Onesimus

Written by Joyce Knight
 
In his letter to Philemon, Paul asked Philemon, a Christian slave master, to kindly restore, or even release, a recently converted runaway slave. Onesimus had been tending to the needs of Paul while he was in prison in Rome. During that time, Paul introduced Onesimus to the Lord and Onesimus had a life changing experience. The essence of the letter is that forgiveness is vital for this fellow believer who is now on an equal stance as a true follower of Christ. 
 
Take a journey with Onesimus, who was a former runaway slave under the ownership of Philemon. Onesimus, under God’s providence, is introduced to Paul and is empowered by his spirit and devotion to Jesus Christ. He is then led to the Lord through Paul and becomes a devout believer. He recognizes the fact that he needs to justify having run away from Philemon, who is a church leader in the town of Colossae. Onesimus became vital in Paul’s life while he was imprisoned, assisting in his needs and giving greatly needed companionship. As much as Paul mourns the thought of having him leave, they agree that Onesimus needs to make things right with his master, Philemon. Paul, in his letter, urges Philemon to show forgiveness and compassion to this new believer. He left as a runaway slave but returns to him as a fellow brother in the Christian faith.
 
At any given time, we can be either Philemon, Paul, or Onesimus. We could be a Philemon, someone who has been hurt by somebody. Someone who has to understand that denying the ability to forgive, is denying that the love of Christ has been made manifest in their heart. We need to consider that it might be time for a heart assessment to see if there is someone out there that we may have to forgive.
 
There are some people who are like Paul. People that call themselves Christians. They are willing to stand in the gap to help people get together. So maybe if you’re a Paul and you know people that are in some sort of disagreement, you can intercede and encourage reconciliation.
 
You could be Onesimus. Someone who knows that they have said or done something wrong and needs to humble themselves, go to that person, and seek reconciliation. We all have been an Onesimus. We all have been to a place where we understand that we have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. We have been able to receive the grace of God. So now we need to be able to take the grace that has been given to us and freely give it to others.
 
Philemon is asked to prove his love for the Lord by his actions After all of those words of love and encouragement, it would be hard to say no to anything Paul would ask for, but Paul continues to prepare him for the request. What a blessing when someone like Paul finds you profitable, but even greater is it if the Lord finds us profitable. Paul wants a clean conscience for himself and Onesimus. He wanted Philemon to have forgiveness in his heart and he wanted his decision to come from a willing mind and not to feel coerced into it. He is pleading a case for forgiveness. Yes, he had run away and had been unprofitable for a time. However, he will be profitable forever as a servant of Christ. The status has changed for Onesimus because now Philemon is to see him as more than just a slave or servant, but as a brother in Christ.
 

Wouldn’t it be great to have people around you that have the same confidence in your obedience that Paul has for Philemon?  They do not just perform their duty, but they do it out of love for the Lord

 

 


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A Call to Action

Written by Ahnya Evinger

Faith and Deeds

14 What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? 15 Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. 16 If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? 17 In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.

18 But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.”

Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds. 19 You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder.

 

When I look at James 2:14-19, I consider all of the Christians I have encountered in name only, the self-proclaimed Christ followers whose actions don’t align with their words. The promises of prayer without the hands and feet of Jesus. But the reality is that to someone else, the hypocrite that comes to mind might be me.

 

When our actions do not align with our words that Christ is our Lord and Savior, we hurt others. We may even become a hindrance in their faith journey to discover who Jesus truly is. Becoming a Christ follower is not standing on the beach with our toes dipped in the water; it is diving into an ocean of love with trust. When we commit to discipleship, we submit ourselves to be transformed by the Holy Spirit. That’s the greatest testimony others often see.

 

I married a man who grew up in a church, but all he saw as an impressionable youth were people whose actions did not align with the scriptures being preached. He acknowledged that faith in God is great for some people, but he did not want to be a part of a church. He did not stop me from attending, but he was not going to prioritize going with me. He committed to attending church once or twice a year, on holidays, to support my family.

