Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Happy New Year

A great year end thought by Pastor Paul Bryant

Saturday, June 07, 2014


Recently I was asked by a very dear friend to email a mutual friend a note offering encouragement. All I was told was the individual was going through some severe hardship. What follows is the email I wrote to this person.
I would like to thank you for your tireless efforts and talent in your duties for our organization. Your projects are wonderful and show your passion for Christ. They are well-done and very inspiring. Thank you.

I feel led to share with you a thought or two from God's Word. In Paul's Epistle to the Philippians in chapter four, Paul has some very powerful thoughts. Paul tells us not to worry about anything but pray and petition God with thanksgiving so our requests will be made known to Him. He knows our heart and wants us to voice our needs to Him so He can receive the glory. God's peace will surpass our thoughts and our hearts and minds in Jesus.
Paul tells us we should dwell on honorable, just, pure, lovely and commendable things. When we begin to do these things we soon find our troubles are not as bad as we thought because we have given them to God. God will show us a path to the mountain top, if we are willing to trust and obey Him completely.
I want to share a portion of my personal testimony about how God worked in my life during my most discouraging, saddest and trying time of my life. A few years ago, my wife died unexpectedly. Most people would be very angry and mad at God. I wasn't. Understand, I wasn't happy my wife of nearly 25 years was no longer with me. As the Word says in Genesis, we had become one. I was now half the person I had been and in more ways than just being suddenly single.
There was a whole range of emotions I went through during those first days and weeks without my wife. Everything seemed a blur for a long time. But God used that very tragic event to bring me to salvation. Up until the moment my wife died, I thought I was saved. I began to think about it and, also, study the Bible and I could not remember EVER asking Jesus for salvation. Turned out, I was one of those "Christians" who walked the walk and talked the talk. I was far from having the gift of eternal salvation. But within a week of my wife's death, I had asked Jesus for forgiveness and accepted Him into my life as my Savior. I have not been the same since. Yes, I miss my wife very much, but I am comforted by the fact we will be together again when I join her in heaven.
I have had many valleys and peaks since that day. But the point is I now have Jesus, the Holy Spirit and God on my side. With that trio, how can I ever truly fail again? The other thing which happened to me was I could not get enough of God's Word. I immersed myself in bible study. The more I got into God's Word, the more God's Word got into me. I now have a relationship with God I didn't have before. I live life differently now. I am NOT the most important person in my circle of influence, everyone else is. My needs aren't the most important, your needs and others' needs are.
I am praying for you, asking God to give you clarity, comfort, peace and strength. May God wrap His arms of grace around you and give you the blessings He has in store for you. In Jesus' name, amen.

The next day after I sent my email, I received a reply. While the response was brief, I was humbled that my friend was grateful and encouraged by the email. I should add that before I began writing, I asked God to give me the words He wanted me to share. It doesn’t matter I didn’t know what the situation and circumstances were. God knew. It just proves that no matter how difficult our personal journey with Christ is, there is always someone who has a tougher road to walk. I believe that is part of what Paul meant when he said to put the needs of other ahead of our own needs. Because in the end both of us become a bit more Christ-like in our journey toward eternity.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Love Gathered

Love gathered round glows full force toward the unknown,
Sheltered within the boundless time of hope slips boned
Glove tethered upon a glory stained vibrant crimson rose
Ever caressing edges of tingling fields of hips lightly posed.

Thoughts lathered in frenzied worry ponder mysteries lone
Shielded inward along beams floundered found ground stone
Caught clinging delicately dimmed drained devoid by flows

Immobile embracing with splendor sullied, coldness glows.

Missing collected visions of romance beckons fondness shown
Protected along boundaries limitless on faith bounded zone
Held trussed lightly, brightly, slightly feigned glanced blows
Silently shouts glimmering dreams luxury of smeared throes.

Playing Echoes

Touched by a lazy spring wind,
Random wisps of brunet locks
Arc across lips, cheek and find
Creased smiles upon gray frocks.

Yearning glows through russet eyes
Caution flows intact to tender highs
Among stirred dormant emotion
Moving ever higher on attraction.

Playing echoes of memory lost
Baying at golden moon’s frost
Ever standing lone in many
Leveraged for the zany.
Lessons learned with zany cost.

Robert Dodson
December 26, 2013
For Tracy Campbell

Friday, October 11, 2013

Spiritual Gifts ~ A Starting Point

In the many years before I became a re-born Christian, I wandered through life hopelessly searching for my purpose. I mistakenly believed I was a Christian. After all, I believed in God and Jesus. I even knew a few verses of Scripture. I was deceiving myself with the help of the ruler of this earthly world.

