Tag Archives: Appointment

Broken Relationships; Divine Purpose

Perhaps the reason he was separated from you for a little while was that you might have him back forever— no longer as a slave, but better than a slave, as a dear brother. He is very dear to me but even dearer to you, both as a fellow man and as a brother in the Lord.
Philemon 1:15-16 (NIV)

If you’re not a regular reader, please know that I’ve been reading and blogging through the letters of Paul in the chronological order they were likely written. In my last post, Seasonal Companions, I wrote about the conflict and reconciliation between Paul and John Mark. But that isn’t the only story of reconciliation hiding in the back stories of the personal greetings found at the end of his letter to the followers of Jesus in Colossae. Paul writes:

Tychicus will tell you all the news about me. He is a dear brother, a faithful minister and fellow servant in the Lord. I am sending him to you for the express purpose that you may know about our circumstances and that he may encourage your hearts. He is coming with Onesimus, our faithful and dear brother, who is one of you. They will tell you everything that is happening here.

Onesimus was a runaway slave from Colossae who was owned by one of the believers there named Philemon, a friend of Paul. We don’t know all of the facts of the story. What we do know is that Onesimus seems to have stolen from Philemon and fled. In what I’d like to think was a divine appointment, Onesimus ends up running into Paul in Rome and he becomes a follower of Jesus. Now, Paul is sending Onesimus back to Colossae to make things right with the master from whom he stole and fled. Onesimus is carrying with him Paul’s letter to the Colossians, which we just finished reading. Onesimus is also carrying a letter to Philemon, which is today’s chapter. (Paul’s letter to Philemon became the shortest book in the Bible, FYI.)

Paul’s letter to Philemon is brief, but warm-hearted in its appeal to Philemon to be reconciled with Onesimus. Paul asks Philemon to consider sending Onesimus back to help Paul while he is in prison. Paul urges Philemon to see how God used Onesimus’ offenses to bring about His divine purposes. Onesimus left Philemon a runaway thief, but Onesimus is returning as a brother in Christ trying to make things right.

In the quiet this morning the theme of my thoughts continues to swirl around lost and broken relationships. Paul’s letter to Philemon is a good reminder that sometimes a season of relationship ends because one or both parties need the separation in order to learn, experience, and grow so that a new season of deeper and more intimate relationship can come back around.

I find myself, once again, thinking on the words of the wise teacher of Ecclesiastes. There is a time and a season for everything. That includes a time for conflict, and a time for reconciliation. There is a time to make amends, and a time to forgive. Sometimes the time in between is just a moment. Other times it takes many years. Along the journey, I’ve come to embrace the reality of, and necessity for, both, along with the wisdom necessary to discern which is which.

Chapter-a-Day Numbers 3

God spoke to Moses. He said, “Bring forward the tribe of Levi and present them to Aaron so they can help him. They shall work for him and the whole congregation at the Tent of Meeting by doing the work of The Dwelling. Numbers 3:5-7 (MSG)

Every successful organization requires a diverse people with diverse sets of gifts and abilities. We need each other. When casting a show for the local community theatre, I’m always left with difficult choices. Many people want to be in the lead roles, standing in the spotlight, but everyone can’t have that role. The truth is that a really good production requires talented people to capably fill every role large and small, on stage and off. Some of my favorite roles over the years have been bit parts.

Nevertheless, every director or producer must eventually confront the frustration and anger of those who did not get cast in the roles they wanted. It comes with the job. You will always be second guessed. You will likely be threatened. You will never make everyone happy. Welcome to leadership.

In today’s chapter, the tribe of Levi is appointed among all the twelve tribes to manage the giant travelling tent sanctuary called the Tabernacle. Within the tribe of Levi, each clan was given responsibility for different parts of the massive structure.

Having helmed a handful of productions and having been in a leadership role in many different organizations over the years, I immediately began to hear the grumbling and complaints that had to have filtered their way up to Moses:

“Why do Aaron and his sons always get the important job? It’s all gone to their heads, I tell you. A bunch of arrogant jerks acting like they’re better than everyone else just because they’re the only ones who get to perform the sacrifices!”

“How in the world did the Gershonites get appointed to take care of the tent? They couldn’t patch so much as a water skin if their lives depended on it!”

“It would figure that Merari clan would get the easy job. They’ve always been a bunch of slackers.”

Not everyone gets the roles they want. As much as I may desire to have certain talents and abilities, I must eventually accept and celebrate the person God made me to be. I must bloom where I’m planted in the role appointed for me while appreciating and being grateful for others who use their own unique abilities in roles for which I’m not suited.

Chapter-a-Day Isaiah 37

The boss' office. Hezekiah took the letter from the hands of the messengers and read it. Then he went into the sanctuary of God and spread the letter out before God. Isaiah 37:14 (MSG)

In earlier years, as an employee, I would have different types of interaction with my boss. Sometimes, as with team meetings, I merely listened to the information or marching orders. There might be the occasional small talk conversation or pleasantry in passing. I might pick up the phone to call with a quick question. There were times, however, when I had an issue which required a deeper conversation. I might make an appointment so I could have my employers dedicated attention for a period of time. I would prepare and spread out my issue or question in great detail.

Our relationship with God is often like that of any other authority figure in our lives. Sometimes I sit back and take in what God has to tell me. Sometimes my conversation with God is not much more than small talk. I might call him up in a popcorn prayer to ask a quick question. And then there are times when I find myself in Hezekiah's position. My situation calls for more earnest conversation.

I like the way Hezekiah approached God. He went to the sanctuary and "spread the letter out." I'm reminded of Jesus going to the mountain side in the early morning hours. Sometimes it's good for me to physically go to a place where I can have a private appointment with God. It's good to take the time to "spread out" my thoughts and feelings in detail.

If I made an appointment with my employer and spread out my issue in a private setting, I think I received a better hearing than if I tried to say something in passing or catching him in the hallway. The quality of the response I received was generally better as well. Why would it work any differently with God?

Creative Commons photo courtesy of Flickr and seaworldsa