Posts Tagged ‘God’

 

 

friends

Best Friend- a person’s closest friend. (Google Dictionary)

Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God…1 Corinthians 6:19

A best friend, what a precious thing to have.  Most of us at different times in our lives have had a best friend.  For those of us who spent a lot of time moving around we may have had several.  I have known best friends who were so close that it almost seemed like they were inside each others hearts and minds.  The author of Proverbs 18 puts it this way:

A man of too many friends comes to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.  Proverbs 18:24

Today I want to give you three ways that the Holy Spirit is our best friend as followers of Jesus Christ.

The first we have already touched on.  The Holy Spirit is the closest friend that we will ever have.  The Holy Spirit lives inside the believer.  I don’t pretend to understand the mechanism of this indwelling but I experience its reality.  The Holy Spirit is closer to me than my brother or any friend that I could ever have.  The cool thing is that not only does the Spirit live inside me, the Holy Spirit lives in all God’s people so that I am impacted through my brothers and sisters in Christ even as I am transformed from the inside.

Secondly best friends have an indelible effect on us.  Our behavior, our very identity is shaped by the friends around us and particularly by those we consider to be in the best category. Paul in  his letter to Titus says:

He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to his mercy, by the washing regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit. Titus 3:5

When we accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior, he accepts us based on the                              undeniable presence of the Holy Spirit who changes us forever in a process of                      regeneration and renewal that puts on the road to conforming to the mind of                      Christ.

Finally best friends are there to help.  I can only imagine that the paralytic who was lowered through the roof in front of Jesus had multiple best friends who were looking out for his best interest.  The Holy Spirit is the best of the best friends in this area.  The Spirit is sent by the Father at the behest of the Son demonstrating the united front of the Trinity.  The Spirit’s divine nature engages us and when we open ourselves to that nature becomes helper, guide, comforter.  Where Jesus stood in the lives of his disciples, the Holy Spirit stands in the heart of his followers.

I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that he may be with you forever.  John 14:16

We have this wonderful best friend.  One that is closer to us than any other.  One that desires to transform us and renew us into that reflects the very nature of God.  One that is there to help us walk out this life as children of God.  One that perhaps we fail to acknowledge, to share and share with, to truly depend on as the best friend sent straight from God into our hearts.  One that is God himself.  How is your relationship with your best friend?

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The secret to living the Christian life is to become best friends with the Holy Spirit. He has all the right qualities for that role and will not disappoint you- Charles Stanley

I posted this quote from Pastor Stanley’s InTouch Ministries devotional some time ago while Allana and I were deep in the treatment for her Leukemia.  It has been percolating in my brain since then.  The importance of this statement has become clearer and clearer in my life, though the topic languished here in the draft file.

As we walked the difficult road of cancer we greatly appreciated the observations and comments about our faith and commitment to Christ through the trial.  The truth is we don’t see it.  We didn’t then and we don’t really now.  We do not feel overly special, or faithful and certainly not holy.  Yet we see the impact of our lives and are humbled by it and blessed to see the Holy Spirit working around us in the lives of God’s people and in the lives of those soon to join the family!  So what is the secret.  Well it is not so secret.

The Holy Spirit is our Best Friend.  Friendship takes time to cultivate.  I think that too many times we think that we have all the time in the world to become friends with the Holy Spirit and that we do not need to become close with the Holy Spirit until the S*** hits the fan.  The reality is that if we wait until we decide we need the friendship of the Holy Spirit to cultivate that relationship we are in for a tough time of it.  This is just another view of the Hupomone lifestyle.  If you read the Intro to Hupomone you will see that the Greek word mean “remain under” or “remain about”.  This is the only way that a true friendship will develop.  It is the result of persistence, perseverance, steadfastness (all words used to translate Hupomone).

