Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Philemon 12-16 - DEACON ONESIMUS?


Paul had the authority to order Philemon
to receive and forgive his slave,
and allow him to return to Rome.
But Paul, instead, wrote this letter to his friend
and had Onesimus carry it home.
Philemon’s character and love for the saints
was something Paul knew he could trust.
He knew Philemon would understand
he should be merciful as well as just.
For the slave had become like a deacon
serving an imprisoned believer,
and like his master Philemon
was now a giver rather than a receiver.

“I am sending him – 
who is my very heart – back to you.
I would have liked to keep him with me 
so that he could take your place
 in helping me while I am in chains for the gospel.
But I did not want to do anything without your consent,
so that any favor you do will be spontaneous and not forced.
Perhaps the reason he was separated from you 
for a little while was that you might have him back for good – 
no longer as a slave, but better than a slave, as a dear brother.
He is very dear to me but even dearer to you, 
both as a man and as a brother in the Lord.”
Philemon 12-16 (NIV)

diakŏnĕō1247 – to be an attendant, i.e. wait upon (menially or as a host, friend or [fig.] teacher); techn. to act as a Chr. deacon: - (ad-) minister (unto), serve, use the office of a deacon.

            Onesimus had gone from being a lost, runaway slave to being a person who took care of Paul in prison, a deacon to him, and dear to him. However, slavery was legal in that time; and Paul felt it necessary to return the servant to his owner.
            He pointed out to Philemon that as a leader of the church, he should and did send help, and Paul would have liked to have kept Onesimus with him to do Philemon’s service of ministering to him in prison. But he wanted Philemon to make his own decision about how to receive Onesimus and whether or not to allow him to return to Paul. As an apostle, Paul could have demanded that Philemon do as he urged him, but he did not. I believe he wanted Philemon’s response to be of his own free will that he might enjoy the blessings of forgiving and accepting his new brother in Christ.
            Philemon’s name derives from a word meaning friend. The strength of his friendship with Paul was evidenced in earlier verses. Paul counted on his brother in Christ to receive his former slave as a baby Christian and nurture him. Are there those that we might think “beneath” us that we should be leading to Christ and discipling? How should we receive all believers? Are they not all near to the heart of God?
            Father, help me to receive all believers as brothers and sisters. Help me to view them as my family and my fellow heirs to your kingdom. Help me to be forgiving and kind even when I have been wronged. Help me to value my brothers and sisters in Christ as your beloved children. Thank you for adopting me into your eternal family!                                                   

PHILEMON 8-11 - USEFUL



Onesimus was useless 
as a runaway slave,
but he became useful 
when his life to Christ he gave.
Paul pled his case 
with the master he had fled,
for he was now a son in the faith 
for whom the Lord had bled.
And as a brother in the Lord 
he lived up to his name.
Onesimus means useful, 
and that’s what he became.
Jesus changed his heart 
through the message that he heard,
and Paul became his father 
through the sharing of God’s word.

“Therefore, although in Christ 
I could be bold and order you 
to do what you ought to do,
yet I appeal to you on the basis of love.
I then, as Paul – an old man 
and now also a prisoner of Christ Jesus –
I appeal to you for my son Onesimus, 
who became my son while I was in chains.
Formerly he was useless to you, 
but now he has become useful 
both to you and to me.”
Philemon 8-11 (NIV)

parakalĕō3870 – to call near, i.e. invite, invoke (by imploration, hortation, or consolation): - beseech, call for, (be of good) comfort, desire, (give) exhort (-ation), entreat, pray.

ĕuchrēstŏs2173 – easily used, i.e. useful: - profitable, meet for use.

