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!

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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Belief’s Heritage and the Divided Family

May 7, 2021

Scripture Resource Passage: Acts 16

Setting an example, establishing a pattern, following in the footsteps—each of these are descriptions in the heritage of belief. Fortunately, and greater than our genetic tendencies, there can be the blessed heritage of Christ. Families can be the practice-ground of faith.

However, many families (certainly my own) are divided by faith’s practices. The non-faith of an agnostic or atheist was apparently the 1stcentury family life of Paul’s young apprentice, Timothy (Acts 16:1). 

Given the dramatic rise of those who explain their 21stcentury faith’s connection as “None,” a divided family may be your experience as well. The Pew Research Center (pewresearch.org) helps us understand beliefs within this expanding segment of North America. 

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The rapid increase of a spiritually non-faith society can be seen throughout the western world as party divisions and petty personal pleasures run rampant like a stampeding herd of wildebeests. This does not mean spiritually separated families or even nations are without spiritual opportunity in Christ.

Scripture records that faith-separated or divided families can produce remarkable second generation disciples. Timothy is the evidence. Many of us are as well, bearing testimony to the Faith which found us.

Blessedly, in addition to his mother, Timothy became apprenticed to one of Christ’s appointed leaders. As a good master trainer should, Paul undoubtedly provided numerous points of instruction giving a solid model of how one lives as a disciple of Christ Jesus. 

Life Applications

  • Given the spiritual realities in your family are there discipleship practices for passing on the Faith which you can enhance during 2021? 
  • Given that some readers are parents, aunts, uncles grandparents or those with close friends, are there special opportunities afforded you in those relationships with young people? 
  • Is it time to act?

I look forward to seeing your suggestions and comments. My thanks for continuing to refer new readers to the site. I appreciate each of you.

Mutual Submission-Soul Food

April 30, 2021

The rubric to succeeding sections of the Ephesian’s letter, if you will permit me to identify it as such, is central to each believer’s spiritual diet: “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ” (Ephesians 5:21). Eugene Peterson’s paraphrase The Message provides a meal in these words: “Out of respect for Christ, be courteously reverent to one another.” 

The theme of mutual submission (“submit to one another”) dominates Eugene Peterson’s interpretation. His insistence emphasizes relationships which are centered not in feelings or political positions. Rather, our treatment of one another centers in our convictions about Christ

The apostolic instruction for disciples living in turbulent times is soul food in today’s Scripture resource passage. Ephesians 5:21 presents the theme; God assigns particular responsibilities to different groups of disciples. If you think of Ephesians 5:21 as a rubric (a printing term describing the first letter of a word with an enlarged decorative appearance), this section of Paul’s letter is a gourmet’s sustenance, for the disciple’s soul.

Life Application

Given the current state of affairs in your family, your congregation, your county, your state, your nation what does it mean for you to “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ?” Or,answer the discipleship question as Eugene Peterson encouraged, “Out of respect for Christ, be courteously reverent to one another.”

Thank you for reading. I look forward to seeing your suggestions and comments.

Mutual Submission

Coming Friday, April 30, 2021

Truly, profound pairs of paradoxical positions adorn the way of discipleship. Following Jesus takes each of us over some unusual roads. Friday’s post walks along one of those paths hidden by a canopy covered woods.

My continued thanks for recommending http://www.woodsedgeonline.com to those whose interest is similar. Thanks as well for your willingness to explore spirituality via the online community.

Diversity in Abundance

April 23, 2021

Scripture Resource Passage: 1 Corinthians 12

Extra resources are included at the end of today’s blog. Hopefully you will find them helpful.

Today’s Scripture resource passage proclaims diversity.  As it was at Creation, the profound presence of the Spirit encourages disciples’ appreciation for God’s expressive universe (Genesis 1:2). Christ’s churches are filled with diversity of sizes, colors, thoughts and attitudes.

God apparently values this variety, considering it to be more than an enhancement but divinely meant “…for the common good” (1 Corinthians 12:7).  We celebrate the differences.

Attend any sporting event and if fans of your opponent are present, and if they do not anticipate a crowd too rowdy, they are wearing team colors. Fans of the home team typically wear their own home-team colors. The differences and voices roar around arenas and stadiums.

