How to Gain a Beloved Brother – Forgive

Philemon

Philemon 16 a

This a personal letter from Paul to Philemon. Philemon was a slave owner that came to know Christ. In the past he had a slave named Onesimus. When given the opportunity, Onesimus found a way to escape.

Onesimus, in his freedom, ran into Paul. After hearing Paul, he also gave his life to Christ and wanted to make right his wrong doings of the past. He told Paul about being a run away slave and it just worked out that Paul knew his master. He convinces Onesimus to go back to Philemon.

This letter is preparing Philemon for Onesimus’ arrival.

In verse 17-19 is one of the finest illustrations of substitution.

“So if you consider me your partner, welcome him as you would welcome me. If he has wronged you in any way or owes you anything, charge it to me. I, PAUL, WRITE THIS WITH MY OWN HAND: I WILL REPAY IT. AND I WON’T MENTION THAT YOU OWE ME YOUR VERY SOUL!”

Onesimus, the unprofitable runaway slave, was to be received as Paul, the great apostle, in the home of Philemon.

Sounds a lot like Christ agreeing to take our place and having all our sins put on him. He took our place in death but he offers us the life only he deserves. Because of this, we have the standing of Christ before God.

The letter also shares how we are to love other people. (Friends and enemies, masters and servants alike)

Paul spoke of the new relationship between master and servant in his other letters. Here he demonstrates how it should work. These men belong to two different classes in the Roman empire hating each other and hurting each other but are now brothers in Christ and they are to act like it.

We see the desire for repentance and urging for forgiveness.

Wouldn’t our world be a better place if people owned their mistakes, sought forgiveness — and then the offended actually forgave!

You have been forgiven and you need to forgive others.

-John Wincapaw

Preach it!

2 Timothy 4

2 Tim 4 1 2.png

Several years ago I had the wonderful opportunity to accompany my husband to Rome on one of his business trips.  It was amazing.  Being in the city that received Paul’s letter to the Romans thousands of years ago.  Seeing the ruins that date back to the time of Paul.  Walking on the ancient stone road that has led into town for many, many centuries – most likely the very road that Paul travelled.  Even standing at the doors of the Mamertine Prison which housed Roman prisoners awaiting execution which very well may have been the last known address for Paul, as he wrote, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (4:7).  It makes you think about your own fight – your own race – your own faith.

 

For, whatever cell he was writing from – Paul faced death knowing he had been faithful – not perfect, but faithful.  He was now more than ever looking forward to, “the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day – and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.” (2 Timothy 4:8).  He was content with how he had spent his life serving Christ, even with the persecutions and ultimate death it was to bring. Now, he looked forward to Jesus’ return – on that day!

 

I want to have that same assurance and that same contentment.  And, I want that for you, too.  And for those who will go after us.  Paul, too, was thinking ahead – not only for himself – but for those who would remain fighting the fight, running the race and keeping the faith.  And so he was passionate about having Timothy prepared and encouraged and strengthened to, “Preach the Word: be prepared in season and out of season, correct, rebuke, and encourage – with great patience and careful instruction.”  (2 Timothy 4:2).  Paul wrote of those who would be forsaking truth to follow their own desires and what their “itching ears want to hear” (2 Timothy 4:3).  Sadly, there are a lot of itching ears today and truth is too often abandoned in exchange for what is politically correct, socially acceptable or just plain convenient and selfishly desired.

 

Do you still have life in you – then fight like Paul fought – for the sake of Christ.

Do you still have a race to run – then run like Paul taught Timothy to run – for the spiritual lives of others.

Do you still have faith – then keep it, grow it, and pass it on!

 

Longing for His Appearing,

Marcia Railton

 

 

 

It’s always a pleasure writing on God’s Word with you – but for the rest of this week I will be passing on the torch to my daughter Makayla who will be writing 3 days on the book of Titus.  Stay tuned.  Stay faithful!

Power. Love. Self-Discipline.

2 Timothy 1

2 timothy 1 7

 

Here we are – seven days away from the start of FUEL, the week-long youth event where this daily devotions blog began 3 years ago when the week’s theme was GROW.  On their website, Turning Point Youth Ministries says of FUEL, “We make every effort to create an environment that challenges, encourages and equips students to pursue intimacy with God, connect with others, and ask hard spiritual questions.  We have a lot of fun and work hard to help students see what loving God and others is all about.”

