Archive for the ‘Bible Study’ Category

Too often we want to be Lions instead of sheep.

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friends

Best Friend- a person’s closest friend. (Google Dictionary)

Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God…1 Corinthians 6:19

A best friend, what a precious thing to have.  Most of us at different times in our lives have had a best friend.  For those of us who spent a lot of time moving around we may have had several.  I have known best friends who were so close that it almost seemed like they were inside each others hearts and minds.  The author of Proverbs 18 puts it this way:

A man of too many friends comes to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.  Proverbs 18:24

Today I want to give you three ways that the Holy Spirit is our best friend as followers of Jesus Christ.

The first we have already touched on.  The Holy Spirit is the closest friend that we will ever have.  The Holy Spirit lives inside the believer.  I don’t pretend to understand the mechanism of this indwelling but I experience its reality.  The Holy Spirit is closer to me than my brother or any friend that I could ever have.  The cool thing is that not only does the Spirit live inside me, the Holy Spirit lives in all God’s people so that I am impacted through my brothers and sisters in Christ even as I am transformed from the inside.

Secondly best friends have an indelible effect on us.  Our behavior, our very identity is shaped by the friends around us and particularly by those we consider to be in the best category. Paul in  his letter to Titus says:

He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to his mercy, by the washing regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit. Titus 3:5

When we accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior, he accepts us based on the                              undeniable presence of the Holy Spirit who changes us forever in a process of                      regeneration and renewal that puts on the road to conforming to the mind of                      Christ.

Finally best friends are there to help.  I can only imagine that the paralytic who was lowered through the roof in front of Jesus had multiple best friends who were looking out for his best interest.  The Holy Spirit is the best of the best friends in this area.  The Spirit is sent by the Father at the behest of the Son demonstrating the united front of the Trinity.  The Spirit’s divine nature engages us and when we open ourselves to that nature becomes helper, guide, comforter.  Where Jesus stood in the lives of his disciples, the Holy Spirit stands in the heart of his followers.

I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that he may be with you forever.  John 14:16

We have this wonderful best friend.  One that is closer to us than any other.  One that desires to transform us and renew us into that reflects the very nature of God.  One that is there to help us walk out this life as children of God.  One that perhaps we fail to acknowledge, to share and share with, to truly depend on as the best friend sent straight from God into our hearts.  One that is God himself.  How is your relationship with your best friend?

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The secret to living the Christian life is to become best friends with the Holy Spirit. He has all the right qualities for that role and will not disappoint you- Charles Stanley

I posted this quote from Pastor Stanley’s InTouch Ministries devotional some time ago while Allana and I were deep in the treatment for her Leukemia.  It has been percolating in my brain since then.  The importance of this statement has become clearer and clearer in my life, though the topic languished here in the draft file.

As we walked the difficult road of cancer we greatly appreciated the observations and comments about our faith and commitment to Christ through the trial.  The truth is we don’t see it.  We didn’t then and we don’t really now.  We do not feel overly special, or faithful and certainly not holy.  Yet we see the impact of our lives and are humbled by it and blessed to see the Holy Spirit working around us in the lives of God’s people and in the lives of those soon to join the family!  So what is the secret.  Well it is not so secret.

The Holy Spirit is our Best Friend.  Friendship takes time to cultivate.  I think that too many times we think that we have all the time in the world to become friends with the Holy Spirit and that we do not need to become close with the Holy Spirit until the S*** hits the fan.  The reality is that if we wait until we decide we need the friendship of the Holy Spirit to cultivate that relationship we are in for a tough time of it.  This is just another view of the Hupomone lifestyle.  If you read the Intro to Hupomone you will see that the Greek word mean “remain under” or “remain about”.  This is the only way that a true friendship will develop.  It is the result of persistence, perseverance, steadfastness (all words used to translate Hupomone).

