Posts Tagged ‘Paul the Apostle’

I always thank my God as I remember you in my prayers, because I hear about your love for all his holy people and your faith in the Lord Jesus. I pray that your partnership with us in the faith may be effective in deepening your understanding of every good thing we share for the sake of Christ. Your love has given me great joy and encouragement, because you, brother, have refreshed the hearts of the Lord’s people. Philemon 1:4-7

Philemon,  I have to wonder if it is the least read of all the books of the New Testament.  It is unfortunate because it contains one of the most beautiful stories of redemption and reconciliation ever.  The story centers around three men, Paul the Apostle, Onesimus the slave and our subject today Philemon.  Philemon was a leader of the church that met in his home.  This was typical of the early church.  He was also a slave owner, specifically he owned a slave named Onesimus.

Strangely enough we are not going to focus on the theme of the letter, instead we are going to take a quick look at the man and the qualities that I find qualify him as a hupomone man.

People pray for him – Specifically in this case Paul.  However if the Apostle Paul remembered Philemon in his prayers I choose to assume that others were also. A true hupmone man inspires prayer by the example that he leads.

Paul’s words are very specific here.  “I always thank God AS I remember you…”  We might make the mistake of thinking that Paul here is referring to a prayer of thanksgiving for this wonderful man of God.  There would be nothing wrong with this but it is not what he is saying.  Paul is praying for Philemon as he continues his hupomone ministry in Colosse.

The placement of this phrase immediately following the greeting speaks of the importance that he knows Philemon places on this subject.  The hupomone man values prayer.  He values a life of constant communication with God (1 Thessalonians 5:17) and in this particular case he values the prayers of others on his behalf.

People talk about him – People talk about the hupomone man.  They don’t talk about the amazing “things” he has accomplished.  They don’t talk about all the books he has written.  They don’t even talk about the incredible ministry that he has built.  “I hear about your love for God’s holy people and your faith in the Lord Jesus…”  They talk about his love for people and his faith in Jesus.  Now don’t get me wrong all of the hupomone men that we have discussed over the last few years in this blog were men of action, but it is the heart and soul that defines hupomone, not the results of that heart and soul.

He is willing to collaborate – Partnership comes naturally to the hupomone man. I pray that your partnership with us in the faith may be effective in deepening your understanding of every good thing we share for the sake of Christ. The Holy Spirit cultivates collaboration among God’s people, very often among people very dissimilar or with competing priorities.  Consider the struggles of Paul and Barnabas, the motley crew of the twelve disciples.  Jonathon’s future clashed directly with the anointing on David.  The spies at Jericho and Rahab had so little in common yet together they brought down a city and brought forth the Messiah!  These collaborations serve to deepen our understanding of the faith.

He cultivates joy and encouragement – If the joy of the Lord is his strength, the hupomone man likes to spread his strength around. Your love has given me great joy and encouragement. It is the essence of the Holy Spirit flowing out of him to those around that extinguishes fear with encouragement that is not tied to circumstances but to the source of all hupomone, God Himself.

He refreshes – The word that Paul uses here is the same word that is used to quote Jesus when he said, “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest” Matthew 11:28.  The hupomone man is quite simply allowing the very basic qualities of his Lord and Savior flow out of him.  He calls out to those around him to cease their futile labors. Anapaow is an emphasized form of the Greek word for pause.  Literally it is an “up pause”.  The presence of a hupomone man brings “up pause”.

Paul gives us a snapshot of the hupomone man.  It is the mirror for Philemon to look into as he stepped into a personal and cultural challenge.  Onesimus, his slave/property had run away.  Potentially he had stolen from Philemon as well.  Somehow this run-away slave met up with Paul in Rome.  Onesimus became a brother in the faith and told Paul what had occurred.  Paul sent Onesimus back to Philemon instigating a journey in faith and hupomone living for both of them.  Scripture leaves us to our own interpretation of the outcome of the journey, but church tradition tells us that some years later Philemon and Onesimus are martyred side by side proclaiming the Gospel message and establishing them both as hupomone men.

