Posts Tagged ‘transformation’

Here is another in the series of Blog Posts started and never finished.  This one was begun on my birthday in 2014.  The same day that I penned (typed?) An Introduction to Hupomone. I did not know that we were about to weather another unexpected storm of circumstance in our lives.  Honestly we did not do a great job of hupomone living as we walked through the situation, but God is faithful and we grew (and are still growing) by the power of His Spirit.  Thank you for joining me for another piece of my Hupomone journey.

“Remember those who led you, who spoke  the word of God to you; and considering the result of their conduct, imitate their faith. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. Do not be carried away by varied and strange teachings “

Hebrews 13:7-9

 

Perseverance is not a trait of the human condition.  While mankind toys with the concept and we are able to point to individuals who in limited circumstances demonstrate a form of perseverance, they do not rise to the standard of Biblical perseverance.  It is for this reason that true perseverance only comes as a direct gift of God.  This gift rises from His very nature.  Our title verse today expresses that nature, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.”

Being as we are forever changing, it is hard for us to conceive of an unchanging God.  We do in fact attribute change to Him as often as we can.  We seize on biblical narrative that “demonstrate” how God has changed the way that he deals with men, losing the thread of the redemptive plan set before the creation of the world.  It is perhaps the only way that finite creations can conceive of an infinite creator without child-like faith.  We unwittingly demonstrate Jesus’ assertion.

And He called a child to Himself and set him before * them, and said, “Truly I say to you, unless * you are converted and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. 4 “Whoever then humbles himself as this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.  Matthew 18:3-4

God proclaimed his divine perseverance when He declared to Moses,

“Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.’ ” 15 God, furthermore, said to Moses, “Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, ‘The LORD, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you.’ This is My name forever, and this is My memorial-name to all generations.  Exodus 3:14-15

The Eternal I am announcing His perseverance to all generations.  The Westminster Shorter Catechism puts it this way:

God is a Spirit, infinite, eternal and unchangeable in His being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness and truth.

While not Scripture, I love the simplicity of its treatment of the divine, perhaps the child-like way it approaches the question of his nature.  Yet still for all its simplicity, the nature of God is incredibly complex in its interaction with the human condition.  It is this complexity that smells of change to the inquiring (but limited) mind.  The complexity of the infinite as it intertwines with the finite takes on the appearance of instability,  even chaos when observed from the finite perspective. However there is in fact a singularity of purpose and intent in every nuance of the relationship.  This purpose is wrapped up in another concept that struggle with.

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16

It is this eternal purpose that removes the onus of circumstance from our lives when we accept the Hupomone aspect of God’s nature with childlike faith.  It frees us from the whirlwind of circumstances and allows us to see the straight line of God’s intent within the chaos of finite existence.

because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death. Romans 8:2

The Holy Spirit has freed us from the law of sin and death, the law of circumstance. Hupomone living is choosing to operate in the eternal through the power of the Holy Spirit, pursuing our ongoing transformation into the image of Jesus Christ.

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Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.  Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love.  God’s love was revealed among us in this way: God sent his only Son into the world so that we might live through him.  In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins. Beloved, since God loved us so much, we also ought to love one another.  No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God lives in us, and his love is perfected in us.

1 John 4:7-12

 

Someone that I have come to know a little and respect a lot recently said this to me. “You don’t know how to be well loved.”  As I absorbed this statement its truth resounded, echoing in my heart and mind.  Some time has passed since this discussion and the Holy Spirit has brought this statement to me again and again.  That gently nagging voice in my heart that tells me it is time to “grow up  in every way into Him” (Ephesians 4:15) a little more.

