Philemon: A Violation of Trust Part 4

Philemon: A Violation of Trust

Part 4

Let’s find the good!

Where do we find the capacity to forgive? 


This is an intense but brief personal letter from Paul while in prison in Rome. Philemon is a dear friend who was led to Christ under Paul’s ministry many years earlier. Paul is going to ask, not command, Philemon to forgive and restore Onesimus, who had previously worked closely with him and who had betrayed him.


It seems Philemon became a Christian while Onesimus was his slave. When Christ entered Philemon’s heart, everything changed. Philemon saw the world and all of life in a new way. Among many changes, Philemon’s view of all his relationships changed. Philemon had a new and strange love and affection for all the people in his life. One of those individuals was his slave, Onesimus. He previously viewed him as only a tool and asset for his business. After all, he was a slave. But now, he sees him in a different light. The Light of Jesus has changed Philemon and the way he views Onesimus. 


As Philemon grows in his knowledge and love for Christ, he begins to pray for Onesimus and even share the gospel of Christ with him. Onesimus witnesses the changes in his owner and the new and different way that he was being treated.  He considers it strange. Onesimus is baffled by this change and rather than embrace it, he rebelled against Philemon (and against Christ) and ran. He not only escaped but he also stole from Philemon. 


The betrayal of someone that you have prayed for is a deep pain.  


The memory and pain of Onesimus’ escape has faded some as the letter from Paul arrives. Philemon, along with the church in his home, listens as the letter from Paul is read. Paul starts out with a personal greeting; 


I thank God always, making mention of you in my prayers, because I hear of your love and of the faith which you have toward the Lord Jesus and toward all the saints; and I pray that the fellowship of your faith may become effective through the knowledge of every good thing which is in you for Christ’s sake. For I have come to have much joy and comfort in your love…, verses 4-7.  


Philemon is a growing disciple of Christ. He is the real deal. Paul loves him and he loves Paul. There is a father/son bond and a comrade in arms union between these two followers of Christ based on their common love for Jesus and for Christians in Colossae. 


In this greeting, Paul reminds, encourages and confirms in Philemon that he is indeed a fully transformed man, for Christ’s sake. The apex of Paul’s encouragement is in this phrase: I pray…your faith may become effective through the knowledge of every good thing which is in you for Chris’s sake. Every good thing in you! As a Christian, we now have much good within us. Not absolute good, which only comes in heaven. But good, nevertheless.  


Contrast this to our former state before Christ outlined in Romans 3:10-12, There is none righteous, not even one; there is none who understands, there is none who seeks God; all have turned aside, together they have become useless; there is none who does good, there is not even one. Such was Philemon, and such were we…before the miraculous, transforming grace and salvation of Jesus in our lives.  


There is now good within you Philemon. We are not thoroughly good for we carry a body of flesh. But Paul said I pray that you would be aware and have the knowledge of the good that is in you for Christ’s sake. This is not the message that there is good in all mankind. The Romans 3 passage above clearly states otherwise. Only in salvation, when Jesus imparts to us grace upon grace and gift upon gift that He changes us from the inside, is there good within us.  


There is power, love, grace and forgiveness within us now and we should know it, realize it and understand it. And when we do, we begin to live in Christ’s power and humility and become effective in ministering to others, FOR CHRIST’S SAKE!  


Betrayal and forgiveness 


As a salesperson at heart and a student of the art of persuasion, I can see that Paul is setting him up for a big request. Paul is going to make a request that tests him to the limit. That is to FORGIVE a person who betrayed him. Paul is going to ask him to tap into one of the good things now that is within him: to forgive as Christ has forgiven. May God teach us to do the same.  


Lord, You have given Your Spirit to live inside of us and therefore, the power of Your love, grace and forgiveness is also inside of us. May we live out our new nature, the nature of Christ, and show forth Your work within us, so that You will be honored and praised for the good works that we do. What a joy to have you dwell richly within our hearts.



Philemon: A Violation of Trust Part 3

Philemon: A Violation of Trust

Part 3

Why didn’t Paul condemn slavery?

Philemon, a man of God, a ministry partner of the apostle Paul and leader of the church of Colossae, had a slave. This is incongruent to us, isn’t it? And rightly so. Slavery is wrong in any and all forms. It’s confusing to consider that the early Christians of the first century had slaves.  


I’m not going to justify Philemon or make excuses. But just like any book in the Bible, the context is important. When we read stories and passages written thousands of years ago from different cultures, we need to be careful to understand the setting of the writing and not impose our ‘current’ perspectives upon the text.  


Slavery was widespread in the Roman empire and considered a normal way of life. It has been estimated that up to one third of the population were slaves. Slaves were not considered citizens but tools and assets of their masters. Masters had all the rights to do with their slaves as they pleased. This was and is wrong at every level. 


Early in the first century as the church of Christ emerged under the leadership of the apostle, slavery in Rome had already taken a turn toward improvement. It was still wrong, of course, but the overall conditions for slaves began to improve significantly. In AD20, the Roman senate voted to allow slaves the right to be tried for accused crimes. Also, the right for slaves to be granted (or purchase) freedom was on the increase as well.  


