Refreshing – Philemon 1.20

Yes, brother, let me have some benefit from you in the Lord.

Refresh my heart in Christ.

At first glance, there is nothing different or unusual about what Paul says here, is there? He has been writing to Philemon about being motivated by grace (vv.1-7) and grace in action (vv.8-22), and begins his closure with this confident request, refresh my heart in Christ.

Yes, brother, let me have some benefit from you in the Lord. Refresh my heart in Christ.

(Philemon 1.20)

The funny thing is though, where we read in our English Bibles ‘heart‘, Paul actually used the word σπλάγχνον, which, most commonly, is translated as bowels or intestines¹. So, is Paul writing to Philemon to schedule a colonoscopy?

Literally, σπλάγχνον does mean bowels or intestines, but figuratively it carries the meaning of the place of deepest emotion in your body, where your affections come from. For us in 2021, we would say something like

He has a broken heart’, or,

My heart is just so full of love for her’,

or something to that effect.

When we describe the deepest emotion we could feel we would connect it to the heart, right?. Back in Paul’s day the deepest emotions were thought to come from the deepest place inside you, in the same way you may hear something like

I feel it in the pit of my stomach’.

All this to say, Paul is talking about serious, deep rooted, from-the- inside-out refreshment, and this certainly doesn’t come from temporal or temporary sources.

Yes, brother, let me have some benefit from you in the Lord. Refresh my heart in Christ.

(Philemon 1.20)

In context, Paul is talking about receiving a runaway slave back as a brother (vv.15-16). He knows that just as Philemon came to a saving faith in Christ through Paul (v.19b  it appears that Onesimus, the runaway slave, did too (v.8-16). Paul knows that we all share in one Lord, we all have one Saviour, and in Him there is no distinction.

The deep refreshment in Christ that Paul is looking for comes from seeing others live out the business of the Gospel.

Someone Paul has pointed to Christ is now doing the work of Christ; forgiving, restoring, fellowshipping, and encouraging.

What deep refreshment this would bring to Paul.

Think on this today – Who can I refresh in the Lord by doing the work of the Gospel?


¹ – Mounce Greek Dictionary 

It Is Well

There’s been plenty going on this last 15 months that doesn’t sit well with us, hasn’t there? As I sit to write, more than three million people have died with COVID ¹. Many have lost jobs, incomes, homes, or loved ones. Opportunities planned and hoped for haven’t come to pass. Many have found themselves grieving over a future not yet lived or the taking away of any kind of future certainty.

Where do we turn for any sort of stability and security in seasons like this?


Horatio Spafford was born in New York in 1828, and God blessed him and his wife with five children and considerable wealth. Horatio was a lawyer and owned property. 

In 1870 his then four year old son died of scarlet fever, and a year later much of his property was lost to fire. Then, in 1873, tragedy struck again. Whilst crossing the Atlantic on their way to England, the ship carrying Horatio’s wife and four daughters was struck by another vessel and sank. Horatio was delayed due to business and was not onboard. His wife, Anna, survived and cabled her husband and included the phrase “saved alone”.

All four of his daughters died. 

Horatio dropped everything and set off for England to be with his wife and whilst on the journey the captain told him they were passing over the very spot where that fateful ship had sunk. Horatio returned to his cabin and wrote the hymn ‘It Is Well With My Soul’

His life had further ups and downs, as all do, and he died in 1888 of malaria. He entered into the rest of his Saviour and was buried in Jerusalem, where he had been caring for the sick, poor, and orphaned along with Anna.

When peace like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll
Whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to say
It is well, it is well, with my soul
 
It is well
With my soul
It is well, it is well with my soul
 
Though Satan should buffet,
though trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ has regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul
It is well
With my soul
It is well, it is well with my soul
My sin, oh, the bliss of this glorious thought
My sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, o my soul

If Horatio Spafford can experience such peace and comfort in a time of such horrible, gut-wrenching loss, then so can we.

Though Satan should buffet, 
though trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ has regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul

It was well with his soul, as he wrote, because he knew that in his own words,

“We passed over the spot where she went down, in mid-ocean, the waters three miles deep.

But I do not think our dear ones there…

they were safe…dear lambs…

This wonderful hymn encourages us to praise our gracious God no matter what the circumstances, for, as Paul writes to the Romans, I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.


Scripture references – Psalm 42.1–11, 103.1–22, Romans 8.31–39


¹ – https://ourworldindata.org/coronavirus-data


The Heart Of Our (return to in-person) Worship

If you’re in Bahrain and an active part of our church family, Saar Fellowship, you know that about a week ago we were given blessing to organise and hold in-person worship services again.

It’s been a while: Friday 28th February 2020 was our last in-person gathering. As we work through the myriad number of guidelines and public health requirements that we need to follow to hold a service it would be good just to pause and think about the whys and the whats of our gatherings. 

First, let’s get some don’ts out of the way.

We don’t gather for a slick, well produced worship experience. If your church’s services are like that, kudos to them. If they’re not, that’s fine too. 

We don’t gather for a free cup of weak coffee and a cheap biscuit. 

We don’t gather so that we have a place to offload our kids for an hour a week. 

We don’t gather to have all of our personal preferences met and all of our felt needs pampered. 

So why do we gather?

We regularly lay aside time to gather with and as God’s people because the Christian life is lived in community (Hebrews 10.24-25, for example). For a few months this has been gathering in much smaller groups and then connecting with other groups online, but still, we’ve been gathering.

