Refresh

In the furniture refinishing business, the term “refresh” is used to describe the type of work to be done any one piece of furniture. To refresh something, you lightly sand the existing finish before you give it a nice fresh topcoat. To refinish something, you would strip the old finish right off, get down to bare wood and start from scratch. 

In life and in faith when we come to know Jesus as our personal Lord and Saviour, we in a sense “refinish” our lives. We give over to God our old lives and begin a new one, living for Jesus. As we grow in our faith, as we live in a world full of evil and temptation, we need to be refreshed from time to time. 

When the Apostle Paul wrote his letter to Philemon he wrote these words, “Your love has given me great joy and encouragement, because you, brother, have refreshed the hearts of the Lord’s people”. Philemon was a fellow disciple of Jesus and as we read in the opening verses, hosted a gathering of believers (the church) in his home. Paul’s letter describes the incredible love that Philemon had for these people and personally thanks him and encourages him through his words. 

There are three other instances where Paul uses the word “refreshed” in the NT, once again in verse 20 of this letter and in Romans 15:32 and 1 Corinthians 16:18. Paul uses this word to describe the taking of time to break away from our busy lives so that our hearts, minds, and spirit can be refreshed. Refreshed in the sense that we take time to reflect, learn and grow in our relationship with Christ. 

Philemon was a partner with Paul in sharing the good news of the Gospel, to share everything that is good so that his understanding of who Christ is would reflect in his life and love for others. I do believe that as Philemon took the time to read these words from Paul his own heart would have been refreshed.

As believers, many of us set aside an hour or two each week, typically on a Sunday morning to go to church. This time is a break away from the normal routine and busyness of life. We come together to hear God’s word, learning, and growing in our understanding of who he is so that like the people of the church before us our hearts, our minds and our spirit can be refreshed. 

Is once a week for an hour or two in the morning enough to keep you refreshed? NO, we need these moments in our lives every day. So, how might we be refreshed in our hearts, our spirit, and our minds each day? To begin, we all (myself included) need to spend more time in God’s Word and in prayer. These are two of the foundations of our faith, on these things all other things are built. 

Consider how each of the following things can help you refresh your heart, mind, and spirit. Rest in the Lord, simply trust in him. Expect that God will work in and through you. Fear the Lord in reverent awe. Read his Word, a gift given to you. Embrace all that he has given to you, count your blessings. Share his love with others. Help those who need help; serve, and allow yourself to be served. 

When was the last time you took some time to be refreshed? What did that look like for you? How did it feel?” Pray and ask God to lead you into a time of refreshment today.

Let’s Get Personal.

Raise your hand if you have ever been in in church and felt like the pastor was speaking directly to you. Have you ever felt like you are sitting in the “hot seat”? Ever felt like the pastor keeps making eye contact with you, and only you, as he speaks? It’s happened to me, both as a recipient and after giving a message. I have had people come to me and say, “I think that message was written for me.” For whatever reason, the message that day for that person was very personal. 

The apostle Paul wrote several letters to the church in his time, many of course that we have preserved in our Bibles today. The letter that we have to Philemon stands apart from the others because it is a much more personal letter, it is very short and, on the surface, does not seem to contain any big theological teachings. 

This letter has a lot to do with relationships, close personal relationships, and the incredible bond of love (inspired by Christ) that binds them together. Consider for a moment the words that Paul uses to describe Onesimus, He is his child (v.10), his heart (v.12) and his beloved brother (v.16). When he speaks of Philemon, he uses similar words plus regards him as a co-worker (v.1), a partner (v.17) and one who owes him his very life (v.19). 

Much of Paul’s letter to Philemon is written on the foundations and command found in 1 John chapter 4. “We love because he first loved us… Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister”. (v.19,21b)

It seems that Philemon was in the “hot seat” as the intended recipient of the letter, but, the introductory verses also read, “the church that meets in your home”. The church as a whole body is included in this plea that Paul writes. While this letter is personal there is a bigger message for us all. 

