The book of Philemon is just one short chapter in the Bible, but one that carries a potent message. The Apostle Paul wrote this letter to a fellow believer named Philemon, who was a wealthy man living in Colossae, who owned slaves and who used his large house for church meetings (v2). Somehow, probably through Paul, Philemon was introduced to the saving gospel of Christ and that’s what made this connection between them so rich.
Paul wrote this letter while in jail on behalf of one of Philemon’s slaves who ran away. His name was Onesimus. Onesimus had become a follower of Jesus through the ministry of Paul as well, and was very valuable to Paul while he was in jail. Paul wrote this letter to encourage Philemon to accept Onesimus back, not as a slave but as a friend and as a follower of Jesus too.
Yesterday was Palm Sunday. Today is the beginning of what we refer to as Holy Week. It’s here and now that we focus our attention to that Upper Room and Jesus instituting the Lord’s Supper. Then we watch the arrest in a place called Gethsemane and the horrific mockery of a trial, condemning innocent Jesus. We hear the crowd shouting, “Crucify Him,” as He stands before Pilate. We walk with Him out to Golgotha and see Him die.
As I’ve told many before, don’t take Him off that cross prematurely. Don’t sugarcoat the crucifixion to make yourself feel better. You’ll never experience and appreciate the glorious resurrection of Jesus from the dead, until you fully comprehend that He died for all sins, yours and mine.
Here’s the verse that reminded me of all of that today. As Paul wrote to Philemon, he encouraged him to welcome Onesimus back into relationship with him as he would do with Paul himself. Paul told Philemon that if Onesimus owed him anything, that he could charge it to Paul’s account and Paul would pay it all back in full – though I’m not sure where a prisoner would ever get money. Then Paul tells Philemon…
“But don’t forget that you owe me your life.” Philemon 19 CEV
That wasn’t a threat. That wasn’t a bullying remark. That was truth. As Paul introduced Philemon to the Savior of the world, Philemon needed to know that he should be truly thankful to Paul for telling him about Jesus. Philemon needed to know that being saved made him very wealthy, not his earthly riches. And he owed his life to the one who introduced him to the Savior.
Here’s my word of encouragement for you today: Who do you owe your life to because they introduced you to Jesus? Maybe your parents? A Sunday School teacher? A Pastor? A friend? The greatest life changing gift you can ever give to anyone is Jesus. This week invite a friend to Easter services with you. Make a friend… Be a friend… Bring a friend to Christ!
Thank You for saving me! In Jesus name I pray, Amen.
Rev. Dr. MM Marxhausen
Back in the day, when I was in college, I worked as a groundskeeper during the summer months to pay for my tuition. My supervisor, Bernie Johnson, was one of a kind. He was loving and compassionate. He had a good listening ear. He had so much knowledge about grass, flowers, trees, and a lot of good advice for a young man who was very green behind the ears.
One of the many things that Mr. Johnson said to me more than once was, “If you don’t use your head, you’ll have to use your feet.” It was his way of telling me to prepare for the day – the task at hand, and to think ahead of anything extra I might need to get the job done, without wasting any time having to go back to the shop for something. If I didn’t plan ahead and had to go back to the shop for that tool I forgot, I’d end up walking back to the shop and burning precious time.
I remembered that today as I read Deuteronomy 10. In the first few verses, Moses was telling the people of Israel how God told him to chisel out two flat stones for a set of Commandments, just like the ones God had given him the first time. Since Moses broke the first set of Commandments, God wanted these two flat stones to write a second set. Here’s what Moses said…
“… I chiseled two flat stones like the ones I broke. Then I carried the stones up the mountain…” Deuteronomy 10:3 CEV
I guess, Mr. Johnson wasn’t the first person to say, “If you don’t use your head, you’ll have to use your feet” – God did. For a brief moment in time, Moses lost his head. When he came down the mountain the first time, with the first set of Commandments, and saw the people bowing before the golden calf, he lost his mind – he didn’t think it threw. He stopped thinking. He threw down the two flat stones God had written the Commandments on and shattered them. Not sure why he just couldn’t have set them down on the ground, but in that moment, he didn’t use his head, and ended up using his feet, walking all the way back up the mountain to get a second set of Commandments.
