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

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The Greatest Commandments

Mark 12

Mark 12 29 30 NASB

A scribe goes to Jesus and asks what the foremost commandment is.  “Jesus answered, “The foremost is, ‘Hear, O Israel! The LORD our God is one LORD; and you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” Mark 12:29-31.

It’s easy. Know who God is, love Him with all your heart, and love others. Well, when it’s put like this, it seems easy anyway. It’s interesting to note that if we are loving God with all our hearts, then we are keeping the first five of the 10 commandments.  (Honoring our fathers and mothers is a way we honor God as well, because He put them in authority over us. Although you could say that this fifth commandment could go with the last five and loving others.) Likewise, if we are loving others, then we are keeping the last five of the 10 commandments.

How can we love others as ourselves? We can strive to think of others before we think of ourselves. If we can make our lives more about others and less about “me”, then we are on the right track. How do we love God with “all”? Well, we must love God with every part of who we are and outwardly it shows because of how we spend our time and money. At the end of this chapter Jesus points out the widow who gave very little, but gave “all she had”. That took a serious amount of faith. God is always pleased when we act out of faith in Him.

-Melissa New

 

Peculiar

Phil 2 15.png
If someone were to describe your behavior as “peculiar”, you would most likely not take it as a compliment.  Peculiar’s origin as a word stems from particular, singling out an item or idea from the rest, but over time the definition, and more importantly, the connotation has shifted.  To be peculiar is not simply to be different, but to be strange, funny, odd, specifically to a way we act or think seemingly with rational or reasonable explanation behind the behavior.  Peculiar could be someone who wears different styles, colors, and heights of socks simultaneously (me), or someone who doesn’t like the food on their plate to touch (my wife), or someone who would turn down all the wealth of this world to serve the will of God (Jesus, Matt 4).

There is truly something odd about the Christian life.  We are constantly denying our instinct in order to fulfill our call.  Many times Jesus uses radical, hyperbolic language to teach the most important disciplines of the strange Christian life.  These words are meant to shock, encourage whispers, and dramatically shift the way we act and think.  Those who want complacent faith? To have miracles without the mindset? To have salvation without giving up their reputation or station?  They walked and will continue to walk away.  They don’t want to be perceived as peculiar, and more accurately, don’t want to be forever changed – a holy-first mindset.

In keeping with today’s theme, here is a shortlist of six of the most odd and convicting teachings of Jesus.  If you’re not different or weird because you do these things, then you are doing them wrong.  As you devote time to reading this list, use this as an opportunity for a gut check – are you only a listless spectator watching and critiquing without any action or any sacrifice or are you actively working on becoming a sold-out slave to the Savior’s summoning?

1. You must be baptized for forgiveness and to receive the Spirit – Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” – John 3:3 – Jesus has an eye-opening conversation with Nicodemus about the way God uses this symbolic gesture that had become a part of Jewish religious culture.  John the Baptist, like others before him, uses immersion in water as a means of symbolically cleansing us from our sins, but Jesus sets the example (Matt 3) that this also symbolizes a changing of our mindset.  The death and burial of our old self, and the rebirth of someone who is ready to receive the Spirit, the dwelling of God’s power in us.  There are theological nuances that we will leave to the scholars to debate, but this symbolic act is clearly exampled and talked about by Jesus, and practiced and talked about some more by his disciples.  This is the beginning.  If you haven’t been baptized, but you see the compelling case for Christ in your life, now is the time.  This symbol marks the launching point, not the precipice to our walk in Him.

2. You must be willing to live and die for Christ – “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”  Matt 16:24,25 – Obviously the apostles saw something happen that dramatically shifted the trajectory of their lives forever.  After the resurrection of Jesus, they were accused of moving His body to perpetuate the story that He had risen.  But would every single one of these men be ready and willing to travel so far and literally give up their lives for Christ? While a single man might die to protect a lie, I find it very hard to believe a whole group of men would do so. All of them, save John who was exiled, were put to death, each one receiving their punishment, not simply for their beliefs, but for their pursuit of evangelism and sharing the good news.  They each daily sacrificed their life, and even used their death, as testimony of the life-altering Gospel message.

