Friday, August 28, 2015

Philemon and Marilou: Runaways

Scenario: Chan Siu Fai was led to the Lord and discipled by Pastor Jorge de Ramos. As a result he started a small house church in his home and hired a helper, Marilou from Arrow Employment Services. Marilou was a big help with the house group, but did not return to work from a long holiday. She ran back to Manila, taking with her $5000 cash from the Chan family. While in Manila she ran into Pastor Jorge who recognized her and invited her to coffee. Marilou felt terribly guilty about what she had done and poured out her heart to Jorge and Bolen. They led her to the Lord and began discipling her. Several months went by and Pastor Jorge mentioned Marilou to Sir Allan. Sir Allan checked the records at Arrow and realized that the Chan's never terminated the contract and they hadn't hired another helper. Perhaps there was a chance for reconciliation. Pastor Jorge decided to write a letter to Chan Siu Fai. The letter is below.

From: This letter is from Pastor Jorge De Ramos, Senior Pastor of Capital City Baptist Church, committed to preaching the Good News about Christ Jesus, and from sister Bolen
To: I am writing to Chan Siu Fai, our beloved co-worker, and to our sister Yau Suk Ming, and to our fellow soldier Chan Chi Wing, and to the church that meets in your house.

May God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ give you grace and peace.

I always thank my God when I pray for you, Siu Fai, because I keep hearing about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all of God’s people. And I am praying that you will put into action the generosity that comes from your faith as you understand and experience all the good things we have in Christ. Your love has given me much joy and comfort, my brother, for your kindness has often refreshed the hearts of God’s people.

That is why I am boldly asking a favor of you. I could demand it in the name of Christ because it is the right thing for you to do. But because of our love, I prefer simply to ask you. Consider this as a request from me—Jorge, an older brother in the Lord and now also a preacher for the sake of Christ Jesus.

I appeal to you to show kindness to my child, Marilou Santos. I became her father in the faith while here in Manila. Marilou  wasn’t much use to you in the past, but now she is very useful to both of us. I am sending her back to you, and with her comes my own heart.

I wanted to keep her here with me while I am struggling here  preaching the Good News, and she would have helped me on your behalf. But I didn’t want to do anything without your consent. I wanted you to help because you were willing, not because you were forced. It seems you lost Marilou for a little while so that you could have her back forever. She is no longer like a domestic servant to you. She is more than a servant, for she is a beloved sister, especially to me. Now she will mean much more to you, both as a helper and as a sister in the Lord.

So if you consider me your partner, welcome her as you would welcome me. If she has wronged you in any way or owes you anything, charge it to me. I, Jorge De Ramos have handwritten this letter so you will know this is my desire. If she owes you anything I will repay it. and I won’t mention that you owe me your very soul!

Yes, my brother, please do me this favor for the Lord’s sake. Give me this encouragement in Christ.
I am confident as I write this letter that you will do what I ask and even more! One more thing—please prepare a guest room for me, for I am hoping that God will answer your prayers and let me visit  you soon.

Pastor Ron, my fellow co-worker in Christ Jesus, sends you his greetings. So do Bolen,Mark, Pastor Reynaldo, Simon Chan , and Luke, my co-workers.

May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.


  1. How does Pastor Jorge open his letter to Mr. Chan. Imagine this was written on church letterhead.  
  2. Read the opening prayer carefully. What did he pray for? From what he prays what do you learn about Pastor Jorge's and Mr. Chan's relationship?
  3. What does he ask Mr. Chan to do? How do you think Mr. and Mrs. Chan felt about this request? What would it take for them to take Marilou back? If they were typical employers what actions do you think they might take, IF Marilou returned?
  4. How do you think Marilou felt about going back? What motivation besides wanting a job could she have? What dangers was she facing in deciding to go back?
  5. We are not told the end of the story. What do you think happened? 
  6. In the real letter to Philemon, the actual letter was hand carried by the runaway slave Onesimus. Imagine that scene. How do you think Philemon felt when he saw Onesimus standing in front of him holding out a rolled up letter? How do you think Onesimus felt? 
  7. What is the hardest thing you have ever done simply because you wanted to obey the Lord? 
  8. Is there something hard God is telling you to do, but you  are resisting because it might have bad consequences for you and you are afraid? What do you think Marilou and Onesimus would tell you? What advice would they give you?
NOTE: The above letter is fiction, based on the real letter of Paul to his brother in the faith, Philemon.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Calling for Mighty Men

In 2Samuel 23 there is a record of King David's mightiest warriors. Their exploits are similar to how the Vikings are portrayed on the History Channel mini-series of the same name.  If anyone makes a mini-series on the life of David, then I hope they will include the scenes described here. One warrior kills 800 enemy soldiers. Another stands back to back with David as they fight off an overwhelming number of the enemy.