Many Christians believe that Acts 2 was the beginning of the relationship with the Holy Spirit for the disciples. However if you read the Gospels carefully you will find Jesus intentionally leading the disciple into relationship as a part of guiding them into relationship with Himself.  Even in the Old Testament we find the Holy Spirit in relationship with men like David, Moses, Elijah and others.  Luke notes that Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied about his son.  He also notes that Simeon who greeted Mary, Joseph and young Jesus had the Holy Spirit upon him.  No Acts 2 was not the beginning of the relationship for the disciples, it was the culmination of the relationship.  In fact it was the culmination of the relationship for all mankind.  The cross bridged the gap between man and God allowing the Holy Spirit to enter an new level of relationship.  The disciples would hold on to the Holy Spirit as their best friend, most even to their deaths.

“As Moses, David, and Mary discovered, getting to know may include walking with Him through life’s darkest valleys.  But in these times, we gain tremendous insight into the Father’s character.”  Dr. Charles Stanley

 Is the Holy Spirit your best friend?

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Demolition

“O Foolish Galatians…” Paul says in Galatians 3:1.  Solomon said it this way, “Like a dog that returns to his vomit is a fool who repeats his folly.” Proverbs 26:11  Unfortunately as a whole we are rebuilders.  This is not always terrible.  It can demonstrate a certain resilience.  However when it comes to our Life in Christ it is terrible folly.  Everyone of us before coming into a personal relationship with Jesus and accepting the Holy Spirit into our very being, had built a house.  It was a house of beliefs, of axioms.  It was the house that defined who we were and how we chose to live.  In some cases these houses are terribly dysfunctional and destructive.  In other cases they are simply not a fit abode for the mature or maturing Christian.  Take for instance the child raised by believing parents, schooled in the Gospel.  The child grows up accepting the Gospel and believing on Jesus as his savior in the context of his faith and love for his parents (or her).  At some point the child must allow the Holy Spirit to demolish that home and move into a deeper personal relationship with Him that rests on that relationship not on the faith of others.

In this scripture Paul is specifically referring to Judaizers who would have required the largely gentile Galatians to adhere to the Law of Moses and all the corollaries that had been added over the centuries, for their salvation.  While Jesus did not destroy the Law and its significance (indeed he came to fulfill the purpose of the Law), He did destroy the “faith house” that called for salvation by works.  Jesus had also demolished the house of paganism that ruled their lives.  Why in the world would they begin rebuilding another house that had been demolished by the cross?  Over the past weeks we have been looking at the house already established, the house of Faith in Christ and the final work of the Cross.  Any other house is foolishness.  Consider the parable of man who built his house upon the rock.  The Cross takes that parable a step further, the house is built and prepared for us.  We simply accept God’s invitation to move in.

Peter expresses the dangers of rebuilding, “For it would have been better for them never to have known the way of righteousness than after knowing it to turn back from the holy commandment delivered to them.What the true Proverb says has happened to them: ‘The dog returns to its own vomit and the sow, after washing herself, returns to wallow in the mire”  2 Peter 2:21-22.  I am not here to debate the doctrines of Salvation only to say that when we leave our Hupomone house to rebuild what Christ has torn down in our lives there are consequences.

Why do we rebuild?  There are probably as many answers to that question as there are humans who have lived.  However I have come up with a few that I think can be generalized across the variety of humanity.

  1.  We are creatures made to be followers.  Even the greatest leaders in history were made to follow Jesus Christ.  Some were great leaders because they followed God.  Some were rebuilders extraordinaire, following a blueprint established by men and encouraged by the Enemy of all.  Adam and Eve were just such followers.  They were presented with a blueprint by Satan for a house of rebellion that had been demolished when he was cast out of heaven.  When they took their eyes of their heavenly Father, the following nature took its course.
  2. We are creatures of habit.  It is all to easy to justify old ways that are comfortable and even to fashion them into a rebuilt home that we allow ourselves to believe is a Hupomone House.  It is only when the storms come that the infirm foundation reveals itself.  On top of the poor foundation, the homes we rebuild are often made of inferior materials like pride, arrogance, logic (the human kind) etc.
  3. We are creatures of comfort.  When faith becomes difficult that old house (or someone else’s old house) suddenly looks comfortable.  The corollary to this reason is that we are creatures of limited memory because that old house that suddenly looks comfortable was in fact often not comfortable at all.

