Monday, August 30, 2010
Redeem is a verb that means to buy back, to obtain release or restoration, as from captivity, by paying a ransom. To deliver from sin and its consequences by means of a sacrifice offered for the sinner (www.dictionary.com).
Throughout scripture we see evidence of the transforming power of the cross. Lives are changed, sometimes dramatically leaving no doubt that something amazing has taken place.
Since Adam and Eve's fall, there has been a need for redemption. Jesus' death, shed blood and resurrection accomplished it for everyone and for all time; it is available when we recognize our own shortcomings in the light of God's perfect holiness. No one else can do it for us; it is between ourselves and God. Whatever we have done, Jesus died so we can be forgiven and be restored to a right relationship with the Father. Scripture says there is no condemnation in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1), so we can't allow the enemy to bring up the junk. It is forgiven, forgotten, finished and cast into the depth of the sea with NO FISHING!!
In Christ, both Paul and Onesimus were redeemed and so it is with everyone who receives the Savior. We are rescued from the power that sin and death have over us. It is important to know that Satan is already defeated, but he will try to bring down as many with him in the time he has left. He knows his fate is doomed. But like any other arch enemy, he will fight till the end. It is a daily battle; don't allow him any victory by his dredging up of past failings.
I am thankful for Jesus Christ's redemption in my life. I asked Him to be my Savior at the age of sixteen. Who knows where I would be if I had never made that decision to follow Him.
As we think about His redemption this week, recall His promises about forgiveness. God wants us to live in victory not in the shadow of our past.
Is there someone you know who hasn't found redemption yet? There are many who still need to hear. Like Paul, you may be the one to share the message of forgiveness with them.
Wednesday, August 25, 2010
The book of Philemon mentions that Onesimus' name meant 'useful' but because he ran away, he was seen as useless to his master. This got me thinking about how God sees us in the light of his kingdom. I find it interesting that Paul mentions that he led Onesimus to Christ and how useful he was to Him during his imprisonment.
Throughout history people have made themselves available to God – willing to do what was needed. I think of Mother Teresa, Billy Graham and others who have accomplished amazing things with kingdom impact just by saying yes. Every one of us has a purpose in God's plan – a useful place to bring glory to Him by saying 'yes' to His call.
In the Bible, Joseph overcame being sold into slavery by his jealous brothers and imprisonment from the false accusations of Potipher's wife, to become Pharoah's #1 man. Esther was chosen as queen just in time to save her people from Haman's annihilation plot. Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt despite the many obstacles Pharoah designed. Moses' rod divided the Red Sea so the people could escape the pursuing Egyptian army. He drew water from a rock when the people complained of thirst. And, he led the grumbling people through the wilderness for forty years and eventually to the Promised Land. None of these could have been accomplished without surrendering to God when He prompted them to obedience.
We, like Moses and so many others make excuses for our weakness and suggest someone else more suitable for the job; But, just as God saw not just a shepherd-boy in the heart of David – but a shepherd-king to lead a nation, God sees something useful in us – by his design and for His purpose.
Ephesians 2:10 says, "For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them." NASB
What is God asking of you? What simple 'yes' could be the start of something amazing for His kingdom? It may be that God sees beyond your idea of uselessness and is asking that you trust Him for what you cannot see. May you be willing to say yes to His call, and understand that He sees you as chosen and useful. The ripple effect will be amazing!
Sunday, August 22, 2010
Has anyone come alongside to be with you through a difficult time? It may have been just a kind word or a quick hug, but their presence made all the difference. Or maybe they stuck with you through thick and thin, when everyone else seemed absent.
Just knowing that someone believes in me, gives me a feeling of hope. Hope is contagious.
I think both Paul and Onesimus felt hopeful. Barnabas gave Paul hope in Acts chapter nine when no one trusted him. Paul believed in Onesimus when he wrote the letter to Philemon.
We can all receive hope when we come face to face with Jesus Christ.
If someone was there for you, send them a note or email this week. Tell them how much you appreciate them. And, if you are needing a touch of hope from Jesus – His forgiveness and hope of redemption, just ask Him. He promises to come alongside.
Friday, August 20, 2010
Paul wrote this letter to Philemon, a leader in the church at Colossae. It's intimacy shines through his words of encouragement, greetings to Philemon's family, and his detailed care and concern. Then Paul gets to the point of his letter...a slave that ran away from Philemon's household.
Paul shared how when his path crossed with a slave called, Onesimus (his name means 'Useful”), he shared the gospel with him and he became not only a follower of Christ but a comforter to Paul. He remarked that even though Philemon thought Onesimus to be 'useless', Paul found him to be useful to him while in prison. Paul writes to ask Philemon to receive Onesimus with forgiveness, and restore him not as a slave but as a brother in Christ.
Paul's earnest support reminds me of his earlier experience as a new believer in Acts 9; he encountered Jesus on the Damascas Road and his life (and his name) were forever changed. Jesus told Paul to proclaim the good news, yet believers knew him only as Saul, the one who savagely persecuted Christians. They didn't trust him. Then, Barnabas came alongside Paul to encourage him and assured skeptical believers of Paul's change of heart and genuine faith.
In the letter to Philemon, Paul was able to return the favor and intercede on behalf of Onesimus to his former master.
This is how God works in the lives of His children; we can't help to pass on what we have received because our gratitude compels us. When our encounter with the Living Christ has made a difference; we want to share that hope with others.
Another message I see embedded in this letter is one of forgiveness and redemption, mirroring the gospel of Christ. Jesus finds us while we are lost, redeems us from our sin, pays what is owed on our behalf and then restores us, not as slaves, but as sisters and brothers in Christ. Then, He makes sure that others see us as He does—useful to His ministry.
The final thing I discovered was Paul's Three-R's of the Gospel. . . no, not Reading, 'Riting and 'Rithmetic. Rather, Paul shows us Redemption, Restoration and Reconciliation. Everyday we meet people that God brings across our path and they need to encounter the Living God and hear His message of hope. Together we can experience redemption, restoration and reconciliation with our Heavenly Father and with one another. Paul's example inspires and convicts me that I need to stand in the gap for those who we meet on the road to eternity.
I discovered a lot in this little book. In the past it's one that I tended to skip right past, maybe because it didn't look like much. I am glad the Lord led me here to find His nourishment and a fresh understanding of community relationships.
May you dig deep and find His rich blessings,