            Onesimus means useful, but he had become everything but useful or profitable to his master, Philemon. He had run away, possibly taking some goods with him. In God’s grace, he ran to Paul who was being held prisoner in Rome. Paul refers to him as becoming his son which means that Paul led him to the Lord and/or discipled him. The relationship Onesimus had found in Christ would make him profitable once more.
            Like the prodigal son or the runaway slave, Onesimus, we often run from the Lord. Those who have not yet given their lives to Christ may view God as a stern master and flee from the legalism they often associate with the Christian religion. Like Paul, we need to lead them into that relationship with Jesus that makes them our brother or sister or child to nurture in the love of our Father. Then we must trust the Holy Spirit to make them useful to the Lord and their fellow man. We need to support them in their efforts to live a life pleasing to the Lord.
            Sometimes those of us who know the Lord as Father still choose to walk away from the path on which he places us. It may seem to be too difficult or too much to bear. We need to encourage each other to stay the course and trust Christ to care for us as we cast our cares on him. In the first chapter of Zechariah the Lord says, “Return to me, and I will return to you.” When we catch ourselves running away, we need to return to our loving Master, repent of our sins, and allow him to cleanse us (1 John 1:9).

            Father, thank you for receiving me into your family and welcoming me back from those times that I have unwisely run from your guidance. Help me to allow your Holy Spirit to make me useful to you, to mold me into the image of Christ. 

Sunday, March 26, 2017

PHILEMON 6-7 PRAYER FOR PHILEMON


I take stock of the benefits I have 
in my Lord, Jesus Christ
as I share my faith with people 
and explain this blessed, new life.
I pray I’ll also refresh the hearts 
of my Christian sisters and brothers…
instead of thinking of myself, 
working to encourage others.

“I pray that you may be active in sharing your faith,
so that you will have a full understanding of every good thing we have in Christ.
Your love has given me great joy and encouragement,
because you, brother, have refreshed the hearts of the saints.”
Philemon 6&7 (NIV)

agathŏs18 – a prim. word; “good” (in any sense, often as a noun): = benefit, good (-s, things), well.

anapauō373 – (reflex.) to repose (lit. or fig. [be exempt],remain): by impl. to refresh: - take ease, refresh, (give, take) rest.

            I believe Paul prayed for Philemon to be active in sharing his faith because he knew Philemon, as well as his listeners, would benefit. A vital part of sharing Christ with others is sharing your personal testimony. As you reflect on what Jesus has done for you…salvation from sin and death, freedom from a destructive lifestyle, answers to prayer…your own understanding and appreciation of your relationship with the Lord increases. Once again, Paul gives us an excellent way to pray for family, friends, and all brothers and sisters in Christ.
            This afternoon I saw the parents of two of my former students. It was so nice to chat and to find out what the boys are doing now that they are out of high school. It was good to hear that this couple is still active in the local church and walking with the Lord. Then as I sat down to write this evening I was reminded to pray for them in this way. I was also reminded to thank the Lord for the way they refreshed my heart both at the time I taught their sons and today.
            Take a moment to thank the Lord for those individuals who have encouraged you in your walk with Christ. Pray that they will continue to be active in sharing their faith and refreshing the saints. If possible, write them a note of appreciation and let them know you have prayed for them. If you must, email the note; but I still believe there is something powerful in the handwritten note sent through the mail. It’s worth the time to encourage the body of Christ.
            Father, help me as I endeavor to write more of those notes…not just right now since you’ve spoken to me through your word, but frequently. Lord, I do thank you for the many people you’ve used to help me in my walk with you. Help me to find some of the ones I’ve lost touch with over the years and send them a note. 

Friday, March 24, 2017

Philemon 3-5


Philemon was characterized by faith
and love for all believers.
It seems he was one of those people
who was a giver more than a receiver.
Paul let him know he was thankful
For the good reports he’d heard,
and I’m sure Philemon was strengthened
by Paul’s encouraging word.

“Grace to you and peace from God our Father 
and the Lord Jesus Christ.
I always thank my God as I remember you in my prayers,
because I hear about your faith in the Lord Jesus
and your love for all the saints.”
Philemon 3-5 (NIV)

pistis4102 – persuasion, i.e. credence; mor. conviction (of religious truth, or the truthfulness of God or a religious teacher), espec. reliance upon Christ for salvation: abstr. constancy in such profession; by extens. the system of religious (Gospel) truth itself: - assurance, belief, believe, faith, fidelity.

