FIFM

For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands. 2 Timothy 1:6

God spoke this verse to Allana and I back in 2003.  We had only been together a couple of years.  These were difficult years.  Allana had to adjust to being married, having two sons and caring for our little Sami.  Chayla was born in April and to top it off I was working crazy hours.  In the midst of all of that God was doing incredible things in our lives.  Fan Into Flame Ministries was born out of that crucible.  The idea would grow and be tempered over the years by moments of spirit led engagement and by intense personal suffering.  For Allana these days bore the fruit of True Beauty.  For me the focus became Hupomone (because I am a geek and Greek is cool) or Patience, Endurance, Perseverance.  Yet still, it continued to be at the core, the call to Fan Into Flame that gift, in ourselves and in others.

Let’s back track a little.

1 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, according to the promise of life in Christ Jesus, 2 To Timothy, my beloved son: Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord. 3 I thank God, whom I serve with a clear conscience the way my forefathers did, as I constantly remember * you in my prayers night and day, 4 longing to see you, even as I recall your tears, so that I may be filled with joy. 5 For I am mindful of the sincere faith within you, which first dwelt in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice, and I am sure that it is in you as well.

Paul takes Timothy down memory lane for a minute.  He reminds him that he is Paul’s son in the faith.  Why does Paul do this?  He wants Timothy to remember a very special moment in his life, the moment that he received Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.  The moment that God’s Gift was so graciously bestowed on a young man.  I have to wonder if Timothy didn’t tear up a little, thinking of his father in the faith facing death in Rome.  Perhaps he felt a little shame that the difficulties of ministry in Ephesus had worn him down.  Yet Paul tears all that away.  Striking to the core of Hupomone, without using the word, “Fan into flame the gift of God…”  There is nothing else that we can do to endure as children of God.

I have actually heard this verse taught as a call to utilize those very special and individual gifts that God has bestowed on each one of us.  However the context of the verses that follow this verse (not that He doesn’t desire each of us to serve him with all our gifts) make it clear that Paul is talking about one gift.  I will designate it the Gift.  The cool thing is that this Gift is the same for us all and yet manifests itself very differently in each of us.

7 For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.

There it is, the Gift.  It is nothing less than God Himself given to each of us that believe and confess.  It is this Gift that makes us bold endowing us with power, love and self-discipline.  It is a special power available only through Jesus Christ.  It is power not as the world gives, or recognizes power.  It is the power to testify of Jesus and to stand with our brothers and sisters in Christ.  It is power that is inextricably joined to love.  Indeed 1 Corinthians 13 tells us that power without love is vain and useless.

8 So do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord or of me his prisoner. Rather, join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God.

This Gift is one that empowers without limit, motivates in love and operates with self-discipline even as Christ Himself cried out in Gethsemane, “39 And He went a little beyond them, and fell on His face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; yet not as I will, but as You will.” Matthew 26:39  In a moment that the whole world around Him saw as the greatest weakness, Jesus exploded the chains of sin and death with the greatest demonstration of power, motivated by love and operating in Self-discipline as only God himself could.

9 He has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time, 10 but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.

HE HAS SAVED US!  And called us by grace, a grace that is eternal.  But he did not just call us to a holy life and leave us to our own pitiful attempts.  He provided the Gift.  It is the Gift of revealed Grace.  It is the Gift of revealed Life Eternal.  It is the Gift of the Truth, the Gift of the Good News and Great Joy which shall be to all People.  It is the Gift that endows us with the same power that confounded the law and threw the world into confusion.  How foolish would we be not to fan THAT GIFT into flame in our lives.

 

 

solomons-temple

 

When we think of the Old Testament temple most of us think of Solomon in all his glory.  The son of King David, usually recognized as the greatest King of the Jewish people.  He was rich beyond measure, recognized for his wisdom and international influence.  He reigned over an unprecedented era of peace for Israel.

Solomon was called upon by God to build the temple to house the Ark of the Covenant and God’s revealed presence in Israel.  He was able to call upon the best of the best materials and artisans in the known world.  Gifts poured in from all over to help complete this monumental task.  1 Kings 5-7 provides us with the glorious details of this building like no other in history.  The author of 1 Kings provides us with wonderful detail about the construction, decor and furnishings that defined this wonderful project.  All the wealth and influence that God provided to Solomon represented in Solomon’s obedience to this command of God.

