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Yesterday. A very dear man, a very dear friend slipped from this world to the next to receive his reward. I am quite sure as he was caught up in the “Meeting in the Air”, he heard the words “welcome my good and faithful servant” from his Lord. As he stepped into the presence of Almighty God and his Savior Jesus, the words welcome home “friend” and “my child” were there to greet him. When he walked through the pearly gates he was met by the saints who had gone on before him.

I had not come to know this dear friend very long, or at least not in the usual way we measure time in years. I can say that as he unfolded his life in story to me I felt like I had known him all his life. He was a devoted and adoring husband to one. He was a loving and kind father, modeling the Heavenly Father, to his children. He was a wise, discerning mentor to his children and their children. He was a friend to all that took the opportunity to know him. He was a musician by heart, well accomplished in a variety of instruments. He was a teacher by passion, willing to instruct others in their pursuit of musical ability. He was a faithful disciple of his Lord Jesus Christ, continually striving to be more “Christ- like” in all walks of his life whether in work, play, or just everyday life. I knew him as a dear friend and the “leader of the band”.

In our life’s journey we are fortunate and blessed if we are given the occasion to meet and know one known as a “leader”. I had this opportunity with him. Each time we were together I felt loved and welcomed. I began to understand the qualities that make a servant- leader as I sat and listened to him reveal the wisdom he had experienced in his life. If there is a recurring scripture that examplified what I learned from my friend, it is found in Romans Chapter 12. “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God- this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is- his good, pleasing, and perfect will.”

I saw in my friend the charisteristics that make a servant- leader. In his story I see what each of us that knew him should strive also to obtain in our own story. He first made a choice. To follow Christ and have his mind renewed. His transformation was driven by a steadfast commitment to the new life he had been given. His integrity was founded by his accountability and transparency in everyday life. He grew to understand God’s will for his life and he was unwilling to compromise from the truth. His compassion for others led him to give and serve more than he took. His passion for Christ fueled his lifetime desire to glorify God in music and song. In his music he found more than happiness which is a state of mind, he found joy which is a matter of the transformed heart. He was the leader of the band, a leader in life, showing the way to Christ.

My dear friend began receiving his eternal reward yesterday. The world may not have recognized and rewarded him as he was due for his gift, talent, and passion. Those of us blessed enough to have known him understood as he did that his greatest reward was waiting till yesterday. His reward will continue throughout eternity. I miss him today. I will see him again. He was and is the “leader of the band”.

LIFE, LIBERTY, PURSUIT of HAPPINESS

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With the 4th of July just passed, I heard these words several times from a range of varying venues. The words are common to us all that live in the United States. Of course we know they are found in the Declaration of Independence penned by our nation’s founding fathers. We first learned them in our early childhood History lessons at school, even required to memorize them in some instances in latter History or Civics classes. If you live in the USA, you are familiar with at least the content of this famous statement.

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness”

For the past few days I heard these words repeated many times in political statements, 4th celebration speeches, funeral addresses, friends conversations, TV advertisements, and from church pulpits. Each time they were spoken in sincerity, honoring either our heritage or the values represented by our Nation as a land of freedom. Of all the words found in our nation’s formulative documents, these are most representative of the beliefs we hold as a nation. They give us all a sense of national patriotic pride, a foundation of basic values from which we hope to build our homeland. I am truly thankful to have been born here in America, it was a gift of grace from God. I also continue to pray that God will bless America and He will lead this Nation as a people to bring these truths from self-evident into fruition in the manner in which we live as a Nation under God.

Having just firmly attested to my thankfulness and pride in our Nation’s core beliefs, I wish to expound a little deeper into what I believe to be is often not spoken concerning these self-evident truths and Rights. Our forefathers were correct. We as a Nation were endowed by our Creator, God, to His Truth. His Word plainly states His Creation and His Sovereignty over all is self-evident. The unalienable Rights given to us as a Nation and to all peoples who call upon His Name were given with a price. The cost of these Rights we enjoy was the Crucifixation and Resurrection of His Son, Jesus Christ. I in no way discount the sacrifice by untold numbers of brave men and women who gave their all to protect these God given Rights. To these honorable persons we all should give thanks and prayers for those who continue still to protect what God has so graciously given us as a people.

Whether you are a follower of Jesus Christ or not, the Truth that is self-evident that endows those Rights of Life, Liberty, and pursuit of Happiness are given by God only through His Son Jesus and the price He paid for all mankind’s sin. It is only by grace and faith in Christ’s sacrifice that a believer can come to this understanding of the Truth and the rights that follow. For those who do not yet believe in Christ, God offers the same Truth and grace given rights for their acceptance. Salvation and forgiveness are freely given by God to all who believe in their heart and accept by faith in the Truth of Jesus Christ.

