#277 (18/03/07)
Step up to a Better You: Make Amends

The Message

By: Robert A. Schuller

Special Guest

One of the most beloved hymns around the world is “Amazing Grace.” But few people know the true story behind that incredible song. That’s why my guest today, a dear friend of mine for many years, the veteran film maker and producer Ken Wales has put his hearts work into bringing this story to life in a new motion picture that opens on February 23rd called “Amazing Grace.”

Special Music

" Joyful, Joyful.. "
" Praise to the Lord, the Almighty "
“ Take My Life and Make it New ”

" I Will Sing my Great Redeemers Praise "
CCA CHORUS – “Amazing Grace”
"How Firm a Foundation"

CHARIYA BISSONETTE – “Love Can Move Mountains”

The Message

One of the things we’ve been doing is looking at the twelve steps. The twelve steps were presented to us by Alcoholics Anonymous and is used by recovery groups around the world. And regardless of the addictions that people have, they almost always come back to the twelve steps and use the twelve steps as a means of recovery. In fact Tara Conners just got out, Miss USA, out of a thirty day stint in a recovery center. And having come out, this is what she said to Matt Lauer. She says, “Getting it all off my chest is so important and being honest with you, at first I kind of held back on it a little bit, but there’s no sense in it,” she said. “Luckily the great thing about getting everything out and being completely open and honest about things, it frees me from it. So the more I get it off my chest, the better I feel about myself. It’s not healthy for my recovery to sit here and hold things back.” She’s in the process of recovering from her addictions to alcohol and drugs. And many people, not only famous people like Miss USA or other individuals, but many, many people most of us can use and all of us can use the twelve steps of AA to help us become better people. Because that’s what we want, we just want to be better people and God wants you to be better. He wants to help you. He wants to help you grow.

And today, I am looking at steps eight and nine in the twelve steps of recovery. They’re probably one of the more familiar steps to people, maybe because of a comedy on television: “My name is Earl.” How many you ever see the TV show “My Name is Earl?” What is he doing? He’s going through his list of people with which he is making amends. And it’s all about him making amends with people. And guess what, that’s my sermon today is how do we make amends with people?

Well, first let us start by finding the biblical reality, to making amends. Jesus said it this way, “If therefore you are presenting your offerings at the altar, and there remember your brother has something against you, leave your offering there before the altar and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother and then come and present your offerings.

Steps eight and nine says this, “I will make a list of the people I have harmed by my past behavior and be willing to make amends. Then number nine, “wherever it is possible I will make direct amends to the people my behavior has harmed except when to do so would injure them or others.” When we stop and we think about making amends, there’s two people we often fail to put on the list. They’re the ones you don’t think about right away. The first one is yourself. We often forget to put our self on our list of people to make amends with. We have gone through life saying, I can’t. And how many times have we failed to live up to being the people God has called us to be, but instead we simply said, I can’t.

My children, when they were in Kindergarten had a tremendous kindergarten teacher and they both had the same kindergarten teacher, and I went to both of their open houses and I heard the same message both open houses. And that is one of the things that I still remember to this day, because it was years ago that my kids were in kindergarten. I’m not even going to tell you how many years. It was a long time ago. And she said, “Rule #1 in kindergarten is this: You’re not allowed to use the words, ‘I Can’t’. Every time you say I can’t you have to say I’ll try.” And she said the kids in kindergarten they come here and immediately everything they say is I can’t, I can’t and I have to teach them, no I’ll try. Just try it. Use the scissors, I can’t. Try it. You have to color picture, oh I can’t. No you have to try it. Pick up the color and try it.

One of the greatest books every written was written by a guy named Robert Fulghum. It was entitled, “Everything I really needed to know I learned in Kindergarten.” Great book. Just the basics. And one of the most important lessons we can learn from our kindergarten teacher is to eliminate those words, I can’t. And how many times in our life have we been deprived, how we have deprived ourselves of the blessings of God because we have said, I can’t. When the reality is you could have.

I look at some of things we have in our society today and one of the things that always frustrates me is how long it takes to get a pair of pants hemmed. I mean this is a real simple thing to hem a pair of pants. They usually say it takes between three and five days when I go to the tailor. If you ask for it immediately that’s impossible. If you ask for the next day, you might get it. It’s typically three to five days, least that’s the way it is in my neighborhood. However, if I go overseas into a place like Hong Kong or Korea and I’ve had suites made there, do you know how long it takes to make an entire suite from scratch? Two days! They say we could do a little better job if we have three days, but we can do it in two. And they will do it, a great job in two days and I’ve never paid more than two hundred dollars for a suit, in two days. What do you mean you can’t? The truth is we fail to take responsibility for our actions and for our lives. And instead of saying I can’t we have to say I will and I’ll try.

