insight and encouraged her to use the gifts God had given her in both speaking and writing.

The deep warmth and love between Ray and Elaine is reflected in many of Ray’s letters to her when he was away from home, speaking or teaching. In October 1968, he wrote to her from an airplane en route to Saigon: ”

All day my thoughts have been running back to twenty-three years ago in Honolulu. Sometimes it seems very close in time, and other times it seems worlds away. I’m grateful for this almost quarter-of-a-century the Lord has given us together, for our family and friends, and the ministry we have shared. By nature we both tend to be reticent about our feelings but I think it’s appropriate on this day to tell you I love you very much and feel the Lord has fulfilled all His promise of marital happiness which lay unfolded on that wedding day so long ago. You have done well as a wife and mother and now that we see our first-born about to leave the family nest for good it is good to realize that the years ahead will be different but not empty. (Ray Stedman, letter to Elaine Stedman, October 22,1968.)

Troubled Waters

DESPITE THE FOUNDATION OF love in the Stedman home, through the years the family experienced some great heartache. At different periods of time, each of Ray and Elaine’s daughters went through a significant season of rebellion; at times the relationship between Ray and his daughters was strained or even fractured. Because of Ray’s visibility, and his and Elaine’s deep mutual desire for their daughters to follow Christ, these periods of family discord caused them tremendous pain.

Several factors probably contributed to the difficulties in the Stedman home, and one major factor was Ray’s devotion to his ministry. Like most evangelical leaders of his generation, Ray traveled extensively, seldom counting the cost to his family. “Billy Graham said that if there was one thing he would have done differently, it would have been to spend more time with his family,” says Elaine, reflecting back to those times. “I think Ray really felt that way too. But that was the way that we were trained to think about ministry; that ministry was first and the family came in wherever they fit in. We both thought that way, so we did not object to it. It was tough though. The hardest things that happened with the girls happened when he was gone.” (Elaine Stedman, interview by Wade Whitcomb, November 17-18, 1994, Grants Pass, Ore., transcript.)

Another factor was the spirit of the time and place in which Ray and Elaine raised their daughters. During the sixties, traditional Christian morality was not only questioned but mocked, and nowhere was this more evident than at Cubberly High School in Palo Alto, which was known as the local center of the hippie movement with all the attendant activities: antiwar protests, drugs, and sexual experimentation. Ray’s three older daughters all attended Cubberly, and Linda remembers that the students basically took over the school. “During those days at Cubberly there were groups of people smoking pot in the parking lot with no intervention. Most teachers simply avoided the area. The bathrooms were filled with cigarette smoke during breaks. Many students had some sort of venereal disease. Students seemed to be protesting everything they could think of.” (Linda Stedman, interview.) Being Ray Stedman’s daughters, the girls felt pressure to conform to their parents’ standards and the church culture of which they were a part. At the same time, they desperately wanted to fit in and “be normal” in a school environment that could not have been more different from their home and church.

It is ironic that a church that became a haven for the Jesus People was the very place Ray’s daughters felt they could not be themselves and work through their struggles as normal teenagers. But in the sixties, the evangelical culture in general and PBC in particular were not always as accepting as they would later become in the Body Life services in the early seventies. Both PBC and Ray Stedman experienced a process of maturation in this regard. But for much of the sixties, PBC was a typical evangelical church and Ray was a strict pastor and father. “Dad would not allow me to date a non-Christian,” recalls Sheila, “and so I was limited to the guys at church, which didn’t appeal to me much. . . . I wasn’t allowed to go to school dances, or any movie not created by Disney, and of course never a secular party.” (Sheila Stedman, letter to author, August 26, 2002.)

And without doubt, people in the church expected more from them than from other young people. “They got some pretty hard knocks,” says Elaine. “Things that really derailed them. I don’t think Laurie [the youngest] did, because after Body Life, things changed so much at PBC. It was a different atmosphere and a different way of looking at things. But before that it was very traditional and more was expected of them. People would say things like, ‘How could you do that when you have such wonderful parents?’ But the girls knew their parents! They knew we were just people.” (Elaine Stedman, interview.)

