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

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Consoling Wind

Just, caring and warm like freshly baked cakes,
A uniquely special spirit like a gently falling snowflake,
Nothing so filled with love and hope like calm seas
In life’s wondrous journey toward salvation eternity

Consoling winds tenderly supplant hopes’ burden,
Extreme desire raises sharpened sensed fens.
Believes The Almighty with all love, thought and spirit,
Unbridled knowledge gallops freely through times claret,

Resolutely diligent crossing chasms of steep fear,
Devout of character serves life tossed hopes dear,
Sincerity desires solve challenges as faith sears,
A pillar of standing dream emotes loves’ final tear,

Largesse springs at day’s heat gives trust fortune,
Leads using THE WORD as a manual of guidance unleavened.
Journey toward silent ascension plies rhythmic tunes
Blending futures past into tomorrow’s yesterday gladdened.

Robert Dodson
April 5, 2011

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Why Should I Read the Bible?

I have wanted to read the Bible since I was a child of 9 or 10. I actually started reading through the Bible at that tender age. Back in my ancient days, I had a King James Version of the Bible. It was filled with thee’s, thou’s and similar expressions in use at the time it was written. I grew up thinking I wouldn’t be able to understand the Bible unless it was a King James Version. Now it is easier for me to wrap my mind around a more modern version like the New International Version. While my favorite verse (Ephesians 4:29) was easy enough to understand in the King James Version, it makes more sense to me today reading it modern English. Actually reading a King James Version became most difficult when I encountered all of the begat’s. I just couldn’t get through all those names. I gave up reading the Bible.

That is not to say, I never picked up a Bible to read it. I read the Bible when I wanted to, not as a part of a plan to read it daily and study it. During the course of my nearly twenty five year marriage, I would often read portions to my wife as she lay down to sleep. She really enjoyed me reading the Bible to her. I am saddened, I never read her the complete Bible while she lived. Why should I read the Bible today? There are several reasons for doing this necessary part of Christian living. My top six reasons are it came from the mouth of God, it is forever and never changing, it is powerful and alive, it helps us stay pure, it gives us hope and it tells the story of Jesus Christ. I will share a bit of my mind on several of my reasons.

First and foremost, Exodus 32:16 states, “The tablets were the work of God, and the writing was the writing of God, engraved on the tablets.” (ESV) The Apostle Paul says in 2 Timothy 3:16, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness” (ESV). Both of these verses are very clear, God created the Ten Commandments on two stone tablets and spoke ALL of Scripture.

Forever, O LORD, your word is firmly fixed in the heavens.” (Psalms 119:89 ESV) While 1 Peter 1:24-25 puts it like this, “All flesh is like grass and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls, but the word of the Lord remains forever.” Paul is quoting Isaiah 40:6-8. He is reminding believers that everything in this life – possessions, people, accomplishments – eventually fades away and disappears. Only God’s Word, will and work are permanent. We must stop grasping the temporary and begin focusing our time, money and energy on the will of God and our eternal life in Christ.

The Bible is powerful and alive. My spine begins to tingle when I reflect on this aspect of why I should read the Bible. “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12 ESV). The Word of God isn’t simply a collection of words from God. It is living, life-changing and dynamic as it works in us. God’s Word reveals who we are and what we are not. It penetrates the core of our moral and spiritual life. It discerns what is within us, both good and evil. The demands of God’s Word require decisions. We must not only listen to the Word, we must also let it shape our lives.

Finally, The Bible gives us hope. To quote Romans 15:4 (ESV), “For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.” The knowledge of the Scriptures affects our attitude toward the present and the future. The more we know about what God has done in years past, the greater the confidence we have about what He will do in the days ahead. We should read our Bible diligently to increase our trust that God’s will is best for us.

These are the reasons I use for why I should read the Bible. Today I have a plan to read the complete Bible in a year. My first year ends in September. I am committed to attaining this long held goal. Of the many things I have learned during the course of my daily Bible reading, there has emerged one that is the most important of all. It is simply, the more I read and study God’s Word, the more He is directing my life for His purpose. Why should you read the Bible?

Robert Dodson
March 1, 2011