I am sure that there are many other reason’s that we rebuild that which the Cross has destroyed.  The key here is:

“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, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right had of the throne of god.” Hebrews 12:1-2

 

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I want you to know brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the Gospel.  Philippians 1:12

Hupomone

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

Hupomone living frees us from the circumstances of life.  We are no longer bound to react to circumstance after circumstance.  Instead as Brother Lawrence would say, we are free to “practice the presence of God”.  We are able to make our relationship with Him our total focus.  Nor can we make our circumstances the foundation of our faith, that too will distract from the singular purpose of pursuing God and results in a faith that is blown here and there by the situational waves of life. (Ephesians 4:14)

“Are they servants of Christ?- I speak as if insane- I more so; in far more labors, in far more imprisonments, beaten times without number, often in danger of death.  five times I received from the Jews thirty-nine lashes.  Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, a night and a day I have spent in the deep….

2 Corinthians 11:23-26

Paul goes on to list the circumstances of his life as a missionary and even the intense times of communion with God as well as the “thorn in the flesh”.   Paul could boast in his hupomone lifestyle, that he endured all these things and was graced by intense visions from God.  In the end analysis Paul understood, perhaps along with the author of Ecclesiastes, that this too is vanity.  It is better to boast in weakness and recognize that the important thing is that the power of Christ dwells inside.  Paul understood that when he rejected circumstances as the guides and measure of his life and practiced the presence of Jesus Christ in every situation that whatever happened to him would “really serve to advance the cause of Christ.”  This is the result of the hupomone lifestyle.  It is the goal that transcends our individual personalities, situations, callings, theologies, denominations, socioeconomic status etc.

When we enter into the hupomone life we are freed not only from circumstances but from results as well.  It is a natural result of who we are as children of God and the natural excellence that occurs when we focus pursuing God.  This is the natural conclusion of Romans 8:28 “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called to His purpose.”  However we are not freed from the need to pursue all that we do with excellence.  Scripture calls for Christ followers over and over to reach for excellence.  I have actually heard intentional incompetence lauded as a way to encourage the work of the Holy Spirit in one’s life.  This is directly contradicted in Scripture.

 Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth. 2 Timothy 2:15

Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge, 2 Peter 1:5

Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.                        1 Corinthians 10:31

The fact that we are freed from the constraints of results allows us to focus our pursuit of excellence where it belongs, on our relationship with Jesus Christ and our desire to bring our heavenly father glory.

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I always thank my God as I remember you in my prayers, because I hear about your love for all his holy people and your faith in the Lord Jesus. I pray that your partnership with us in the faith may be effective in deepening your understanding of every good thing we share for the sake of Christ. Your love has given me great joy and encouragement, because you, brother, have refreshed the hearts of the Lord’s people. Philemon 1:4-7

Philemon,  I have to wonder if it is the least read of all the books of the New Testament.  It is unfortunate because it contains one of the most beautiful stories of redemption and reconciliation ever.  The story centers around three men, Paul the Apostle, Onesimus the slave and our subject today Philemon.  Philemon was a leader of the church that met in his home.  This was typical of the early church.  He was also a slave owner, specifically he owned a slave named Onesimus.

Strangely enough we are not going to focus on the theme of the letter, instead we are going to take a quick look at the man and the qualities that I find qualify him as a hupomone man.

People pray for him – Specifically in this case Paul.  However if the Apostle Paul remembered Philemon in his prayers I choose to assume that others were also. A true hupmone man inspires prayer by the example that he leads.

Paul’s words are very specific here.  “I always thank God AS I remember you…”  We might make the mistake of thinking that Paul here is referring to a prayer of thanksgiving for this wonderful man of God.  There would be nothing wrong with this but it is not what he is saying.  Paul is praying for Philemon as he continues his hupomone ministry in Colosse.

