Persistence Persists

Faith’s Heartbeat

Scripture Resource Passage: Nehemiah 7

            I thought persistence during a pandemic was going to be the source of disruption and the leading news story for 2020. Tonight (as I shape these sentences) riots continue in the streets of North America. Anger flows like a swollen river across cities as supposedly aggrieved citizens burn, loot and destroy. Tear gas floats, bullets ricochet off mortar and steel, injuries abound and the National Guard stands ready to engage. Justice does not roll down like waters. Racial injustice degrades our republic. Neither does righteousness appear like an ever-flowing stream (Amos 5:24).

            The unprepared city is a dangerous place. The unprepared soul is food for the adversary, cursed be his name (1Peter 5:8). There will always be cities and souls in need of work and repair by disciples of integrity (Nehemiah 7:2).

            If you are traveling through a deep look into Nehemiah’s day, you are traipsing through his profound struggles. The times are nearly riotous with unprovoked attacks and civil unrest as citizens seek a common aim—rebuilding those walls!            

            It was not a quick fix. No overnight wonder occurred. No one delivered power tools to construction sites. The message from Nehemiah can be found in this theme: persistence is the heartbeat of faith.            

            Protests against racism are always appropriate. Likewise, the violence of thieves is despicable. Regardless of your point of view, for disciples of Jesus there is an added insight—the lesson of persistence in faith

            Until the great promise (Revelation 21) occurs, times like those experienced by Nehemiah and by our own generation will persist. Citizens will riot. Injustices will occur. Innocent people will suffer. Souls will endure attacks from a violent enemy. There will be no golden era of peace until the trumpet sounds at the return of the King. 

            Until the day and hour, until the voice of the archangel sounds from Heaven’s court God’s people persist in being disciples like rebuilders on the walls of Jerusalem. We live in this land, doing all the good we can for as many as we can, for as long as we can. Until that moment of the King’s return…persist.

Life Applications

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  • What keeps you going when the going gets tough and the climb becomes difficult?
  • Resources for pondering: Eugene Peterson, A Long Obedience in the Same Direction, Discipleship in an Instant Society, InterVarsity PressAdditionally, from an award winning psychologist who teaches at the University of Pennsylvania, and is a MacArthur Fellow, Angela Duckworth’s New York Times bestseller Grit; the Passion and Power of Perseverance, Simon and Schuster. Each might be of assistance as you formulate your own strategy to be strong to the end and finally, finish with a flourish.
  • See you at the finish!

Ill-lit Fires of Destruction

June 11, 2021

Scripture Resource Passage: Acts 9

When you don’t know what you don’t know, ignorance could be dangerously compounding. According to the historical record of Acts 9 spiritual ignorance once achieved a deadly level of “murderous threats” (Acts 9:1). The fires of destructive spiritual passion leapt from one burned-life, torching many others. No one was safe when the wild-fire roared. 

Some individuals possessed a lack of knowledge which left them in the ashes of spiritual destruction; yet, others were not consumed. Some were converted, changed by hearing and responding to the call of God.

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Three Opportunities for Change

Consider Zacchaeus, who was apparently consumed with money and its power (Luke19). Over the centuries these twins of foul consumption continue to destroy many lives. 

An unnamed woman of Sychar set ablaze her personal life. She made numerous poor decisions, destructively igniting her intimate relationships (John 4). Contemporary women and men still ignite such fires with personal decisions set ablaze by foolishness. 

A group of spiritual leaders were not exempt from the sparks which led to spiritual tragedy (John 9). The combustion led them not to safety, but intense spiritual burning—for all the wrong reasons. 

Three accounts, each with opportunities for conversion—from ignorance to spiritual clarity. Any of them sound hopeful to you?

One Dramatic Conversion

This week’s Scripture Resource passage (Acts 9) emphasizes the experience of a first century individual who becomes a church-planter and emissary of God. After being found and changed by the truth Who is Christ, Paul travels repeatedly around the Mediterranean basin establishing and strengthening churches. His ill-lit fires of destruction became the spiritual ember-bed of hope.