 

Then, our home flooded. The Ohio River swallowed our first floor, and we did not know where to even begin. That is when Jesus showed up. Through the members of this congregation, my husband met Jesus. A dozen or so people from church arrived at our home on the first day the waters receded, taking a boat to reach us. They told us they were thinking about us and would pray for us. But they backed those words up with action. They began working alongside us to gut out our home. That natural disaster was catastrophic to my physical home, but it was transformational to my spiritual home. Because this congregation answered the call to action to show their faith in Jesus with their deeds, my husband’s faith has been renewed. He attends church every week, even when I am out of town. He shows up to a hospital to sit with family while their loved one is in surgery. He serves others because through others’ service, Jesus showed up in his life.

 

Our words and actions when misaligned have the power to drive people away, but when we allow the Holy Spirit to transform us and align our actions and words with the heart of Jesus, people discover Jesus on a new, personal level. Will you answer the call to action to submit yourself to the transformational power of the Holy Spirit and follow Jesus with your words and actions?


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Accepting the Invitation

Written by Bonita Cadle

Read Luke 14 16:24. Jesus tells a parable of a man who gave a great banquet, but most of the people he invited refused his invitation. They made excuse after excuse as to why they couldn’t come. Have you ever made an excuse as to why you couldn’t RSVP “yes” to an invitation? Is it obvious to you why Jesus tells this story?

 

In October of 2014, if you would have asked me what Jesus was referring to in this parable, I would not have had a clue. I was not a Christian then, and had not attended church since my sons were very young. We were too busy living the dream: travelling, sports, and making that money. We had many excuses and reasons why we couldn’t attend church, many.

 

Well, in November of 2014 some dear friends talked me into attending a weekend Christian retreat with them called The Great Banquet. I was very reluctant, nervous, and didn’t want to go, but I didn’t want to disappoint my friends either. I did not want to be stuck in a church at some Holy Roller, kumbaya thing for three days and three nights! I had more important things to do, or so I thought.

 

You see, I had received numerous other invitations to sit at the table with the Lord, but I had so many excuses as to why I couldn’t (or wouldn’t). Because of my many “No” RSVPs I was now on the poor, crippled, blind and lame list. My friends were the master’s servants. I hadn’t listened to the Lord’s many callings; my life was too busy and noisy. My friends knew that I needed help and they themselves had to drag me to this retreat. Why are we so “pig-headed” sometimes?

 

During this banquet, my mind got very quiet, my walls started coming down, my heart softened, and the noise of the outside seemed to disappear. I was able to really hear what the ladies were talking about at this banquet. I was able to introspect and think about my life and my relationship, in this case a lack of, with God. It can be so hard to just be quiet and spend time with God in today’s world.

 

I realized three huge things (actually more) during this weekend. First, I needed a relationship with Jesus to survive this life. When my mother (my best friend) died in 1995 I was broken. In spite of having friends, a wonderful husband, and two amazing sons, I had a nervous breakdown. I was not equipped to handle that crisis.

 

Secondly, I needed a church family and friends. I also needed to be surrounded by the body of Christ in order to survive this life. The Godly women who became my friends that weekend and the friends I have made through Wesley Chapel have made a HUGE difference in my life.

 

And thirdly, I need to be able to see the Godly light of Jesus in people around me, and I need to be a light for them in their times of need. I would have NEVER thought I could be a light for others! Me?

 

Three months after my Great Banquet weekend my father had a stroke. It was a scary, trying, and exhausting situation that continued until he died on October 25, 2019. But you know what? The most amazing thing happened. I was able to be a light for him in his darkness. He confessed his belief in Jesus Christ and was baptized before he died at the age of 80. He became a member of Wesley Chapel and is now with my mom in heaven. Amen!!!

 

On February 27, 2021 I lost my sweet husband Cliff to Covid-19. While I still struggle at times, I know without a doubt that my life also would have ended shortly after his if it were not for my relationship with Jesus and my Godly friends.

 

We all have a story, but I want you to hear me clearly and understand, if I hadn’t finally sat at the table with the Lord, I would still be a mess or not be writing this at all and my father would not have made it to heaven. Isn’t that amazing?

