Excerpt: “An Invitation to Forgive: A Study of the Book of Philemon”

Submission by Margaret Armanious

Photo by Brett Jordan on Unsplash

Available on Amazon

Suppose you were to open your mailbox and spot an unusual piece of mail. A glimpse of your name, handwritten in calligraphy, tells you this isn’t just another bill. Pushing aside the junk mail like tares from the wheat, you snatch the envelope and open the gold-lined seal to find. . .

An invitation.

It is from a friend and offers you the chance to mend a broken relationship.

You may scoff, “An invitation to forgiveWhy would anyone want an invitation like that?”

And yet, that is exactly the type of invitation the Apostle Paul presents in his letter to Philemon. In a manner that is both brilliant and appealing, Paul urges Philemon to take back his runaway slave, Onesimus. He challenges Philemon to see forgiveness as a privilege, an invitation to be accepted or declined. It was Philemon’s choice to make.

Would Philemon have the character to see past his anger to the benefits the invitation offered him, or would he hang on to resentment and miss the blessing?

This verse-by-verse Bible Study is for anyone who struggles with forgiveness or longs for reconciliation in broken relationships. It addresses and examines the dynamics of forgiveness, such as:

  • Can true forgiveness ever be commanded?
  • Does loyalty and harmony come by compulsion?
  • What is the character of someone who forgives?
  • On what basis should we forgive someone who has offended us?

This study not only sheds light on the answers to these questions but also presents the Biblical principles on which they are based. It is written in an easy-to-read, interactive format, guiding the reader to identify his own invitation to forgive—an invitation ultimately written to all of us.

About Margaret Armanious

Armanious is an administrative assistant and makes her home in Houston, TX. She expresses her passion for God’s Word by writing interactive Bible studies, devotions, and maintaining her blog, Ministry in Words. Armanious has also written numerous articles for Christian online magazines and has been recognized for her award-winning short stories. Armanious seeks to encourage Christians to draw closer to the Lord through daily prayer and in-depth Bible study.


For more inspirational content, please visit our Lost Pen Blog page. To download Lost Pen Magazine, visit our Magazine Issues page.

January 1, 2021 Word of Encouragement

Post by Dyane Forde

Featured Image by Ben White on Unsplash

I just finished reading a YouVersion devotional called “Meeting With God” (see link below). I love Day 6. It talks about prayer and how Christians sometimes try everything except prayer, when they face problems.

An explanation about why this is came to me while I was reading: we don’t pray because we don’t believe God really cares for or hears us, or we fear He won’t answer. Taking the latter point further, maybe we fear that when He answers, we won’t like His response.

During these extremely difficult times, it’s easy to feel defeated, discouraged, even helpless. The world is on edge, and we may be fearful for the future. I have been on vacation from my work as a social worker these last two weeks, but my subconscious has been fighting back waves of stress and worry about going back to work next week. I feel dread and anxious. I’m worried. But deep down, I know that God has me there for a reason, which means I have a purpose there. My struggle is to trust that He will carry me through whatever I will face upon my return. To do that–to grab hold of His strength and to deepen my faith in Him–I must pray.

In truth, regardless of what we think or feel, God is true. He is the Lover of our souls, and He works on our behalf for our good.

I hope these words encourage and support you, if you are struggling with something in your life. Let’s trust God today. As His children, let’s cry out to Him. Let’s pray to Him today.

Blessings!

In God We Trust—But Do We Really? Learning to Let God Handle Our Busyn – Armor Of God Coffee

If you’re a goal-driven person struggling with anxiety, stress, busyness, and learning to trust God, this post may be just what you need…

Thanks to Armor of God Coffee for publishing this devotional on their blog.

https://www.armorofgodcoffee.com/blogs/armor-up/in-god-we-trust-but-do-we-really-learning-to-let-god-handle-our-busyness

Be Still My Worried Heart

Guest post by Anne Perreault

There are days when I can’t get my mind around my own problems. I mull them over and over, allowing them to steal my joy. I permit myself these moments because I believe I’m entitled to them. After all, I’m very good at pity parties.

