Posts Tagged ‘Jesus’

Luke 2:43

43 and as they were returning, after spending the full number of days, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem. But His parents were unaware * of it,

Luke 8:15

15 “But the seed in the good soil, these are the ones who have heard the word in an honest and good heart, and hold it fast, and bear fruit with perseverance.

Luke 21:19

16 “But you will be betrayed even by parents and brothers and relatives and friends, and they will put some of you to death, 17 and you will be hated by all because of My name. 18 “Yet not a hair of your head will perish. 19 “By your endurance you will gain your lives.

The writers of the Gospels use the word Hupomone or Hupomeno (the verb) six times. Five of the references are the gospel writers quoting Jesus and the sixth is a reference to Jesus himself. I love these references because they make a real statement about the nature of Hupomone living and they connect Hupomone directly to our savior. In my previous post we looked at these passages in Matthew and Mark. Today we will see how Luke utilized my favorite Greek word.

The first verse is pretty cool because it establishes something about Hupomone in a very concrete way. Luke chapter two is the Gospel Wikipedia on Jesus under the heading “early childhood”. It takes us from His birth up to His baptism by John the Baptist. It includes this story about a trip to Jerusalem with His family for the Feast of the Passover. This was not an unusual trip for Mary and Joseph. They went every year to this special celebration in the city that was the center of the worship for the Jews. It is verse 43 that makes it unusual and is why Luke includes it in his Gospel.

43 and as they were returning, after spending the full number of days, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem. But His parents were unaware * of it,

When everyone else gathered up and returned home, Jesus stayed behind. Luke says that Jesus “Hupemeinen“. I would suggest that Hupomone is not a function of action, but a function of position. Luke further emphasizes this when three days later Joseph and Mary finally track down the missing boy.

“When they saw Him they were astonished; and His mother said to Him, “Son, why have you treated us this way? Behold, Your father and I have been anxiously looking for You.” And He said to them, “Why is it that you were looking for Me? Did you not know that I had to be in my Father’s house?” (Luke 2:48-49)

Jesus is not focused on behavior. He is focused on position. He doesn’t say that he is learning or teaching or ministering. He simply needed to be in His Father’s house. Everything else followed that. Matthew quotes Jesus on this very point, “Seek first His Kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” (Matthew 6:33) Jesus understood the importance of Hupomone. In his parable of the sower found in Luke chapter 8 he first describes the lack of lasting impact that the Gospel has when Hupomone is absent. Luke is the only Gospel writer that tags the positive end of this parable with “Hupomone”. It is this positional quality that Luke recognizes as the difference between the unproductive soil and seed and the productive soil and seed. Indeed the soil must remain positionally with the seed and the seed positionally with the soil in order for the Gospel to flourish (Matthew: “bears fruit and brings forth, some a hundredfold, some sixty, and some thirty”)

The final verse that we are considering in Luke is a retelling of the discourse on the troubles facing God’s Hupomone people. Luke here highlights the separation between circumstance and Hupomone. He presents the dichotomy between the perceived human condition and the reality of Hupomone living in Luke 21. This is the same discourse that we find in Mark 13 and Matthew 24 .

16 “But you will be betrayed even by parents and brothers and relatives and friends, and they will put some of you to death, 17 and you will be hated by all because of My name. 18 “Yet not a hair of your head will perish. 19 By your endurance you will gain your lives.

Amid all of the betrayal, persecution and even death , “Yet not a hair of your head will perish. By your Hupomone you will gain your lives”. Our life does not depend on our parents, brothers, sisters, relatives or friends. It does not depend on our life circumstances at all, even to the point of physical death. Our life in Christ Jesus depends on one thing, Hupomone, remaining under Him regardless of what this world brings. It is a matter of spiritual position. Paul puts it this way in one of my favorite chapters of the Bible, “Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 8:1) This is the Hupomone Gospel.

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Matthew 10:22

22 “You will be hated by all because of My name, but it is the one who has endured to the end who will be saved.

Matthew 24:10-14

10 “At that time many will fall away and will betray one another and hate one another. 11 “Many false prophets will arise and will mislead many. 12 “Because lawlessness is increased, most people’s love will grow cold. 13 “But the one who endures to the end, he will be saved. 14 “This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all the nations, and then the end will come.

Mark 13:13

“You will be hated by all because of My name, but the one who endures to the end, he will be saved.

Luke 2:43

43 and as they were returning, after spending the full number of days, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem. But His parents were unaware * of it,

Luke 8:15

15 “But the seed in the good soil, these are the ones who have heard the word in an honest and good heart, and hold it fast, and bear fruit with perseverance.