 

If you have not accepted your invitation to the Lord’s banquet please RSVP ASAP. Or if you know someone who’s struggling, invite him or her to the table with you. Be the light they need to see.

 

God Bless.


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Room at the Table

Written by Rhonda Boyd Alstott

 

In 2 Samuel 9:1-13 we see King David show kindness to Mephibosheth.  Mephibosheth was the surviving grandson of King Saul and the son of David’s dear friend, Jonathon. David had promised each of these men that he would not destroy any of their descendants, which was a common custom in the Middle East when dynasties changed kings. Mephibosheth was also lame, which would have greatly affected his ability to take care of himself. We know it affected his view of himself, as he refers to himself as a “dead dog” in verse 8. David restores Saul’s land To Mephibosheth and tells him that he will always eat at the king’s table. David was essentially bestowing the honor of being one of his own sons to his deceased friend Jonathon’s son. What a gift and blessing to Mephibosheth that was. It is actions like this that give us a glimpse into why God called David “a man after God’s own heart” (1 Samuel 13:14).

 

What really touches me is that with all King David’s wealth and kingdom’s resources, he could have sent whatever Mephibosheth needed his way. He could have put him in a house with servants and everything he needed to lead a comfortable life. That would have been an easy option for him to do, but that isn’t what he does.

 

Instead he brings him into his home. He gives him a place of honor at his table.  In his kindness he knows that more than all the resources he can offer Mephibosheth, belonging is what he needs the most. He needs his dignity restored and David understands that resources aren’t the way to do this. David knows it’s a relational issue. He offers belonging and acceptance and a place at the table to do this.

 

We would be wise to learn from this. So often we are willing to throw our resources and money at ministries and organizations hoping that will take care of the problem. Don’t get me wrong, ministries and organizations need money to function, but they need so much more. They need servants willing to “get in the weeds” with people and do the relational work of restoration.  Our local news tells us the sad stories of violence, addiction, and abuse. The list goes on and on. It’s not just local, our epidemics are worldwide. We know that so many of these maladies are caused through a lack of connection and trauma. If we want to ever find a way out of our weeds, we are going to have to roll up our sleeves and do the dirty work. People, especially youth, need healthy and safe relationships. They need kind adults they can look up to. Persons in recovery need mentors and those healing from abuse need to see what loving and healthy relationships look like.

 

One of my first boyfriends was from my local church and came from an amazing family. Merrill and Mary were his parents’ names.  He was also blessed to have both grandmothers living in the same town. Every New Year’s Day they had a dinner where I was invited as a guest. The table was long and beautifully set with china and formal place settings. His grandmother must have sensed my panic at the overwhelming sight of silver placed around several plates. She discreetly whispered in my ear during the meal explaining what plate went for what and what silverware to use for what course.  She got in the weeds and led this poor girl through a formal dinner and spared me the shame of making a fool of myself.  This beautiful Christian family gave me a place of belonging at their table. Even after I broke up with my boyfriend, this family did not break up with me. They mentored me throughout my high school and college days. They knew I needed a place at their table of faith and the kindness they showed me changed my faith journey.


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How To Manage An Overflowing Cup

Written by Jaclyn Heeke

“A woman who lives with the stress of an overwhelmed schedule will often ache with the sadness of an underwhelmed soul.” Lysa Terkeurst said this in “The Best Yes” Bible study. How many of you are just overwhelmed from the daily to-do list…the daily grind? I am…a lot of the time. During the pandemic, like many, I heroically vowed ‘our family will maintain a much lighter schedule after this. We will not allow the Google Calendar/iCal/old-school paper planner to rule our lives like we have been.’ But alas, here we are – the kids, the husband, and I are all desiring for normalcy again. Which means we want to see people and do all. The. Things again…cue up the calendars and strategic logistics planning.

 

In Psalm 23, the cup David speaks of is running over with JOY. Most of the time my cup is running over with stress. Just yesterday, I was 10-15 minutes late for 3 consecutive appointments. Today, I made a ham sandwich for lunch and forgot the ham! It did not taste good. It was a wake-up call, though…I was not living a joy filled life.

