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Salutation: Philemon, Part Three

featurePhilemon 1-3

Luther said, “We are all God’s Onesimus.” It is true that, in this incident, we have a striking picture of our lost condition by nature and practice and of the activities of divine grace on our behalf. This letter sets forth, most beautifully, the great truths of forgiveness on the ground of the expiatory work of Another and of acceptance in the Beloved. Harry Ironside makes a strong case for this truth in a short gospel article entitled “Charge That to My Account.” We are presented with an excellent example of what God could do within both a householder and a slave in bringing them to Christ and causing the love of the Spirit to be manifested richly through them.

What a story the name of the writer calls to mind—Paul! It is he who presents the picture of that which we have just spoken. Allow all that you know of this man to roll through your mind. It was William Ramsay who speaks of the “Charm of Paul,” and indeed, when we think of Paul, we cannot help but be reminded of him as preacher, pastor, and man of prayer. He is self-described as the “chief of sinners” (1 Tim. 1:15), yet he was one who met Christ and had his life radically changed with sins forgiven and redemption received. God chose this man to pen a large share of the New Testament Scriptures. Paul wrote to numerous churches and individuals, giving us a wonderful view into the very depths of his own heart. When he might have “pulled rank” on Philemon as “Paul the Apostle,” he, instead, appealed to his friend and brother in Christ on the basis of “Paul, a prisoner of Jesus Christ” (v. 1), preferring to entreat him (vv. 8-9) as a “prisoner” than as an “apostle.” Paul’s tact and appeal are consummate. — John Duty

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Bond Brothers new coverExcerpt from Chapter One

Athens

The streets were crowded with an array of travelers and Athenians. Philemon put a protective hand on Archippus’ shoulder, and Onesimus flanked the boy’s other side, much to Philemon’s delight. Hagglers called to them as they picked their way through the filthy narrow spots, and Philemon was glad when the alley gave way to a wider street.

By the time they reached the Agora, it seemed as though every person in Athens was looking for something to eat! Philemon pulled several small loaves of bread from his sack along with a cluster of figs and handed them to his companions. The snack would hold them until their business was over and they were on the ship once more.

Philemon had decided on a small piglet for his sacrifice. It was not the biggest or most costly animal, but it was not the smallest either. The animal squealed as the young boy, presumably the merchant’s son, cornered it, picked it up by its hind feet, and handed it to Onesimus, who took the tiny creature and cradled it in his arms. Soon the squeals ended, and the tiny pig actually fell asleep bringing a smile to everyone’s faces.

Philemon watched his son’s face knowing exactly what he was thinking before he asked.

“Father, must we sacrifice it?”

Philemon only nodded.

“But why do the gods require a blood sacrifice?”

His father put an arm around his shoulders. “Our gods do not require it son, but the sacrifice lets them know that we are serious about our request.”

“Do some gods require blood?”

Philemon was ready to change the subject, but he knew he needed to answer the question. “Yes, Archippus, the Jewish God requires a blood sacrifice.”

“Is that why Simeon is a butcher?”

Philemon chuckled. “Well, I suppose that is part of the reason,” he replied, thinking of their neighbor and friend. The thought stopped him for a moment. He had never really given much thought to any god. Even this gesture of worship was for his wife, not him. At times he wondered if the gods even existed.

Another thought came to Archippus, and he looked at his father with alarm.  “Is mother ill? Is that what the sacrifice is for?” He had seen her outside one morning, relieving herself of everything in her stomach. She had brushed him off, but the memory came back in vivid detail as his mind whirled in all the wrong places.

Philemon turned and stopped their procession. He placed both hands on his son’s shoulders and looked him squarely in the eye. The boy had sprung up this past summer and was nearly as tall as his father. “No, Archippus, she is not in any danger. But you will have to ask her any more of your questions.” He knew the stern look would end all other inquiries.

As they drew near to the Areopagos, Philemon could see that a crowd was gathered. Someone was being pushed to the front. He was a short man, certainly not a Greek. Perhaps a Roman? No, his garments were more like that of the Jews. Philemon’s curiosity drew him into the crowd and the others followed.

