Archive for the ‘Bible Study’ Category

Everyone is looking for excellence, or at least a lot of people are.  A quick search of books on excellence will demonstrate the ubiquitous desire for this elusive quality.  The books that pop up span the spectrum of milieus.  Personal excellence, business excellence, academic excellence, excellence in sports, excellence in parenting are all represented in even a cursory review.  I have been pondering this topic since I opened a file on it in August of 2019.  I just could never envision the direction that I wanted it to go.  I had an experience that changed that today.

I went to Chic Fil A for lunch.  I have always been professionally impressed with the overall service model that Chic Fil A has developed and even more so that they have maintained (hupomone has a business application too).  Here is what I saw today.  Chic Fil A has been faced with a pandemic just as every other business, organization, school etc. in the world.  Many businesses and organizations have made adaptations in order to continue to operate.  They have also made concessions in quality and service.  They have cut little holes in their paradigm boxes in order to comply or avoid liability.  Others have just given up, not being able to see a way to make their paradigms remotely work.  I am not going to go into the details but what I saw today was an organization that looked at the operational exigencies of a world in pandemic and instead of cutting little holes in their operational paradigm to adapt and comply, accepting the cultural compromises that accompany such efforts, they just blew it up.  They restarted at their core values and said “How can we best express our core values operationally during the pandemic.”  Now I cannot vouch for every Chic Fil A, I have only visited this one recently (unfortunately Chic Fil A does not fit in my current nutritional regimen) but this location’s brand new paradigm is a wonderful expression of excellence in the face of adversity.

The Bible has a lot to say about excellence and being excellent.  The two Greek words that we translate as excellence and excellent (Kalos and Arete) among other things, are used well over 100 times in the New Testament.  Arete carries with it a sense of moral goodness or virtuous thought, feeling or action.  Paul uses this word once in Phillipians,

“Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.” Phillipians 4:8

Paul calls us to “dwell on” or meditate on/think about things that have this quality of moral goodness.  However he doesn’t just leave this quality in the thought realm.  In the very next verse he says,

“The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.” Phillipians 4:9

So we need to dwell on some things, but what things?  Things learned, Things received, things heard and things seen, then these things must become things practiced but it starts with the idea of excellence. Peter uses arete in direct reference to the attributes of God.

“But you are A CHOSEN RACE, A royal PRIESTHOOD, A HOLY NATION, A PEOPLE FOR God’s OWN POSSESSION, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light;” 1 Peter 2:9

How awesome is that as people set apart by God for His Glory we have the opportunity to proclaim His excellencies! The same qualities that we are called to dwell on and then put into practice. This is why our walk of maturing in Christ never ends. We should always be learning, receiving, hearing and seeing! This is how God works in us.

Peter then echoes Paul’s call for diligence and equates God’s excellence with our own as he summarizes the spiritual process of maturity.

3 seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence. 4 For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust. 5 Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge, 6 and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness, 7 and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love. 8 For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” 2 Peter 1:3-8

Here, Arete meets Hupomone as we are transformed into his likeness and become “neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” How amazing is it that when we apply ourselves to the process diligently, the Holy Spirit honors our commitment and we begin to evince the fruit of the Spirit and and take on the excellence of our Father in Heaven!

So how does all this relate to Chic Fil A? Chic Fil A has anchored the excellence of their brand not in a series of procedures and practices. If this had been the case, as they attempted to adapt to the pandemic they would have clung to their old way of doing things, believing (as many do) that excellence resides in those practices. What I saw in my visit was an organization that understands what is excellent in their industry. They put the customer experience before their operational manual and understood that in this case they didn’t need to make as minimal adaptations to their practices as they could to operate under these conditions. Instead they blew up the manual and took all they had learned, received, heard and seen and molded it into a new thing that pursued true excellence. If you are doing things because it has always been done that way, maybe it is time to stop.

“8 Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things. 9 The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.” Philippians 4:8,9

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Saturday

 

I Tend to repost this during Easter but as we finish up 2020 and the stories of difficulty and loss pile up, I felt that it was a good word as we move forward into 2021 I feel a weariness as the shock and awe of the pandemic fades into a daily grind and we look to find the light at the end of the tunnel.

We celebrate Good Friday.  We celebrate Easter.  What about Saturday?

Sandwiched between the suffering of the greatest sacrifice ever made and the glory of the most magnificent triumph ever won, past present or future, is What? I am going to call it Hupomone Day! because it is the Saturday’s of our life that grow true perseverance.

How often do we find ourselves on Saturday.  That blank day between the suffering and triumph.  At least as we watch the events unfolding we can focus on the horror, the pain.  We can anticipate the miraculous escape, the triumphant turning of the tide as God magnificently brings the victory.  Then it doesn’t happen the way we want or expect.  The night falls,  a restless night, perhaps without sleep, certainly with disturbed dreams.  Then what about Saturday, what do we do?  The dawn rises, but all that we can see is Friday’s darkness.  The birds are singing, but all we can hear are the screams and jeers of the crowd; the hammering of the nails; the moans of his mother; the pounding of our own heart.

