Reconcile: A Study of Philemon

now available!

Introduction To Philemon
by Dr. Frank Teat

Picture the worst looking group of weeds in your flowerbed.
 Can you see them?
FOUL WEED
Now picture your favorite fruit.
 Watermelon? Grape? Orange? Apple? Raisin?
CHOICE FRUIT
This letter Paul wrote to Philemon describes a word picture of what you were thinking about.
Except it’s not about plants.
          It’s about God’s crowning creation.
                Man

Philemon describes in one verse how men can transform from a foul weed, to choice fruit. Onesimus means “useful.” Paul, using a play on words, describes Onesimus’ transformation from useless to useful. Philemon 11 reads, “Formerly he was useless to you, but now he is indeed useful to you and to me.”

Why did I ask you to picture the worst looking group of weeds and your favorite fruit at the beginning of this introduction? I prompted that imagery because in the Old Testament, the Hebrew utilizes the words useless and useful to describe weeds and plants.(1) “Bashaw” describes a useless plant and foul weed. “Zimrah” on the other hand, is not only a useful plant, but a choice fruit.

You are God’s “choice fruit.” King David desired to be the “apple of God’s eye” in Psalm 17:8, a choice fruit. Why did he choose that phrase? Maybe David was repeating a phrase from the Law (Pentateuch) he had meditated on many times. In Deuteronomy 32:10, God promised He would care for and guard His people, the “apple of His eye.”

God is in the business of molding the useless into the useful. This is what God does. He reconciles that which is broken back to Himself through Christ. He calls us to be vessels of reconciliation as we bear His image. I pray through the reading, studying, and meditating on this letter to Philemon, you recognize your purpose.

Why study Philemon?

  • Philemon is a timely letter for those feeling useless – to know there is hope.
  • Philemon is a timely letter for those who know someone like Onesimus and to champion their cause.
  • Philemon is a timely letter for those who, like the letter’s namesake, might need a word of encouragement from a trusted brother or sister in the Lord. Maybe you need accountability to make the right decision concerning reconciliation with others.
  • Philemon is a timely letter for those who have been reconciled to God and are walking the journey – from useless to useful.

Pastor Frank Teat, Ph.D.

Frank has been married to his beautiful bride, Carol Beth, for forty years. He started his career as a teacher and coach, and was called into full-time ministry in 1987. For 22 years Frank served as Student Pastor at North Orange Baptist Church in Orange, Texas and then at First Baptist Church in Henderson, Texas. God then called him to serve as Pastor of Administration/Education at Summer Grove Baptist Church. He is currently the Pastor of Connections (Discipleship and Ministries) at First Baptist Bossier City in Louisiana.

     Frank loves spending time with his two children (Sara and Jonathan), their spouses and children (six grandkids!!), teaching God’s Word, hunting, running/fitness, reading, and really enjoys playing the guitar and helping lead worship!

Frank

1 Spiros Zodhiates, Hebrew-Greek Key Word Study Bible : New American Standard Bible.

A New Year: Thrive 2/4

a-new-year-thriveAnd let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.
(Galatians 6:9)
That time of the year has come where we approach setting goals and try to change a habit or two. Looking and feeling lean has always been a goal of mine, and it will take determination to get there. I have had success within the first 21 days and I tell myself it’s not just for my appearance, but also for my overall health. But now that February has approached, I notice that I’m not progressing on my New Year’s Resolution as I would have hoped. So, I try different eating habits and exercise routines hoping the end result is not that I end up back where I was before I made this commitment to myself to make myself healthier.
We are stewards of this vessel God has given us and it is our job to nurture it. Our hearts are idol-making factories as Augustine once said. We fail because we focus on ourselves. We place ourselves as the goal.
Imagine if we focused on what God wanted us to do? We could use that same drive, determination, and motive behind our resolution and direct it toward God’s will and purpose for our lives. Will we be perfect? No of course not. We are sinners after all. Paul says not even he has achieved the goal, but presses on (Philippians 3:14). We should have a daily RESOLUTION to pray and study the Word of God. Just as my 21-day Fix videos tell me to take it one day and one pound at a time, we should daily ask God to keep us on track.
John Owen says we should be killing sin or it will be killing you. Let us press on toward the goal, the upwards calling of Christ Jesus.
You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop and look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, “I have lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.” You must do the one thing you think you cannot do.
(Eleanor Roosevelt)
Jessica Statler
TVBC Youth Minister’s Wife
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A New Year: Thrive 1/28

a-new-year-thriveGrowing up in the church, I sometimes felt I did not have a testimony to share that would allow people to see God’s hand in my life. Up until a few years ago, my life was pretty easy. Ups and downs would come but I could easily manage through.