Another factor was that although Ray was always affectionate with his girls, one of his weaknesses as a father was his inability to relate to them on an emotional level. Elaine believes this was a handicap inherited from his upbringing. “He loved his kids. But because they were girls, he felt awkward with them at times. He didn’t quite know how to handle their emotional outbursts. . . . He did not understand the female. He did not grow up with females. He had two brothers. He had two male cousins. He didn’t relate well to his mother at all. He didn’t have a close relationship with his aunt. . . . It was a good relationship, . . . But there was no closeness, no real intimate sharing. He never learned that kind of sharing and intimacy of communication.” (Ibid.)

Susan, Ray’s second daughter, agrees. “The one thing I felt was most lacking from my dad was an ability to relate to me emotionally. He was so mental, and so logical, that anything that operated on the emotional level would just throw him. He had a real hard time with that. . . . And I think part of that might have been from his childhood, and his mother being so overemotional.” (Susan Stedman, interview.)

Ray’s weakness in this area made it especially difficult for him to talk with his daughters about the temptations they were experiencing. Sheila remembers wanting to talk with her dad about her struggles, but feeling unable to do so. “I was always seeking approval from him, so I decided it wasn’t safe to tell him of my dilemma. I wanted badly to tell him, but the few times I tried he would tell me it was wrong to think that Ray and that it hurt him to hear such things. I think that was the biggest ‘wart’ with Dad back then because he unknowingly blocked me from sharing my pain and kept me from being honest with him.” (Sheila Stedman, letter.)

Linda recalls that her father himself often would react emotionally and resort to bribes. “He tried to send me off to L’Abri in Switzerland in order to bribe me not to get married.” (Linda Stedman, interview.) Ray once even threatened to leave the ministry. “Dad made the mistake of threatening to leave the ministry because of me,” recalls Sheila, “so the guilt was piled on and I felt I had to escape even more.” (Sheila Stedman, letter.)

What Ray’s daughters did not know was that the threat to leave the ministry was anything but a bluff More than once Ray doubted his own fitness for the ministry enough that he actually approached the PBC elders about resigning. He felt he was no longer qualified to serve if his children were out of control. But the elders convinced him that since the daughter in question was already out of the house, he should not take responsibility for her actions. In one particularly moving meeting, all the elders shared communion and prayed for Ray. This event, and particularly Ray’s transparency and integrity, left a deep impression on several of the elders.(Jim Heaton, interview by author, March 15, 2001, Gleneden Beach, Ore., tape recording.)

One can’t help but wonder about the role of the Christian’s adversary in all of this. Scripture says, “Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world-forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12 NASB). Luis Palau believes that many of the difficulties in the Stedman home were the result of spiritual warfare.(Luis Palau, interview by author, September 9, 2002, by telephone, tape recording.) Although Ray never publicly spoke about his daughters’ experiences, his book Spiritual Warfare reflects many of the insights he must have first applied to his own battles.

Remember this–the aim, the goal of Satan in all this clever stratagem, by which he has kept the human race in bondage through these hundreds of centuries, is to destroy, to ruin, to make waste. That is his purpose toward you and me. A young man I know, who had been raised in church, though he is only twenty-one years old, has already become a mental and physical wreck. Why? Because he has turned aside from the truth and followed the philosophy of Satan. Satan is accomplishing his aim, destroying this life which God loves. That is what he is attempting to do with US. (See Ray’s message Spiritual Warfare), Chapter 3: “The Strategy of Satan.”)

But as with so many of Satan’s tactics, they backfired when it came to Ray. “I really believe that Satan’s favorite inroad to attacking Dad’s ministry was through his daughters,” says Linda. “However, I think our rebellion challenged and strengthened Dad’s faith more than any other events in his life. It brought him to his knees time after time.” (Linda Stedman, e-mail to author, September 1,2002.)