Our Christian world is full of songs, sermons and teaching that God loves us and that we should love others.  However many of us miss the corollary that should be implicit and perhaps explicit in the consideration of God’s love.  Not only must we learn and be transformed into creatures that love well.  We must also learn and be transformed into creatures that are well-loved.  One might think that this is easy and requires no effort but the reality is that this may be even more difficult than loving others.  It requires a tremendous amount of vulnerability.  In fact it requires complete vulnerability to God.  Absolute surrender is integral to the competency of being well-loved.  It is amazing how tightly we will hold on to compartments of our life, locking them away from God’s loving and merciful view.  Given this propensity to wall God out it ceases to be amazing that we keep His people, those called to love us as He does, at arm’s length.  We deal in platitudes.  We segregate our lives.  Love me in the sanctuary, pray for me there, lay hands on me, pat my back and say “love ya brother”, but don’t reach into my life; into my real need.

Satan whispers in our ear that being well-loved is just being needy, being weak.  He whispers that we don’t deserve it anyways, that we must strive harder, do more, be better before we can open ourselves up to being well-loved.  Some of us just have absolutely no idea what  being well-loved means.  As I considered this topic I felt drawn to two biblical characters, Peter and John.  Peter loved well, he loved with passion, with energy, with action.  Peter believed in his love for Jesus more than he believed in Jesus’ (hence God’s) love for him.  Don’t get me wrong, Peter’s passionate love for Jesus is a great example to us all and even though it landed Peter in hot water more than once it also energized him to Spiritual insight and action when others were frozen in fear or indecision.

It always puzzled me that John referred to himself as the disciple whom Jesus loved.  It seems a little egotistical as a major theme in the Gospel.  What is the message?  Did Jesus play favorites?  Does God love some of us more than others?  I think that this lesson of learning to be well-loved is a framework that we can set over this idiosyncrasy of John’s Gospel and draw a real Spiritual lesson.  John understood what it meant to be well-loved first by God and by his brother’s and sisters in Christ.  “In this is love, not that we loved God but that He loved us”.  “Beloved since God loved us so much, we also ought to love one another”.  I find it no coincidence that the disciple “whom Jesus loved”, the disciple who understood and practiced being well-loved was at the foot of the Cross with Mary the Mother of Jesus, while the other disciples were cowering in fear.  “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear; for fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not reached perfection in love.”  1 John 4:18

Teleios, the Greek word translated “perfect” here actually has the connotation of complete, mature or full-grown.  The person who understands Teleios love understands how to be well-loved, first by God and then by brothers and sisters in Christ.  It is out of this understanding that loving well grows into it fullness and the circle of Teleios love is complete.  I am here to tell you that the Spiritual discipline (and I believe it is exactly that) of being well-loved is not easy.  The chasms of pride and entitlement drop off on each side of this narrow path.  It is only through the transforming, maturing power of the Holy Spirit (often working through the words and deeds of God’s people) that we can walk the trail of being well-loved.

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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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This is our first Newsletter since the closing of The Lewis House.  Below is a link to the PDF version with live links for donations and contacts.

GuidryOH4-14

 

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I have been looking over my posts over the past couple of years and a couple of them stand out so I thought that I would throw them out there again. This post has become so much more meaningful over the past year as Allana and I have walked through the storm of Leukemia and a bone marrow transplant.  It also connects nicely with my series on perseverance because at its core persevering as a Christian IS walking in the miraculous.  When we truly “remain under” Christ Jesus as the covering for our lives the miraculous is bound to show its face.  “Open the eyes of my heart Lord” the popular song refrains.  Open my eyes to see Your miraculous hand in and around my life everyday!

 

Walking in the Miraculous

“So then does He who provides you with the Spirit and works miracles among you, do it by the works of the Law, or by hearing with faith?”  Galatians 3:5

Perhaps one of the most amazing aspects of this new life that God has called me to at The Lewis House is one that I should have had in my Christian life regardless of my profession.  It is one that I am still learning to embrace because (unlike my beautiful wife) I am a bit too logical in my make up and a big part of me want to live on the basis of logical observation instead of spiritual expectation.  God is teaching me to walk in the miraculous.

