Philemon 1-3

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“Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus, and Timothy our brother, to Philemon our dear friend and fellow worker, to Apphia our sister, to Archippus our fellow soldier and to the church that meets in your home: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”

The way Paul introduces himself in this book is interesting. He calls himself a prisoner, which he was at the time, but it’s a strange title to claim. If you asked a bunch of inmates at some prison, how many of them would introduce themselves by saying, “I’m a prisoner”? It’s not a position of honor, but Paul considers it true glory because he is a prisoner because of his faith. This adds an impact as well, because a letter from someone suffering for the faith would be tenderly regarded by a believer.

It’s interesting to note that in some of his other letters, Paul refers to Timothy as a “son in the faith,” but this time he refers to him as a brother. This makes sense, as Timothy would have been older at this time.

Philemon is the recipient of this letter. He is the head of his family, a good man, and probably a good minister as well. He is called a “fellow worker” by Paul ~ just the status of a fellow believer ties Christians together, but when the position of minister is added, it’s even more endearing. But while Timothy was an evangelist and Philemon was an ordinary preacher, Paul considered them both on the same level as he himself, an apostle. This is a good thing for us to remember, because all of us are one in Christ, regardless of our supposed rank. We are all fellow workers, whether we are missionaries or simply churchgoers.

Apphia is probably Philemon’s wife. She was also hurt by Onesimus’ departure because spouses have the same interests. It’s a hats-off to Paul that he calls her a sister, and even remembers her at all, because women were still probably not treated all that well at that time. He perhaps considered her a fellow worker as well, regardless of her gender, which is another thing we must remember. Never discriminate on class or gender.

Archippus was a friend of Philemon’s, probably a fellow minister or co-pastor. Paul might think of him as someone Philemon would go to for advice, which is why he mentions him here, or perhaps he hopes Archippus will be an impartial judge to the urges Paul makes on Onesimus’ behalf later in the chapter.

Ministers might well see themselves as laborers and soldiers because of the hardships they endure and the difficulties they face leading a church. They must stand their ground and make good of their position, and more importantly, they must stand together and strengthen one another, because the rest of us really don’t know what they have to face due to their position. They must have spiritual weapons and the skill to use them, they must minister the Word and discipline and watch over souls, and they must fight the Lord’s battles. All of that is a big undertaking, and probably an enormous amount of pressure.

Finally, Paul mentions the church as a recipient of this letter so they will be more ready to receive Onesimus affectionately when he returns.

Paul wishes the best for all his friends, so he always sends them grace and peace. Those are two recurring gifts in all his letters. He can’t give them himself, but he prays for them to be bestowed on the people he cares about. Grace is the free favor and goodwill of God, which none of us deserves, and the fountain of all blessings. Peace is the fruit of that grace. Paul wishes that they would be given and continue on so his friends could sense them within themselves. It is in God that we are accepted, and through Him we have all good things.

Spiritual blessings should be the first things we pray for for ourselves and for others, especially our friends. The favor of God and peace with Him is the most desirable trait and the cause of all other good traits. It puts sweetness into every mercy and can give joy even in the difficulties of this world.

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1 Timothy 6:17-21

Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.

Timothy, guard what has been entrusted to your care. Turn away from godless chatter and the opposing ideas of what is falsely called knowledge, which some have professed and in so doing have wandered from the faith.

Grace be with you.”

In this final bit of Paul’s first letter to his young charge Timothy, Paul gives some instruction on how to handle rich people. It’s hard for the rich to follow Jesus well, as Jesus himself acknowledged (Matthew 19:24), and the love of money can cause us to fall from our faith, as we see earlier in 1 Timothy 6:9-10. The rich have to be aware of temptation and of their own pride so they can stay faithful. They must see that God is giving them their riches to enjoy, and also recognize that those who are truly rich are rich for their good works, not material wealth, which is fleeting. Ministers should not be intimidated by the rich, but they should be able to instruct them just as they would any other member of their congregation.