 

I think Paul had a similar mission as he was writing this letter (which would become 2 Timothy) to his dear friend and son in Christ.  Paul was now in prison (not just house arrest) for preaching the name of Jesus.  Emperor Nero was persecuting Christians and it was a very difficult time to be a Christian.  Consequently, some were falling away from the faith, some were fleeing persecution and many were deserting Paul (1:15).  From his prison cell he was writing to challenge, encourage and equip his younger spiritual son in the faith who would be carrying on the work.

 

Paul could be bitter or scared or quietly submissive – but instead we see thankfulness and prayers night and day for Timothy (1:3).  We hear him urge Timothy to keep testifying about Jesus and keep telling Paul’s story without being ashamed of the gospel or the chains (1:8, 16).  The prisoner appeals to Timothy to “join with me in suffering for the gospel” – not necessarily as a prisoner – but as one who makes daily sacrifices for spreading the word of life – even when it involves suffering (1:8).  The teacher instructs the student to keep teaching what is right and true (1:13).

 

This chapter is beautifully summed up in the words of verse 7 – “For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline.”   It is a great reminder whether we are preparing to serve – or be served – at FUEL.  It is a great reminder whether we will be praying at home – night and day.  It is a great reminder for God’s people.

Love.  Power.  Self-Discipline.  From God – to You.  How will you use them today?

Marcia Railton

 Friends

 1 Thessalonians 1

1 Thess 1 2
The first verse of 1 Thessalonians tells us what this wonderful letter is all about: Friends: Paul, Silas, and Timothy had become extremely close spiritual friends. These three spiritual friends prayed together, worked together, and became very close to the people in Thessalonica. The first chapter should be read with the concept of two or three gathered in the name of Jesus praying and loving others in a particular area or church. I have made many friends much the same as Silas and Timothy were to Paul.  Thessalonians is all about fabulous friendship in this life and the life to come (v.10).
Application: Everyone has to choose which friends they should have. If we seek God and ask Him for guidance, God will lead us to the right people to be around. Just as Paul, Silas and Timothy constantly sought God’s Word and His guidance, they were able to connect because God rewarded each of their daily dedication to God. We as individuals need to be in constant prayer and God will lead us in choosing friends. I also encourage you to love your friends just like God loves us.
Paul Moore – and his friend Esther

Endure

Colossians 1

Colossians 1 24

I like to listen to audio books. Most of the books I read could be considered “self-help” or “Leadership” books. The one that I have just started in the last couple days is called “Can’t Hurt Me” by David Goggins. David is a former Navy seal and an ultra-athlete. The premise of his book is to have a mentally tough and disciplined mind that allows us to push through the worst experience’s life can throw at us. This idea of “Can’t Hurt Me” reminds me of what Paul said in Colossians 1:24-29

 “Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh,  I do my share on behalf of His body, which is the church, in filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions. Of this church I was made a minister according to the stewardship from God bestowed on me for your benefit, so that I might fully carry out the preaching of the word of God, that is, the mystery which has been hidden from the past ages and generations, but has now been manifested to His saints, to whom God willed to make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. We proclaim Him, admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom, so that we may present every man complete in Christ. For this purpose, also I labor striving according to His power, which mightily works within me.

Here we see Paul bringing up a time where he had been persecuted for bringing the Gospel to the Colossians. Where he endured hardship while preaching fully the Gospel to them. He mentions in verse 27 “God willed to make known the riches of the glory” and also mentions “hope of glory”. I believe that this for Paul was meaning no matter what kind of tribulations, trials, or persecution he goes through Jesus also went through this, and God revealed the mystery of resurrection power to the world as well as the Gospel through Christ.

We will have days, often, that are going to be horrible from our perspective. Now I don’t know what David Goggin’s believes personally. However, if we adopt what I think David Goggin’s and Paul would say is a “Can’t Hurt Me” mindset, we can look forward to the resurrection and the kingdom of God.

Jesse Allen

If Paul can, You can

Philippians 1 

7

Shipwrecked on an island, stoned, bitten by a snake, beaten, and thrown into prison. It seems that Paul could never catch a break. The letter of Philippians was actually written while Paul was imprisoned in Rome. After a short greeting to the church of Philippi, Paul explains his current predicament:

Now I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that what has happened to me has actually served to advance the gospel. As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ. And because of my chains, most of the brothers and sisters have become confident in the Lord and dare all the more to proclaim the gospel without fear.(Philippians 1:12-14)

Paul’s attitude is truly humbling. Instead of grumbling, blaming, or whining, he recognizes that all of his difficulties have “served to advance the gospel.” What a mindset to strive for! By being transparent about his sufferings, Christians at the time were encouraged to be more confident and daring, spreading the gospel without fear. I was shocked to read that the people were more encouraged by Paul’s endurance than petrified by his tribulations.