As I trudged through an existence built without God and Jesus, life was an unending daily loop of unfulfilled dreams. I thought I was happy, but I was not. I went from job to job seeking the “American Dream.” I was trying to live life on my terms, which were I could do anything and everything. I could not. The devil really had me under his thumb.

My life began to change when I overcame my alcohol addiction through a twelve step program. I still was misguided, but I was getting closer to the plan God had for me. Although at the time, I was unaware of any help from God in my life. However, God has always been in my life.

I did not have a personal relationship with God, nor did I want one at that stage of my life. I did not know I was headed toward a major life changing event. A year in my life where my world came crashing down and I was changed by God forever. My year was 2009.

It was a year in which three events played a major role in my rebirth. The first was becoming part of an online prayer ministry called World Prayr. The second was attending a “whole” bible teaching and believing church. The third was the death of my wife in December. Becoming associated with this ministry, I began to find and use the talents and gifts God had given me. My wife’s death led me to my re-birth on January 4, 2010. These three events are tied to my use of the gifts God has given me.

While I knew I had talent in a few areas, God used World Prayr, a church and a death to show me how I should be using those gifts. Everyone has spiritual gifts given to them, whether re-born or not. Throughout my life I would pray to God, usually in self-pity or anger. “Why me God?” “What did I do wrong?”

It was not until I was re-born that I became needful of a relationship with God. I had enough reason to be angry at God. But I was not. I dived into the bible to learn what God wanted to teach me and to build a father-son connection. I began spending “alone” time with God. I am getting better at hearing God speak to me.

Our God given talents have the best effect when used to build the body of Christ. Romans 12:4-11 is one of many verses or passages on the gifts and talents of believers. God has created a unique place for every believer in the body to use their gifts. Serving God and His people should be our primary focus in utilizing our talents.

All spiritual gifts are given by the Holy Spirit. We are responsible to use and sharpen our gifts. Spiritual gifts are not self-serving but serve the whole body of Christ when used properly. Used without love our gifts become practically useless. Make loving God and loving fellow Christians your highest motives, as you seek to identify and use your gifts.

Robert Dodson
October 11, 2013

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Spiritual Battles

Last week I fell victim to the lies of satan. He caused me to become despondent and discouraged. However through the comfort of online friends, church members and others, I began to emerge from this very personal battle I was fighting and losing.

In my failing battle, I had forgotten the “armor of God” and the One to whom I should have turned to during my battle. I knew and believed in God. I didn’t fully place my faith and trust in Him. Had I done so, I would have beaten satan at his own game; fighting his deception with the Word of God just as Jesus did after his fasting in the desert.

My losing this battle points out the importance of building your relationship with God. We should never place our faith in ourselves, we don’t stand a chance against the devil and his army. But in every spiritual battle, whether won or lost, there is a lesson to learn.

What lesson you learn is dependent upon your particular battle. In mine, I was knowledgeable that in life, we are certain to have many valleys of trial and many mountain tops of victory. We should never worry about the trials when we have God on our side.

He is shaping and molding us to do what He has planned for us. We shouldn’t belabor the agony of the trial but be obedient to His teaching. God has a purpose and a plan in which we are uniquely qualified to achieve, but only if we are obedient.

In crawling out of my despair, I read a devotional which proved to be the turning point in this particular battle. Its message was so simple and clear cut. I was blinded by my fears, I couldn’t see it during the fighting. The devotional author pointed out the facts about everyone having valleys’ and mountain top experiences.

He said the valleys’ were the bad things to happen in our life and the mountain tops were the good things. The point he made which hit me hardest was almost too easy to believe. Every time you are in a valley (bad thing), it is always followed by a mountain top (good thing).

Even though I am still in the middle of a valley, there is a mountain top coming. God is preparing me for something good. Knowing and remembering this is helping me to fight my way back. My mountain top may happen tonight, tomorrow or a few years down the road.

My part is to be obedient to God and allow Him to do His work in and through me. When I do that, my trials will be fewer and the victories will be many. If we live our lives in twenty four hour chunks; the trials are easier to manage, because Jesus said in Matthew 6:34 “Tomorrow has enough of its own worries.” Spend today living and being obedient to God and your future will be eternal.

Robert Dodson
July 22, 2013

Sunday, June 09, 2013

What If

As I approach and live my last years, I reflect on my life. I wonder about the if’s, could’s, what’s and all the other events of my life. Most others have done this once or twice themselves. Admit it. I know I cannot change the past, nor do I want to. I just wonder about what if I did this or did not make that choice. You get the idea. There is one event which occurred in my life I am always drawn to and how my life turned out because of that event.