Spring Break of 2010 changed that.

During this holiday week, God added three additional children to our home. Dealing with the heartache that comes through a CPS case is hard enough for adults, but even worse on the children involved. God used this crisis to bring family devotions into our home as I tried to help my children, my niece, and my nephews make sense of this situation. A few months later in August, our world would stop in an instant.

I can clearly remember the moment Dr. Barkis told Nathan and I they found a mass on my brain. For what felt like the first time in my life, I was not in control of anything. I had no choice but to rely on God.

At the end of September, I could no longer keep up appearances. I needed a release. I spent time with God and completely gave him everything, allowing him to carry me and my family. The feeling of relief and calm was almost indescribable.

From that day on, I was free to see God’s hand at work. Many of my coworkers and friends ironically believed me to be in a state of disbelief or denial, but I was able to use those moments and give God praise for His strength.

Both of these difficult situations are not closed chapters in my journey home but God is in control of them. I may never completely understand the reason for my struggles but I know they are part of bigger plan.

I know in every situation God will be glorified.

My testimony may have a little more punch to it now, but God will use all of us, if we are willing, to better His kingdom through the word of each unique testimony. When is the last time you let go gave God complete control?

This I declare about the Lord: He alone is my refuge, my place of safety; He is my God, and I trust Him.

(Psalm 91:2)

Amber Franklin

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A New Year: Thrive 1/27

a-new-year-thriveI told Sara I would write two articles for Thrive and the first was my experience with cancer. In this article, I would like to share about my time at TVBC as the Children’s Ministry Director. As I reflect on my time served, in these last few days before my “retirement,” the memories have come like a flood. Some memories are accompanied by laughter, some with tears, and some where my heart wants to burst at the goodness of God!

I have served at Taylor’s Valley eight years, a few as Preschool director, and the remainder as Children’s Ministry Director. I remember being approached about taking on the Children’s Department and I had one immediate condition…I could NOT give up my preschoolers! I wanted all or nothing! I do not regret that choice and am thankful it was approved. Now those preschoolers are the older children in my department.

I am SO incredibly proud of each and every one of “my” kids, from babies to kids already promoted to youth. Someone recently commented I had made an impact on their child’s life…but the truth is the children have made a profound impact on mine!

I have “worked” with children since I was fourteen in some way or another. I was not blessed with children of my own and even when we sought to adopt, my health got in the way. That door shut several times. But I’ve never been bitter. Truly. I can say that because the Lord blessed me with all of your children! Yes, I think of them as my own. I love and pray for them as if they are my own. And I will always be grateful to all of you for entrusting me with the care of your children!

God did all that for me. He gave me each and every single one from the time I was fourteen to now, the age of 50. One of my former kids deemed me, “Mother of Bell County” once….I’ll take that! What an honor! 

screen-shot-2017-01-27-at-5-43-56-amMy eight years at this church has been sweet, at times challenging, at times bitter-BUT the children have always been my joy and so many times, an anchor keeping me going. I use the term “Beyond Blessed” all the time-but it’s truly how I feel! Here’s a few examples of the joys and blessings I have experienced through the years: 

Watching the kids connect with the scripture and memorize a verse;

Watching the kids truly worship in the praise time of Sports Camp;

Watching the joy of huddle times;

Enjoying bible study with preteen camp kids;

Enjoying fellowship time at “chow” with them;

Mom and daughter retreats;

Holding the sleepy little ones and rocking;

Reading a book to a toddler;

Yes, even getting “bitten” by the playdough dinosaur by 3-year old boys in extended care!

The conversations, the hugs, their sweet prayers, passing out their bibles from the church…all the special events. Most of all, I have had the privilege of watching many of “my” kids make the ultimate decision, to ask Jesus to be their Lord. There is nothing like being present when a child prays the prayer!! NOTHING! God gave me the gift of getting to see the last of my original 3-year old preschool group get baptized just recently. That was a sweet gift from Him.

screen-shot-2017-01-27-at-6-08-08-amI may have to step down from my position and “retire” from children’s ministry, but my heart will remain with MY kids. I will hold on to these precious memories for the rest of my life. Their sweet faces and smiles will always warm my heart! I will continue to pray for MY kids, because they are my blessings from the Lord!! I am so thankful for my time here. Thank you so much for allowing me to serve in my “dream job.” It’s been the very best 8 years.