Like me, you’ve probably said things you wished you would’ve never said, right? Like me, you may have stepped into a situation you weren’t invited to step into, but did anyway, right? Like me, you probably understand “If you don’t use your head, you’ll have to use your feet” more than you’d like to admit, right?
Here’s my word of encouragement for you today: Get your walking shoes on! Do the right thing! Next time – Think it through! Take a deep breath! Smile! Live by grace!
Thank you for second chances, even if it means using our feet the second time. Forgive us, renew us and lead us, In Jesus name we ask this, Amen.
Rev. Dr. MM Marxhausen
Have you ever stopped to think about the number “one”? I guess it all depends on the situation and the circumstances, but one can either have negative consequences or positive consequences.
For example… it’s not necessarily good if there’s only one piece of cake left and there are two or more people. For some, being alone, only one, is lonely. Or, when you stop at a garage sale and realize you only one dollar in your wallet.
But on the other hand, if you’re watching March Madness, the NCAA Basketball tournament, there’ll come a time here in short order that the winner of it all will tell us that they’re number one – they’re the best, the only undefeated team, the top. Or when you’ve had your To-Do list and you’ve whittled it down to just one last thing. Maybe you’re trying to lose some weight and you just have one more pound to lose to reach your goal.
Jesus, talked about the number one. He talked about us, you and me, being one. Here’s what He said…
“I want all of them to be one with each other…. I also want them to be one with Us.” John 17:21 CEV
At first, we don’t see that as a problem. But have you ever tried to get a group of people to all move in the same direction, at the same time? One of my friends directs the Dance Team at her High School. I think of how difficult that’s got to be – to try to get every dancer to step, jump, twirl all at the precise time. If everybody just went out on the dance floor and decided to do what each one of them wanted to do, it’d be chaotic. It would just be a team of people, doing their own thing, with no rhyme or reason. Sound familiar?
Most often, the reason we have difficulty with the “one” concept is because we don’t want to lose our individuality. We’re important. We don’t want to just be another pretty face in a massive crowd. We want to be recognized. If we melted and molded ourselves into the oneness factor, we would lose all that.
But Jesus tells us that the oneness factor is important… very important. Here’s why…
“Then this world’s people will know that You sent Me.” John 17:23 CEV
Our oneness, sends a message to the world. Our oneness, like that dance team, tells the world we’re in this together and we’re going to work together, play together, worship together. You can’t be the Lone Ranger, a pie in the sky, or an island in an ocean. We’re meant to be together and be one… one in Jesus and one with each other.
Here’s my word of encouragement for you today: You and I, as brothers and sisters in Christ, have a message to tell the world. When we’re one, the world will hear what we’re trying to tell them.
Make us one. One with You and one with each other so the world may know You. In Jesus name we ask this, Amen.
Rev. Dr. MM Marxhausen
I remember watching a video that someone put up on Facebook about sheep and their Master. If I remember correctly there was a missions team that went over to some European country to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
While there, they were taught a lesson I’m sure most will not forget. This whole team, young and old alike, were out walking the countryside when they encountered a flock of sheep. The shepherd was close by watching his sheep. The team wanted to find out if what Jesus said about sheep, knowing their shepherd’s voice, was true. So they struck up a conversation with the shepherd, asking for his assistance to conduct a little experiment.
Since the Country they were in did not speak English they were forced to learn a foreign word or two which the shepherd used to command the sheep’s attention. One by one, these missionaries went up to the fence to call the sheep in. But as each one came up to the fence and in their most persuasive voice tried to win the sheep over, they were met with complete resistance. Totally ignored. The sheep didn’t even bother lifting their heads to acknowledge they heard a voice.
Finally, when everyone who wanted to, unsuccessfully attempted to motivate the sheep to follow them, the shepherd stepped up to the fence and gave them the same command as he always did. Every head popped up. Every sheep came to attention. Every sheep started moving towards the voice they knew. It happened exactly as Jesus had said…
“My sheep know my voice, and I know them. They follow Me… “ John 10:27CEV
Even as I watched that video, I was awestruck. The sheep were never tempted to follow a voice they had never heard before. It wasn’t even an option. There was no temptation so alluring that the sheep would give up their grazing or resting to find out what the unknown voice had to offer.
