Archive for the ‘Bible Study’ Category

Silence

When did noise become a prime value for the Church?  Certainly as human beings our capacity to create noise and maintain it has grown exponentially in the last century.  We invest in state of the art sound and video systems.  We carefully choreograph our worship services to ensure that there is not a moment of silence.  We are encouraged to soak in worship music during our “quiet” times.  I recently saw a social media post in which the author was lamenting the lack of passion that he/she perceived in the worship of others.  The comments made it pretty clear that the overall measure of passionate worship was the noise and activity of the worshipers.  I would imagine that they would find an hour of silent worship before God unbearable. (For my pastor friends perhaps this is a challenge, hold a worship service of silence before God and let me know how it works out.)  Now don’t get me wrong, making a joyful noise to the Lord certainly has its place in our spiritual repertoire, I just think that worshiping in silence does too.

Peter Scazzaro quotes Dallas Willard in his book Emotionally Healthy Spirituality

Silence is frightening because it strips us as nothing else does, throwing us upon the stark realities of our life.  It reminds us of death, which will cut us off from this world and leave only us and God.

Silence strips us of the insulation between God and ourselves and between ourselves and ourselves.  This is a daunting place to be.  It is a place of revelation.  Ask Elijah.

After the earthquake a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire; and after the fire a sound of a gentle blowing. 1 Kings 19:12

The Hebrew word translated “gentle blowing” here is daq.  It evokes the picture of a think layer of fine dust.  In Exodus it is used to describe the coating of manna found in the morning.  Scazzaro asserts that this can be correctly translated as silence.  My knowledge of Hebrew idioms is not sufficient to fully agree.  However I am sure you can find some dust at home (if not we have plenty).  Go find some dust and focus on it.  Hear the sound it makes and spend some time listening to God.

 

 

 

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Here is another in the series of Blog Posts started and never finished.  This one was begun on my birthday in 2014.  The same day that I penned (typed?) An Introduction to Hupomone. I did not know that we were about to weather another unexpected storm of circumstance in our lives.  Honestly we did not do a great job of hupomone living as we walked through the situation, but God is faithful and we grew (and are still growing) by the power of His Spirit.  Thank you for joining me for another piece of my Hupomone journey.

“Remember those who led you, who spoke  the word of God to you; and considering the result of their conduct, imitate their faith. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. Do not be carried away by varied and strange teachings “

Hebrews 13:7-9

 

Perseverance is not a trait of the human condition.  While mankind toys with the concept and we are able to point to individuals who in limited circumstances demonstrate a form of perseverance, they do not rise to the standard of Biblical perseverance.  It is for this reason that true perseverance only comes as a direct gift of God.  This gift rises from His very nature.  Our title verse today expresses that nature, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.”

Being as we are forever changing, it is hard for us to conceive of an unchanging God.  We do in fact attribute change to Him as often as we can.  We seize on biblical narrative that “demonstrate” how God has changed the way that he deals with men, losing the thread of the redemptive plan set before the creation of the world.  It is perhaps the only way that finite creations can conceive of an infinite creator without child-like faith.  We unwittingly demonstrate Jesus’ assertion.

And He called a child to Himself and set him before * them, and said, “Truly I say to you, unless * you are converted and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. 4 “Whoever then humbles himself as this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.  Matthew 18:3-4

God proclaimed his divine perseverance when He declared to Moses,

“Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.’ ” 15 God, furthermore, said to Moses, “Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, ‘The LORD, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you.’ This is My name forever, and this is My memorial-name to all generations.  Exodus 3:14-15

The Eternal I am announcing His perseverance to all generations.  The Westminster Shorter Catechism puts it this way:

God is a Spirit, infinite, eternal and unchangeable in His being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness and truth.

While not Scripture, I love the simplicity of its treatment of the divine, perhaps the child-like way it approaches the question of his nature.  Yet still for all its simplicity, the nature of God is incredibly complex in its interaction with the human condition.  It is this complexity that smells of change to the inquiring (but limited) mind.  The complexity of the infinite as it intertwines with the finite takes on the appearance of instability,  even chaos when observed from the finite perspective. However there is in fact a singularity of purpose and intent in every nuance of the relationship.  This purpose is wrapped up in another concept that struggle with.