In Paul’s day, slaves could have professional careers such as doctors, accountants and teachers. They also contributed to the cultural environment as artists and musicians. It became common for a master to apprentice their slave and teach them their trade. In many cases, slaves had much better lives than many of the freed individuals. Many newly freed slaves found themselves without food, shelter and an immediate source of income.


Once again, this does not in any way justify slavery. But it does add some context. 


The writings of the apostles did not condone or condemn slavery. Once again, this seems odd to us knowing that the immoral institute of slavery dominated the daily lives of Roman citizens. Why didn’t Paul condemn slavery, which was a dominating societal force in first century Rome? 


What could the apostles have done? 


  • The apostles could have appointed and set aside Christians to infiltrate the government in order to garner influence and make societal changes. 
  • The apostle could have circulated letters condemning slavery and require Christians to abandon the practice and set their slaves free.  
  • The apostle could have organized marches and peaceful protests condemning slavery and demand freedom for all slaves.  


There is no indication that the apostles did any of these things. Why? Once again, this is difficult to understand for those of us who believe that all citizens have the right to pursue life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Many Christians today believe that life and liberty are worth fighting for. However, the apostles didn’t approach societal change as activists or protestors.  


So, what did they do? What can we learn from them regarding societal change and influence? 


  • They preached the gospel. For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified. I Corinthians 2:2. When Peter preached his first sermon in Acts 2, it was all about the gospel. When the people responded by saying, what shall we do? He replied, repent and be baptized … be saved from this perverse generation!  
  • The apostles were committed to changing the perverse generation through the transformation of the heart, one person at a time. They did not focus on the transformation of societal norms, government and legislature. They devoted themselves to the gospel which changes one’s heart. 
  • This is only my speculation … but if they had focused on societal change, specifically slavery, while also preaching the gospel, the entire structure of life and economics in Rome could have been disrupted with riots and rebellion. The distraction would limit the impact of the apostle’s gospel ministry and shift the focus off the spiritual impact of salvation. 
  • The apostle Paul sought to preach the gospel to the unsaved and THEN influence the way Christians interact and treat slaves. When Paul writes to the church about interpersonal relationships, the sentence structure overlays all relationships for Christians to be covered with this meaning; submit to one another.
  • Paul taught that Christian slaves were to submit to their masters with reverence and obey them from the heart as if they were obeying Jesus Himself. Masters were taught to submit themselves to their slaves with respect for them as fellow heirs of Jesus, knowing that in the kingdom of God, they are equal before God.  

NOTE: I’m not making a statement as to how you should handle your ministry and at what level God leads you to influence our government, our laws and our society. What is happening today in our country is frightening. But I am saying as you seek God regarding your daily ministry, realize that the gospel message – we are sinners, Jesus died for us, turn to Jesus and embrace Him by faith – is our first and highest calling among our family, friends, community and nation. 


One last consideration: Paul calls us to lead a quiet life, especially toward and around unbelievers. If you are a fighter by nature, this may be hard to accept. Paul wrote … indeed you do practice (love) toward all the brethren … but we urge you, to excel still more, and to make it your ambition to lead a quiet life and attend to your own business and work with your hands … so that you will behave properly toward outsiders and not be in any need. I Thessalonians 4:9-11. 


Paul also called us to pray for our governmental leaders and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity. This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved I Timothy 2:1-4. 


Father, the apostles focused on the gospel and the transformation of the hearts of people. Do we really believe that the gospel of Jesus is the key to saving our nation? I hope that we do because You and You alone are the true and eternal Savior of the world. Help us to speak the gospel with our lips and live out the gospel with our actions.


Philemon: A Violation of Trust Part 2

Philemon: A Violation of Trust

Part 2

Should a sinner who has personally wronged a Christian, get a free pass of forgiveness because they later became a Christian???

Allow me to introduce the characters of the story: 


  • Philemon was a convert to Christ under the ministry of Paul and now a leader in the church of Colossae.  
  • Onesimus was a servant and slave of Philemon. Onesimus ran away from Philemon, and apparently wronged or even stole from Philemon and escaped to Rome.  
  • In one of those small world scenarios, Onesimus encounters Paul in Rome and converts to Christ under the ministry of Paul. 


The estranged master and slave have now both been converted to Christ under the ministry of Paul.


Isn’t it ironic? 


Yes, it is a strange turn of events but the story raises several questions: 


  • Was Philemon cruel or unfair to the slave? Was the escape of Onesimus justified? 
  • Or did the slave take advantage of the trust and kindness of the master? 
  • Adding insult to injury, did the slave steal from the master when he escaped? 
  • Does the fact that the slave is now a Christian make a difference in the master/slave relationship? 


The answers to these questions are not directly given. But careful attention to the story provides inferences to the answers that we can learn from. 


