Catching Up

I haven’t posted since Sunday, Aug. 1, so I thought I probably should stop in and let you all know that I WILL be posting again, maybe tomorrow or Saturday. I’ve had a rough week. Pain can kill one’s energy level!

I was able to see my pain doctor on Tuesday. It was God’s hand of intervention that I got in the same day I called! He changed up my pain meds, and it’s already having a good effect. I’m thankful for every step downward on that pain scale of 1-10 that you’re all familiar with if you have a chronic pain condition.

I’m also thankful for all the years and years of good health I enjoyed before my creaky old back started falling apart. Remember running, swimming, jumping, ball games–all in one day— and still being able to enjoy hide-and-go-seek after dark? Of course, back then I fell into bed and slept like a log all night long!

I wish I could tell healthy younger people to please enjoy every moment, and take care of yourselves! Of course, I would have thought, when I was younger, “But I’m fine!” And I was.

One of the things you learn with advancing years is that the word “fine” gains a new definition. I still respond positively when people ask, “How are you?” because no one wants an organ recital ūüôā They’re really not asking about your liver, lungs, and lumbar! They just want to know if things are better. Usually, once I’m out and about again, I can respond “I’m better, thanks!”

All right, that’s it for now. I miss doing the daily Bible study, and I should be back on track soon. I appreciate comments from readers who have wondered if I’m okay. Yes, just not up to par yet., and thank you so much!

slowing down cartoon

Sunday Morning Coffee: Sneak Attack

I’m home this morning. Didn’t want to be, or expect to be. Got up from my chair last night to toddle off to bed, and found that I could just barely toddle. Couldn’t stand upright. The pain was surprising, unexpected, sharp and persistent. Terry had to help me get into bed. My wonderful, magical adjustable bed that allowed me a fairly comfortable night’s sleep. But I’ve been up for a bit, and I already know that going back to bed is my best option.

I looked for an image of a sneak attack, and this is the only one I found that isn’t just completely weird. I’m far removed from the kinds of comics and video games out there for kids these days, and they are certainly not the cute, innocent, fun cartoons of my childhood. Apparently “Sneak Attack” is a very popular comic or game or book–something. The illustrations are weird. I didn’t take the time to look closely, because it wasn’t at all what I was looking for. I just wanted a funny guy in a black mask tip-toeing up behind his unsuspecting victim, like Bugs Bunny and Elmer Fudd ūüôā

Well, I found the two guys above, and that says what I wanted it to. Complete surprise attack.

Okay, Linda, so how are you going to make a spiritual application today?

I have to admit, I’ve had to struggle withe the WHY ME, WHY NOW. The answers are not easy to accept. What I really want is for the pain to just go away and not come back. That’s not likely to happen in this life, unless someone comes up with some amazing new surgical procedure that replaces my crumbly bones and fixes my osteoporosis and degenerative bone disease/stenosis. It’s a nasty little cocktail of pain, and I’d much rather not have it.

But God. But God is one of my favorite phrases in the Bible. It shows up quite often. Usually when the situation is dire, and there’s nothing else to do but turn to Him. It is the moment in which we acknowledge our own inability and humbly ask Him to intervene. Sometimes it’s just “Help, Lord!” And sometimes, His answer is as clear as, “Be still. You know what to do. Go take your pain medication, your muscle relaxer, and your anti-inflammatory. Rub in some of that topical pain relief you use, and go to bed. Allow yourself to relax. Use the vibration feature on your mattress. Terry will help you. Claim all the verses you’ve memorized about fear, trust, and how to think biblically. Then allow the music in your head to relax you so you can sleep. We’ve been through this before. You know what to do!”

As I listened to that still, small voice and my spirit calmed, I did grab my go-to verses, like Psalm 119:165. There are many more. If you’ve been with me for any length of time, you know that there’s always music in my head appropriate for the situation.

The first song that came to mind last night was one I hadn’t though of in many, many years. It is a song my mother loved:

A Correction

It’s a good thing to admit when you’ve been mistaken, especially if acknowledging the error keeps others from the same misapprehension.

I have always understood Paul’s Roman imprisonment to be IN a Roman prison cell. Either that’s what I’ve been taught, or a conclusion I assumed to be true.

Lately, I’ve heard, in conversation and in my reading, that Paul’s Roman imprisonment for two years, during which he wrote the Prison Epistles, was actually house arrest. So I began to search to find the truth, and I finally have it, to my satisfaction.

This is a picture from an article for which I’ll give you a link so you can read the information for yourself:

Paul's House Arrest in Rome and Our Home Isolation
One possibility of the type of quarters in which Paul may have lived.

Better yet, I found the scripture that states clearly that Paul had rented his own quarters for two years:

Acts 28:30-31.

