Posts Tagged ‘Jesus’

Tita.Johns.ReceptionWe will be headed back to Florida in a couple of days to celebrate the life of Dorothy Guidry, my mother.  As a part of that service I have been asked to write out a memory that I have of her.  There are of course many individual memories that are cute and maybe a little angsty.  There is the time she was chasing me (in fun) and I headed out the storm door, missing the handle by inches, my hand went through the glass sending us on a trip to the nearest ER.  I remember how quickly the nurse in her came out as she wrapped my arm and instructed me to put pressure on the wound.  Her quick and calm response kept me from panic and you can be sure that I soaked the injury for all it was worth for years (If you have seen White Christmas you will know what I mean…)

There were strings in our string beans, hidden gifts on birthdays, Christmas scavenger hunts.  I remember her chain smoking as we waited for the movers to come during one of our many moves (she quit before I was a teenager).  I remember her patiently working with me to send a tape (mini reel to reel!) to my Dad who was posted overseas.  However my greatest memory of her is not any of these events.  It is a quality.  My mother pursued the heart of Jesus.  She loved and adopted people, just as He does. This love was without conditions and the adoption was freely available, it only needed to be accepted and there was a tacit understanding that this adoption extended to our family.

Whether it was the woman under the couch, the girl with the injured heart or the eleven year old smoker who would bruise me repeatedly standing outside our church, she brought them into the love of Christ in our home. Some of her adopted family will be sitting in the memorial service on Friday.  Some could not accept or persevere in their adoption and passed from view and some ended tragically bringing tears that few saw.  Some were (briefly) boyfriends or girlfriends but the love and adoption was never withdrawn.  Some are husbands and wives who stood by her side during these last days of life here on earth.  She has in this adopted family Peters, Pauls, Zaccheus’s, Mary Magdelenes, Marthas and even a few Lazarus’s. She has blessed so many and we have all been blessed in return.

This Spirit led heart guided our choice of church family.  We were never a “denomination”.  She taught us to seek the place the Holy Spirit would have us serve, not necessarily the place where we felt most comfortable or the place that served us best.  Our church family consists of Anglican,Lutheran, Baptist, Pentecostal, Independent, Calvinist, Wesleyan and Armenian members literally all over the world.  This was not born of an inconstancy of belief but from a solid faith anchored on the Rock that allowed her to grasp the width and breadth of the Kingdom of God as few do.

 

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Meeting

In my 35 years of working experience I have come to recognize a phenomenon I call The Meeting Culture. Interestingly enough it crosses through the borders of the various regions in which I have been employed, across industries and even informal groups.  It became more salient in the later part of my career in the hospitality industry because I was engaged in trouble shooting challenged operations.  As I refocused my life on ministry and spiritual growth I was somewhat surprised to find the same culture at play within the fellowship of ministry, but then people are people no matter where we are.  Interestingly enough the heart of the culture has its genesis in both settings.

The early church, particularly the early Jewish church experienced a new phenomenon.  The practice of Judaism had long been tolerated by the Romans.  Zealots and radicals were put down but synagogues and temple worship were given a pass by the Latin conquerors.  However this new practice, these followers of Jesus were not content with their own kind and taught intolerance of other religions. Jesus was not just a god among gods, he was the God and the only one worthy of worship by all, not just the Jewish people.  Pack that up with the rumors spread by opponents and Christianity became anathema to 1st century rulers.  Gathering became dangerous.  It came to the point that the writer of Hebrews had to encourage and even mandate that the early believers meet together for fellowship and encouragement in the faith (Hebrews 1:25).  However there is a danger.  One that Paul clearly recognized when he wrote to the Corinthians and condemned their time together as not focused on their faith, “…because you come together not for the better but for the worse.”  He extends this warning in a positive sense when in Ephesians 4 he states:  “And he gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ;”  Ephesians 4:11-12  When the meetings stop resulting in “the work of service to the building up of the body of Christ.” – and this is not your local church body – then it ceases to serve or follow the Gospel.

This is what I found as I started engaging businesses in crisis.  The deeper the crisis, the more meetings they had scheduled.  They would have manager meetings, department meetings, position meetings, strategy meetings, every kind of meeting that you can imagine.  They would plan these meetings, record these meetings and unfortunately never adequately execute anything that came out of these meetings.  In most cases the company had fully executable procedures and policies already in place.  So that raises the question, “What is the purpose, what is the drive for all those meetings?”  It became pretty obvious that even in distressed operations people need to feel successful.  This is what they find in their endless meetings…success.  They are able to have the most successful meetings.  They come out of the meetings feeling like they have made real progress.  They feel like they are fulfilling their purpose and calling.  The focus of success ceases to be the execution of purpose but becomes the discussion and planning of purpose.  However life and business are hard.  So when push comes to shove it is easier to have another meeting than to actually hold oneself accountable for the execution necessary for success.  This was fortunate for me as it kept me employed for a couple of decades.