When we truly hear the Gospel with faith there should be an expectation of the miraculous.  It is part of the package.  This is not a mystical toy store or the ability to bend God’s power to our will for our happiness.  It is simply expecting God to act in my life and then walking out my faith and getting to watch Him moving and working in an around me.  The cool thing is that the miraculous looks a little different every time.  I think that one of the mistake that we often make is when something miraculous happens in our lives we run around expecting that very same thing to happen over and over or even just one more time.  This may be in part to our desire to control the miraculous.  Humanity has always had an inherent fear of the things that we cannot control.  Better to have a god who responds to our requests exactly the same way all of the time, speaking into our lives in the ways that we want Him too (as opposed to in ways that sanctify us, ever conforming us closer and closer to the mind of Christ).

The author of Hebrews reveals the purpose of the miraculous.  “…how will we escape if we neglect so great a salvation?  After it was at the first spoken through the Lord, it was confirmed to us both by signs and wonders and by various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit according to His own will.”  Hebrews 2:3-4  It confirms to us our salvation.  This approximates Paul’s statement in Galatians that we already looked.

The other amazing thing is that God will not be put in a box.  Sometimes we mistake the fact that he is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow for the fact that we will be able to manipulate and predict his actions in our lives.  This error is revealed in Isaiah, “‘For my thoughts are not your thoughts, Neither are your ways, My ways,’ declares the Lord.  ‘For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are my ways higher than your ways And my thoughts higher than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:8-9  Does this mean that we just drift along being pushed here and there by a capricious God?  Not at all!  We cry out our needs, concerns, suffering and desires to God and the open our spiritual eyes wide and watch Him work.  It will be amazing, and often in ways that we least expect.

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What a wonderful week!  It started off a little rough, Nisa was not feeling well but she came around just in time for us to make the trip to the Assembly of God Fine Arts Festival for the Michigan District held in Lansing.  While it was great to be able to watch so many teens on fire for God and sharing their talents, it was even more wonderful to see Allana blossom this week.  It was really about two weeks ago that she seemed to make a real breakthrough but she really shined this weekend.  Even after the busy two days of Fine Arts she was up and ready to go to hear Dustin Reed bring a great word at Compelled Church and then share a wonderful evening of fellowship and vision with CityLight Church!  I am so thankful for God’s miraculous hand in all the events of the past year and a half.  I am so thankful for God’s gift of Perseverance during this difficult time in our lives.  However as we look at this Biblical concept a little more closely it becomes clear that God does not just provide Perseverance for the tough times.  This gift needs to be a core characteristic of every Christian.

Peter in his second recorded epistle links this quality to our participation in the divine nature of God!  Everyone appreciates getting gifts but how special it is when one receives a gift that extends from the very nature of the giver.  So many gifts are gifts of obligation but when the gift proceeds from the heart and represents the very being of the giver it becomes that much more special.

2 Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord ; 3 seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence. 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. (1 Peter 1:2-7, the bold is mine)  

Even more important this gift is one that is critical to the transformation process that Life in Christ Jesus brings.

And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.  Romans 12:2

But we all, with unveiled facebeholding as in a mirror the glory of theLord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to gloryjust as from the Lord, the Spirit.  2 Corinthians 3:18

It is only when we persevere, remaining “under” Jesus Christ that the wonderful transformation into His Spiritual image can take place.  While it is a gift from God perseverance also requires intentionality from the recipient.  It is a gift that only functions when the recipient is fully focused on the giver.  Kyle Idleman tells us that idols are created when gifts from God become more important than the giver (gods at war).  This is what happens when perseverance becomes completely focused on the events of our life (usually the negative ones) and not on Jesus Christ.

For You have been my help, And in the shadow of Your wings I sing for joy.  Psalm 63:7

Don’t wait for disaster to strike to rest in the shadow of His wings.  The more we remain there, the more we will experience the joy of true perseverance.

 

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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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