 

Maybe the first important part of this post is just to recognize your cup is overflowing with something other than JOY. How do you realize this? Do you feel confused? Sad? Angry? Distracted? Worn-out and just plain tired? Maybe it’s not stress for you as it is for me. Maybe its grief or frustration or financial strain? How can we begin to refill ourselves with something that doesn’t deplete us, but rather leaves us in a constant state of renewal and allows us to bless others and ourselves along the way? For me, that answer has time & time again been to “get in the Word.”

 

When we are empty, as Christians, we should not refuel ourselves with just anything. No amount of shopping, amazing food/drinks, activities or (fill in the blank) can provide the kind of restoration and healing that God’s words can. I have been trying to do too much this summer, and it has not been going very well at all. But, once I recognized I was literally down to the last drop, I went back and finished a Bible study I’d started in March. I also had the opportunity to serve as a counselor at a church camp for a week with 3rd-7th graders. Those kids singing worship songs brought some happy tears to my eyes and gave me goosebumps. At the end of the week, my co-counselor summed it up really well. He said, “I felt like a cup that God was pouring thousands of gallons of water into. He always shows up big!” Serving and attending in-person worship service weekly are wonderful ways to replenish joy and be in Christian community. I also employ smaller daily actions like listening to Christian radio, receiving scriptural and inspirational texts from a women-focused group, praying as I cross the bridge on my way to work each morning, and saying nightly prayers with my kids, just to name a few.

 

I pray that you are filled with JOY today. That your cup runs over, in a good way! And, if it does, please share your wisdom about how you go about refilling your cup to be overflowing with joy in the comments. If you aren’t there yet, I hope this message gives you hope to be JOY-FULL.

 

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Out Of Place Spices

Written by Melissa DeLuca
 

Those who know me well, know that I am most comfortable in my kitchen.  Everything is in its place.  I love to create new recipes, adding traditional spice blends, as well as ones I create on the fly.  I have several containers of spices and spice blends.  There are all different container shapes, sizes, and price points.  I even have some I have brought back from vacations in other countries. They are all in alphabetical order. Some people collect shoes, figurines, or ties, but I collect spices.  I love to try new spices and flavor blends. I have so many that they just have to be that way, or otherwise I would never find what I need.  Woe is the person who puts the garlic near the bay leaves.  Extracts have their own little nook.

I have actually gone to the pantry after someone else has been in the kitchen and exclaimed out loud, “Who put this here?  That is NOT where that goes.” I get pretty upset when things are not put back where they should be.  After all, how complicated is the alphabet?  Surely everyone can see the letter “O” goes way after the letter “C”!  Some may even say I’m a bit obsessive about it all. 

I love to create new recipes.  It’s not only my outlet for solitude and creativity, but it’s a way I show love to the people closest to me.  I want to cook them good food, but I want to be the one to do it.  When I am cooking, it can only be me in the kitchen.  I want no help.  I want no one watching. Other people in the kitchen are just in my way.  My “hands are full.” I want to be the one who is the center of attention; the one getting the accolades for this marvelous creation that is about to happen.

As our children have grown and moved out with families of their own, we rarely have gatherings where we are all together anymore.  We have recently started a few new traditions to attempt to remedy that.

Not long ago we were all together for just such an occasion.  In an uncharacteristic move on my part, I asked my daughters to come help me make some of the dishes.  Each one was in charge of a dish.  I gave only general directions.  They grabbed their own spices and utensils.  We chatted, stirred, and had a great time.  We caught up with each other’s lives.  We spent quality time together in the kitchen-my kitchen.  We had a great time during and after the meal.

The next day, it was just my husband and I again, and it was time for me to make supper.  I went to the pantry and when I went to grab the spices I wanted, I noticed none of the spices that my daughters had used were put back where they had found them.  They were nowhere near where they should have been.

Instead of getting angry or frustrated, I smiled, and I reflected on the time that was spent making connections using those out of place spices.  I was comforted that I could grasp at the crumbs of the time we now are able to spend together as a family.  Time out from busyness and a few miles here and there to connect, to create, to love. 


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