What about Saturday.  What do we do?  What should we do?  Some will run.  Some will hide.  Some will lose faith and return to the life they had known before they felt the Master’s touch.  Some will struggle and doubt, but:

struggle and doubt + faith = Hupomone

Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.  Hebrews 11:1

Some of us have longer Saturdays than others.  Take Thomas.  I often hear people make fun of doubting Thomas.  I can only imagine that his fellow disciples gave him some ribbing but here is the deal:  Thomas Stayed!  He made it through a Saturday that was longer and more intense than any of the others.  I can only believe this made his Sunday morning all the more amazing.  Thomas grew through his Saturday.  He walked away with an understanding of Hebrews 11:1 straight from the lips of his Savior:  Jesus said to him, “Because you have seen Me, have you believed? Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed.” John 20:29.

If Friday is Good Friday and Sunday is Easter Sunday; Saturday is Hupomone Saturday.  Saturday is when we remember His Word.  Saturday is when we remember His touch.  On Saturday the fellowship of our brother’s and sister’s in Christ becomes paramount.  On Saturday we scream out to God.  On Saturday we worship, we cry, we hurt, we heal…in-spite of ourselves.  On Saturday we grow and mature as on no other day.  Perhaps that is why Saturday is in God’s plan for us.  I have experienced a few Saturday’s in my life.  Some I am still experiencing.  While the Sunday mornings are great!  It is the Saturday’s that draw me close to God and close to God’s people.

It is in the midst of Saturday the I make strides towards Philippians 2 , learning humility, allowing God to work in me. It is on Saturday that God makes those subtle changes in me that draw my spirit, soul and body closer to having His attitude and His values and to truly having His love.

It is on Saturday that we practice Hebrews 11:1 like no other day.  Do we trust the promise?  Are we certain of our hope? It is on Saturday that we say in the midst of it all with Joshua, “As for me and my house we will serve the Lord.”

Unfortunately I think that it is also on Saturday that all to many lose faith, not being able to hold on to the promise.  It is on Saturday that as brother’s and sister’s in Christ we fail each other as on no other day.  Perhaps this is because we do not realize that everyday is someone’s Saturday.

Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ. Galatians 6:2 

Are you in the midst of Saturday?  Be certain Sunday morning is coming, and when it does the most miraculous thing, the most miraculous change will not be in the situation that you are experiencing, it will be in YOU!

Available in Paperback and on Kindle at Amazon.com

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Luke 2:43

43 and as they were returning, after spending the full number of days, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem. But His parents were unaware * of it,

Luke 8:15

15 “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 21:19

16 “But you will be betrayed even by parents and brothers and relatives and friends, and they will put some of you to death, 17 and you will be hated by all because of My name. 18 “Yet not a hair of your head will perish. 19 “By your endurance you will gain your lives.

The writers of the Gospels use the word Hupomone or Hupomeno (the verb) six times. Five of the references are the gospel writers quoting Jesus and the sixth is a reference to Jesus himself. I love these references because they make a real statement about the nature of Hupomone living and they connect Hupomone directly to our savior. In my previous post we looked at these passages in Matthew and Mark. Today we will see how Luke utilized my favorite Greek word.

The first verse is pretty cool because it establishes something about Hupomone in a very concrete way. Luke chapter two is the Gospel Wikipedia on Jesus under the heading “early childhood”. It takes us from His birth up to His baptism by John the Baptist. It includes this story about a trip to Jerusalem with His family for the Feast of the Passover. This was not an unusual trip for Mary and Joseph. They went every year to this special celebration in the city that was the center of the worship for the Jews. It is verse 43 that makes it unusual and is why Luke includes it in his Gospel.

43 and as they were returning, after spending the full number of days, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem. But His parents were unaware * of it,

When everyone else gathered up and returned home, Jesus stayed behind. Luke says that Jesus “Hupemeinen“. I would suggest that Hupomone is not a function of action, but a function of position. Luke further emphasizes this when three days later Joseph and Mary finally track down the missing boy.

“When they saw Him they were astonished; and His mother said to Him, “Son, why have you treated us this way? Behold, Your father and I have been anxiously looking for You.” And He said to them, “Why is it that you were looking for Me? Did you not know that I had to be in my Father’s house?” (Luke 2:48-49)

Jesus is not focused on behavior. He is focused on position. He doesn’t say that he is learning or teaching or ministering. He simply needed to be in His Father’s house. Everything else followed that. Matthew quotes Jesus on this very point, “Seek first His Kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” (Matthew 6:33) Jesus understood the importance of Hupomone. In his parable of the sower found in Luke chapter 8 he first describes the lack of lasting impact that the Gospel has when Hupomone is absent. Luke is the only Gospel writer that tags the positive end of this parable with “Hupomone”. It is this positional quality that Luke recognizes as the difference between the unproductive soil and seed and the productive soil and seed. Indeed the soil must remain positionally with the seed and the seed positionally with the soil in order for the Gospel to flourish (Matthew: “bears fruit and brings forth, some a hundredfold, some sixty, and some thirty”)

The final verse that we are considering in Luke is a retelling of the discourse on the troubles facing God’s Hupomone people. Luke here highlights the separation between circumstance and Hupomone. He presents the dichotomy between the perceived human condition and the reality of Hupomone living in Luke 21. This is the same discourse that we find in Mark 13 and Matthew 24 .