When I was a sophomore in high school, a student approached me about becoming a member of a group in which he belonged. I listened to his pitch and agreed to join him. Because of that decision, the majority of my working career revolved around the position I held. This organization prepared me for my life as a contributing adult in the work force. The training they gave me helped me through various, but related fields of endeavor.

There are many organizations available for high-schoolers to join which can determine their future. Some are better than others. The one I was involved in was the Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (JROTC). My duty assignment was in battalion headquarters as a supply clerk. For nearly thirty years, I worked in places where I handled, displayed, stocked and did other tasks related to supplies or products.

The “what if” of my life is what if a Christian youth had asked me to join a Christian organization? Can you see the implications? I might never have fallen in with the wrong crowd, found drugs or alcohol, been arrested several times or almost die twice. Eventually I did find God on my own through a twelve step alcohol program.

This is why it is so very important to obey the “Great Commission” of Matthew 28:18-20. Youth can change the future. They can share their testimony and help lead others to Christ. They can make a difference! I call on the young people of the world to have the courage to share Jesus at every opportunity. The life you change might be yours or someone else’s. You may never know who or how many you help. But if you do not share Jesus, the number helped will be zero.

Do not be afraid to open your mouth and share. God will be with you to hold you and strengthen you. Isaiah 41:10 states: “Do not fear, for I am with you; do not be afraid, for I am your God. I will strengthen you; I will help you; I will hold on to you with My righteous right hand.” Let the Holy Spirit fill your heart and begin telling others about Jesus. Now!
Robert Dodson
June 8, 2013

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Essentials of Youth Ministry Today

Recently, through my church, I attended a session dealing with youth ministry. I would like to share some of what I learned. In recent years, there has been a dramatic decrease in youth attendance at churches all around the globe. Youth should lead the planet towards a revival of the Gospel as the “last days” draw nearer.

I strongly feel, youth ministers, pastors and interested others should begin today to lead youth towards a revival of the Gospel. It will not be an easy road, nor will it be an overnight success. It will be rewarding.

Youth want real, genuine people to lead them. Be there, live the Gospel. As youth leaders begin building the foundation for growing or starting their ministries have the Gospel as the driving force. There are many great ideas to use in building a thriving youth ministry. A few suggestions are:

  Go where the youth are.
  Be creative to reach youth.
  Play Frisbee, football, baseball, (Avenues to spread the Gospel)
  Have a pizza night, do whatever it takes.
  Reach the ones willing to be reached. Most likely the pre-teens.
  The best evangelism method is the one you use.
  Your outreach method is to come back to the Gospel.

There seems to be a tendency to move away from teaching the gospel to more teaching of religion, rituals and such. Youth ministers should be making a dedicated effort at teaching the grace of the Gospel as well as the Gospel itself. Until then, youth will continue to flounder, struggle and wonder about the Gospel. True understanding of the grace of the gospel is key to salvation. It helps to understand your salvation, not having doubts.

The key to ministry is rubbing shoulders with Christ so when you rub shoulders with another you are sharing Jesus. Dead men don’t struggle. God’s making you hate the sin and making you want to be more like Christ. Paul (Romans 7) I hate the sin I do.

The Holy Spirit is how we relate to God. How we learn more about God. Two way communication between God and you is how to relate to God. Find a tangible way to relate to God. It becomes real when it becomes tangible. Student’s want to experience God in a real way.

Scripture is to lead us into a relationship with the Spirit. Spend your quiet time with God to hear Him speak to you. He will tell you He loves you and He will guide you on your path as long as you are actively listening and seeking Him and the Spirit. Pray without ceasing is God walking with you, it’s what Paul was saying in 1 Thessalonians 5:17.

Ministry has to rest in the relationship. Becoming passionate about Jesus and evangelism and your ministry will take care of itself. God will then begin opening doors for you. Trust God and you will see awesome things.

Robert Dodson
April 24, 2013

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

The Battle For The Mind

When I accepted the gift of salvation from God, I did not know the battles I would begin fighting. I had this naïve idea life would be perfect and my eternity would be idyllic. I was wrong, half wrong anyway. My time in eternity will be perfect in the company of Christ. To gain that, I have to die to live.

It is life in this world where the battle for my mind is taking place. While I will continue to have daily spiritual battles, my worst day as a saint has been far better than my best day as a sinner. I have grown as a Christian, but I am only a toddler in my walk with Christ.

For me, my salvation didn’t include any Fourth of July type fireworks. I felt a special love and peace which wrapped me completely inside and out. It is a feeling which I will have until I meet Jesus in heaven. Knowing there is freedom from hell, drives my spirit to become as Christ-like as I can.

Becoming like Jesus requires changing how you think and live on every level of your existence. One of the first things to start doing is reading and studying God’s Word. This means committing to an everyday, rest of your life time alone with God. The more you read, study and meditate with God, the more God becomes a part of you.