Many Christians believe that Acts 2 was the beginning of the relationship with the Holy Spirit for the disciples. However if you read the Gospels carefully you will find Jesus intentionally leading the disciple into relationship as a part of guiding them into relationship with Himself.  Even in the Old Testament we find the Holy Spirit in relationship with men like David, Moses, Elijah and others.  Luke notes that Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied about his son.  He also notes that Simeon who greeted Mary, Joseph and young Jesus had the Holy Spirit upon him.  No Acts 2 was not the beginning of the relationship for the disciples, it was the culmination of the relationship.  In fact it was the culmination of the relationship for all mankind.  The cross bridged the gap between man and God allowing the Holy Spirit to enter an new level of relationship.  The disciples would hold on to the Holy Spirit as their best friend, most even to their deaths.

“As Moses, David, and Mary discovered, getting to know may include walking with Him through life’s darkest valleys.  But in these times, we gain tremendous insight into the Father’s character.”  Dr. Charles Stanley

 Is the Holy Spirit your best friend?

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hupomone

Why Hupomone?  Is it just to sound cool?  Is it to demonstrate that I know a word in NT Greek?  Ok, I have to admit it is partly because it does just sound cool.  God spoke this word to my heart while I was forming a series of short devotionals for radio.  I was engaging the idea of perseverance when I noticed Paul using this word over and over.  If you add the verb form hupomeno, then it appears just short of 50 times.  As I began to dig deeper into the concept (not only used by Paul but also by Luke, James the brother of Jesus, Peter and John in Revelations) I realized that the words so often used in translation only captured part of the idea these men were conveying.  Indeeds sometimes the connotations that we attribute to those word contradict the very heart of the message. So by focusing on Hupomone I stripped away my preconceived notions of what all of those words mean.  This is what I encourage you to do.  God has a very special message for each of us buried in this fairly simple Greek word as it sits within the whole of the Word of God.

“But the seed in the good soil, these are the ones who have heard the word in an honest and good heart, and hold it fast, and bear fruit with perseverance.”  Luke 8:15

Jesus in telling this wonderful parable of the Kingdom of God and the effectiveness of the Gospel tells us a little about those who have pursued the hupomone lifestyle.

  1.  They have heard the Word.  The Gospel is the basic unit of hupomone.  Without the Gospel hupomone does not exist.
  2. They are genuine.  Hupomone cannot be faked.  Hupomone requires an honest and good heart.  Many try to fake it.  They may even believe somehow that they are pursuing truth.  However in the end it is their fruit and the inconsistencies in it that betray them.
  3. They hold fast to the Gospel starting a positive “Crazy Cycle” (Eggerich, Love and Respect).  As the first point states the Gospel is the basic unit of hupomone.  It comes from the God of hupomone, the only one who can say that He is the same, “yesterday, today and forever”  This is the “crazy cycle” of hupomone.  The Gospel seeds hupomone in your life.  Then as you practice it by holding fast to the Gospel it grows, in turn your ability to hold fast grows, the Gospel Grows in you, in turn your ability to hold fast grows….well you get the picture.
  4. They produce fruit.  When all is said and done a hupomone lifestyle produces unmistakable fruit.  It is the fruit of the Spirit.  It is the fruit of life in Jesus Christ.  It is the litany of life qualities that Paul wrote to the Galatians encouraging them to get back on the hupomone crazy cycle.

Unlike so many other things in life, Hupomone is for everyone.  It may look a little different on each one of us but it will always start with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  It grows when that Gospel is engaged honestly from a good heart.  It creates it’s own crazy cycle of growth and maturity that results in an incredible harvest of Spiritual fruit.

     

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    Demolition

    “O Foolish Galatians…” Paul says in Galatians 3:1.  Solomon said it this way, “Like a dog that returns to his vomit is a fool who repeats his folly.” Proverbs 26:11  Unfortunately as a whole we are rebuilders.  This is not always terrible.  It can demonstrate a certain resilience.  However when it comes to our Life in Christ it is terrible folly.  Everyone of us before coming into a personal relationship with Jesus and accepting the Holy Spirit into our very being, had built a house.  It was a house of beliefs, of axioms.  It was the house that defined who we were and how we chose to live.  In some cases these houses are terribly dysfunctional and destructive.  In other cases they are simply not a fit abode for the mature or maturing Christian.  Take for instance the child raised by believing parents, schooled in the Gospel.  The child grows up accepting the Gospel and believing on Jesus as his savior in the context of his faith and love for his parents (or her).  At some point the child must allow the Holy Spirit to demolish that home and move into a deeper personal relationship with Him that rests on that relationship not on the faith of others.

