Posts Tagged ‘obedience’

solomons-temple

 

When we think of the Old Testament temple most of us think of Solomon in all his glory.  The son of King David, usually recognized as the greatest King of the Jewish people.  He was rich beyond measure, recognized for his wisdom and international influence.  He reigned over an unprecedented era of peace for Israel.

Solomon was called upon by God to build the temple to house the Ark of the Covenant and God’s revealed presence in Israel.  He was able to call upon the best of the best materials and artisans in the known world.  Gifts poured in from all over to help complete this monumental task.  1 Kings 5-7 provides us with the glorious details of this building like no other in history.  The author of 1 Kings provides us with wonderful detail about the construction, decor and furnishings that defined this wonderful project.  All the wealth and influence that God provided to Solomon represented in Solomon’s obedience to this command of God.

There is another temple builder in the Old Testament.  He is less known.  One is unlikely to find anyone named after him.  In comparison to Solomon he did not have the wealth, the fame or the influence that Solomon was able to bring to bear on the building of the first Temple.  Zerubbabel was returning to Judah, less than half of the kingdom that Solomon ruled.  He was returning to a land that had been laid wasted by Nebuchadnezzar, suffering the consequences to rebellion both against God and against Babylon.  He returned to Jerusalem with a ragtag group exiles, born and raised in a foreign land.  He came from the line of David, but he was not really a king.  He ruled at the pleasure of Babylon and the land he governed was more of province than a kingdom.  He was surrounded by adversaries, not allies.  Zerubbabel did not command the immense respect given to Solomon.  Biblically he takes a backseat to Ezra and even to Cyrus King of Persia.  Even after the temple was completed, it was not all pats on the back and cheers.  There were jeers in the crowd also.  Those few old enough to remember the former glory of the Temple built by Solomon, decried this new temple as inadequate. Yet through all of this Zerubbabel ruled over an incredible revival in Judah.

Comparison is one the greater weapons that Satan uses to undermine the faith of the Hupomone man.  Here we have two men, both called to the same task, one from a position of wealth, strength and glory, the other from a place of defeat, servitude and subjection.  Zerubbabel could have well fallen into a rut of rebellious comparison.  “But God you gave Solomon everything to build your temple and I have nothing. I am not even really a king.”  We are so tempted to view the path that God has laid before us in comparison to others who seem to have it all.  Sometimes we even compare our current call to a place where we were before.  Paul well understood this risky place when he penned the words, “I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstances I have learned the secret of being filled and growing hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need.  I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:12-13

This is the position of the Hupomone man.  He sees the nature of obedience resting not in the arms of ever changing circumstance but in the arms of an unchanging God.  We do not know a lot of details about Zerubbabel, but this son, of a son of exile did not shirk his duty to serve Yaweh.  He obeyed the call of God on his life and was true to his position as a son of David even when faced with opposition that compared his humble state to the glory days of Israel.  Though relegated to the closet of history, he stands as an example of the Hupomone man that we would do well to follow.

 

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Marked Off Calendar

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

Isaiah 26:4

If you have followed me for long, you realize that I have a Hupomone fetish.  The word is just cool.  So as I was reading Isaiah and Jeremiah, I kept hearing over and over, “These guys are real Hupomone Men”.  Yes, when I read Scripture I often hear things and no it is not always God.  Sometimes it is something like, “There is ice cream in the freezer.”  In this case it really made me focus not so much on the message that these two great prophets delivered but on the lives that these two great prophets lived.  The message made them prophets of God.  The lives make them men of God, Hupomone men.

Last week we established that Isaiah and Jeremiah were Hupomone men because they were called by God.  You may be thinking, “Well that let’s me off the hook.  I am not called to be a prophet!”.  The Romans may have been have been thinking the same thing when Paul disabused them of that idea by opening the epistle to Rome with:

…Jesus Christ our Lord,  through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith among all the Gentiles for His name’s sake, among whom you also are the called of Jesus Christ; to all who are beloved of God in Rome, called as saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Romans 1:4b-7

Yes, we are not all called to be prophets but we are called to obedience, called to sainthood (hagios comes from a root that indicates purity, freedom from sin).  This call for Jeremiah and Isaiah took on the face of the prophetic, serving an Israel that had lost its way.  This call may well be very different for each person reading this blog.  The call is not to a specific vocation but to “the obedience of the faith”.  Jesus makes it clear that the call is not enough.  In his parable of the wedding guests he concludes, “For many are called, but few are chosen.” Matthew 22:14.  As we look at the story (and I am not going to recount the whole thing here…grab your Bible and read it!) we see that the hapless guest to whom Jesus refers was called to the party but behaved himself out of being chosen to stay.  This is where we see that the call is not enough.  So what is this other thing, this next step that sets Isaiah and Jeremiah and all those Hupomone men before and after them apart from the crowd?