In Ephesians 6, Paul gave us the game plan for the fight against the great deceiver. The tactics of the devil includes doing everything he can to keep us from being effective and strong Christians spreading the Gospel at every opportunity. Since satan is a fallen angel, his battlefield is our mind. If he can deceive us into believing his lies, he wins.

Our only hope is to put on the full armor of God so we can resist his evil plans. When fighting satan, we must speak aloud using the sword of the Spirit. Using God’s Word, we gain control over his deception. Always remember satan knows Scripture, therefore use Scripture to defeat him. It is a constant fight, but God is on our side.

Robert Dodson
March 13, 2013

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Sunset of Truth
The path of living is a long and lonely path at times
Togetherness shared focuses on the lines
Drum on the premise that done, strength and divine.
Wedges driven inside makes us pay the fines.
Molded into a precious piece of treasure
Separated life is sad, weak and lost forever
Folded together like a pair of socks neatly
Faded adoration is worn them secretly.
The sunset of truth never sets on trust
Each day spent builds a fondness always there
Favors attached are each memory in keeping elder
Reaching out beyond early riches traces facts best.

Robert Dodson
July 1996

Cresting The Summit

Cresting the summit of love’s spirit
Heals a hurting heart thumping slowly
Resting atop the chasms of challenge
Invokes a hint of daring risk of faith

Seals forever the heaven of eternity.
Trust shapes as valleys renew flowers
In groves of splashy beauty nurtured by
New clouds bursting their water to flow

Ever downward towards foaming oceans
Beaches strewn with white sand packed
Eagerly among moss covered boulders
Assigned to silently guard blazed trails

Constantly changed by winds of time
Honed to melt the lonely heart of youth
Caressing the spirit of hope to give
Back faith never lost in tomorrow’s today.

Robert Dodson
October 19, 2012
Written for a very special lady

Friday, March 02, 2012

The Christian Path ~ An Overview of Ephesians One

Paul’s epistle to the Ephesians is different than any of his other writings. It is quite impersonal in comparison. Ephesians is reflective in tone and theme. It wasn’t written to answer a problem in a church like the heresy in the Colossian church. The book was written to give Paul’s thoughts on the highest church truth. Ephesians contains three lines of truth within the six chapters. They are the believer's elevated position through grace; the truth concerning the body of Christ; and a walk in accordance with that position. Chapter one teaches us all the spiritual blessings of God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ having chosen us in Him before He created the world.

In verse one Paul mentions God’s will; he used the similar phrase “His will” in verse nine. The apostle cites Ephesus in his greeting and in 1 Corinthians 15:32. In verse three, Paul uses the phrase in the heavens for the first of five times in Ephesians according to the Holman translation. The other verses are in Ephesians 1:20, 2:6, 3:10 and 6:12.

When the future Saint Paul utilizes grace in verse six, he discusses grace in Romans 5:2 and 2 Corinthians 4:15 also. In using “the Beloved” in verse six, he used a similar expression, “the Son He loves” in Colossians 1:13. Redemption, in verse seven, is stated similarly in Hebrews 9:12. In verse nine, Paul remarks about the mystery of God’s will. Paul commented on this mystery in Romans 11:25, 16:25, Ephesians 3:3 and Colossians 1:27.

The disciple Paul references hope in verse twelve and in 1 Thessalonians 1:3. “The message of truth” in verse thirteen is declared in Colossians 1:5 and 2 Thessalonians 2:10. The faithful Paul reveals his thoughts on the Holy Spirit in verse thirteen and in Romans 8:9, Galatians 5:25 and Titus 3:5. In verse twenty three Paul notes Christ’s body. He had a parallel statement in Ephesians 4:4. The apostle had other words and phrases which he used in Ephesians one and referenced in other writings.

Ephesians one is a lesson in grace. When we accept, believe and walk in the spirit, we start our journey toward Christ-likeness. By being faithful to the commands of God and loving God and others, we are adopted into the family of God. While true we are adopted into the family of God at our rebirth, we get more acclimated to our new position as we obey God as we live our lives to serve Him. It is this new beginning which Paul addresses in the first chapter and continues through the end of chapter three.