16 “But you will be betrayed even by parents and brothers and relatives and friends, and they will put some of you to death, 17 and you will be hated by all because of My name. 18 “Yet not a hair of your head will perish. 19 By your endurance you will gain your lives.

Amid all of the betrayal, persecution and even death , “Yet not a hair of your head will perish. By your Hupomone you will gain your lives”. Our life does not depend on our parents, brothers, sisters, relatives or friends. It does not depend on our life circumstances at all, even to the point of physical death. Our life in Christ Jesus depends on one thing, Hupomone, remaining under Him regardless of what this world brings. It is a matter of spiritual position. Paul puts it this way in one of my favorite chapters of the Bible, “Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 8:1) This is the Hupomone Gospel.

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Matthew 10:22

22 “You will be hated by all because of My name, but it is the one who has endured to the end who will be saved.

Matthew 24:10-14

10 “At that time many will fall away and will betray one another and hate one another. 11 “Many false prophets will arise and will mislead many. 12 “Because lawlessness is increased, most people’s love will grow cold. 13 “But the one who endures to the end, he will be saved. 14 “This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all the nations, and then the end will come.

Mark 13:13

“You will be hated by all because of My name, but the one who endures to the end, he will be saved.

Luke 2:43

43 and as they were returning, after spending the full number of days, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem. But His parents were unaware * of it,

Luke 8:15

15 “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 21:19

16 “But you will be betrayed even by parents and brothers and relatives and friends, and they will put some of you to death, 17 and you will be hated by all because of My name. 18 “Yet not a hair of your head will perish. 19 “By your endurance you will gain your lives.

The writers of the Gospels use the work Hupomone or Hupomeno (the verb) six times. Five of the references are the gospel writers quoting Jesus and the sixth is a reference to Jesus himself. I love these references because the make a real statement about the nature of Hupomone living and they connect Hupomone directly to our savior.

Hupomone Living does not rely on the approval of others

Matthew records the first New Testament uses of Hupomone. In chapter 10, Jesus has invested the twelve with authority and power to heal all kinds of diseases and to cast out unclean spirits. He then commissions them to go out into the Jewish communities around them and proclaim the Kingdom of God. This commissioning speech is an exhortation to Hupomone. It embodies the separation of the Life in Christ from the circumstances in the world and then establishes the basis of Hupomone living on the overwhelming love of the Father and our identity in Jesus Christ.

“And as you go, preach, saying, ‘The Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons. Freely you received, freely give.” Matthew 10:7-8

Hupomone living has a purpose. It extends from the very heart of the Father. It is repeated throughout scripture. It is not a set of behaviors to receive spiritual brownie points or to enjoy some mystic experience. Jesus proclaims it again just before returning to the Father in what we term “The Great Commission”. The disciples model it throughout the book of Acts and Paul proclaims it when he says, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone…” Romans 1:16

Matthew, Mark and Luke all tell the story of Jesus and the disciples exiting the Temple after a session of teaching (Matthew 24 and Mark 13). For the sake of his concise style we will be looking at Mark’s rendition.

The disciples marvel at the beauty of the Temple and Jesus replies with a prophecy that the Temple will be destroyed. I can just imagine the disciples gathering and quietly discussing the bombshell amongst themselves before approaching Jesus and asking the obvious questions, “Excuse me Jesus, when is this going to happen?”. This launches Jesus into a long prophecy of persecution and hate directed at the children of God, but our focus is not on the circumstances but on the response. Jesus opens his instruction in Mark with, “See that no one leads you astray. Many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am he’ and will lead many astray.’ In Ephesians 4 Paul says it this way, “so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.” While Jesus walks through the circumstances to come, He separates the behavior of His followers from those circumstances with 4 instructions and then a conclusion.

  1. Do not be led astray. Mark 13:5
  2. Do not be alarmed. Mark 13:7 (Do not be Anxious. Mark 13:11)
  3. Be on your guard. Mark 13:9
  4. Bear witness before them. Mark 13:9 (Say whatever is given you…Mark 13:11)

All of this circumstance and instruction is followed with a conclusion.

“But the one who hupomeno to end will be saved” Mark 13:13

Boom. Mic Drop.

In my next post I will explore the balance of the Luke passages as I think they have a lot to say about Hupomone.

Blessings!