As a Christian, a follower of Jesus, we begin to understand that those rights we posess are only true as found in Christ. Galatians 2:20 states, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” NIV  To be blunt, if I have been crucified with Christ, I no longer live. Christ is living within me. Dead men have no rights. Those Rights are only found in our Resurrected Savior. The self-evident Truth is that my right to life here and eternally is in Christ. My right to liberty from death and sin is only in Christ. My right to pursue happiness is only found in following Jesus. He alone is the Life, the Truth, and the Resurrection. Only in Him can true Joy, Peace, and happiness come. As a believer in Christ I surrendered all of my Rights to the Sovereignty of Christ as Lord. He alone is my portion and my cup. Any rights given to me come from and through Him alone. Jesus said,” If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” Luke 9:23 NIV  In our everyday life when our rights come into question, we must deny our self right, take up the crucifixation cross again today, and follow the only One who has Rights. If I have a right to Life, Liberty, and pursuit of Happiness it had to flow through Jesus to me following Him.

I pray all who read this come to understand where the Truth abides and in whom our Rights come from. Yes, may God of all Creation bless America as a Nation through the honoring of His Son Jesus Christ.

 

 

 

 

WHO IS FOLLOWING YOU?

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When we left The Next Day, I became aware that I may have left some of my readers, especially those who have not yet chose to believe in Christ and even some believers, with a question or two. In the text I did place a strong emphasis on a Christians’ hope in the Resurrection. This truth gives us the assurance of our own life after death with Christ in Heaven. That truth alone gives us great peace and hope in Him. We are comforted in the knowledge of where we will spend eternity in God’s presence. Our future is secure because Jesus was raised from the dead!

I finished by text with a statement that implied Christians embrace the next day without fear, with love, forgiveness, and joy. This statement is true and within this statement lies the question for many.Some will ask, so Christian, your faith in Christ secures your Heavenly future after death. They will accept your hope in that truth. But what about the next day here on earth? How can you have no fear of the next days’ woes, or how can you embrace the next day with love, forgiveness, and especially joy in our troubled times? Those are valid questions. Our hope in Christ is especially grounded in eternal life with Him, but we also have this remarkable hope and joy in the next day while we are here on earth. There are numerous scriptures which support our hope and joy in this next day, but allow me to introduce you to just one.

The next day as a Christian or not on this earth is not guaranteed to be easy, without strife or calamity, and certainly not just the way we want it to be. We can’t have it our way all the time. In light of that observation how in the world can we live the next day with hope and joy! And don’t forget the fear of what might be!

To be a disciple/believer in Christ, He says “Follow me.” Psalm 23 tells us He is our shepherd, our leader. He leads us to green pastures, still waters, down paths of righteousness, and yes even through the valleys of death. He tells us to fear no evil. We are known as followers of Christ. We are instructed to model our next days after Him. By following Jesus we have our hope in eternity. But did you know as a follower of Christ someone’s following you, well actually two entities.

How in this worlds’ next day can I as a believer in Christ have hope and joy amist all the troubles? I have two guys ( forgive the personification) following me every where I go for the rest of my life! Psalm 23:6, “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” NKJV  That’s where our joy and hope come from every next day. I/We can’t go anywhere on this earth, any day without these guys following us around. Goodness and Mercy, what a swell couple to have following you around. Even in the hard or troubled times these two make sure I am covered. I have no reason to fear, Goodness and Mercy got my back. I can have joy, real joy every day, they never leave me.

Keep these two in mind as you prepare for the next day. If you are following Christ, He assures you that He has them following you. He also said you may live in His house forever when the next day is the last. If you are not a believer, who is following you? Think about it.

 

THE NEXT DAY

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Easter Sunday, a favorite day for almost everyone. I know it is one of my special days of the year. Although the specific date on the calender may vary from year to year, Easter usually signals the arrival of spring time. The bitter cold temperatures begin to meld into warmer days. The appearance of green grass sprouts and budding trees along with a few flower blooms all appear at Easter time. The daily sunshine amounts seem to expand exponently, with it our outlook on the days ahead.