Robert Dodson
Ephesians ~ An Overview
Paul wrote this letter to the Ephesians while he was imprisoned in Rome about 60 A.D. He did not write this epistle to confront heresy or a problem in the church at Ephesus. Paul’s major concern was to encourage the Ephesians and believers everywhere. The apostle sought to strengthen believers in their Christian faith by explaining the nature and purpose of the church, the body of Christ. He challenges believers to function as the living body of Jesus on earth. Paul’s blueprint is to show unity in Christ and unity in the body of Christ.
The nature of the church is simple. Believers in Christ have been showered with God’s kindness, chosen for greatness, marked with the Holy Spirit, filled with the Spirit’s power, freed from sin’s curse and bondage and brought near to God. As part of the “household” of God, we stand with the apostles, prophets, Jews, Gentiles and Christ. Paul challenges the Ephesians and, by extension, all believers in Christ to live close to Jesus.
Paul points out the implications of being in the body of Christ, the church. Disciples should be unified in their commitment to Christ and their use of spiritual gifts. They should have the highest moral standards. Individuals should reject all pagan practices and families should have mutual submission and love. As a reminder, Paul states the church is in a continual battle against the forces of darkness and they should use every spiritual weapon at their disposal.
In his greeting to the Ephesians, Paul used similar wording in Romans 1:1, Galatians 1:1, 1 Corinthians 1:1 and 2 Corinthians 1:1. In his closing comments, he mentions Tychicus in Titus 3:12 and his purpose of using Tychicus in Colossians 4:8. There are many more examples of Paul referencing people, thoughts and suggestions throughout the letter. In my limited space, I will address more of them at a later date.
I have come to the conclusion, for the moment, there is not as much of a doctrinal view as it is thematic. Paul is trying to encourage the Ephesians. Paul seems to believe there are not any major problems in the church at Ephesus. Paul wants the church to be unified in Christ and in the body of Christ. As a result, his letter has five underlying themes to address unity. In this uplifting letter, Paul addresses God’s purpose, Christ the center of everything, the living church, the new family and Christian conduct. He even gives us the formula for success in fighting the forces of darkness by explaining the armor of God.

This encouraging communication is filled with practicality, especially in chapters four through six. Paul tells us how we can be unified in the body of Christ in the first part of chapter four. He concludes the chapter by describing how to live as children of the Light. He continues in chapter five to address our moral standards. He then discusses wives and husbands, children and parents and slaves and masters. He finishes with his explanation of the armor of God.

The letter to the Ephesians has held a special place in my heart for a very long time, even before I was reborn. My favorite verse is Ephesians 4:29 which has helped me to curb my tongue most of the time. My limited study of this book has given me an insight into Christian living. As I dive deeper into the waters of this wonderful correspondence to the Ephesians, I can feel my life changing for eternity’s sake. Come aboard with me as I sail the ocean of insight contained within this letter written so long ago.

Robert Dodson

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Philemon ~ The Unseen Benefits

Recently I completed an in-depth study of Paul’s epistle to Philemon. Philemon is a short book of about 500 hundred words and twenty five verses. In the month I studied this book, I have written over five thousand words espousing my thoughts about what this short little letter contains, both obvious and implied concepts. I had suggested to my mentor I write a final paper about Philemon, the after part of a before and after look at what I learned during my study. My first paper was based on a basic overview of the book built on a week’s study. This paper has the advantage of an additional three week’s study plus the review of all the words I have written to date concerning Philemon.

After prayerful consideration, I have been blessed with five benefits given to me through my guided examination of this personal letter of Paul’s assistance to another believer. This study has given me a new perspective. Of all the concepts, beliefs and ideas I learned from my study, I never dreamed such a concise letter would have such a deep impact on my life.

The most important question asked of me about this note of the apostle Paul was, “What five things did you gain from your study?” At first, I thought it would be simple to supply an answer. But like my study, the answer required deep and careful consideration. For the moment, the short answer is righteousness, brotherhood, courtesy, freedom and love.

Your responses may vary, naturally. I should add this is my first real effort at diligent biblical study. Even if I had begun my study of the bible in my twenties and spent the remainder of my life studying God’s Word, I would never fully learn everything contained within its covers. I can say studying the bible will change you from the inside out.

At first glance, Paul does not mention righteousness once in the entire letter. So where is the righteousness? It is contained within each word that was written. It is implied through his introduction, his plea, his suggestion and his conclusion. Even his style of writing breathes righteousness. One gains righteousness from the words from meditation, study and God speaking to us as He touches our spirit. Paul is like a lawyer pleading his case before a judge. He intervenes on behalf of a believer, offers his insight, makes a suggestion and trusts Philemon to do the right thing. From the first word to the last word, Paul shows everyone his faith.

If the book of Philemon was food (in a sense it is), you could probably eat of it your entire life. Paul masterfully winds us through righteousness to brotherhood. Paul is making a powerful statement of the benefits of living for Christ. He shows us through his careful choice of words how Christians should live their lives. Paul has a firm grasp of the concept that God loved us first, more on that in a moment.

