Posts Tagged ‘love’

Why

The question was actually posed to me some time ago by a young German woman. I had befriended her and her husband in an online game that I was playing. She quickly became aware of my faith and one day as we chatted about life she abruptly posed this question.

Why do you serve God? What does he do for you?

My mind quickly went to all the theologically correct answers that I had learned over the years but quickly discarded them. First of all I don’t think her English was up to taking in a bunch of “Christianese” (and my German was certainly not up to conveying anything other than hello and thank you). Secondly my guess is that perhaps somewhere she had already heard the platitudes. She was looking for something more intimate, more personal. She really wanted to know , why did Sam Guidry (or Flamefanner as my gaming friends know me) choose to serve this god. I gave her an answer. I do not even recall what it was, however it set me to thinking and so I give you:

Five Reasons that I serve God: Personal

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin.       Hebrews 4:15

We have reached reason number four.  Reason number one is that God consistently amazes me.  Number two is that he is unconditional.  I can count on him regardless of my circumstances.  Number three is that he lets me see myself as he sees me, not as the world would paint me or as circumstances color who I am.  The fifth reason is wrapped up in all of these.  He is not some distant being who manipulates the world around us and requires things of us.  He engages us, amazes us, impacts us and shows us how he sees us through the lens of Jesus Christ and all His wonderful promises.

How amazing it is to be personally engaged by an omniscient God.  He always knows just what I need even when I don’t.  I was recently looking at the Caring Bridge journal that I kept as we walked the journey of Allana’s Leukemia.  It was toward the end of her first course of chemotherapy.  Allana was at her weakest (until the bone marrow transplant treatments).   We had been battered by the brutal side effects of the chemo.  Allana had just lost her hair.  It was at this dark hour that an omniscient God engaged us in a most personal way through a young nurse.  This is not to make light of the incredible support and care that he provided through His people and directly through the ministry of the Holy Spirit but at this time, at this moment we needed something special.  I am guessing that that something special came through a young lady who may never know the place she holds in our hearts. I will let the Caringbridge post speak for itself.

The other was through a nurse, a young lady in the healing profession who stood over and for Allana tonight and prayed her heart out. The presence of God filled the room as she proclaimed healing and peace and blessing over Allana and myself. The uncontrollable tears that are for me a sign of a special stirring of the Holy Spirit (Lord anytime you can come up with a different sign for me I will really be ok with that!) came and I think all three of us just bathed in that presence. God truly directs the steps of His People and he directed her to be at the right place, at the right time and then used her to bless our socks off.

Today was a day of weariness, loss and some pain but more importantly today was a day that God reminded us….again…. that Leukemia has won nothing. The Victory is won and Jesus is His name.  Caringbridge, Allana Guidry January 25, 2013.

And yes, my eyes are full of tears again.  How can they not be when I have such a great God and Father who loves and cares for me in such a personal way?  While the circumstances may enhance the intensity of God’s personal intervention here, it is only one among a multitude of instances.  As Allana and I have moved along in our faith walk He has repeatedly engaged us in a deeply personal way that helped us to grow and mature in our faith (the great unconditional impacting the conditional).  Whether it was speaking the phrase “fan into flame” so deeply into our hearts or inspiring Allana to proclaim the “True Beauty in Christ” that is our true identity.  He has moved us to be in just the right places for the growth that we needed throughout our time together.  Separately he turned our hearts to Him at a time when we were both dealing with the repercussions of our own poor decisions before bringing us together, companions on the walk of faith.

Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? Just as it is written, “FOR YOUR SAKE WE ARE BEING PUT TO DEATH ALL DAY WE WERE CONSIDERED AS SHEEP TO BE SLAUGHTERED.” But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 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 8:35-39

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Why

The question was actually posed to me some time ago by a young German woman. I had befriended her and her husband in an online game that I was playing. She quickly became aware of my faith and one day as we chatted about life she abruptly posed this question.

Why do you serve God? What does he do for you?

My mind quickly went to all the theologically correct answers that I had learned over the years but quickly discarded them. First of all I don’t think her English was up to taking in a bunch of “Christianese” (and my German was certainly not up to conveying anything other than hello and thank you). Secondly my guess is that perhaps somewhere she had already heard the platitudes. She was looking for something more intimate, more personal. She really wanted to know , why did Sam Guidry (or Flamefanner as my gaming friends know me) choose to serve this god. I gave her an answer. I do not even recall what it was, however it set me to thinking and so I give you:

Five Reasons that I serve God

Britt Nicole’s song Through Your Eyes summarizes this weeks reason.