30 And Paul dwelt two whole years in his own hired house, and received all that came in unto him,
31 Preaching the kingdom of God, and teaching those things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ, with all confidence, no man forbidding him.

Ironic, I think, that Paul paid for the quarters in which he was imprisoned.

Maybe this is not news to you, but somewhere along the way, I missed it. You know how you can read through the Bible, and suddenly a passage pops off the page and hits you right between the eyes, as if you’d never seen it before? Yes? Well, that’s what happened to me with this issue. It certainly explains all the people that could come and go to visit, or to bring food, assistance, etc. And he was not forbidden to preach and teach the gospel while he was imprisoned, making excellent use of his time doing so as well as continuing to pen his epistles.

I hope you’ll take the time to look at the link under the photo above.

A Brother Beloved

Philemon 1:15-16.

For perhaps he therefore departed for a season, that thou shouldest receive him for ever;

Not now as a servant, but above a servant, a brother beloved, specially to me, but how much more unto thee, both in the flesh, and in the Lord?

Still pleading with Philemon, Paul suggested here that maybe there was a reason Onesimus ran away that resulted in great good.

Someone along Onesimus’ journey pointed him to Paul. Almost certainly, that person was a believer, possibly through Paul’s ministry. There were so many slaves in Rome, and many of them had turned to Christianity during this period of time. One or more of them may have given Onesimus refuge and suggested he go to visit Paul.

Can you see how easily this whole story could be developed into an intriguing book? Had Onesimus, for instance, been falsely accused by another slave? Or had he been mistreated because of some laxity in his own service? How did he manage to escape? Who helped him along the way? There was a lot of distance for him to cover before he reached Rome, and surely he must have formed some sort of network along the way that led him to a place of refuge when he arrived in that huge center of population. His master, Philemon, was already a believer, so he’d been exposed to Christianity before he fled. Was his mind full of questions, doubts, guilt, fear? A little of all those things, I think. He knew the end for him could be terrible.

There is certainly suspense and drama here, right up to the very end.

But for now, Paul’s letter pleads with Philemon to consider that perhaps Onesimus was led to Paul so that Paul could lead him to Christ. Once Onesimus accepted Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, he became valuable to Paul as a helper, and a beloved son in the Lord. He was not Paul’s slave, yet his behavior was one of humble service.

Maybe, Paul suggested, this has all come about so that Onesimus will be a better servant; a servant with a willing heart instead of a rebellious heart, one who could be of great value to Philemon not just as a slave, but as a beloved brother in the Lord.

Not of Necessity, but Willingly

Philemon 1:14. “But¬†without¬†thy¬†mind¬†would¬†I do¬†nothing;¬†that¬†thy¬†benefit¬†should¬†not¬†be¬†as¬†it were of¬†necessity,¬†but¬†willingly.”

The importance of Paul’s attitude in his appeal to Philemon is important. He is not demanding or commanding. His is pleading. He understands that Philemon has the legal right to do as he pleases with his slave.

I was doing a little more research into the whole topic of slavery in Paul’s day. Rome and its influence had pretty much covered the known world. In the city of Rome itself, and its suburbs, there were upwards of 60 million slaves! One of the biggest concerns among free citizens was the very real possibility of a slave uprising. Slaves were merchandise. They were worth more if they were young and strong, less if they were feeble in some way, or if they were old. They were expendable. They could be tossed into prison for far lesser offenses than running away. If they were caught, they could be branded with a red-hot iron on the forehead with the letter “F” for fugitive. Slaves were routinely crucified for what we would see as minor offenses.

With all that in mind, Paul pleads his case for mercy toward Onesimus, but he makes it clear that he wants Philemon to choose out of love and mercy, not out of pressure to please Paul.

Jesus chose to die for us out of love and mercy, not because He had to!

Good works that are forced, and not from the heart, lose their sweetness.

Onesimus, My Heart

Phm. 1: 12-13.

Whom I have sent again: thou therefore receive him, that is, mine own bowels:

Whom I would have retained with me, that in thy stead he might have ministered unto me in the bonds of the gospel:

Paul sent Onesimus back to Philemon. His preference would have been to keep Onesimus with him, as he had grown to love him as a son.

This verse makes it clear that Paul deeply cared for Onesimus, and was asking Philemon to treat Onesimus with Paul’s love for them both in mind. Paul knew that Onesimus had the legal right to have Onesimus beaten, jailed, even executed. He was Philemon’s property. That idea is repugnant to us, but it was customary in Paul’s day. Note here that Paul is asking Philemon for mercy. He is not voicing his opinion as to the morality of owning slaves.

Remember, bowels in Paul’s day, used in this way, is heart today. I’ve heard grandmothers say that a grandchild is “her heart,” and we understand what is meant. It’s the same as Paul saying Onesimus was “his bowels.”