Luke 21:19

16 “But you will be betrayed even by parents and brothers and relatives and friends, and they will put some of you to death, 17 and you will be hated by all because of My name. 18 “Yet not a hair of your head will perish. 19 “By your endurance you will gain your lives.

The writers of the Gospels use the work Hupomone or Hupomeno (the verb) six times. Five of the references are the gospel writers quoting Jesus and the sixth is a reference to Jesus himself. I love these references because the make a real statement about the nature of Hupomone living and they connect Hupomone directly to our savior.

Hupomone Living does not rely on the approval of others

Matthew records the first New Testament uses of Hupomone. In chapter 10, Jesus has invested the twelve with authority and power to heal all kinds of diseases and to cast out unclean spirits. He then commissions them to go out into the Jewish communities around them and proclaim the Kingdom of God. This commissioning speech is an exhortation to Hupomone. It embodies the separation of the Life in Christ from the circumstances in the world and then establishes the basis of Hupomone living on the overwhelming love of the Father and our identity in Jesus Christ.

“And as you go, preach, saying, ‘The Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons. Freely you received, freely give.” Matthew 10:7-8

Hupomone living has a purpose. It extends from the very heart of the Father. It is repeated throughout scripture. It is not a set of behaviors to receive spiritual brownie points or to enjoy some mystic experience. Jesus proclaims it again just before returning to the Father in what we term “The Great Commission”. The disciples model it throughout the book of Acts and Paul proclaims it when he says, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone…” Romans 1:16

Matthew, Mark and Luke all tell the story of Jesus and the disciples exiting the Temple after a session of teaching (Matthew 24 and Mark 13). For the sake of his concise style we will be looking at Mark’s rendition.

The disciples marvel at the beauty of the Temple and Jesus replies with a prophecy that the Temple will be destroyed. I can just imagine the disciples gathering and quietly discussing the bombshell amongst themselves before approaching Jesus and asking the obvious questions, “Excuse me Jesus, when is this going to happen?”. This launches Jesus into a long prophecy of persecution and hate directed at the children of God, but our focus is not on the circumstances but on the response. Jesus opens his instruction in Mark with, “See that no one leads you astray. Many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am he’ and will lead many astray.’ In Ephesians 4 Paul says it this way, “so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.” While Jesus walks through the circumstances to come, He separates the behavior of His followers from those circumstances with 4 instructions and then a conclusion.

  1. Do not be led astray. Mark 13:5
  2. Do not be alarmed. Mark 13:7 (Do not be Anxious. Mark 13:11)
  3. Be on your guard. Mark 13:9
  4. Bear witness before them. Mark 13:9 (Say whatever is given you…Mark 13:11)

All of this circumstance and instruction is followed with a conclusion.

“But the one who hupomeno to end will be saved” Mark 13:13

Boom. Mic Drop.

In my next post I will explore the balance of the Luke passages as I think they have a lot to say about Hupomone.

Blessings!

Sam

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In three short years Jesus gathered, trained and empowered a group of people who would stand the world on its ear and engender a spiritual revolution that would encompass the globe. It was a development program unequaled in history. I would also suggest that it is a program that not only can be repeated but one that we are called to repeat both as leaders seeking to develop those around us and as seekers looking to have the greatest impact for the Kingdom that we can.  Let’s take a look at four points of  Jesus’ development program.

  1. Lead in God’s timing

I think that in modern western society we are much too often guilty of leading in our timing. We think, “I have got this. After all, I have done this before.” The people of Israel certainly thought so as they eyed up the city of Ai (Joshua 7). The classic financial disclaimer comes to mind, “Past performance may not be indicative of future results”. In this particular case it got a bunch of people killed and what should have been an easy success (and was later) became a morale crushing defeat.

Jesus is the eternal son of God. He was the son God throughout his time on earth and continues to be the son of God for eternity. Yet He waited 33 years before he started His earthly ministry and before he started the development process that would forever change the world. He repeatedly deferred to the Father’s timing and in doing so taught His disciples to do the same. This obedience to the Holy Spirit empowered the New Testament church to “turn the world upside down” (Acts 17:6)

2. Lead in lifestyle

The Bible tells us very little about His childhood, but I think we can reasonably look at his lifestyle habits throughout his ministry and extrapolate that they did not arise in a vacuum. I believe that Jesus spent that 33 years carefully establishing an earthly lifestyle that maximized his relationship with the Father and prepared him for the empowering of the Holy Spirit that would be the highlight of his ministry and the sacrifice that would be the fulfillment of His purpose on earth. The blend of Holy Spirit inspired action with times of solitude and prayer are the result of careful personal cultivation. Lifestyle is street level development. This was the purpose of the 33 years. Jesus developed the lifestyle so that he could impart it to his followers. This is an area so severely lacking in today’s leadership.  Lifestyle leadership is rarely discussed and often dismissed. The personal life of our leaders is too often considered irrelevant or simply ignored .  Paul spends considerable time in his letters both to churches and leaders talking about the necessity of lifestyle leadership.