            After greeting Philemon and others with him, Paul let him know that he prayed for him and thanked God that he had a reputation for faith in the Lord and love for the saints. What an encouragement that must have been to Philemon!
            Are you and I people that cause others to thank God as they pray for us? Are we known for our faith and love? I hope so. It’s something to meditate on, to think of how other people might remember us as they pray. We may realize some things in our lives might need to change. We may need to rely more on the Lord and be more demonstrative in our love for our brothers and sisters in Christ.
            Another thought came to mind as I read this. How often do I encourage other believers by letting them know how God has used them in my life or how I’ve observed him using them to bless others? Do I commend my friends when they demonstrate faith in Christ? Do I pray for God to strengthen them and me in these areas?
            There are many people in my life that I should send a card or letter in order to encourage them as they have encouraged me. Perhaps I should take some time this weekend to follow through on that idea. Do you need to do the same? Ask the Lord to bring those people to mind that you need to pray for, thank the Lord for, and encourage by sending a card or email or maybe calling them on the phone.
            Father, seeing others rely upon you strengthens my own faith. Thank you for the positive examples of faith and love you have given me through many believers over the years. Help me to take the time to write some notes this weekend. Help me also to be an example of faithfulness and love to others.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

COLOSSIANS 4:12 - PRAYER WARRIOR


Prayer Warrior

Lord, may I be like Epaphras
and wrestle in prayer for others.
May I labor fervently in intercession
for my precious sisters and brothers.

“Epaphras, who is one of you and a servant of Christ Jesus, 
sends greetings.
He is always wrestling in prayer for you,
that you may stand firm in all the will of God, 
mature and fully assured.”
Colossians 4:12 (NIV)

agōnizŏmai75 – to struggle, lit. (to compete for a prize), fig. (to contend with an adversary), or gen. (to endeavor to accomplish something): - fight, labor fervently, strive.

            I had always kind of wondered where we came up with the term “prayer warrior.” Perhaps it comes from this verse that speaks of one of Paul’s companions wrestling in prayer for his friends back home.
            The only way to contend with our adversary, the devil, is to turn him over to God. As we pray that fellow believers will stand firm in God’s will and be mature and assured in Christ, we are asking the Lord to defeat Satan in their lives. It is a battle because the enemy will do everything he can to distract you from prayer.  I know there have been brothers and sisters who have fought for me in prayer, and I am grateful to the Lord for placing them in my life.
            Paul has taught us much about prayer in the prison epistles, both by direct instruction and examples from his own and his close companions’ prayer lives. Perhaps Paul’s experience in prison was similar to my friend Debbie’s experience with illness. After many surgeries and long hospital stays someone told her she should just give up and die since she couldn’t do much anymore. Her response was that even lying in a hospital bed, she could pray for others; and maybe even had more time to pray for others; so she chose to believe that God still had a purpose for her on this earth. I know she fervently prayed that God would bless me with children and was delighted to hear how he answered her prayers.
            Intercessory prayer is a ministry, and it is hard work. Sometimes it involves allowing yourself to feel another’s pain. Many times, it’s hard to see exactly how God is answering, but we must keep praying and trusting that in his perfect timing and in his own way, he will answer. Struggle, agonize in prayer for those you love. Then, oh what delight there will be as you see God move in their lives!
            Father, help me to be faithful in intercession. When you awaken me with a concern for one of my family members or friends, help me to be alert to pray rather than resent the loss of sleep. Thank you for the many times you’ve given me the privilege of seeing you answer my prayers and those of other believers. Thank you for the example of Epaphras who wrestled in prayer that others might stand firm and be complete in Christ. Help me to do the same.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

COLOSSIANS 4:5-6 - FULL OF GRACE (ORIGINALLY WRITTEN IN 2007)

Divinely influence my heart, Lord.
Let your grace be reflected in me.
When I’m engaged in conversation,
may my answers always be
seasoned with your salt, Lord,
to draw others closer to Thee.

“Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; 
make the most of every opportunity.
Let your conversation be always full of grace
seasoned with salt,
so that you may know how to answer everyone.”
Colossians: 4:5-6 (NIV)

charis5485– graciousness (as gratifying), of manner or act (abstr.or concr.: lit., fig., or spiritual: espec. The divine influence upon the heart, and its reflection in the life; including gratitude): - acceptable, benefit, favour, gift, grace- (ious), joy, liberality, pleasure, thank (-s,worthy).