If it is disagreeable in your sight to serve the LORD, choose for yourselves today whom you will serve: whether the gods which your fathers served which were beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD. Joshua 24:15

Joshua in his fairly famous soliloquy before the people of Israel says, “choose for yourselves today”  Isaiah and Jeremiah had many todays in their combined 100 years of prophetic service to God. The next quality that set them apart as true Hupomone men is:

Isaiah and Jeremiah both made a daily choice to serve God.

They came dressed in their wedding clothes day after day.  Even when all of the other prophets were sporting Bermuda Shorts and Hawaiian Shirts, they came in wedding clothes.  Even when the King made it clear that the honeymoon was over, they came in wedding clothes, and while Scripture does not record it, tradition tells us that even when it meant death, they came in wedding clothes.  They were wedding clothes of obedience, truth and purity.  They are the wedding clothes of the Hupomone Man.

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“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 both were 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 Jeremiah’s 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 God.  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 be 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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Learning To Fly

God has challenged me to go on a 90 Day Faith Walk.  It is to become healthier in every area of my life – Physically, Emotionally, Spiritually and Relationally. And I feel that I am suppose to share this journey of mine publicly.  It is extremely scary for me, to be so open and honest about the things I will go through, however, if it can help someone out, then Praise the Lord. As my pastor says – “My job is to be obedient. God’s job is the results.” === so here I go. **please keep in mind I am writing these to go in my group True Beauty**

If you haven’t read Day 1 – please go back to read it….

Day 2 – January 5th – Take off what hinders – Feeling Unloved

Soaking Worship for this week:
Open Up Our Eyes – Gateway Worship
Lead Me to…

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“For you have need of endurance (hupomone) so that when you have done the will of God, you may receive what was promised”  Hebrews 10:36

 

Obedience is at the very core of perseverance.  Obedience springs from our true hope in God and in the fact that he will do what he says he will do.  Our hope springs from the obedience of our savior.

“For as through the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the One, the many will be made righteous.”  Romans 5:19

Daniel understood obedience as Paul did.  He saw it as more than just the sum of our earthly actions but as a spiritual principle.  In chapter 1 we see a three step process for biblical obedience.

 

Step 1:  Choose

” But Daniel made up his mind that he would not defile himself with the king’s choice food or with the wine which he drank…”

Daniel 1:8 

The first step is one of the heart and mind.  The King James states “Daniel purposed in his heart”, the English Standard Version, “Daniel resolved”.  The Hebrew here is significant.  “Leb Suwm” .  Leb indicates the inner being of man.  The root of this word is used of the people of Israel after the spies came back from the Promised Land. Ten delivered a report of fear while Caleb and Joshua delivered a report of God.  Moses states in Deuteronomy 1 “‘Where can we go up? Our brethren have made our hearts melt, saying, “The people are bigger and taller than we; the cities are large and fortified to heaven. And besides, we saw the sons of the Anakim there.”  Ever have that fear so intense that you feel like your inner most being is melting?  Sometimes we term it “having that sinking feeling”.  The reality is that Israel had  not yet sinned.  I have to believe that there were times in the experiences of this boy who watched his home decimated in a siege and then was ripped out of all he knew that his heart melted within him.  Moses goes on to say, “But for all this, you did not trust the LORD your God, who goes before you on your way, to seek out a place for you to encamp, in fire by night and cloud by day, to show you the way in which you should go.”  The resolve to be obedient for the Children of God (both New Testament and Old) is tied up in our Trust in the One True God and it is this resolve that translates into biblical perseverance.  Daniel directed his inner most core through all his circumstances not to defile himself before God.