Finally, Paul finishes off his letter with a last instruction. Every minister has been entrusted to keep the truths of God and to teach them in turn. “Godless chatter” equates to human eloquence, which often opposes God’s truth. Some people have been so proud of their own knowledge and learning that they have been drawn away from the faith. Paul wants to make absolutely sure that Timothy will keep this trust he has been given, and by that we can know that it’s really, really important. This “false knowledge” he refers to can’t be true knowledge, or else it would approve of the gospel and consent with it. Those who put reason before faith are in danger of losing their faith.

And lastly, the all-too-familiar “grace with you,” from which we can derive so much meaning. It’s a good prayer that we can pray for our friends, that grace would be with them. Grace comprehends all that is good. Furthermore, it’s the beginning of glory, because to whomever God gives grace, He will also give glory. It’s because of God’s grace in sending Jesus to die for us that we can one day comprehend the fullness of His glory in heaven, and He will not withhold any good thing from a person who walks uprightly.

1 Timothy 6:11-16

“But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance, and gentleness. Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses. In the sight of God, who gives life to everything, and of Christ Jesus, who while testifying before Pontius Pilate made the good confession, I charge you to keep this command without spot or blame until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, which God will bring about in his own time ~ God, the blessed and only Ruler, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone is immortal and who lives in unapproachable light, whom no one has seen or can see. To him be honor and might forever. Amen.”

As a young minister, Timothy should conduct himself as a man of God. Here Paul gives him a few practical instructions on how to do so. But it is cool that Paul called Timothy a “man of God,” just like the prophets were called in the Old Testament. I don’t know how often that phrase was used, but I wonder if he made the same connection?

Focusing on the things of this world is bad for all men, but especially men of God. Alternatively, it’s bad for all Christians, but especially ministers. So Paul urges Timothy to be righteous in his conversations with others, to be godly in God’s sight, to have faith and love as living principles to support him, to bear rebuke and reproach patiently, and to instruct and forgive gently. It isn’t enough for us just to flee from the bad; you have to pursue the good instead. Everyone is working for something, so make it good.

Then Paul tells Timothy to “fight the good fight of the faith.” It’s interesting to note, I think, that our lives are considered a fight ~ and even more so, a good one. But the point he’s trying to make is that there must be conflict between our corruption and the devil’s temptation. Anyone who wants to go to heaven must fight their way there, and it is a good cause for anyone to be saved. And our prize at the end of the war will be eternal life. As a minister, Timothy had made a vow to fight the good fight, just as Paul was doing. Having a mentor who had already experienced so much must have been very encouraging for Timothy, just as it can be for us.

And then Paul urges Timothy to “keep this command,” to be loyal to his ministry and faithful to the trust placed in him as minister, and to fulfill the service expected of him. He encourages him to do so “without spot or blame,” so he doesn’t invite a bad outlook on Christianity by the way he acts. By charging him to do so “in the sight of God,” Paul reminds him that he will answer to his actions on the day of judgment, just as we will all answer for our actions.

(Christ’s confession before Pilate can be found in John 18:36-37. He claimed that his kingdom was not of this world, which should be enough to draw us away from the world.)

Ministers should keep an eye toward the coming of Christ, who will come when he sees fit. All of the powers of the earth and its princes are ordained by God, who is the only Ruler who is absolute, sovereign, and perfectly independent. As you may recall from the story of Moses and the burning bush, no one can see God and live, which I think is a cool reference that Paul makes here by saying “unapproachable light.” And finally, it is our duty to give all honor and power to Him, as it is His.

“The Magician’s Nephew” – by C.S. Lewis

The Lion was singing still. But now the song had once more changed. It was more like what we would call a tune, but it was also far wilder. It made you want to run and jump and climb. It made you want to shout. It made you want to rush at other people and either hug them or fight them.-

What a fascinating book! This is the very first C.S. Lewis book I’ve ever read, which I realize is a bit sad since I’m 22 and you’d think I’d have read one before now. But I hadn’t until I decided a few weeks ago that I ought to after reading “A Hobbit, a Wardrobe, and a Great War” by Joseph Loconte. After learning all about Lewis’ life, I wanted to find out how his experiences had shaped his mind. And the best way to do that is to observe how he was creative.

Anyway, back to the book itself. The Magician’s Nephew is the first of the Chronicles of Narnia, as probably all of you knows. I found it to be immediately both charming and interesting, and I enjoyed it from cover to cover.

