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Treasured letter from home.


Nineteen years old, 2100 miles from home, I remember getting out of my parents' blue Chevy, looking around at not a single familiar face. It was quite an experience-mostly a good one. See, I had chosen a Christian college (Bethel) in St. Paul, Minnesota, far away from my Northern California home. Understanding the Midwestern 'take' on things was probably my biggest adjustment, besides missing my mom, my piano, and my big black dog, Sam.  

 

One thing was a source of continued joy while I was there - a letter from home. When I retrieved the precious envelope from my mailbox, I read it, reread it, and then stuck it in one of my textbooks and carried it with me. I treasured the written connection with my mom and dad, as I pictured them sitting down at the kitchen table to write a letter to their baby girl, far from home.   Ah yes, those letters were treasures.

 

Just as my mother pictured me as she wrote on inexpensive, practical stationery, just so, Paul pictured his friends in Philippi as he wrote to them from his Roman confinement. No doubt, he recalled their familiar faces with a smile as he expressed his gratitude for their faithfulness to Jesus, and their continued love and support of him. Ah, how he loved them!

 

And meanwhile in Philippi, as is their practice, believers gather to worship God. There is a buzz in the air at Lydia's house because a letter has arrived from Paul, and O, how they adore him. 

 

Lydia smiles as she welcomes her dear ones, and remembers to herself: 'Why, it seems just yesterday I was praying with the women at the river, when Paul and Silas and the others joined us. We were wary of the strangers at first, until we listened to Paul; I had never heard anything like it. He kind of got this other-worldly look on his face as he told us how Jesus got his attention while he was traveling to Damascus*. Paul told us of the joy he had in his heart ever since, and I leaned in closer so as not to miss a word.  He told us what it was like to experience the presence of God in his heart and life--no Jewish teacher had ever talked like this man! He really had our attention as he went on to tell us that his experience was not for him alone, but that the Messiah, Jesus Christ, wanted to have the same relationship with us . . . that we too could become his children. Oh, I shall never forget that day-it was the day of my rebirth-the day that I met my Lord, and then was baptized into the Christian faith!  So much has happened since then. Just looking around, it is not just those women and me anymore, many others have become a part of our gospel community. Ah, now someone is about to read Paul's words to us-

 

'Brothers, sisters, a messenger delivered this letter from our brother Paul; I know you will treasure its words just as I have since its arrival. Do not forget, Paul drafted this letter to us from Rome where he is a prisoner; I cannot even imagine the depth of his love for Jesus Christ, and for us, that he would go to such lengths to send us encouragement, when he himself is in confinement.'

 

"I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now ... It is right for me to feel this way about all of you, since I have you in my heart; for whether I am in chains or defending and confirming the gospel, all of you share in God's grace with me. God can testify how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus." 'Uh, allow me to interject something here,' Lydia says-'for all of you who sacrificed your own comfort to send provisions to Paul, you see how much it meant to him. You see how much it aided him in his travels to spread the good news of the gospel-the same good news that he had brought to us all those years ago.

 

Permit me to continue reading, brothers.'  "And this is my prayer: 

that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, 

so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ, 

filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ-

to the glory and praise of God." 

 

Two thousand years later, wow, wow, wow! What a passage, what a prayer! But you and I need see and understand that the beautiful New Testament book of Philippians, along with Ephesians, Colossians and Philemon, were letters written from the heart and mind of Paul while he was a prisoner of Rome - meant to encourage, instruct and inform people he loved in the manner we ought live out the gospel of Christ.


 

I pray that your love will abound, both for God and for those who you encounter each day.


Christine





*Acts chapter 9

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