Back to the story … 


Philemon is a personal letter from the apostle Paul written toward the end of his life while in prison in Rome. It was delivered by a co-worker of Paul, Tychicus, to the city of Colossae, along with the book of Colossians. Philemon was a prominent member of the church Paul had established in Colosse.  


The epistle of Colossians was written to the church and is filled with rich and deep doctrinal truth. Philemon, on the other hand, was an open letter written to an individual about a personal issue. 


Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus, and Timothy our brother, to Philemon our beloved brother and fellow worker … and to the church in your house: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 1-3 


From a quick reading of Philemon, the theme appears to be forgiveness and restoration. More specifically, the text speaks to the amazing impact of saving grace upon fractured relationships.  Therefore, we are approaching our study asking this question; how does salvation affect personal relationships? Specifically, does it bring about restoration and forgiveness?  


This personal letter was written to Philemon, his wife, and son. But also, it was an open letter that was to be read by the church as well. This is quite different from churches in America today. In today’s world, churches tend to keep challenging issues related to their leaders quiet and hidden. Instead, Paul wanted the Colossian church to read this letter to Philemon and be open about the issue. 


Note: Perhaps we could use a bit more of this transparency today in our churches. Paul is using a real-life situation with actual individuals to teach lessons of Christian truth and practice. The lesson of forgiveness could be understood as an actual case study occurring in their midst. The Situation could be absolutely transformative for this small church.   


Also, Philemon as a leader will be under a microscope as to how he responds to the sensitive situation. This seems a little harsh to put Philemon and his family under the microscope, but on the other hand, leaders are held to a higher standard of conduct and behavior. Let not many of you be teachers, my brothers, knowing that you will receive heavier judgment. James 3.1. 


Philemon was a prominent member of the church that met in his home. It seems he was a wealthy and prominent member of the community as well. Perhaps it’s not a bad idea to shine a light on Church leaders. They carry a lot of responsibility and consequently, have a lot of influence. After all, their behavior should be above approach. 


How Then Should I Live? 


As we consider the application of our devotional study today, let’s ask ourselves about the state of our personal accountability before God and with other Christians. We know that before God, nothing is hidden. Our lives are laid bare before Him. The Psalmist David wrote, examine me, O Lord, and try me; test my mind and my heart. 26:2. 


One of the defining characteristics of our new life in Christ is that we relinquish the self-determined control of our lives and surrender it all to Him; to His ways, to His will, to His guidance. We are to no longer lean on our own understanding, but instead, trust in Him with all of your heart … in all your ways acknowledge Him. Proverbs 3:5-7. 


We are to surrender ourselves vertically to God, but what about our earthly relationships with Christian brothers and sisters? Paul teaches us to Be subject to one another in the fear of Christ, Ephesians 5:20. 


Do you have an individual or small, trusted group to meet with regularly to share, pray and encourage each other?  If not, please begin a group. You will transform your life plus the others that you invite to join you. 


Allow this passage in Romans 12 to guide your time spent with these special friends: Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor; not lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted to prayer … verses 10-12. 


Be devoted to each other, be honest with each other, listen to each other, challenge each other but always extend grace to each other. Pray for each other and check in with each other throughout the week. 


Father, we are not to be islands. You created us for community, intimacy and transparency. Guide us to reevaluate the state of our personal accountability before you as well as with close, trusted friends in Christ.


Philemon: A Violation of Trust

Philemon: A Violation of Trust

Here Comes the Sun!

Is there someone who hasn’t forgiven you for something you have done? 


Open your Bible and without looking at the table of contents, try to find the book of Philemon. I must admit, it took me a few minutes.  


Who chooses Philemon for their devotions? I don’t think I’ve ever heard a sermon on Philemon, have you???   


Once you find it, read it. It only takes about 5 minutes.  


Why is Philemon in the Bible? 


Here’s the bottom-line up front: the theme of Philemon is forgiveness


Forgiveness is easy to talk about in principle, but very difficult to do in reality. When God forgives, it’s absolute. For us, forgiveness is often relative and with conditions. God has and will forgive the nicest non-Christian in the world. He will also forgive the most heinous, evil person in the world as well. Either type of person is welcomed and forgiven by God when they surrender their lives to Jesus by faith. That’s the way of God’s capacity to forgive. 


We are not like that. We have limits to our forgiveness. We often claim unconditional love as the mode whereby we distribute our love … but the reality is, we usually have conditions. God’s love, on the other hand, not only forgives but then follows it up with giving. He not only forgives but He lavishes us with blessings and gifts.  


To forgive and even reward those who have wronged us (that’s what Jesus has done for us) without conditions and regret? Well, that doesn’t happen much. Why? Many reasons, I suppose, but the stark reality is that we do not like to extend forgiveness. We like to be forgiven, but to forgive is much more difficult.  


Consider this: our eternity is based solely on the concept and reality of being forgiven. Forgiveness is everything to us who believe. Forgiveness is a sacred blessing that we should relish, dwell upon, marvel at and be grateful for. Forgiveness should unleash within us a chorus of praise and worship and humbly draw us to our knees with gratitude. We should love forgiveness with tremendous affection, emotion and respect. 