My sister once brought a box of bacon-cheddar flavored crickets to a family gathering. At first, everybody thought the crickets were an amusing joke, but nobody seriously considered eating one. After staring at the crickets for a long while, my brother-in-law finally ate one as we all goggled and gawked. Then the next person ate one, and the next person, and eventually everyone in the room had eaten a cricket. After witnessing someone else eat the cricket, it was much easier for me to eat a cricket, too. (FYI crickets don’t taste like chicken).

In the same way, early Christians adopted an “If Paul can, I can” kind of faith. Let Paul’s resilience and conviction in the face of obstacles encourage you, too, to proceed boldly in your faith. If Paul can withstand being shipwrecked on an island, stoned, bitten by a snake, beaten, and thrown into prison, you can be daring and bold in your faith, too.

When was the last time you took a risk for your faith? Get your hands dirty, get uncomfortable, and get moving.

I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death.  For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. (Philippians 1:20-21).

 

-Mackenzie McClain

Backs Turned to God, or Turning Back to God – Your Choice

Galatians 4

Galatians 4 9

Picking up from yesterday’s chapter, Paul continues to talk about heirs.   I think it is best to go back and read the end of Galatians 3 again (remember, the chapter breaks were added later – not by Paul when he was writing).  Everyone was a slave under the law.  But thankfully, God made a way that they (and we) could become His children.  By accepting Christ, one can become a child of God through adoption.

Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba,[c] Father.” So you are no longer a slave, but God’s child; and since you are his child, God has made you also an heir.

From slave to heir – what an amazing opportunity!  How often do we take that for granted?  Because of Jesus’ sacrifice, not only have we been freed from the bondage of slavery, but we have also become heirs of God – and our inheritance is eternal life in His Kingdom.

This next section speaks of the Galatians turning their backs to God.  Paul is feeling like he wasted his time and effort with them since they have reverted to how they were before they knew God.  Paul seems to not be able to understand how they could go back.  When he was with them to bring them the gospel the first time, they were a blessing to him, but now they are causing him great distress.  Paul even goes as far as to compare it to the pains of childbirth as he is waiting for Christ to be formed in them again.  As someone who went through that last year, my sarcastic side thinks “Really, Paul?  What do you know about that?”  But my somewhat more logical side can recognize that he is using that language to convey the seriousness of his concern – both in how much he cares for them as if they were his own children, and also how hurt he is by the turning of their backs on what he taught them.

I imagine that the Galatians were not intentionally turning away from God.  But by not being intentionally focused on God, that was the result.  I know I am guilty of this.  It takes work to keep your mind and life set on God.  You may not be actively doing things that would displease Him, but by not actively doing things that do please Him, you are still going to be drifting further and further from Him.

Going back to Abraham’s story again, Paul brings up his two sons.

22 For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by the slave woman and the other by the free woman. 23 His son by the slave woman was born according to the flesh, but his son by the free woman was born as the result of a divine promise. […] 30 But what does Scripture say? “Get rid of the slave woman and her son, for the slave woman’s son will never share in the inheritance with the free woman’s son.”[f]31 Therefore, brothers and sisters, we are not children of the slave woman, but of the free woman.

We want to be children of the promise – of the free woman.  And the only way for us to do this is through Christ, so if you haven’t made the decision to follow him yet, I encourage you to do so!

~Stephanie Fletcher

The Life I Now Live

Galatians 2

Galatians 2 20

Paul has jumped ahead 14 years in his summary of his life as we start this next chapter.   Paul chose to meet with the leaders in the faith to present to them the gospel he was sharing with the Gentiles to make sure he was doing it properly.

This was 14 years after the end of events in the previous chapter, and if you look back, that was 3 years (and sometime) after his conversion.  After 17+ years of being in the faith, Paul, whose words we read in our study of Scripture, still asked those with more experience than he if he was on the right path.  What a good reminder for us!  Sometimes I think it can be easy to assume that for as long as you have been a part of the church (especially if you are someone like me who was raised in the church), that we have it all right.  But it is wise to continually seek counsel to ensure we have not strayed from the truth or are missing anything.

In Paul’s case, the leaders had nothing to add to what he was sharing.  “On the contrary, they recognized that I had been entrusted with the task of preaching the gospel to the uncircumcised,[a]just as Peter had been to the circumcised.[b] For God, who was at work in Peter as an apostle to the circumcised, was also at work in me as an apostle to the Gentiles.”