One of the things my wife and I know is when we invite some people to an event, we have discovered that when people say, I’ll try, we immediately translate that into a no. Ninety-five percent of the time, people say ‘can you come to this event on Wednesday night,’ they say ‘I’ll try,’ we just cross them off. That’s a no. Unless we go to the next step and tell them while everyone who says I’ll try says.. never comes. It’s either I will or I won’t, which one is it? In which case we’ve put their backs up against the wall and they’re forced to make a decision and tell us the truth and they either do or they don’t. I try doesn’t translate to I will.

In step numbers eight and nine, helps us to heal the past in order to transform the present and what we do is we begin by making a list of the people we’ve harmed. The first one on the list is ourselves.

The second one on the list is God. We need to put God on the list because we have all harmed God. And you ask well how can you harm God? Let me share with you the words of God. “For I was hungry and you gave Me something to eat. I was thirsty and you gave Me drink. I was a stranger you invited Me in. I was naked and you clothed Me. I was sick and you visited Me. I was in prison and you came to Me. Then the righteous one answered them saying Lord when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink, and when did we see You as a stranger and invite You in, or naked and clothe You? And when did we see You sick and in prison and come to You? Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did to one of the least brothers of Mine, you did it to Me.”

But how often daily do we forget to feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, invite in the strangers and clothe the naked and visit the sick and visit the prisoned? We need to add God to our list. Only after we’ve put our name on the list, only after we’ve put God’s name on the list, are we then ready to start putting other people on the list and do you know who else we need to put on that list? Every single one of us need to put our mother and our father on that list. And every single one us needs to put every single one of our children on that list. And then from there we can start putting other people in our past, whom we’ve harmed. We don’t know what the ramifications are going to be when we make these lists but the first step is actually making the list.

The second step is once we’ve made the list is to actually do something with that list. And the three options we have is to write a letter, make a phone call or visit the person and do it personally and we make amends. If you wish to write a letter, I want to encourage you to download a sample letter from our website. I’ll put it on there, I don’t have it here to pass out, but if you go to our website later this week, it’s not up right now. I’ll do it in the next couple of days. You can download the message, you can download the sample letter. The sample letter is actually written by Ron J. and he has written a spectacular amends letter which you can use as a sample to follow as you write your amends letters to your parents, to your self, to God, to your friends, to the past people who you’ve injured and hurt. And it’s a starting point.
After you’ve written the letters, then you can make phone calls or you can present the letters personally to people or you can stick them in the mail. Or if it’s going to hurt someone or any other person associated with the situation, you don’t necessarily have to mail the letters. The healing I think takes place, first in the process of writing. The process of going through the realization of being open and honest like Tara Conners said to Matt Lauer in her interview. In being honest with you, it’s for my health. It’s not healthy for my recovery to sit here and hold things back. And so for our health, for our well being, for our recovery we need to be honest and we’re totally and completely honest in these letters.

In 2005, Liz Socorro received an amends letter from William Bebe. Some of you probably remember this, because it made the news when she turned him into the police. When they were back in 1985, when they were both going to school he sexually abused her and now that he’s going through recovery, he’s written a letter and he mailed her the letter. And in November 2006 he pleaded guilty to sexual assault and on March 15,th in just a few weeks, he’ll be sentenced and the state has recommended he gets two years for his crime. And William wants to do the time, he didn’t argue with it, he didn’t pull away he wants to do the time, because he knows he’s guilty and he wants to receive the healing that comes by paying his debts.

What’s our scripture? Our scripture is the story of Zacchaeus. And Jesus entered and was passing through Jericho and behold there was a man by the name of Zacchaeus and he was a chief tax gatherer and he was rich. And he was trying to see who Jesus was and he was unable because of the crowd, for he was small in stature. And he ran on ahead, climbed up into a sycamore tree in order to see Him, for He was about to pass through that way. And when Jesus came to the place, He looked up and saw him, “Zacchaeus, come down, for today I must stay at your house,” he said. And Zacchaeus hurriedly came down and received Him gladly. And when they saw it, they all began to grumble, all of His disciples and everyone around them. He’s gone to be the guest of a sinner, they said. And Zacchaeus stopped and said to the Lord, “Behold Lord, half of my possessions I will give to the poor. And if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will give back four times as much!” And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house for the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.” Amends: Healing our past so we can receive fullness in the present. And that’s what it’s all about. It’s coming to a realization that we can succeed with God.
Let me conclude with a prayer that I have in the end of my book. In fact, if you’d like a copy it’s entitled “Dump Your Hang-Ups.” It is a book on the 12 steps. And if you’d like one of these books, I did find some and they’re available and all the proceeds are going to go to helping to build, when I say all the proceeds, I mean all the proceeds. One hundred percent are going to help rebuild homes for those who lost their homes in hurricane Katrina. But I end this chapter on amends with a prayer. I’m going to read it to you.

Dear Heavenly Father, I pray that You will continue to help me discard all of the old bad habits and the bad feelings that I have been holding on to. Help me to take the responsibility for restoring those whom I have offended. Lord, I thank You for the future, which is full of divine help. Lead me and guide me so that I may achieve proper relationships with others. Now I thank You Lord for giving me the strength to be like Your son Jesus Christ. I love You and praise Your name, Amen.

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