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.

Angels Unaware

8617F1BF-3CB1-4B32-87FF-A83770667580A year ago this week I was traveling to South Africa by myself to visit some dear friends and learn about their project overseas. This was my first overseas trip in a decade and I was going it alone. My family and I were somewhat apprehensive as the departing day grew closer. I had been briefed concerning what to say, who not to talk to, etc.

Departure at the airport was bittersweet as my brother dropped me off. I had this moment where I stood still, surveyed the horizon, and determined to dive into the adventure. I was quite proud of my adventurous spirit. The boarding process was smooth as I found my seat and settled in for the first 12-hour flight.

About halfway through the flight I rose from my seat and headed to the restroom. As I walked the isle, I noticed an older gentleman of foreign nationality watching me a little too closely. As I returned to my seat, he stood in the isle blocking my way, and clearly intended to talk. Through his thick accent he asked my name, where I was from, where I was going, and why. Red alarms went off inside my head. Such questions were ones I had been prompted to avoid. I certainly was not providing my destination point and my reasons for travel. I feigned unable to understand his questions, and quickly found the comfort of my seat.

Unfortunately on such a long flight, restroom trips become more frequent as the trip continued. During several other passes to the restroom, the same gentleman attempted conversation. By his last attempt, I was sure he thought me to be quite rude as I was not at all willing to continue any conversation at length. The cold shoulder…I was giving it my best shot.

With great excitement, we arrived in Dubai and waited to exit the plane. As we departed the plane and into the airport, we first had a security checkpoint. A hundred or more passengers went through security check in front of me with no delays. Due to seat placement, I was in one of the last sections of passengers to go through security. I watched the passengers pass security checks without problems, and I assured myself I would pass through without delay.

As my backpack went through the security belt, I was horrified to see and hear red lights and alarms. I cannot quite describe the immediate panic. I had tediously followed the rules precisely because I did not want to be searched in a foreign country while traveling alone! I had memorized my flight itinerary, and subsequently knew I had only 45 minutes before boarding ended for my next flight. The security attendant grabbed my backpack and walked to a corner private room with dark windows. Another security guard asked me to sit down on a bench underneath those large looming windows facing the tarmac, and wait. Wait to see if I would pass security.

As the minutes ticked by, I watched my backpack sit isolated on a table in the darkroom, with no one touching it. I myself sat on the designated bench frozen in fear as I watched the remaining 50 or so passengers pass through security and leave the area for their terminal. After what felt like hours (25 minutes), two attendants entered the dark room and began removing every item from my backpack, piece by piece. They examined each article, swiped each with a wet cloth, and ultimately emptied my belongings onto the table. When nothing was left to remove, the security guards began packing my items back into my bag, zipped it up, and headed my direction. By this time, no passengers remained in the entire security area. I was completely alone.

Without any drama, an attendant handed my backpack over and nonchalantly said thank you as dismissal. I chose not to ask why my backpack had been flagged, but kindly thanked them and made a bee-line for the exit. As I turned the corner for the escalators, two men had evidently been sitting on a bench hidden from site by a partition. As we saw one another, they stood and waited for me. As I neared the men, I was shocked and scared to identify one of the men as the one whom was relentless in his conversation attempts on the plane. He immediately put both of his hands up in front of his chest, as to say no harm here.

I am sure my face was a mixture of apprehension and concern. He removed a business card from his coat and offered it to me as he began talking. He introduced himself as a pastor and his friend as a bishop in a neighboring country. They themselves had met on the plane and realized their commonality under Christ. Then he said something I will never forget. This man claimed when he saw me on the plane, the Spirit spoke to him and said to watch over me. He chuckled as he commented on my coldness on the plane, assuring me I had no need to fear because God told him I was a fellow believer. He beamed. To provide even further assurances, he noted my elusiveness was understandable. The other gentleman finally spoke in broken English, and asked me if I was ok. When neither man saw me come through the checkpoint, they both decided to wait and if necessary, claimed they would have inquired of my whereabouts.

I was stunned, humbled, and overwhelmed by God’s presence in that moment. As a believer for almost thirty years, I know God is always with me. But to have it fleshed out in such an obvious tangible way was almost too much to soak up and fathom. I finally confessed I was a believer and divulged where I was headed. For one of the first times in my life, I wondered if I had just experienced the presence of angels unaware (Hebrews 13:4). Since both men were headed to a different part of Africa, we were not on the same connecting flight. I humbly thanked them for their watch care and headed for my terminal.

