when commitment is challenged


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when commitment is challenged

Daniel 1:8-16 (JDV)

Daniel 1:8 Daniel set his heart on not defiling himself with the king’s food or with the wine he drank. So he sought permission from the chief eunuch not to defile himself.
Daniel 1:9 God had granted Daniel loyalty and compassion from the chief eunuch,
Daniel 1:10 yet he said to Daniel, “I fear my lord the king, who assigned your food and drink. What if he sees your faces looking thinner than the other young men your age? You would forfeit my head with the king.”
Daniel 1:11 So Daniel said to the guard whom the chief eunuch had assigned to Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah,
Daniel 1:12 “Please test your servants for ten days. Let us be given vegetables to eat and water to drink.
Daniel 1:13 Then examine our appearance and the appearance of the young men who are eating the king’s food, and treat your servants based on what you see.”
Daniel 1:14 He agreed with them about this and tested them for ten days.
Daniel 1:15 At the end of ten days they looked better and healthier than all the young men who were eating the king’s food.
Daniel 1:16 So the guard continued to remove their food and the wine they were to drink and gave them vegetables.

when commitment is challenged

Daniel had made a commitment, and his three fellow Israelites agreed to that commitment. But the chief eunuch challenged that commitment because he feared the consequences. Often when we dare to make a commitment, it will be challenged for the same reason. We should do as Daniel did — try to find a way to keep our commitment without condemning those who challenge it. The real war is not with flesh and blood. There is a contest going on in the unseen realm.

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the new reality


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the new reality

Daniel 1:1-7 (JDV)

Daniel 1:1 In the third year of the reign of King Jehoiakim of Judah, King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon came to Jerusalem and took control of it.
Daniel 1:2 Yahveh gave into his hand King Jehoiakim of Judah, along with some of the equipment from the house of God. Nebuchadnezzar carried them to the land of Babylon, to the house of his god, and put the equipment in the treasury of his god.
Daniel 1:3 The king ordered Ashpenaz, his chief eunuch, to bring some of the Israelites from the royal family and from the nobility –
Daniel 1:4 young men without any physical defect, handsome, suitable for instruction in all wisdom, knowledgeable, perceptive, and capable of serving in the king’s palace. He was to teach them the Chaldean literature and language.
Daniel 1:5 The king assigned them daily provisions from the royal food and from the wine that he drank. They were to be trained for three years and at the end of that time, they were to take their stand in the presence of the king.
Daniel 1:6 Among them, from the Judahites, were Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah.
Daniel 1:7 The chief eunuch gave them names; he gave the name Belteshazzar to Daniel, Shadrach to Hananiah, Meshach to Mishael, and Abednego to Azariah.

These four young men had seen the horrors of invasion and occupation. They knew about all the atrocities performed by this evil king and those who obeyed his wishes. After all they knew, I cannot imagine them not saying to themselves “Why would God allow this?”

Around the world today, there are people with the same thoughts. If you read history, you know how cruel and evil people can be toward those they envy, hate, or fear. If you are honest with yourself, you sometimes wonder what it would take for you to be one of those holding the gun or the noose.

These four men could have defined themselves as victims. They did not. They decided to be part of the new reality. They would yield to the tyrant’s wishes — even allowing themselves to be renamed. But they would not become what the tyrant wanted.

Every day we face similar choices. We need to decide who our God is, and who we are.

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pray for a reunion


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pray for a reunion

Philemon 1:21-25 (JDV)

Philemon 1:21 Since I am confident of your obedience, I am writing to you, knowing that you will do even more than I say.
Philemon 1:22 Meanwhile, also prepare a guest room for me, since I hope that through your prayers I will be restored to you.
Philemon 1:23 Epaphras, my fellow prisoner in Christ Jesus, sends you greetings, and so do
Philemon 1:24 Mark, Aristarchus, Demas, and Luke, my co-laborers.
Philemon 1:25 The favor of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your breath.

David Jeremiah writes, “Paul and the other apostles knew that God might well withhold certain of His blessings from them if they and their fellow believers neglected to pray. Therefore they prayed, and they recruited others to pray, never wanting to curb what God might be pleased to do” (46).

