Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The Lesson of Onesimus

"4-7Every time your name comes up in my prayers, I say, "Oh, thank you, God!" I keep hearing of the love and faith you have for the Master Jesus, which brims over to other believers. And I keep praying that this faith we hold in common keeps showing up in the good things we do, and that people recognize Christ in all of it. Friend, you have no idea how good your love makes me feel, doubly so when I see your hospitality to fellow believers." Philemon 1:4-7 MSG

Have you ever read the book of Philemon? It's tucked between Titus and Hebrews. It only has one chapter and 25 verses--but what power those verses hold on the idea of Christian forgiveness, acceptance and acts of love!

Paul wrote this epistle to Philemon who was a believer and he also owned a slave, named Onesimus, that apparently had stolen from him and then ran away to Rome. In those days, when you stole something, you were put to death immediately.

But what is so cool is that God took Onesimus' bad choice and used it to have him meet Paul. Listen to Paul's teachings and then be transformed into a Christian. So, when Onesimus was transported back to his far away home, he was brought back as a "brother".

The lesson goes much deeper, but if I give it all away, you won't want to read it for yourself and you should.

But two thoughts just from the verses above. The first one--if there was ever a time that you felt that you had done something so bad, that you were so far gone, that you were so unacceptable to the Father of the Heavens, that there was no need for you to even hope that He would want you to turn to Him--this epistle should give you hope. It should show you that all you have to do is turn around. To asked for forgiveness from your gracious Heavenly Father and in a heart beat, you are there! He has desired you, prayed for you, wept over you and cheered for you since the moment you were created in the darkness of your mother's womb.

The second thought is this--that this epistle has spoken about our responsibly as Christians to received new Christians. To be loving. To be serving in Christ's name at all times. We need to not ever get so haughty that we forget our own path, our own history and look at others with judgmental eyes. With harden hearts. That we don't need to do good things to be forgiven, but we do good things because we are forgiven.

A gentle reminder--If you truly believe that God is the ruler of your life, then that means the ruler of ALL things. That means your life before, now and in the future. Rest in that. And pray to Him to help you know what that all means for you.

"15-16Maybe it's all for the best that you lost him for a while. You're getting him back now for good—and no mere slave this time, but a true Christian brother! That's what he was to me—he'll be even more than that to you." Philemon 1:15-16 MSG

Monday, September 26, 2011

Be Encouraged!

"34 You shared the sufferings of prisoners, and when all your belongings were seized, you endured your loss gladly, because you knew that you still possessed something much better, which would last forever.35 Do not lose your courage, then, because it brings with it a great reward.36 You need to be patient, in order to do the will of God and receive what he promises. Hebrews 10:34-36 GNT

Are you in this place? The place that the author of Hebrews was when he wrote this passage? As a fun fact, to this day they do not know for sure who wrote the book of Hebrews--it is never really clearly identified.

But what is amazing is that this author, who was experiencing life way back in 40-60A.D.--needed to encourage the people of his day the same way the people of our day need to be encouraged.

You see, back then, you could lose everything--your freedom, your possessions, your livelihood, your family--just for being a Christ-follower. For being true to your faith, you could die, be rejected, or treated as a criminal.

But through it all, it seems as though our ancestors did not regret, but joyfully accepted those events. Why? Because they kept their vision, "hope"--on the prize before them--Jesus Christ. Because they knew that the gift of Jesus was so much more rewarding than anything that they could ever hope to have here on earth in material possessions.

These days in America are no different. Oh, you may not get stoned to death or put into jail for believing in our Heavenly Father. But there are other things that attack us, other ways that little stones are being thrown at us--the world's values, the idea that you can sin and be forgiven, just to turn around and do the same sin again and again. That we need to put up with things, just to make everyone feel good. That as long as what you are doing isn't hurting anyone, it's OK.

We are attacked by the media, the shows on TV, the articles in the papers and magazines, the Internet, the movies--everywhere we look, we find that our values of purity and right and wrong and what is acceptable in our Father's eyes are being challenge. Slowly, bit-by-bit.

Then when you stand up for God's ways and values, you get stones thrown at you by those who call you judgmental. They challenge you, "Where is the love of Jesus in you?; and the list goes on.

What I see in this passage is this:

1. Don't get weary doing good in your faith walk with the Lord.
2. Stand up for God and His principles, no matter what the cost.
3. Be encouraged that even though it may be hard and at times you become tired of the attacks, keep your eyes on the greater vision, the greater hope--Heaven and your life there.

Our God is there to help you all along the way. How? By imparting His third person of the trinity, our helper the Holy Spirit, to come and reinforce us when we feel weak. To guide us when we feel lost. To encourage us when others want to discourage us. And to love you when you feel as though no one else does.

Our God IS an AWESOME God!

Thursday, September 8, 2011


"43 After the celebration was over, they started home to Nazareth, but Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem. His parents didn’t miss him at first, 44 because they assumed he was among the other travelers. But when he didn’t show up that evening, they started looking for him among their relatives and friends." Luke 2:43-44 NLT

I was driving to church the other day and K-Love radio had a two minute commentator speak about this verse and it got me thinking.

What he said was this--how often is it that we are cruisin' along, thinking that we are all in tune with Jesus when something happens and we realize that we are all alone? Somewhere we have gone on ahead forgetting to bring Him along?

Has that ever happened to you? Have you ever thought that you are on board, that Jesus and you were walking, hand-in-hand, down the same path--and then--BANG, you hit a wall and find yourself thinking, "Hey! Where are You?"

It has to me and while I feel so foolish, I am actually grateful. Like Jesus' family, we can get so comfortable with the presence of Jesus, that we lose track where we are and where He is. Until we get that wake-up call, we may not even realize how off the path we are. Is that where you there today?

Praise our God that gives us warning signs when we are off on our own, basically doing our own thing. That He loves us so much and wants us to succeed so badly that--like a Loving Father should--He makes us stop, take inventory, and helps lead us back to the original path He started us on.

As a closing thought--this may be a great time to stop and take a honest inventory of where you are. Pray for discernment, insight and courage to truly see what He wants you to see. And then PRAISE Him! Our God is AWESOME!

"'The crooked roads shall become straight, the rough ways smooth. And all mankind will see God's salvation.'" Luke 3:5-6 NIV

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Heart Bursting

"1 My heart bursts its banks, spilling beauty and goodness.
I pour it out in a poem to the king,
shaping the river into words."
Psalm 45:1 MSG

Do you remember the last time that your heart was so excited that it felt like it would burst it's banks? Was it when you meet your spouse? When you had your first child? That promotion? That dream car?

How does it compare to the moment when you received the truth that the King of Kings wanted to have you in His Family forever and ever? That moment when you truly and completely gave your heart, mind and spirit over to Him? Was there so much love that you just couldn't contain it inside of you? Maybe you wanted to shout, sing, dance or write about the excitement that your soul was experiencing.

Sometimes that moment--that wonderful, life-changing moment--gets dim as time goes by. Realities of life can come and snare some of the bursting, excitement away. Does it have to? No! Please fight for those moments. Your God is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. Who and what changes is us, you. It's us that allows life to draw us away from that first love excitement and fills it with the distractions of the world.

Here is a great question to ponder on for a moment--Can you say that your heart and tongue are in unison, as you meditate upon your King, the God whose throne is forever and ever?

"The heart of the wise teaches his mouth, and adds learning to his lips." Proverbs 16:23 NKJV