The life we live, the air we breathe and the beating of our hearts, both now and for eternity, are solely because of forgiveness. What a beautiful and wondrous concept forgiveness is!  


We love the forgiveness we enjoy within the Kingdom of God. However, things are a little different in the world. In the kingdom of this world, in general, and certainly when we are directly wronged, we consider forgiveness as a weakness. We consider that forgiveness messes up the equilibrium of things. In other words, it messes up the way we feel the world should be; the order of things; the rules that we live by and believe others should live by. It’s not right that people get away with doing wrong things to us or toward us or to our loved ones. It’s just not right. 




So, what would Jesus do? We aspire to be like Jesus, right? This is our calling and our joy, to move toward a life that resembles Jesus. But forgiving as Jesus forgives??? That is one of the most difficult and unnatural things in the world that we are called to do. The more we meditate on the extent of God’s forgiveness to us and others, the more we realize just how amazing His capacity is to forgive.  


There is one more important aspect to consider; God’s forgiveness is not blind. He doesn’t throw out justice and forgive blindly. 


We like to say that God’s forgiveness toward us is unconditional. And in a sense, it certainly is. But God’s forgiveness of us is not unconditional to Him. He demanded justice and justice was fulfilled. Just not by us, but by Jesus. We didn’t bear the justice, Jesus did. He bore our sins in His body on the cross. 


My point is, I’m not teaching that people should be free from the consequences of their wrongs and that we should empty the prisons and forgive everyone. Not at all. The issue of forgiveness has to do with our hearts, not the legal system of our society or the disciplinary rules of our homes. I’m speaking of our hearts to forgive those who have wronged us. That’s what we learn about in Philemon. 


In simple terms, if a man did great harm to my loved ones, I would have to deal with my heart to forgive. Hopefully, I could be like Jesus, but I don’t know that I could. God would have to give me a lot of grace to forgive from my heart.  


If I was able to forgive from my heart, that doesn’t take away the fact that the offender should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. God ordained the government to “carry the sword”. That simply means to carry out justice accordingly. God ordained parents to carry out discipline within their home accordingly. When people sin, there are natural consequences and there are judiciary consequences. Those are consequences ordained by God.  


The topic at hand is our personal choice to forgive others who have wronged us. That is the issue we must deal with as Christian. Next time, we’ll dive directly into the Philemon.  


Lord, keep our hearts and minds open to your Word regarding our calling to forgive as You have forgiven. Help us to have the wisdom to know how to deal with people who wronged us. It’s simply not easy and we need Your Word and Your guidance. Amen.

Heaven Came Down! Part 6

Heaven Came Down! Part 6

Here Comes the Sun!

Do you ever have difficulty focusing? 


According to the scientific journal, American Scientist, there has been an enormous increase in the peak power of lasers over the past 70 years. The peak power attainable in a laser pulse has increased by roughly a factor of 1000 every ten years. That’s 1000X every ten years.  


The power of lasers has always been in existence, but the invention of it, or more accurately, the realization of it and how it works occurred about 70 years ago. The power of lasers has added value in multiple arenas of life including manufacturing, production and medicine. Once again, the value of laser pulses has always existed, but the added value of it in our lives began to be realized once it was discovered and developed. 


With that in mind, consider the following passage from Ephesian 3:17-19: 


That He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God.  


The apostle Paul is not enlightening us to something new and novel. Just like the power of the laser pulse, the power of Christ’s love toward us has always existed. He is praying that we would comprehend it, understand it and apply it to our lives. The realization of the surpassing knowledge of the love of Christ toward you who believe is a life-transforming realization.  


In a similar way, Paul prays … that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him. I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe. See Ephesians 1:15-23 


As a ten-year-old on a sunny summer day, all I needed to entertain myself was the sun, a magnifying glass and a blade of grass. By adjusting the magnifying glass to create a laser of light landing upon a blade of grass, I could watch in amazement as the blade of grass burned and disintegrated before my eyes. The ability to produce a sharp, bright beam of light and harness the power of the sun upon an innocent piece of grass amazes students to this day. 


The sun is our heavenly Father; the magnifying glass is God’s Word and the blade of grass is my heart. In your Christian life, you walk under the sunshine of God’s being every moment of the day. He is always there, always working and always loving, regardless of whether you realize it or not. But what if you discovered the magnifying glass and focused the power of the sun upon your heart … daily! 


For the Word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. Hebrews 4:12. 


Have you discovered the power of God in your life? Mankind has always walked through life with the sun shining upon them. The apostle Paul is praying that his readers wouldn’t just exist under the general sunshine of God’s power and love, but that they would know it and comprehend it. Jesus said, the essence of eternal life is to KNOW God, John 17.3. Do you know of Him or do you know Him? 


Where does such knowledge and comprehension exist? 