Easter Sunday brings the Easter Bunny. In our secular world, the arrival of Easter has become one of the top Holidays celebrated throughout our nation. Chocolate bunnies, marshmellow eggs, and of course we can’t forget the Peeps and jelly beans! Easter baskets are filled with toys and candy on the arrival of Easter morning. There are egg hunts, egg rolls, and egg drops held throughout the town not just at the churches. Then the fashion shows begin. The ladies dressed in their finest spring attrire, some donning a lovely Easter bonnet. The guys in their new Easter suit, or at minimum the new pastal shirt and tie. The children smartly dressed in cute spring dresses or little bow ties for the lads. Then my favorite, the Easter banquet is presented. A table full of delicious favorites served around the table for the family gathering. Or perhaps the special buffets offered at our favorite eateries with special friends.

For Christians, Easter Sunday is even more wonderful. There are all the things mentioned before which we all enjoy with the rest of the world. But we have even a more spectacular occurence  to celebrate and rejoice, Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior, who was crucified, died , buried, and on the third day arose. He is Risen, He is alive, and because He rose from the dead, we who believe in Him shall rise from the dead also. For a believer this day is the most remarkable day of the year to celebrate. All we believe and hold dear as truth is centered around the events of this day. Jesus death for our sins, and His resurrection to mark our forgiveness, secures our hope in this life and the next with Him in heaven. What a reason to celebrate! Easter Sunday brings out the gladness of heart and just pure joy for those who have called upon His name for salvation.

Well, its the next day. I did eat the big feast, wore some pastel colors, fellowshipped with dear friends, sang praise and worshipped to God and my Risen Lord at our church, I didn’t have too many chocolate eggs, but I celebrated Easter! I celebrated the special day and the Holiday as a Christian and a living member of this world. It’s the next day.

If you are not a Christian, it’s just the next day. I suppose as you return to your weekly routine you can begin to look forward to Memorial Day for the upcoming holiday. If you are a Christian, it’s still the next day. I warrant the most of us return to our weekly routine along with the rest of the world. Scriptures say that is not so uncommon as found in John 21:3 (AMP).  ”Simon Peter said to them, I am going fishing!” By the way it was his occupation not recreational sport. “They said to him, And we are coming with you!”

Peter returned to his routine, at least initialy, until given a new occupation by Jesus. I would believe that Christ would also have us return to our given occupation, routine, unless otherwise enlightened by His Holy Spirit. It’s the next day and we move forward, but we do so carrying the encouragement and hope renewed in our hearts each Easter Sunday. We embrace the next day without fear, with love and forgiveness for our brother, and with joy given by Jesus that can not be taken away. And we do so the next day also, and the next day.

LABELS

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This past week I was drawn into a discussion with a co-worker about what I first perceived was a query into a search for a new church home. Although  the conversation began with identifying geographical locations of area churches, I soon realized that the direction of our talk was being guided toward church selection based on doctrinal interpetation by denominational belief. The word Labels popped into my mind.

Labels are a significant and important part of our daily lives. They help us identify products, places, and services. With the use of labels we are provided necessary information to minimalize our searches and guide us in our selections. My quest for petrol on an flashing fuel guage would not find much resolution by looking for businesses labeled Pharmacy. Identifying food products in the local grocery store would be fruitless without labels attached to the product. Searching a directory for plumbers would be of little help when in need of a haircut. Labels are important. We use them daily.

Labeling can also be puzzling when allowed to mutate into generalizations without discernment. I return again to the conversation about doctrinal denominational beliefs. After the word Label entered my mind I quickly chose to state my view that being guided by Labels alone in church selection could impede the search. Wisdom and discernment from the Holy Spirit and Scripture would provide the better guide not always found in generalized labels. I found agreement in that statement from my co-worker. It also provided a closing point to a pointed conversation.

Galatians 3:26-29  ” For in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God through faith. For as many {of you} as were baptized into Christ [into a spiritual union and communion with Christ, the Anointed One, the Messiah] have put on (clothed yourselves with) Christ. There is [now no distinction] neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is not male and female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ [are in Him Who is Abraham's Seed], then you are Abraham’s offspring and [spiritual] heirs acording to promise.” AMP

I do like labels. I use them everyday. I would find daily activity very difficult without them. I don’t use Labels very often when seaching for a church to visit. Now that word of caution comes into play. I will through wisdom and discernment of Scripture and agreement of the Holy Spirit avoid and eliminate churches not founded in the Truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I, you should only be in fellowship with others that are in Christ as He presented Himself, “I am the Way and the Truth and the Life; no one comes to the Father except by Me.” John 14:6

There are many churches out there and in my geographical area that present Christ as He presented Himself. Amazingly enough, most of them have Labels on their sign out front inviting you to come and join them in the worship of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. I usually read the invitation and worship times, very rarely will I read the Label.