I like to think that we can all put ourselves in the shoes of the original characters of this letter. Maybe you or I take on the role of Paul as the writer and mentor, maybe as Philemon, the recipient and leader, or as Onesimus as the one seeking to be forgiven and accepted. Maybe you or I are observing from the “sidelines” as someone who is a part of the church. 

No matter who we might be in the letter there is a message here for each of us. A message that bridges the span of time from its first delivery to the minute you and I read these words in your bible today. 

As followers of Christ, we are not alone. In Christ, we become brothers and sisters, we are adopted as sons and daughters into the family of God. Paul outlines some very practical ways for us to act as a family through this letter, putting us all in the “hot seat” as we think about how we personally and corporately live out each of his prescribed actions in our lives. 

How are we loving one another? (vs. 5, 7, 9,16); How are we praying for one another? (vs. 4, 22); How are we partnering or sharing with one another? (vs. 6); How are we being good or showing favor to one another (vs. 6,14); How have we been refreshing (inspiring) each other’s hearts to act and serve in a way that honors God? (vs. 7,12,20)

What question or action will you choose to act on today? Was this message written for you personally? Pray and ask God to lead and guide you out of the “hot seat” and into action. 

What is in your Junk Drawer

I don’t think there is a home in which the “junk drawer” does not exist. Almost everyone I have asked in the past couple of weeks fully admits to having one. This is the one drawer in the house that collects all the seemingly useless items that we don’t really know what to do with. Somewhere in the depths of our minds (and the drawer) we know that the items we place in them will once again find the light of day and be useful again.

Tucked away in the New Testament we have the privilege of reading a short letter to Philemon. It is written by Paul and although it is short in word count, the words that Paul uses are filled with some incredible instruction and truths. Through generations of change (both culturally and in language) I do believe that we miss some of the original craftsmanship that Paul uses to send a message to Philemon (and the church) as instruction for living for Jesus. 

Reading, hearing, and understanding this letter in its original context and language would help us appreciate the bigger picture of Paul’s intent for having Philemon accept Onesimus back into his life and ministry. Consider verse eleven for a moment regarding Onesimus, Paul writes, “Formerly he was useless to you, but now he has become useful both to you and to me.” When you dig a little deeper into what Paul says, you begin to see some interesting connections between the words.

For example, the Greek word for “useless” (achrēstos) sounds like the Greek word achristos which means “without Christ”. The Greek word for “useful” (euchrēstos) sounds like the Greek word for Christ (christos)

Paul skillfully draws for us a connection that speaks directly to the relationship that we have together in Christ. First and foremost, that a relationship with Christ is life changing (useless – without Christ vs. useful – with Christ) and foundational to being on mission for him. Secondly, that relationship is what binds us together as disciples of Christ. 

When Paul says Onesimus in now “useful both to you and to me”, he is referring to the fact that he is now a part of God’s family, a brother in Christ and is a part of the same mission. The message of the gospel, the incredible news of salvation through the death and resurrection of Jesus had become a reality for Onesimus, his life had been transformed, he was adopted into a new family. 

When I read this letter, I can almost feel the excitement behind the words that Paul writes. Paul has gained a new brother in Christ who is ready and willing to do his part to bring the gospel message to others. 

There are times in life when we may feel “useless”, stored away in a “drawer” feeling like we are not being very effective in the work of the Lord. But, when the power of the resurrection is a reality in our lives, we are far from useless. God has a time and place for each of his children to shine, to be used by him for his glory. 

If you are sitting in the “drawer” waiting for the opportunity to be “useful” again, do this: Pray. Pray and ask God to use you for his will and purpose. Be ready, the opportunity will come.

Breaking Down Barriers

wreckingballI enjoy a good demolition project, tearing down walls, smashing things with a sledge hammer, prying, pulling and incinerating the consequent debris. Sometimes I like to dream big, on a much larger demolition scale I was thinking about a wrecking ball. I would love to sit in the operator’s seat of one of these wrecking machines, my hands controlling the swinging action of the massive ball of forged steel as it smashes through concrete, steel, and any other obstacles in its path. A ten-thousand-pound ball of steel has the potential to bring even the strongest barrier to the ground.