            How can conversation be full of grace? I believe we need to allow Christ to shine through every aspect of our lives, especially our conversations. That doesn’t mean I need to preach a sermon to everyone I meet on the street. But I should make the most of every opportunity to show the grace of God with those in my path.
            In normal conversation, there are many opportunities to be a gracious listener and express genuine concern for others. Many “outsiders” are surprised by graciousness, and may ask why you would be so kind to a stranger. You can give an answer that the Lord works within you to respond to people as Jesus would, with compassion.
            I can’t count the times I’ve answered the question, “How can you handle the stress of your son being deployed to Iraq?” The answer is the grace of God, and trusting in his complete control. It also helps that I know Thomas trusts the Lord and reads his word for comfort.
            Sometimes the Lord puts us in special situations in order to have an opportunity to share his love with others. When my father was in ICU due to a severe heart attack, my family members had many opportunities to share with others in the waiting room. God had their attention and allowed us the joy of being there to pray with them and minister to them even as he was taking care of our concerns and needs.
            Allow God’s divine influence upon your heart to spill over into your daily life, and others will see Jesus in you.  Trust the Holy Spirit to enable you to answer their questions about the Lord. Then add those people to your prayer list. You will have great joy when some of them come to know the Lord, and it is a blessing to know that you’ve planted a seed even if you aren’t around to reap the harvest.
            Father, thank you for your saving grace that completely transformed my life. Allow me share that faith in conduct as well as words with those you bring into my sphere of influence. Help my words to be encouraging to others. Thank you for those whose words have comforted, challenged, and changed me over the years. 

Monday, March 20, 2017

COLOSSIANS 4:2 - BE VIGILENT IN PRAYER


Lord, help me to be diligent,
devoted to prayer and vigilant
for opportunities to intercede
for brothers and sisters in need.

I approach you with thanksgiving
for the strength for daily living.
I pray for those who work to share your word
with people who have never heard.

“Devote yourselves to prayer, 
being watchful and thankful.
And pray for us, too, 
that God may open a door for our message,
so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, 
for which I am in chains.
Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, 
as I should.”
Colossians 4:2-4 (NIV)

grēgŏrĕuō1127 – to keep awake, i.e. watch (lit. or fig.): - be vigilant, wake, (be) watch (-ful).

            (Originally written in 2007 while my son was deployed in Iraq) We need to be alert for opportunities to pray. In 1 Thessalonians chapter five, we are told to “pray without ceasing”.  This passage tells us to be watchful or vigilant. I have put both of these concepts into practice much more faithfully since my son is serving in Iraq. I also had an interesting prayer experience recently.
            As I mentioned a few pages back, I count laps in the pool using Bible verses. I was on lap 16 and reciting, “Hitherto, have you asked nothing in my name, ask and you shall receive that your joy may be full” (John 16:24) in my mind. As I meditated on this verse, I prayed, “Lord, what am I to ask for?”
            His answer came into my mind immediately, as clear as a bell, “Pray for revival among your son’s men and that they would be a witness to the Iraqis they deal with.” I related this impression from the Lord to Thomas and asked him if he thought it was weird. He answered, “No, it is not. Keep praying, Mom.”
            So I have been diligently praying for a revival among the soldiers in my son’s company. I shared this request with my Sunday school class, and my teacher prayed not only for revival among the soldiers but that it would spread back home to their families and beyond. I’ve shared the request with others who are also praying. I’ve since realized I need to pray for my son’s chaplain to be able to minister to men who may be returning to their faith or giving their lives to Christ for the first time.
            I share all this to say watch for times to pray. You can pray while driving, exercising, eating. Be thankful for the opportunity to take all concerns, large and small, to the almighty heavenly Father. Be vigilant and alert to notice people and situations that require prayer. Then be faithful to pray for them. I believe you will be mightily blessed as you see the answers that could come only from God.
            Father, I thank you for the privilege of prayer. I pray for those who will read this book that you would reveal yourself to them through answered prayer. Help them find the joy of interceding for others. Help me to be watchful and thankful in prayer.