Life Application Questions

  • Do you believe conversion occurs in the 21st century?
  • Does a vivid experience play a part in your becoming a disciple of Christ?
  • If you are not yet a disciple, what role might a flame-flame-touched experience play in your transition?

I look forward to reading your comments and suggestions. My thanks for continuing to be part of our online community. Grace and peace to each of you.

Grace Covers Anger, At Least on This Occasion

June 4, 2021

Scripture Resource Passage: Exodus 4

To Moses

Clearing his throat and with downcast eyes Moses may have said, [About this speaking assignment Lord God Almighty,] “Pardon your servant, Lord. I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor since you have spoken to your servant. I am slow of speech and tongue” (Exodus 4:10).

God’s anger comes, settling on him like a winter coat during a high-heat-humid afternoon. The heat of judgment should not be missed (Exodus 4:10-17).

Moses underestimates God’s intention—he fears being abandoned, yet again. Perhaps he doubts God’s willingness to provide spiritual support, during the time he will serve as a public witness before the royal court.  

Anxiety, fear and trepidation cover Moses, tempering his soul. God’s reply, “Now go; I will help you speak and will teach you what to say” (Exodus 4:12).

Moses insists on wearing God’s anger-coat: “…Pardon your servant, Lord. Please send someone else.” God, becomes angry. “Then the Lord’s anger burned against Moses…” (Exodus 4:12-13).

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To Us

Perhaps, like me you have made people angry. My family, friends and others have put anger-coats on my shoulders because of what I said, or not said. However, it is not personal anger from others which is the focus in Exodus 4—here is the very real anger of God.

Today, and I observe blessedly, whatever amount of anger God possesses over me being me, grace through Christ, in the power of the Holy Spirit continues to cover this soul (Romans 8:1). The heavy cloak falls from my shoulders and with a thunderous sound the ground around me shudders.

God seems to specialize in choosing spiritually-challenged individuals like Moses and like me. Possibly like you? We have not been automatically judged as spiritually unacceptable incompetents; rather, we have been raised up and clothed with grace.

God chose Moses and there is a deep hiddenness in this choosing. The pain and trauma of Moses birth, secret life and childhood has born foul fruit—Moses is afraid of being abandoned. 

Life Applications

Do you experience feelings of being abandoned by God? 

Do you have spiritual disciplines which help you trust God?

Was it a Crime?

May 28, 2021

Scripture Resource Passage: Exodus 2:11–15

Moses steps into scene—center stage. We do not know his motivation. Perhaps he was aware of a longstanding mistreatment? Did he decide to set things right? We ask, “Has Moses divinely arrived for such a time as this?”

Today’s Scripture resource passage provides an entryway into God’s choosing. This is no sanitized version of a squeaky clean, pure-handed individual. God’s sovereign-emphatic-sacred selection of a man who brings death in his hands is startling. We should not idly ignore the blood splattered sand of Egypt. 

Moses is on a walk about, possibly investigating a construction project. The exact location is not described other than, “he went out to where his own people were and watched them at their hard labor” (Exodus 2:11). While watching the hard labor an Egyptian, possibly a supervisor, can be seen beating a Hebrew slave. 

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A flurry of unanswered questions as Scripture reports Moses killing the Egyptian. Murder? Manslaughter? Justifiable homicide? Hate crime? An act of rescue initiated by a Good Samaritan? 

Moses may have struck him many times. A crushing smash to the head might have been enough. Or, after being hit in the chest the man falls. Dropping, his head hits a sharp stone corner. A deadly encounter. Are you ready for the startling and holy transition?

Later, this same Moses will hear and act for God in ways unparalleled by others. Moses, the deadly-one, will be known as the Lawgiver. He will hand deliver the Law from God to the people (Exodus 19 and 20). 

Moses, with blood on his hands, called and appointed by God? Wait—what about the Egyptian who died? Was it murder? Attorney’s would ask: was this manslaughter, justifiable homicide or a hate crime? And of course we want to ask, “Is not this very act precisely what will be condemned in the words from Mt. Sinai, ‘thou shalt not murder’” (Exodus 20:13 KJV)? 