I have to share this as I close and hope Bro. Jared doesn’t mind. This sums it all up in a nut shell! The staff was meeting this week to finalize some things and Jared shared with me his girls had attended the Women’s Ministry Movie Night. As Jared was dropping them off, his boys were in the car and wanted to go too. They were begging, but dad said, “No, this is for the girls and ladies.” His youngest, Jacob, exclaimed, “But Mrs. Beth loves us!” That’s EXACTLY what I hope each of the TVBC kiddos know….

1. Jesus loves them

and

2. Mrs. Beth loves them too…ALWAYS!!!

But Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to such as these.”

(Matthew 19:14)

Beyond Blessed,

Beth Harris

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My last Wednesday night with TVBC Kiddos!

A New Year: Thrive 1/24

a-new-year-thrive“My times are in Thy Hand.”

Psalm 31:15

Eight years ago, I was brand new to the Taylor’s Valley staff by a few months, and went in for a routine women’s well check. What began as routine ended up as a full hysterectomy due to the detection of early stages of uterine cancer. The Lord was so very present in my life during this time and I experienced SO many of His blessings. The doctors told me tests do not usually pick up cancer cells in the uterus and had I waited a few months, the cancer would have been full blown.

When I got “the call” on my back porch one morning, I looked up in the blue sky and heard that still, quiet, and firm voice inside me ask, “How much are you going to trust Me?” I responded to the Lord, “I choose to trust You, Lord.” You see, I had been asking God to give me the kind of relationship my mother had with Him. Little did I know He would use a trial to strengthen my walk with Him!

He is so faithful!!!

He kept me in perfect peace through it every step of the way. There was only one time I was anxious. It was the appt. when we went to find out what stage of cancer I was in, at this point we did not know. As my sweet husband and I sat there in the doctor’s office waiting for what seemed like an eternity for Dr. Capen to come, I started to get antsy and shaking, telling my husband over and over it was taking too long. Then all of the sudden, the smoke alarm started going off! While we did not have to leave the facility, we did have to evacuate the area. It turned out to be a small electrical fire with one of their office machines…but it was EXACTLY what I needed to break the tension. After that, I was relaxed again and ready for the news!

He is so faithful!

I was flooded with flowers, calls, visitors, meals, prayers, and support from friends, family. Prayer warriors from so many churches, even across the country prayed for me. It was a humbling experience! The women of our church gave me such encouragement in those early days when we did not know what “stage” I was in. I was amazed how many cancer survivors there were in this church and words cannot express how much it meant to this “new” staff member to be supported. Our pastor came every day to the hospital and prayed with me. The nursing staff was phenomenal. It was my first surgery ever that required a hospital stay and I can’t say enough how much I appreciated the people He placed in my path.

He is so faithful!!

The end results were I was one sick girl. Not only did they find pre-cancer cells, but severe hypo-plasia, endometrial scarring in the fallopian tubes, and cysts (too many to count) on my ovaries (PCOS) (Which kept me from losing weight & having children). I didn’t love being thrown into “forced menopause”…but it’s better than the alternative. I could have had to face chemo and other horrible things cancer victims endure. I would not trade my experience for anything, because I felt His presence and it is indescribable.

My God is faithful

He has blessed me beyond measure and I am thankful to be able to live in His grace and mercy. I am SO very far from being perfect and certainly have made MANY bad decisions in my life, but that’s what living in God’s grace is about. If it were not for Christ’s sacrifice, I would not be where I am. I am thankful for the gift of my husband, my family, friends (old and new), children He has placed in my life, and our loving, supportive church!

He truly is faithful!

“Your steadfast love, O Lord, expands to the heavens, your faithfulness to the clouds.”