3. Lead in the small things

John tells us the story of Christ’s first miracle. It was not an incredible life changing healing. He did not raise someone from the dead or cast out a demon. Jesus fulfilled a simple (for him) request from his mother. Actually, it wasn’t even really a request. She (as mothers will do) simply pointed out the situation. “They have no wine” (John 2:3) and then set the stage for obedience. This was the first recorded lesson for Jesus’ new followers and here is the kicker, Jesus wasn’t the teacher, Mary was. We too often view development as telling people what to do, when to do it and how to do it. Mary does none of these things. She simply puts truth on the table and then sets up the mode for obedience. “Whatever he says to you, do it.” We too often want to raise the dead and heal the sick when there is a wedding that needs saving. We can put the event even more in perspective when we look at the end of the story. “the headwaiter called the bridegroom, and said to him, ‘ Every man serves the good wine first, and when the people have drunk freely, then he serves the poorer wine; but you have kept the good wine until now'” Jesus did not even get the credit. It is likely that Peter was there for this event. I can only imagine his reaction to this lack of recognition for his rabbi.  I am not sure that this was a lesson learned.  However, it would be repeated.

4.  Lead in the big things

In chapter 8 of his Gospel, the Apostle John tells us the story of the woman caught in adultery.  Jesus took a night of respite after a particularly acrimonious round of dispute with the Temple authorities, retreating to the Mount of Olives for the night.  However in the morning he again appeared in the Temple courts and as usual the people gathered around this man who spoke with such authority.  This morning the Pharisees and teachers in the Temple space laid a trap for him involving a woman they had caught in adultery.  This was a life and death matter under the Law.  This was a big thing. 

They had failed to trap Jesus with a web of little things in their disputes, so they brought out the big gun.  The fact that John notes that it was in fact a trap may well indicate that there was something going on here not readily apparent to you and me.  Jesus’ response also probably has significance beyond what the text states as he quietly drew in the sand.  I have heard many sermons on different theories about what Jesus drew but that is neither here nor there for our discussion. 

When faced with the big trap, Jesus led in a big way.  “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.”  I imagine she quickly scanned the crowd wondering if any of them had the hubris to heft a stone.  “At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there.”  Jesus had a big answer for the Pharisee’s big trap.  While it saved one woman’s life it taught an even bigger lesson to his followers.  When the law meets grace, grace wins. “Woman, where are they?  Has no one condemned you?”  “No one, sir,” she said.  “Then neither do I condemn you.” Jesus declared, “Go now and leave your life of sin.”  John quotes Jesus later in this chapter, “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.”  While Jesus did not need this assurance we have it. Lead in the big things and guess what if you screw up, its ok because when the law meets grace, grace wins.

Timing, lifestyle, small things, big things, when the people of God follow Jesus the world turns upside down and grace wins.

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This is a poem that I wrote with the help of my lovely wife Allana for the 2019 Christmas Pageant at Collingwood Presbyterian Church.  The youth narrated the poem and Scripture while the children acted it out for the congregation.

A Stable Christmas
Sam Guidry

In those days, Caesar Augustus made a law. It required that a list be made of everyone in the whole Roman world. It was the first time a list was made of the people while Quirinius was governor of Syria. All went to their own towns to be listed. Luke 2:1-3

Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the stable
Every animal was sleeping, at least all that were able;
The straw was all stocked and the water filled with care,
Knowing that soon many visitors would be there;

The dog and the cat lay snoring in newly made beds,
But the donkey and the monkey had too many thoughts in their heads;
Would all be ready for a busy busy day?
There were just so very many guests headed their way,

The donkey counted oats while the monkey fluffed the straw,
But he woke up the dog by stepping on a paw.
He let out a yowl and jumped to his feet.
Complaining so loudly of being woken from his sleep.

The cat simply smiled with such big yawn,
A yowling dog was a nice touch for the dawn. Her Cat sense told her this was a very special day.
But little did she know the very special guests that were on the way.