Imagine the warrior - body covered with blood, surrounded by the dead bodies of his enemy - no longer able to lift his sword or axe, but it's okay, because no enemy is left, not one. They are dead or have run away.

Don't you want to be that man? What battles are we facing today? It seems that my biggest foe is sin. Hebrews 12:4 says "After all, you have not yet given your lives in your struggle against sin."  Both James and Paul tell us to resist the Devil. He is an awesome warrior and we are not his equal.  Where do I find the strength to say to sin and Satan "You will NOT pass by here while I am alive!"? Who will stand back to back to me in this struggle? I need a band of brothers, some mighty men to fight alongside me. I'm not a great warrior, but I don't want to be listed as "the rest" who ran away in the face of the enemy. I don't have a great history of resisting sin and Satan, but it's time to take up my battle axe.

Lord of the Armies of Heaven,

Teach my arms to wage war. Give me a steadfast brave heart. Provide me with some brave men to stand side by side with me in this battle.  Amen.

2Samuel 23:8-17

8These are the names of David’s mightiest warriors. The first was Jashobeam the Hacmonite, who was leader of the Three—the three mightiest warriors among David’s men. He once used his spear to kill 800 enemy warriors in a single battle.

9Next in rank among the Three was Eleazar son of Dodai, a descendant of Ahoah. Once Eleazar and David stood together against the Philistines when the entire Israelite army had fled. 10He killed Philistines until his hand was too tired to lift his sword, and the lord gave him a great victory that day. The rest of the army did not return until it was time to collect the plunder!

11Next in rank was Shammah son of Agee from Harar. One time the Philistines gathered at Lehi and attacked the Israelites in a field full of lentils. The Israelite army fled, 12but Shammah held his ground in the middle of the field and beat back the Philistines. So the lord brought about a great victory.13Once during the harvest, when David was at the cave of Adullam, the Philistine army was camped in the valley of Rephaim. The Three (who were among the Thirty—an elite group among David’s fighting men) went down to meet him there. 14David was staying in the stronghold at the time, and a Philistine detachment had occupied the town of Bethlehem.

15David remarked longingly to his men, “Oh, how I would love some of that good water from the well by the gate in Bethlehem.” 16So the Three broke through the Philistine lines, drew some water from the well by the gate in Bethlehem, and brought it back to David. But he refused to drink it. Instead, he poured it out as an offering to the lord. 17“The lord forbid that I should drink this!” he exclaimed. “This water is as precious as the blood of these men who risked their lives to bring it to me.” So David did not drink it. These are examples of the exploits of the Three.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Ittai of Gath

Today I read 2 Samuel 18-20 where David wins back the kingdom, but loses his son Absalom who had usurped his throne.

David wanted to go out with his men, but they strongly objected. Was this because the last time he stayed behind he ended up sleeping with Bathsheba? The King, even an old king, should be in the field with the troops. ?? When his son is killed the King mourns loudly and Joab his general strongly rebukes him for not showing loyalty to his troops who have risked their lives for him. Joab was right - David cared more about the rebellious son than the 1000's of men who risked their lives to save the kingdom.

One of David's commanders was a man named Ittai from Gath. Where did David pick up a Philistine? It must have been when he served the Philistines and hid among them while running from King Saul. Chapter 15 introduces Ittai to us. He was the leader of 600 Philistine warriors who decided to follow David. When Absalom staged his coup, Ittai stayed loyal to King David. What kind of man wins the loyalty of a platoon of foreign fighters? In chapter 15, David tells Ittai he shouldn't follow him. He is saying to him "you're a foreigner. You don't have a dog in this fight. Why do you want to get involved?" Ittai answers, "I vow to the Lord and by your own life that I will go wherever my lord the king goes, no matter what happens - whether it means life or death."

"Dear Lord,

King David, your great great great ... grandfather engendered such loyalty among people who were not his people. He failed so miserably at times, yet was so loved. His love for you made him attractive, a man to follow. He was real and vulnerable in his love and his sorrow.  You are the perfect One, the descendant promised to King David, the greater King, the Messiah, King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Don't you deserve even greater loyalty? "I will go wherever my Lord goes."  You know my heart, you know the weakness of my flesh, you know everything about me. Help me to be steadfast and loyal to you - whether it means life or death. "  Amen