Paul takes it a step further in v. 13, saying that he would have kept Onesimus in Philemon’s place, to minister to him as Philemon would have if he had been there.

Paul’s love for both Philemon and Onesimus is clear in today’s passage. It has me thinking about whether we believers, in our crazy mixed-up world, have developed such a strong bond with the other believers in our lives. I’m not talking about family members here. I’m talking about people in the churches we attend, or in other organizations in which we serve. Paul loved whole-heartedly, without reservation. He sets a standard for us in regard to our believing brothers and sisters.

My Son Onesimus

Phm. 1:10-11.

I beseech thee for my son Onesimus, whom I have begotten in my bonds:

Which in time past was to thee unprofitable, but now profitable to thee and to me:

To beseech is to beg or plead with humility. Paul was not approaching Philemon in arrogance, counting on his great influence among believers to maneuver Philemon into doing something he didn’t want to do. He was pleading with him.

Onesimus was not Paul’s son by physical birth. He was Paul’s spiritual son, having come to a saving knowledge of Christ under Paul’s ministry while Paul was imprisoned. Verse 19 tells us that Paul also led Philemon to the Lord, so in that respect Philemon and Onesimus were now brothers.

Did Onesimus hear of Paul and visit him, hoping to find answers to his own confusion? Was he perhaps hoping that Paul would tell him that running away from Philemon had been the right thing to do? I can easily imagine a whole story being developed around this situation can’t you? I’m sure someone has already written such a story, perhaps an entire book.

In any case, Paul led Onesimus to Jesus Christ while he himself was “in bonds,” imprisoned in Rome.

Paul states in v. 11 that Onesimus had once been unprofitable, or useless to Philemon. A slave who ran away successfully was a sizable financial loss to his owner. It is also possible that Onesimus had been an uncooperative slave, unwilling to work for a man who owned him.

There was an ancient Greek law (inherited by the Romans) allowing any escaped slave sanctuary at an altar. The altar could even be the hearth of a private family home; then the head of the family was obligated to give the slave protection while he tried to persuade him to return to his master. If the slave refused, the head of the family would put the slave up for auction and give the price for the slave to the former master. Paul gave Onesimus protection, and now was working the issue out with Philemon.

Blue Letter Bible

The name Onesimus means profitable. Paul says that Onesimus, though unprofitable to Philemon, had become profitable to Paul. We don’t know how he was profitable, or helpful. Perhaps he acted as a messenger; maybe he helped Paul write some of his letters. Maybe he was physically serving Paul’s needs as he was chained both hands and feet, and would need assistance in his daily needs.

And now, since Onesimus had become a believer, he could also become profitable to Philemon.

Paul the Aged

Philemon 1:8-9.

Wherefore, though I might be much bold in Christ to enjoin thee that which is convenient,

Yet for¬†love’s¬†sake I¬†rather¬†beseech¬†thee, being¬†such an one¬†as¬†Paul¬†the aged,¬†and¬†now¬†also¬†a prisoner¬†of Jesus¬†Christ.

Years ago, I was taught that when a passage of scripture begins with a “therefore,” you need to go back and see what it’s there for!” Poor grammar, but the idea is very helpful. Wherefore is one of those words that refers to back to what had just been written or spoken. So, to paraphrase Paul, he is saying,”So, because of your reputation for love of the saints, and your love of God, and your benevolence to me personally, I have something to ask of you.”

Much bold in Christ: Paul was concerned that Philemon would think him much to forward, too frankly speaking, about Philemon’s personal business; Paul, however, reminds Philemon that he is speaking “in Christ.” He is speaking under the authority of the Holy Spirit.

To enjoin thee: To pertain to what is due, duty, as was fitting.

Paul, under the authority of the Holy Spirit, saw Philemon’s duty toward Onesimus as that which was his duty; that which was fitting for a man of God.

Yet for love’s sake: Better even that duty, what Paul was going to ask of Philemon was for love’s sake. Love of God, love of righteousness, love of mercy–and love of “Paul the Aged.” I wondered at first if Paul was trying to gain the sympathy of Philemon because of his old age, but that wouldn’t be consistent with the character of Paul. So, I looked it up. It’s what I do :). The same word, aged, can also mean ambassador. An ambassador is usually used in relation to one who represents someone else. Here, Paul is literally an ambassador for Christ.

And he IS old, probably older than his years due to all he suffered during his ministry. And he was a prisoner of Rome, waiting for his death sentence to be carried out. He was certainly speaking from a position of authority! His advanced age was regarded in itself as a sign of his authority.

He says that he is a prisoner of Jesus Christ; that is, he was bound, in bonds, chained FOR Jesus Christ’s sake. He seems not to have considered his bondage to be a burden, but a moment in time before he went to meet Jesus face to face.

