Posts Tagged ‘Paul’

 

 

friends

Best Friend- a person’s closest friend. (Google Dictionary)

Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God…1 Corinthians 6:19

A best friend, what a precious thing to have.  Most of us at different times in our lives have had a best friend.  For those of us who spent a lot of time moving around we may have had several.  I have known best friends who were so close that it almost seemed like they were inside each others hearts and minds.  The author of Proverbs 18 puts it this way:

A man of too many friends comes to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.  Proverbs 18:24

Today I want to give you three ways that the Holy Spirit is our best friend as followers of Jesus Christ.

The first we have already touched on.  The Holy Spirit is the closest friend that we will ever have.  The Holy Spirit lives inside the believer.  I don’t pretend to understand the mechanism of this indwelling but I experience its reality.  The Holy Spirit is closer to me than my brother or any friend that I could ever have.  The cool thing is that not only does the Spirit live inside me, the Holy Spirit lives in all God’s people so that I am impacted through my brothers and sisters in Christ even as I am transformed from the inside.

Secondly best friends have an indelible effect on us.  Our behavior, our very identity is shaped by the friends around us and particularly by those we consider to be in the best category. Paul in  his letter to Titus says:

He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to his mercy, by the washing regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit. Titus 3:5

When we accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior, he accepts us based on the                              undeniable presence of the Holy Spirit who changes us forever in a process of                      regeneration and renewal that puts on the road to conforming to the mind of                      Christ.

Finally best friends are there to help.  I can only imagine that the paralytic who was lowered through the roof in front of Jesus had multiple best friends who were looking out for his best interest.  The Holy Spirit is the best of the best friends in this area.  The Spirit is sent by the Father at the behest of the Son demonstrating the united front of the Trinity.  The Spirit’s divine nature engages us and when we open ourselves to that nature becomes helper, guide, comforter.  Where Jesus stood in the lives of his disciples, the Holy Spirit stands in the heart of his followers.

I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that he may be with you forever.  John 14:16

We have this wonderful best friend.  One that is closer to us than any other.  One that desires to transform us and renew us into that reflects the very nature of God.  One that is there to help us walk out this life as children of God.  One that perhaps we fail to acknowledge, to share and share with, to truly depend on as the best friend sent straight from God into our hearts.  One that is God himself.  How is your relationship with your best friend?

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hupomone

Why Hupomone?  Is it just to sound cool?  Is it to demonstrate that I know a word in NT Greek?  Ok, I have to admit it is partly because it does just sound cool.  God spoke this word to my heart while I was forming a series of short devotionals for radio.  I was engaging the idea of perseverance when I noticed Paul using this word over and over.  If you add the verb form hupomeno, then it appears just short of 50 times.  As I began to dig deeper into the concept (not only used by Paul but also by Luke, James the brother of Jesus, Peter and John in Revelations) I realized that the words so often used in translation only captured part of the idea these men were conveying.  Indeeds sometimes the connotations that we attribute to those word contradict the very heart of the message. So by focusing on Hupomone I stripped away my preconceived notions of what all of those words mean.  This is what I encourage you to do.  God has a very special message for each of us buried in this fairly simple Greek word as it sits within the whole of the Word of God.

“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 8:15

Jesus in telling this wonderful parable of the Kingdom of God and the effectiveness of the Gospel tells us a little about those who have pursued the hupomone lifestyle.

  1.  They have heard the Word.  The Gospel is the basic unit of hupomone.  Without the Gospel hupomone does not exist.
  2. They are genuine.  Hupomone cannot be faked.  Hupomone requires an honest and good heart.  Many try to fake it.  They may even believe somehow that they are pursuing truth.  However in the end it is their fruit and the inconsistencies in it that betray them.
  3. They hold fast to the Gospel starting a positive “Crazy Cycle” (Eggerich, Love and Respect).  As the first point states the Gospel is the basic unit of hupomone.  It comes from the God of hupomone, the only one who can say that He is the same, “yesterday, today and forever”  This is the “crazy cycle” of hupomone.  The Gospel seeds hupomone in your life.  Then as you practice it by holding fast to the Gospel it grows, in turn your ability to hold fast grows, the Gospel Grows in you, in turn your ability to hold fast grows….well you get the picture.
  4. They produce fruit.  When all is said and done a hupomone lifestyle produces unmistakable fruit.  It is the fruit of the Spirit.  It is the fruit of life in Jesus Christ.  It is the litany of life qualities that Paul wrote to the Galatians encouraging them to get back on the hupomone crazy cycle.

Unlike so many other things in life, Hupomone is for everyone.  It may look a little different on each one of us but it will always start with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  It grows when that Gospel is engaged honestly from a good heart.  It creates it’s own crazy cycle of growth and maturity that results in an incredible harvest of Spiritual fruit.

