Solving the World’s Problems One Cup of Coffee at a Time

12 I am sending him—who is my very heart—back to you. Philemon 12

The is perhaps one of the best indirect compliments anyone can “give” to someone. He’s not actually telling the person directly but telling us about the person. Not only did word get back to Onesimus then, but it’s recorded for eternity in the Word of God. Now that is cool! We don’t know exactly what Onesimus did to deserve this honor but it was obviously borne out of a loyal friendship between the two. Most people would love to have this type of friendship with just one person, a friend to solve the world’s problems with or just to talk about…stuff.

Take some time today to solve another of the world’s problems with that friend. Give ’em a call or text.

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A Second Chance for Onesimus

8 Therefore, although in Christ I could be bold and order you to do what you ought to do, 9 yet I prefer to appeal to you on the basis of love. It is as none other than Paul—an old man and now also a prisoner of Christ Jesus — 10 that I appeal to you for my son Onesimus, who became my son while I was in chains. 11 Formerly he was useless to you, but now he has become useful both to you and to me. Philemon 8-11

People mature with age, usually. Onesimus was one of those people. I’m not sure what Onesimus did to warrant a negative reputation with Philemon but there seemed to be a correlation between helping Paul while he was in prison and being considered useful again. Paul, like he did quite often, gave people a second chance if he saw promise.

We’ve also been given plenty of second chances in life. Christ obviously gave us a second and third and umpteenth chance. Without Him we’d be hopelessly lost.

Praise the Lord for second and third and fourth chances. Praise Him for his infinite mercy and grace.

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Refreshing Hearts

6 I pray that your partnership with us in the faith may be effective in deepening your understanding of every good thing we share for the sake of Christ. 7 Your love has given me great joy and encouragement, because you, brother, have refreshed the hearts of the Lord’s people. Philemon 6-7

Refreshing hearts is such a wonderful concept. It’s encouragement at its core. Think of the times you’ve been in someone’s presence and have been refreshed. In contrast, think of those times when you were unnecessarily burdened by the conversation because it was full of discouraging remarks, gossip, and pessimism. We’ve all heard those people (and on occasion been one of them). It’s like being punched in the stomach. It takes all the air out of you and serves no useful purpose. The easy answer to that is run, but it’s not always possible based on who you’re with at the time.

Be the other guy, the one who refreshes and encourages and lifts others up. Lift them to new heights. Build them up. Encourage them to dream and think outside the box.

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Those Prayer Lists

4 I always thank my God as I remember you in my prayers, 5 because I hear about your love for all his holy people and your faith in the Lord Jesus. Philemon 4-5

Have you ever wondered what Paul’s prayer list looked like? Who was on it? How did he know when prayers were answered? How often did he pray over it? It’s been a long time since I kept a running prayer list. I went over it recently and it contained lists of children in the Bus Ministry I was a part of in Alaska. The kids are in their 30s (or 40s!) now. What happened to them? Are they following the Lord? Where are they living? We will never know this side of heaven the full stories of those we’ve prayed for. We get bits and pieces but rarely the full story. It doesn’t mean we stop praying for them. On the contrary, they probably need it much more now that they are fully into their adulthood and all that entails.

Do you have any of those lists? Or perhaps you keep your lists current. Don’t forget to pray those people you knew in your past. You will never know the influence your prayers had on their lives, their families, their careers, and their walk with Christ. That’s all the more reason to continue praying through those lists.

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Prayer for Peace

3 Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Philemon 3

Blessing after blessing. Paul wrote these simple blessings quite a bit. During that period, it was a common greeting both in person and in writing. In fact, Shalom, a Hebrew greeting, means peace. It’s very similar in Arabic. We also have a form of it in English. Listen carefully to cashiers and shop clerks. Occasionally, they’ll say, “Blessings” as you’re leaving. Same concept adapted to the 21st century. In our barbershop chorus we are learning two very similar blessings, and we end each meeting with the Irish Blessing.

May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind always be at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
and rains fall soft upon your fields.
And until we meet again,
May God hold you in the palm of His hand.

We are a secular chorus but even we understand the significance of simple blessings. In a world filled with violence, anger, and discontentment, a “prayer for peace” is certainly warranted.