‘Cause you stood right there
And then you broke apart the lies
You told me I had something beautiful inside
You brought to life the part of me I thought had died
‘Cause you stood right there until I saw me
I saw me through your eyes (saw me)
I saw me through your eyes (saw me)
I saw me through your eyes

God sees me through the divine lens of His Word not based on the shifting sands of my human condition.  Then he provides Scripture, His Written Word, and the Holy Spirit to open my eyes to the Truth that He sees.  In a world where our identity too often rests on the circumstances of our lives what a blessing it is to have an anchor of truth about who I am.  The cool thing is that this anchor isn’t the kind of anchor that holds me in one place battered by the waves and storms of life.  It is a “Sea Anchor” (sea an·chor- sē ˈaNGkər/noun/ an object dragged in the water from the bow of a boat in order to keep the bow pointing into the waves or to lessen leeway.)  No matter how bad the storm gets I can hold on to the promises of Scripture and the power of the Holy Spirit to continue to move forward, becoming more and more like Christ, maturing in my faith.  When the storms of life get rough we are so tempted to cut the line freeing ourselves from our anchor because the lie is “This anchor is driving you deeper into the storm where you will be destroyed.”  It seems that running before the storm letting it guide us with the wind and waves to our back is the better course of action.  Indeed it is the path of least resistance but that is not the path that we are called to.  No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. Romans 8:37.  Conquerors rise out of conflict.  They come through the storm not get driven before it.  No matter how bad it gets the anchor is always there and even if you do cut the line, even that is a lie.  We only have to reach out our hand in faith and it turns us back into the wind and back into His plan.

I am the well loved child of God

“How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!” 1 John 3:1

I am an heir with all those rights and privileges

“Now if we are children, then we are heirs — heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.”   Romans 8:17

I am forgiven

“All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.” Acts 10:43

I am saved

“For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ.” 1 Thessalonians 5:9

My life is not an accident or a series of accidents

“‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.'” Jeremiah 29:11

When we become solid in our identity as God sees us then we can walk the journey of Spiritual Maturity with Paul the Apostle.

Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect, but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus. Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.  Let us therefore, as many as are perfect, have this attitude; and if in anything you have a different attitude, God will reveal that also to you;  however, let us keep living by that same standard to which we have attained. Philippians 3:12-16

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FIFM

For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands. 2 Timothy 1:6

God spoke this verse to Allana and I back in 2003.  We had only been together a couple of years.  These were difficult years.  Allana had to adjust to being married, having two sons and caring for our little Sami.  Chayla was born in April and to top it off I was working crazy hours.  In the midst of all of that God was doing incredible things in our lives.  Fan Into Flame Ministries was born out of that crucible.  The idea would grow and be tempered over the years by moments of spirit led engagement and by intense personal suffering.  For Allana these days bore the fruit of True Beauty.  For me the focus became Hupomone (because I am a geek and Greek is cool) or Patience, Endurance, Perseverance.  Yet still, it continued to be at the core, the call to Fan Into Flame that gift, in ourselves and in others.

Let’s back track a little.

1 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, according to the promise of life in Christ Jesus, 2 To Timothy, my beloved son: Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord. 3 I thank God, whom I serve with a clear conscience the way my forefathers did, as I constantly remember * you in my prayers night and day, 4 longing to see you, even as I recall your tears, so that I may be filled with joy. 5 For I am mindful of the sincere faith within you, which first dwelt in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice, and I am sure that it is in you as well.

Paul takes Timothy down memory lane for a minute.  He reminds him that he is Paul’s son in the faith.  Why does Paul do this?  He wants Timothy to remember a very special moment in his life, the moment that he received Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.  The moment that God’s Gift was so graciously bestowed on a young man.  I have to wonder if Timothy didn’t tear up a little, thinking of his father in the faith facing death in Rome.  Perhaps he felt a little shame that the difficulties of ministry in Ephesus had worn him down.  Yet Paul tears all that away.  Striking to the core of Hupomone, without using the word, “Fan into flame the gift of God…”  There is nothing else that we can do to endure as children of God.

I have actually heard this verse taught as a call to utilize those very special and individual gifts that God has bestowed on each one of us.  However the context of the verses that follow this verse (not that He doesn’t desire each of us to serve him with all our gifts) make it clear that Paul is talking about one gift.  I will designate it the Gift.  The cool thing is that this Gift is the same for us all and yet manifests itself very differently in each of us.