 

 

RESURRECTION

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Tomorrow is Easter Sunday, the day Christian believers cherish most dearly. It is a day of celebration and joy, a day to give thanks to God the Father for what He has done. On this day we more profoundly celebrate and declare that Jesus Christ, the Son, was resurrected from the dead. The event of the Resurrection holds several important meanings to those who believe. The Event reveals the true nature of Jesus Christ as the Son of God. The Event of the Resurrection allows us as believers to hope in our resurrection into eternal life as well. The Event of the Resurrection gives us as disciples faith in the promises of God through Jesus. The Event of the Resurrection proves there is life after this physical one we now know. There are numerous other meanings and important derivitives of the Event of the Resurrection, more than intended in this brief thought.

As a part of your Easter celebration this year I hope you have the opportunity to attend a worship service to be with family and friends. There I am sure at least one aspect of the Resurrection Event will be declared and expounded upon. The thought I wish to express today is as part of our Easter celebration that we consider the Resurrection, the Person. I wish not to confuse you or in any fashion seperate the our risen Lord from the event of the Resurrection. My intent of thought is primarily to shift our focus from the manifestations of the Resurrection Event to the person of the Resurrection, Jesus Christ. I myself, had often viewed the Easter celebration focusing primarily on the Event of the Resurrection and its meanings. This year, I am urged to look upon Resurrection, the Person.

JOHN 11: 25-26

“Jesus said to her, ‘I am [Myself] the Resurrection and the Life. Whoever believes in (adheres to, trusts in, and relies on) Me, although he may die, yet he shall live; And whoever continues to live and believes in (has faith in, cleaves to, and relies on) Me shall never [actually] die at all. Do you believe this? Amplified Bible

What a very poinent question Jesus asks of the Bible character Martha in this story. What a very profound statement Jesus is making to us as believers today. Jesus reveals to all who would believe that the Resurrection is a person, Himself, not an event! He does not just say that there will be a resurrection event of the dead on the last day. This is how Martha replied to Jesus following the death of her brother Lazarus. I encourage you to read the whole story of Lazarus in Chapter 11 of the Book of John to help you gain understanding.

Jesus says, “I am the Resurrection . . .”. Okay, you ask, what is the point here. Yes, Jesus was resurrected from the dead, because of Him we too have the hope of eternal life and resurrection. Yes, that is all true and more, much more. That alone is reason enough to celebrate Easter and every day.

Jesus identifies Himself here in this passage with another name. He declares His name is also Resurrection. Rather than an event the name Resurrection is He, the two are inseperable. It is not just something that will take place because of Him, it is Him. Resurrection is the person Jesus.

In the times of trouble when trials of this world come our way, we can hope. When calamities fall around and upon us we can not escape, we have faith. When the illness is diagnosed, and no cure is available, we can believe. When the world seems headed to certain destruction, we can trust. When the next generation seems to have wandered away, we can hold fast.

We can hope, have faith, believe, trust, and hold fast to Resurrection, the Person. When faced with any and all of the mentioned troubles, it is sometimes just our final prayer to look to the Resurrection, the Event. One day it will be over and all will be well. This is true, God promised. But I offer you another alternative view, in your prayer look to Resurrection the Person. Jesus, was making a point with Martha, one He intended for us to see and understand as well. He was not just a part of the Resurrection event to come, He was it in person. And the Person had a surprise for Martha, her brother came walking out of the cave, alive!

Now good Christian doctrine will dictate that I may actually need to wait for the Recurrection event for my healing, God’s thoughts and plans are not my own. His are much higher and all for His glory. Jesus, the Resurrection person will always be about His Father’s business and bring glory to the Father. In this we can look to the Resurrection person for today’s need, not just a future healing event. When I pray or call out to Jesus about the troubles of my today, I can restate what Jesus said of Himself. Jesus you are the Resurrection and the Life. I believe you!

HAPPY EASTER!

MIRRORED SIDE

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MATTHEW 6:12, “And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.” These words were spoken by Jesus in the familiar verses known to us as “The Lord’s Prayer.” Jesus went on to say in verse 14 of the same chapter of Matthew, “For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you; but if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”

So many times when the subject of forgiveness is brought to our attention, either from the pulpit or admonishment from a friend, we are primarily concerned with our hurt or woundedness. Someone hurts our feelings and our friend understands but knows the scripture and instructs us that we must forgive. Our pastor gives an anointed sermon on forgiveness and we are reminded that perhaps we had not quite forgiven that past injury from long ago. I admit I too have fell victim to unforgiveness, at some time we probably all are guilty of not having a forgiving heart.  We are trapped in our own hurt and self centered feelings. Our self pity inhibits our willingness to forgive the injuring party.  The problem could very well be we are focused on what they did to us. Perhaps we need to look in the mirror side of forgiveness.