2.  Share

The second step is one of relationship.  Everyone of us lives within a web of relationships that involve influence and authority. “so he sought permission from the commander of the officials that he might not defile himself.” I think that too often the people of God pursue obedience in arrogance.  They use God as an excuse to ignore or defy authority in a disrespectful manner.  Paul makes it clear what the relationship of the Jesus Follower is to those in authority, “Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves.”  Romans 13:1-2  Even when our faith requires us to obey God rather than men it is done with respect and honor.  Consider Daniel’s three friends in the face of King Nebuchadnezzar’s rage, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to give you an answer concerning this matter. If it be so, 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.”  This is another aspect of perseverance in obedience.  When it is shared it spreads.  Not only did Daniel share his perseverance with the commander of officials, he shared it with his friends.  I can only imagine that this is one of the things that the kings of Babylon appreciated in Daniel.  As he was obedient to God and persevered in his faith it multiplied itself in those around him and with that multiplication the blessings that come along with godly perseverance were multiplied too.  In this way Daniel experienced incredible favor in a pagan land.

3.  Follow Through

Once we have chosen and shared we need to trust God as we follow through in our obedience. This is the part of obedience in perseverance where the rubber meets the road.  It  led James to say, “Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself.”  James 2:17  You can purpose in your heart and then share that all day long but if your actions don’t follow through with that purpose and those around you cannot match up what you are representing to them with what you are doing then it is all a bunch of hooey.  Daniel and his friends engage their purpose and sharing with real action that results in miraculous favor.  I can only imagine that at first their actions were met with derision.  As the other boys ate their sumptuous meals and drank the wine of the kings table I am sure that the obedience to this foreign God seemed pretty silly.  When Daniel and his friends were elevated to high positions, it suddenly was not so funny.  When God’s people obey, the world notices.  Daniel’s follow through on his purpose and sharing was so consistent that his enemies knew that if they were going to bring him down it would have to be by compromising his obedience to God.  What they did not count on (or possibly believe in) was miraculous intervention of Jehovah-Sabaoth, God our protector.  Consider Jesus’ words to His disciples , ” He said to His disciples, “It is inevitable * that stumbling blocks come, but woe to him through whom they come! It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck and he were thrown into the sea, than that he would cause one of these little ones to stumble.” Luke 17:1-2  Daniel’s enemies found that messing with his obedience to God had real consequences.  Daniel portrays another aspect of persevering obedience in a story about his friends.  When their stance on worshipping Nebuchadnezzar’s golden idol on pain of death this is their answer:  “If it be so, 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 4:17-18  Persevering obedience does not require a positive earthly outcome.  The value of true obedience is spiritual and eternal.  It is this kind of obedience that Jesus demonstrated as he moved through His earthly ministry towards The Cross.  ” Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name,  so that at the name of Jesus EVERY KNEE WILL BOW, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. “Philippians 2:8-11

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Ananias-of-Damascus

And he was three days without sight, and neither ate nor drank.

Acts 9:9

This verse comes from a story that many of us may know well.  It is the conversion story of Saul, who would become Paul the Apostle.  Paul was a man who acutely understood the dangers of blind spots, Saul was not.  Saul along with many of the Jewish leaders of his day lived in a big blind spot.  They desperately believed in God and in the coming Messiah but they saw their heritage and tradition as an overwhelming strength and in that feeling of strength they were blind to the truth of the Gospel.  Saul in his strength attended and approved of the stoning of Stephen.  He even watched over the cloaks of them men involved (Acts 7:58-8:1).  Saul in his strength “breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord” sought the destruction of the early Church.  He is an ominous example of how when we attempt to serve God in the strength of tradition, skill, knowledge or any other personal trait that the greater our “service”, the greater our potential blind spots.

So then this is the question, “How do we avoid operating in Spiritual Blind Spots?”.  Prior to committing our lives to the Lord Jesus Christ we lived in darkness.  It is a way of life for those who are not in a personal relationship with Him.  Jesus came to take us from the darkness that is life without God and bring us in to the light.

John 12:46 
“I have come as Light into the world, so that everyone who believes in Me will not remain in darkness.

Old habits die hard and Peter speaking to believers sheds light on Spiritual Blind Spots

2 Peter 1:4-9

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. 8 For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 For he who lacks these qualities is blind or short-sighted, having forgotten his purification from his former sins.