Get out your magnifying glass (God’s Word) and adjust it toward the sun and receive the laser-like realization of who God is, the work of His power and the depth of His love. The magnifying glass will do the work; you just need to place it in your hands and allow the power of His Spirit to light up your soul. 


Perhaps with this understanding, the following verse will mean more to you than ever before: 


But we all, with an unveiled face (those of us who believe and God has opened our eyes to Him), beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, (viewing God through the magnifying glass of His Word), are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, (viewing God through the magnifying glass of His word will transform our lives), just as from the Lord the Spirit, (the Spirit of God uses the Word of God to make us like Jesus). 2 Corinthians 3:18. 


Father, heaven has come down upon us and we so often don’t ever realize it. Open up our hearts to know You and realize the power of Your Spirit and the blessings of Your love for us. May we pick up Your Word and allow Your Spirit to shine Your love into our hearts. How can we ever know you as we should unless we humble ourselves before you, seek Your face and receive what You have for us.


Heaven Came Down! Part 5

Heaven Came Down! Part 5

The Providence of God Has Come Down Upon You!

Who needs more drama in their life?


Last time I wrote: 


His love desires what is best for us, His wisdom knows what is best for us, and His power is able to bring it to pass.


Reflect for a moment on what this word formula means to you in practical ways. It is stunning to realize the depth, breadth, length, and height of God’s work of providence in your life and in the life of those you love and pray for. It is stunning. 


What does God’s providence mean to you? 


God has the capability to look at you and wrap His love, His wisdom and His power around the coming and going of your life, down to the millisecond, and bring about His perfect story of your life. The perfect story of your life, written by God’s love, wisdom and power, will bring glory to Himself, redemption to your soul and purpose to your life. 


But wait; there’s an apparent problem. For many of us, it’s a big problem. The apparent problem is God’s providence in your life is not a straight line; it’s a crooked path, a bumpy journey, a contradiction of the continuous joy our hearts long for. 


Consider the story of Joseph in Genesis. God’s providence was for him to be second in command over the mighty nation of Egypt. However, his path to the position God had for him was a crooked path, a bumpy journey, a contradiction of the continuous joy his heart longed for. Joseph’s path to God’s providential plan for his life included the hatred of family, human slavery, betrayal, deceit, imprisonment and hopelessness. 


God has a curious way of directing His love, wisdom and power toward us who believe. He does it with dramatic means. Every good drama weaves a story of the heroes’ journey down a dark path, filled with difficulty, struggle and despair before the triumphant, and often unlikely, victory takes place. 


Like Joseph, God’s providential story for you may be a story of the eleventh hour; the nick of time, or coming in under the wire. And not only you, but also the ones you love. The joy of the prodigal son and the gracious redemption of his father was a story of selfish ambition, wonton and lustful pleasure, pig slop and poverty. It was an end of the rope story with a God’s triumphant providence making the rescue. 


God’s providence in your life is this:  


His love desires what is best for us, His wisdom knows what is best for us, and His power is able to bring it to pass.


But he often brings it to pass in ways that are curious, dramatic and challenging. But the crooked path He takes in your life never alters for one second His love, wisdom and power that is directed toward you like a laser.


I pray that you may know … what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe. Ephesians 1:19. 


All of God’s greatness is directed toward His providence in the lives of those who believe. Do you believe it? Are you His? Whisper to Him now to forgive you, to save you. 


What is your response to God’s providence?


Habakkuk teaches us a lot about grappling with God’s providence. Habakkuk 2:4 summarizes our response to God’s just in the nick of time, end of the rope and eleventh-hour providence with this: but the righteous will live by his faith. I wish I had more, but that’s it. Live by faith! Live by faith that His love, wisdom and power are fully and completely in place in your life … even when it doesn’t seem like it. 


Here’s a last minute, eleventh hour, nick of time passage from Habakkuk (3:17-19) for you to read every day for the next seven days: 


Though the fig tree should not blossom and there be no fruit on the vines;


Though the yield of the olive should fail and the fields produce no food,


Though the flock should be cut off from the fold and there be no cattle in the stalls,


YET I will exult in the Lord, I will rejoice in the God of my salvation.


The Lord God is my strength, and He has made my feet like hinds’ feet, and makes me walk on my high places.


Father, our heart’s desire is to live by faith. Give us faith to remember and recall, even in the darkest times, that Your love for us never fails. You are always with us; You are always near; You never fail us.


Heaven Came Down! Part 4

Heaven Came Down! Part 4

Rich and Poor

What words can a homeless person speak that will stop a millionaire in their tracks?  


I pray that you may know … what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe. Ephesians 1:19 


I recently visited Austin, Texas. I’m going to avoid a political discussion at this point and simply say that it was shocking and sad to see the downtown streets lined with makeshift tents, junk and debris, sleeping bags and shopping carts. One can view this site with heartache and despair for all the lonely and sad people living in homelessness. Another view is to consider the invasion of homelessness upon the high functioning citizens of the city who have paid top dollar to reside in this once beautiful and vibrant city. 


Both perspectives are sad. 


