Posts Tagged ‘discipline’

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

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

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

Practically Hupomone

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.  Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love.  God’s love was revealed among us in this way: God sent his only Son into the world so that we might live through him.  In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins. Beloved, since God loved us so much, we also ought to love one another.  No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God lives in us, and his love is perfected in us.

1 John 4:7-12

 

Someone that I have come to know a little and respect a lot recently said this to me. “You don’t know how to be well loved.”  As I absorbed this statement its truth resounded, echoing in my heart and mind.  Some time has passed since this discussion and the Holy Spirit has brought this statement to me again and again.  That gently nagging voice in my heart that tells me it is time to “grow up  in every way into Him” (Ephesians 4:15) a little more.

Our Christian world is full of songs, sermons and teaching that God loves us and that we should love others.  However many of us miss the corollary that should be implicit and perhaps explicit in the consideration of God’s love.  Not only must we learn and be transformed into creatures that love well.  We must also learn and be transformed into creatures that are well-loved.  One might think that this is easy and requires no effort but the reality is that this may be even more difficult than loving others.  It requires a tremendous amount of vulnerability.  In fact it requires complete vulnerability to God.  Absolute surrender is integral to the competency of being well-loved.  It is amazing how tightly we will hold on to compartments of our life, locking them away from God’s loving and merciful view.  Given this propensity to wall God out it ceases to be amazing that we keep His people, those called to love us as He does, at arm’s length.  We deal in platitudes.  We segregate our lives.  Love me in the sanctuary, pray for me there, lay hands on me, pat my back and say “love ya brother”, but don’t reach into my life; into my real need.

Satan whispers in our ear that being well-loved is just being needy, being weak.  He whispers that we don’t deserve it anyways, that we must strive harder, do more, be better before we can open ourselves up to being well-loved.  Some of us just have absolutely no idea what  being well-loved means.  As I considered this topic I felt drawn to two biblical characters, Peter and John.  Peter loved well, he loved with passion, with energy, with action.  Peter believed in his love for Jesus more than he believed in Jesus’ (hence God’s) love for him.  Don’t get me wrong, Peter’s passionate love for Jesus is a great example to us all and even though it landed Peter in hot water more than once it also energized him to Spiritual insight and action when others were frozen in fear or indecision.

It always puzzled me that John referred to himself as the disciple whom Jesus loved.  It seems a little egotistical as a major theme in the Gospel.  What is the message?  Did Jesus play favorites?  Does God love some of us more than others?  I think that this lesson of learning to be well-loved is a framework that we can set over this idiosyncrasy of John’s Gospel and draw a real Spiritual lesson.  John understood what it meant to be well-loved first by God and by his brother’s and sisters in Christ.  “In this is love, not that we loved God but that He loved us”.  “Beloved since God loved us so much, we also ought to love one another”.  I find it no coincidence that the disciple “whom Jesus loved”, the disciple who understood and practiced being well-loved was at the foot of the Cross with Mary the Mother of Jesus, while the other disciples were cowering in fear.  “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear; for fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not reached perfection in love.”  1 John 4:18

Teleios, the Greek word translated “perfect” here actually has the connotation of complete, mature or full-grown.  The person who understands Teleios love understands how to be well-loved, first by God and then by brothers and sisters in Christ.  It is out of this understanding that loving well grows into it fullness and the circle of Teleios love is complete.  I am here to tell you that the Spiritual discipline (and I believe it is exactly that) of being well-loved is not easy.  The chasms of pride and entitlement drop off on each side of this narrow path.  It is only through the transforming, maturing power of the Holy Spirit (often working through the words and deeds of God’s people) that we can walk the trail of being well-loved.

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