3. You must live out communion  – “For My flesh is real food, and My blood is real drink. Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood remains in Me, and I in him. Just as the living Father sent Me and I live because of the Father, so also the one who feeds on Me will live because of me“ – John 6:56 – Here we have another physical gesture that is symbolic of Christian life.  While it is not too difficult to eat a piece of bread or crackers, or knock back a cup of wine or grape juice, the conviction of these symbols is terrifying – we must always remember that we are striving to be one with Christ.  Anything we put in our body, use our body for (i.e. sex, 1 Cor 6:18), or anything that happens between our two ears, has to be reconciled by or repented to Christ for Him to remain in us.  This means the act of communion, whether done formally or figurative as a daily discipline, should be convicting and purging us from the things that tear us away from Christ.

4. You must find joy in persecution and dejection – “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.” Matthew 5:11 – Our natural instinct when we are attacked is to strike back.  If you hit me, I will return the blow.  If you hurl insults at me, I will use my wit and tongue to put you in your place.  Even when we gratify ourselves with revenge, there is no joy in it.  In Acts 5, Peter and the apostles receive a verbal and physical lashings.  What is their response?  Jubilation.  They found great joy in suffering for Christ because it meant they were becoming more like Him, and they were living out the Great Commission.  We should be ready and willing to be challenged, made fun of, and even receive physical abuse because we have taken a stand for Christ.  When we take a stand and our joy grows, but so does our testimony and resolve (James 1:2,3), compelling others to seek out the reason for our peculiar perseverance.

5. You must be willing to count anything as loss – “If your hand or your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life maimed or crippled than to have two hands or two feet and be thrown into eternal fire.” – Matthew 18:8 – The example Jesus uses is a challenge to control our carnal nature using figurative language. If someone had the resolve to literally cut off the hand or foot, they definitely have a resolve to control other behaviors in the life.  But are we willing to literally cut out other things?  Are you willing to give up comfort? Opportunities? Sports? Friends? Family members?  Would you be willing to be thought of as dumb, ignorant, a fool, and even pitied?  Would you be willing to part with all of your money, all of your possessions, and all of your time?  It is better to lose your identity in this world or  to have no home, than to be thrown alongside your pride and identity in the fire.  It is better to throw away a coveted scholarship than for you to be thrown alongside your degree to be thrown in the fire. It is better to find new friends and family, or even have no friends and family, than to be thrown alongside them in the fire.  Now each of these things are placed in the proper perspective; pride, a degree, friends, family can all be great God-filled things, just like hands and feet, but if they are moving you away from Christ, they are not beneficial.  We have to remove them.

6. You can’t stop loving others. Ever. – “Love your neighbor as yourself.” – Matthew 22:39 – It would be so much easier if Jesus never said this.  The most radical, the most challenging, the hardest-lived statement is in these five words.  Loving God is truly easy – He deserves honor and praise, He loved us first, and He has established things in past, present, and future for us that are greater than we can ever imagine.  I would even dare say I am loving God more than myself on my greatest days of faith (which is not nearly enough).  But loving my neighbor. C’mon.  What have they done to deserve my love?  My neighbor could bash my faith on social media.  My neighbor could be making such poor choices with their money.  My neighbor could be abusing their family.  My neighbor could be lying to me, stealing from me, and badmouthing me all over town. My neighbor could physically spit in my face, beat me to the point of death, and hang me on a cross.  And that’s when we realize, we are Christ’s neighbor.  He have power to change our lives forever by living out the love of God.  He was so purposeful in His love in God that He saved us all from eternal separation.  By doing this, He has given us the power to peculiarly love people we don’t know, but even more so, people we know well.  We have the same opportunity as Christ.  We can do everything possible to love our neighbor into conviction and submission that comes from seeing, hearing, and feeling the Gospel message coming from God through us.  Yes, this is the most peculiar of all, but as strange, odd and weird as it is, it’s the most beautiful, the most attractive, and the most fulfilling thing we could ever do on behalf of our Father in heaven who so much loves His peculiar people.

-Aaron Winner

You Need a Person

They Need One Too.

Phil 2 3,4
I often found myself quiet and alone in class during grade school. I always wanted to talk to people and fit in but never quite knew how. I hoped that one day maybe someone would just start being my friend and start talking to me. Well, it happened in 7th grade. All because of one kid who sat next to me in my fourth-hour history class. His name was Joel and till this day we are best friends. I had always been shy and didn’t talk much before I started to hang out with him. He started to show me how to be more confident and assertive. He even showed me how to have fun in school. I would have never made it through school if he hadn’t been there.
Philippians 2:3-4 says that we should count others more significant than ourselves. And often times that can be difficult especially when we don’t feel very appreciated. But let me tell you there is someone out there that needs you to reach out to them just like my friend Joel did for me. They need a person in their life to show them who Christ is through action. Are you willing to be who they need?
Who is the person God is calling you to reach out to?
-Jesse Allen

A Character Defined by Love

Fruit of the spirit

The Holy Spirit produces these things in our life.  It is important that we know and understand them well, so that we can apply them to our lives.  When the fruit of the spirit is at work in our lives, amazing things happen. Your whole life blossoms and bears fruit.  One of the most wonderful fruits of all is the giving and receiving of love.