    In this scripture Paul is specifically referring to Judaizers who would have required the largely gentile Galatians to adhere to the Law of Moses and all the corollaries that had been added over the centuries, for their salvation.  While Jesus did not destroy the Law and its significance (indeed he came to fulfill the purpose of the Law), He did destroy the “faith house” that called for salvation by works.  Jesus had also demolished the house of paganism that ruled their lives.  Why in the world would they begin rebuilding another house that had been demolished by the cross?  Over the past weeks we have been looking at the house already established, the house of Faith in Christ and the final work of the Cross.  Any other house is foolishness.  Consider the parable of man who built his house upon the rock.  The Cross takes that parable a step further, the house is built and prepared for us.  We simply accept God’s invitation to move in.

    Peter expresses the dangers of rebuilding, “For it would have been better for them never to have known the way of righteousness than after knowing it to turn back from the holy commandment delivered to them.What the true Proverb says has happened to them: ‘The dog returns to its own vomit and the sow, after washing herself, returns to wallow in the mire”  2 Peter 2:21-22.  I am not here to debate the doctrines of Salvation only to say that when we leave our Hupomone house to rebuild what Christ has torn down in our lives there are consequences.

    Why do we rebuild?  There are probably as many answers to that question as there are humans who have lived.  However I have come up with a few that I think can be generalized across the variety of humanity.

    1.  We are creatures made to be followers.  Even the greatest leaders in history were made to follow Jesus Christ.  Some were great leaders because they followed God.  Some were rebuilders extraordinaire, following a blueprint established by men and encouraged by the Enemy of all.  Adam and Eve were just such followers.  They were presented with a blueprint by Satan for a house of rebellion that had been demolished when he was cast out of heaven.  When they took their eyes of their heavenly Father, the following nature took its course.
    2. We are creatures of habit.  It is all to easy to justify old ways that are comfortable and even to fashion them into a rebuilt home that we allow ourselves to believe is a Hupomone House.  It is only when the storms come that the infirm foundation reveals itself.  On top of the poor foundation, the homes we rebuild are often made of inferior materials like pride, arrogance, logic (the human kind) etc.
    3. We are creatures of comfort.  When faith becomes difficult that old house (or someone else’s old house) suddenly looks comfortable.  The corollary to this reason is that we are creatures of limited memory because that old house that suddenly looks comfortable was in fact often not comfortable at all.

    I am sure that there are many other reason’s that we rebuild that which the Cross has destroyed.  The key here is:

    “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, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right had of the throne of god.” Hebrews 12:1-2

     

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    I want you to know brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the Gospel.  Philippians 1:12

    Hupomone

    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

    Hupomone living frees us from the circumstances of life.  We are no longer bound to react to circumstance after circumstance.  Instead as Brother Lawrence would say, we are free to “practice the presence of God”.  We are able to make our relationship with Him our total focus.  Nor can we make our circumstances the foundation of our faith, that too will distract from the singular purpose of pursuing God and results in a faith that is blown here and there by the situational waves of life. (Ephesians 4:14)

    “Are they servants of Christ?- I speak as if insane- I more so; in far more labors, in far more imprisonments, beaten times without number, often in danger of death.  five times I received from the Jews thirty-nine lashes.  Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, a night and a day I have spent in the deep….

    2 Corinthians 11:23-26

    Paul goes on to list the circumstances of his life as a missionary and even the intense times of communion with God as well as the “thorn in the flesh”.   Paul could boast in his hupomone lifestyle, that he endured all these things and was graced by intense visions from God.  In the end analysis Paul understood, perhaps along with the author of Ecclesiastes, that this too is vanity.  It is better to boast in weakness and recognize that the important thing is that the power of Christ dwells inside.  Paul understood that when he rejected circumstances as the guides and measure of his life and practiced the presence of Jesus Christ in every situation that whatever happened to him would “really serve to advance the cause of Christ.”  This is the result of the hupomone lifestyle.  It is the goal that transcends our individual personalities, situations, callings, theologies, denominations, socioeconomic status etc.