Sam

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In three short years Jesus gathered, trained and empowered a group of people who would stand the world on its ear and engender a spiritual revolution that would encompass the globe. It was a development program unequaled in history. I would also suggest that it is a program that not only can be repeated but one that we are called to repeat both as leaders seeking to develop those around us and as seekers looking to have the greatest impact for the Kingdom that we can.  Let’s take a look at four points of  Jesus’ development program.

  1. Lead in God’s timing

I think that in modern western society we are much too often guilty of leading in our timing. We think, “I have got this. After all, I have done this before.” The people of Israel certainly thought so as they eyed up the city of Ai (Joshua 7). The classic financial disclaimer comes to mind, “Past performance may not be indicative of future results”. In this particular case it got a bunch of people killed and what should have been an easy success (and was later) became a morale crushing defeat.

Jesus is the eternal son of God. He was the son God throughout his time on earth and continues to be the son of God for eternity. Yet He waited 33 years before he started His earthly ministry and before he started the development process that would forever change the world. He repeatedly deferred to the Father’s timing and in doing so taught His disciples to do the same. This obedience to the Holy Spirit empowered the New Testament church to “turn the world upside down” (Acts 17:6)

2. Lead in lifestyle

The Bible tells us very little about His childhood, but I think we can reasonably look at his lifestyle habits throughout his ministry and extrapolate that they did not arise in a vacuum. I believe that Jesus spent that 33 years carefully establishing an earthly lifestyle that maximized his relationship with the Father and prepared him for the empowering of the Holy Spirit that would be the highlight of his ministry and the sacrifice that would be the fulfillment of His purpose on earth. The blend of Holy Spirit inspired action with times of solitude and prayer are the result of careful personal cultivation. Lifestyle is street level development. This was the purpose of the 33 years. Jesus developed the lifestyle so that he could impart it to his followers. This is an area so severely lacking in today’s leadership.  Lifestyle leadership is rarely discussed and often dismissed. The personal life of our leaders is too often considered irrelevant or simply ignored .  Paul spends considerable time in his letters both to churches and leaders talking about the necessity of lifestyle leadership.

3. Lead in the small things

John tells us the story of Christ’s first miracle. It was not an incredible life changing healing. He did not raise someone from the dead or cast out a demon. Jesus fulfilled a simple (for him) request from his mother. Actually, it wasn’t even really a request. She (as mothers will do) simply pointed out the situation. “They have no wine” (John 2:3) and then set the stage for obedience. This was the first recorded lesson for Jesus’ new followers and here is the kicker, Jesus wasn’t the teacher, Mary was. We too often view development as telling people what to do, when to do it and how to do it. Mary does none of these things. She simply puts truth on the table and then sets up the mode for obedience. “Whatever he says to you, do it.” We too often want to raise the dead and heal the sick when there is a wedding that needs saving. We can put the event even more in perspective when we look at the end of the story. “the headwaiter called the bridegroom, and said to him, ‘ Every man serves the good wine first, and when the people have drunk freely, then he serves the poorer wine; but you have kept the good wine until now'” Jesus did not even get the credit. It is likely that Peter was there for this event. I can only imagine his reaction to this lack of recognition for his rabbi.  I am not sure that this was a lesson learned.  However, it would be repeated.

4.  Lead in the big things

In chapter 8 of his Gospel, the Apostle John tells us the story of the woman caught in adultery.  Jesus took a night of respite after a particularly acrimonious round of dispute with the Temple authorities, retreating to the Mount of Olives for the night.  However in the morning he again appeared in the Temple courts and as usual the people gathered around this man who spoke with such authority.  This morning the Pharisees and teachers in the Temple space laid a trap for him involving a woman they had caught in adultery.  This was a life and death matter under the Law.  This was a big thing. 

They had failed to trap Jesus with a web of little things in their disputes, so they brought out the big gun.  The fact that John notes that it was in fact a trap may well indicate that there was something going on here not readily apparent to you and me.  Jesus’ response also probably has significance beyond what the text states as he quietly drew in the sand.  I have heard many sermons on different theories about what Jesus drew but that is neither here nor there for our discussion. 

When faced with the big trap, Jesus led in a big way.  “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.”  I imagine she quickly scanned the crowd wondering if any of them had the hubris to heft a stone.  “At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there.”  Jesus had a big answer for the Pharisee’s big trap.  While it saved one woman’s life it taught an even bigger lesson to his followers.  When the law meets grace, grace wins. “Woman, where are they?  Has no one condemned you?”  “No one, sir,” she said.  “Then neither do I condemn you.” Jesus declared, “Go now and leave your life of sin.”  John quotes Jesus later in this chapter, “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.”  While Jesus did not need this assurance we have it. Lead in the big things and guess what if you screw up, its ok because when the law meets grace, grace wins.

Timing, lifestyle, small things, big things, when the people of God follow Jesus the world turns upside down and grace wins.

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Today is an anniversary of sorts. We signed the lease on the home that we now live in six years ago. That might not seem super unusual but let me share the story.