Paul’s letter to Philemon describes a different process of breaking down barriers, barriers that rise up in our personal relationships. Much like in Paul’s time, these barriers might include social or economic status, heritage, or even geographic location. Paul writes a very personal letter to Philemon in respect to a mutual acquaintance, a man named Onesimus who was a run-away slave from the house of Philemon. The barriers I am talking about in relationships are broken down by love, a love that is found through the power and work of the Holy Spirit in our lives and in our relationship with Christ. There is a “bond among brothers” in this letter. Paul calls for the barriers of social status (Philemon as master and Onesimus as slave) to be disbanded, “welcome him as you would welcome me… no longer as a slave, but better than a slave, as a dear brother”, brothers in Christ. If you read through this short letter you will find some great insight into what a God honouring relationship looks like, you will see love, trust, respect, confidence and most importantly, Christ.

Brothers and sisters in Christ loving one another without judgement and without fear, that is a beautiful picture that I hope to see one day. The foundations of the barriers that get in the way of authentic Christ centred relationships are made up of the things of this world, things that focus on us. Exemplified through the life and death of Jesus Christ, the foundations of all our relationships need to be built with one key ingredient, love. Our first love should be for Christ and in the knowledge of Christ’s love for us, when that shines through so then will our love for others. Lives are transformed by love, we don’t need wrecking balls to remove barriers, we need the power of the Holy Spirit to overcome them.

Short And To The Point…

Boldness, confidence, love, prayer-fulness, thankfulness and encouragement. These are a few of the themes we can discover in the short 25 verses that make up the words of Paul as written in the book of Philemon.

Paul displays for us the boldness he had and the boldness we ought to have in approaching our brothers and sisters in Christ. This is a boldness shaped by the confidence that he had in God to prepare the heart of Philemon to receive Onesimus back into his home as a new brother in Christ. Understanding the source of love in his own life we see how Paul communicates his love to others through this letter. Prayer and thankfulness are poured out between the partnership Paul and Philemon shared in their faith together. This models for us a need to continuously pray for each other as believers, to carry on loving and caring for each other. Not only is Paul encouraged but he is filled with joy because of the work that has been completed through Philemon, he continues to encourage him as a friend and Christ follower to accept the changes in the new life of Onesimus.

As I journey ahead I pray that with God’s help and using the people He puts into my life that I can apply all these examples (actions) to my own life.

Steve.

 

It’s a Small World…

Have you ever been in a conversation with a friend or co-worker and used this expression “it’s a small world”? I am referring to the intricate web of human connections that are a part of all of our lives. I believe that God in his own timing connects each of us with other people according to his plan for a purpose.

As I look into the personal letter written by Paul to Philemon I see how God used their relationship (their connection) to not only help change the life of Onesimus but also as an example for us of Paul’s passion for the lost and his influence as a leader.

Onesimus, a runaway slave from the house of Philemon is hiding out in Rome and through God’s design connects into Paul’s life that at the time is imprisoned and becomes a Christian. Knowing that Onesimus needed to right himself with Philemon Paul sends him back to Colosse with this personal letter urging Philemon to forgive Onesimus and to welcome him as a brother in Christ.

“I prefer to appeal to you on the basis of Love”(vs. 9), this appeal as leaders should be the focus of how we should not only lead but in how train new leaders… in love. How better received is an appeal in love than a command or order from those who lead. In Paul’s words to Philemon we get a sense of respect and appreciation for the work that he has done and for the future work ahead of them.

As leaders we need to look back at 1 Corinthians 13 and be reminded of what leading in love requires. Leading requires patience, leading requires kindness, leading requires being humble and leading requires being truthful. As leaders when we come to the table with an attitude of love for others and for our creator we will be used to help build His kingdom.

Steve.