This sad situation brings penniless residents of this city within a stone’s throw of individuals living in multi-million-dollar condominiums. The powerful and the rich are next door neighbors of the weak and poor. 


Generally, the homeless and the rich do not intermingle. In some cases, the homeless will line up, begging for help as the rich walk by. There might be some pocket change or dollar bills exchanged by a few. But for the most part, there is no obligation from the rich to help the homeless. (I’m speaking in general terms). 


I can only think of one scenario of verbal exchange that would cause a wealthy individual to stop in their tracks and become heavily engaged with one of the homeless. These particular words spoken by a destitute individual would cause the wealthy one to look at the homeless person with great compassion. These words would result in the rich man extending massive love, affection, food and shelter toward the homeless person along with an invitation into their own multi-million-dollar home.  


What words could possibly cause such a scene?  


Here it is … If one of the homeless and destitute young women spoke these words to one of the wealthy men walking by, they would stop in their tracks:  


Daddy, it’s me. I’m sorry. Can you forgive me? Can I come home? 


When I was in fifth grade, our teacher would show us a picture and then we were to write a creative story using the picture as a back-drop of our story. There are a thousand different backstories that we could create from the words, Daddy, it’s me. I’m sorry. Can you forgive me? Can I come home? But for me, all the scenarios I can imagine would cause me to stop, hug, weep and rescue.


From a spiritual standpoint, we are born into a state of perpetual deadness. We were dead in our sins; hopeless and destitute. At some point, through the awakening power of the Spirit of God, we came to our senses and said, Daddy, it’s me. I’m sorry. Can you forgive me. Can I come home? At that point, our heavenly Father stopped in His tracks, hugged us, wept with us and rescued us.  


The question I have for you today is to what extent did He save us? For example, in our story of wealth and homelessness, would the earthly father take her to a homeless shelter and make sure she had food and the basics of life? Or, would he set her up in her own apartment and then encourage her to get a job to support herself? Or, would he set her up on her own and pay for food, rent, psychological help or addiction support? Or, would he set her up in his own home and direct all of his time, money and resources toward building her up to health, happiness and usefulness? 


To what extent would he help? 


Our passage today tells us about the extent to which God the Father helps us and encourages us to realize it, know it and comprehend it. 


I pray that you may know … what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe. Ephesians 1:19 


All the attributes of the heavenly Father are directed toward us who believe. The extent of God’s power directed toward us who believe is stunning.  


All of the love of God is directed toward us individually by God. He doesn’t spare any of his love, kindness or compassion toward us when planning our life and directing our life’s journey. He doesn’t spare any of it because He doesn’t have to. His love, care and kindness toward us is infinite. 


  • Therefore, because God loves us infinitely, God desires nothing but what is best for us. His perfect and loving plan for us individually is the ideal blend of blessings and trials, which reflects the ideal journey for our lives. We don’t always understand it at the time, but it is always His perfect plan for us, crafted from love and kindness. God loves us infinitely and therefore; He wants nothing but the best for us.


All of the wisdom of God is directed toward us individually by God. He doesn’t spare any of his knowledge, insight or wisdom toward us when planning our life and directing our life’s journey. He doesn’t spare any of it because He doesn’t have to. His wisdom is infinite. 


  • Therefore, because God’s wisdom is infinite, God knows what is best for us. His perfect and wise plan for us is the ideal blend of blessings and trials, which reflects the ideal journey for our lives. We don’t always understand it at the time, but it is always His perfect plan for us crafted from the wisdom and knowledge of God. God’s infinite wisdom is directed toward us and therefore; He always knows what is best for us


All of the power of God is directed toward us individually by God. He doesn’t spare any of his power, strength or might toward us when orchestrating our life and directing our life’s journey. He doesn’t spare any of it because He doesn’t have to. His power is infinite. 


  • Therefore, because God’s power is infinite, God can bring about what is best for us. His perfect and powerfully executed plan for us is the ideal blend of blessings and trials, which reflects the ideal journey for our lives. We don’t always understand it at the time, but it is always His perfect plan for us crafted from the power and might of God. God’s infinite power is directed toward us and therefore; He always brings about what is best for us


His love desires what is best for us, His wisdom knows what is best for us, and His power is able to bring it to pass. These beautiful devotional realities give insight to our passage today: 


I pray that you may know … what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe. Ephesians 1:19 


Friends, do you know and realize the depth, breadth, length and height of the fullness of God’s love, wisdom and power that is directed toward us who believe? The very attributes of God have come down from heaven and are lovingly, and wisely and powerfully directed toward us, always and forever. 


Heaven has come down!  


Father, we are so grateful that you rescued us from our spiritual poverty. You not only rescued us, but you gave us all the blessings of heaven. We praise You and thank you all your love, wisdom and power that is directed toward us as your blessed children. May we know it and realize it always.


Heaven Came Down! Part 3

Heaven Came Down! Part 3

Keep Looking up!

Do you ever wonder why God does what He does? 


