Philemon: Making Deals

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They were both in college and had been dating for a while. He asked her to go to a basketball game with him. This was her first game, so he was telling her about the team. While explaining, he pointed to a tall player on the bench and identified him by name. “He is only a freshman this year, but next year, about this time, he will be our best man.” She was stunned at his boldness:
“He’ll be our best man! Oh darling, this is so sudden!”

In our scripture text, Paul is making a deal with Philemon. So if you consider me a partner, welcome him as you would welcome me. If he has done you any wrong or owes you anything, charge it to me.

Ever make a deal with God? I find that most Christians do barter with God.
“Lord, if you will get me past this heart-attack, I will never miss church again.” We even have it in our music, The Charlie Daniels Band wrote a song about the devil going down to Georgia to steal a soul. He made a deal with Johnnie who was the best fiddle player. Johnnie would get a gold fiddle, the devil would get his soul.

We know that one of the most heart breaking deals made in the Bible was the deal made with Judas. Then one of the Twelve– the one called Judas Iscariot– went to the chief priests and asked, “What are you willing to give me if I hand him over to you?” So they counted out for him thirty silver coins. From then on Judas watched for an opportunity to hand him over. That was a deal!

Does God make deals with His people? Yes! We call them covenants! With Noah and all people, God made a covenant. Gen 9:13I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth.
It was a promise that He would never again destroy the whole earth with water.

God made a “deal” with Abraham. The condition of this covenant was that Abraham was to leave his home and follow the Lord into the land that He would show him. The promise was a fourfold blessing from God to Abraham: increase into a numerous people; material and spiritual prosperity– “I will bless you”; the exaltation of Abraham’s name– “make your name great;” Abraham was not only to be blessed by God, but to be a blessing to others, implicitly by the coming of the Messiah through his descendants. In return Abraham had three parts: Circumcision, Obedience to God and worship God and God only!

In scripture, deals were always special. Never frivolous but always serious. In the Psalms “to deal” always means “to confer benefit,” “to deal bountifully.”

Does God make deals today? The answer is yes, but it comes with a warning!
Jesus taught, “Again, you have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not break your oath, but keep the oaths you have made to the Lord.’ But I tell you, Do not swear at all: either by heaven, for it is God’s throne; or by the earth, for it is his footstool; or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the Great King. Simply let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.

“Vows made in storms are forgotten in calms.” LET YOUR YES BE YES AND YOUR NO, NO! Everyone, even God, is known by their word. You keep it, you have value. You break it, you don’t.

Steve McQueen was a top billing actor who lead a life as tough as the ones he portrayed on the screen. Success filled his life until alcohol and a failed marriage left him empty. In his despair he attended a crusade led by one of Billy Graham’s associates. McQueen made a confession of faith and requested an opportunity to speak with Billy Graham. A connecting flight in Los Angeles allowed Dr. Graham to spend a couple of hours with Mr. McQueen in the actor’s limousine. The evangelist shared numerous scriptures in his quest to give spiritual hope and confidence. Steve McQueen struggled with the thought of God giving eternal life to a man who had such a checkered past. In Titus 1:2, Steve McQueen found his hope -“the hope of eternal life, which God, who cannot lie, promised ages ago.” He requested something to write down the verse but Billy Graham gave McQueen his Bible instead. Later, Steve McQueen died in Mexico while seeking experimental treatment for his terminal cancer. He passed into eternal life with his Bible opened to Titus 1 and his finger resting on verse 2. Regardless of our past, we have the hope of God’s eternal promise.

Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen, the first to discover the magnetic meridian of the North Pole and to discover the South Pole. On one of his trips, Amundsen took a homing pigeon with him. When he had finally reached the top of the world, he opened the bird’s cage and set it free. Imagine the delight of Amundsen’s wife, back in Norway, when she looked up from the doorway of her home and saw the pigeon circling in the sky above. No doubt she exclaimed, “He’s alive! My husband is still alive!”

So it was when Jesus ascended. He was gone, but the disciples clung to his promise to send them the Holy Spirit. What joy, then, when the dovelike Holy Spirit descended at Pentecost. The disciples had with them the continual reminder that Jesus was alive and victorious at the right hand of the Father. This continues to be the Spirit’s message.

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