For me as a writer, I have had a lot of experience fussing and worrying about the publishing/writing process. After I finally submitted myself to God’s urging to write down the stories in my head, I found that the publishing process was filled with pitfalls and difficulties. It began when a “publisher” contacted me and told me that my story was great and that they wanted it. As you can imagine, I was over-the-moon excited. I hadn’t even inquired and yet they wanted me.

I grew a little chip on my shoulder until I realized that it was a bit of a scam. Publishing my book would cost me more than I would ever make back. I deflated! My husband suggested I look into self-publishing, and I . . . well, I wasn’t very gracious about it. I told him that I had no idea how to go about it, that it was too much work, that it wasn’t proper. Just like homeschooling, how could I publish my own work?

When I talked to another vanity publisher, I began to doubt:  

Did God really ask me to write?

Was I meant to do this?

What’s the point anyway? My books aren’t ever going to be out there.

In a relatively short time, I had forgotten that God Himself had commissioned me to write. Worry replaced His personal word to me as well as the joy and excitement I should have experienced. I became so angry after the second publisher tried to swindle me out of my hard-earned money that I went for a walk in our “back 10” (that’s 10 acres, if you aren’t up on the lingo lol) and ranted at God.

Do you see how quickly one can go from praise to discouragement? I was so angry I wanted to throw something and have the satisfaction of it breaking. So I picked up a pebble. It makes perfect sense that a pebble would break on impact. When it didn’t, I really became mad and threw another, which also failed to give me the satisfaction of breaking.

How dare God! He was totally playing me! He had put me on THIS path and I, being the obedient servant, only wanted to please Him!

On and on it went. When I finally threw a clump of dirt that looked an awful lot like a rock, and it shattered, I felt vindicated. But I really wasn’t. I was still worried and anxious. I’d relied on me. God had to show me that He was with me in this process and that He would provide EVERYTHING. And I mean everything, from submitting to self-publishing, to not one but two editors, and the cover designer. It all fell into place when I finally released my worry and my thoughts of how the whole process was going to go.

God is there. His beauty is not in His commandments but in the mercy, grace, forgiveness, and love that are available through Jesus Christ.

Someone said recently that women need to feel safe and secure. Mmm . . . I’m like that. I worry about everything. On a scale of one to ten, I’m probably a seven on the worry meter. How about you? For me, it has to be a conscious decision NOT to worry and to remember:

I am loved.
He’s enough.
He’s my Savior, I’m not.
The circumstances don’t matter.
I am good enough for Him.
He chose me.
He’s given me the ability to face my giants.
He will see it done.

When worry threatens to overwhelm, I can KNOW that He is Lord of the Universe who has me in the palm of his hand.

For the worries of your life, be encouraged. He knows what you are going through. He’s got YOU in the palm of HIS hands. You are His. He’ll make a way.

So, have I learned this lesson?

Ask me that when I go to publish. What usually happens is that the enemy starts to tug on the threads of worry and insecurity. The Deceiver does what he does best: deceives. And I have fallen into his trap numerous times. I’m up to ten published books now, and, every time, something big tries to derail the final process. It has taken me a long time to learn this because the devil is sneaky. He comes at me from different angles, attacking where I’m weak, and where I allow worry or fear to rule instead of resting in the One True God.

I was able to release my worry the last few times when the unrest started. I realized what was happening and took a step back, prayed, and asked for prayer. The problems didn’t disappear, but the worry and fear did. The last book I published was released and I wasn’t even aware of it! I had missed the 72 hours Amazon needed to review the files, and it went live without my fussing and hovering. So easy, so peaceful! Perfect. Because I didn’t have a chance to worry.