Sunday Morning Coffee: Fear

This old world has often been shaken by fear. Maybe not every country, nation, culture all at one time, but there have been times when fear was pandemic. We’re in one of those time right now. We’re afraid of Covid. We’re afraid of the shot. We’re afraid of government intrusion. We’re afraid of lawlessness. We’re afraid of people like George Soros, who has been kicked out of his home country because of his nefarious activities, but who now is a naturalized American citizen. We’re afraid of having too little money. We’re afraid of people who have what we consider too much money. I could go on for a long time here, but you get the picture, right?

The thing we ought to fear is the absence of God. He has become obsolete, you see, and His Word teaches things that go against the vision of a peaceful one-world government, so He is being legislated out of existence, persecuted out of existence, and taught out of existence in our institutions of higher learning. All, of course, is ridiculous nonsense, because He is God, and He cannot be made to disappear because of what we, His creation, think we want.

What I want to tell you this morning is that God has not given us the spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind (II Tim. 1:7). I want you to know that there are 365 instances in His Word in which we are told fear not, don’t be afraid. One for every day of the year. Do a word study. Ask Google to give you a list of Bible verses about fear, just to get you started.

Above all, trust God. This world is in for some very terrible things after He removes every single one who is a believer, and the Holy Spirit no longer is in the world. But if you know Him, don’t be afraid.

And here’s a song I’ve grown to love that says the very same thing: Don’t Be Afraid,

The pianist, Roger Bennet, wrote that song. He was waging a battle with Hodgkin’s Disease, and seemed to have won the first round. He actually did win the final round, because the Lord took him home to heaven. What some of us may consider a tragedy, Roger considered a victory.

Don’t be afraid.

Refreshing the Hearts

Philemon 1:7. “For¬†we have¬†great¬†joy¬†and¬†consolation¬†in¬†thy¬†love,¬†because¬†the bowels¬†of the saints¬†are refreshed¬†by¬†thee,¬†brother.”

Philemon must have truly been an exemplary man. Paul says that he, himself, has been encouraged and comforted through Philemon’s love of God and other believers. Paul was well-known throughout the area of Colosse, having been instrumental in establishing several churches there. He was close to many believers who were very concerned for Paul’s welfare in prison. Paul understood their concern. Roman prisons were not luxurious in any sense, and for those sentenced to death, the prisons cells were particularly miserable. The only comforts Paul enjoyed, physically, were provided by those who came to visit him. Food, candles, an extra blanket, were all luxuries to Paul as he spent his days and nights chained on both sides to Roman guards.

Paul said that Philemon had been a refreshing influence to the bowels of the believers to whom he ministered. That seems to us a very strange thing to say, but it was clearly understood in Paul’s time. The bowels “were regarded as the seat of the more violent passions, such as anger and love; but by the Hebrews as the seat of the tenderer affections, esp. kindness, benevolence, compassion; hence our heart (tender mercies, affections, etc.)” (Blue Letter Bible, Guzik).

In the last 10-20 years, modern medicine has finally begun to catch up with what those ancient people knew. We have learned that the gut is the source of 80% of the feel-good chemical serotonin. Serotonin used to be considered a chemical unique to the brain, certainly not to the gut. In my years as a counselor, I learned to see that people who were depressed, or angry, or grieving, or fearful (anxiety) would often fold their arms around their middles, leaning forward and rocking as they spoke. They often had symptoms that sounded like Irritable Bowel Syndrome, and were often on medication for it. People who are prone to worry also tend to have digestive issues. As we’ve learned more about such things, it has become clear that stomach problems often show up with emotional distress, and the production of serotonin in the gut is adversely affected.

Today, rather than the word bowels, we use the word heart. We all know that the actual physical heart is not capable of emotion, but we also understand what we mean when we say it. One of my favorite counseling verses is Proverbs 17:22, “A merry heart doeth good like a medicine: but a broken spirit drieth the bones.” Along with that verse, I would use Prov. 23:7, ¬†“As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he”.

Those two verses take us to the crux of the matter: Our attitudes, moods, feelings, are all influenced by what we believe to be true. If we want happiness rather than anger and bitterness to reside in our hearts, it’s our thinking that needs to change. We need to get hold of Philippians 4:8,‚ÄúFinally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things¬†are honest, whatsoever things¬†are¬†just, whatsoever things¬†are¬†pure, whatsoever things¬†are¬†lovely, whatsoever things¬†are¬†of good report; if¬†there be¬†any virtue, and if¬†there be¬†any praise, think on these things.‚Ä̬†

It is what we think about, what we dwell upon, what we believe to be true, that affects us not only emotionally, but also physically.

Philemon refreshed the minds (thinking) and hearts (emotions) of those to whom he ministered.