Major Endurance: Purpose

PurposeEzekiel was one far out dude.  I could focus on the wheels, sing about dem dry bones or wish that I could see the beasts of his prophecy in the zoo but I want to step away from the details of Ezekiel’s message.  Let’s focus on an aspect of Ezekiel’s life that make’s him another Hupomone Man.

Ezekiel was from a priestly family and like Daniel he was taken from his home in Israel and brought to Babylon.  His family was probably prominent and influential.  Ryrie places him among the many hostages that Nebuchadnezzar took to ensure the cooperation of his newly conquered land.  Unlike Isaiah and Jeremiah, Ezekiel prophesied to the Jews in Babylon.

As I read through Ezekiel this time around, I really tried to keep the words of the prophecies given to him by God out of focus.  I did not want to get caught up in the wonder and beautiful detail of Ezekiel’s dreams.  I really wanted to get a feel for Ezekiel the man.  This is perhaps most difficult to do with Ezekiel among those whom we term the Major Prophets as there is minimal historical detail.  With the details out of focus I began to notice a recurring phrase:  “Then you will know that I am the Lord”.  It takes some different forms, “and then you shall know that I am the Lord.”  The Holy Spirit whispered in my ear, “Hupomone Men have purpose.”.  Honestly it took me a bit to make the connection (I probably could have used Ezekiel’s help….connecting the bones of the thought together….ok ouch that was bad).

Ezekiel completely understood the purpose of everything that he said and did.  Speaking for God is not an abstract activity.  The life of the Hupomone Man is not an abstract activity.  It has purpose.  It really has one overarching purpose.  That purpose is to act, speak, write…to live in such a way that those around you can “know that He is the Lord.”  Peter put it this way, “Whoever speaks, is to do so as one who is speaking the utterances of God; whoever serves is to do so as one who is serving by the strength which God supplies, sot that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belongs the glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen” 1 Peter 4:11

As Hupomone Men we can be sure that everything that happens in our lives is some how contributing to this purpose, either for ourselves or for those around us.  Ezekiel deeply understood this even as his wife passed away, there was purpose. ( I deal more with this particular story here. ) This is all part of our great assurance that God is in control.  We cannot, we must not allow circumstances to impinge on this great Peace that we have as children of God.  Ezekiel never lost sight of his purpose through all of the turmoil, through all the circumstances of his life.  He demonstrated Major Endurance and certainly earned the title of Hupomone Man.

Major Endurance: Love

ELove

We are looking at some of the qualities of Isaiah and Jeremiah that contributed to their incredible endurance as men of God.  They are qualities that qualify them to be wonderful examples of Hupomone Men. These qualities are not a function of their vocation as prophets of God.  These qualities are not tied up in the message that Isaiah and Jeremiah brought to the people of God.  These qualities are all about the daily choices of life that Isaiah and Jeremiah made as they responded to the call of God to be in relationship with Him.  The quality of Hupomone that we are going to look at today is a direct result of that relationship.

 The LORD appeared to him from afar, saying, “I have loved you with an everlasting love; Therefore  I have drawn you with lovingkindness.”  Jeremiah 31:3

Isaiah and Jeremiah had every reason to hate God’s people.  Given the content of many of their prophesies (particularly Jeremiah) one might settle on the idea that they did indeed hate.  Here in the United States, as a society we have embraced an idea of “thought correctness” that violates the very core of hupomone love.  That idea is that if you “hate” a behavior that I am involved in, you hate me.  This idea rejects the intrinsic value of the individual, the very basis of God’s love for us. It limits the value of a person to their actions.  God cries out to His people, “I hate your behavior and its consequences, but I love you with an everlasting love”.  The New Testament labels this love Agape.  This is the love that is the foundation of hupomone living.  The call emanates from God to our “spiritual” ears and is a function of listening. This is Jesus’ cry, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” Daily choice is a function of will. It is the physical response to truly hearing God. Love is a function of relationship.  It is the foundation that enables all the rest of it.

 If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 1 Corinthians 13:1

Isaiah and Jeremiah desperately and completely loved God.  Isaiah and Jeremiah desperately and completely love His people.  It was this love extending from their relationship with God that drove their hupomone lifestyle for a combine 100 years.  Faithfully they spoke truth to Israel, often reaping derision and persecution and it was Agape that validated their ministry.  Some look at the prophetic of the Old Testament and see hate and condemnation.  I look and see hupomone living.  I see the call of God to live out His everlasting love daily through meaningful choices empowered by the Holy Spirit.  I see the great provision of grace, seeking to redeem the results of rebellion.  I hear God calling out through his people the message of love, redemption and hupomone.