If we allow Christ to work through us, and if we place our worry in His hands, things change. I always wondered how Steven could stand amongst his accusers while they were stoning him and see Jesus. Or how Paul could shake off the dust after he was stoned and thrown out of a city and then walk right back in to preach again. I mean . . . HOW, Lord?

John 15:15 says, “I am the vine, you are the branches.” In one sentence, we have the answer to all our worries, our fears, our difficulties. My books will not miraculously find themselves on the New York Times bestseller list, my children will not spontaneously have a brilliant career, amazing spouses, and happy, productive lives. My poor husband’s health won’t change overnight (not that it can’t, but God is working something out in him too).

But I don’t need to worry about all that stuff. He’s the vine. I’m the branch. All I have to do is rest in that.

Be blessed. You are loved. You are beautiful.

You. Are. Enough.

 

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Learn more about Anne Perreault and her books at Into the Light Fiction.

In God We Trust—But Do We Really?

The past year has been a whirlwind of activity: completing my adult fantasy trilogy last March and launching the Christian Creative Nexus, Focus Writing Services, and the Lost Pen Magazine were big undertakings that involved a myriad of smaller tasks and crazy amounts of organization. There were times I was so busy that I struggled to balance my priorities—to not let my projects interfere with my family and day job. It was tough.

Setting goals and accomplishing them is important to me. They are what get me from point A to point Z. I make lists and timelines and consult them along the way to make sure I’m on track. They are how I measure productivity and success. The journey towards accomplishing goals gives meaning and purpose to the sacrifices I make.

Over the last year, I came to understand something important about myself, something that actually saved my mental health and my relationships:  I am a project-driven person. Working, producing, activity—getting caught up in the rush of energy and creativity—sometimes become so intense that it seems impossible to be productive without them. 

In other words, without something to focus on and throw my energy into, I feel like I’m stagnating. Wasting time. I twiddle my thumbs and stress about all the things I feel I should be doing, which pushes me towards busyness—actively seeking “filler” activities—to fill the void. Ultimately, this is unproductive and, potentially, destructive.

Rest is important. Few things feel better after having accomplished a major project than the moments immediately afterwards when we can finally relax. But, if you’re like me, you probably find yourself quickly getting restless and asking, “Okay, Lord, what’s next?”

Waiting on God is hard. If you’re like me and struggle with anxiety, having projects into which that nervous energy can be redirected is important. But we also have to learn to trust God with our emotions and thoughts, just as much as we have to trust Him with our projects and our time. We have to be able to discern when it is time for activity and when it is time to rest (Ecclesiastes 3). We have to learn to let go and trust that God has everything under control.

 

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Just this morning as I drove into work, I had to repent of not fully embracing the period of rest God imposed on me. See, about a month ago when I was finishing up the Lost Pen, the last thing He said to me was: “Await further instructions.” The words were so clear they woke me out of a dead sleep. They also filled me with both joy (at the promise that God is working something out on my behalf) and frustration (at the knowledge that something is coming but not knowing what it is or when it will happen).

I know God has been working to reshape my thinking and beliefs about what it means to serve Him and how best to use my skills and talents. That includes accepting the He is in control of my writing and ministry. It’s tough, but I am working on wrestling the control freak inside of me to the ground. I’m learning to accept that I don’t have all the answers and that I don’t need to have all the answers. Trusting God and simply following His lead by putting one foot in front of the other is enough: “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (Matt 6:33).

I believe that God wants us to be productive but not to the point of overextending ourselves. I believe that He imposes times of rest to protect us. Think about it. Rates of anxiety, burnout, and stress are off the charts at the moment. People are running themselves ragged trying to keep up with life, friends, strangers on social media, their jobs and family life, expectations…the list goes on. Throw writing, publishing, attending conferences, etc. into the mix and where does it all end?

Readers, what is driving you? Can you trust God to help you learn to rest?

Colossians 3:1-3 (NIV)

Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. 3 For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.

Romans 12: 2 (NIV)

Do not conform 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.

—Delia 

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