When the apostle begins his plea for Onesimus, he wisely avoids mentioning the new Christians’ name until absolutely necessary. Paul knows once we believe in Jesus, we are a part of a unique and constantly growing fellowship. He is telling us not to live for the world and the things of this world, but to live for eternity and to be seated with our LORD and Savior forever. Is there anything better? I think not.

Paul artfully displays courtesy and freedom within the mere five hundred words he used to communicate to Philemon. I should be so concise. The text is dripping with courtesy for others and freedom to decide our own course of events. We should defer our decisions to the will of God. We should always be polite and caring towards those we encounter. In America, we enjoy a multitude of freedoms. Yet in a very real way, we are less free than our ancestors were. People were usually slaves to others and their created “gods.” Today there are so many different ways to be a slave. Among them include, people, money, technology, sports and almost everything else in between. If you “worship” it, you are a slave to it.

The law of love is the most important thing I gleaned from my study of Philemon. Paul’s words ooze love from beginning to end. He shows us his love for Onesimus and Philemon. The apostle patiently teaches us about this great commandment. He tells us we are to love God with all our heart, mind, body and soul. Once we are able to do this, living a Godly life is all we need to live for eternity. The things of the world will one day end, but eternity is forever.

A nearly five hundred word letter has given me an insight into righteousness, brotherhood, courtesy, freedom and love. Yet there is so much meat within this book, I have just barely taken my first bite. I shall be at the table of Philemon for quite a long time. Care to join me?

Robert Dodson
January 14, 2012

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Philemon ~ Verses 1-8 an Interpretation

1 Paul, a bond servant for Christ Jesus, and Timothy our brother, Greet you Philemon, our dear friend and co-laborer, 2 Apphia our sister, Archippus our fellow soldier, and the church meeting in your home. 3 Grace and peace to you from God the Father and the LORD Jesus Christ. 4 I thank God when I always mention you in my prayers, 5 because I heard of your great love and faith toward the Lord Jesus and all the saints. 6 I pray your continued participation in the faith is increasingly more effective knowing every good thing in us glorifies Christ. 7 I have much happiness and reassurance from your love, because the hearts of the saints have been restored through you, my brother. 8 For this reason, I could demand you do the right thing because of my leadership position for Christ, 9 instead I appeal to you from the deepest part of my heart.

In Paul’s letter to Philemon, he expressed himself quite informally. He was making a personal appeal on the behalf of a recent convert, Onesimus, who was a runaway slave of Philemon’s. It is believed Onesimus stole some money or something of considerable value to Philemon. Paul used puns or plays on words in a couple of circumstances. He used one for Onesimus and one for Philemon. These come later in the letter and will be mentioned then. Paul had a very active and demanding prayer life. He was a very devout believer in the power of prayer and spent a good deal of time in prayer; especially when he was imprisoned during his many years of ministry and spreading the Good News. In these first eight verses, Paul is laying the groundwork for his appeal and his underlying doctrinal beliefs. He is setting the stage for the way Christians should act, believe and live their lives using love as his primary foundation. Because of his strong prayer life, his deep love for Christ and attitude about slavery are three reasons Paul utilizes the words he does.

In the first eight verses, Paul says on five different occasions similar statements he had mentioned in other writings to Christians or churches. In verse one, Paul mentions he is a prisoner of Jesus. He said essentially the same thing in Ephesians 3:1, Ephesians 4:1 and 2 Timothy 1:8. Archippus, in verse 2, is mentioned in Colossians 4:17. The phrase “the church which meets in your home” is stated in Romans 16:5, 1 Corinthians 16:19 and Colossians 4:15. In 1 Thessalonians 1:2 and 2 Thessalonians 1:3, Paul re-states thanking God and mentioning someone in prayer. In verse three Paul uses a common salutation, “Grace to you and peace from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ,”  which he used in Romans 1:7, 1 Corinthians 1:3 and 2 Corinthians 1:2.

Paul mentions prayer and love twice in the first eight verses. Because he is appealing to the heart of Philemon on behalf of Onesimus, he is stating what he would like to see in Philemon’s actions after the reading of the letter. Paul believes through prayer and love, Philemon would know and want to do the right thing regarding Onesimus. Onesimus is a fellow believer and Philemon should carefully consider his options in regard to action taken in relation to Onesimus. As a Christian, Philemon would be obliged to love him while as a master he could treat Onesimus harshly, even killing him if Philemon wanted. Paul probably knew the dilemma Philemon would face. This problem was probably the reason Paul was appealing to his fellow brother in Christ instead of ordering him to forgive and forget.