The placement of this phrase immediately following the greeting speaks of the importance that he knows Philemon places on this subject.  The hupomone man values prayer.  He values a life of constant communication with God (1 Thessalonians 5:17) and in this particular case he values the prayers of others on his behalf.

People talk about him – People talk about the hupomone man.  They don’t talk about the amazing “things” he has accomplished.  They don’t talk about all the books he has written.  They don’t even talk about the incredible ministry that he has built.  “I hear about your love for God’s holy people and your faith in the Lord Jesus…”  They talk about his love for people and his faith in Jesus.  Now don’t get me wrong all of the hupomone men that we have discussed over the last few years in this blog were men of action, but it is the heart and soul that defines hupomone, not the results of that heart and soul.

He is willing to collaborate – Partnership comes naturally to the hupomone man. I pray that your partnership with us in the faith may be effective in deepening your understanding of every good thing we share for the sake of Christ. The Holy Spirit cultivates collaboration among God’s people, very often among people very dissimilar or with competing priorities.  Consider the struggles of Paul and Barnabas, the motley crew of the twelve disciples.  Jonathon’s future clashed directly with the anointing on David.  The spies at Jericho and Rahab had so little in common yet together they brought down a city and brought forth the Messiah!  These collaborations serve to deepen our understanding of the faith.

He cultivates joy and encouragement – If the joy of the Lord is his strength, the hupomone man likes to spread his strength around. Your love has given me great joy and encouragement. It is the essence of the Holy Spirit flowing out of him to those around that extinguishes fear with encouragement that is not tied to circumstances but to the source of all hupomone, God Himself.

He refreshes – The word that Paul uses here is the same word that is used to quote Jesus when he said, “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest” Matthew 11:28.  The hupomone man is quite simply allowing the very basic qualities of his Lord and Savior flow out of him.  He calls out to those around him to cease their futile labors. Anapaow is an emphasized form of the Greek word for pause.  Literally it is an “up pause”.  The presence of a hupomone man brings “up pause”.

Paul gives us a snapshot of the hupomone man.  It is the mirror for Philemon to look into as he stepped into a personal and cultural challenge.  Onesimus, his slave/property had run away.  Potentially he had stolen from Philemon as well.  Somehow this run-away slave met up with Paul in Rome.  Onesimus became a brother in the faith and told Paul what had occurred.  Paul sent Onesimus back to Philemon instigating a journey in faith and hupomone living for both of them.  Scripture leaves us to our own interpretation of the outcome of the journey, but church tradition tells us that some years later Philemon and Onesimus are martyred side by side proclaiming the Gospel message and establishing them both as hupomone men.

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A Facebook Post from Allana:15747885_10157951910710282_1166937839466352526_n

Lifelong commitment is not what everyone thinks it is. It’s not waking up early every morning to make breakfast and eat together. It’s not cuddling in bed together until both of you peacefully fall asleep. It’s not a clean home and a homemade meal every day.
It’s someone who steals all the covers. It’s sometimes slammed doors, and a few harsh words, disagreeing, and the silent treatment until your hearts heal. Then…forgiveness!
It’s coming home to the same person everyday that you know loves and cares about you, in spite of and because of who you are. It’s laughing about the one time you accidentally did something stupid. It’s about dirty laundry and unmade beds without finger pointing. It’s about helping each other with the hard work of life! It’s about swallowing the nagging words instead of saying them out loud.
It’s about eating the cheapest and easiest meal you can make and sitting down together at 10 p.m. to eat because you both had a crazy day. It’s when you have an emotional breakdown, and your love lays with you and holds you and tells you everything is going to be okay, and you believe them. It’s when “Netflix and chill” literally means you watch Netflix and hang out. It’s about still loving someone even though sometimes they make you absolutely insane.
Living with the person you love is not perfect, and sometimes it’s hard, but it’s amazing and comforting and one of the best things you’ll ever experience.
Go ahead and share a picture of the person you love and copy and paste this, make their day.
I love this picture of Samuel Guidry it is perfect. a pic of Sami showing off the purity rings that Sam got her for her 16th bday.

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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.

 

 

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