So Joseph went also. He went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea. That is where Bethlehem, the town of David, was. Joseph went there because he belonged to the family line of David. He went there with Mary to be listed. Mary was engaged to him. She was expecting a baby. Luke 2:4-5

One by one all the animals awoke.
But it was late in the morning before anyone spoke.
The donkey exclaimed it is only just noon.
But the Inn is filling quickly and will be full soon.

As all gathered round for an afternoon snack
The news traveled quickly from the front to the back
The Inn was filled up, not a room to be had
For many travelers this news would be bad.

It was then that the stable got an unusual pair
Who knew that a man and a pregnant woman would come there.
They found an open place as the animals gathered round.
It was clear that soon a place for a baby would need to be found.

While Joseph and Mary were there, the time came for the child to be born. She gave birth to her first baby. It was a boy. She wrapped him in large strips of cloth. Then she placed him in a manger. That’s because there was no guest room where they could stay.  Luke 2:6-7

The cat knew that she had been exactly right.
This child was special who had been born on this night.
Just then as if they had been given a cue.
Shepherds arrived the baby to view

The lamb they brought with them told such a story
It was of a host of angels all singing glory.
A surprising spectacle lighting up the night
It had given both man and beast quite a fright.

There were shepherds living out in the fields nearby. It was night, and they were looking after their sheep. An angel of the Lord appeared to them. And the glory of the Lord shone around them. They were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy. It is for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you. He is Christ the Lord. Here is how you will know I am telling you the truth.

You will find a baby wrapped in strips of cloth and lying in a manger.” Suddenly a large group of angels from heaven also appeared. They were praising God. They said, “May glory be given to God in the highest heaven! And may peace be given to those he is pleased with on earth!” The angels left and went into heaven. Then the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem. Let’s see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.” Luke 2:8-15
At the end of the story they all let out a sigh.
They peered into the manger where the little babe lie
Together thanked God for this gift of His light!
And wished Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night.

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth … Out of his fullness we have all received grace John 1:14,16

All Scriptures from NIRV

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Meeting

 

Some recent events brought this post to mind so here it is again.

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 even 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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arete

This idea of excellence has been dogging me for some time now.  When I first began to explore the idea of biblical excellence the Greek word arete was the first to come into view.  Such a short word for such a big concept.  While arete can refer to general excellence it carries with it a strong moral component.  It is only used five times in the New Testament, once by Paul in Philippians and the rest by Peter in his two letters.

Peter designates arete  to be an attribute of God.

seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence. 2 Peter 1:3

Peter then calls the people of God to pursue this very excellence that we find as a aspect of God’s character.

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

While arete is a Greek word that denotes moral excellence, I believe that as Peter uses it arete is found only in the expression of God’s divine power (through the Holy Spirit) in his people as they diligently through faith function in that divine power.  Let’s look at this passage all together.

3 seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence. 4 For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust. 5 Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge, 6 and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness, 7 and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love. 1 Peter 1:3-7

Paul also uses arete in his final charge to the Philippians.

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice! 5 Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near. 6 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. 8 Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things. 9 The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.

Paul here gives a break down of Peter’s attribute of God.  It is pure, lovely, of good repute and praise worthy.  This weekend Levi Elarton (our pastor’s youngest son) spoke on loving people well as a quality of Jesus and by extension a quality that should be a basic part of any Christian’s life.  As a part of that he stated that sinners liked to be around Jesus.  Jesus managed to be attractive to sinners without compromising his arete in any way.  In fact I am going to step out and say that His divine moral excellence (and I would suggest that there is no other kind of true moral excellence) was the very thing that drew people to Him.  You can see this moral excellence in operation in the call of Levi the tax collector (Levi’s text for this Sunday), in His encounter with the woman at the well, in the many times the religious rulers of the day attempted to trip Him up.  You can see this moral excellence in operation as he was beaten, abused and hung on a cross.  You can see this moral excellence being made available to you and me through the power of the Holy Spirit when Jesus rose from the dead, ascended to His place at the right hand of the Father and when the Holy Spirit fell upon the disciples in Jerusalem on Pentecost.

Arete is not a philosophical or theological concept, it is a practice of life that requires diligence and participation in the very nature of God.  It requires what Peter Scazzero in his series of books calls “loving union”.  It requires both the mindset spoken of by Paul and the action that Peter calls for. Arete is the fulfillment of the power of the Holy Spirit in our lives.  It is the natural result of the Hupomone lifestyle.

 

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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 even 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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