Friday, March 17, 2017

COLOSSIANS 3:23 - WORK AS UNTO THE LORD



Do your work 
as unto the Lord,
for it is truly He who gives 
the ultimate reward.
Your boss may be difficult, 
rarely praising your work.
Do not use that as an excuse 
your duties to shirk.
For in all that you do, 
it is Christ that you serve.
Don’t let Satan trick you 
by throwing the curve,
“Your unreasonable supervisor 
isn’t looking today,
so you can take 
some time off to play.”
Remember your true Lord 
sees all that you do,
so work heartily, 
and be faithful and true.

“Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything;
and do it, not only when their eye is on you 
and to win their favor,
but with sincerity of heart 
and reverence for the Lord.
Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, 
as working for the Lord, not for men, 
since you know that you will receive an inheritance 
from the Lord as a reward.
It is the Lord Christ you are serving.
Anyone who does wrong will be repaid for his wrong, 
and there is no favoritism.
Masters, provide your slaves 
with what is right and fair,
Because you know that you also 
have a Master in heaven.”
Colossians 3:22-4:1(NIV)

klērŏnŏmia2817 – heirship, i.e. (concr.) a patrimony or (gen.) a possession: - inheritance.

patrimony – 1. inheritance from a father (Encarta Dictionary)

            As I read this passage, my thoughts turned to my son who is currently (2007) a 1st Lieutenant in the U.S. Army. How does this apply to him and the soldiers serving under him in Iraq? So, I emailed and asked him to respond to the passage as related to his current situation.

Mom,

Not much time to talk but here's my lowdown. Especially since I received little to no praise from my old boss I have had to find different motivations for working hard. First there is a simple joy in getting into bed exhausted from the day. You know that you laid everything out and could give nothing more. Second, that Bible verse has rung in my ears for years. To know that if I slacked off would continue the lie that religious people are lazy. In short, my work ethic is a reflection of Christ. Third, you work for the welfare of other people. You are not there to just support your family. The decisions you make everyday affect the lives of your soldiers and peers. These different perspectives are my primary motivating factor for working. Oh yeah, I just got my yearly review. Still in the top three LTs out of 32, hooya. LOVE YOU

Thomas


Father, I continue to pray for revival among Thomas’ men that would spread to their families. I thank you for the young wife of one soldier who recently gave her life to you. Let Thomas’ work ethic be a positive witness to his men and his superiors. Thank you for giving me children in the unique way that you did. Thank you for the inheritance you promise those who serve you. Help me to do my work with all my heart, serving you and not men.

Postscript:  Thomas was promoted to captain before the end of his military service. He is now a civilian. 

Thursday, March 16, 2017

COLOSSIANS 3:18-21 - ENCOURAGING HOMES


Lord, may our homes be built on your love
That teaches us to respect one another.
Wives adapting, husbands affectionate,
Children obeying father and mother.
May parents build up their children,
And teach them that God treasures them.
May everything in our Christian homes
Honor Christ and be centered on Him.

“Wives, be subject to your husbands – subordinate and adapt yourselves to them –
as is right and fitting and your proper duty in the Lord.
 Husbands, love your wives – be affectionate and sympathetic with them –
and do not be harsh or bitter or resentful toward them.
Children, obey your parents in everything, for this is well-pleasing to the Lord.
Fathers, do not provoke or irritate or fret your children – do not be hard on them or harass them; lest they become discouraged and sullen and morose and feel inferior and frustrated;
do not break their spirit.”
Colossians 3:18-21 (Amplified Version)

athumĕō120 – to be spiritless, i.e. disheartened; - be dismayed.