So how does all this apply to our faith.  Let me be clear the gathering of the Saints is mandated by Scripture and empowered by the Holy Spirit.  The problem is when the meetings instead of focusing our faith become the focus of our faith.  When the center of our faith life is in a building instead of in our hearts; that building becomes a cage for the Gospel instead of a launching pad.  The impetus for this is the same as the meeting focused businesses that I have engaged.  We believe that we can find success in our meetings (services, gathering, experiences….).  We can be holy, inspired and powerful inside those four walls.  We are rarely challenged and often supported inside those four walls (unless we find ourselves challenging the culture inside those four walls!).  We are safe in the practice of our faith inside those four walls.  After the conversion of Emperor Constantine in 312 AD Christianity transitioned from a fringe group of Jesus fanatics to the primary religion of Europe.  It was during this period that a corollary to the Meeting Culture developed.  It is the idea that there are special “professional” children of God who really should carry the weight of the Gospel ( re-read Ephesians 4:11-12).  They get to lead the meetings where we can be so successful.  The newest class of these professional Christians is the worship leader.  Again worship is wonderful, but if the top of one’s life in Christ exists only in the midst of well engineered worship sets, we go back to the problem of the meeting culture in business.  The Gospel is contained, not executed.  The personal satisfaction and alleviation of personal responsibility that this culture provided made it grow.  It was easy to move from a fellowship of equals celebrating and sharing the gospel of redemption both together and in their communities to being a culture of meetings and rituals performed by “professional” Christians and from there to the place where the meeting itself became not only a celebration of salvation but the mode of salvation.

There was a time in my life when I measured the health of my faith by the number of meetings I attended.  This week I went to two church services, Wednesday night prayer, a small group, served at youth group and did the Friday morning prayer card session.  I am rocking for the Lord.  Now none of those things is bad.  Not event the collection is bad.  The fact that I used my attendance as a Spiritual scorecard is bad.  Honestly at that time in my life my immersion in the church was probably necessary to my spiritual formation but God had to rip the scorecard out of my hand.  I am particularly stubborn so my grip on that card was pretty tight.  It took pretty intense situations in my life to move me from a meeting scorecard to a biblical scorecard.  Now I know that you are ready for me to lay out all the check boxes on that biblical scorecard.  Sorry, no such luck.  It does  not work that way.  There are two metrics for the scorecard, the Holy Spirit and the Word of God.

Jesus tells the disciples in Luke 12 that when they are brought to judgement for their faith, “The Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say.”  Paul uses the Holy Spirit as a scorecard for his words to the Romans in chapter 9, “I am telling the truth in Christ, I am not lying, my conscience testifies with me in the Holy Spirit,…” and in chapter 14 he sets the Holy Spirit as the scorecard for the very kingdom of God, “for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.”  

David says in Psalm 119:11, “Your Word I have treasured in my heart, That I may not sin against You.” and Jesus uses His Word as the metric for a Hupomone life built on the rock in Matthew 7 as compared to the foolish life of the man who did not act on his Word and built his house on the sand.  This is what we do when we center our lives in the house instead of on the foundation.

Build your faith on the Rock.  Fellowship together with purpose (the Gospel) not as a purpose and you will see the hand of God move in and around you like never before.

But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. Romans 8:37

 

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Here is another in the series of Blog Posts started and never finished.  This one was begun on my birthday in 2014.  The same day that I penned (typed?) An Introduction to Hupomone. I did not know that we were about to weather another unexpected storm of circumstance in our lives.  Honestly we did not do a great job of hupomone living as we walked through the situation, but God is faithful and we grew (and are still growing) by the power of His Spirit.  Thank you for joining me for another piece of my Hupomone journey.

“Remember those who led you, who spoke  the word of God to you; and considering the result of their conduct, imitate their faith. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. Do not be carried away by varied and strange teachings “

Hebrews 13:7-9

 

Perseverance is not a trait of the human condition.  While mankind toys with the concept and we are able to point to individuals who in limited circumstances demonstrate a form of perseverance, they do not rise to the standard of Biblical perseverance.  It is for this reason that true perseverance only comes as a direct gift of God.  This gift rises from His very nature.  Our title verse today expresses that nature, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.”

Being as we are forever changing, it is hard for us to conceive of an unchanging God.  We do in fact attribute change to Him as often as we can.  We seize on biblical narrative that “demonstrate” how God has changed the way that he deals with men, losing the thread of the redemptive plan set before the creation of the world.  It is perhaps the only way that finite creations can conceive of an infinite creator without child-like faith.  We unwittingly demonstrate Jesus’ assertion.

