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glasses

Comic actor Dennis Miller said in one famous rant, “Guilt is simply God’s way of letting you know that you are having too good a time.” There is truth in that statement, but God has higher uses for guilt in our lives. God places the feelings of guilt in our moral consciousness for good purposes.

All of us have done things during our lives for which we are not proud. In some cases we have taken drugs, even sold our bodies for money. We remember with sadness those times when we were alone, cold, and hungry, and those actions seemed like the only alternative. We loathed ourselves for doing it and even more for liking it a little. For women it sometimes resulted in getting pregnant. Some of us chose abortions. We live with the pain of those difficult decisions.

However, never confuse guilty feelings with shame. Guilt comes from our moral recognition that we have “missed the mark”. Guilt is our moral compass indicating that we have done something bad…shame is the devil speaking to us telling us that because of our actions, we are bad people. Not true! God forgives us and can use those experiences to point us in the right direction.

Feeling of guilt can act as a deterrent. When we are tempted again, God uses those unpleasant memories we felt to restrain us from falling into sin again. Restraint, when exercised repeatedly, turns into discipline. Like muscle that gets stronger from free-weight workouts, our resolve to avoid sin gets stronger as we resist the devil and walk away from temptation.

Pain and guilt are motivators as well as deterrents. When we fully understand that Jesus Christ walked that last mile on death row to pardon us for our sin, we will be motivated to fall to our knees and give thanks to God. We can show our thanks through our words and actions. The realization of God’s wonderful gift moves us to a place of accepting God’s grace and forgiveness.

Psalm 51

God loves to meet us and change us where we are, right where we are living at this moment. He doesn’t wait until we have it all together before God visits us and cleans us up. King David knew this when he wrote Psalm 51 and asked God to give him a “right Spirit.”

Some of us can identify with David’s request. We, too, are involved with behaviors from which we find eliminating and breaking free, difficult.  Maybe its a drug addiction that leads us down a slippery slope. Maybe our rage ate away at us and introduced us into situations we regret. Maybe it was our lust or our greed. We’ve tried to change, but we can’t make it work. We become discouraged and hopeless. We begin to think that maybe we are hopeless too. Worthless. But that attitude is not what we need to get beyond the guilt and shame.

David’s pleading prayer points us in the right direction. We need not only forgiveness but also cleansing. We need new hearts. Only God can give us new hearts—clean hearts—with new attitudes and new values. Through the power of His Holy Spirit, He wants to give us spiritual heart transplants so that His desires will flow through us, directing our emotions and actions. He wants His thoughts to fill our minds.

David also knew he needed a “right” spirit. He needed to have God touch his attitudes. We need that touch too. Often our spirits are full of negativity, hate, selfishness, greed, and lust. We need God to give us spirits that are full of hope, joy, peace, patience, goodness, and self-control. We need attitudes that help us reach out to each other, help us think the best about each other, and help us trust that God will use our lives to accomplish His good purposes. We need “right” spirits. When we ask God for the attitude adjustment, He promises to do so…are we ready for the healing touch?

Sin

Sin is real. Anyone who truly believes that sin does not exist has not been paying attention! In real-life, when we are honest, we look anywhere and see the evidence of sin. We see greed, snarky comments on social media, and mean and angry attitudes. Just think about your language the last time someone cut you off on the freeway!!

But do we know anything about sin? Sin is as common to human beings as sliminess is to a worm. Yet, how many of us understand sin? Why is it important for us to know about sin?

If we choose to ignore our sin and its seriousness, our sinful hearts see it as normal behavior. Sinful deeds will no longer seem wrong to us. We disconnect our behavior from God and live as if our sin does not matter. It’s like when we were kids and started stealing. If we didn’t get caught, we didn’t think it was wrong. But, if we got punished, if people found out, we took it much more seriously.

Without knowing our sin, we can never fully know ourselves and the debt of sin we have racked up. Suppose you go away for many months and when you return your friend says that he paid your bills for you. That may seem like no big deal until you find out and recognize that your friend paid a 7-year IRS back-taxes bill that was going to make you lose your house and your car and your savings!

Then you find out your friend emptied his bank account and took loans to pay off your debt. That changes everything, doesn’t it? We understand our situation only when we appreciate the enormity of our debt the gigantic sacrifice and huge gift to us.

When we understand the enormity of our sin and the debt that Jesus paid for our sin, we can begin to appreciate God’s love for us. Our gratitude breaks down our pride, and we grasp that we have been saved from a terrible fate. This pushes us toward thanksgiving to God. Thanksgiving paves the way to humility. In humility, we can begin to walk with God in a new purpose for our lives.