Thankfully I made my connecting flight and the rest of the week in South Africa was a trip never to forget. The circumstances surrounding that trip and the difficulties I went through personally to commit to go were considered trivial after that experience with the two men in that airport. God’s presence is always with us and I am grateful for the times He chooses to show us in ways we can never forget. Lord I believe, help my unbelief (Mark 9:24).

587DB27C-80C7-42C0-9352-FA9435447ACC

A picture I sent my family in Dubai as proof I was making it! I chose not to share the ordeal until safely in Johannesburg. 

3378D2FA-671E-4182-A70A-DE4F2EED85D9

We studied Islam after the trip and so I brought them a special souvenir to fit the occasion.

558FE072-204D-4EF6-8852-9CA4C61FF8A3

Johannesburg, South Africa.

Advent Book Box – Top Christmas Book Picks

Our Advent Book Box

A tradition began years ago as my oldest daughter (then 3) and I hung our Advent Calendar. We filled each pocket with a piece of candy, as was the custom I grew up with, but also added little slips of paper. Each slip of paper had the name of a Christmas book we would read, and all books were nestled under in a Christmas box under our tree. Those first few years, I simply used Christmas books I had from my childhood or books given to my daughter. However, it was time to beef up our Christmas Book Box! I found several lists already floating around, but quickly realized many were specific to one particular faith or another. So I have created a list (in no particular order) for our family, focusing on the Savior’s birth and Christmas traditions. You will notice there are only 22 titles, and that is because the last few days leading up to Christmas Eve, we spend our treasured time reading the true story of Christ’s birth from the Scriptures. Also, several books might require more than one night to complete the reading depending on your children’s ages (i.e. A Christmas Carol). If you know of any other great titles, feel free to comment below and share! Each book title is linked to Amazon, the supplier of my book addiction. Enjoy!

1. The Crippled Lamb by Max Lucado
A dear friend gave this book to my family several Christmas’ ago, and it immediately held a special place in our hearts. Our hearts are encouraged as a little crippled lamb, Joshua, has his prayers amazingly answered. It speaks to God’s protection and guidance to all who feel alone. This title is a must read.

2. What Think Ye of Christmas by Ester Rasband 

This gem is striking because of the water-color illustrations. Each illustration represents one of the Christmas symbols. While simple, this book provides a rich springboard for discussing the various symbols of Christmas, all pointing to the Christ child.

3. Humphrey’s First Christmas by Carol Heyer Humphrey

This cute narrative records Humphrey, one of the camels accompanying the wise men, as he adventurously journeys to Bethlehem. I love how this book entertains my littles while keeping Christ at the center.

4. The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein 

The Giving Tree is an unforgettable, classic story of a boy who learns the gift of giving. So timely a parable, and a joy for all ages.

5. The Year of the Perfect Christmas Tree by Gloria Houston Year of Perfect Christmas Tree

This is a new title in our box this year and I am excited about reading it with my children. It is a story about Ruthie, a young girl who, while waiting for her father to return from war, must help her mother to provide the Christmas Tree for their church. In return, children see the sacrificial love of a mother as she improvises and works hard to prepare Ruthie a needed angel costume for the church pageant. I won’t summarize the ending because it is too good to spoil! Nevertheless, the picture of courage and family unity is beautiful in this sweet book.

6. The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey by Susan Wojciechowski 

This book needs no introduction. It is a true Christmas classic. A tale of a woodcarver, this story is an enchanting picture of loss, life, and restoration. We usually watch the movie after reading the book!

7. Christmas From Heaven as read by Tom BrokawChristmas From Heaven

This is another new title for our family this year. As the title suggests, it is the true story of the Berlin Candy Bomber, a pilot who brought hope to a war-ravaged land. I highly suggest watching the accompanying DVD, a captivating retelling by acclaimed journalist, Tom Brokaw, and accompanied by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. Stunning performance and memorable work of art.

8. Where, Oh Where, Is Santa Claus by Lisa Wheeler 

This cute tale is simply entertaining! One of my girls was given this book at one of their early Christmas’ and is therefore more nostalgic for us than anything else!

9. Saint Nicholas: The Real Story of the Christmas Legend by Julie Stiegemeyer 

While this book has taken artistic liberties in retelling the legend concerning the historical Nicholas, a very generous Christian bishop, our family has enjoyed it nonetheless! That God proved His love for us through His Son is an undeniable current throughout this treasure. Nicholas’ sacrificial giving helps to remind us that our giving is an act of worship, a response to the immense blessings God showers upon us.

10. White Christmas by Irving Berlin 

My children absolutely love this book. Its illustrations are rich and inspiring, and we can’t help but sing our way through!

