Posts Tagged ‘Paul’

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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“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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Yes FM Morning Munch

January 9th Fan Into Flame

Audio File

Talk about Fan into Flame weather!  Nothing like the winter session of the Morning Munch.  As I walked in it was more like the Morning crunch, crunch, crunch, that special sound that really, really cold snow makes when you walk on it.

Timothy had a lot on his mind as leader of the Ephesian church but fortunately for him sub-zero wind chills and drifting snow were not on the list! Unfortunately, Pagans assaulting the church from the outside and heretics picking away from the inside were the trials du jour.  Add in all the details of a new community gathering together and young Timothy was stretched to the max.  I would be interested to read the letters and messages that Timothy was sending to Paul, detailing the latest provocations from the pagan guilds or the newest twisting of the Gospel message by self-seeking, self-appointed prophets.  Timothy’s youth, intelligence, honesty and leadership had been questioned and insulted time after time.  While the Mediterranean climate kept the physical temperature moderate there was definitely a chill in the spiritual air for this new Christian leader.

Timothy needs more than an action plan, he needs more than a cheerleader even more than a great shoulder to cry on.  Timothy needs a principle, a resolution to end all resolutions that will keep him going whether times are tough or easy (sometimes the easy times are harder on faith than any others!)

Paul inspired by the Holy Spirit gives us the resolution to end all resolutions and the action plan to back it up.

For this reason I remind you to kindle afresh the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands. For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline. 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, 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,  but now has been revealed by the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel, for which I was appointed a preacher and an apostle and a teacher. For this reason I also suffer these things, but I am not ashamed; for I know whom I have believed and I am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him until that day. Retain the standard of sound words which you have heard from me, in the faith and love which are in Christ Jesus.  Guard, through the Holy Spirit who dwells in us, the treasure which has been entrusted to you.

Here is the hook!  You already have everything that you need.  It is the gift that you have already received.  That feeling that you are not equipped, that God has let you down and not supplied you everything that you need for the ministry he has selected for you is a lie.  He has given you The Holy Spirit full of power, love and self-discipline.  All you have to do is Fan that gift into Flame.  How do you do that?

  1. Don’t be ashamed!  Christ is not ashamed of you and few things will put the fire of the Holy Spirit out in your life as fast as hiding it in shame.
  2. Soong-kak-op-ath-eh-o join with me in suffering:  don’t go it alone.

 

And today we look at the 3rd and 4th points of Paul’s Action Plan for Building a Fire.

 

  1. “Retain the standard of sound words which you have heard from me, in the faith and love which are in Christ Jesus.”  Several other versions say, “hold on to the pattern of sound teaching…”  If you want to Fan the Flame of the Active Presence of God in your life don’t go chasing after slick teachers, big personalities and pop-theology.  Spend time in the Scriptures.  Let the Holy Spirit open your eyes to the pattern of sound teaching that the Bible presents and you will see miraculous power, love and self-discipline rise up in your life in ways that you could not even imagine.
  2. “Guard, through the Holy Spirit who dwells in us, the treasure which has been entrusted to you.”

Jesus Christ is guarding what you entrusted to him by placing your faith in Him and declaring Him Lord and Savior of your life.  We are called to Guard the deposit of Salvation, the treasure of the Gospel but we don’t have to do it alone.  The very gift that we are fanning into flame comes to our aid, indeed becomes the agent of protection.  In fact any efforts spent outside of the Holy Spirit are wasted and vain.

 

So if your New Years resolution is already a bust, try Paul’s on for size.  Fan some Holy Flames of your own.  Walk with confidence and pride as a Child of the Most High God. Soong-kak-op-ath-eh-o ,Join with your brothers and sisters in Christ, walking out the trials and hardships of holy living in an unholy world together.  Hold on to the pattern of sound teaching that God has provided us in His Word and as the flames build Guard the treasure entrusted you through the gift given to you:  The Spirit of Power, Love and Self-Discipline.

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Yes FM Morning Munch

Audio Link

January 8th Fan Into Flame

I am sensing a pattern here and if it continues I may just have to call in from home on Friday morning because the glaciers are coming.  There was an undercurrent of glee in the children’s classes at church last night as the kids anticipated another day off from school with temperatures and wind chills plunging well into the danger zone.