Most of the first eight verses reference others verses in Scripture. There are three references made to the Old Testament and the rest are references to the New Testament. The Old Testament citations are found in verses five and six, which I will address in sequence. The most mentions occur on the word love found in verse five. Starting with verse one, Paul is connected to Acts 13:9. Prisoner is tied to 2 Timothy 1:8 and Hebrews 13:3. Romans 1:1 references being a prisoner or slave to Jesus. Timothy is found in Acts 16:1 and 1 Timothy 1:2. Archippus, in verse two, is revealed in Colossians 4:17. A reference to soldier, found in verse two, is cited in Philippians 2:25. In verse two, Paul calls Archippus a fellow soldier. The apostle uses this term to express how he feels we should deal with the evils of the world and the flesh, including sin and satan. Paul’s use of this analogy conveys the idea of a battle ready soldier in the army as he mentioned in Ephesians 6. We have all the weapons we need to fight our spiritual battles. A soldier brings to mind someone well-trained and disciplined. Another good example is an athlete training for the Olympic Games. We have to be disciplined and committed to serve Jesus, fight our own spiritual battles and love, help and lead others to Jesus Christ. Christians have never been told serving Jesus would be easy. In fact, we are told we will be persecuted. But through all of our trials, God is with us, guiding, directing and planning our lives. For if we have fought the good fight of faith and run the race of life growing in Christ, our God of immeasurable grace will say, “In Him I am well pleased.” Having a church in your home is stated in Acts 12:12 and Romans 16:5.

The word love, as used in verse five, is a key verse. It is the verse which begins the road to teaching Christians about love and its aspects. It has more references to other verses than any of the other seven verses. It is the first verse to cite the Old Testament. It is mentioned ten times beginning with Deuteronomy 6:5, Matthew 22:37, Galatians 5:6, Galatians 5:22, Ephesians 6:23, 1 Thessalonians 1:3, 1 Thessalonians 3:6, 1 Thessalonians 5:8, 1 Timothy 1:14 and 1 John 4:20. Paul’s use of love in verse five could have many different meanings. He is not thinking about the types of love Christians have, but how they should love. Because of the way the apostle connected love to specific verses, we get the feeling of the importance of loving with all your heart, mind and soul; especially toward God and Jesus, but equally with everyone we come in contact with, whether Christian or not. Ultimately this is the higher state of grace and higher standard others would like to think we need to achieve. But when you love someone with all your heart, mind and soul, what is a higher standard? The goal of this type of love was shown by Jesus on the cross at Calvary. When we are ready to die for someone else without hesitation or fear, we will have begun to show a tiny picture of the love God had for us before He created the world.

In verse six, participation in the faith is compared in Galatians 5:6. Participation in the faith and a soldier, a thought seldom taken together, yet they are similar in meaning. It is difficult to tell others the grace of faith; rather we must show how faith gives us peace, joy and comfort. We can tell others all day long what faith is, but they will never understand. Believers and non-believers can only see the results of faith, the smile on our face, the sparkle in our eye and the contentment of our heart. On the other hand, a soldier carries a similar message, perhaps a bit more stern. It is the willingness to serve, obey and follow which are the primary attributes of a trained soldier and if you believe television advertising, a U.S. Marine.

Knowing every good thing is noted in Genesis 1:31, Genesis 18:18 and 3 John 1:11 as used in verse 6 convey the meaning that the good things of a person’s life come to them through Christ Jesus. Every good thing that is communicated or done in faith, for any good purpose, is done by the grace of Jesus. We should do this to all saints as we would do to Jesus for His glory. We should strive diligently to treat others like we would want to be treated. When we do this, we become happier, more peaceful, loving and kind. Just think your wonderful attitude of gratitude may cause someone to ask you, “Why are you like that?” What better opportunity to show and tell them the Good News? Do not fear the Holy Spirit will give you the words to say. All you have to do is start speaking. You can do that, can’t you?

The predominant theme included within the first eight verses of Philemon is love. Paul begins to show Philemon and the church meeting in his home the importance of love and how it should be practiced, shown and lived. It is the foundation upon which a believer’s faith should be built. If God loved us so much that He would give His son as a sacrifice for our sins, should we not share our love and compassion for others through our savior Jesus Christ? The answer, of course, is yes. If a believer can strengthen their faith through love for Christ, then the valleys of our lives are made better knowing God is in control of our situation.
The first eight verses of the letter to Philemon should remind all saints the value of a strong and committed prayer life and how we should practice love in our life. As we dive deeper into God’s Word, it becomes increasingly clear God has a plan for our life. We should eagerly accept His guidance and follow faithfully His direction. If we do not, we become a day as dark as night. We become a rudderless ship sailing a vast ocean in ever shrinking circles. It is when God is guiding us our lives take on new meaning and direction. Would you take a vacation without a map or way to get to your destination? God is our map to Heaven and eternity. Let Him lead you there through His son Jesus Christ.