I believe there are two window panes as we view out our souls at forgiveness. The lower pane is an unobstructed look at our wound and the person who did it! We oft use this pane because with our head down in self pity it’s the only one we see. I have also found it is very difficult to allow forgiveness to stream out this window; the down draft keeps blowing back inward.

There is an upper pane to the window of our soul, this pane is mirrored. When we raise our head from self pity, we can look straight into the mirrored pane of forgiveness. There we see what Jesus said about forgiveness and our own shortcomings before Him. Many aspects are visible in this view. We see that we all fall short daily and need His forgiveness. Often we can see that we may have had a role in the event that wounded us, actually even causing hurt to the other person. Rarely is it all one person’s fault, especially in light of our Christian view as Jesus taught. Perhaps even we have continued to cause hurt to another and have yet to ask for forgiveness. The most excellent part of the upper window pane, is while we are looking up toward Christ, forgiveness flows in and out of our souls. We can forgive and be forgiven.

There is an example of forgiveness related in a story found in the New Testament. This story contains all the above elements of forgiveness. I believe the best part of this story is that we are left to speculate on how it ends, even supplanting ourselves into each role. What would we have done? Which window pane would capture our view?

My favorite example of forgiveness found in the Bible has to be the story of Onesimus. I can’t be sure why I like it so much, there are so many different aspects to the story, but I feel I am drawn to this true story from the aspect of the guy who did the wrong, or the obvious wrong. The fellow who was prompted to do the forgiving probably has much more to display as exemplifying a biblical incident of forgiveness. Even Paul who orchestrated the whole forgiveness proceedings from start to finish was a better testimony to forgiveness. So it is not that I like this one episode in God’s revealing Himself because great spiritual men forgave but because a small man found God’s forgiveness and was able to forgive himself and seek the forgiveness of those he had wronged. Oh, I firmly believe he had considered the consequences of his wrong acts before he turned to face his wrong, but the desire to act out what he had been given was even a stronger stimulus than fear of retribution. I believe this is a great example of forgiveness in the Bible, because one little man forgave himself, capturing the heart of what he had been given, forgiveness by Christ.

I like this story in the way it was written and feels, common. I will insert the proper descriptive information for correctness, but I believe the story becomes more relative in everyday truth. Let’s look at this Onesimus fellow, even his name is a contradiction to his character. He is a runaway slave, skipped town and even stole from his employer/owner Philemon. Onesimus means useful or beneficial in Greek, he could hardly be called that in view of his current circumstances.

I want to interject here a note about slavery and Christianity. I believe scripture would lead all men to believe they are servants/slaves to Christ alone. To enslave another would contradict how Jesus instructed us to love one another. In the period of this story slavery was most common and accepted throughout the Roman Empire and the known world. It was embedded in their culture. Historians believe there were approximately three slaves to every freeman by count at this time. Slavery was not a racial issue then. The Roman government practiced enslaving its captured nations rather than killing them. Most of the domestic slaves of that time were educated. Many were paid wages, bought their way to freedom, or were made free men after a length of service. Of course not all slaves at this time were treated well. Slavery has never been good for the enslaved, then, in our nation’s past, or now throughout the world.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Back to our story of Onesimus, found in the Book of Philemon, New Testament, written by Paul as a letter. In his getaway he winds up in jail, we don’t know why, in Ephesus or Rome about A.D.60 or so. No matter where he was, he meets or remeets this guy we know as Paul the Apostle, small world of coincidence that they should meet. Onesimus receives the Gospel from Paul and is forgiven for his sins. He becomes a help to Paul in ministering to his needs while imprisoned and recaptures his name of useful. Along the way of becoming a servant not a slave, Simon must have forgiven himself too.

Let’s now consider Philemon, the namesake of the letter written by Paul from jail. Philemon was a prosperous Christian, a member of the church in Colossae, perhaps even a minister.  Probably personally known by Paul and converted by hearing him preach. It is feasible to think Onesimus might have even seen Paul or known who he was while enslaved in Colossae. He was a gentile believer not necessarily a Roman citizen, so his legal claims to Onesimus as a runaway may not have been a matter of Roman law. Under Roman law Onesimus crime would have been punishable by death. The church may have met in Philemon’s house. Colossae was a well known market city in present day Turkey. Philemon undoubtedly grew up taking slavery as common in this area and culture. When Onesimus runs away taking some of what belonged to Philemon, he considers himself the injured party as would law and public opinion.

