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. 

Wise Investing

In today’s world there are many strategies and options for investing in your future. You can pick from stocks, bonds, mutual funds, bank products, options, annuities, ETFs and more. Within my limited knowledge of investing, I know a little bit about dividend reinvestment plans. They allow the investor to reinvest cash dividends into additional shares of the “parent” stock when dividends are paid out. 

Recently as I was working through a portion of scripture, I was reminded that there is another type of investing that reaches far beyond our desire for “physical” or material gain. While the responsible use of what God provides for us is important, our real investment portfolio should be filled with strategies and options to help equip others with the truth of the Gospel message. 

The book of Titus is a short yet carefully penned letter that the Apostle Paul wrote to Titus as he prepared to minister and lead the people as the church in Crete. There is a real connection between believing in what is right and acting in a manner that shows others what it means to live in the light of truth and godliness. 

Chapter 2 of Titus lays out a different type of reinvestment plan that guides us through a proven strategy for investing in the lives of others, one that makes a lasting impact. 

Paul instructs Titus in chapter 2:2-3 to “Teach the older men to be temperate, worthy of respect, self-controlled, and sound in faith, in love and in endurance. Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way that they live, not be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good.”

Paul’s strategy begins by making an investment of time and energy into teaching “older” men and women to live in a way that first honors God and second sets a good example of living right for those who follow. This first, or initial investment into the lives of the older generation becomes the initial point of re-investment for future generations. 

Paul continues to give instruction in the following verses using terms like, “urge the younger women” and “encourage the young men”. What he does here for the older men and women is this: he sets up the terms of re-investment into the lives of the younger generation. Their learning and growing in temperament, respect, self-control, sound faith, love, endurance, reverence are the dividends that pay forward into the lives of the younger men and women. 

Paul reminds us in verse eleven of chapter two that by the grace of God, salvation is for everyone. While we may live in a different time and space culturally from Paul’s original audience, the truths that these words speak should continue to be a guide to investing into the lives of our younger generations. 

Held in-between these words of instruction to Titus and to us is a message of living out our faith in a way that inspires others. How does your life inspire others? Will people see Jesus in your life through your actions and not just your words? As we live and lead by example it is my hope and prayer that we are all investing into the lives of those who will one day fill our shoes and follow in our footsteps. 

Lights, Camera, Action…

picture1Do you know what a clapperboard is? It’s a tool used in the process of filmmaking, it’s that black and white board that contains some sort of scribbled handwriting that means something to someone and makes the “clap” sound when the clapstick is struck down. This device assists in the synchronizing of the motion picture and sound. During post filming production, the audio and video tracks can be precisely matched to create a seamless film experience. The director calls “action”, the person holding the clapperboard “claps” or cue’s the scene and the filming begins.

The apostle Paul calls us to action repeatedly in his writing. In many ways Paul gives us cue’s to living a life holy and pleasing to the Lord, a kind of “syncing” to His will. Paul often opens his letters to the church with statements like, “Grace and peace to you from God our Father” and “Grace and peace to you” and he often finishes in the same fashion. Paul in his letter to the Ephesians closes his letter with what I would call a serious call to action. “Grace to all who love our Lord Jesus Christ with an undying love.” (6:24). An undying love can also be translated as everlasting, indestructible, inextinguishable, constant, deathless or perpetual love. Notice that the text reads “all those who love our Lord”, often we describe God’s love for us in these terms but here we as believers are called to reciprocate that love in the same way.

An unmerited, undeserved gift that is freely given to us as believers by God, that is what grace is. Paul, speaking to God’s holy people reminds them (and us) of the kind of love we must have for our Heavenly Father. Out of our passion for God flows compassion for others. This is a compassion that draws others into seeing the incredible power of grace, forgiveness, love and mercy. Paul’s instructions for Christian living include a picture of how we as God’s people need to show grace to others; be kind and compassionate to one another (grace), forgiving each other (grace), just as in Christ God forgave you (grace).(Eph. 4:32). God’s word is our clapperboard in life, it is a call to action. It holds the important information that helps us live our lives in accordance to His will (synchronizing). Because of His forgiveness and grace, we have been given many more “takes” on life than we deserve.