Paul’s Persuasion Points to Christ

And the journey continues…Philemon. This short letter from Paul to the slave owning believer Philemon in Colossae is an example of Christian persuasion at its best. Paul’s words seek to remind the believing slave owner, who has been wronged, of how his faith in Christ can and will transform his attitudes and opinions for the common good. It seems Onesimus, the slave, ran away from his master Philemon’s home in Colossae stealing from him in the process. His journey away from Colossae took him to Rome where he encountered Paul. Paul lead him to faith in Jesus and was witness to his transformed character. Onesimus decided that the right thing to do was to return to his master. Under Roman law, this was a crime punishable by death. Seeing the changed heart and his desire to return to ‘fix’ the situation, Paul writes this letter to persuade Philemon to welcome Onesimus back into this home and his service.

Paul’s steps to persuade Philemon start with their common ground. They are both believers and Paul thanks God for Philemon’s faith in Jesus and his willingness to share his faith with others. Paul tells him how he has been blessed and encouraged by the faith of the believers in Colossae. As we learned in Colossians, Paul had never been to Colossae but Epaphras whom he had led to Christ had started a church there. Paul had heard of their growing and vibrant faith. Philemon 1:7 “For I have derived much joy and comfort from your love, my brother, because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed through you. What Christian brother or sister are you grateful for? How has their love for Jesus impacted you? Does their witness and faith encourage you and build up your own faith? If so, make a point of telling them. It will be an encouragement to them and help them see how they are having an impact for Christ in the world.

Next Paul sets before Philemon a challenge of faith. He asks him, because of Jesus’ loves for him, to accept and forgive Onesimus back for several reasons. Paul tells him of his love for Onesimus and how much he has grown to love this young man since leading him to Christ. He tells him how helpful he has been, during his time in prison, and that it is as if Philemon is there helping him through Onesimus. As to the matter of what he stole from Philemon, Paul goes so far as to ask Philemon to charge the debt to him. He says he will pay whatever is owed when he sees Philemon. Lastly, he argues the point that if he should welcome Onesimus back he will get not only his slave returned to his service but a brother in Christ who will be serving him and the savior they share in faith.

As I pondered Paul’s pleas for the life of Onesimus, I was struck by the power of the gospel in our lives. Paul contributes Onesimus’ new attitudes and faith in Christ with his total change of heart and character. The power of Christ in our lives makes us do and say things that are contrary to our old nature. The truth of 2 Corinthians 5:17 is evident in Onesimus’ life. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” He was also reminding Philemon that he too has a new nature that should not be motivated by worldly values. Is there someone or something you need to reevaluate in light of the cross of Christ?

Paul closes this letter with greetings to their common friends and asks Philemon to have a room ready for him when he visits. This is very personal and shows Paul’s willingness to come to him regardless of his decision concerning Onesimus. He is praying that Philemon will be lead by Christ to have compassion, mercy and love towards his slave. PauI’s pleas remind me God’s desire for each of us.

Micah 6:8 “He has told you, O man, what is good;
    and what does the Lord require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness,
    and to walk humbly with your God?

May we seek to please God and walk humbly with Christ looking to serve him with justice and love towards others.

Linda

Jesus Desires We Live with Focus

And the journey continues….1 Timothy. This first letter to Paul’s beloved convert Timothy is filled with directions and admonitions for guiding the growing the church in Ephesus. Timothy had traveled with Paul on his missionary journeys and on his fourth trip he instructed Timothy to remain in Ephesus and build up the church there. He wanted him to keep them pointed to Jesus and guide them so they would not be led astray by contemporary beliefs that were plaguing these new believers. Timothy was a wise young man with a lot of responsibilities ahead of him in his ministry. Paul gave guidance on choosing church leaders, prayer, confronting false doctrines, how to care for the widows and elders and warned about those that loved money too much. As I reread this letter, several passages jumped out at me as I saw Paul’s desires for all of us to live focused on Jesus. I pray these verses will be a blessing to you today.