And He called a child to Himself and set him before * them, and said, “Truly I say to you, unless * you are converted and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. 4 “Whoever then humbles himself as this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.  Matthew 18:3-4

God proclaimed his divine perseverance when He declared to Moses,

“Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.’ ” 15 God, furthermore, said to Moses, “Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, ‘The LORD, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you.’ This is My name forever, and this is My memorial-name to all generations.  Exodus 3:14-15

The Eternal I am announcing His perseverance to all generations.  The Westminster Shorter Catechism puts it this way:

God is a Spirit, infinite, eternal and unchangeable in His being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness and truth.

While not Scripture, I love the simplicity of its treatment of the divine, perhaps the child-like way it approaches the question of his nature.  Yet still for all its simplicity, the nature of God is incredibly complex in its interaction with the human condition.  It is this complexity that smells of change to the inquiring (but limited) mind.  The complexity of the infinite as it intertwines with the finite takes on the appearance of instability,  even chaos when observed from the finite perspective. However there is in fact a singularity of purpose and intent in every nuance of the relationship.  This purpose is wrapped up in another concept that struggle with.

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16

It is this eternal purpose that removes the onus of circumstance from our lives when we accept the Hupomone aspect of God’s nature with childlike faith.  It frees us from the whirlwind of circumstances and allows us to see the straight line of God’s intent within the chaos of finite existence.

because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death. Romans 8:2

The Holy Spirit has freed us from the law of sin and death, the law of circumstance. Hupomone living is choosing to operate in the eternal through the power of the Holy Spirit, pursuing our ongoing transformation into the image of Jesus Christ.

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“My son, thou art not yet strong and prudent in thy love.”

“Wherefore O my Lord?”

“Because for a little opposition thou fallest away from thy undertakings, and too eagerly seekest after consolation. The strong lover standeth fast in temptations, and believeth not the evil persuasions of the enemy. As in prosperity I please him, so in adversity I do not displease.”

“The prudent lover considerest not the gift of the lover so much as the love of the giver. He looketh for the affection more than the value, and setteth all gifts lower than the Beloved. The noble lover resteth not in the gift, but in Me above every gift.”

Thomas a Kempis, The Imitation of Christ

The strong lover, the fodder of many a dime store novel.  Yet too often the hero or heroine is just the opposite of Kempis’ hero, plunging instead into temptation and believing the persuasion that the fulfillment of lust justifies any behavior.  Jesus is our great example of love.  He is the archetype of hupomone.

5 Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, 6 who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. 8 Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Philippians 2:5-8

Christ stood fast.  He stayed the course to complete a plan that called for the complete sacrifice and abasement of his very being.  He rejected the lies of the enemy time after time.  He rejected that Matthew could never be anything except a crooked tax collector.  He rejected that a girl named Mary Magdalene was too soiled to be of any use to anyone.  He rejected that a woman of Samaria could never serve the Gospel.  He rejected that the human race was not worth the sacrifice.  He rejected that a young man who was raised in the faith but walked away wreaking destruction all around him for 25 years could not turn his life around and become a tool of the Holy Spirit and a man who sees value in imitating Christ.

8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.  Romans 5:8

16 “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. John 3:16

As the song says “This is love”.  It stands fast in Truth.  The strong lover is based not in circumstance but based in the Gospel, a love that is truly for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health but its strength transcends the grave.

38 For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39 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 8:38-39

This is the love God has for us and it is the love that is required of any who would be proved a true lover.

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Saturday

 We celebrate Good Friday.  We celebrate Easter.  What about Saturday?

Sandwiched between the suffering of the greatest sacrifice ever made and the glory of the most magnificent triumph ever won, past present or future, is What? I am going to call it Hupomone Day! because it is the Saturday’s of our life that grow true perseverance.

How often do we find ourselves on Saturday.  That blank day between the suffering and triumph.  At least as we watch the events unfolding we can focus on the horror, the pain.  We can anticipate the miraculous escape, the triumphant turning of the tide as God magnificently brings the victory.  Then it doesn’t happen the way we want or expect.  The night falls,  a restless night, perhaps without sleep, certainly with disturbed dreams.  Then what about Saturday, what do we do?  The dawn rises, but all that we can see is Friday’s darkness.  The birds are singing, but all we can hear are the screams and jeers of the crowd; the hammering of the nails; the moans of his mother; the pounding of our own heart.