Paul in his letter to Philemon is presenting Onesimus back to him as rightful and even promises to make restitution for what was taken from him. Paul has hand written this letter to be carried back by Onesimus and personally presented to Philemon. There is more to this brief letter than returning a slave, much more. Paul sets about to plead with Philemon on Onesimus behalf. In his letter are several arguments to this end. Included in these, sometimes subtly, are admonishments and advice to Philemon to look at the mirrored pane of his own soul. Enslavement of Onesimus would be a big one, but Paul also makes him aware that he too was a sinner, now forgiven.

We must look at Paul as the playmaker in this story. As with many of Paul’s converts Onesimus takes on hardily the task of ministering to Paul for the sake of the Gospel. From Paul’s on writing we see that he preferred to have Onesimus stay and work with him. This is where we can only speculate what happened. I tend to think Onesimus was happy to be where he was but there was this inner nagging about the wrong he had done and he longed for forgiveness from Philemon and reconciliation. I like to think in Paul’s wisdom he saw that this was a God opportunity to reveal the practice of forgiveness and make plain the teaching of Christ, so he encouraged Onesimus to return and ask for forgiveness. As a measure of trust Paul inserted himself into the plan for Onesimus’ sake as well as Philemon. He could face punishment by returning and Philemon would be presented with a test of his faith to forgive and accept him back as his brother in Christ. Paul does not discount the wrong done by Simon nor try to minimize it. Paul realized that their transformation should have impact on their social interaction as well as their spiritual one. Paul does remind Philemon that he has the right to demand forgiveness but he does not. He chooses rather to appeal to his knowledge of God’s grace and love.

This story is a great example of forgiveness in the Bible and shows some practical application. Three stages of forgiveness, restoring humanity to the wrong doer, surrendering our right to get even, and blessing the one we forgive are all revealed in this story. The fundamentals of the healing process are told here. We see that wise counsel can reveal our own need to take the mirrored view, accounting our failures as well. We are reminded that it takes one to forgive but two to reconcile, maybe with the help of a third. Also we see that there are strings attached to forgiveness with reconciliation, just asks Philemon. This bible story reminds us that forgiveness is fair, a statement of severe honesty, and it is natural in our new creation. We saw Paul recognize God’s view of forgiveness as a must opportunity to be taken even with risk. Blame and judgment are recognized and not discounted so forgiveness can occur. Forgiveness can only truly occur when both panes of the window to our soul are opened before Christ.

In closing I do believe the best part of all the practical truth told in this story is being able to forgive ourselves. I hold that most important of the lessons of Philemon and forgiveness. How did Onesimus learn to forgive himself? We see the right of telling it to ourselves, over and over. We keep it to ourselves; we don’t flaunt it especially in front of the one we wronged. We do act like it though. We do something extravagant, to honor what we have been forgiven. I can’t tell you for sure how the story ends with Onesimus. One account says he not only was accepted, reconciled, and freed but that he went on to be a bishop and the head of the church in Ephesus after Timothy. This account also says he was imprisoned and martyred in Rome. The Eastern Orthodox Church recognizes him as Saint Onesimus. I don’t know. He may have been forgiven and returned to his social level of slave in Philemon’s household. He may have been reconciled and set free. He may have become Philemon spiritual partner and great things for the kingdom were done. I don’t know but I believe he was forgiven by God and himself.  Now that’s the Gospel!

GUILT & FORGIVENESS

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  • •           GUILT & FORGIVENESS            By: Don Williams

A  presentation to help us better understand guilt and forgiveness.

  • •           GUILT

The one factor common to everyone, found in anxiety, depression, anger, relational, sexual, martial, abuse, identity, family, divorce, and control issues.

The one factor common to all men.

We all suffer from guilt at some time.

WHY? Because we are all guilty!

ROMANS 3:23, ECCLESIASTES 7:20,    ACTS 17:30

Guilt has been described as the place where religion and psychology most often meet. It is a terribly painful emotional experience. In most all of the problems that a person may face, guilt will be a part of the difficulty. With this knowledge it is imperative that we learn to help others and ourselves manage guilt in a way that brings forgiveness.

  • •           TWO CATAGORIES of GUILT

Ø OBJECTIVE GUILT occurs when a law has been broken, the lawbreaker is guilty, not related to feelings.

Ø SUBJECTIVE GUILT refers to the inner feelings of remorse and self-condemnation that come because of our actions.

It is important to be able to distinguish between the two types of guilt.