Internalizing the New Covenant

IT WAS ON HIS knees, because of his sense of inadequacy as a father, that what Ray called the New Covenant became more than just a doctrine to him. In 1975 he wrote Authentic Christianity as a clear explanation of that covenant, the essence of which is that Christians are vessels designed to contain the life of Jesus.

But the Christian is more than an empty vessel. He has something within or, more accurately, Someone within. We have a treasure in our clay pot! And more than a treasure–a transcendent power! That is humanity as God intended it to be. The clay pot is not much in itself, but it holds an inestimable treasure, beyond price, and a transcendent power, greater than any other power known to humanity. (See Ray’s book Authentic Christianity> [Grand Rapids, Mich.: Discovery House Publishers, 1996], 122.)

Ray had come to learn that the life of Jesus dwelling in the believer would not exempt him from experiencing hardship and heartache. Indeed, it was these experiences that allowed for the experience and demonstration of the life of Christ within:

Undoubtedly, one of the greatest misconceptions held by many is that being a Christian means that life should suddenly smooth out, mysterious bridges will appear over all chasms, the winds of fate will be tempered, and all difficulties will disappear. No, Christianity is not membership in some red-carpet club. All the problems and pressures of life remain, or are even intensified. Christians must face life in the raw, just as any pagan will. The purpose of the Christian life is not to escape dangers and difficulties but to demonstrate a different way of handling them. There must be trouble, or there can be no demonstration. (Ibid., 125.)

When Ray wrote, “There must be trouble, or there can be no demonstration,” he wrote out of his own life experience. Out of his personal sense of inadequacy and failure as a father Ray learned that “the surpassing greatness of the power” was indeed from God and not from himself Out of his own trouble at home came a demonstration of the life of Christ within.

Because of his suffering, Ray became a softer and more empathetic and “human” pastor and father. When he spoke of believers simply being “cracked pots” who held a treasure inside, people knew that he spoke out of his own brokenness. He became more compassionate, tender, and patient with those who strayed. People on his staff and in his church saw the change, as did his family.

Susan views her own rebellious years as a way of knocking Ray off the pedestal she and so many others had placed him on. “When I went through those rebellious years, I had to knock him down; and he was way up there, so the fall was pretty hard for him and for me…. It’s taken me all these years to know my father as a human being, and accept him as a human being, and I don’t ever want to put him on that pedestal again. Because it wasn’t where he wanted to be, and it wasn’t his place to be there, and I just love him so much more now that I know him as a human being and accept him for who he really is.” (Susan Stedman, interview.)

And when his daughters began to experience the consequences of poor choices and needed help, they found their father–and their mother–waiting with open arms. “Over and over again. . . I pushed my parents to the limit,” says Laurie. “But I always felt like they loved me. I never felt rejection. . . . There was always forgiveness.” (Laurie Stedman, interview.) Each daughter experienced this forgiveness and has her own story to tell of a special “homecoming” with her father, when he became the channel of God’s grace to her.

“Dad and Mom were so supportive through the years,” Linda remembers. “In 1981, in the midst of a very difficult marriage, I left my husband and took our sons back to Palo Alto to live with Dad and Mom. They welcomed us with open arms. By then, I was desperate to find my way back to the Lord. My view of God was so distorted by my own sin and the worldly philosophies I had embraced. Dad quickly got me connected with a Christian psychiatrist–a preacher’s kid himself–who helped me get a clear perspective of God’s grace, and assured me that God loved me right where I was, in spite of all my sin and rebellion. It was the beginning of spiritual healing in my life.” (Linda Stedman, e-mail to author, September 1, 2002.)