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16

It is this eternal purpose that removes the onus of circumstance from our lives when we accept the Hupomone aspect of God’s nature with childlike faith.  It frees us from the whirlwind of circumstances and allows us to see the straight line of God’s intent within the chaos of finite existence.

because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death. Romans 8:2

The Holy Spirit has freed us from the law of sin and death, the law of circumstance. Hupomone living is choosing to operate in the eternal through the power of the Holy Spirit, pursuing our ongoing transformation into the image of Jesus Christ.

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This is a social media post from my brother.  I am not going to go into all the history and details of why I hold him in high regard as a Hupomone Man.

I have, to some degree, learned the tension of walking through the valley of the shadow of death while still expecting blessing. I can navigate suffering (relatively speaking) but expect blessing. So when I knew I was flying to Shanghai I decided to be specific in my request to God. I bought a coach seat but wanted an upgrade. Not only did I want an upgrade, I wanted to be upgraded to the upper deck of the 747 aircraft in seat 77. When I checked my flight just before our Sunday gathering at The Bridge Metrowest, I saw I had been upgraded to seat 77. See, in the grand scheme of things it’s a small thing. In light of recent events it’s insignificant. But it means something to me that the Father cares about the little things that seem big to His kids in the moment. That’s what Dads do. He’s a good good Father.

Walking in the miraculous should be a way of life for the Hupomone man.  It is a lifestyle that extends from our faith.  (For a look at Walking in the Miraculous click here ).

As my brother says we have a good, good Father; one who gives his children good gifts (Luke 11:13).  The mistake that we make too often is linking the gifts from our Father to the circumstances of our lives and our own expectations.  When we become a new creation we are freed from circumstances and our only expectation is “that all things work together for good…” (Romans 8:38).

Our freedom and expectation of  God’s good makes the miraculous details of God’s love all the more amazing because whether you get upgraded to seat 77 or your flight is canceled and you are stuck in the airport for 36 hours the goodness of our Father remains, along with the expectation of the miraculous.  This reality does not diminish the joy of the above story, in fact it enhances it because the joy is guaranteed.  We just need to walk it out.  This is not the giddy joy of circumstance, it is the hupomone joy.  It is the joy that remains regardless of circumstance but brings those oh yeah moments when he opens up the gates of heaven to bless in demonstrative fashion to strengthen the hupomone faith of creatures born of circumstance.

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This is a second post started on October 30, 2013.  It was a time of processing the trial that God had already brought us through and preparing for what was ahead.  i have no direct memory of what brought me to Psalm 118 but remember well the joining of Blessing, Sacrifice and Thanks in my heart and soul.

Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the LORD; We have blessed you from the house of the LORD. The LORD is God, and He has given us light; Bind the festival sacrifice with cords to the horns of the altar. You are my God, and I give thanks to You; You are my God, I extol You. Give thanks to the LORD, for He is good; For His lovingkindness is everlasting.  Psalm 118:26-29

As I was reading today I found this passage of Scripture interesting in its fusion of concepts:  Blessing, Sacrifice and Thanks.  We are always excited about blessing.  We see ourselves as coming from our Lord God and appreciate the blessings that come from Him as well as those that come by way of His people.  Likewise we are often prepared to lavish our thanks on Him in prayer and song.  However when it comes to the centerpiece of this Scripture we tend to balk a little, or a lot.  In a culture of individual value the concept of personal sacrifice in service of our God has been watered down almost to the point of non-existence.

How we hesitate (or refuse) to bind the festival sacrifice with cords to the horns of the altar.  This act was in preparation for sacrifice.  It may be that the picture that David is painting is of a temple court crowded with animals to be sacrificed.  Binding them to the horns of the altar committed them to God as they waited to be placed on the altar.  The Hebrew word for cords here is indicative of a celebratory garland as opposed to utilitarian rope.  Sacrifice is in celebration of the blessing and the thankfulness that arise from our faith in a good and loving Father.  How often we bind our sacrifices to the altar with the dingy and weak cords of reluctance.

“Each one must do just as he has purposed in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”  2 Corinthians 9:7

We need to wrap our sacrifice in the garland of joy and love.

“Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of Worship.”  Romans 12:1

Jesus has led us to the path of real sacrifice.  It is absolute.  It is sacrifice of being.

Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although he existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking  the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men.  Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on the cross. Philippians 2:6-8

Once we come to this place sacrifice becomes culture because we recognize that it is all His to begin with and that the true nature of sacrifice is abundance freed from circumstance.

Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. Luke 6:38

I do not believe that this is talking about a quid pro quo relationship with God.  He is not a God of “this for that”.  We do not sacrifice for reward, this would be meaningless, and probably not qualify as sacrifice at all.  Instead we demonstrate our capacity to receive blessing by embracing the sacrificial example of Jesus Christ.

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I wrote most of this piece five years ago.  We had recently gotten back to Toledo after 4 months in Cleveland following Allana’s bone marrow transplant and after weathering what was easily the greatest test of our lives.  I can remember hearing this song that morning and feeling the impact of the words more than I had ever.

TisSoSweet

Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus,Just to take Him at His word, Just to rest upon His promise and to know ‘Thus saith the Lord’

Wonderful words penned by Louisa Stead over 200 years ago ring true today.  She lived in a world that served up tragedy on a regular basis just the same as we do today.  Even as we struggle with the trial of Leukemia the trials of this world impact so many others all around us.  A young bride is bereft of her husband on the way to her honeymoon.  A mother and grandmother passes away.  A child is desperately ill.  Families are losing their homes.  All these things rock the carefully manicured lives that we try to prepare for ourselves and those closest to us.  It is in the midst of grief and turmoil that the words of this great hymn begin to make sense Jesus, Jesus how I trust him.  How I’ve proved him o’er and o’er.  Jesus, Jesus precious Jesus oh for grace to trust him more.”    It really makes sense because it is grace that makes our trust possible.  I have in my life attempted to trust by study, by effort and by ostrich (sticking my head into the sand).  I can attest to the fact that these paths to trusting our Savior do not work.  In the end they magnify the turmoil and most often leave one sensing an ever increasing gap between God and oneself.  We end up feeling unloved and that God has somehow failed to keep up his end of the bargain.  Thoughts like, “But God I have done everything you asked…”; “Lord I don’t know what you want from me I can’t do anymore…” tear at our faith and bring in a spirit of defeat that can be more devastating than the tragic events themselves.

It is when by grace we detach our faith from circumstance and effort, relying on the Holy Spirit, simply fanning the flame of the gift that God has given each of us through whatever circumstances occur because we are convinced that He will guard us and the Gospel He has entrusted with us through the Holy Spirit (1 Timothy 1:6-14).  Paul follows up this impassioned guidance to Timothy with the difficult circumstances that Paul found himself in and the sustenance that God provided to Paul.  I think that even in his chains Paul would have sung Louisa Stead’s lyrics with an honest heart.

I’m so glad I learned to trust Him,
Precious Jesus, Savior, Friend
And I know that He is with me,
Will be with me to the end.

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“My son, thou art not yet strong and prudent in thy love.”

“Wherefore O my Lord?”

“Because for a little opposition thou fallest away from thy undertakings, and too eagerly seekest after consolation. The strong lover standeth fast in temptations, and believeth not the evil persuasions of the enemy. As in prosperity I please him, so in adversity I do not displease.”

“The prudent lover considerest not the gift of the lover so much as the love of the giver. He looketh for the affection more than the value, and setteth all gifts lower than the Beloved. The noble lover resteth not in the gift, but in Me above every gift.”

Thomas a Kempis, The Imitation of Christ

no·ble

adjective
1.belonging to a hereditary class with high social or political status; aristocratic.
“the Duchess of Kent and other noble ladies”
synonyms: aristocratic, patrician, blue-blooded, high-born, titled; archaic: gentle
“a noble family”

2.having or showing fine personal qualities or high moral principles and ideals.
“the promotion of human rights was a noble aspiration”
synonyms: righteous, virtuous, good, honorable, upright, decent, worthy, moral, ethical, reputable

Strong, prudent and noble, Kempis offers these as the attributes of one who loves well as spoken by God to one who has not achieved the status of a strong and prudent lover.  He defines the first two attributes in terms of action.  The strong lover stands fast in the face of opposition.  The prudent lover looks past the gifts and sees the value of the lover/beloved behind them.  However when I look at the noble lover, the definition is not in action, but in position.

Kempis wrote The Imitation of Christ as a series of booklets in the early 1400’s.  When he wrote this, the concept of nobility was much more defined and important in the daily life of almost everyone than it is now.  It was widely believed that nobility was a matter of birth and that noble birth predicated a higher standard of behavior.  In Christian nations nobility was given a foundation in the will of God.  History reveals the flaw in this thinking (stemming from the basic flaw in humanity, sin).  Kempis himself was the son of blacksmith who apparently entered monastic life under the influence of his older brother.  Still this idea of “noble” was a very real one to him and to the readers of his writings.  It was an idea of position.