In weather like this a flame can be the difference between life and death.  I recall a movie from my youth where one of the characters is desperately trying to kindle a flame with hand that have no feeling and a body that just wants to lay down and sleep.  Honestly I cannot recall if he gets the fire going or not.  However I do know this there have been times in my life as a child of God that I have felt just like that.  My spirit is numb and cold.  I feel like I fumble everything that I try to do.  I just want to lay down and sleep.  I have become convinced of my own ineffectiveness, shame overcomes my desire to serve, perhaps even my desire to live.  I have fallen prey to the lies of the enemy that tell me I am unloved, unworthy and will never amount to anything.

It is definitely time to Fan Into Flame the Gift of God, to refuse to be ashamed to testify about our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and to move on to Paul’s second step for Fanning into Flame the active presence of God in our lives.

“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,”  2 Timothy 1:8

Paul does not call Timothy to do something that he has not done or is unwilling to do. Here is one of those translation idiosyncrasies that just makes my day (yes I know that is pathetic but what can you do).  Our next step in Fanning the Flame is “Join with me in suffering” and in the Greek that is 1 yes count it 1 word…  soong-kak-op-ath-eh’-o  perhaps even better than hupomone (if you want to follow that rabbit trail you can look it up on fanintoflame.net or you can look through the past two years of Yes FM morning munches to find the series on hupomone) Ok off the rabbit trail and back to the suffering.  Paul tosses out this big word (which only he uses and only twice and only in this book) to give Timothy a key to Fanning that gift of power, love and self-discipline into a raging fire.  Join with me in suffering, in experiencing the rough stuff in all the irritations, inconveniences and yes sometimes flat out persecution that comes with being a child of the living God in an ungodly world.  You do not have to go it alone.  Jesus said “For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.”  Walk the path of hardship and do not be afraid to ask someone to walk with you or if your path is currently smooth do not be afraid to walk the path of hardship with a brother (or sister) and remember that no matter where you walk, Jesus is walking there with you.

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Yes FM Morning Munch

Audio Link

(I had been editing out my pre-devotional banter but the segue would be awkward without it)

January 7thFan Into Flame

Good Morning! It another frigid morning; a shivery ride here!  So I noticed that as soon as I walked out the door yesterday you two let them close most of the schools.  Can’t leave you guys alone for a minute.  Jeff I am disappointed I thought you were going to keep Tommy in line.  But I totally understand with that breeze yesterday the cold turned frigid.  Good thing we are talking about Fanning a Flame this week!

The spiritual atmosphere in Ephesus was frigid too.  The Apostle Paul recognized that his young protégé leading the Church in Ephesus was struggling with his ministry in that very difficult mission field.  Just as with 92% of Americans who make a New Years Resolution, Timothy’s resolve to serve God in that heathen city was weakening.  Timothy was finding that as with any ministry that is having an impact for the kingdom, his was being assailed by the pagans and profiteers of Ephesus and from within the church by those teaching foolish and contrary doctrine, rejecting the purity of the Gospel message.  Paul himself is nearing the end of his earthly ministry, and he knows it.  “For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time has come for my departure.”  2 Timothy 4:6.  He searches for a message, an instruction not just to fix the current issues that Timothy is facing but that will carry him far past Paul’s own journey home to be with his savior.  Perhaps he thinks of his own conversion, of the hands of Ananias resting on his head, the rush of the Holy Spirit enveloping his whole being as his sight returned and the immense clarity of Spirit revealed truth that would become his enduring purpose in life.  He writes with love, with passion,

 I thank God, whom I serve, as my forefathers did, with a clear conscience, as night and day I constantly remember you in my prayers.  Recalling your tears, I long to see you, so that I may be filled with joy.  I have been reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also.  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 God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline. So do not be ashamed to testify about our Lord, or ashamed of me his prisoner.

He writes with purpose.  Fan the flame, Don’t be ashamed.  If you want to dim the fire of the Holy Spirit in your life be ashamed of the power, the love and the self-discipline that comes with God’s active presence in your life.  Jesus said, “Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house.”  Matthew 5:15.  Yet when we are ashamed of the Holy Spirit, of the Gospel or even of our brothers and sisters in Christ we slam that bowl down over the very flame that should bring light, warmth and life to all those around us, even those that hate and persecute us.  “For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline”.  When you are awash in your first love you don’t care what anyone thinks.  This is what Christ himself called the Ephesian Christians, and probably Timothy himself, back to in Revelation 2.  It is also a recurring theme for Paul, “I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile.” Romans 1:16 and the writer of Hebrews reminds us that Jesus is not ashamed to call us His family, Hebrews 2:11.

So Today, Fan the Flame, Don’t be Ashamed.

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