Psalms 36:5

Beth Harris

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A New Year: Thrive 1/19

a-new-year-thriveOur home telephone rang on the morning of January 1, 2003.
Still recovering from a youth lock-in the night before, I hardly noticed it. The phone was on Sara’s side of the bed, so I did not even move. But after answering the phone, Sara woke me and said I needed to get on the phone with her.
Strange.
My father-in-law was on the phone. Immediately, I felt something was wrong. I could hear it in his voice. Indeed, the news he had to deliver…well, you can’t mask it and talk as though everything is okay.
“Jared, your Dad went for a walk this morning…”
He didn’t have to say anything else. Somehow I knew.
My Dad had died.
I don’t remember anything else that was said.
I dropped the phone, went to the living room, dropped to my knees, and wept. Instinctively, I yelled, “No!” I must have said it a dozen times. My wife came moments later and wept with me.
Up to that point in my life, I’d never really wept over anything. Sure, there had been times I had cried, but I had never experienced loss like this. And I haven’t experienced anything like it since.
My Dad was my best friend. I always felt loved and valued in his presence. And there was a deep sense of warmth and joy when we were together. In an instant, those days were over…
Fourteen years later, I stood in my kitchen surrounded by my wife and kids. I was telling my kids the story of how I asked Sara to marry me (that’s another story for another day). Dad played a key role in that story and so I began to tell my kids about him. And surprisingly, as though it happened yesterday, I suddenly began to weep.
As it turns out, after fourteen years and at a moments notice, I can reenter that world of grief.
Having experienced grief for myself and having observed grief in others while serving as pastor, three thoughts come to mind.
Weep. Jesus wept. There’s a time for us to weep also. Grief is a glorious ruin. We live in a broken world. The Bible takes it as a given people will weep. In weeping we acknowledge things are not as they should be. We are restless for God to set the world right. We join with others and say, “How long, O Lord?” We look at the world as it is and with deep grief, yell, “No!” 
 
Hope. Though we say, “No!” to the world as it presently is, we are assured the brokenness is fleeting. Why? Because Christ has overcome death. One day we will chant with all the saints, “O death, where is you victory? O death, where is your sting?” O, to utter those beautifully powerful words! In hope we boast in the victory of our great God and Savior.
 
Learn. Losing someone often drives us to think more critically about life, our relationships, and our purpose. We realize our time is short and life is fragile. Grief can help us gain greater focus on what matters and clarity on why we are here. Paul encouraged his readers to make the best use of the time for the days are evil (Ephesians 5:15-21). Walking through grief can motivate a person to take this admonition more seriously.
In the end, I remain deeply thankful for the time I had to spend with my Dad. I recommitted to love those closest to me, making the most of the time we have together. And one day, I know I will be reunited with Dad in the presence of Jesus, where there is fullness of joy and pleasures forevermore.
Jared Burt
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A New Year: Thrive 1/18

a-new-year-thriveMy name is Madison. I am a teenage girl and this is my story.
As a very young toddler, weekends were a struggle. While my mom worked weekend shifts trying to keep our family afloat, my Saturdays were often spent taking care of my younger brother’s most basic needs, feeding us both while my dad was MIA or incoherent. By age four I was left without a father and the struggle to survive was greater. At the age of six I had a second little brother come into my world, but when I found out he was physically disabled and unable to communicate, my entire world came crashing down.
Over time, I learned to cope with the difficult days, but with my littlest brother Caleb needing special care and attention, I often felt pushed to the back.
At age seven I accepted Christ and have great memories of those tween years.
When I turned ten we moved away from our home town. Moving was difficult because it meant leaving the home, friends, and family I had always known. Two hours away seemed worlds away.
My mom remarried and I found myself in a new family. With now six kids under the roof, I again often felt overlooked for the next five years. Yelling and arguing became the norm with that many personalities colliding together.
The marriage didn’t last, and after the divorce, we moved back to the city I had once called my home. I was now thirteen and starting my eighth grade year. Eighth grade year began less eventful, and seemed smooth sailing until Christmas. Caleb, my youngest brother, took a huge dip in physical health and at the time, we thought he wouldn’t make it to Christmas Day.
I was shaken so hard when I was told.
I stopped eating for a while. I lost my appetite most days and I lost a lot of weight.
When Christmas Day finally came, he was still with us and I was ecstatic. I couldn’t believe it.
The summer went well, ninth grade year rolled around, and I was doing great. Then, at the beginning of January, I told my mom I needed help with some depression issues I was having. I felt I was almost to my breaking point. Once I started talking to my counselor, things got better. But it seemed just when things were taking a turn, I found out my one year old cousin, Mabry, was sick and in the hospital. I went to visit her and could not stop crying. I was so afraid to lose her and I still am. One of my biggest fears is to lose anyone I love. Whether it be by death or a lost relationship.
God has helped me through all of this by sticking by my side. One verse that helps me is,
“I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.”
Philippians 4:13
Christ will always be there. He’s always with you, so lean in and accept His help.