Paul’s message may have looked a little different than Peter’s because of who he was presenting to, but these leaders still agreed that it was true and wasn’t lacking anything.  I like this.  It is a reminder to me that not everyone is going to receive the Good News the same way.  If we tried to present it to everyone identically, it just wouldn’t click.  But by having different ways of sharing, and different people doing the sharing, we have the opportunity to reach more people.

As Paul continues to talk of his journey, he comes upon the argument that he had with Peter regarding forcing Gentiles to follow the Jewish law.  He reminds Peter that they and we are not justified by works, but by faith in Jesus Christ.  But that doesn’t mean that we can return or remain in our sinful lifestyle.  We must get out of that pattern.

The chapter ends with this:

19 “For through the law I died to the law so that I might live for God. 20 I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. 21 I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!”[e]

As Christians today, we are not bound by the law, but we are to live for God just like Paul.  We should be grateful for the grace God has given and the sacrifice of Jesus and strive to live a life worthy of that honor.

 

~Stephanie Fletcher

Heart Test

2 Corinthians 13

2 Corinthians 13 5

I’m picking up here on the last chapter of 2 Corinthians.   Thanks to Marcia Railton & Kayla Tullis for the first 12 chapters in this book!

One thing I love about these devotion blogs is that you get something a little different each week with different people contributing.  My style is pulling out some verses that stand out to me, doing some summarizing, and adding some of my own thoughts.  I hope that there is something this week that you can learn and/or grow from.

Chapter 13 picks up right where chapter 12 left off.  Paul is writing to tell them of his coming third visit.  And he isn’t going to be quite as nice.  They have gotten a couple of warnings, and now he is cracking down.

Grace is an amazing concept.  But if you use grace as an excuse to continue sinning, it cheapens God’s gift, and Jesus’s sacrifice.  So do this:

Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you—unless, of course, you fail the test? And I trust that you will discover that we have not failed the test. Now we pray to God that you will not do anything wrong—not so that people will see that we have stood the test but so that you will do what is right even though we may seem to have failed.For we cannot do anything against the truth, but only for the truth.We are glad whenever we are weak but you are strong; and our prayer is that you may be fully restored.

We may be weak at times, but if Christ is in us, we can rely on his strength and be fully restored – thank you God for this gift!  Because if we had to do it on our own, we simply couldn’t.

Paul finishes his letter with good advice:

11 Finally, brothers and sisters, rejoice! Strive for full restoration, encourage one another, be of one mind, live in peace. And the God of love and peace will be with you.

It can be hard to live at peace with our brothers and sisters if we aren’t at peace with God.

The past couple of weeks in our ladies class at church, we have been talking about our testimonies, and this reminds me of mine.  I grew up in the church and always knew I needed to accept Christ as my Savior to fully experience his and God’s love, but for some reason, I just hadn’t.  I believed everything, I had the knowledge, but it just hadn’t made a connection in my heart.  Then one Sunday, a lady in our church who was struggling with cancer shared how in her darkest time at the hospital, she had felt so far from God feeling almost abandoned.  Yet after feeling that, God blessed her with a deep sense of peace that passed any understanding of her circumstances.  And she knew that whatever happened, she would be ok whether in this lifetime, or in the coming Kingdom.  That got to me.  That gave me that heart connection I was missing.  I remember going to my pastor after church and telling him that I wanted to know that peace – I was ready to make my decision.

 

So if you have made your decision already, I am so happy for you!  I hope that you can live in peace and feel God with you.

And if you haven’t, I encourage you to consider it.  Maybe you are like me and know the truth, but just haven’t felt that connection in your heart.  If this is the case, I hope that you will spend time talking to God and ask Him to give you that connection so that you don’t have to miss out.

 

~Stephanie Fletcher

Hardships

2 Corinthians 11

2 Corinthians 11 28

… in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches.

2 Corinthians 11: 27-28

 

2 Corinthians 11 portrays Paul’s passion towards the church and the sufferings that he went through to build it up. Living life as a Christian is not promised to be easy. Though we may not all face the sufferings that Paul faced in his ministry, we too may endure hardships throughout our lives. However, we can take heart as we know from Romans 5 verses 3-6 that “we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.” Thankfully, in America we have the freedom to worship God openly. However, as we know, not all Christians are as fortunate and face persecutions daily. No matter what circumstances we face as we proclaim the name of the Lord and our hope in His coming Kingdom, may we remain firm in our faith and press on as we pursue a ministry that glorifies Him.

-Kayla Tullis