Who knows the blessings we could experience if we simply made a habit of praying for them. Paul was praying that God would remove the obstacles keeping him from visiting his friend. Do you have friends or relatives you have not seen for a long time? Why not pray for a reunion?

Jeremiah David. The Prayer Matrix. Multnomah 2004.

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your welcoming spirit


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your welcoming spirit

Philemon 1:17-20 (JDV)

Philemon 1:17 So if you consider me a partner, welcome him as you would me.
Philemon 1:18 And if he has wronged you in any way, or owes you anything, charge that to my account.
Philemon 1:19 I, Paul, write this with my own hand: I will repay it — not to mention to you that you owe me even your very self.
Philemon 1:20 Yes, brother, may I benefit from you in the Lord; refresh my heart in Christ.

The word partner in verse 17 is κοινωνoς, a word designating close association and shared mission. Paul was just the right person to appeal to Philemon on behalf of Onesimus.

Graves and Addington write, “Partners generally work together to make decisions, set policies, deflect problems, and celebrate their successes. They welcome each other equally, knowing they’re in it together for the long haul. … Do you welcome all brothers and sisters in Christ equally? It’s easy to get into your own clique or social group and forget about others in the church. But we’re all equally important in God’s eyes, and that’s what matters. How you treat fellow believers shows God how you feel about Him. When you slight a newcomer in your church or turn your back on a long-time member, you’ve slighted God and turned your back on Him. But if you make a newcomer feel welcome and show affection for all of His children, He will feel your welcoming spirit” (185-186).

Graves Stephen R and Thomas G Addington. Deep Focus: Devotions for Living the Word. 1st ed. Jossey-Bass 2003.

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trusting after treachery


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trusting after treachery

Philemon 1:8-16 (JDV)

Philemon 1:8 For this reason,1 although I have great boldness in Christ to command you to do what is right,
Philemon 1:9 I appeal to you, instead, on the basis of care. I, Paul, as an elderly man and now also as a prisoner of Christ Jesus,
Philemon 1:10 appeal to you for my son, Onesimus. I became his father while I was in chains.
Philemon 1:11 Once he was useless to you, but now he is useful both to you and to me.
Philemon 1:12 I am sending him back to you – I am sending my very own heart.
Philemon 1:13 I wanted to keep him with me, so that in my imprisonment for the gospel he might serve me in your place.
Philemon 1:14 But I didn’t want to do anything without your consent so that your good deed might not be out of obligation, but of your own free will
Philemon 1:15 because perhaps this is why he was separated from you for a brief time so that you might get him back permanently,
Philemon 1:16 no longer as a slave, but more than a slave – like a cared-for brother. He is especially so to me, but how much more to you, both in the flesh and in the Lord.

Onesimus had not been kidnapped and sold as a slave to Philemon. He was a bondservant. He had found himself in a poor state financially, probably having incurred a debt he could not repay. He needed the help of Philemon to get out of that debt. So he had appealed to Philemon to take him on as a bondservant. If I read verse 16 correctly, there was some familial relationship between the two men. They were brothers “in the flesh” – perhaps distant relations. So, Philemon did the right thing. He took Onesimus into his household as a servant.

The reward Philemon got for his benevolence was treachery. Onesimus stole money and ran away. While living as a fugitive, he met Paul and came to faith in Christ. Paul could have told Onesimus to just forget about his past, but he envisioned a different solution. He wanted to return Onesimus to reconcile with Philemon and thought that Philemon could then use Onesimus as a partner in his ministry to Paul. His appeal was a gamble because Philemon could have had Onesimus arrested as well. Then he would have gone to prison as well.

The challenge that Philemon faced is a difficult one. Once you have been betrayed, how can you trust again? Paul is asking Philemon to take the prodigal back and make him a trusted partner in ministry. For Philemon to do this, he had to have faith in the transforming power of the gospel. He had to believe that the Holy Spirit is the God of the second chance.

LORD, heal our hurts. Help us to trust people again because we trust in your power to make a difference in their lives.