There is another temple builder in the Old Testament.  He is less known.  One is unlikely to find anyone named after him.  In comparison to Solomon he did not have the wealth, the fame or the influence that Solomon was able to bring to bear on the building of the first Temple.  Zerubbabel was returning to Judah, less than half of the kingdom that Solomon ruled.  He was returning to a land that had been laid wasted by Nebuchadnezzar, suffering the consequences to rebellion both against God and against Babylon.  He returned to Jerusalem with a ragtag group exiles, born and raised in a foreign land.  He came from the line of David, but he was not really a king.  He ruled at the pleasure of Babylon and the land he governed was more of province than a kingdom.  He was surrounded by adversaries, not allies.  Zerubbabel did not command the immense respect given to Solomon.  Biblically he takes a backseat to Ezra and even to Cyrus King of Persia.  Even after the temple was completed, it was not all pats on the back and cheers.  There were jeers in the crowd also.  Those few old enough to remember the former glory of the Temple built by Solomon, decried this new temple as inadequate. Yet through all of this Zerubbabel ruled over an incredible revival in Judah.

Comparison is one the greater weapons that Satan uses to undermine the faith of the Hupomone man.  Here we have two men, both called to the same task, one from a position of wealth, strength and glory, the other from a place of defeat, servitude and subjection.  Zerubbabel could have well fallen into a rut of rebellious comparison.  “But God you gave Solomon everything to build your temple and I have nothing. I am not even really a king.”  We are so tempted to view the path that God has laid before us in comparison to others who seem to have it all.  Sometimes we even compare our current call to a place where we were before.  Paul well understood this risky place when he penned the words, “I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstances I have learned the secret of being filled and growing hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need.  I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:12-13

This is the position of the Hupomone man.  He sees the nature of obedience resting not in the arms of ever changing circumstance but in the arms of an unchanging God.  We do not know a lot of details about Zerubbabel, but this son, of a son of exile did not shirk his duty to serve Yaweh.  He obeyed the call of God on his life and was true to his position as a son of David even when faced with opposition that compared his humble state to the glory days of Israel.  Though relegated to the closet of history, he stands as an example of the Hupomone man that we would do well to follow.

 

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.”

John 10:10

Hupomone

  1.  steadfastness, constancy, endurance
  2. 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
  3. patiently, and steadfastly
  4. a patient, steadfast waiting for
  5. a patient enduring, sustaining, perseverance

So far we have talked about characteristics of the men we call the major prophets that qualify them as Hupomone Men.  They were all called by God to be His (just as we are).  They all committed there way to him in body, mind and soul….and perhaps more importantly in action daily.   They recognized and imitated God’s undying love for a disobedient people. Finally their core purpose was to serve God, even when it meant death.

We might be tempted to think that the Hupomone life is a horrible grind.  We may even take on the attitude that life is horrible but as men of God we will endure it.  There have been (and are) entire movements of faith based on this very concept, that somehow our lives as men of God should be this slogging through a swamp of suffering.   This is not the lot of the Hupomone Man.  In our title scripture Jesus makes this clear.  Nor is the Hupomone Man going to walk through life without negative circumstances.

Daniel survived the siege of Jerusalem.  He was ripped from his family and taken to Babylon to serve the man who destroyed his home.  Every move that Daniel makes and records for us reflects the Hupomone Man and the abundant life that God affords to those who follow Him.  It is an abundance that is not dependent on circumstances.  It is an abundance born of patience, of perseverance.  It is an abundance that causes three young men to face a mighty king and say, “…our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire; and He will deliver us out of your hand, O king.  But even if He does not, let it be known to you, O king, that we are not going to serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.”  Daniel 3:18  Daniel faces the lion’s den with the aplomb of someone who recognizes the abundance of the Hupomone life.  It is an abundance that transcends death itself.  It is a life that is based on the very Word of God, “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in Righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for good work.” 2 Timothy 2:16-17  Paul called on all followers of Christ to live the hupomone life.  It is life that does not depend on circumstances but is anchored firmly on the rock, Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior.

“But you, be sober in all things, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.” 2 Timothy 4:5

“And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” Romans 5:3-5

The Hupomone Man has enveloped himself in the hope that does not disappoint.  Peter calls it a “living” hope. (1 Peter 1:3).  It is this hope that is at the base of the abundant life we have in Jesus and at the core of hupomone living.

Major Endurance: Purpose

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

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

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

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

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

Major Endurance: Love

ELove

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

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

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

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

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

Major Endurance: Daily

Marked Off Calendar

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

Isaiah 26:4

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Major Endurance: Called

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

Isaiah 26:4

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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