            Child abuse angers me, whether it be physical, mental or emotional. However, there is a subtle type of abuse that doesn’t make the headlines, that of discouraging a child to the point that his spirit is broken.
            I’ve stated many times that I abhor the “cut-down jokes” that are rampant in our society. However, James was right on target when he spoke of the difficulty of taming the tongue (James chapter 3). If I don’t seek the Lord’s help to reign in my tongue, I can find myself destroying others with this so-called humor. I find particularly loathsome the habit of some parents in teasing their children in this manner. We are admonished to encourage one another and build each other up (Ephesians chapter 4). Teasing and cut-down jokes tear down, especially when applied to children.
            The other form this abuse takes is being unreasonably hard on a child. Yes, we need to have high expectations of our children; but we are also to demonstrate God’s grace to them in real and tangible ways. Our children need to know that we love them even when they fail, perhaps especially when they fail. When teaching, I worked with many “sweat-hogs” to borrow a phrase from television. I found what most of them needed was someone to tell them, “You CAN do it! I believe in you! God has gifted you in many ways, and He will help you to succeed.”
            I was blessed to have loving earthly parents who listened to me and helped me up when I would fall. My earthly father helped me financially with no condemnation over my inability to manage on my own.  He knew I had chosen a path of ministry that paid little in money but much in satisfaction, and he encouraged me to seek the Lord’s path for my life.
            Father, you have blessed me with “adopted” children who are now grown and on their own. Help me to continue to encourage them and never to break their spirits. Help me to be a builder in my grandchildren’s lives as well. Draw them to you at an early age that they may know the security of your love throughout life on earth.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

COLOSSIANS 3:15-16 - DWELL IN THE WORD

May your peace, Lord, reign in me. 
Let your word inhabit my mind.
Allow me to teach with wisdom, 
so that others in your word will find
the peace that they have craved, Lord. 
Then with a full heart they may sing.
May gratitude flow from our hearts, Lord, 
as an offering of worship we bring.

 “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts,
since as members of one body you were called to peace. 
And be thankful.
Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly 
as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, 
and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs 
with gratitude in your hearts to God.”
Colossians 3:15-16 (NIV)

brabĕuō1018 -  to arbitrate, i.e. (gen.) to govern (fig. prevail): - rule.

ĕnŏikĕō1774 – to inhabit (fig.): - dwell in

            Paul admonishes us “…as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone” (Romans 12:18). That can only be done as we allow Christ to reign on the throne of our hearts. His peace comes as we spend time with him daily through prayer, reading his word, and worshipping him. Then he will enable us to be at peace with one another.
            God’s word should inhabit us. Listening to the Sunday school lesson and sermon each week is a good beginning; but in order to have the word of Christ inhabit us, we must read it and meditate on it daily. You may feel that you don’t have time to sit down and read God’s word each day. For about $70 dollars (the cost of 2 trips to Six Flags, 7 dinners out, or a pair of good running shoes), you can own the entire Bible on CD. I enjoy listening to God’s word as I travel to and from work each day or as I’m running errands. I play the chapter I’m currently studying over and over until I begin to internalize the concepts and even memorize some of the key verses. On weekends or evenings when I have some time, I still enjoy getting out The Comparative Study Bible and reading a few verses in King James, New American Standard, New International Version, and Amplified all side by side.
            The real turning point in my life, other than my actual acceptance of Jesus as Savior and Lord, was when I was discipled by a godly couple who served as our Sunday school teachers for young singles. They taught me the importance of memorizing Scripture and hiding it deep within my heart. The verses I learned while I had the accountability of Keith or Kathy asking me to recite them, have been brought back to me by the Holy Spirit many times to meet a particular need in my life. One of the ways I keep my memorized Bible verses fresh is to recite them in my mind while I exercise. When I swim, I count the laps by verses containing that lap number (Genesis 1:1, Galatians 2:20, John 3:16, etc.). I challenge myself to use a different verse for each lap and to incorporate newly memorized verses as well.
            When I taught at Glenview Christian School, the music teacher and I set almost all of the second-grade memory verses to music. I still run into students, now in college, who tell me they sing those songs with children in their churches and plan to teach them to their own children. Hymns and songs based strongly on Scripture, even if not word for word, are a powerful way to remember God’s promises and express thanksgiving to God. Sing them with a heart full of gratitude to the Lord who wrote his love letter to you.

            Father, I thank you for the people who taught and admonished me with wisdom to meditate on your word. Help me to remember the verses I have learned and to never tire of knowing more of you. Help me to pass on this gift of knowing you through your word to those you have entrusted to me.