Posts Tagged ‘Jesus’

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 appeal to you for my child Onesimus, whom I have begotten in my imprisonment, who formerly was useless to you, but now is useful both to you and to me.” Philemon 10-11

Onesimus was a slave, while not the lowest of the low in that society he was pretty far down the list.  Then he became a runaway slave and went even lower.  We do not have the back story of Onesimus but I bet that as Paul penned these words, he did.  However the details do not really matter because at its core, this is the story of humanity.  I love this verse because in an obscure verse, in an obscure book using what might seem purely concrete language Paul summarizes the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives.  The Holy Spirit takes that which was formerly useless and makes it useful.  It is Romans 8 in a nutshell.  “For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace, because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God…and those who are in the flesh cannot please God.” Romans 8:6-7 

Paul makes it clear that the change from useless to useful is not about performance of duties.  It is also not about a change in life status.  Paul acknowledges that Onesimus is Philemon’s property.  There is no impassioned plea to free the slaves.  How often we want to link our progress from useless to useful on a change in our circumstances.  The lie of Satan is that our usefulness rests in those circumstances.  Yet Paul begs Philemon to recognize the work of the Holy Spirit in Onesimus’ life, transforming him from a useless slave to much more, a beloved brother.  “no longer as a slave, but more than a slave, a beloved brother, especially to me, but how much more to you, both in the flesh and in the Lord.” Philemon 16

Paul then does something amazing which serves as an example to us all.  He engages this transformation from useless to useful on a personal level.  He leverages his own reputation and his own usefulness to aver the spiritual change in Onesimus and to square the life debt that he incurred.  The model is inescabable, demonstrating the way that Jesus stands before the throne and answers the accusations of the Devil, “But if he has wronged you in any way or owes you anything, charge that to my account.” Philemon 18  What a wonderful illustration of our Lord and Savior’s advocacy for us.  It is also a wonderful illustration of the way that we should be standing in the gap for our brothers’ and sisters’ in Christ.  Just as Jesus stands with us and offers himself to erase the debt of our sin, we should stand ready to leverage ourselves in service of those to whom the Holy Spirit leads us as we serve Him.

While the Bible does not give us the rest of the story, church traditions tell us that some years later Philemon and Onesimus were martyred for their faith, together.

 

 

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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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“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.

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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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Good Morning!

So yes I have taken a break from writing while Allana was writing her “90 Day Faith Walk”.  I share some of the posts here but if you would like to do the whole “Walk” you can find it HERE.  Also her women’s group True Beauty is open for new members from April 26th until May 17th.  There is currently a waiting list but Allana will be adding additional members.  The group operates on Facebook and is by invitation only.  If you are interested you can email me for more information.

 

The LORD, the Psalmist’s Shepherd.
A Psalm of David.
1 The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want. 2 He makes me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside quiet waters. 3 He restores my soul; He guides me in the paths of righteousness For His name’s sake. 4 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 5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You have anointed my head with oil; My cup overflows. 6 Surely goodness and lovingkindness will follow me all the days of my life, And I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever .

So here is the reality of The Nineteen days.  We never know when we are living them out.  The Guidry’s are not really unique in this experience.  I would guess that everyone of you has walked through their own Nineteen Days, innocent of the storm that was just over the horizon.  The fact is that this was not my first journey through the Nineteen Days, but it is my first journey through them where I truly understood David’s heart as he penned this Psalm.  How we walk out the Nineteen Days is a function of this Psalm.  Sentence by sentence it is a guide written by a man who walked through his own Nineteen Days many times over.

David knew about enemies.  He faced them in a literal way that few of us have ever (and most of us will never) experience.  Whether it was the giant Goliath or his own son Absalom David’s life was filled with the turmoil that mortal enemies brings. We are unlikely to face an armored giant or have our son plot to steal everything we have but the enemies we face are just as real as those that assaulted David’s peace. Sometimes we are our own worst enemy.  Other times ( and this phrase is a poetic restatement of the “Valley of the shadow of death”) the simple fact that we are God’s people in an ungodly world places us in the presence of our enemies.  God’s table provides sustenance and hospitality in the presence of those who hate him and us and it IS God’s table.  He does not call us to prepare our own tables in enemy territory.  He calls us to sit at his table under the covering of his hospitality.  Just as wisdom prepares a place for those who seek God in Proverbs 9, God has prepared this haven in the midst of turmoil.

There is the key phrase, “in the midst”, David says “In the presence”.  This is a concept that too many Christians just don’t get; that too many preachers and teachers ignore.  It is attractive to us, to just avoid the whole “valley of the shadow of death”.  Certainly if I pray right and have enough faith I can just stay on the mountaintop all the time!  When Allana was first diagnosed with cancer we had several very well meaning brothers and sisters in Christ who assumed that if we just prayed and had faith Allana would be instantly and miraculously healed.  Now don’t get me wrong I completely believe that God does heal!  I also believe that God intervened on many occasions throughout our journey through Cancer.  However when Allana and I prayed and sought God, especially following our first round of Chemotherapy, His answer was “I need you to walk through the valley of the shadow of death, My rod and My staff will comfort you.  I will prepare a table in the presence of your enemies.  You will dwell in My house forever.”  The fruit that has come from the walk in the valley has been truly amazing.  God has provided opportunity after opportunity for us to share Him with so many.  Here is the cool thing about the tradition of hospitality in the Old Testament times, strangers were welcome at the table.  The table that God has prepared for us “in the presence of mine enemies” is one that we are free to invite ALL to join.  It is not a table that we are supposed to wall off or cower under.  It is a place that is made for us to introduce our enemies to our most gracious (literally full of grace) host Jesus Christ our saviour and Lord.  Who will you invite to sit at God’s table?

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