Robert Dodson
December 18, 2011

Monday, April 25, 2011

Life and Salvation

Spring is my favorite season of the year. Trees are turning green as temperatures rise from the cold and gloomy winter period. Everywhere you look the signs of spring greet your senses. You can see God’s hand on the beauty surrounding your place on our blue marble hanging in the blackness of this corner of the immense universe. All manner of creatures are coming alive as the temporary drabness of winter fades into history. Each spring I am awed by the grandeur and majesty of this very special time of year. Flowers begin their fragrant growth fueled by the often abundant rainfall. This special renewal period reminds me of my long ago youth of care free exuberance. Each year I am made aware of the special importance of this wondrous and unique period. There is a very special holiday celebrated for over two thousand years each spring in the Christian world, mostly in March but sometimes in April. Another much less famous event is acknowledged every April first. The former is the crucifixion of Jesus and the latter is April Fool’s Day. This year both events hold a special place in my heart.

Friday, April 1, 2011 began with clear and sunny skies. It was one of those days you are glad you are alive experiencing the handiwork of God. I ran several errands early that morning and exchanged text messages with my home health-care worker. About 10:30 a.m., the volunteer with “Meals on Wheels” arrived with my noon meal. I placed the meal in my microwave and began reading my email devotionals. The day was warming up nicely. Sometime between 11:30 a.m. and 11:45 a.m., my left elbow suddenly began feeling very heavy and tired. Massaging my elbow didn’t help. Then without warning, I began experiencing heavy pressure in the middle of my chest. I had endured each of these symptoms separately, but never together. I thought this was a very bad prank to have on such a beautiful day. I had the brilliant idea that propping my feet up would help ease the pain. In the previous occurrences the pain and pressure soon went away. Immediately after propping my feet up, I realized this event was very different than the others. I stood up and placed my hand over my heart. I had a very fleeting thought I was going to see my late wife in heaven. I then said a prayer. I asked God to allow me the opportunity to bring people to Him to be saved if it was His will. Other than severe pain, I was able to think clearly.

I decided to drive myself to the clinic about a half mile from my duplex. After suffering through a rude encounter with the receptionist, the doctor saw me immediately. The doctor saw me quickly because I had asked the person behind the window to call me an ambulance. I fully expected her to say, “You’re an ambulance.” Once in the exam room, I was attached to an EKG machine, given an aspirin and a nitroglycerin tablet. The doctor was quite upset I drove to the clinic instead of calling 911. I still didn’t realize, I was having a heart attack. I asked the doctor if I would be able to go home soon. My doctor told me no because I was having serious cardiac issues. Five minutes after the first “nitro” tablet, I was given a second. Events began to occur rapidly. Before I could be given a third “nitro” tablet, the paramedics arrived. I was quickly placed on a stretcher and rushed to the nearest hospital thirty minutes away. In the trauma room at the hospital, I was deluged with questions and forms to sign.

I was being prepared for surgery. At 1:19 p.m., I received a text from my mentor asking where I was for our Skype phone call meeting. I struggled to enter a short reply. I entered “Me in ER.” Moments later, my cell phone rang. Answering I valiantly tried speaking. In frustration, I handed the phone to a nurse helping wheel me into surgery. She said something about I wasn’t able to talk because I was heading into surgery for my heart. Making an incision in my groin, the cardiologist placed two stents in the major artery of my heart. After they were inserted, I felt instantly better. The heart doctor said I was extremely lucky and I had very little damage done to my heart as a result of the heart attack. I was released from the hospital on Sunday the third.

I am extremely grateful and humbled for all the prayers said for me by members of World Prayr, my church, family, friends and strangers on FaceBook and Twitter. I firmly believe these prayers helped reduce the damage to my heart and aided my recovery. I thank God for my second chance at life. I am coping with my brush with death as best I can. I have a new purpose for living now. I no longer have a fear of dying. I will do my best to lead as many people as I can to God as we are instructed to do in Matthew 28:19.

My experience on April 1, 2011 points dramatically at the value and reasons to accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior. As the holiday remembering Jesus’ supreme sacrifice for our sins, past, present and future, nears, we should all be thankful God gave His son to bear our sins. The crucifixion of Christ is the most important of all holidays. Yet, as Christians, we place more importance on His birth than His death. It was His life and death as the sacrificial lamb to bear the sin of all mankind which should be most important. The most unsettling part of Easter is some people, even Christians, think Easter is the prelude to sale discounts. As believers, we need to change the opinion of people who have this mistaken idea. Could that be the reason God spared my life? In any event, it is going to be my mission to sow the seeds of salvation to as many people as I can. Will you join me in my crusade?

Robert Dodson
April 2011