1 Timothy 1:15-16 has basic doctrinal truth about Christ and how God changes and uses us for His glory. This is a trustworthy saying, and everyone should accept it: “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners”—and I am the worst of them all. 16 But God had mercy on me so that Christ Jesus could use me as a prime example of his great patience with even the worst sinners. Then others will realize that they, too, can believe in him and receive eternal life.” Paul is very clear that Christ came to save sinners. As ‘good’ as Paul was in keeping the laws and considered himself a zealous religious Jew, he was confronted with his own sin by Christ on the Road to Damascus and knew he was definitely a sinner saved by Christ. ((Acts 9) He trusted God to use him as an example for unbelievers so that others could be saved. Isn’t that what every believer desires? They want to be a witness for Christ so that He is seen in their lives and others would desire to follow Him too. May it be so with each of us!

In 1 Timothy 2:1-6 Paul reminds us that God desires us to live peaceful, quiet godly lives for Him. “I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people. Ask God to help them; intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them. Pray this way for kings and all who are in authority so that we can live peaceful and quiet lives marked by godliness and dignity. This is good and pleases God our Savior, who wants everyone to be saved and to understand the truth. For, There is one God and one Mediator who can reconcile God and humanity—the man Christ Jesus. He gave his life to purchase freedom for everyone. This is the message God gave to the world at just the right time. Here again Paul points out the kind of life God desires for us and that He wants everyone to be saved and to have knowledge of the truth! Jesus is the only way to achieve that reconciliation. We are to pray fervently for people to come to a saving knowledge of Christ. Who will you pray for today?

In 1 Timothy 6:6-10, Paul tells Timothy to pursue righteousness and not get caught up in the pursuit of money. These are timeless words for all generations as we seek to live for Christ in a material driven world. Yet true godliness with contentment is itself great wealth. After all, we brought nothing with us when we came into the world, and we can’t take anything with us when we leave it. So if we have enough food and clothing, let us be content. But people who long to be rich fall into temptation and are trapped by many foolish and harmful desires that plunge them into ruin and destruction. 10 For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. And some people, craving money, have wandered from the true faith and pierced themselves with many sorrows. Paul cautions all of us that it is the love of money, making it an idol, goal or making it the stuff of our dreams, that can lead to losing our spiritual focus. Taking your eyes off of Christ leads to confusion, disillusionment and ungodly actions. When we think about it, the love of money is often at the root of our confusion, disillusionment or selfish actions.

May these selected verses help you to see Christ more clearly and know for sure that He desires that all should come to Him, to repentance. He desires that we walk with him in humility keeping our eyes on Him and not on worldly gain. I am reminded of a favorite verse from Micah 6:8 “He has told you, O man, what is good;
    and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”
May we walk today focused on Him.

Linda

Showing, Loving and Living Redeemed

And the journey continues… Colossians. This letter was written by Paul to the Colossian Christians whom he had never met. His convert, Epaphras, had traveled to Colossae and started a new church there. When he encountered difficulties in theology, he traveled to Rome to visit Paul in prison. Paul wrote to help ‘set their thinking straight’ so that they would know that Jesus is Lord and there is no other. He praises their faith and growth but instructs them on the supremacy of Christ our Lord who came, died and rose again to provide a way of salvation for all who believe.

I love Paul’s prayer that opens the letter. Colossians 1:3-14 We always pray for you, and we give thanks to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. For we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and your love for all of God’s people, which come from your confident hope of what God has reserved for you in heaven. You have had this expectation ever since you first heard the truth of the Good News.This same Good News that came to you is going out all over the world. It is bearing fruit everywhere by changing lives, just as it changed your lives from the day you first heard and understood the truth about God’s wonderful grace.You learned about the Good News from Epaphras, our beloved co-worker. He is Christ’s faithful servant, and he is helping us on your behalf. He has told us about the love for others that the Holy Spirit has given you.So we have not stopped praying for you since we first heard about you. We ask God to give you complete knowledge of his will and to give you spiritual wisdom and understanding. 10 Then the way you live will always honor and please the Lord, and your lives will produce every kind of good fruit. All the while, you will grow as you learn to know God better and better.11 We also pray that you will be strengthened with all his glorious power so you will have all the endurance and patience you need. May you be filled with joy, 12 always thanking the Father. He has enabled you to share in the inheritance that belongs to his people, who live in the light. 13 For he has rescued us from the kingdom of darkness and transferred us into the Kingdom of his dear Son, 14 who purchased our freedom and forgave our sins.