You have opportunity to hear that voice all the time. As you spend time in the Word, God speaks to you. As you enter His house for worship, God speaks to you. In your prayer closet, God speaks to you. You should know His voice. You’ve heard it multiple times.
But can I tell you, there are still many sheep out there who have never heard their Shepherd’s voice. They hear all kinds of voices in this world. Voices that are trying to rob their joy, kill their faith, and destroy their life.
Here’s my word of encouragement for you today: Christ is counting on you! Since you know His voice, keep following. But next time you run into a sheep who doesn’t know which voice to follow in life, introduce them to Jesus. He is the great Shepherd. Be a friend. Make a friend. Bring a friend to Christ!
Help me recognize Your voice more each day. Help me help others in hearing Your voice in their life as well. In Jesus name I ask this, Amen.
Rev. Dr. MM Marxhausen
I’m pretty sure you’ve all heard the saying “you are what you eat’. I remember seeing a picture somewhere of a guy who was made up of all kinds of different foods. If I remember correctly, it had something to do with the four major food groups.
He had cauliflower as a head, broccoli as lungs, sausages as arms and legs and cheese as his teeth. Every part of his body was made up by using a particular food.
You’ve got to know, this man was very healthy and the picture was encouraging us to eat in a similar way, so that we could be healthy too.
Unfortunately, I’m not sure my food body would be quite so healthy! How many of my body parts can actually be made from chocolate?
The explanation, however, is a good one. The food we place into our bodies correlates with how healthy we are and the energy we have.
Now, while there’s a great deal of focus these days on what we put into our bodies through our mouths, I don’t think there’s enough priority placed on what we put into our bodies through our minds.
We’re taught that if we put trash into our mouths then we’ll be unhealthy, but we also need to realize that if we put trash into our minds then our minds will be unhealthy. That will flow into our relationships, our work, our families and certainly into our faith.
The Old Testament speaks often about the idols that people let into their lives and the destruction that they brought. Read this…
“Everyone who makes idols and all who trust them will end up as helpless as their idols.” Psalm 135:18 CEV
I think that there are still many idols in our world today that look appealing, and yet, bring destruction and separation from Jesus.
While we all have food delicacies that we indulge in every now and again, we also have other treats in our lives that we like to enjoy. Often, when kept in check, these treats are fine, but if we overindulge then they can take over and cause us to be unhealthy.
I’m not referring to things like pornography, gambling, or abuses. These are clearly no-go zones as far as I’m concerned. But there are other things that we like to indulge in that, if taken too far, lead to an unhealthy lifestyle.
Overspending, not prioritizing family, slacking off at work… We all have times and seasons in our lives, but if we allow our little splurges to become a lifestyle then things can get ugly.
Yes, our physical bodies are important to care for, but our mental and spiritual selves are also in need of health and protection.
Here’s my word of encouragement for you today: You are what you eat, so look out for what keeps coming up on the menu.
Help me to understand that what goes into my mind affects me as much as what goes into my body when I eat. In Jesus name I ask this, Amen.
Rev. Dr. MM Marxhausen
The more years I spend in the ministry, the more I notice the liberties we as Christians take with our God. It seems we’re always looking for something new that will really attract us to Him. I’m not suggesting we even do this deliberately or intentional. We’re just so used to creating what we want, even God. We’ll even change the Word of God if necessarily.
But if we really had ears to hear and minds that perceived, we would begin to see how we regulate God down to our level. We create Him in the image we desire. Yes, yes, yes… He’s God, but He’s our friend, our buddy, our pal, the big Guy in the sky. We design Him in a fashion that suits us and one that we best can understand and like. We’re pretty bold in stating “I think God is like…” You finish the sentence!
But if you read Psalm 99, you get a much different picture of God – I believe a more realistic picture of God. God honored His chosen people by taking up residence among them, making His presence known by sitting on His throne in the tabernacle. “You rule from Your throne above the winged creatures…” (99:1) signifing His presence at the Ark of the Covenant, now brought to the City of David.