7 For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.

There it is, the Gift.  It is nothing less than God Himself given to each of us that believe and confess.  It is this Gift that makes us bold endowing us with power, love and self-discipline.  It is a special power available only through Jesus Christ.  It is power not as the world gives, or recognizes power.  It is the power to testify of Jesus and to stand with our brothers and sisters in Christ.  It is power that is inextricably joined to love.  Indeed 1 Corinthians 13 tells us that power without love is vain and useless.

8 So do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord or of me his prisoner. Rather, join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God.

This Gift is one that empowers without limit, motivates in love and operates with self-discipline even as Christ Himself cried out in Gethsemane, “39 And He went a little beyond them, and fell on His face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; yet not as I will, but as You will.” Matthew 26:39  In a moment that the whole world around Him saw as the greatest weakness, Jesus exploded the chains of sin and death with the greatest demonstration of power, motivated by love and operating in Self-discipline as only God himself could.

9 He has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time, 10 but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.

HE HAS SAVED US!  And called us by grace, a grace that is eternal.  But he did not just call us to a holy life and leave us to our own pitiful attempts.  He provided the Gift.  It is the Gift of revealed Grace.  It is the Gift of revealed Life Eternal.  It is the Gift of the Truth, the Gift of the Good News and Great Joy which shall be to all People.  It is the Gift that endows us with the same power that confounded the law and threw the world into confusion.  How foolish would we be not to fan THAT GIFT into flame in our lives.

 

 

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“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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ELove

We are looking at some of the qualities of Isaiah and Jeremiah that contributed to their incredible endurance as men of God.  They are qualities that qualify them to be wonderful examples of Hupomone Men. These qualities are not a function of their vocation as prophets of God.  These qualities are not tied up in the message that Isaiah and Jeremiah brought to the people of God.  These qualities are all about the daily choices of life that Isaiah and Jeremiah made as they responded to the call of God to be in relationship with Him.  The quality of Hupomone that we are going to look at today is a direct result of that relationship.

 The LORD appeared to him from afar, saying, “I have loved you with an everlasting love; Therefore  I have drawn you with lovingkindness.”  Jeremiah 31:3

Isaiah and Jeremiah had every reason to hate God’s people.  Given the content of many of their prophesies (particularly Jeremiah) one might settle on the idea that they did indeed hate.  Here in the United States, as a society we have embraced an idea of “thought correctness” that violates the very core of hupomone love.  That idea is that if you “hate” a behavior that I am involved in, you hate me.  This idea rejects the intrinsic value of the individual, the very basis of God’s love for us. It limits the value of a person to their actions.  God cries out to His people, “I hate your behavior and its consequences, but I love you with an everlasting love”.  The New Testament labels this love Agape.  This is the love that is the foundation of hupomone living.  The call emanates from God to our “spiritual” ears and is a function of listening. This is Jesus’ cry, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” Daily choice is a function of will. It is the physical response to truly hearing God. Love is a function of relationship.  It is the foundation that enables all the rest of it.

 If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 1 Corinthians 13:1

Isaiah and Jeremiah desperately and completely loved God.  Isaiah and Jeremiah desperately and completely loved His people.  It was this love extending from their relationship with God that drove their hupomone lifestyle for a combine 100 years.  Faithfully they spoke truth to Israel, often reaping derision and persecution and it was Agape that validated their ministry.  Some look at the prophetic of the Old Testament and see hate and condemnation.  I look and see hupomone living.  I see the call of God to live out His everlasting love daily through meaningful choices empowered by the Holy Spirit.  I see the great provision of grace, seeking to redeem the results of rebellion.  I hear God calling out through his people the message of love, redemption and hupomone.

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Telephone

“Trust in the Lord forever, for in God the Lord, we have an everlasting rock”

Isaiah 26:4

I have been reading the Major Prophets in my personal devotions.  Isaiah and Jeremiah, these guys were some Major Hupomone Men!  Depending on how you figure the history and do the math Isaiah spoke for God over a period of around 60 years!  Jeremiah’s career spanned about 40 years.  They were both fearless before men and absolutely devoted to God.  They were both despised and revered.  They were both threatened and abused for their devotion to the word of the Lord.  They are both honored by recognition in the New Testament.  Jeremiah is even called out as a potential identity for Jesus Christ.  Isaiah is recognized as the most prolific messianic prophet.  He foretold John the Baptist and his mission.  It was the book of Isaiah that the Ethiopian Eunuch was reading on his way home from Jerusalem.

So what is it about these two men that makes them truly Hupomone men?

 Isaiah and Jeremiah were both called by God to serve him and speak to the people for him.