11. The Berenstain Bears’ Christmas Tree by Stan and Jan Berenstain 

I am honestly not sure how this book ended up under my roof. However, for several years we have enjoyed this cute tale of searching for the perfect Christmas tree, only to realize not cutting it down would save many of the Berenstain’s Bear Country friends. This book is an easy read, a light alternative to some of the more weighty titles in our box!

12. Christmas Oranges retold by Linda Bethers 

This short story captures the essence of Christmas and the importance of kindness and thoughtfulness above any other gift. Rose is an orphan who reminds us all the true meaning of Christmas. I read where some moms put oranges in the bottom of their children’s stockings every year to remind them of this tale. A neat idea and one I might steal this year!

13. I have two versions of the following title and can’t choose – we read them both and enjoy the illustrative beauty in each!

The Night Before Christmas by Clement Moore 

  and

The Night Before Christmas by Clement Moore 

This book is another that needs no summary! Inevitably, this poem is read multiple times in my home throughout the season.

14. The Carpenter’s Gift by David Rubel 

The Carpenter’s Gift is a relatively new book (2011), depicting New York City during the Depression. The story tells of a father and son selling Christmas trees, and through a pay-it-forward type plot, eventually links the Rockefeller Tree and Habitat for Humanity. This is a new treasure in our box this year!

15. The Light of Christmas by Richard Paul Evans 

This is a beautiful fable of a young Alexander’s charitable act, and how he learns more important than what you have to give, is how you give of yourself. Rich reminder for the season that we all have something to give.

16. The Gift of the Christmas Cookie: Sharing the Meaning of Jesus’ Birth by Dandi Daley Mackall 

We love our Christmas Cookies. This beautifully illustrated tale narrates the legend of the Christmas Cookie and encourages my kiddos (and their mom), to make double batches to give away.

17. Christmas Day in the Morning by Pearl S. Buck 

This book was originally published in 1955, but is the last new title for our box on my list! It is a captivating story of a young boy and his quest to find the perfect gift. What he finds will encourage any child to love as he is gifted.

18. The Legend of the Candy Cane by Lori Walburg 

The Legend of the Candy Cane is a timeless tale of the mystery and miracle of Christmas. Of course, we drag out candy canes as we read this one! Meaningful symbolism and a title that will likely remain in our box for years.

19. The Legend of the Christmas Stocking by Rick Osborne 

Similar to The Legend of the Candy Cane, this story recaptures the meaning behind the classic Christmas symbol. The depth of God’s love rings clear as children learn of the legend.

20. Jingle Bells by Iza Trapani 

One of my kids bought this book through a book sale at school and we decided it was a keeper for our box. We follow children as they ride around the world, experiencing traditions in Mexico, Sweden, the Philippines, Poland, Italy, Kenya, and the United States. And of course the music and lyrics are included!

21. The Twelve Days of Christmas by Hilary Knight

(this one is out of print, but other beautifully illustrated versions of this sing-song book are available!) 

The last of our sing-song titles, I do not think we have ever read this book in spoken voice. “Reading” this book usually involves crazy dancing in the living room, having silly fun with this timely and classic Christmas song. If any children stay seated during the song, they usually try to find and count each item in the verse. Great way to expose your children to Christmas musical classics!

22. A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens 

This version is a picture book of Dicken’s classic tale. We usually divide this book into a two-night reading due to its length. Ebeneezer Scrooge transcends culture to keep the spirit of Christmas true at its core. We have had several different books with this title through the years, some easier to read than others. In fact, the last few years we read this story from a pop-up book! This selection is new to our box, while the story is not. I cannot ever see this classic missing from our pile as it is a family favorite!

The Mother’s Day Problem

The Mother’s Day Problem. Where do I want to be this Mother’s Day? Celebrating with my momma, of course! Where do my children want to be? Celebrating with me (I hope)! And therein lies the dilemma.