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“The Lord grant mercy to the house of Onesiphorus, for he often refreshed me and was not ashamed of my chains; but when he was in Rome, he eagerly searched for me and found me – the Lord grant him to find mercy from the Lord on that day – and you know very well what services he rendered at Ephesus.” 2 Timothy 1:16-18

Everything that we know from the Bible about Onesiphorus is in 2 Timothy.  This is significant because Paul knew that his execution was near when he wrote this final epistle of encouragement to Timothy.  Orthodox tradition tells us that Onesiphorus was one of the 70 disciples sent out by Jesus.  These men were the second tier of intimates to Jesus after the twelve. Roman Catholic and Orthodox tradition holds that he was martyred in a town called Parium not far from Ephesus where Timothy served God, leading the church in that pagan city.

While we do not have a lot of details, Paul tells us volumes about this man Onesiphorus.  When I read these verses the picture of a Hupomone Man comes into focus.  Paul actually begins this passage with comments on two men who were not Hupomone men. When the going got tough in Rome Phygelus and Hermogenes got going….out of Rome or at least away from Paul.  Onesiphorus on the other hand “eagerly searched” for Paul knowing the difficult circumstances that Paul was in and the very real danger that association with Paul brought during this time.  This is the nature of the Hupomone man.  As God has brought me to study this idea I have found that by example in Scripture it far transcends the simple definition.

steadfastness, constancy, endurance;
in the NT the characteristic of a man who is not swerved from his deliberate purpose and his loyalty to faith and piety by even the greatest trials and sufferings;
patiently, and steadfastly;
a patient, steadfast waiting for;
a patient enduring, sustaining, perseverance

Unfortunately the concept has been too often hijacked to mean some kind of groaning endurance as we wait to be taken to heaven.  This is not what we find in Onesiphorus.  So let’s walk backward through this brief exposition on a hupomone man.

  1.  Eager

The hupomone man is eager to serve.  He understands the greatest commandments as Jesus taught them in Matthew 22,

“And He said to him, YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND. This is the great and foremost commandment. “The second is like it, YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF. On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.” 

This makes him eager to serve, eager to follow the hand of God wherever it leads, whether into the streets of poverty, the halls of power or simply to the side of a suffering fellow follower of Jesus.  Perhaps it is with Onesiphorus in mind that Paul penned this description of love, ” does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered,” 1 Corinthians 13:5  The eagerness of the hupomone man is not born of self-interest.  Onesiphorus gained nothing by seeking out Paul.  In fact in may have begun the series of events that would lead to his martyrdom.  What do we search for eagerly?

2.  Unashamed

The hupomone Man is unashamed of the truth that has been entrusted to God’s people.  Onesiphorus was unashamed of the Gospel nor of the chains and danger that it brought.  There is a certain pride that is the hallmark of the hupomone man.  It is a pride born of the understanding of our position as Children of God.  It is a pride born of 1 Corinthians 13 love and grounded in the great commandments.  Paul raises up the relatively unknown man of God to Timothy, an example of the exhortation, “Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord or of me His prisoner, but join with me in suffering for the gospel according to the power of God, ” 1 Timothy 1:8

3.  Refreshing

The Hupomone Man is a breath of fresh air in a dank and room, a ray of light shining in the darkness.  When one perseveres through hard times in the abundance of Christ there is an aura of refreshment that permeates the situation.  What amazing testament to this little known man of God, “for he often refreshed me…”.  This is a quality that Onesiphorus brought to even the most difficult situations.  It is the very nature of Jesus Christ shining through his children empowered by the Holy Spirit, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they might have life, and have it abundantly.” John 10:10.

Paul ends this passage about Onesiphorus with “and you know very well what services he rendered at Ephesus.”  The hupomone man carries his qualities wherever he goes.  It did not matter whether he was on the streets of Ephesus or in the halls of power in Rome comforting Paul as the specter of execution hovered nearby, Onesiphorus was eager to serve, unashamed of the Gospel and brought refreshment to those around him.

 

 

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FIFM

 

“The angel of the Lord appeared to him in a blazing fire from the midst of a bush; and he looked, and behold, the bush was burning with fire, yet the bush was not consumed.”  Exodus 3:2

There is a fire that comes as a gift from God.  It is a fire of empowerment.  It is a fire generated from the unlimited love that God has for mankind.  God presents this fire to man as a guide, as inspiration and as an internal power to effectively serve Him.

