Motives Matter (Philemon)

Philemon 1:14 ESV but I preferred to do nothing without your consent in order that your goodness might not be by compulsion but of your own accord.

Motives matter. Paul wrote this letter to Philemon about Onesimus, a slave (indentured servant) that had stolen from Philemon and ran away to Rome. While in Rome Onesimus meets Paul and becomes a Christian. He then begins to help Paul and is being discipled. It’s a great working relationship, Onesimus is growing in the Lord and Paul has an assistant. But there is a problem, Onesimus’ past can’t be left in the past. He is still unreconciled to his former boss and he legally owes him for everything he had stolen. What to do?

Paul had a choice on what to do. He could have sent a letter presuming that it was okay for Onesimus to serve as Paul’s helper in Rome. He was an apostle, the polite thing to do would be to let the matter go. If he did that, Philemon might feel like his hand was forced in the matter and be a little bitter. Onesimus also wouldn’t have an opportunity to really address his past sins and how they affected others. He wouldn’t really be reconciled to Philemon. And Philemon wouldn’t really be given an opportunity to forgive Onesimus and demonstrate grace.

So rather than opting for the practical, ends-justify-the-means, pragmatic logic, Paul goes for the uncomfortable, but right approach. He sends Onesimus back, giving Philemon an opportunity to forgive him and send him of his own free will. It gives Onesimus an opportunity to look his former employer and man he stole from, in the eye and ask for forgiveness. It gives Paul an opportunity to honestly ask for assistance in the form of a helper from Philemon’s estate known as Onesimus.

Motives really matter. Sometimes to grow in our relationship with Christ we need to embrace the difficult steps of doing the less pragmatic, but right thing. We may need to address sin in our lives that has affected others. We may need to ask help and assistance in non-manipulative ways. We may need to simply offer forgiveness and entertain the pleas of those who have hurts us. We don’t really know how the rest of this drama unfolded, but we do know that because Paul didn’t cut corners that He, Philemon and Onesimus all had an opportunity to grow in Christ because of it.

Father, thank you for the grace to address one another. Show us how to handle our past sins and seek repentance and reconciliation. Give us grace to forgive those who have sinned against us. Show us how we can honor you in how we deal with others. Thank you for how the gospel transforms every area of our live. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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Previous Post on Philemon

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In Need Of A Savior (part 2)

What are some of the things that have been passed down in your family?  Families pass down all kinds of stuff. We pass down our genetics; you might have your grandfather’s hair or your grandmother’s eyes. We pass down possessions; my grandmother handmade quilts and each of the grandkids have one now. We have traditions. We are Auburn football fans. I’m an Auburn football fan because my dad was an Auburn football fan. He’s one because his dad was an Auburn football fan. It goes back generations in my family.

Your family probably looks different, but there are things that are being passed down. It may be something like a desire to serving your country through military service, or it may be a watch from your grandfather, or it may just be your dimples, but you have something that has been passed down to you.

Sometimes what we inherit isn’t always good. My grandfather was an alcoholic. Fortunately, my dad decided he wanted his life to be different and so he avoided alcohol. I on the other hand found out at an early age just how easy it was to become an alcoholic when it’s in your family tree

But what happens if something really important doesn’t get handed down? What happens when something vital never crosses the generational divide? What happens when parents love God, but their children never develop a real relationship with Him? We are forced to look back and ask…Why? What went wrong?

We see exactly that scenario unfold in the book of Judges. The people of Joshua’s generation loved God. It was Joshua who stood up and made a decree to the people of the Land, “choose you this day whom you will serve…as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:15). It really seemed like Joshua had long term plans for serving God to be a part of his family’s heritage for generations to come.  The book of Judges even tells us that even while there were elders living after Joshua that all the land served the Lord (Judges 2:7).  When the people were taking over the land it was men like Caleb who went through some means to ensure that his daughter would marry a God serving and brave young man (Judges 1:12-13).

Read Judges chapter 2

It’s hard to imagine how there would come a generation that didn’t love and serve the Lord like their parents did. We have plenty of evidence that this was something that was designed to be left in the family legacy. Certainly each person has to make their own decisions to follow the Lord, but it’s not like the parents were negligent about teaching their kids about God.

Continue reading “In Need Of A Savior (part 2)”

The Power of Prayer

When we pray for others we don’t often know the outcome this side of Heaven. There were some women who prayed for me several years ago and I thought I should share the outcome of their prayer.

Around 15 years ago my mom went to a Christian camp in Montana. While she was there she came across a group of women who were serving at the camp. In the midst of conversation my mother mentioned that she had a son in Mobile, AL. She had always known that God had a call on his life and she had a burden to see him go to seminary. These women mentioned that their church had a seminary extension center. They then took the time for a special moment of prayer with my mother, asking God to birth a desire and work out a plan for me to go to seminary.

I was around 23 years old at the time and had absolutely no plans or ambition of going to seminary. At the age of 25 I was gloriously saved and had submitted myself to a group of men from my church for oversight and prayer. They came together after a year and confirmed my call to ministry but felt it essential for me go to seminary. Through these men, perhaps one in particular, God provided for the full cost of my first few years of seminary. (I could not have afforded it otherwise).

I attended seminary through the extension of the very same church that these women were from and eventually graduated in 2012!

Recently I was talking with my mother and she shared the incredible story I just outlined for you. She has always known God had a call on my life and she could often see my path clearer than I could at any given moment. She wisely takes everything to God in prayer and when her prayers are answered she quietly points back to God and in doing so she has proven to me over and over again that God hears our prayers.  I know this because for years my room was next to my parent’s room and I have silently witnessed her pray for many people and seen many things come to pass.

I know without a doubt that much of my life is a product of the faithfulness of a praying mom. When it came to praying for me to go to seminary, she enlisted the help of a few women from a particular church, that had a seminary extension. I ended up not only attending seminary, but attending through the extension center at the church these women attended. These women prayed a small prayer with my mom, but heaven was listening and they played a small but crucial role in seeing me go to seminary.

I am humbled and blessed that God would listen to the prayers of these women, that he would move on the hearts of a few men, that he would organize and orchestrate things so clearly that I could see His hand. In a very real sense my ministry is a fruit of their faithfulness. One of many I am sure.