Happy Labor Day! If you have this holiday off, I hope you enjoy it. If you are working that three day weekend grind like many of us, I hope you still find time to enjoy our celebration of hard work and the American spirit. The song I am sharing today may be a song I shared earlier this year, but it seems like a new song to me. At work I am blessed with the opportunity to listen to the radio when I am out on the streets. This song is played in Air1‘s radio rotation and every time it comes on I blast the volume, cruise with my windows down and ride throughout my beloved city under the glorious starry sky. Make room for Jesus to do whatever He wants to. It’s Labor Day, do a little work clearing out your life to give Jesus all the room.
15Perhaps the reason he was separated from you for a little while was that you might have him back forever-16no longer a slave, but better than a slave, as a dear brother. He is very dear to me but even dearer to you, both as a fellow man as a brother in the Lord. (Philemon 15, 16)
Paul’s final contribution to the New Testament is a short letter to a brother in Christ in regards to forgiveness and acceptance. In this time of our world’s history, around 60-62 AD, slavery was, unfortunately, a common way of life. And even more of a misfortune was that as much as Christianity preached freedom, there was no major movement to end the slavery of individuals. Even the Hebrews, who had felt the sting of slavery for over 400 years from the Egyptian empire, was still enslaving their own people and other races. So while this letter could have been much more earth shattering, if Paul had argued for the complete abolition of slavery, he did not in this letter. But what Paul did do is petition Philemon to demonstrate the love and forgiveness of Philemon’s slave Onesimus, who had run away from Philemon and stolen some of his property. Onesimus ends up in Rome with Paul, which can only be attested to God’s divine hand. Onesimus becomes a Christian under Paul and assists Paul while he is imprisoned in Rome. Paul sends Onesimus back to Philemon with the letter from Paul. While we do not know what happened, it can be assumed that Onesimus is forgiven and perhaps he and Philemon do become brother’s in Christ. Jesus has the power to heal relationships like this, so it is not hard to believe. In my studies of this Epistle, I found it interesting to learn that the second Bishop of Ephesus, following Timothy, was Onesimus and many Eastern Orthodox churches observe Saint Onesimus on February 15.
As this letter demonstrates, slavery has been a disease that has plagued this planet for millenia. Luckily for us as Americans, God raised a bold man named Abraham Lincoln to fight for the end of slavery in our country just over 155 years ago. But as we have seen in 2020, the discrimination that still exists from “institutional racism” is still real in some pockets of America. We have also allowed capitalism and technology to enslave us in this generation. While we have all been spiritually set free from sin and death by Jesus, we allow the world to keep us in chains. We are slaves to distractions, financial hardships, and the endless pursuit of success. We refuse to live truly free lives, we equate wealth with freedom, i.e., if only we were rich we would have the freedom to do whatever we wish. Well, the true goal is to be free from all of this: to become financially free, to live modestly and within a budget, saving and building a monetary safety net to handle all of life’s unpredictable circumstances. Free from the social pressure to have the newest, nicest things. Free from the need to constantly seek approval from others. Free from chasing the next great promotion or better job. Only you can set yourself free from these chains. Jesus is the key to open any lock, but you have to be willing to make the changes and turn the door handle.
Reading plan: Philemon
Deeper reading plan: Ezekiel 13, 14
Prayer and meditation: Pray for our country. Pray for love to conquer all. Pray for God’s wings of protection to cover all the children returning to school. Pray that Christ infects our hearts and ignites a final fire of revival to sweep this land.
Fitness challenge: Day 7-7 reps each:
- Hand-release Push-up
- Jumping squat
- Leg lift
Run: Monday is our resistance running day. If you have a young child and a jogging stroller, that can be your resistance. I will be doing hills on Monday, running to a spot with a moderate incline and doing six up and downs. Stairs in stadiums are a great substitute as well. Perform 6 sprints with whatever resistance you can come up with, add a half mile warm-up and cool-down.