Kempis proposes a position in his description of the noble lover.  It is a position of stillness.  Originally written in Latin, Kempis chose the word quiescere.

Nobilis amator non quiescit in dono, sed in Me super omne donum.

A Roman would have used this word to say, “good night” ( bene valeas et quiecas).  God is calling us into a position of rest in Him.  Kempis recognizes that we tend to rest in the gifts or the positive circumstances that we find ourselves, and not in the being of the lover who gives us these gifts.  I find a cool parallel in the periodic table.  The noble gases sit at one side of the table.  They are called such because at one time they were considered to be completely non-reactive to their environment.  This quality in nitrogen is why it is used to preserve foods in sealed containers and used as a replacement for compressed air in filling tires.  The nitrogen will not react to the food or to the rubber of the tires in the way that oxygen in particular does.

Our love for God should not be reactive to the things around us or the circumstances of our life.  It should rest in Him above all those things… “in Me super omne donum”  Matthew records an exchange between Jesus and an “expert in the law”.  We pick up the exchange in verse 36.

“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” 
Jesus replied: “ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 
This is the first and greatest commandment. 
And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’
The first and greatest is to love God and he sets the standard of that love.
But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8
The flawless demonstrated his love for the flawed.  It is not based on anything we have to give or offer.
For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.  Romans 8:38-39
The intrinsic focus of God’s love begets it’s noble nature, completely unaffected by circumstance as God is completely unaffected by circumstance.  This is both the great example of noble love and the measure of the noble lover.  It is in this love that we find rest not in the many gifts that He gives but in who He is.

 

 

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Clock“My son, thou art not yet strong and prudent in thy love.”

“Wherefore O my Lord?”

“Because for a little opposition thou fallest away from thy undertakings, and too eagerly seekest after consolation. The strong lover standeth fast in temptations, and believeth not the evil persuasions of the enemy. As in prosperity I please him, so in adversity I do not displease.”

“The prudent lover considerest not the gift of the lover so much as the love of the giver. He looketh for the affection more than the value, and setteth all gifts lower than the Beloved. The noble lover resteth not in the gift, but in Me above every gift.”

Thomas a Kempis, The Imitation of Christ

prudent – adj – acting with or showing care and thought for the future

Kempis has uncovered the weak lover.  The one who falls away in the storm, seeking only for consolation.  He has proclaimed the strong lover.  The one who stands fast in the face of temptation and whose love does not rest on the whims of circumstance.  Now we find that there is yet another quality of love that we are called to in our Imitation of Christ.  The Lord turns his conversation to the prudent lover.

How often we mistake the gift for the lover.  This is the sign of imprudent love.   The gift is wonderful and amazing.  We wrap ourselves up in the gift.  We hug it and caress it.  We proclaim the gift to the world.  It thrills the soul, but like all gifts it fades in value.  The storms of life batter the gift and the sands of time wear it down.  Suddenly that thrill is gone, that tingle that we called love has faded away and because we have been so focused on the gift instead of the lover, prudent love that might have been is never found.

Jesus speaks of this love in Matthew 13:5-6.

5 Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. 6 But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root.

The gift of the Gospel is heard and perhaps even believed but the faith that springs up is in the gift, not in the giver, not in the lover of our souls.  So when the circumstances of life arise there is no depth to hold our faith because our eyes are not on Jesus.

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 hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12:2

As great as the gift is (For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord .Romans 6:23) it is only great because it opens the path for us to focus on The Lover.  If we take our eyes off him….

As is so often the case, the qualities of our vertical relationship with God speak into our horizontal relationships as well.  The gifts of our life both given and received should conduits of intimacy drawing us into relationship with others.  When the gifts are the focus, the love is compromised and when the circumstances change one finds that it is not love at all.  We are all to often ready to believe that gifts (given or received) are enough but there is no endurance in gifts when they do not bring clarity of focus on the lover.

The prudent lover looks to the future, not to the present or the past.  The actions of the prudent lover are framed to sustain and grow intimacy over time with the beloved.  This is the focus of a steadfast relationship, one that will stand the test of time.  It is this kind of love that Paul speaks about in 1 Corinthians.

4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. 8 Love never fails. 1 Corinthians 13:4-8

Be prudent in love, setting ALL gifts lower in value than the lover who gives them.

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