  • •           OBJECTIVE GUILT

Ø LEGAL :SOCIETY’S LAWS

Ø THEOLOGICAL: LAWS OF GOD

Ø PERSONAL: PERSONAL STANDARDS

Ø SOCIAL: SOCIALLY ACCEPTED RULES

LEGAL GUILT: a violation of society’s laws, an example would be theft. If a person steals from a store the individual is guilty of theft whether they are caught or not and regardless of remorse.

THEOLOGICAL GUILT: a failure to obey God’s laws. The Bible describes divine standards for human behavior, standards that we all violate at some time in our actions or thoughts.

PERSONAL GUILT: a violation of our own personal standards or resistance to the urgings of our conscience. An example would be a devoted father who had to be out of town on business on his child’s birthday. No illegal, immoral, or unbiblical acts were committed, but guilt is present.

SOCIAL GUILT: when we break unwritten socially accepted rules. An example would be talking too loudly in a normally quiet setting, a funeral gathering.

These types of guilt overlap, merge, and sometimes are not easily distinctive. Although most people would be uncomfortable when they violate any of the four objective types of guilt it is quite possible to do all of these and not feel guilty.

  • •           SUBJECTIVE  GUILT

The uncomfortable feeling of regret, remorse, shame, and self-condemnation associated with perceived wrongful acts or thoughts, including omission.

Ø APPROPRIATE GUILT FEELINGS

Ø INAPPROPRIATE GUILT FEELINGS 

Appropriate guilt feelings are present when we have broken a law, disobeyed biblical teaching, or violated the dictates of our conscience and feel remorse in proportion to the seriousness of our actions.

Inappropriate guilt feelings are out of proportion to the seriousness of the act.  These often come from within ourselves or can come from statements or judgments of others.

  • •           BIBLE   &   GUILT

Ø People usually refer to subjective guilt.

Ø Biblical Guilt is objective guilt.

Ø Psalms and other scripture relate  personal remorse, but not guilt feelings.

Ø Bible does not imply that we should arouse guilt feelings in others.

Ø Constructive Sorrow: godly sorrow.

Ø Divine Forgiveness: major biblical theme.

The words translated guilt in the Bible refer to the objective guilt in the theological category, not the subjective feelings of guilt that most people talk about when referring to guilt. A person is guilty in the biblical sense when they have broken God’s law. In the Bible there is little difference between guilt and sin.

Although biblical writers never mention subjective guilt, we do see this type of guilt throughout scripture. Deep expressions of remorse over sin are found in the Psalms. Paul writes of his own inner anguish as he fails to do good.

As a believer we have no reason to have guilt feelings because of the work of Christ, even so we continue in mental self punishment, dwelling on guilt we feel over our sin.

Many teachers, parents, preachers, and coaches attempt to stir up guilt feelings in others in an attempt to motivate, change behavior, punish wrongdoers, and protect people from future sin. These tactics may work temporarily but tend to be manipulative and arouse unhealthy guilt feelings.

The concept of Constructive Sorrow or Godly sorrow is seen in Paul’s writings. In 2Corinthians 7:8-10, Paul describes worldly sorrow (guilt feelings) contrasted with godly sorrow ( helps us turn away from sin and seek salvation.  Psychological guilt is self condemning and confession is usually a selfish motive to get relief from guilt feelings. Godly sorrow involves remorse, repentance, and a genuine desire to change.

Divine Forgiveness established by Christ so we could be forgiven and restored. Most biblical passages imply that forgiveness comes with two conditions confession and repentance. It also means we must forgive others.  We can help people find forgiveness from God, help them forgive others, help them receive forgiveness, and forgive themselves.

  • •           CAUSES OF GUILT

Ø PAST EXPERIENCES

Ø INFERIORITY and SOCIAL PRESSURE

Ø FAULTY CONSCIENCE DEVELOPMENT

Ø SUPERNATURAL INFLEUENCES

Ø LACK OF FORGIVENESS

Most people feeling guilty are seeking help with their subjective guilt feelings, they may be from an objective guilt but they seek help for their feelings. Why do they feel guilty? Some reasons are.

Past experiences and unrealistic expectations are a main reason. Early childhood parental standards and punishment can lead to self-criticism, inferiority, and guilt feelings. Guilt feelings are also a way for us to both punish ourselves and push ourselves to do better. These unrealistic expectations usually are not successful.

Inferiority and Social Pressure: feelings of inferiority and guilt are intertwined and can cause the other. Our self-perceptions are greatly influenced by the opinions and criticisms of others.