     

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    I want you to know brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the Gospel.  Philippians 1:12

    Hupomone

    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

    Hupomone living frees us from the circumstances of life.  We are no longer bound to react to circumstance after circumstance.  Instead as Brother Lawrence would say, we are free to “practice the presence of God”.  We are able to make our relationship with Him our total focus.  Nor can we make our circumstances the foundation of our faith, that too will distract from the singular purpose of pursuing God and results in a faith that is blown here and there by the situational waves of life. (Ephesians 4:14)

    “Are they servants of Christ?- I speak as if insane- I more so; in far more labors, in far more imprisonments, beaten times without number, often in danger of death.  five times I received from the Jews thirty-nine lashes.  Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, a night and a day I have spent in the deep….

    2 Corinthians 11:23-26

    Paul goes on to list the circumstances of his life as a missionary and even the intense times of communion with God as well as the “thorn in the flesh”.   Paul could boast in his hupomone lifestyle, that he endured all these things and was graced by intense visions from God.  In the end analysis Paul understood, perhaps along with the author of Ecclesiastes, that this too is vanity.  It is better to boast in weakness and recognize that the important thing is that the power of Christ dwells inside.  Paul understood that when he rejected circumstances as the guides and measure of his life and practiced the presence of Jesus Christ in every situation that whatever happened to him would “really serve to advance the cause of Christ.”  This is the result of the hupomone lifestyle.  It is the goal that transcends our individual personalities, situations, callings, theologies, denominations, socioeconomic status etc.

    When we enter into the hupomone life we are freed not only from circumstances but from results as well.  It is a natural result of who we are as children of God and the natural excellence that occurs when we focus pursuing God.  This is the natural conclusion of Romans 8:28 “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called to His purpose.”  However we are not freed from the need to pursue all that we do with excellence.  Scripture calls for Christ followers over and over to reach for excellence.  I have actually heard intentional incompetence lauded as a way to encourage the work of the Holy Spirit in one’s life.  This is directly contradicted in Scripture.

     Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth. 2 Timothy 2:15

    Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge, 2 Peter 1:5

    Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.                        1 Corinthians 10:31

    The fact that we are freed from the constraints of results allows us to focus our pursuit of excellence where it belongs, on our relationship with Jesus Christ and our desire to bring our heavenly father glory.

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    Circumstance

    1. a fact or condition connected with or relevant to an event or action.
      “we wanted to marry but circumstances didn’t permit”
      synonyms: situation, conditions, state of affairs, position;
    2. one’s state of financial or material welfare.
      “the artists are living in reduced circumstances”
      synonyms: financial position, lot, lifestyle;

    We recently found ourselves through a series of conditions and facts (circumstances) short of the money that we needed to pay our bills.  To be truthful, some of the conditions were not avoidable, but some of them were of our own making.  I knew that when I examined the situation more closely we were going to find ourselves several hundred dollars short of the money that we needed to be current.  To make matters worse Allana was not really happy about a recent major purchase that I had made.  I was looking at having to tell her that now we were going to 1) be late on our bills and 2) really tighten up to get caught up, uncomfortably so.  There we have circumstances in a nutshell.  They are rarely simple.  They are often a mix of the unavoidable, poor decisions, right decisions with consequences and all the emotion and attitudes that human beings are prone too.  While this is not a piece on the theology of tithing, we have committed to that standard of giving.  Circumstances dictated that I should hold off on my tithe until we were caught up.  As I prayed over this situation the word hupomone (Biblical Perseverance) kept coming back to me.  All the cute Bible studies and all the nice character analysis are meaningless if hupomone does not impact my life where the rubber hits the road.  It is in the daily decisions and choices we make in the midst of circumstances that we choose the hupomone life.  Long story short I paid the tithe first as I knew that I should.  Then I went to look and see how bad it really was so that I could tell Allana.  As I surveyed our accounts, one that I rarely look at because I utilize it solely to pay the mortgage had several hundred extra dollars in it.  Believing it was an error I called the bank and they confirmed that I had received a refund from a miscalculation in the origination of our mortgage.  Bills paid with extra to spare.  The temptation is to say, even if I had not paid the tithe, the money still would have been there.  Perhaps that is true but hupomone living transcends circumstances.  The real victory is Spiritual not financial.  The flip side of it is that even if the extra money had not been provided and we ended up late and tight, the real victory is Spiritual not financial.  Hupomone living is about making choices guided by the Holy Spirit and based in the Word of God.  It is about living in our identity as children of God.

    Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am.  I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need.  I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.  Philippians 4:11-13

    Paul did not allow his circumstances to dictate his identity.  This is at the core of the hupomone life.  Onesimus was sent home as a runaway slave but his identity was a brother in Christ.  David was a shepherd boy, the least among his brothers, but his identity was the anointed king of Israel.  Hebrews 11 walks through a litany of hupomone men and women (study to come from Allana and her True Beauty Group). In His home town those who knew him spoke out of his circumstances and it blinded them to Jesus’ identity as the only begotten son of God.  The core nature of the hupomone lifestyle transcends circumstances.  It rests on the rock of Christ’s identity.  This is what anchors the house of the wise man and its lack causes the foolish man’s house to fall into the shifting sands.   Each of these men walked through the fires of circumstance, the facts and conditions that stood in the face of God’s will for their lives.   They were not perfect (with the exception of Jesus) but they trusted God and not circumstance.

     

     

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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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    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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    “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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