Welcome to the planet earth. For some reason, God chose to give us birth on this planet instead of ushering our existence directly into heaven. Seems to me that going directly to heaven would’ve saved us all a lot of trouble. Oh well, God didn’t ask my opinion. His eternal plan is set and part of His purpose was for each of us to live our allotted time upon this earth. We are here Lord. Help us on this sacred ambassadorship upon this planet to glorify You and enjoy You forever. 


I guess this earthly journey is simply another reason to trust that God has a plan. He always has a plan and a purpose. Therefore, the righteous shall live by their faith. 


Part of His plan to bring Glory to Himself was to allow sin to break up the party way back in Eden. Counter-intuitive, to say the least, that allowing sin into the world would bring God glory. Sin entered the world and since then, things seem to go from bad to worst. But part of God’s plan could be explained with the word contrast. For example, where sin abounds, grace abounds more. The depth of sin gives us a contrasting view of the amazing grace and mercy of our loving and gracious father. Praise God for His grace toward us sinners. 


And you were dead in your trespasses and sins … But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, made us alive together with Christ … and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ. 


There is another contrast in the preceding passage from Ephesians 1; dead and alive. We are born of this world into a perpetual state of deadness. But God, being rich in mercy, saves us from our deadness, brings us to life and places us into a perpetual state of abundant life. That’s an extreme contrast. The life He gives us is not a meager existence. It is a heavenly life. For now, we still walk on the dirt of this world but while here, our souls intermingle with all the blessings of the heavenly places in Christ.  


While living on this earth, we tend to have a horizontal, telescope-like focus, lacking in peripheral vision and rarely looking upwards. Depending on which way we look, our telescope-like vision reveals the good things we have on this earth. It’s not all evil and bad down here. Sometimes we look to the right and see the love, loyalty and security of family and friends; the simple joy of a new baby boy or girl; the laughter of children; the warmth of the sunshine on a lovely and delightful day; the majestic view of snow capped mountains over the cascading beauty of a wintery wonderland; or maybe the enlightenment of a good book, read before a warm fireplace on a cold and blustery day. 


(Note: Right and left are used in simple, interchangeable terms and have no meaning related to politics or any other ideology). 


In this world, when we look and focus one way, we see, hear and feel some of the simple and beautiful aspects of our worldly existence. Oh, but when we look the other way and turn our heads 90 degrees and fix our eyes to the left, the landscape is much different. We see corruption; we see evil men engaged in evil acts injuring innocent people; we see abuse, abortion, rape and murder; we see greed, deceit, deception and arrogance; we witness lying, criticism, accusations, and heartache. 


Unfortunately, we can’t keep our head cocked to the right continuously and see only the good. The corruption of this world and of our flesh keeps turning our attention toward the pain we see and personally experience ourselves in this world. We can’t avoid it. The view to the left constantly attacks our tranquil views of goodness on the right and engages our minds and hearts in the crushing emotions of sin and heartache. 


This is our horizontal life. This is life on earth. This is our 360-degree horizontal view of our physical surroundings. Whether we look to the right, the left, behind us or before us, we have a mixture of good and evil, happiness and sadness, kindness and evil, victory and defeat. This is the life we see with our physical eyes, feel with our flesh and touch with our human hands. 


The horizontal view of life on this earth, with human goodness and human evil combined, is all the unbeliever has to go on. That’s it. No wonder there’s so much disillusionment.  


But something quite wonderful happened when Jesus saved you. He opened your eyes upward. You still have a 360-degree horizontal view of this world, but you can now look upward and see beyond the immediate experiences of this world. You can now see, feel, hear and even touch the grace and glory of heaven. And what’s even better than just knowing it is up there and having thoughts of being there someday … is that heaven has come down to you with grace and glory, blessings and mercies, love and faith. In Jesus, the very articles of heaven have come down to dwell within us, His beloved children. 


With this context, read this passage from Ephesians 1-3 with a whole new vision and understanding of the vastness of God’s blessings upon your life. Even now, while you live in this flesh and upon this earth, the blessings of heaven are with you. 


Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as … 


  • He chose us in Him … that we should be holy and blameless 


  • In love, He predestined us to adoption … according to the kind intention of His will 


  • In Him, we have redemption through His blood 


  • According to the riches of His grace which He lavished on us. 


  • In Him also, we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose. 


  • In Him, having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise 


Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us. 


We drip with the dew of heaven – your mercies are new every morning


We are drenched from the showers of heaven. … We enjoy every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ. 


A river of blessings originates from the throne of heaven and flows into our hearts. All my springs of joy are in you, Psalms 87.7. 


Father, we long for the peace, joy and happiness of heaven: eternal bliss in the presence of God. We long for it but also thank you that for now, you have given us much. You have actually lavished us with the presence of heaven … but it is often difficult to feel it. Our faith is weak; help our faith. Our remembrance of You and your constant presence is often forgotten; help our minds to remember You. Our Vision of heaven is dim; give us eyes to look up and see Your glory shining upon us. Father, remind us of the words of Jesus; In the world you will have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.