Major Endurance: Daily

Marked Off Calendar

“Trust in the Lord forever, for in God the Lord, we have an everlasting rock”

Isaiah 26:4

If you have followed me for long, you realize that I have a Hupomone fetish.  The word is just cool.  So as I was reading Isaiah and Jeremiah, I kept hearing over and over, “These guys are real Hupomone Men”.  Yes, when I read Scripture I often hear things and no it is not always God.  Sometimes it is something like, “There is ice cream in the freezer.”  In this case it really made me focus not so much on the message that these two great prophets delivered but on the lives that these two great prophets lived.  The message made them prophets of God.  The lives make them men of God, Hupomone men.

Last week we established that Isaiah and Jeremiah were Hupomone men because they were called by God.  You may be thinking, “Well that let’s me off the hook.  I am not called to be a prophet!”.  The Romans may have been have been thinking the same thing when Paul disabused them of that idea by opening the epistle to Rome with:

…Jesus Christ our Lord,  through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith among all the Gentiles for His name’s sake, among whom you also are the called of Jesus Christ; to all who are beloved of God in Rome, called as saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Romans 1:4b-7

Yes, we are not all called to be prophets but we are called to obedience, called to sainthood (hagios comes from a root that indicates purity, freedom from sin).  This call for Jeremiah and Isaiah took on the face of the prophetic, serving an Israel that had lost its way.  This call may well be very different for each person reading this blog.  The call is not to a specific vocation but to “the obedience of the faith”.  Jesus makes it clear that the call is not enough.  In his parable of the wedding guests he concludes, “For many are called, but few are chosen.” Matthew 22:14.  As we look at the story (and I am not going to recount the whole thing here…grab your Bible and read it!) we see that the hapless guest to whom Jesus refers was called to the party but behaved himself out of being chosen to stay.  This is where we see that the call is not enough.  So what is this other thing, this next step that sets Isaiah and Jeremiah and all those Hupomone men before and after them apart from the crowd?

If it is disagreeable in your sight to serve the LORD, choose for yourselves today whom you will serve: whether the gods which your fathers served which were beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD. Joshua 24:15

Joshua in his fairly famous soliloquy before the people of Israel says, “choose for yourselves today”  Isaiah and Jeremiah had many todays in their combined 100 years of prophetic service to God. The next quality that set them apart as true Hupomone men is:

Isaiah and Jeremiah both made a daily choice to serve God.

They came dressed in their wedding clothes day after day.  Even when all of the other prophets were sporting Bermuda Shorts and Hawaiian Shirts, they came in wedding clothes.  Even when the King made it clear that the honeymoon was over, they came in wedding clothes, and while Scripture does not record it, tradition tells us that even when it meant death, they came in wedding clothes.  They were wedding clothes of obedience, truth and purity.  They are the wedding clothes of the Hupomone Man.

Major Endurance: Called

“Trust in the Lord forever, for in God the Lord, we have an everlasting rock”

Isaiah 26:4

I have been reading the Major Prophets in my personal devotions.  Isaiah and Jeremiah, these guys were some Major Hupomone Men!  Depending on how you figure the history and do the math Isaiah spoke for God over a period of around 60 years!  Jeremiah’s career spanned about 40 years.  They were both fearless before men and absolutely devoted to God.  They both were despised and revered.  They were both threatened and abused for their devotion to the word of the Lord.  They are both honored by recognition in the New Testament.  Jeremiah is even called out as a potential identity for Jesus Christ.  Isaiah is recognized as the most prolific messianic prophet.  He foretold John the Baptist and his mission.  It was the book of Isaiah that the Ethiopian Eunuch was reading on his way home from Jerusalem.

So what is it about these two men that makes them truly Hupomone men?

 Isaiah and Jeremiah were both called by God to serve him and speak to the people for him.