“You can’t always get what you want

You can’t always get what you want

But if you try sometimes you just might find

You get what you need”

Jagger

 There is a story recorded in the Bible (Luke 5:18-25) of a paralyzed man being lowered through the roof of a house by four friends of the man, so that they could present him to Jesus for healing. When Jesus sees the man, He says, “Friend, your sins are forgiven.” Duh…what is UP with that?

Can you imagine the look of disappointment on the faces of the crippled man? How about the guys who just destroyed the roof of the host in hopes of getting the cripples legs restored? Imagine this dialogue, “Yo, Jesus…Dude, we just destroyed this guy’s roof. We are going to have to pay for this and you don’t seem to get it. Look at this man, Dog. He doesn’t need his sins forgiven…he needs to walk again” (Loose translation of the original Aramaic)

But what Jesus knew then and He knows today is that the most important thing we all need is to get right with a loving, but just, God. Jesus knew then and He knows now that “frustration is difficult, but the real disasters in life occur when we get what we want.” Many stories have been written about young, aspiring movie actors, singers, and those who feel that if they would only get the big break and become famous that then their lives would be fulfilled. Fast forward to those same, now famous, people (read Alec Baldwin, Lindsay Lohan, Amy Winehouse) and see how there lives have played out. Lotto winners offer the same example. Studies have shown that Lotto players feel that if they win the BIG money, then their lives will be perfect. When they “get what they want” a majority (some estimate over 90%) of the winner’s lives implode. Suicide, prison, loss of friends and family and bankruptcy are common occurrences. Getting what we want is a recipe for disaster…

Rather, Jesus offers us what we really need. A just God demands payment for sinful behavior. If God were not Holy and just, then that kind of “Santa Claus” God could do nothing for us. But a God, who is just and loving, sends His own Son, Jesus to take and make the payment on the cross in our stead. Everything that we deserved went to Jesus and everything that was rightfully His, comes to us.

We are looking at eternity…with or without God. That’s the bottom line. Once we get right with our sin, and accept the full pardon of God’s grace, we are set free…from guilt, shame, self-hatred and so many other awful things.

The good news of this story is that Jesus did “get it” and healed the man and restored his legs. But, He loved the paralyzed man (and us) so much that He will not simply leave us in our desires and give us simply what we want…He gives us what we NEED first. Well done, Mick… good lyrics.

Yes, Jesus did very carefully and gently tell the women caught in adultery to simply “Go, and sin no more.” He did not want her to feel like scum as the crowd wanted but loved her at the same time of telling her to stop sinning.

Confessing our shortcomings to an AA or Al-Anon sponsor should not be a humiliating experience. I am a member of Al-Anon and know the 12 steps very well. The purpose of making a list is that we often deny we have faults and want to bury them, hoping they will go away on their own. Confessing them to ourselves and to God is the first step towards really being free of them. Once we can accept God’s forgiveness and then forgive ourselves, we are able to share our character flaws with another AA member.

Don’t fear…God’s love covers you completely.

Jim

The late, Brennan Manning wrote this in an essay on Forgiveness in his book, Souvenirs of Solitude. “The proof par excellence of the Christian who has experienced God’s unbearable forgiveness and infinite patience is that he is able to be forgiving and patient with others.” This statement reflects what Jesus taught in the parable of the Unmerciful Servant in Matthew 18:21-35. There, Jesus shares a story of a servant who owed the Master 10,000 bags of gold and could not pay his debt. The Master forgives the debt after the servant pleads for mercy. Upon having his debt forgiven, the wicked servant finds the man who owes him only 100 silver coins. When that man cold not repay the debt, the servant who had just had his enormous debt canceled, threw the other man in prison. The Master finds out and angrily throws the wicked servant who showed no mercy, even after receiving mercy, into prison. Jesus makes the point that how we forgive others will determine how we will be treated.

The point of this story is obvious on the surface. If we, who have asked Jesus for forgiveness for our sins cannot or do not forgive others who have sinned against us, then we will not be forgiven.

But what about us forgiving ourselves, once we have received forgiveness from God. What does this lesson say about the lack of forgiving ourselves? I feel it says the same thing. If we can forgive others, but not ourselves, then we really have not grasped and embraced what forgiveness is all about. If we claim that Jesus has paid the price for our sins then we dare not wallow is the trough of self-pity and self-love by not forgiving ourselves. When we are unforgiving with ourselves it really is a form of self-centeredness. In prison, we might hide behind the idea that “our crimes are so huge that God could never forgive us.” This is reverse pride and needs to be killed. In essence, that statement reveals a prideful spirit that actually uses the severity and heinousness of our crime to puff us up. We have shifted the focus and center of our lives away from God and onto ourselves. This is idolatry, pure and simple and must be confessed and abandoned so that we will be able to move out and use our freedom that comes with God’s forgiveness, to hear the cries of His hurting people and help others.


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Continue to remember those in prison as if you were together with them in prison, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering.
    Hebrews 13:3

Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.
     1 John 3:18

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