Bless people when you can with the Word of God. This verse is a prime example of such a blessing. You really can’t bless people with a simple prayer too much in life.

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House Churches

To Philemon our dear friend and fellow worker— 2 also to Apphia our sister and Archippus our fellow soldier—and to the church that meets in your home: Philemon 2

I have noticed in recent years the need for churches to expand their facilities to include recreational centers, education centers, and one wanted a food court to attract lunch time crowds (though I suspect this was an anomaly and not the norm for church expansion projects). Many churches around the world are house churches, often out of necessity because they are poor or are persecuted. It’s actually a very sensible approach to church, isn’t it? As long as someone in the group can teach and someone is musically inclined, it’s a great idea and much less expensive than owning and operating a church and staff. If the gathering gets too large, several from the first house church can begin meeting elsewhere until that home is filled to capacity. In house churches, no salaries are paid, people get to know each other quickly, and you become closer to the people you worship with. I wish we went back to that style. There is very little downside to meeting in other people’s homes and many advantages.

Pray for wisdom in the persecuted house churches around the world. North Korea, China, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Iran, Iraq, and Nepal come to mind. Pray that they will be encouraged and well fed each week. Pray God’s hand of protection over them and discernment on who to reach out to.

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The Grace of God

15 Everyone with me sends you greetings. Greet those who love us in the faith. Grace be with you all. Titus 3:15

Paul closed out his letter his letter to Titus with a small blessing. He had an entourage with him, probably working as assistants handling tasks and keeping Paul up to date on events and church details. Type A visionary personalities need people to get the job done. They are unsung heroes that make the personality look good. I can’t know for sure but this is probably how Paul operated. And Paul was clearly a Type A personality.

Even though Paul wrote his short benediction, he was probably constantly praying for Titus and his ministry. Paul knew firsthand the power of God’s grace in the life of a Believer. I’m sure he knew of thousands who experienced this grace. Again, it’s a subtle and easy-to-miss blessing, but praying God’s grace and mercy over someone life can have a powerful effect. First, it encourages the recipient that you’re praying for them. Everyone needs to know that. Next, we all know the power of God’s grace in our lives. We all need His grace even if we think we have it all together. Lastly, it gives you a chance to bless people with a prayer. Some may not even know you’ve prayed for that, and that’s okay too. It doesn’t make the prayer less powerful. It just makes it more fulfilling to see it answered, even though we may not ever know how it was specifically answered.

Pray God’s grace over someone’s family today. You’ll be glad you did.

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Your Main Thing

12 As soon as I send Artemas or Tychicus to you, do your best to come to me at Nicopolis, because I have decided to winter there. 13 Do everything you can to help Zenas the lawyer and Apollos on their way and see that they have everything they need. 14 Our people must learn to devote themselves to doing what is good, in order to provide for urgent needs and not live unproductive lives. Titus 3:12-14

It’s obvious that Paul tried to be an efficient man. He had a well-ordered life. But his advice here is pretty simple: work and be productive. With so many distractions, it’s very easy to become sidetracked d lose focus. Even though Paul was very bold and probably brash in person, he still understood the significance of helping the needy. In other words, he understood the modern day phrase: the main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing. He had two “main things”: helping people come to Christ and helping the needy.

What’s your main thing? You and I have one (or perhaps two) whether we know it or not. Now, we shift our main things occasionally because of life circumstances, but we all have one. What’s yours?

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Divisiveness

10 Warn a divisive person once, and then warn them a second time. After that, have nothing to do with them. 11 You may be sure that such people are warped and sinful; they are self-condemned. Titus 3:10-11

Divisive people exist in every part of society, and especially in the church. The Bible is very clear about our actions towards them after you’ve warned them. The seeds of doubt they plant are destructive and often irreparable.

How do we know what they’re saying is divisive?

  • If the person talks bad about the pastor or leadership without any of them being present, it’s divisive.
  • If the person is constantly negative and derogative against the way the church is being run, it’s divisive.

We all know divisive people. In fact, we’ve all been divisive at one time or another. However, it’s the prolonged divisiveness and bitterness that destroys.

Perhaps you know one or two who are perpetually divisive. Pray that God is able to break through their thick veneer before it’s too late.

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