Sheila’s “homecoming” took place after her father had already retired and was battling cancer. “On a visit to see Mom and Dad in Grants Pass, Dad found out he had cancer. I was in shock! How could that be? We had grown closer over the years, he had grown softer and sweeter, had retired from PBC, and was finally able to relax and enjoy less pressures of the ministry. . . . ”

My son, Jason, had been living the party life in high school, was dating lots of girls, but lately had been dating a particularly sweet girl, Jennifer, and had found out, just weeks before the terrible news about Dad, that he was going to be a father. He and Papa had formed a very close relationship since his birth, being the first grandson and the apple of Papa’s eye. When Jason heard the news, he rushed down to Grants Pass with Jennifer and told Dad how sorry he was for messing up his own life and now his treasured Papa was dying. Dad, in his gracious, loving manner, reassured Jason that it was not bad news at all, but great .news that he would be seeing his Lord soon, and that he, Jason, should realize that life is only temporary. That he should marry Jennifer and turn his life over to the Lord. And do you know, that was the turning point in Jason’s and my life. . . . ”

From that day forward, both me and my children have all come back to a real, personal, fulfilling relationship with our heavenly Father and it has a great deal to do with Dad’s own example of who a father should be. He forgave us when we rebelled against him, and loved us in spite of our ingratitude and selfishness! When I look back on our life together I realize how incredibly blessed I was to be chosen to be my earthly and my heavenly Father’s child!” (Sheila Stedman, e-mail to author, August 26, 2002.)

During the sixties and early seventies, PBC became one of the most well-known and innovative churches in the nation, and Ray became a Bible teacher and author of international renown. But it was in the context of his family that God was refining and conforming Ray into the image of Christ.

In the end, Ray Stedman was a portrait of integrity not only in the church, but in his home as well.

Title: Ch 8: Treasure in a Clay Pot Author: Mark S. Mitchell
Series: Portrait of Integrity Date: 2004

Book Giveaway ~ Setting Boundaries with Your Adult Children

It has been awhile, but I did a post that included an excerpt from  this book a couple of years ago… If you would like to read the post click  here…Peace That Passeth All Understanding.

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Here is an interview with Allison Bottke, author of Setting Boundaries with Your Adult Children

I just happen to have an extra copy of this book that I would like to give away. So, if you would like to win it do this…

1. LIKE this post.

2. FOLLOW this blog.

3. Write a COMMENT.

Please do all three to enter. I will choose randomly a winner  on April 18th 2013.

Sowing in Tears by Anabel Gillham

The pain was almost more than he could bear. He had never realized that a broken heart could hurt so terribly, but he couldn’t just sit down and cry. It was planting season. So he took his bag of seed and went to the field.

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But there was no joy in his work. He didn’t hear the clear call of the meadowlark. He didn’t see the fields of yellow and lavender on the horizon. The smell of the fresh-turned earth escaped his nostrils. The bite of the pure spring air didn’t cause him to lift his head and take in great gulps, for even as he broadcast the tiny seed his eyes were blurred and his hands were damp with tears wiped from his weathered cheeks.

Then, when he could bear it no longer, he fell on his knees and his head touched the broken soil. His tears fell into the furrows, wetting the tiny ovule nestled in the pocket of earth. No one heard. No one saw. There was no one to touch, to care, to say, “I understand.”

To know such suffering…and still to sow.

* * *

Those who sow in tears shall reap with joyful shouting. He who goes to and fro weeping, carrying his bag of seed, shall indeed come again with a shout of joy, bringing his sheaves with him.  Psalm 126:5,6

Yes, you are hurting. But you cant just sit down and cry. The seed would not be planted and growth would never come. There would be no fruit to harvest. No, you must sow. And chances are, there will be no one who really understands . . . no one to touch you or hold you . . . no one to care. To know such suffering…and still to sow.

Gods promise is to you: Can you believe that one day you will actually SHOUT with sheer joy?

Grace for Life

Encouragement Through Suffering

There was an accident two years ago on Highway 66. Two young women hit by a truck swerving into their lane. The two died instantly, the truck driver lived, but has never apologized to the grieving families. I pray for him that God would give him grace, and touch his heart that he would come to know Jesus and find peace.

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I met the mother of one of these young women just the other day. She is a vibrant Christian. Her daughter was her only child…

With tears in her eyes she told me her story, and she told me of Christ’s Victory and even through her grief, she accepts what happened. She knows that for whatever reason it was God’s perfect timing in taking her daughter home. Her daughter had an intimate relationship with Jesus.

