Ask Pastor Paul 9

Ask Pastor Paul 9


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Is he a Hindu hottie, but you're a Catholic cutie? Not sure what to get your friend for her Bat Mitzvah? Wondering about Wicca? Pastor Paul answers all your religion and spirituality questions. Send them to PastorPaul@staff.beliefnet.com.

And make sure to check out previous Pastor Pauls!

  • Check out the transcript from Pastor Paul's latest Yahoo chat.

  • Dear Pastor Paul,
    Help! My whole life is just one whole bucket of guilt. I can never think about anything else for long, as I feel guilty again about things in the past! I've tried repenting and praying, and I'm OK for a bit, but then it comes back again, as I've never really solved things. If I carry on praying and saying I'm sorry, will the guilt fade after a while? Please help, as it's wrecking my life!!


    The Bible's teachings on guilt are clear--those who repent of sins and seek forgiveness are granted that forgiveness by God. Your persisting guilt may mean you have left the reality of forgiveness out of the equation. The result is that you're not experiencing the peace that God brings.

    We tend to think of confession like a cop-show scene with a single lightbulb and an abusive cop who leaves us battered and defeated. Instead, picture your soul as a harbor that inevitably fills with pollution from daily use, but which each day is swept clean by the awesome power of the tidal sea leaving the harbor clean and beautiful. God's forgiveness is like the cleansing, life-giving power of the sea.

    If you are attending a church, talk to the pastor or priest about what you're going through, and ask if he or she would help you address your persisting guilt and do a special blessing for you. If you don't have a church, try repeating the words from Psalm 130 each night before you go to sleep.

    If you, O LORD, should mark iniquities, Lord, who could stand? But there is forgiveness with you, so that you may be revered. (Psalm 130:3-4, New Revised Standard Version)

    You should be aware that some people suffer from a form of obsessive-compulsive disorder that can grip those who continually focus on feelings of guilt. You may wish to contact a psychiatrist if these feelings become unbearable.

  • Try a little forgiveness yourself! Take our quiz to see how forgiving you are.

  • Dear Pastor Paul,

    I've been really worried about the 'End Times'--the rapture, tribulation, etc. I just recently started reading the "Left Behind" books, and it really got my interest, even though I have been surrounded by this stuff all my life (my father was a pastor). I feel like I should be left behind, so I guess I question my faith a little. I'm afraid my family will be left behind also. They know but don't believe. I am afraid that if I bring it up, it would cause quite an uproar. I really need help on this one.

    --Waiting for a light of hope in Missouri

    Dear Waiting,
    For those who don't know what the rapture is, here is the dictionary definition: A term employed in the New Testament of the Bible to refer to the eschatological [end times] event during which Christians who are living on earth will be "caught" up to meet the Lord in the air. (1 Thessalonians 4:17)

    As I understand it, the people who are taken up in the rapture are those who have accepted Jesus as savior and are living according to his word. Does that describe you?

    If so, why are you judging yourself and your family so harshly? If not, then the option is there for you to make yourself into the kind of person you feel Jesus is calling you to be.

    I definitely think you should ask your parents what they think about the rapture and end times. This is just a hunch, but if your dad is a pastor he has thought about it and would be interested to hear what you think. Share your concerns about being left behind and see what they say. Remember to focus on your own fears about being left behind and not your concerns about their fate, as that will only put them on the defensive.

    Personally, I would concentrate on being the best Christian you know how to be and not worry too much about the rapture, which is only one belief among many about the Kingdom of God on Earth as it is in Heaven.

  • Read more about the rapture.

  • Dear Pastor Paul,
    I am having trouble with the concept of hell. It is my understanding that God is loving and loves everybody in the world no matter what. The Bible says that the only unforgivable sin is to reject God. God created us and ultimately is in control of what we do, and he knows what we will do in our lives before we are born. So why would a loving God create a person that ultimately ends up in hell if hell is worse than not existing?

    --Nathan

    Nathan,

    There are many opinions about what hell looks like and where it is. But it seems to me you're asking who goes there. The topic you're really raising is God's judgment.

    Many Christians, like those in the Universalist camp, believe, as you seem to, that God wouldn't create children only to condemn them. They believe we are all saved.

    The flip side is that many people believe that those who are evil receive punishment. The example often given is Adolf Hitler. Does God judge Hitler and send him to hell? Or does an all-forgiving God accept Hitler into heaven? While I tend toward an all-loving God, I also believe that someone as evil as Hitler should be judged and punished.

    I once saw a continuum, like a number line, showing the human response to real or perceived evil. On one end is mercy and forgiveness, on the other end is judgment and justice. Each of us wavers somewhere on this line at different times. Where God stands on this line is a matter of faith.

  • Check out some popular depictions of hell in our image gallery.

  • Pastor Paul has worked with young people in the Twin Cities, Seattle, Sao Paulo, and New York City. He currently is a chaplain at Columbia University in New York City.
     
     

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