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Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Red-bellied woodpecker (photo by Dois High)
Red-bellied woodpecker
(Photo by Doris High)

ListenListen to this message on your audio player. (No podcast due to time constraints due to the visits we hope to make mentioned below. After recording the entire message the recording program froze up for the second day in a row!


"The Lord grant mercy to the house of Onesiphorus, for he often refreshed me and was not ashamed of my chains; but when he was in Rome, he eagerly searched for me and found me—the Lord grant to him to find mercy from the Lord on that day—and you know very well what services he rendered at Ephesus" (2 Timothy 1:16-18).

Osteospermum Typically I (Stephen) prepare these messages first and then Brooksyne sharpens them up by adding content and editing. Last night I told her I was going to write about Onesiphorus but she didn't know what I meant. Even though she is an avid Bible student it is certainly not one of the usual words in the Bible. She thought it sounded like the botanical name of a flower, osteospermum (pictured), and then she guessed it was a color before I told her it was a Bible name. The light came on as Brooksyne recalled where she had seen the  name. It's also easy to confuse Onesiphorus with Onesimus, two names found in the Bible that I have never heard used as a proper name since then.

Onesiphorus is referenced only here in 2 Timothy yet this brief passage highly commends him, and speaks of his blessing to Paul and to others in Ephesus. When reading the Bible we tend to gloss over these brief passages wondering what relevance they may have for us. In view of that observation I see that I have never written about Onesiphorus so I reckon it's about time.  (I've kept a log of these messages since 1996!)

We learn from Biblical examples, both positive and negative, such as the negative reference made in the verse prior to this concerning two otherwise unknown men: "You are aware of the fact that all who are in Asia turned away from me, among whom are Phygelus and Hermogenes" (1 Timothy 1:15).

Jim and Dorothy Schmidt 11/14/12In this reference and the only other reference to Onesiphorus in 2 Timothy 4:19 Paul refers to "the house of Onesiphorus". Some speculate that he may have died by this point but the phrase could also be a way of saying how his entire household had been a blessing. In our years of Christian service we consider households that just seem to minister together as a family, especially married couples, such as when our ministry friends from New Jersey come to mind, we don't think of Jim only, but we refer to them as Jim and Dorothy.

Let's look at four characteristics we can glean about Onesiphorus in our text:
  1. "He often refreshed me." Don't overlook the little word "often" (pollakis) which means many times, again and again, time after time. It conveys a vivid picture of Onesiphorus' servant heart that he extended to Paul.  "Refresh" translates a word that literally means "to cool again, to make cool or refresh." The Living Bible paraphrase draws a word picture, "He visited me and encouraged me often. His visits revived me like a breath of fresh air." Onesiphorus' visits into the squalid conditions of the dungeon prison was like a "cool breeze" reviving Paul's spirit and soul. A great promise to the refresher is a Proverb that states, "Whoever refreshes others will himself be refreshed" (Proverbs 11:25b).

  2. Paul in prisonHe "was not ashamed of my chains." Knowing the rest of the story I can't imagine being ashamed of Paul's chains. We have the whole record since Paul's imprisonment is now history, but the full understanding of all his sufferings was subject to one's own interpretation. Some were embarrassed, afraid or even ashamed of his situation. What a great privilege it would have been to to know Paul and to continually refresh him in his otherwise drab, insufferable surroundings.  May God give us boldness and discernment to stand with those who suffer, as we by faith see the rest of the story even before it happens!

  3. "He eagerly searched for me and found me." It must have taken some effort to locate Paul and Onesiphorus did this eagerly. Many times meaningful ministry to others takes effort. We need to go out of our way or in some way be inconvenienced whether it involves our time, finances, roadblocks or whatever other setback we must overcome in the process.