    When we enter into the hupomone life we are freed not only from circumstances but from results as well.  It is a natural result of who we are as children of God and the natural excellence that occurs when we focus pursuing God.  This is the natural conclusion of Romans 8:28 “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called to His purpose.”  However we are not freed from the need to pursue all that we do with excellence.  Scripture calls for Christ followers over and over to reach for excellence.  I have actually heard intentional incompetence lauded as a way to encourage the work of the Holy Spirit in one’s life.  This is directly contradicted in Scripture.

     Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth. 2 Timothy 2:15

    Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge, 2 Peter 1:5

    Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.                        1 Corinthians 10:31

    The fact that we are freed from the constraints of results allows us to focus our pursuit of excellence where it belongs, on our relationship with Jesus Christ and our desire to bring our heavenly father glory.

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    I drafted this to be posted last Monday.  Obviously it did not get posted and many of you may know that it was a matter of circumstance (or consequence?) that kept it in the ether world for another week.  Since that time more circumstances have hit the national and world stage and at the same time struck close to home here in Northwestern Ohio.  Circumstances, they pummel us from every side.  I sit here with my broken leg propped up and my broken heart in the hands of God, knowing that none of these circumstances can separate me from my identity.

    What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things? Who will bring a charge against God’s elect? God is the one who justifies; who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us. Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? Just as it is written,

    “For Your sake we are being put to death all day long;
    We were considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”
    But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:31-39

    Practically Hupomone

    A friend of my paid me a great compliment and asked me a personal question.  “How do you stay the same as the world happens around you.  So many people I know turn cynical.  You are always kind and ready to help.”  I have to admit unfortunately I gave this person the wrong answer.  It focused on the situation at hand and not on my identity in Jesus Christ.  Why did I give the wrong answer?  Why didn’t I intuitively know what the correct answer was.  I pondered this over the last few days.  I absolutely believe that this question came to me through my friend by the hand of God. My friend did not realize that the question and the observance behind it answered a question that I have been placing before God for some time.  What is the value of this idea, these disciplines that you have placed so strongly in me?  What is practically speaking Hupomone Living?

    So here is the answer (and I will email a copy of this to the person in question).

    For this reason also, since the day we heard of it, we have not ceased to pray for you and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so that you will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and  increasing in the knowledge of God; strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might, for the attaining of all steadfastness and patience; joyously giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in Light. Colossian 1:9-12

    Paul is brilliant here.  This passage contains a prayer, direction, promise and thanksgiving.  We find in this passage the core of Hupomone.

    The prayer (for ourselves and our brothers and sisters in Christ) is that they would be filled with the knowledge of God’s will not as the world (are even the church) sees it but through the lens of Spiritual wisdom and understanding as only comes from regular interaction with the Holy Spirit.

    The direction is that we walk in a manner worthy of Lord.  As a young man my constant question of God was “What can I get away with, how far can I go without having your hammer drop on me?”.  This led me far from Hupomone living.  It was only when I began to see Him and ask, “What can I do that will be “in a manner worthy” of You Lord.” “What can I do today to please You.” Paul fleshed this out later in Colossians but just coming to the place of asking the question, praying the question is a big step in the right direction.  It begins to eliminate our reaction to circumstance in favor of our submission to God.

    The promise is two-fold.  The implicit promise is that when we truly pursue the Hupomone life we will please Him, bear fruit, increase in our knowledge of Him and be strengthened, not according to our understanding or our circumstances but in accordance with His own.  As we pursue him, he pursues us.  It is the crazy train of our relationship with God but in a good way.  This leads to joyously giving thanks to God, not as a result of circumstances but as a result of relationship and identity and on this rests the explicit promise, we ARE qualified to share in the inheritance of the saints of Light.  The rest of the passage references our future, but all of that is based on His past,
    “Father, who has qualified us..”  Paul goes on to say “for He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.”  It is on this that Hupomone living rests.  We are not here to react to circumstances, we are here to walk worthy, please Him, bear fruit, be strengthened and to live as those qualified by God to be heirs along with our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

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