We gather to edify, encourage, and equip one another (1 Peter 4.10, for example).

We gather to amplify and magnify God’s presence in our individual lives through the common faith that we share (Jude 1.3, for example).

What we do flows from why we do it. 

 

Why > What

For this next season of our church life, things will be different. There will be some people gathering in person, some people gathering online. There will be things we did before that we are not doing for the moment. It will be a more compact and condensed service.

The important thing to remember is that the why is more important than the what.

We gather because God is great, God is faithful, and God is deserving of our worship. How that looks is always going to be contextual, and for this next season, our context is a little different to before. Things won’t be like this forever, this is simply a step in the process of our return to pre-pandemic gatherings. 

So, as we move towards to the joyous prospect of an in-person service later this month, Lord willing, consider why we do church more than the what of church.

The whats will all return at some point, but our why never changes.

 


 

When the music fades
All is stripped away
And I simply come
Longing just to bring
Something that’s of worth
That will bless Your heart

I’ll bring You more than a song
For a song in itself
Is not what You have required
You search much deeper within
Through the way things appear
You’re looking into my heart

I’m coming back to the heart of worship
And it’s all about You, it’s all about You, Jesus
I’m sorry, Lord, for the thing I’ve made it
When it’s all about You, it’s all about You, Jesus

King of endless worth
No one could express
How much you deserve
Though I’m weak and poor
All I have is Yours
Every single breath!

I’ll bring You more than a song
For a song in itself
Is not what You have required
You search much deeper within
Through the way things appear
You’re looking into my heart, yeah

I’m coming back to the heart of worship
And it’s all about You, it’s all about You, Jesus
I’m sorry, Lord, for the thing I’ve made it
When it’s all about You, it’s all about You, Jesus
I’m coming back to the heart of worship
And it’s all about You, it’s all about You, Jesus
I’m sorry, Lord, for the thing I’ve made it
When it’s all about You, it’s all about You, Jesus


Bent Out Of Shape – The Story Of Jonah

Quite often we see the story of Jonah used to illustrate the truth that we ought to listen to God and obey what He says. If you get it wrong the first time, you’d better get it right the next time, kind of thing…The conclusion isn’t wrong: we ought to listen to God, and we ought to obey what He says (Deuteronomy 6.4, Ecclesiastes 5.1). However, using the story of Jonah might not be the best way to make this point. Maybe you’ve seen this before:

The LORD’s message came to Jonah a second time, “Go immediately to Nineveh, that large city, and proclaim to it the message that I tell you.” So Jonah went immediately to Nineveh, in keeping with the LORD’s message.

(Jonah 3.1-3a)

The explanation usually goes something like ‘See, God spoke, and Jonah went…’. 

So is the main message of Jonah a moral lesson for you and me about obedience and being faithful to God’s call? Well, that is in there for sure, but is it the primary message? 

Contrary to what many preachers and interpreters say, that is not the primary point of Jonah. The primary point of Jonah is not about how Jonah should have obeyed, it’s about how God continued his redemptive plan despite Jonah’s disobedience. 

Think about this – 

God’s plan was one man.

God’s plan for Nineveh was one man, Jonah, 
and that was sufficient.
God’s plan for mankind was one man, Jesus, 
and that was sufficient.

David Guzik wrote this:

“Jonah gave his life to appease the wrath of God coming upon others. 

But…death did not hold him – three days and nights later he was free of imprisonment, he was alive and free.”

Think: read that again and swap Jonah for Jesus:

Jesus gave his life to appease the wrath of God coming upon others. 

But…death did not hold him – three days and nights later Jesus was free of imprisonment, he was alive and free.”

(emphasis added)

What is the story of Jonah really about then?

It’s about the truth that Jesus is the better Jonah.

It’s about how the Ninevites needed Jonah to preach a message of repentance and forgiveness, and we needed Jesus to do the same. 

It’s about how through one man God worked the salvation of an entire nation.

It’s about how God’s plan was one man.

Bent Out Of Shape – Romans 8.28

Romans 8.28 is often used on social media in posts like this: 

It looks nice, sounds nice, and gives us a warm fuzzy feeling, right? God is working out everything, so everything is gonna be alright. When this verse is misunderstood we can be left feeling that we will have a hassle-free life, a trouble-free life, and a pain-free life. Sadly, this is never promised to us when we put faith in Jesus. 

But, what is promised is that even though we will endure present sufferings(Romans 8.18), each and every experience in our lives, both good and bad, is working together to form the whole. 

Our experiences and challenges together with our sufferings and our losses are never isolated from each other. God has Sovereignly ordained everything to work together for our ultimate good.

“…we know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose, because those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that his Son would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. And those he predestined, he also called; and those he called, he also justified; and those he justified, he also glorified.”

(Romans 8.28-30)

Life is hard, there is no doubt about that. We will experience pain, we will experience loss, and we will experience suffering. But, at the core, we can rejoice even though that may feel so unnatural. We can do this because, ultimately, God is over all, God is directing our steps, and although we may not be able to see it, feel it, or experience it this side of heaven, He is working all things work together for good for those who love God

Romans 8.28 doesn’t guarantee you a a hassle-free life, a trouble-free life, and a pain-free life. It does, however, show us that God is leading us in a good life, a life that Jesus lived, died, and rose to secure (vv.29-30).