The word love can mean many different things, as you can see from the many different dictionary definitions.  We also find different kinds of love throughout the Bible, four of them specifically. Eros is the Greek word for sensual or romantic love.  Even though the term is not found in the Old Testament, Song of Solomon vividly portrays the passion of erotic love.  Storge is a term for love in the Bible that you may not be familiar with. This Greek word describes family love, the affectionate bond that develops naturally between parents and children, and brothers and sisters.  Philia is the type of intimate love in the Bible that most Christians practice toward each other. This Greek term describes the powerful emotional bond seen in deep friendships, this is the most common type of love.  Agape is the highest of the four types of love in the Bible. This term defines God’s immeasurable, incomparable love for humankind. It is the divine love that comes from God. Agape love is perfect, unconditional, sacrificial, and pure.

There are so many people who go through life without feeling human love.  However, God’s plan is for every person to eventually experience His love flowing through them, so that each person can say “my cup runneth over with love.”  The funny thing is that when people are trying to feel love they often forget to read the greatest book ever written about relationships, the Bible. The Bible reveals how we can experience love for God and people that exceeds human capability.  The highest and purest form of God’s love is God’s divine and sublime love that He offers to share with us!  The perfect example of the ultimate nature of God is, “He who does not love does not know God, for God is love” (1 John 4:8).  God wants to transform us so that our character is also defined by love.

-Katie-Beth Fletcher

Show a Little Love

Hebrews 13

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Hello again everyone!

I get to finish the book of Hebrews today with you, and wow have we covered a lot!  The last chapter is full of little gems like marriage, money, peace, faith, prayer… each are uniquely different, making it hard to write a quick devotional.  So, I’m going to cover the topic that spoke the most to me this week!  You may be drawn to a different aspect of the text, and I encourage you to listen to God’s voice and what He has to tell you versus my own thoughts and ideas.  Hopefully I’ll have something to add though!

I’m going to focus on the relational aspect of this chapter.  Verses 1 and 2 talks about loving others; specifically, strangers.  Now, it may be the “Minnesota-nice” in me, but I seriously love this reminder!  One of my biggest pet peeves is when people are rude to others they don’t even know.  Anytime I encounter someone new who is rude, or even just has a scowl on their face, it automatically turns me off from anything they have to say.

We are told to be examples of Christ, and as Christians, we absolutely are whether or not we think so!  If we are outspoken in our faith, if someone knows you go to church on Sundays, or whatever the situation might be, to anyone we interact with, we are examples of Christianity as a whole.  That is a big responsibility!  These verses are great reminders to love one another and to show hospitality to everyone we meet.  Who knows, maybe you’re loving on an angel!

Skipping ahead just a bit to verse 16, we have another reminder in how to act towards others.  We are told to do good and share with them.  Obviously, this is another way in which we can show the love of God and demonstrate Christianity to new believers.  But, I’ll be completely honest, I’m not always in the best mood to share or do good for other people.  And quite frankly, sometimes people don’t deserve it!  But this verse isn’t telling us to do these things for other people alone.  We are told to offer these things as sacrifices to please God.  Depending on the person, sacrifice might be a good word to describe it!  I think it makes it easier to do good and share if I think of doing it for God versus for man.

Looking at the word sacrifice in verse 16 and the verse directly before that, I am reminded at how the Hebrews originally viewed that word.  Remember, they are still learning that sacrifice no longer has to be the shedding of blood!  That must have been a little confusing to go from sacrifice being blood to being worship and sharing!  This is just another way that shows how drastically Jesus can change our lives.  He took the unclean, messy, death and changed it in to praising God and showing love to others!

We are so incredibly lucky to have a Savior that has changed our world for us.  As a show of gratitude, we can focus on loving one another and spreading the same grace we receive from him to others.  In times like this when our world is hurting from the loss of people to things such as mass shootings, plane crashes, abortions, wars, natural disasters, and so many other horrible things in this life, I encourage you, brothers and sisters, to show a little love.

Grace be with you all!

-Sarah Blanchard