On this side of adolescence, I find myself blessed immeasurably to have grown up in a minister’s family. I am able to answer God’s call for full-time ministry with experiential, first-hand ministry knowledge. I am familiar with a handful of the dilemmas unique to full-time ministry. Sunday holidays can be difficult. I remember as a kid listening to my parents wisely determining the best use of my Dad’s Sundays off. Maybe your church provides you with more Sundays off than you know what to do with, but most of us ration our free Sundays for family and for our own spiritual edification, a time when we can be fed and replenished. Naturally, requesting a Sunday off for Mother’s Day isn’t usually a priority. So what are my options? The kids and I could travel to my parents’ home and celebrate, but leaving my husband behind on this holiday just doesn’t sit right. My Mom could come to me, but then she would be coming solo…because as previously mentioned my Dad is a minister. Again, leaving the guy behind who has seen you through the ups and downs of motherhood seems anti-climactic. What about you? Maybe your Mom and Dad can travel to you, or maybe due to extenuating circumstances or location, that isn’t a possibility either. I could sit in a puddle of tears and self-pity. I could resent my husband’s job or the calling. And truth be told, I have unfortunately chosen the path of self-abasement on occasion because I was stricken with homesickness. However, without fail God gently speaks to me, the Spirit awakens His calling, and I am forced to decide whom I will serve. God or myself. Will I think about and set my mind on things eternal (Colossians 3:2) or will I worship my own desires (Philippians 3:19). Perspective is everything. Will I celebrate with my mother during our next visit? You bet. I have a heightened thankfulness for the culture God has allowed me to live in. I do not have to wait for the snow to melt before I can hitch up the horses to a cart and travel hundreds of miles to see my mother. Hello FaceTime! I cannot allow my sadness to catapult me into tunnel vision, lead me to self-pity, and loose the kingdom perspective.

So as we approach another Sunday holiday, if you are a minister’s wife and find yourself wishing things were different, just know I am praying for both of us. I pray we will live and work out of the Spirit inside of us and not our flesh (Romans 8:5). I pray God will use these sometimes lonely holidays to grow our love for His people and open our eyes to those around us hurting. I pray Satan is not given the opportunity  to sow resentment and bitterness in our hearts. You can be certain there are many other women wearing the same ministerial shoes and walking the same path. May we all tune our hearts and minds to Christ…and love our mommas.

My Mom and I

My Mom and I

 

Return to the Gospel

If you had asked me at the beginning of our pastoral ministry how to spiritually grow into the role of a pastor’s wife, I probably would have rattled off a very practical list of how-to’s: 1) Read books on the subject. 2) Connect with a seasoned minister’s wife and learn by example. 3) Develop a strategic plan for growth. While all of these ideas are noble pursuits and, ones I currently value and participate in, another step continues to speak to my soul: Return to the Gospel. Around half a dozen years ago, my husband Jared preached through a series titled, “The Marks of a Disciple.”  I found myself needing, wanting to repent, to be restored as I listened to the messages. He then preached a similar series a few years ago and I found myself in the same place of repentance and restoration. Recently, when I began contemplating about and praying for growth as a minister’s wife, I knew my first step would be to return to the Gospel.

Have you ever found yourself giving biblical counsel to someone in an area you are miserably failing yourself? I have. And the feeling is devastating. At times, God has allowed me to share some of my own shortcomings with my sisters in Christ who came to me for help, but other times, I have chosen to suffer the hypocrisy privately. Recently, I read a book proposing my hypocrisy and my need to hide my sin are because I have lost my anchor in the truth of the gospel. The Gospel-Centered Life by Thune and Walker writes we “shrink the cross” by either pretending (pretending we are better than we are) or performing (trying to earn God’s approval through our performance).[1] “When we are not firmly rooted in the gospel, we rely on these false sources of righteousness to build our reputation and give us a sense of worth and value.”[2] More than books on the position and role of a pastor’s wife, more than developing a mentoring relationship, and more than a well-formed plan for growth, I want…I need to be rooted firmly in the Gospel. I need to know that my sin, however small in terms of tangible consequences, has left me condemned under the Law. As my husband says, Jesus is the curve-breaker. He is the standard to which we are measured. And more importantly, I am justified through the redemption found in Jesus Christ (Rom. 3:24). I can be freed from a dutiful ministerial performance and from the anti-“glass house” pretending. When I am restored in Christ, and recognize the weight of forgiveness extended, I find myself loving others and desiring to minister in a pure way.

So if you have found yourself in the desert, return to the Gospel. Simply knowing we have a duty to minister will not drive us to complete the task. No, “the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; and He died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for Him who for their sake died and was raised” (2 Cor. 5:14-15). This, my friend, is the Gospel. Let us return to the Gospel.

“Church of Jesus, let us please be men and women who understand the difference between moralism and the gospel of Jesus Christ. Let’s be careful to preach the dos and don’ts of Scripture in the shadow of the cross’s ‘Done!’”[3]

Just a few DWMBC ladies I am honored to serve alongside!

Just a few DWMBC ladies I am honored to serve alongside!


[1]Thune, Robert H. and Will Walker. The Gospel-Centered Life. Greensboro, NC.: World Harvest Mission, 2009, 21.

[2]Ibid, 22.

[3]Chandler, Matt and Jared C. Wilson. The Explicit Gospel. Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway, 2012, 221.