We can compare this passage to Paul’s exposition on the “Fruit of the Spirit” in Galatians 5.  These passages and many like them provide a Spiritual litmus test for smoking out blind spots in our walk with God.  However I want to go back to Paul’s story to see how God dealt with this problem in his life.

1.  God knocked Saul off of his high horse.

Acts 9:3

As he was traveling, it happened that he was approaching Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him; 4 and he fell to the ground

2.  God brought Saul to a place of weakness

       a.  Paul was blinded.  The Spiritual state that he was operating in was manifested physically.

       b.  The man who was accustomed to leading needed to be led into the city

       c.  Paul was unable to eat or drink for three days.

3.  God spoke truth into Saul’s life

       a.  Initially God spoke directly to Saul revealing the blind spot that he was operating under.

       b.  God revealed Saul’s personal inadequacy in a vision of the man who would come to help him.

       c.  God brought a Christian brother to speak healing into Saul’s life, both of the physical and Spiritual blindness.

Fortunately God has provided us with Scripture and in it Paul’s example (as well as the examples of many other men and women of God throughout biblical history).  With the help of the Holy Spirit we can smoke out our blind spots without being knocked off a horse and blinded.

1.  Examine ourselves for areas of personal (denominational, doctrinal or any other genre of) pride that can make us susceptible to blind spots.  Then we need to follow the Micah’s advice in Chapter 6:  8 He has told you, O man, what is good ; And what does the LORD require of you But to do justice, to love kindness, And to walk humbly with your God ?

2.  Do not be afraid to operate from areas of weakness or of being in positions of weakness.

3.  Always be ready for, looking for and expecting the Truth of God to be revealed in your life.  The primary source is of course Scripture.  The more time that you spend in Scripture with your heart and mind open to God’s message the less likely you are to function in a blind spot.  Secondly always walk with solid brother’s and sisters in Christ who will be honest and open with you.  God may or may not reveal them in a vision to you but be ready to listen to the Holy Spirit as He speaks through them.  Filter it all through the truth of Scripture.

Blind Spots are endemic to our human nature but God through the work of Jesus Christ and the gift of the Holy Spirit as recoreded in Scripture has provided us all with the tools to walk in the Light as the Children of God.

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“Now may the God who gives Perseverance and encouragement grant you to be of the same mind with one another according to Christ Jesus”

 Romans 15:5

I have been thinking a lot about perseverance lately.  I had the privilege of being a guest of YESFM and Tommy Briggs to share a week of devotionals called The Morning Munch.  This word perseverance kept rolling through my mind as I looked to prepare for this time of sharing.  After this year of walking with Allana through the treatment protocols for Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia it seemed like an appropriate topic.  After all the keynote verses about perseverance that we all know are found in Romans 5.

Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand; and we exult in hope of the glory of God.  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 5:1-5)

Unfortunately it seems that too often an exploration of perseverance stops with this idea of suffering and that they are forever linked as cause and effect.  This important quality of Life in Christ deserves a closer look.  The Bible has a lot to say about perseverance.  The word most often translated as perseverance, endurance or steadfastness is the Greek word Hupomone.  As with so many Greek words (and English too I might add) it is a combination of two roots, Upo and Meno.

UPO- about, under

MENO- abide, remain, stay, continue to be, survive, held or kept continually

Breaking it down and putting it back together again brings us to this idea of remaining under or about something.  Often it seems that this idea is taken to mean remaining under the problems and trials that life brings.  When asked about a trial going on in one’s life “We are persevering!” seems the easy answer.  We may not use that word anymore but when we distill down all the answers we give and all the advice that is coming in it comes down to abiding under the trial until its end.  The problem with this view of perseverance is that it is focused on the trial, the trouble, the problem, not on our amazing God who is the ultimate solution.  Hupomone  is not about “super-moaning” through life as we bounce from trial to trial.  Biblical perseverance encompasses Romans 8:37 “But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through him who loved us.”

The source of perseverance tells us a lot about it’s characteristics.  Our title verse makes it clear where perseverance come’s from.

Now may the God who gives perseverance…”

Biblical perseverance is first and foremost a gift from God.  This is one of those gifts that Jesus was talking about in Matthew 7:11

“If you then being evil know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him.”

 

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