“Tell us of this new doctrine of which you speak,” one of the elders of the city was saying. At the mention of doctrine, Philemon turned to go, but as the man began to speak, he felt drawn back. He turned and watched, now focused on the man’s eyes. There was something different about him, but Philemon could not understand what it was.

“Men of Athens, I perceive that in all things you are very religious.” The man stopped and looked over the crowd as though seeing into the heart of every man. “For as I was passing through and considering the objects of your worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: TO THE UNKNOWN GOD. Therefore, the One whom you worship without knowing, Him I proclaim to you: God, who made the world and everything in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands. Nor is He worshiped with men’s hands, as though He needed anything since He gives to all life, breath, and all things.”

The speaker was warming to his subject, and every person present stood silent, watching him as he gestured to the sky, urging them to pay heed. He hesitated for a moment, as though he knew that his next statement would not be well received. “And He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their appointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings, so that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us.”

Unknowingly, Philemon leaned forward, as though fearing that he might miss a word. The man’s voice dropped in volume, drawing even more attention from each listener. “For in Him we live and move and have our being, as also some of your own poets have said, ‘For we are also His offspring.’” The statement struck a knowing cord among the crowd. Many were nodding their approval. This man is an incredible orator, Philemon thought. I have never heard such things! A yearning to know and understand gnawed at Philemon’s heart.

“Therefore, since we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Divine Nature is like gold or silver or stone, something shaped by art and man’s devising. Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent, because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead.”

Somewhere further into the circle of people that were gathered to listen, a man laughed loudly. “You speak of the one they call Jesus, the Jews’ so-called Messiah,” the man mocked. He grunted and turned to walk away.

Archippus was turning to follow those who were leaving when he saw his father’s face. Philemon’s eyes were riveted to the speaker. It was as though their eyes were locked, sending messages that only those two could understand.

Dionysius watched the exchange, which was taking place between Paul and the man who had watched him so intently. He saw there the hungering that he himself felt in his soul. As the man turned to walk away, he felt an urging to meet him. Pressing through the crowd, he came beside him, not sure what to say; but as he considered his words, the man turned to face him.

“I could not help but watch you as our speaker shared his beliefs. They are quite unusual, would you not agree?”

Philemon could see the sincerity in the man’s eyes. He was obviously an elder of the city. “Yes, sir. I must say his words intrigued me.”

“I am hoping to have him to my home for the afternoon meal. Would you and your group care to join me? His words intrigue me as well.”

Philemon considered the offer. To refuse would be disgraceful to the man before him and a social indecency; however, if he accepted, it would mean an added night to their journey.      It was as though a war was battling within him. The greater part of his heart willed him to move on and forget what he had just heard, but somewhere in the recesses of his mind, the words UNKNOWN GOD vibrated over and over, creating questions that he ached to have answered. “That is very kind of you, sir. We have business in the city, but will be free by midday.”

“Good. Come when you are free.” He gave Philemon his name and directions and turned to find Paul.

Archippus looked at him questioningly, but Philemon ignored the look and hurried them to their task. As he passed the collection of gods and their altars, he decided upon Athena. After all, was not she one of the most powerful goddesses? To the Unknown God… Him I proclaim to you… Paul’s words continued to echo in Philemon’s mind, but he pushed them away. I must do this for Appia and our unborn child!

The priests were all too happy to accept and offer the little pig. Onesimus handed over the tiny animal, feeling some angst at the whole ordeal. As the priest chanted his incantations, the piglet squealed as though understanding its fate. However, it soon lay silent upon the altar, its blood oozing from its slit throat.  Philemon looked on, bowed his head and without a word walked away. It was done, but somehow, the entire scenario left him cold and empty. His pace quickened as he turned toward the Stoa.

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For Musicians Only

ID-1009202When I Survey the Wondrous Cross, so many lessons for my Christian walk are brought to mind!

First, may I say that this collection of hymn arrangements, In Remembrance are absolutely beautiful.  (Dan Forrest has also put out a CD by the same name, and includes all the pieces in this book.) At first glance, they don’t look to be that difficult.  There aren’t the tedious running arpeggios that you find in Fay Lopez’s arrangements (also beautiful, just difficult!).  It just doesn’t look as though there are that many notes; HOWEVER, Dr. Forrest says plenty with few notes!  He manages to sneak in little counter-melodies all over the place, and unless you really practice, they will be missed, and the music loses a lot of meaning!