Even though He may take up residence among His people, we must never forget that He is GOD ALMIGHTY! The psalm writer tell us, we are to exalt Him… we are to hold Him in high esteem… we are to recognize that He is greater than all. We are to worship Him… to kneel at His feet… to bow at His throne… to fall on our faces when we come into His presence. Why? BECAUSE HE ALONE IS HOLY. He is set apart from all others, because He is the One True God. I know in our world today that is considered a bold statement considering that we’re challenged to be accepting of all religions. But there is only one true God.
Yes, now that we are baptized into Christ Jesus, we too are made holy, like He is. But it’s His holiness imparted to us, not anything of our own making.
Here’s my word of encouragement for you today: Spend some time today contemplating the holiness of God. In a notebook or journal, write out ways in which the Triune God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, is uniquely different and set apart from any other being in the universe. Then thank Him for imparting His holiness to you and stop molding Him in an image you like.
We acknowledge that You are God and God alone. There has never been any like You and never will be. Only You are God. Help us to know You, see You and understand You as You’ve revealed Yourself to us, not as we have designed You to be. In Jesus name we ask this, Amen.
Rev. Dr. MM Marxhausen
Sometimes when I read the Word of God first thing in the morning, it’s kind of like losing the warm water in your shower. If you can fathom that feeling you remember how startled you were, it almost took your breath away. One minute you’re standing beneath the nice warmth of water cascading down on you, when all of a sudden, without having touched the dial or no previous notification, it turns into a immediate, death defying feat to either get out of the stream of coldness or turn the dial back up. Your once pleasant adventure of serenity now has left you shivering.
Here’s my cold wake up call this morning. It’s from 1 John 2:6 (CEV)…
“If we say we are His, we must follow the example of Christ.”
That’s pretty bold… Pretty clear. As a matter of fact, crystal clear.
Let’s put it another way… If you claim to be a Christian – you should be acting like Jesus.
But… What does that mean?
Well… Jesus loved everyone. And truly loved them. He cared about whether or not they were sick, He put their needs first. He went out of His way to help. He taught them. He cared if they understood Him or not. He gave up what He wanted on many occasions to help other people.
He healed the sick because He trusted fully in the Father. Not that He couldn’t heal, but He, being man, allowed God to fully work through Him. Why? To be an example.
He didn’t get angry at people for the selfish ways they acted. He was selfless and calm. Put together. In control of His emotions, His anger, His lust, His pride. He controlled Himself. He wasn’t controlled by His flesh. And that’s only a small sample of the way He lived His life.
And I can honestly tell you – that I’m not fully capable of any of these. I mess these up on a daily basis. I avoid, I ignore, I push back, I get angry, I get even, I yell. I’m not anything like Jesus. Talk about a cold wake up call!
But I’m trying. And that’s where the difference is. He encourages us to be as much like Him as we possibly can – and He makes a way for us to do that… but when we fail, which we have, and will, then He doesn’t immediately banish us to hell. He comforts us and picks us up and dusts us off and then says, “We’ll try again tomorrow.”
Here’s my word of encouragement for you today: If you stopped trying, let Him pick you up, dust you off, and allow you to start trying again. It’s a new day.
I don’t always live my life like Jesus. Sometimes I don’t even try. Forgive me. Wash me and clean me. Holy Spirit, walk with me each moment of the day and help me live like my Savior. Jesus, in Your name I ask this, Amen.
Rev. Dr. MM Marxhausen
I read a story of a circus ringmaster who had a standing offer that he was the strongest man in town. He offered a $1000 to anyone who could squeeze the last drop out of a lemon. The ringmaster would squeeze a lemon until all the juice ran into a glass and hand the lemon rind to a contender. Anyone who could squeeze just one drop of juice would get the thousand dollars. Well, everyone would come up and try it. There were cowboys, bodybuilders, ironworkers, farmers, baseball players, wrestlers, you name it. No one could get another drop out of the lemon.
One day a thin, balding, little man came in wearing wire rim glasses. He spoke in a faint squeaky voice; “I can squeeze your lemon.”
Everyone started laughing. The master of ceremonies said, “OK.” He grabbed a lemon, and without even cutting a hole in it started squeezing. Squish, lemon juice ran out into a glass. He handed the wrinkled remains of the lemon over to the little man. He grabbed hold of the lemon remains, as the hysterical laughter faded away. One, two, three big drops of lemon juice plunged into the glass.