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, And before you were born I consecrated you; I have appointed you a prophet to the nations.”  Jeremiah 1:5

“Then I heard the voice of the Lord, saying,”Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?”  Then I said, “Here am I.  Send me!”  Isaiah 6:8

The call of God on our lives is at the very core of Hupomone.  There is an illusion here that can trip us up.  It may appear to us that the Call of God on the lives of Jeremiah and Isaiah was about being a prophet.  Jeremiah is a little more explicit about the nature of God’s call on Jeremiah’s life.  While the call extends to vocation, it is not at its center about vocation. “And before you were born I consecrated you…”.  Jeremiah was set apart to be in relationship with God long before he ever delivered a Word from God.  We see Isaiah already positioned to hear the voice of God before he seals his vocation with the words, “Here am I Send me!”  

Paul lays out the course of Hupomone for a young pastor named Timothy

9 who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was granted us in Christ Jesus from all eternity, 2 Timothy 1:9

Hupomone begins with salvation.  It is only when we accept the extended hand of fellowship from God that includes a call to be separated or holy that we open the door to the steadfast, enduring lifestyle of abandoning our own purposes to follow God’s.  Paul makes it clear that this call is not about anything that we have done (or be extension anything that Isaiah or Jeremiah had done).  It is an undeserved gift.  It is grace.  In Ephesians Paul tells us that the very nature of this calling gives us hope “18 I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints,” Ephesians 1:8 

The kind of perseverance that we see rising out of the call of God comes about from having a view to eternity and to the inheritance of the saints, first to Israel in the Old Testament and then opened up to all humankind by the death and resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

 

 

 “And now I am about to go the way of all the earth, and you know in your hearts and souls, all of you, that not one word has failed of all the good things that the LORD your God promised concerning you. All have come to pass for you; not one of them has failed”

Joshua 23:14

HUPOMONE

Definition:
-steadfastness, constancy, endurance
-in the NT the characteristic of a man who is not swerved from his deliberate purpose and his loyalty to faith and piety by even the greatest trials and sufferings
-patiently, and steadfastly
-a patient, steadfast waiting for
-a patient enduring, sustaining, perseverance

First off, I am not dying, well at least my demise is not imminent.  Though if this blog is your main form of connection to me you may have wondered….

Allana and I have talked for some time about starting a parallel men’s ministry called Hupomone Men.  I have been praying about this for awhile.  I think as Christians that line has become something of an avoidance mechanism.  I know that it has been for me.  True Beauty held its first conference this weekend and I announced the imminent creation of Hupomone.  So time to keep praying but take a step forward.

I have been in what has been perhaps the biggest struggle of my life over the last few years.  For five years my life has been one crisis after another.  First, after 7 miscarriages Allana and I were pregnant again.  For 3 months we prayed through our acceptance of an almost certain loss.  For 3 months God brought us into a new realm of trust (trust that would serve us well in the coming year).  For 3 months we rejoiced in God’s faithfulness to a promise made to Allana several years ago.  It was a promise that we thought we had misunderstood.  It was a promise that we thought we had to reinterpret. It was a promise that was birthed on December 16 2012 (Nisa Faith). Then we had 19 days of unfettered rejoicing, the promise come to life.  What a gift those 19 days were.  What a gift the whole journey was.  It was a gift of discipleship preparing us for the places that God would walk with us; for two years of emotional and physical agony as Allana battled Leukemia.  Two years of tremendous ministry in the face of adversity.  For three years we operated in the valley of the shadow of death.  It fostered great reliance on God for great and mighty things that literally meant the difference between life and death.

Read the end of Exodus and the book of Joshua.  This is where the Israelite people were when Joshua spoke the words above.  They had been through the crisis, their very existence threatened.  I am finding that “the crisis” forces an intense faith and closeness with God as well as a multitude of amazing ministry opportunities.  Even as God flooded my heart over the last decade with the need to “fan the flame of the gift of God” within me; through these times He has repeated the echoing refrain of Hupomone.  Perhaps the need is so great because we are not a society who values this.  We are the throw-away society.  If it is uncomfortable or inconvenient throw it away, churches, jobs, marriages, babies.  We are the disposable people.  We are all to often men of the disposable.  This is the very antithesis of our Lord and his desire for us. Perhaps the need is so great because I am a man of the disposable but by embracing the Holy Spirit in my life and fanning the flame that he has placed there I am just beginning to understand what it means to be a Hupomone Man with a Hupomone God.

Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, Hebrews 12:1

The Fire of God

 

FIFM

 

“The angel of the Lord appeared to him in a blazing fire from the midst of a bush; and he looked, and behold, the bush was burning with fire, yet the bush was not consumed.”  Exodus 3:2

There is a fire that comes as a gift from God.  It is a fire of empowerment.  It is a fire generated from the unlimited love that God has for mankind.  God presents this fire to man as a guide, as inspiration and as an internal power to effectively serve Him.

“For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through.   the laying on of my hands. For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.” 2 Timothy 1:6

Power, love and self-discipline are the hallmarks of this fire.  It is a fire that sets God’s people on a path of redemption, for themselves and for those to whom God sends them. It is in fact the very fire of redemption for those who believe.  The fire redeems with a view to service.

“Then one of the seraphim flew to me with a live coal in his hand, which he had taken from the altar.  With it he touched my mouth and said,’See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for.’  Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send?  And who will go for us?”  And I said, ‘Here am I.  Send me!” Isaiah 6:6-8

It is not a fire that is a once and done event in our lives.  It needs to be cultivated and nurtured.  We fan that flame as we develop our relationship with God.  I think of all that has transpired in our lives since God spoke 2 Timothy 1:6 into our lives in 2005 and gave us the name “Fan Into Flame Ministries”.  It is in the difficulties of life that we are able to build the flames of the Holy Spirit inside us.  Paul goes on to say, “That is why I am suffering as I am. Yet this is no cause for shame, because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him until that day.” 2 Timothy 1:12.  

Yesterday was the third anniversary of my wife Allana’s bone marrow transplant.  It was both a moment of life and the beginning of one of the most difficult periods in my entire life.  As I look back I can see the Holy Spirit working through the difficulties, stripping away self-reliance and providing opportunity for me to grow in Him.  Timothy was experiencing incredible difficulties in his work in Ephesus.  Being one in urban ministry I can appreciate his experiences and understand his desire to throw in the towel.  Even more so as we walked the path of Leukemia there were times that I felt like I simply could not continue.  However it was at those moments that God provided Paul’s in my life, to uphold me in prayer, wisdom and love.  It creates an interesting cycle.  As one fans into flame the gift of the Holy Spirit, the Holy Spirit enables us to guard the very relationship that fans into flame the gift.  “What you heard from me, keep as the pattern of sound teaching, with faith and love in Christ Jesus. Guard the good deposit that was entrusted to you—guard it with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us.”  2 Timothy 1:13-14

It’s a Gift

GiftFor who makes you different from anyone else? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not?  1 Corinthians 4:7

 

I had a wonderful opportunity yesterday to share in the ordination service of a wonderful friend and ministry partner.  The day started rather inauspiciously with a flat tire repair.  However the beautiful location of the Annual Western Ohio Conference of the United Methodist Church gathering more than made of for the trials experienced in the morning.  I could say that the idyllic setting of Lakeside, or the wonderful hospitality of our friend, indeed of the entire Western Ohio Conference, or event the wonderful ice cream and coffee offered by the local shops was the highlight of the day. However Bishop Gregory Palmer came to the podium and served up a message that should be listened to by every minister of the Gospel of Jesus Christ everywhere.  “It’s a gift”!  I believe that I was in the majority of people who were gathered to celebrate the “accomplishment” of ordination for our friends or family members.  Bishop Palmer reminded us that it is at times like these that we tend to “smell our selves”, in my family we might have said “get too big for our britches”.  We grab onto this wonderful accomplishment that we have achieved and forget that everything we have, everything we are and everything that we do is a gift from God.  We forget that it all starts and emanates from the cross and the great gift of salvation by faith, not by any works that we could possibly conceive to “accomplish”.  Whether it is ordination, the growth of a church or the establishment of a ministry these are all gifts.  It is when we start to “smell ourselves” and rest on the great things that we have done that the trouble starts.  We stake out territories.  We begin to do things to extend our accomplishments that hurt the heart of God and create strife within the body of Christ.  We demean others as less important than ourselves, justifying our manipulation or even persecution of them, all because we lose sight of the fact that “It’s all a gift”.

What a wonderful opportunity all of us who have been entrusted with such a gift have.  Whether we are ordained, licensed or simply called the children of God we have this opportunity, this day, this moment to share all this that we have received from the hand of our gracious Lord and Savior.  “It’s all a gift!”

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