He also uses beautiful mixtures of harmony, creating wonderful splashed of musical color! Anyone with a bit of piano skill can play this music, but unless you really pay attention to every note, a lot will be missed!  For example, it always fascinates me that by changing one note, an F chord is now an a minor chord–big difference in the key of F!  The Tonic (I) or key note chord becomes the minor Submediant (vi) chord!  If I play the F chord, it will sound alright, but if I play it correctly as an a minor chord–BIG DIFFERENCE!

But then I think, is it really a big difference to the average listener?  I can hear you out there shouting, “No!  I don’t even know what you’re talking about!” Well, I suppose that’s true; however, who am I playing this offertory for anyway?  Is it for me, or for the congregation, or my Lord Jesus, or all of the above?  Obviously,the answer is: all of the above.

There are times when I wonder if it’s really worth all the practicing.  I mean, if we have seventy-five people on a Sunday, we’re thrilled! My heart continually reminds me of two things:

  1. All those dear folks in the pews that I love so much deserve to receive my best.
  2. My wonderful Lord and Savior is the primary receiver of my worship, and He deserves my best!

But there is another lesson to be learned.  As I practice and study and analyze, I gain a better understanding of the music, AND I love it more!!! You know where I’m going–all too true about the Word and the One who gave it to us!!! The more we read and study and analyze the Bible, the more precious it becomes!

The practicing enables me to play with confidence; but more than that, it enables me to put my heart into the music.  Reading God’s Word enables me to live with confidence: but more than that, it enables me to put His heart into my life!

GREAT VERSE FOR PIANISTS: “Blessed be the LORD my strength, which teacheth my hands to war, and my fingers to fight” Psalm 144:1

GREAT VERSE FOR LIFE: “But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should hew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light” 1 Peter 2:9

What Is Salvation

I cannot explain why I wrote the book Twelve Smooth Stones.  The Holocaust has always been an impossible subject to me. I cannot read about it or watch anything concerning its horrors without weeping.

Although it may sound trite, I believe with all my heart that God wanted me to write this book.  It would not have been my choice; however, if Galatians 2:20 is to be lived, then I do what He bids me to do!

“I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me:

 and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God,

who loved me, and gave himself for me.”

Beyond the tears shed about the Holocaust, my heart also breaks for His people, the Jews.  They are His chosen people, but they are so blinded.  A recent trip toIsraelonly solidified this fact in my mind and heart.

My prayer is for you, dear reader – that as you read about the struggles that Esther endured to find the truth – that you too will be drawn to Jesus Christ, the true Messiah.  Would you consider all the proof given here contained in the Word of God?  Would you allow Him to break your heart, Jew or Gentile, and receive His payment for your penalty of sin?  Would you allow Him to purchase you from the slave market of sin to become His rightful heir?

“That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world.

He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not.

He came unto his own, and his own received him not.

But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God,

even to them that believe on his name:” John 1:9-12

 

Salvation is a decision to give your life to Jesus Christ.  At some point in all our lives, we realize that this world is just temporary.  Life may have lost its purpose – you may be discouraged or disillusioned.  Our world says, “Get all you can, can all you get, and sit on the can.”  But then what?  There must be more to life than getting and enjoying all you’ve gotten!  There is: Jesus Christ.  He died that we might live.  We realize that eternity is real: every person who has ever lived and died on earth is there now – in heaven or in hell. To me, this life is like our time in the womb – its whole purpose is to prepare us for REAL life!   Where will you be when it is your time to break forth into eternity?  Only Jesus Christ can pay the price for eternal life.  Ask Him into your heart.  It’s as easy as ABC:

AAdmit that you are a sinner (For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God. Romans 3:23)

BBelieve that Jesus died for you (But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8)

C – Commit your need for a Savior to Him. (That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. Romans 10:9)

It’s as easy as ABC, and as difficult as XYZ:

XExcuses as to why you don’t need this (Then Agrippa said unto Paul, Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian. Acts 26:28)

YYour pride (The wicked, through the pride of his countenance, will not seek after God: God is not in all his thoughts. Psalm 10:4)

ZZone out: put up all the barriers and keep Jesus from coming close (O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not! Mt 23:37)