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, And before you were born I consecrated you; I have appointed you a prophet to the nations.”  Jeremiah 1:5

“Then I heard the voice of the Lord, saying,”Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?”  Then I said, “Here am I.  Send me!”  Isaiah 6:8

The call of God on our lives is at the very core of Hupomone.  There is an illusion here that can trip us up.  It may appear to us that the call of God on the lives of Jeremiah and Isaiah was about being a prophet.  Jeremiah is a little more explicit about the nature of God’s call on his life.  While the call extends to vocation, it is not at its center about vocation. “And before you were born I consecrated you…”.  Jeremiah was set apart to be in relationship with God long before he ever delivered a Word from the Lord.  We see Isaiah already positioned to hear the voice of God before he seals his vocation with the words, “Here am I Send me!”  

Paul lays out the course of Hupomone for a young pastor named Timothy

9 who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was granted us in Christ Jesus from all eternity, 2 Timothy 1:9

Hupomone begins with salvation.  It is only when we accept the extended hand of fellowship from God that includes a call to be separated or holy that we open the door to the steadfast, enduring lifestyle of abandoning our own purposes to follow God’s.  Paul makes it clear that this call is not about anything that we have done (or by extension anything that Isaiah or Jeremiah had done).  It is an undeserved gift.  It is grace.  In Ephesians Paul tells us that the very nature of this calling gives us hope “18 I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints,” Ephesians 1:8 

The kind of perseverance that we see rising out of the call of God comes about from having a view to eternity and to the inheritance of the saints, first to Israel in the Old Testament and then opened up to all humankind by the death and resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

 

 

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I am not sure what happened with my previous post but the photo I included caused most of the post not to be visible.  I have fixed that glitch and the whole post is now readable (I hope!) here

The fevers worsened.  We moved through Christmas and towards the New Year.  Sore throat spread to body aches and stomach pain.  These days so close to the day that everything changed are barely a blur in my memory.  I can remember little of what happened outside of the progression of the illness that we didn’t even know was there.  Even with the fevers and discomfort there was a blissful ignorance as to the journey that we were being called to embark on.  Just to put the whole piece into perspective, Nisa was born at 9:40 pm on December 16th.  The 17th is day one and we move on from there.  So we are looking at December 25th through January 1st.  As I review the various posts on Facebook I see faces of joy and innocence.  The fevers are a footnote to the joy of the season made even more joyful by the arrival of our miracle baby.  Allana even downplays the intensity of the fevers putting them at 102. By the night of the 31st they are spiking between 104 and 106, or maybe not wanting to worry her too much I fudge the numbers a little, I do not really remember..  A trip to the ER is only forestalled by the fact that the Ibuprofen is knocking them down into safer territory.  Still by New Years Day it was enough.  We called Allana’s OB office.  The doctor on call prescribes a heavy duty antibiotic and some anti nausea medicine to mitigate the side effects.  We start it right away, but of course she does not get better.  By January 2nd Allana is very sick.  The pain in her belly has gotten much worse.  We suspect a postpartum infection but don’t understand why the antibiotics do not help.  January 3rd is a Thursday.  We arrive at the OB office at 10:00 am and are ushered in to the examining room.  Our Nurse Practitioner listens patiently to the story, but as the physical exam progresses her demeanor changes.  There is an urgency to her motions as she feels the abnormal swelling in Allana’s belly, the tenderness and lumps at her joints.  I can feel my apprehension risings, but still there are so many pills, shots, treatments…a quick fix is in order…

“I have called the Flower Hospital, they are expecting her.”  What…we need to get some tests… “No we are admitting her.”  We have plans can it wait until Monday… “No, I want you there within 2 hours, go home settle the children and pick up what you need.  Once you are there they will begin running tests to see what is going on.”

FlowerJan3Well if you have to be in a hospital you might as well have a beautiful view and a beautiful woman to share it with.

It was only shortly after this picture was taken that I would hear the word “Leukemia” for the first time, mixed in with a couple of other potential causes for Allana’s test results.  If the fevers were the relentless clacking as the rollercoaster climbs the first rise, then this was the ominous pause before the first drop.  The ride would not stop for almost a year.  However while the emotions and physical aspects rode the speeding rails, God remained rock solid and faithful.  The outpouring of love from God’s people was incredible.  Even in the midst of the myriad of “spiritual” advisers who decried our lack of faith for continuing treatment or saw this as a sign of trouble in our walk with God; His love overwhelmed us. “Traveling deeper and deeper.  Closer closer to God”  Allana’s words would ring with truth in a way that neither of us could ever imagine.  Deeper and Deeper. Closer, closer to God…there was no where else to go.

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