Posts Tagged ‘gift’

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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 “And now I am about to go the way of all the earth, and you know in your hearts and souls, all of you, that not one word has failed of all the good things that the LORD your God promised concerning you. All have come to pass for you; not one of them has failed”

Joshua 23:14

HUPOMONE

Definition:
-steadfastness, constancy, endurance
-in the NT the characteristic of a man who is not swerved from his deliberate purpose and his loyalty to faith and piety by even the greatest trials and sufferings
-patiently, and steadfastly
-a patient, steadfast waiting for
-a patient enduring, sustaining, perseverance

First off, I am not dying, well at least my demise is not imminent.  Though if this blog is your main form of connection to me you may have wondered….

Allana and I have talked for some time about starting a parallel men’s ministry called Hupomone Men.  I have been praying about this for awhile.  I think as Christians that line has become something of an avoidance mechanism.  I know that it has been for me.  True Beauty held its first conference this weekend and I announced the imminent creation of Hupomone.  So time to keep praying but take a step forward.

I have been in what has been perhaps the biggest struggle of my life over the last few years.  For five years my life has been one crisis after another.  First, after 7 miscarriages Allana and I were pregnant again.  For 3 months we prayed through our acceptance of an almost certain loss.  For 3 months God brought us into a new realm of trust (trust that would serve us well in the coming year).  For 3 months we rejoiced in God’s faithfulness to a promise made to Allana several years ago.  It was a promise that we thought we had misunderstood.  It was a promise that we thought we had to reinterpret. It was a promise that was birthed on December 16 2012 (Nisa Faith). Then we had 19 days of unfettered rejoicing, the promise come to life.  What a gift those 19 days were.  What a gift the whole journey was.  It was a gift of discipleship preparing us for the places that God would walk with us; for two years of emotional and physical agony as Allana battled Leukemia.  Two years of tremendous ministry in the face of adversity.  For three years we operated in the valley of the shadow of death.  It fostered great reliance on God for great and mighty things that literally meant the difference between life and death.

Read the end of Exodus and the book of Joshua.  This is where the Israelite people were when Joshua spoke the words above.  They had been through the crisis, their very existence threatened.  I am finding that “the crisis” forces an intense faith and closeness with God as well as a multitude of amazing ministry opportunities.  Even as God flooded my heart over the last decade with the need to “fan the flame of the gift of God” within me; through these times He has repeated the echoing refrain of Hupomone.  Perhaps the need is so great because we are not a society who values this.  We are the throw-away society.  If it is uncomfortable or inconvenient throw it away, churches, jobs, marriages, babies.  We are the disposable people.  We are all to often men of the disposable.  This is the very antithesis of our Lord and his desire for us. Perhaps the need is so great because I am a man of the disposable but by embracing the Holy Spirit in my life and fanning the flame that he has placed there I am just beginning to understand what it means to be a Hupomone Man with a Hupomone God.

Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, Hebrews 12:1

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GiftFor who makes you different from anyone else? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not?  1 Corinthians 4:7

 

I had a wonderful opportunity yesterday to share in the ordination service of a wonderful friend and ministry partner.  The day started rather inauspiciously with a flat tire repair.  However the beautiful location of the Annual Western Ohio Conference of the United Methodist Church gathering more than made of for the trials experienced in the morning.  I could say that the idyllic setting of Lakeside, or the wonderful hospitality of our friend, indeed of the entire Western Ohio Conference, or event the wonderful ice cream and coffee offered by the local shops was the highlight of the day. However Bishop Gregory Palmer came to the podium and served up a message that should be listened to by every minister of the Gospel of Jesus Christ everywhere.  “It’s a gift”!  I believe that I was in the majority of people who were gathered to celebrate the “accomplishment” of ordination for our friends or family members.  Bishop Palmer reminded us that it is at times like these that we tend to “smell our selves”, in my family we might have said “get too big for our britches”.  We grab onto this wonderful accomplishment that we have achieved and forget that everything we have, everything we are and everything that we do is a gift from God.  We forget that it all starts and emanates from the cross and the great gift of salvation by faith, not by any works that we could possibly conceive to “accomplish”.  Whether it is ordination, the growth of a church or the establishment of a ministry these are all gifts.  It is when we start to “smell ourselves” and rest on the great things that we have done that the trouble starts.  We stake out territories.  We begin to do things to extend our accomplishments that hurt the heart of God and create strife within the body of Christ.  We demean others as less important than ourselves, justifying our manipulation or even persecution of them, all because we lose sight of the fact that “It’s all a gift”.

What a wonderful opportunity all of us who have been entrusted with such a gift have.  Whether we are ordained, licensed or simply called the children of God we have this opportunity, this day, this moment to share all this that we have received from the hand of our gracious Lord and Savior.  “It’s all a gift!”

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Yes FM Morning Munch

Audio file Link

January 5th

 

Make it New!

Day 1

 

Of course we all know as we go into the New Year there are those pesky New Year’s resolutions.  All the things that we are going to change…all those things that we are going make new in our lives.  Results of an University of Scranton study done a few years ago indicate that only 8% of New Year’s resolutions are brought to a successful conclusion (yeah I know what else do they have to do in Scranton…).

Paul the Apostle knew a young man who was struggling to succeed in his New Year’s resolution to faithfully serve God as the shepherd of a new church plant in the tough, tough city of Ephesus.  In fact Timothy just a couple of years earlier  wanted to quit and rejoin Paul but in response to this request Paul says “As I urged you upon my departure for Macedonia, remain on at Ephesus so that you may instruct certain men not to teach strange doctrines” (1 Timothy 1:3).  What follows is the first of what we call the Pastoral Epistles as Paul lays out some tenets for his young protégé in effective ministry.

Fast forward a couple of years and we see that Timothy is still struggling.  Moreover Paul knows that his mentoring days are coming to a close.  An unstable emperor will soon send Paul home to be with the Savior he loves above all else.  It is with this in mind that Paul opens up this second letter with a New Year’s Resolution that would carry Timothy into his old age and even to martyrdom.

“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. 6 For this reason I remind you to kindle afresh the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands. 7 For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline.”

The New International Version says:  6 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.

From the burning bush to the pillar of fire to the flames of Elijah Water Soaked sacrifice to the flames of Acts 2, fire has represented God’s active presence in the lives of men for thousands of years.  Paul reminds Timothy that the gift of God’s active presence in his life is the key fulfilling his commitment to serve God in Ephesus.  This active presence is the Holy Spirit and it is a gift made to each and every person who comes into a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, accepting Him as Lord and Savior of their lives.  Fan this gift into flame, kindle it afresh and see what God will do in your life in 2015.

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