Scripture’s record offers no explanation. After reading this episode, disciples could be left confounded as again, God’s sovereignty is worked out before us. 

Life Application

  • How does the behavior of Moses compare to that of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37)?
  • Exodus 2 captures two moments of violence, one of which results in death. Disciples humbly pray asking, “What are we to do with this Moses story?” When asking myself this question memory stirs within and a specific reference resides in my mind. Check it out, if you are so inclined–Romans 11:33-36.

I look forward to reading your comments and suggestions.

Listening, if it matters

May 21, 2021

Scripture Resource Passage: Romans 14

When self-deluded individuals believe they know more than most, we end up with a world east of Eden. Living beyond the Garden can be a most miserable place (Genesis 3:24).

Many writers have captured this truth and in the 20thcentury few were clearer, or manifested more marketplace savvy, than Charles Schultz. His comic-editorials in the Sunday funnies relayed scriptural truths with carefully placed barbs. Often the words and the drawings featured an enigmatic character—Lucy Van Pelt. 

Lucy liked to talk while asserting, protesting and calling on others to follow her ways. She was not as strong with active-listening. Little wonder she was often on the edges of the Peanuts community living a sad, isolating and non-Eden-like life. This will be true for each of us when we choose primarily to talk rather than listen.

Listening comes as a highly recommended spiritual discipline for in one way active-listening helps us in learning to accept one another. The letter to the disciples in Rome provides this encouragement: “Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God” (Romans 15:7).  

There are numerous resources on the web which identify the skills of active-listening. Some are purely humanistic sources but actively-listening to them provides perspective. Actively-listening to another person is a sacred spiritual discipline. Disciples believe each person has value before God. If God will hear them, should we block them out by being inattentive? All together now, say, “No, we should listen carefully.”

Life Applications

  • Imitating Christ’s love of people: Do I demonstrate my willingness to show others acceptance by deeply listening when they are speaking? 
  • When you reflect on your interactions with others, were you talking more than actively-listening?
  • What is your spiritual experience when someone carefully listens to you?

Thank you for reading. Please send in your comments and suggestions. Blessings to each of you.

Money, Money, Money

Financial Peace Through Generosity

May 14, 2021

Scripture Resource Passage: 2 Corinthians 9:7-15

Disciples gathered, could be known as groups of generous people. It’s a good choice. The instruction is precise: “Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion…” (2 Corinthians 9:7).

Today’s Scripture resource passage from 2 Corinthians establishes a precedent for generous actions. However, personal generosity is an internal decision, blessing others as disciples live-out their spiritual gratitude.

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Oddly, generosity is not listed in what we know as the “gifts of the Spirit,” (1 Corinthians 12). Neither does generosity appear in Romans 12, an occasion with a careful listing of God’s gifting. One specific recommendation to all disciples encourages financial kindness within the churches. An apostle writes, “Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.”(Romans 12:13).

The kindness of God, the graciousness of Christ and the full-filling of the Spirit means we are generously blessed. While the word may be missing, the practice of responsibility for others dominates each of the letters to the 1stcentury church in Corinth. Financial generosity demonstrates faith.

Our heritage of financial generosity is also rooted in the Faith’s rich soil. Old Testament passages such as Leviticus 25 and Deuteronomy 15 increase and affirm this understanding. Psalm 41:1-3 strengthens the development of our personal growth. God blesses disciples who seek the discovery of financial peace through generosity. 

Life Applications

  • Are there precise and vital ways you can be generous? 
  • Who first taught you about God’s generosity?
  • Would those who know you best describe you as generous?

Money, Money,Money

Financial Peace Through Generosity

Coming May 14, 2021

Groceries, rents and mortgages along with health care bills drop into our lives with great force. I look forward to seeing your suggestions and comments after you’ve read this week’s post. My thanks for continuing to influence and bring others into the conversation of our online community. Grace and peace to each of you.

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