We spent the majority of 2013 in the hospital going through Allana’s treatment for Leukemia (chemotherapy) and then a bone marrow transplant. We were separated from our 5 children, from our ministry and basically from our lives, first at Flower Hospital in Sylvania Ohio and then at The Cleveland Clinic. A more detailed account of this is available in other blog posts and “The Nineteen Days” chapter of The Hupomone Principle. Though she was cancer free, Allana remained fairly ill, really for almost two years, as she recovered not only from the impact of the Leukemia but also from the harsh treatment protocols. We began to get our lives back together and move the ministry (which my Mother-in-Law had unselfishly maintained while we were gone) forward again. Then in April of 2014 the executive directors called us for a meeting and let us know that the decision had been made to close the ministry which included our home. They graciously allowed us to stay in the ministry house until November. So, the search began. We initially looked at purchasing the ministry house but that was not feasible. Then we looked at other properties in and around our neighborhood hoping to continue the ministry on our own, but the doors did not open.

We were blessed by the outpouring of support that had begun with Allana’s diagnosis and continued through this time, but we still could not find anything that suited the needs of our family and our finances. It was during this time that I found employment at Cherry Street Mission Ministries.

Then one day Allana was perusing Craigs List ads for rental homes. She found one and showed it to me. It was all the way on the other side of town. I did not understand why she was even looking at it but I have learned when she has these moments to listen to her listening to the Holy Spirit. This is a key to Hupomone living. I called the number and a very nice lady said she would be happy to show us the home and could do it right then.

When we arrived she gave us the tour. It was not really a good fit for us, but as we spoke, I let her know that I was employed at Cherry Street and a little of our story to explain our current finances. To our surprise she said, “Then you must know my daughter…”. I did indeed, she worked in the office next to mine. As we continued looking at the property the owner stopped and said, ” This isn’t the home for you but I know what is.” She took us to different property and we immediately knew this was it.

We were incredibly blessed as the landlord made the rent work for us and just asked that we purchase the home as soon as we were able as her intent was not to rent this property but to flip it. I told her we would and on November 6th of 2014 we signed our lease to buy agreement with a five year term which was my best guess at how long it would take. However, God had different plans and we purchased the house 18 months later.

Disruption, patience, trust, listening, believing, pursuing, receiving, these are attributes of the Hupomone Principle. This is not to say that there was not a lot of grief, fear, concern and doubt along the way (hence my initial reaction to a property on the other side of town) but God is so faithful even in the midst our instability. There were many moments in this story when I could not see or even conceive of the outcome, but that is ok because God loves me anyways! Just like he loves you where-ever you are at.

If you are interested in an easy to read and concise look at The Hupomone Principle, it is available in paperback and on Kindle.

HERE.

It doesn’t always feel like Hupomone, sometimes it just feels like life….

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“I have plans for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

Jeremiah 29:11

This is one of those posts that I have been sitting on for awhile.  God spoke this to me for the first time when I walked away from the career I had spent 25 years developing.  I of course wanted to know what his plan was and how it was going to play out.  What was this new vision that He was giving me?  The answer came foggily clear, “That I which I have placed in front of you.”  ??? ….and what does that mean, “That which I have placed in front of you.”  Ummm…I have 30, 60, 90 day goals and a 1, 3, 5 year plan, can you work with me?  “That which I have placed in front of you.”  Then He threw me a bone…here is what I want you to do for the next 30 days….and then I will let you know for the next 30 days.  Now this is not to say that this is God’s intended lifestyle for all (in fact I feel that it is most certainly not) but for this A type planner it was what I needed to move me to His economy.  Eleven years later it is the normal.  I have an expectation that God is going to clearly place my next task in front of me.

I believe that this is core of the Hupomone lifestyle and it is all too often lost in a world that values great sweeping vision and “out of the box” thinking.  Don’t get me wrong both of those things are wonderful but to enter the promised land sometimes you have to march around Jericho a few times and then shout and make a fool of yourself, just because God put it in front of you.  When the Israelite people first approached the promised land they were all ready for the milk and honey but they were not ready for that which God had placed in front of them.  The giants are always going to be there.  God will provide the sling and the stones but we need to pick them up and use them.  We need to be prepared to do that which God places in front of us.

Psalm 40:8 says “I delight to do your will, O my God, And Your law is written within my heart.”  David understood the importance of doing that which God placed in front of him and he knew that the way to be ready to do it was to be as intimate with God as he could be.  Our planning in this relationship is not the what, it is the Who.  David valued his intimacy with God.  This is why Paul holds David up as a wonderful example of  doing what God place in front of him.

After removing Saul, He made David their king.  God testified concerning him:  ‘I have found David son of Jesse, a man after my own heart; he will do everything I want him to do.’ Acts 13:22

Sometimes “That which God has placed in front of me” is a don’t instead of a do.  David’s friend urged him to kill Saul in the Cave when God had delivered Saul helpless before him.  David’s intimacy with God and his engagement with the Holy Spirit as God’s prophet allowed him to choose not the obvious solution but the one that God had placed in front of him.