To read the rest of this post click  HERE

The Prayers and Tears of St. Augustine’s Mother

One of my daughters was reading Confessions by St. Augustine about the time I was grieving in tears every day for my prodigal son. I found this story about his mother very consoling because St. Augustine was a prodigal himself who came to be a saint. I’m just going to quote some helpful passages out of the book:

“But you ‘sent down your help from above’ Psalms 144:7, and rescued my soul from the depths of this darkness because my mother, your faithful servant, wept to you for me, shedding more tears for my spiritual death than other mothers shed for the bodily death of a son. For in her faith and in the spirit which she had from you she looked on me as dead. You heard her and did not despise the tears which streamed down and watered the earth in every place where she bowed her head in prayer.” (Page 68)

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Continue reading this reblogged post here.

Meddling Mothers

I was reminded today of meddling. I think as mothers we have a tendency to meddle too much in the lives of our children and we also have a tendency to try and fix everything. In prayer one day God brought to my remembrance a chick coming forth from an egg. The process is very slow and sometimes as we are waiting and watching the chick does not seem strong enough to break open that shell and be free. But there are grave consequences for trying to help the chick break loose from its shell. The chick is actually gaining strength by going through the process and if we meddle we may jeopardize its very life.

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I am guilty of meddling too much in my son’s life; of coming between him and his father when I should have stood silent. I have learned submission to my husband in this area, even though it was and is very hard for me to let go. I have learned that I must put all my trust in my heavenly Father and His timing. I have learned that His way is better and how important it is that I not tamper with what God is doing.

Another reblog…please read the rest here

I Know Your Pain

I am going to start a series of reblogs, because there are some really helpful and encouraging posts that were written years ago and the messages in them are timeless…so here goes…

To all you mothers and fathers and siblings of prodigals…I know your pain is excruciating. Likened to the death of a child, but almost worse because of the hurt of his or her rejection of you and of his or her rebellion to God. You know that you are not perfect, that you have made mistakes, but you feel like an utter failure and that God has deserted you. Read more here...

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Photo from Understanding Brokenheartedness

How God Persues Prodigals ~ Ray Pritchard

This is a very interesting take on the prodigal…Can we help our prodigals too soon?

Ray Pritchard writes, “Sometimes in our attempt to reach out to the prodigals we know, we can intervene too soon. Do you remember what happened to the prodigal son in Luke 15? After he had wasted all his inheritance in wild living, he ended up feeding the pigs (Luke 15:15-16). As Eugene Peterson puts it, “He was so hungry he would have eaten the corncobs in the pig slop, but no one would give him any.” If you saw that, you might think, “That young man is ready for a new life.” Maybe so, maybe not.
Sometimes in our attempt to reach out to the prodigals we know, we can intervene too soon.

In the story Jesus told, the father waited for his son to return and then ran to meet him when he was still far from home. What if the father in the story had gone after his son and tried to bring him back even one day early? The son would have said, “If only you had left me alone for one more day, I would have made all my money back because I was investing in pork bellies.”

So it goes. We may think that someone has hit rock bottom when they are still scheming a way out of their problems. It was not until the son “came to his senses” that he decided to return home. That has to happen to every prodigal son and daughter, and it cannot be predicted or forced.

Repentance is first of all a work of God in the human heart. If you come a day too soon, the prodigal will always think, “With one more day, I would have figured out a way to solve my own problems.” As long as the scheming and lying and deceiving continues, the best thing we can do is to pray for God’s Spirit to bring them to their senses and to wait patiently until that day comes.”

I know you will be greatly encouraged reading Part 1 and Part 2 of this sermon by Ray Pritchard on his website  Keep Believing. 

Toward the end of  his sermon Ray gives these  comforting words…

God knows where they are.
God knows what they are doing.
God knows how to reach them.
God knows how to bring them back.

Between now and then, never give up.

Never give up.
Keep believing.
Keep on praying.