Sunday 12-11-16, Home again, Modesto USA
Today we read Philemon and Hebrews 1 - 4
S. Philem 17-19 So if you consider me your partner, give him the same welcome you would give me if I were coming. If he has harmed you in any way or stolen anything from you, charge me for it. I, Paul, write this in my own handwriting: "I will repay it." And I won't mention that you owe me your very soul! NLT
O. There is obviously quite a story surrounding this letter to Philemon. Philemon is apparently a convert to Christ through the ministry of Paul in Ephesus which reached out to the entire area. Onesimus is a run-away slave from Philemon’s household that has gone as far as Rome and somehow meets Paul in prison and is marvelously converted. Now Paul sends him back to the place of his escape with this letter… a letter of intercession for Onesimus’ life.
A. I immediately am reminded of a black man that was converted in Lighthouse Rescue Mission, Portland, Oregon, where we attended when I was a little child. Reverend Harry DeVries was our pastor. The black man confessed to killing 4 men in cold blood back in Missouri 1,500 miles away. Ten years had passed and the authorities were no longer searching for him. He asked his pastor what he should do. His pastor said, “What do think you should do?” “I must go back and confess my crime.” He did and was given a life sentence in a prison in Missouri. He wrote the pastor letters of great joy from his prison cell. Somehow my mother got some of those letters and read them to us kids at our morning devotional at home. I remember looking at the handwriting and rejoicing with his joy. Then 7 years later this man was conditionally released on good-conduct and allowed to travel to Oregon. I will never forget the day he returned and stood to testify. I can still see him standing there… for his black face literally lit up the whole church hall! I was now a teenager and when I saw that face, I knew God was real! I saw Him shining in the face of a black ex-criminal.
P. Lord, how could I ever doubt You! I have witnessed Your power at work in hundreds of lives. You do not just heal the body. You heal the soul! And it shows like a light beaming out from under the skin of a condemned person’s face. Only You can make a sinner shine like a lighthouse. Amen.