“This day you have seen with your own eyes how the Lord delivered you into my hands in the cave.  Some urged me to kill you, but I spared you; I said, ‘I will not lay my hand on my lord, because he is the Lord’s anointed.” Samuel 24:10

When we lose sight of what God has immediately before us, even as we tell ourselves that we are serving “the vision” that He has given us we become ineffective. Saul lost the immediacy of God’s will in the “big picture” of being king of Israel and in doing so he lost the very thing he pursued.  Samuel empowered by God responded to Saul’s loss of focus

Does the Lord delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the Lord?  To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams.  For rebellion is like the sin of divination, and arrogance like the evil of idolatry.”  1 Samuel 15:22

David had his moments too.  Next to Goliath, he is probably most known for Bathsheba.  This is a consequence of losing focus on the things that God has placed in front you.  It is the separation of religion from doing “that which God has placed in front of me”.  We may not lose a kingdom over it but we lose our effectiveness for the Kingdom and we impede the transforming process of the Holy Spirit in our lives.  How we respond to these moments is as important as the event itself.  Saul became sullen and withdrawn from God.  David laid himself out before God in repentance and submission even as the consequence crashed around him. (2 Samuel 12, Psalm 51).  It is in the maturing of our faith that we will be able to recognize the difference between the tasks that God has placed in front of us and the allure of the world.  The temptation to attribute the allure of worldly values to the task that God has for us is very real.  Our own thoughts and desires can blur the lines.  Saul fell victim to this deception as did David and so many others.

However we are not just responsible for ourselves.  We need to follow Paul’s example of prayer and fellowship.  He had never met the Colossians and yet his love for them and desire that they grow in their relationship with God is clear.  May we have the same focus in our love for others.  It is that God given love that may more than any other thing enable us to recognize and do that thing which God has put before us.

“For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you. We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God,”  Colossians 1:9-10

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This is a poem that I wrote with the help of my lovely wife Allana for the 2019 Christmas Pageant at Collingwood Presbyterian Church.  The youth narrated the poem and Scripture while the children acted it out for the congregation.

A Stable Christmas
Sam Guidry

In those days, Caesar Augustus made a law. It required that a list be made of everyone in the whole Roman world. It was the first time a list was made of the people while Quirinius was governor of Syria. All went to their own towns to be listed. Luke 2:1-3

Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the stable
Every animal was sleeping, at least all that were able;
The straw was all stocked and the water filled with care,
Knowing that soon many visitors would be there;

The dog and the cat lay snoring in newly made beds,
But the donkey and the monkey had too many thoughts in their heads;
Would all be ready for a busy busy day?
There were just so very many guests headed their way,

The donkey counted oats while the monkey fluffed the straw,
But he woke up the dog by stepping on a paw.
He let out a yowl and jumped to his feet.
Complaining so loudly of being woken from his sleep.

The cat simply smiled with such big yawn,
A yowling dog was a nice touch for the dawn. Her Cat sense told her this was a very special day.
But little did she know the very special guests that were on the way.

So Joseph went also. He went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea. That is where Bethlehem, the town of David, was. Joseph went there because he belonged to the family line of David. He went there with Mary to be listed. Mary was engaged to him. She was expecting a baby. Luke 2:4-5

One by one all the animals awoke.
But it was late in the morning before anyone spoke.
The donkey exclaimed it is only just noon.
But the Inn is filling quickly and will be full soon.

As all gathered round for an afternoon snack
The news traveled quickly from the front to the back
The Inn was filled up, not a room to be had
For many travelers this news would be bad.

It was then that the stable got an unusual pair
Who knew that a man and a pregnant woman would come there.
They found an open place as the animals gathered round.
It was clear that soon a place for a baby would need to be found.

While Joseph and Mary were there, the time came for the child to be born. She gave birth to her first baby. It was a boy. She wrapped him in large strips of cloth. Then she placed him in a manger. That’s because there was no guest room where they could stay.  Luke 2:6-7

The cat knew that she had been exactly right.
This child was special who had been born on this night.
Just then as if they had been given a cue.
Shepherds arrived the baby to view

The lamb they brought with them told such a story
It was of a host of angels all singing glory.
A surprising spectacle lighting up the night
It had given both man and beast quite a fright.

There were shepherds living out in the fields nearby. It was night, and they were looking after their sheep. An angel of the Lord appeared to them. And the glory of the Lord shone around them. They were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy. It is for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you. He is Christ the Lord. Here is how you will know I am telling you the truth.

You will find a baby wrapped in strips of cloth and lying in a manger.” Suddenly a large group of angels from heaven also appeared. They were praising God. They said, “May glory be given to God in the highest heaven! And may peace be given to those he is pleased with on earth!” The angels left and went into heaven. Then the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem. Let’s see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.” Luke 2:8-15
At the end of the story they all let out a sigh.
They peered into the manger where the little babe lie
Together thanked God for this gift of His light!
And wished Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night.