What about Saturday.  What do we do?  What should we do?  Some will run.  Some will hide.  Some will lose faith and return to the life they had known before they felt the Master’s touch.  Some will struggle and doubt, but:

struggle and doubt + faith = Hupomone

Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.  Hebrews 11:1

Some of us have longer Saturdays than others.  Take Thomas.  I often hear people make fun of doubting Thomas.  I can only imagine that his fellow disciples gave him some ribbing but here is the deal:  Thomas Stayed!  He made it through a Saturday that was longer and more intense than any of the others.  I can only believe this made his Sunday morning all the more amazing.  Thomas grew through his Saturday.  He walked away with an understanding of Hebrews 11:1 straight from the lips of his Savior:  Jesus said to him, “Because you have seen Me, have you believed? Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed.” John 20:29.

If Friday is Good Friday and Sunday is Easter Sunday; Saturday is Hupomone Saturday.  Saturday is when we remember His Word.  Saturday is when we remember His touch.  On Saturday the fellowship of our brother’s and sister’s in Christ becomes paramount.  On Saturday we scream out to God.  On Saturday we worship, we cry, we hurt, we heal…in-spite of ourselves.  On Saturday we grow and mature as on no other day.  Perhaps that is why Saturday is in God’s plan for us.  I have experienced a few Saturday’s in my life.  Some I am still experiencing.  While the Sunday mornings are great!  It is the Saturday’s that draw me close to God and close to God’s people.

It is in the midst of Saturday the I make strides towards Philippians 2 , learning humility, allowing God to work in me. It is on Saturday that God makes those subtle changes in me that draw my spirit, soul and body closer to having His attitude and His values and to truly having His love.

It is on Saturday that we practice Hebrews 11:1 like no other day.  Do we trust the promise?  Are we certain of our hope? It is on Saturday that we say in the midst of it all with Joshua, “As for me and my house we will serve the Lord.”

Unfortunately I think that it is also on Saturday that all to many lose faith, not being able to hold on to the promise.  It is on Saturday that as brother’s and sister’s in Christ we fail each other as on no other day.  Perhaps this is because we do not realize that everyday is someone’s Saturday.

Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ. Galatians 6:2 

Are you in the midst of Saturday?  Be certain Sunday morning is coming, and when it does the most miraculous thing, the most miraculous change will not be in the situation that you are experiencing, it will be in YOU!

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Clock“My son, thou art not yet strong and prudent in thy love.”

“Wherefore O my Lord?”

“Because for a little opposition thou fallest away from thy undertakings, and too eagerly seekest after consolation. The strong lover standeth fast in temptations, and believeth not the evil persuasions of the enemy. As in prosperity I please him, so in adversity I do not displease.”

“The prudent lover considerest not the gift of the lover so much as the love of the giver. He looketh for the affection more than the value, and setteth all gifts lower than the Beloved. The noble lover resteth not in the gift, but in Me above every gift.”

Thomas a Kempis, The Imitation of Christ

prudent – adj – acting with or showing care and thought for the future

Kempis has uncovered the weak lover.  The one who falls away in the storm, seeking only for consolation.  He has proclaimed the strong lover.  The one who stands fast in the face of temptation and whose love does not rest on the whims of circumstance.  Now we find that there is yet another quality of love that we are called to in our Imitation of Christ.  The Lord turns his conversation to the prudent lover.

How often we mistake the gift for the lover.  This is the sign of imprudent love.   The gift is wonderful and amazing.  We wrap ourselves up in the gift.  We hug it and caress it.  We proclaim the gift to the world.  It thrills the soul, but like all gifts it fades in value.  The storms of life batter the gift and the sands of time wear it down.  Suddenly that thrill is gone, that tingle that we called love has faded away and because we have been so focused on the gift instead of the lover, prudent love that might have been is never found.

Jesus speaks of this love in Matthew 13:5-6.

5 Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. 6 But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root.

The gift of the Gospel is heard and perhaps even believed but the faith that springs up is in the gift, not in the giver, not in the lover of our souls.  So when the circumstances of life arise there is no depth to hold our faith because our eyes are not on Jesus.

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 hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12:2

As great as the gift is (For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord .Romans 6:23) it is only great because it opens the path for us to focus on The Lover.  If we take our eyes off him….

As is so often the case, the qualities of our vertical relationship with God speak into our horizontal relationships as well.  The gifts of our life both given and received should conduits of intimacy drawing us into relationship with others.  When the gifts are the focus, the love is compromised and when the circumstances change one finds that it is not love at all.  We are all to often ready to believe that gifts (given or received) are enough but there is no endurance in gifts when they do not bring clarity of focus on the lover.

The prudent lover looks to the future, not to the present or the past.  The actions of the prudent lover are framed to sustain and grow intimacy over time with the beloved.  This is the focus of a steadfast relationship, one that will stand the test of time.  It is this kind of love that Paul speaks about in 1 Corinthians.

4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. 8 Love never fails. 1 Corinthians 13:4-8

Be prudent in love, setting ALL gifts lower in value than the lover who gives them.

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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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