Faulty Development of the Conscience: Although the term conscience is found in the New Testament it is never clearly defined. Paul wrote that consciences are built on universal, divinely given principles that are written within us. A Conscience can be dead, dulled, weak, strengthened, and altered by teaching and actions of others. Again early childhood development is important here, as well as peer input, and social values. Christian training as a child or adult can also be an influencing factor on our conscience.

Supernatural Influences: an awareness of objective guilt can come from the Holy Spirit who convicts us of sin. This influence is for cleansing and our good. Satan is referred to as the Accuser, these accusations in our thoughts lead to condemnation and guilt feelings.

A Lack of Forgiveness: not really a cause of guilt, but when we can not find forgiveness, guilt persists.

•           EFFECTS OF GUILT

Ø DEFENSIVE THINKING

Ø SELF-CONDEMNATION

Ø PHYSICAL REACTIONS

Ø MORAL PAIN

Ø REPENTANCE and FORGIVENESS

Guilt feelings can influence us in several ways.

Defensive Thinking: these take the form of defense mechanisms, ways of thinking that we use to avoid or reduce feelings of guilt. These can include repression, projection (blame), denial, withdrawal, rationalization, anger, or over apologize. Christians fall prey to the manner of thinking that “ sinful nature” is to blame. This can minimize the severity of sin and cheapen grace.

Self-Condemnation:  feelings of inferiority, inadequacy, weakness, low esteem, pessimism, and insecurity are all associated with guilt. Many people feeling guilt experience inability to accept compliments, say no to requests, or accept forgiveness. Anger of a self condemning nature can lead to depression and suicide.

Physical Reactions: guilt feelings can produce physical results. We are weakened and eventually may break.

Moral Pain: This type of effect is usually associated with the experience of intense violence, cruelty, or brutality. We experience deep moral pain from the acts we commit, experience or witness.

Repentance and Forgiveness: the one positive effect of guilt feelings. Confess and be made whole.

  • •           OVERCOMING  GUILT

Ø UNDERSTANDING and ACCEPTANCE

Ø INSTILLING INSIGHT

Ø MORAL EDUCATION

Ø REPENTANCE and FORGIVENESS

Ø MAKING RESTITUTION

Forgiveness and freedom from the burden of guilt is a gift from God. Guilt is a moral issue, and guilt feelings arise from moral failures. When people experience forgiveness, forgive others, and learn to forgive themselves they can learn to face their guilt and its causes.

Understanding and Acceptance: many people have a self condemning or self blaming attitude. We should not minimize the reality of sin, nor act morally superior, or condemn. An attitude of love and understanding works, love the sinner not the sin.

Instilling Insight: We must understand why we feel guilty. We must also be aware of our response to guilt. We need to recognize how or when our guilty feelings arose. These insights may lead to spiritual truths.

Moral Education: People with feelings of guilt must learn to reexamine their standards of right and wrong. It is almost basic theology, the solution to guilt feelings lies with honesty, confession, pray for forgiveness, repentance, and acceptance.

Repentance and Forgiveness: In dealing with the issue of forgiveness a person may think; I can’t ask for forgiveness, I don’t feel forgiven, I can’t forgive others, I can’t forget, and I can’t forgive myself. These struggles and thoughts are common to all.

Making Restitution: forgiveness is usually followed by a change in behavior and in thinking, these changes lead to true freedom from guilt.

  • •           CONCLUSION

The ultimate answer for guilt is not found solely in psychology. It is found in God and His forgiveness. We can be forgiven and our guilt removed and a way is provided to deal with our feelings of shame and guilt.

Although Christian Counseling is a wonderful tool to aid in our quest for freedom from guilt and to obtain inner peace, true forgiveness can only be found in the shed blood of Christ for our sin.

GUILT

HONESTY BEFORE GOD

CONFESS SIN

PRAY FORGIVENESS

REPENT

BELIEVE

ACCEPT

FORGIVEN

“The ultimate solution to guilt and guilt feelings is to honestly admit our pain, sufferings, failures, and guilt; to confess sin to Christ and at times to other human beings; to pray for forgiveness and a sincere desire to repent and change behavior; and then to believe with divine help that we are forgiven and accepted by the God of the universe.” quoted from Gary R. Collins, Ph.D. Christian Counselor.

 

NOTHIN’ COULD BE FINER

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DSC03228Yes, nothing could be finer than to be in Carolina on a snowy February day. It is an uncommon occurence for accumulated snow fall here so I reasoned it was only fitting to capture this day and share the photographs with you. Hope you enjoy them.

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Ok, that’s not snow!

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I hope you enjoyed the fine snowy day in Carolina!

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