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be stretched, be changed


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be stretched, be changed

Philemon 1:4-7 (JDV)

Philemon 1:4 I always thank my God when I mention you in my prayers,
Philemon 1:5 because I hear of your care for all the devotees and the faith that you have in the Lord Jesus.
Philemon 1:6 I pray that your participation in the faith may become effective through knowing every good thing that is in us for the glory of Christ.
Philemon 1:7 For I have great joy and encouragement from your care because the hearts of the devotees have been refreshed through you, brother.

The Holy Spirit’s counsel through the scriptures reaches down and touches us, encouraging growth in every facet of our lives, not just our weaknesses. Philemon was well-known for two things:

He had great faith in the LORD and was constantly sharing that faith with others.
He had great love (care) for others and was constantly refreshing the hearts of the saints.
Now, it was time for the Holy Spirit to go to work, stretching and strengthening Philemon in precisely those areas of spiritual health that he was known for. His faith in Christ, the Reconciler, was the foundation for his existence. Now Paul was going to ask him to apply that faith in an area of his life that he had not imagined it would apply: his relationship with Onesimus.

Also, Philemon had always been ready to meet the needs of any brother as soon as he discovered that need. Now Paul was going to introduce him to a new brother: Onesimus, whom he knew in the past only as a useless runaway slave who could not be trusted.

God’s righteousness is infinite. When the light of his glory and grace shines on our lives, even those rooms of our house that we keep tidy and set apart for only visitors to see are revealed to be less than adequate. Paul’s letter to his friend was a challenge to let the Holy Spirit have access to transform him — again.

LORD, our lives are yours. We present to you our strengths as well as our weaknesses. Stretch us and change us as you see fit.

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your congregation


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your congregation

Philemon 1:1-3 (JDV)

Philemon 1:1 Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus, and brother Timothy: To Philemon, our cared for co-laborer,
Philemon 1:2 and to Apphia our sister, to Archippus our fellow soldier, and to the congregation that meets in your home.
Philemon 1:3 Favor to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Philemon apparently had a congregation that met in his house regularly. They may have met elsewhere as well. But Philemon’s faith was such that he had opened his house for Christians to gather there, to learn the word there, to worship there.

Is your home dedicated to the Lord and his people? God gave you that home for a reason. You are not the reason.

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that ship had sailed


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that ship had sailed

Psalm 106:47-48 (JDV)

Psalm 106:47 Deliver us, Yahveh our God, and gather us from the nations, so that we may give thanks to your sacred name and rejoice in your praise.
Psalm 106:48 Blessed be Yahveh God of Israel, from age to age. All the people should say, “Amen!” Praise Yah!

The people of God needed deliverance because God was not being praised. Their motivation was to enhance God’s reputation. They did not appeal to God on the basis of their own worthiness. They knew that was a lost cause. That ship had sailed. Instead, they wanted God to be glorified. May our prayers always be prayed in order to hallow the name of our great God.

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waiting to forgive and restore


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waiting to forgive and restore

Psalm 106:44-46 (JDV)

Psalm 106:44 When he heard their cry, he took note of their distress,
Psalm 106:45 remembered his covenant with them and relented according to the abundance of his covenant faithfulness.
Psalm 106:46 He caused them to be pitied in the presence of all their captors.

God knew the situation of his people. He knew they needed forgiveness and restoration. But he waited for their cry. He waits today for his people of every nation to realize the hopelessness of following the wrong way. Cry out to your creator today. He is waiting to forgive and restore you.

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don’t disgust God


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don’t disgust God

Psalm 106:40-43 (JDV)

Psalm 106:40 That is why Yahveh’s anger burned against his people, and he was disgusted by his own hereditary possession.
Psalm 106:41 He handed them over to the nations; those who hated them ruled over them.
Psalm 106:42 Their enemies oppressed them, and they were subdued under their power.
Psalm 106:43 He rescued them many times, but they continued to rebel deliberately and were beaten down by their violation.

We need to decide who we belong to. We don’t want the LORD’s anger to burn against us. So we need to be careful whose ways we adopt. If we do the things that the enemy does, we are in danger of falling into their hands.

LORD, our God, we belong to you. Give us the wisdom to follow your ways, and to reject the ways of your enemies.

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