In comparison with Tolkien’s books, I found Lewis’s writing style to be a little bit more to my taste – and his books are considerably shorter (not that that’s a problem!). The Magician’s Nephew is also heavily symbolic to the Bible (particularly Genesis) in ways that are much more obvious than in the Lord of the Rings. One thing I found interesting, though, was that in both series, the prospective worlds were created through music. I like how Tolkien and Lewis showed how important music is to God.

Anyway, on to the quotes!

For what you see and hear depends a good deal on where you are standing: it also depends on what sort of person you are.-

Perspective shapes all of our lives. It also tends to destroy us sometimes, though, because it makes us make assumptions, which can be harmful when they’re completely wrong and make us not do something we maybe should have done.

-“I’m sure Aslan would have, if you’d asked him,” said Fledge.

“Wouldn’t he know without being asked?” said Polly.

“I’ve no doubt he would,” said the Horse (still with his mouth full). “But I’ve a sort of idea he likes to be asked.”-

This is absolutely true of God, and it probably makes prayer confusing to some people (it did with me). God knows everything, so why do we have to ask him for things? He’s going to do what’s best for us anyway.

But see, while that is true, God doesn’t want blind, unquestioning faith. He wants a relationship. And you can’t have a relationship with anyone if you don’t communicate with them. God wants us to ask him for things. It shows respect when you ask instead of just expecting them. It shows that you really care whether they do that thing you want them to do.

“Well done,” said Aslan in a voice that made the earth shake. Then Digory knew that all the Narnians had heard those words and that the story of them would be handed down from father to son in that new world for hundreds of years and perhaps forever.-

This blew me away when I read it. This is exactly what could have happened in our world but didn’t. Adam and Eve could have refused the devil’s temptations in the garden and remained faithful to God, and just like in Narnia, their obedience would have been remembered in joy and praise forever. But instead, they made the wrong choice, and all living things paid the price. And on top of that, imagine being remembered for your biggest mistake! That is a resounding legacy and punishment.

“But I cannot tell that to this old sinner, and I cannot comfort him either; he has made himself unable to hear my voice. If I spoke to him, he would hear only growlings and roarings. Oh Adam’s sons, how cleverly you defend yourselves against all that might do you good!”-

It is way too true that we don’t hear God unless we want to. That’s why so many people have remained lost in the world. The Bible says somewhere that everyone has seen enough evidence in their lives to believe in God if they’ll just be open to the idea. But instead, lots of people refuse to accept God’s work in their lives even when it’s blatantly obvious, and that’s really sad to see, especially when it’s someone close to you.

He had forgotten to say “Thank you,” but he meant it, and Aslan understood.-

It is so good that God knows what we mean even when we forget to say it, or don’t have the right words to express it. That’s what makes Him a good Father.

When things go wrong, you’ll find they usually go on getting worse for some time; but when things once start going right they often go on getting better and better.-

 

Chapter 3: the Unknown Messenger

In this chapter, Oursler makes this statement: “In all his life Joseph had never been more than ten miles outside the town of Nazareth, and now, at last, he would behold the city and the Temple–a lifetime experience!” He’s talking about Jerusalem. But the problem with this is that, as far as I can recall, the Jews went to Jerusalem for the Passover every year, as Jesus did when he shared the Last Supper with his disciples. So Joseph would have been to the Temple lots of times. He took Jesus there himself when he was a child, and Jesus stayed there and worried his parents half to death. That’s probably coming up in this book eventually.

The second historical  inconsistency I’d like to make is only one paragraph after that, in which it says “Mary and Anna mounted rented donkeys.” This is a cultural picture that we have projected onto the time, not what is actually historically accurate. We have seen so many portrayals of Mary and Joseph traveling to Bethlehem where Mary is riding on a donkey and Joseph is leading it. That could well be true considering how heavily pregnant Mary was at the time, but it’s not the norm for that culture. Typically, the man would ride the donkey, and the woman would walk, because women were viewed as really very little more than animals at that time in history. Maybe it was different for humble townsfolk like those of Nazareth though.