“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. For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.” 2 Timothy 1:6

Power, love and self-discipline are the hallmarks of this fire.  It is a fire that sets God’s people on a path of redemption, for themselves and for those to whom God sends them. It is in fact the very fire of redemption for those who believe.  The fire redeems with a view to service.

“Then one of the seraphim flew to me with a live coal in his hand, which he had taken from the altar.  With it he touched my mouth and said,’See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for.’  Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send?  And who will go for us?”  And I said, ‘Here am I.  Send me!” Isaiah 6:6-8

It is not a fire that is a once and done event in our lives.  It needs to be cultivated and nurtured.  We fan that flame as we develop our relationship with God.  I think of all that has transpired in our lives since God spoke 2 Timothy 1:6 into our lives in 2005 and gave us the name “Fan Into Flame Ministries”.  It is in the difficulties of life that we are able to build the flames of the Holy Spirit inside us.  Paul goes on to say, “That is why I am suffering as I am. Yet this is no cause for shame, because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him until that day.” 2 Timothy 1:12.  

Yesterday was the third anniversary of my wife Allana’s bone marrow transplant.  It was both a moment of life and the beginning of one of the most difficult periods in my entire life.  As I look back I can see the Holy Spirit working through the difficulties, stripping away self-reliance and providing opportunity for me to grow in Him.  Timothy was experiencing incredible difficulties in his work in Ephesus.  Being one in urban ministry I can appreciate his experiences and understand his desire to throw in the towel.  Even more so as we walked the path of Leukemia there were times that I felt like I simply could not continue.  However it was at those moments that God provided Paul’s in my life, to uphold me in prayer, wisdom and love.  It creates an interesting cycle.  As one fans into flame the gift of the Holy Spirit, the Holy Spirit enables us to guard the very relationship that fans into flame the gift.  “What you heard from me, keep as the pattern of sound teaching, with faith and love in Christ Jesus. Guard the good deposit that was entrusted to you—guard it with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us.”  2 Timothy 1:13-14

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TLH Steps and Walkway

They sure look pretty!

I hope many of you have had a chance to see the new steps put in by Bill H. and Stevenson Building and Supply.  We are so very grateful for them.  Of course I have had more than just an opportunity to look at them.  I have walked up and down on them.  I have sat on them.  I have even dropped things on them and I can tell you that they are solid.

However the pretty white color that makes them look so new and beautiful is deceiving.  While it is great to spray the new concrete with this beautiful sealer, it is not the sealer that gives the stairs their strength and makes them sturdy and safe.  If the concrete under the white sealer is bad, the stairs are going to crumble.  It is the quality of the concrete that determines whether the steps and walkways will endure the tests of time, weather and abuse that is sure to come.

Our Christian lives are like those steps.  We can apply all of the sealer that we want but if it is not being applied over the solid rock of faith in Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior then eventually our lives will crumble because the sealer will not be enough to hold us together.  We can attend every church service there is, serve our community and behave in every way like the ideal christian man or woman but without the rock of Jesus and power of the Holy Spirit underpinning all of those “do’s” it is like a foolish man building his house on a pile of sand (Matthew 7:24-29).  Matthew ends Jesus’  illustration with this statement:

When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching, because he taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law. (Matthew 7:28-29)

It is Jesus that gives our Christian lives authority.  This is the authority that gives substance to all the things that we do.  Without it all the doings collapse under the weight of eternity just as our steps and walkways would collapse if the concrete was faulty, or if say we tried to build the steps from sand or clay.

However there is a reason that Bill sprayed a 5 gallon bucket of concrete sealer on his work.  I don’t want you to think that all the things that we are called to do as followers of Christ are meaningless.  If we do not take care to seal our relationship with Christ, over time we will be worn down.  This is perhaps more insidious and destructive than the collapse of poorly constructed steps. It begins with the best intentions and then is slowly worn away because we accepted Christ into our lives and made him the base of our steps but then we don’t follow his guidance.  We do not apply the sealing works of His Word, of prayer, of fellowship with other believers, of love, of discipline.  Without these we will soon succumb to the lies of the enemy and he will destroy our effectiveness as children of God.

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.  Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.  For our struggle is not against flesh and blood but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything to stand.  (Galatians 6:10-13)

If we lay steps of the Solid Rock and then apply the seals of the Word, prayer and obedience then I am confident “that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 1:6)

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