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth … Out of his fullness we have all received grace John 1:14,16

All Scriptures from NIRV

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I never want to lose sight of the circumstances of Nisa’s birth, nor of the days and years that would follow.  She is a constant reminder to me of God’s faithfulness to us no matter what circumstances life might bring.  This was originally posted on Christmas Eve of 2012.  I did not know at this point that I was in the middle of what I would later call The Nineteen Days (this is the link to the first post about this time.  I will probably be reposting this series).  Allana would begin to feel sick this night and the fevers would start on Christmas.  Little did we know how much of a miracle and salvation Nisa would be for us in the days ahead.

Nisa Faith was born on 12-16-2012 at 9:40 pm.  She was 7 lbs. 3 oz. and 20.5 in. long.  Yet those simple statistics do not in any way define the miracle of faith that she is to this family.  A physical living expression of the journey that God has taken this family on over the past decade.  I have been literally overwhelmed by her presence in our lives and not just by the usual intensity of life with a new baby.  I am going to re-post my blog from July 31st because today I stand with the realization of that post in my arms:

                  (Nisa- Miracle)

Faith

Guidry

We have prayed for this day for 9 years.  We have ached for the losses and doubted our faith.  We refused to give up even when we were labeled as a “Chronic Miscarriage” case.  When the entire world (and even God himself from a purely worldly standpoint) seemed to be saying emphatically NO, the Holy Spirit whispered in our ears to leave it in the Father’s hands.  So we did.  Don’t get me wrong we cried, we wailed, we begged over and over again.  We wanted at times to throw in the towel and act out of our own understanding.  We still do not completely understand, but understand this:  We have a mighty heavenly Father who cares for us in ways that I cannot begin to fathom.  He loves us in a way that is so far beyond my understanding that I only touch the edges of what AGAPE really means!

Several weeks ago while in prayer God gave me the name Nisa Faith.  Indeed she is a miracle of faith, not the simple faith of a single prayer or even the cry for healing but the faith of a 9 year journey.  She represents to us the faith of Abraham as he led his entire family to Canaan.  She represents the faith of Joseph as he waited in slavery, in prison for God to act.  She is even now, yet in the womb that miracle, an incredible act of God.

The difficult part to grasp is that my statement about our Father’s love for us is not just true because Nisa is healthy and strong.  It is an eternal truth that is expressed in both the tragic and the joyful.  He does not love us more now than he did on the very days that we miscarried our other seven precious babies.  The reality is that our journey to the fulfillment of the call that He had placed on our lives led us directly through David’s “Valley of the Shadow of Death”.  While we might prefer a detour around the Valley, God does not promise that.  He does promise that he will be with us, standing by us with His rod and staff and even more importantly for New Testament believers dwelling in us.  Many times it is not until after we are through the Valley that we are able to look back and see that God wielded His rod and staff on our behalf as we walked that  difficult road.

Even more than she represents the miracle of life to us, she is the miracle of faith itself.  Perhaps a better way to say it is that she is an expression of miraculous faith.  Faith inspired by the ongoing presence of God in our lives.  It is the faith that kept Abraham going on his 400 mile journey.  It is the faith that kept him in relationship with God even when he arrived only to face famine.  It is the faith that saw the birth of Isaac and the substitution of a ram for his only child on the mountain before God.  It is not a faith of the perfect life or of perfect people. It is a faith that traverses pitfalls and carries us through our own mistakes; faith that originates not with us but in the very heart of God and comes to us as a gift from the hands of our heavenly Father.  It is Nisa Faith.

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.  He makes me to lied down in green pastures; He leads me beside quiet waters.  He restores my soul; He guides me in the paths of righteousness For His name’s sake.  Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.  You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You have anointed my head with oil; My cup overflows.  Surely goodness and lovingkindness will follow me all the days of my life, And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

PSALM 23

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Meeting

 

Some recent events brought this post to mind so here it is again.

In my 35 years of working experience I have come to recognize a phenomenon I call The Meeting Culture. Interestingly enough it crosses through the borders of the various regions in which I have been employed, across industries and even informal groups.  It became more salient in the later part of my career in the hospitality industry because I was engaged in trouble shooting challenged operations.  As I refocused my life on ministry and spiritual growth I was somewhat surprised to find the same culture at play within the fellowship of ministry, but then people are people no matter where we are.  Interestingly enough the heart of the culture has its genesis in both settings.