The silence turned to hysterical cheers. The ringmaster handed over the money. Then he asked, “How in the world did you do that?” A thousand men have been in here and they couldn’t get a drop out of a lemon. “What in the world do you do for a living?” “Nothing to it,” he said. “I do it every day. I am the treasurer at my church!”
In his letters to the church at Corinth the apostle Paul was encouraging them, along with other Gentile churches, to help by giving financial support to believers at the Jerusalem church. They were going through extremely difficult times financially because of the persecution from the Jews living in Jerusalem. They had been socially ostracized and excommunicated from the synagogues because they believed that Jesus was the Messiah. Their businesses failed because nobody would buy from them any longer.
Paul encouraged these Christians to help with this great need in Jerusalem by putting aside a gift for the Jerusalem fund. The amount of the gift depended on how God provided for them during that week.
The church in Corinth practiced giving while living in poverty. True giving isn’t measured by the size of the gift but by the spirit of the giver. The Corinthian Christians experienced great joy as they provided money for the ministry of Paul. They grew in God’s grace and were exceedingly blessed because they gave themselves to the Lord first and then gave of their resources to support the Lord’s church.
The church practiced the mathematics of Jesus: poverty + joy = true wealth. That’s what Paul wrote…
“You know that our Lord Jesus Christ was kind enough to give up all His riches and become poor, so that you could become rich.” 2 Corinthians 8:9 CEV
Here’s my word of encouragement for you today: “It doesn’t matter how much you have. What matters is how much you are willing to give from what you have.” 2 Corinthians 8:12 CEV
You gave us Your very best in Your Son, Jesus. Help us to give our very best back to You. In Jesus name, Amen.
Rev. Dr. MM Marxhausen
I remember been inquisitive one day and trying to figure out how many promises of God were in the Bible. Let me just say… good thing for the internet! I found a number of different responses, but the general consensus was, there are over three thousand promises God has made to us. These promises range from health, to peace, to prosperity, freedom, finances, family concerns and security.
So that you know, many of these promises were given in the Old Testament based upon a formula most of us are very familiar with: “If” we keep the commands of the Lord — “then” He will solve our problems, do amazing things, and take complete care of us. For example: Deuteronomy 11:22-23: “Love the LORD your God and obey all the laws and teachings that I’m giving you today. If you live the way the LORD wants, (then) He will help you take the land. And even though the nations there are more powerful than you, the LORD will force them to leave when you attack” (CEV)
We totally get this because it’s how we’ve learned to function: “If we do this, then we’ll receive that.” The problem is we know that we don’t always love the Lord with all our heart, soul, mind and strength, and we don’t always walk in His ways, and we don’t always hold fast to Him. With this kind of thinking in place we know, when we don’t do the “ifs” we can’t expect the “thens”.
However, as I was reading my Bible this morning I came across a passage in which a man by the name of Paul tells us, God already has done the “if” part through His Son Christ Jesus. And He’s given us the Holy Spirit so we can be absolutely certain of His guarantee. Read this…
“Christ says ‘Yes’ to all of God’s promises. That’s why we have Christ to say ‘Amen’ for us to the glory of God. And so God makes it possible for you and us to stand firmly together with Christ. God is also the one who chose us, and put His Spirit in our hearts to show that we belong only to Him.” 2 Corinthians 1:20-22 CEV
So, Deuteronomy 11:22 now says: “Jesus kept all these commands I gave you to follow — He loved the Lord His God, He walked in obedience to Him, He held fast to Him.” So by God’s grace and for His glory — no matter how weak, foolish and undeserving we are — when we opened our heart to Jesus, He placed us in Christ and all His promises became “Yes” and “Amen.”
Here’s my word of encouragement for you today: We’re no longer “If,” “Then” people! In Christ, live as “Yes” and “Amen” people.
Thank You for Your promises that are still for today. And thank You that in our Savior, Jesus, each and every one of them is “Yes” and “Amen.” Jesus in Your glorious name we pray, Amen.
Rev. Dr. MM Marxhausen