A couple of questions come to mind as I study this passage that I need to remember as I walk with Jesus daily. Is anyone hearing of my love for Jesus? The Colossian Christians were known for their faith and love. This is what Jesus wants for each of us. In John 13:33-34 Jesus says, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

Another question- Do you believe in the transforming power of the Good News? The Good News that Jesus died for our sins on the cross and rose from the dead. Life in Him is abundant and filled with grace, love, mercy… and the fruits of the indwelling Holy Spirit. Galatian 5:22-23 “ But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” The Holy Spirit transforms our lives as we follow Jesus each day in faith.

Lastly, How do you pray for others? Do you pray for their growth in faith that they will know and love God more and serve Him with eagerness? Do you pray for their patience, endurance and joy? Paul prayed for these things as he wanted the Colossian Christians to thrive and grow in the Lord. He wanted them to live with a spirit of thanksgiving and joy in their lives. James 5:16 “Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.

I pray that you will show your genuine Christian love for others, pray for your fellow believers, unsaved friends and relatives and live like you believe you are truly rescued from darkness and brought into the light of God’s love. You are redeemed and forgiven dear brother and sister!

Linda

Prayer, is it your habit at meals?

prayer-thank-you-lordOne area of giving thanks that has seemingly slipped away in America is the practice of giving thanks at meals.  It is a rare occurrence to see people praying in restaurants as they are served food.  Why has this habit begun to disappear from public view?  I really don’t have an answer just some conjectures:  **In today’s world, people seem overly concerned with how others view them and do not want to do something considered ‘politically incorrect’ and offend someone.  **They have gotten out of the habit of doing this regularly.  **Or perhaps thanking God for the food they are about to eat, never crosses their mind as they earned the money to pay for it, so why give thanks?  Whatever the reasons they have for not praying- giving thanks is very biblical.

Jesus’ giving thanks is recorded in the gospels on various occasions.  Matthew 14:18-19 Jesus is preparing to feed 5,000 people and He said, “Bring them here to me,” he said. 19 And he directed the people to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then he gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the people”   Again when 4,000 had gathered and had been with him for days, He had compassion on them and gave them food.  Matthew 15:35-36 “He told the crowd to sit down on the ground. 36 Then he took the seven loaves and the fish, and when he had given thanks, he broke them and gave them to the disciples, and they in turn to the people.”   After Jesus’ resurrection, he met the men on the Road to Emmaus.  They did not know who he was but He spoke to them about himself from scripture.  They begged him to stay and eat with them on their journey.  Luke 24:30-31 records this encounter, breaking breadWhen he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. 31 Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight.”   Paul also followed Jesus’ example under the hardest of circumstances.  He was a prisoner being transported to Rome and they were in a great storm.  All on board the ship feared for their lives.  Paul brings calm into the situation, Just before dawn Paul urged them all to eat. “For the last fourteen days,” he said, “you have been in constant suspense and have gone without food—you haven’t eaten anything. 34 Now I urge you to take some food. You need it to survive. Not one of you will lose a single hair from his head.” 35 After he said this, he took some bread and gave thanks to God in front of them all. Then he broke it and began to eat. 36 They were all encouraged and ate some food themselves. 37 Altogether there were 276 of us on board.”  Acts 27:33-37

What should be our response to these biblical examples of giving thanks?  Jesus in his humanity gave thanks to God for the provision of food for the gathered crowds.  Paul gave thanks in a desperate situation that could have totally consumed his thoughts and prayers.  They did not ‘forget’ to pray when they were busy and consumed with other things- they stopped, gave thanks and then ate.  No matter where we are, we need to acknowledge God when we eat.  We need to thank the creator of all things for the provision of food for our bodies.  Physical food is essential for our bodies to run well just as spiritual food is essential for our growth and development in Christ.  Our spiritual food is the Word of God.

Thanks with grateful heartI must confess that I am convicted by this blog today.  I often do not pray when I am out in the company of unbelievers or get out of the habit of praying when by myself at meals.  Knowing Jesus was in the habit of thanking God for his physical provision of food, convicts me that I should do the same out of respect for God and His provisions in my life.  I pray that you are led to do likewise.

Linda