  4. "You know very well what services he rendered at Ephesus." As mentioned above the only reference we have to Onesiphorus is here in Paul's second letter to Timothy, but perhaps that's because Onesiphorus was already so well-known and highly regarded among the people. Paul briefly alludes to their familiarity with him through the services he offered in Ephesus. Can you think of people well-regarded because of their service for the Lord?
Spurgeon comments on Onesiphorus, "This good man is here immortalized. When he risked his life to find out and succour a poor despised prisoner, he little knew that he would live forever on the page of the church's history. His cup of cold water given to an apostle has received an apostle's reward. Are there any yet alive like Paul to whom we might minister in love after the manner of Onesiphorus?"

Spurgeon's challenge is one we issue to all our readers today.  Is there someone you might minister to in love just as Onesiphorus often did toward Paul. Don't delay.

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Praying manDaily prayer: Father, there are people you bring alongside us on our path of suffering who bring us comfort, assurance, and encouragement. They know just what to say or do that lifts our spirit to give us courage for another day just like Onesiphorus refreshed Paul while he was in chains.  In some cases, it is their own gracious example of suffering that teaches us a great deal without their saying a word.  But there are those instances when we grow fearful, doubtful, and wonder if you're mindful of our suffering and, if so, why you don't eliminate it.  But until our suffering is over we thank you for those who come to refresh us. We, too, need to be the ones who refresh others who are weary, sick, or struggling in some way. Bring those individuals to our mind so that we can reach out to them and refresh their spirit while reminding them of their importance in our lives. In the name of Jesus we pray. Amen.

A practical thought in relationship to today's message: Paul, in his letter to Philemon, referred to himself as "an old man and now also a prisoner of Christ Jesus" (Philemon 1:9). The KJV and NASV states "the aged".

This afternoon we have a picnic with some fellow ministers in our region in Carlisle. On the way we hope to stop by and refresh several older friends who were in churches we have served in the past. One is Jesse Carroll whose husband, Joe, passed away earlier this year. We last saw her at his funeral and recall a visit several years ago when we looked them up after they had moved to a nursing home. She was pleased to see us and stated, "When we moved here we didn't think we'd ever get to see the Webers again."

Jessie Carroll 12/6/11

We make an appeal to pastors: Don't neglect your shutins!!! Although we serve as chaplains in a nursing home and find it is a rewarding form of ministry we do not replace the connection the residents desire to have with their pastor and friends from their home church. Yet we regularly hear from these people who do not receive visits from their pastors and feel forgotten by their church friends. One older couple married over seventy years stated that their pastor has not been in to see them even though they have been at the home for several years. However, let me recall and honor Bob Malick, a pastor in my community, that I would regularly see sitting and unhurriedly visiting with a member of his church even though the man was in a state of dementia.  That man has since passed on. See Hebrews 6:10.

Today's woodpecker photo was taken by our friend Doris High and is part of a stunning collection titled, "Birds That Were At Our Feeders Recently"

Today's Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources

"I Played in the Band, Wrote a few songs and Sang in the Choir" Video We heard the Booth Brothers sing this song and share this story the other night at the concert we attended in Lebanon PA. It's a good illustration of Onesiphorus and millions more like him! It was inspired by the words of Henry Slaughter, who along with his wife Hazel, were involved with Gospel music for many years. When fellow songwriter/artist Bill Gaither wrote an article about him, Slaughter simply responded with a thank you and that he really hadn't done much; "I Played in the Band, Wrote a few songs and Sang in the Choir" (although in fact he wrote many, many wonderful gospel songs). This exchange inspired Gaither to write this song. Gaither states that we don't have to be the head, just willing to exercise whatever gifts God gives us for His glory.

"Use Me"  Video  Ron Kenoly  God can use you today!

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Scripture references are from The Holy Bible: New International Version. © 1984 by International Bible Society; NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1995 by The Lockman Foundation, New King James Version (NKJV) Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. and the King James Version.

Personal Mission Statement: "I am created by God to bring Him glory. Through God's Son Jesus Christ I have been redeemed and I make it my life's goal to please the Lord. My mission in life is to honor God through my faith and obedience and to prepare myself and all whom I may influence for eternity."

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