The early church, particularly the early Jewish church experienced a new phenomenon.  The practice of Judaism had long been tolerated by the Romans.  Zealots and radicals were put down but synagogues and temple worship were given a pass by the Latin conquerors.  However this new practice, these followers of Jesus were not content with their own kind and taught intolerance of other religions. Jesus was not just a god among gods, he was the God and the only one worthy of worship by all, not just the Jewish people.  Pack that up with the rumors spread by opponents and Christianity became anathema to 1st century rulers.  Gathering became dangerous.  It came to the point that the writer of Hebrews had to encourage and even mandate that the early believers meet together for fellowship and encouragement in the faith (Hebrews 1:25).  However there is a danger.  One that Paul clearly recognized when he wrote to the Corinthians and condemned their time together as not focused on their faith, “…because you come together not for the better but for the worse.”  He extends this warning in a positive sense when in Ephesians 4 he states:  “And he gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ;”  Ephesians 4:11-12  When the meetings stop resulting in “the work of service to the building up of the body of Christ.” – and this is not your local church body – then it ceases to serve or follow the Gospel.

This is what I found as I started engaging businesses in crisis.  The deeper the crisis, the more meetings they had scheduled.  They would have manager meetings, department meetings, position meetings, strategy meetings, every kind of meeting that you can imagine.  They would plan these meetings, record these meetings and unfortunately never adequately execute anything that came out of these meetings.  In most cases the company had fully executable procedures and policies already in place.  So that raises the question, “What is the purpose, what is the drive for all those meetings?”  It became pretty obvious that even in distressed operations people need to feel successful.  This is what they find in their endless meetings…success.  They are able to have the most successful meetings.  They come out of the meetings feeling like they have made real progress.  They feel like they are fulfilling their purpose and calling.  The focus of success ceases to be the execution of purpose but becomes the discussion and planning of purpose.  However life and business are hard.  So when push comes to shove it is easier to have another meeting than to actually hold oneself accountable for the execution necessary for success.  This was fortunate for me as it kept me employed for a couple of decades.

So how does all this apply to our faith.  Let me be clear the gathering of the Saints is mandated by Scripture and empowered by the Holy Spirit.  The problem is when the meetings instead of focusing our faith become the focus of our faith.  When the center of our faith life is in a building instead of in our hearts; that building becomes a cage for the Gospel instead of a launching pad.  The impetus for this is the same as the meeting focused businesses that I have engaged.  We believe that we can find success in our meetings (services, gathering, experiences….).  We can be holy, inspired and powerful inside those four walls.  We are rarely challenged and often supported inside those four walls (unless we find ourselves challenging the culture inside those four walls!).  We are safe in the practice of our faith inside those four walls.  After the conversion of Emperor Constantine in 312 AD Christianity transitioned from a fringe group of Jesus fanatics to the primary religion of Europe.  It was during this period that a corollary to the Meeting Culture developed.  It is the idea that there are special “professional” children of God who really should carry the weight of the Gospel ( re-read Ephesians 4:11-12).  They get to lead the meetings where we can be so successful.  The newest class of these professional Christians is the worship leader.  Again worship is wonderful, but if the top of one’s life in Christ exists only in the midst of well engineered worship sets, we go back to the problem of the meeting culture in business.  The Gospel is contained, not executed.  The personal satisfaction and alleviation of personal responsibility that this culture provided made it grow.  It was easy to move from a fellowship of equals celebrating and sharing the gospel of redemption both together and in their communities to being a culture of meetings and rituals performed by “professional” Christians and from there to the place where the meeting itself became not only a celebration of salvation but the mode of salvation.

There was a time in my life when I measured the health of my faith by the number of meetings I attended.  This week I went to two church services, Wednesday night prayer, a small group, served at youth group and did the Friday morning prayer card session.  I am rocking for the Lord.  Now none of those things is bad.  Not even the collection is bad.  The fact that I used my attendance as a Spiritual scorecard is bad.  Honestly at that time in my life my immersion in the church was probably necessary to my spiritual formation but God had to rip the scorecard out of my hand.  I am particularly stubborn so my grip on that card was pretty tight.  It took pretty intense situations in my life to move me from a meeting scorecard to a biblical scorecard.  Now I know that you are ready for me to lay out all the check boxes on that biblical scorecard.  Sorry, no such luck.  It does  not work that way.  There are two metrics for the scorecard, the Holy Spirit and the Word of God.

Jesus tells the disciples in Luke 12 that when they are brought to judgement for their faith, “The Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say.”  Paul uses the Holy Spirit as a scorecard for his words to the Romans in chapter 9, “I am telling the truth in Christ, I am not lying, my conscience testifies with me in the Holy Spirit,…” and in chapter 14 he sets the Holy Spirit as the scorecard for the very kingdom of God, “for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.”  

David says in Psalm 119:11, “Your Word I have treasured in my heart, That I may not sin against You.” and Jesus uses His Word as the metric for a Hupomone life built on the rock in Matthew 7 as compared to the foolish life of the man who did not act on his Word and built his house on the sand.  This is what we do when we center our lives in the house instead of on the foundation.

Build your faith on the Rock.  Fellowship together with purpose (the Gospel) not as a purpose and you will see the hand of God move in and around you like never before.

But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. Romans 8:37

 

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