Heaven Came Down! Part 2

Heaven Came Down! Part 2

Look up!

Are you concerned about the state of your life or the state of the world we live in?


“I will lift up my eyes to the mountains and ask, where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, Who made heaven and earth. He will not allow your foot to slip … He will keep your soul.” Psalms 121. 


Envision an ancient village. The villagers toil in their tasks and responsibilities; farming and harvesting, planting and growing, buying and trading, eating and drinking, caring for their own and their neighbors, best as they could. Some days, life was hard; other days life was still hard, but the love and kindness of family and neighbors provided a measure of happiness, a reason to live.


A wandering visitor came upon the village. The visitor was a man of great travels. He was educated in the finest schools and had mingled with some of the greatest minds of nobility and government. He was skilled in the art of living life, seeking wisdom, and observing the behaviors and norms of people. 


As was his custom, he wandered in the village, greeting the citizens, inquiring and asking questions with great kindness, care and interest. It was not easily apparent, but he discovered that the King had indeed visited their village and had touched their hearts with a perpetual state of grace. The king had blessed them indeed. The people were a kind, humble and peaceful lot. But he noticed something odd; the people had a strange limitation. There was something missing. He couldn’t understand this missing element: they worked hard, they loved their families and they were kind to their neighbors. They had all the makings of a healthy community; but nevertheless, they lacked.  


They were peaceful citizens but they didn’t have peace. They were kind and diligent but were burdened with fear. They loved one another, but a sense of dread remained upon them. Why the fear and burdens, even though they lived in grace?


The visitor fell asleep that evening pondering these peculiarities in his mind. As often happens, a good night’s sleep is greeted in the morning with clarity. The visitor considered a possible explanation in his mind as he rose from his slumber. With interest and care, he ventured out into the village to determine if his theory was valid. 


Upon further interaction, polite questioning and observation, he determined his hypothesis was true. He described it in his journal this way: 


I have discovered a most bizarre and puzzling characteristic of the kind and diligent people of this village. They are unable to look up. These precious people are plagued with a limited range of motion within their neck. They can only look forward and see what is right in front of them. They are unable to raise their eyes upward.


They have never seen the horizon in order to behold the vastness of their world. They have never looked up to see the wonder of the sun shining or the brilliant blue sky or the ponderous formations of clouds. They have never seen the stars to realize the breadth, length, depth and height of the universe that surrounds them.


They are good and kind people but they can only see directly in front of them. Their focus is limited to only the immediate circumstances before them.


They are unable to look up and comprehend the extensive vastness of the universe and understand God’s Word that says, ‘Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Everlasting God, the Lord, The Creator of the ends of the earth does not become weary or tired. He gives strength to the weary, and to him who lacks might He increases power.’


They are unable to look up to the place where the eagles soar and understand God’s Word that says, ‘Yet those who wait for the Lord will gain new strength; they will mount up with wings like eagles …’


Christians, are you looking up? 


When our view is limited to what is right in front of us, we limit ourselves and our hope. Yes, we have a horizontal view of the good things of this life; the kindness of many people and the love of our families. That helps us get through the day. There are many good people around us but we also see the evil and angry venues of this world, and that brings us down.


We need more than what we only see with our physical eyes, and we have more! We have been blessed with an upward view that will overcome the finite view we have when focusing on this world. Help us Lord to look up!


Paradoxically, when we add a steady and consistent upward view to our perspective, we actually become better citizens in the horizontal world we live in. When we look up, we are empowered and able to apply Proverbs 3:5-6 which says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways, acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight.” 

We are living in difficult times in America. It is challenging to stay on the straight path. Sometimes, all we can do is lift our head and say ‘help me; help me to trust in you Lord.’ And that is enough. Begin with a simple prayer of help me, Lord; I’m hurting, I feel lost. Raise me up and help me.


“Therefore, if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is … Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on the earth.” Colossians 3:1-2


Brother Lawrence reminds of the simple joy of looking up and consciously experiencing the presence of God:


The holiest, most universal, and most necessary practice in the spiritual life is the presence of God. To practice the presence of God is to take pleasure in and become accustomed to His divine company, speaking humbly and conversing lovingly in your heart with Him at all times and at every moment, especially in times of temptation, pain, spiritual dryness, revulsion to spiritual things, and even unfaithfulness and sin. 


We must apply ourselves continually to the end that all our actions may be a little spontaneous conversation with God, coming from purity and simplicity of heart. 


Practicing the Presence of God 

by Brother Lawrence


Father, we lift up our eyes and realize that You are here with us. Thank You for reminding us of Your ever-present love and care for us. We sometimes struggle with the difficulties of this world. Sometimes, we can only see right in front of us. So thank You that You don’t abandon us when we struggle. Instead, You actually draw near. Our struggles do not disappoint You; they don’t cause You to furl your eyebrow toward us; You don’t tell us to toughen up. No, You wrap Your arms around us in our weakness and You keep us and protect us. What a kind and gentle Savior You are. We love You for You first loved us.