Scripture teaches, “Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ” (1 Corinthians 12:12). Friends, there is much more to creation than people. 

God’s extensive creation moves across the heavens as the “many parts,” adorn the night sky. God provides “many parts,” when we look at the variety of trees in our world. God also directed and designed the wondrous birds which flit about our world, ensuring their role in the “many parts.” 

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The night skies, God’s trees and birds remind disciples (when they are watching/listening), the Christ loves diversity. Each local church, bearing the marks of the Spirit, likewise instructs us, our God loves life’s variety.

Emphatically setting this truth to music makes God’s love for variety easy to recall. C. Herbert Woolston (lyrics) and George F. Root (music) were a forceful team writing in the era of North America’s Civil War (1861-1865). One portion of their song became a song in and of itself. Possibly you learned the cadence and words as a child. The message reinforces our understanding of God’s love for the people as “many parts,” within the Body. 

Jesus loves the little children,

All the children of the world.

Red and yellow, black and white,

All are precious in His sight,

Jesus loves the little children of the world.

Life Application

  1. In your experience, does diversity of opinion work in helpful or harmful ways with your family, your community and congregations you know best? 
  2. Enriching our understanding of the vast distinctives in God’s creation consider: T.E. Shaw, Fifty Common Trees of Indiana, Department of Forestry and Conservation, Purdue University, 1981;   Russell E. Mumford and Charles E. Keller, The Birds of Indiana, Original Paintings by William Zimmerman, Bloomington, Indiana: Indiana University Press, 1984; Arthur P. Norton, Norton’s Star Atlas, Ed. Ian Ridpath, 20thedition, 1989. And for more of the truthful song’s story see “Jesus Loves the Little Children,” at www.hymntime.com

I look forward to seeing your comments and suggestions. Thank you for reading.

More to Creation than People

Coming Friday April 23, 2021

Diversity, complexity and abundant challenges cover our universe. Billions and billions of stars surround us. Unable to focus on more than one at a time we may selectively see a few thousand in our brief lifetimes.

This week–God loves diversity. Children, trees, stars and music–let the diversity bell ring. I look forward to your comments and suggestions after you’ve read the Friday post. Grace and peace to each of you.

Waiting, Waiting and Waiting

April 16, 2021

Scripture Resource Passage: 2 Timothy 3 and 4

Christ’s disciples and leaders anticipate the Day. The waiting, in the year of our Lord 2021, now stretches over two thousand years (2 Peter 3:8). Anyone who does not catch the reality of waiting, misses a holy truth in following Christ. Waiting is fundamental and central to our identity.  God is not delayed and through the Spirit declares the surety of His promise (2 Peter 3:9-11).

Unfortunately, while we wait, and sometimes like children, God’s people stray and the need for excellent leadership, an absolute in good times, becomes even more apparent. Recall these words from today’s primary Scripture resource passage:  “For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine” (2 Timothy 4:3). 

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Timing may not be all encompassing, but the spiritual discipline of waiting for God to act is like the Spirit hovering over the waters at creation. Unseen strength is required—note the key first word—unseen. Christ’s leaders are primarily individuals who specialize in seeing with the eyes of the Spirit, providing counsel and wisdom as God’s people wait for the Day.

Children and sometimes disciples are not typically at their best in waiting. Anticipating lunch, waiting for dinner—would you like to spend some pre-lunch quality time with a two-year old?  

Flying about with the emotional discharge of a super-ball (remember those wild bouncy bundles?) little ones’ pout with sad faces, spilling tears from eyes tightly squeezed. Loudly proclaiming (screaming more likely), “Want to eat now!”

Hopefully and with a soothing voice adults should reply, “Your lunch will be ready in just a few minutes.” Those words, delivered with a softening tone, are the voice of family leadership.

Groups of disciples, we typically know them as churches or congregations, can likewise be filled with impatient impetuous disciples. God’s people have on more than one occasion sought to force spiritual agendas (Matthew 26:52). In all seasons a challenge rests in affirming spiritually discerning leaders who speak spiritual truths in firm tones.

Life Application

Are you able to identify positive characteristics, and spiritual flaws in your own life, which help or hinder you in supporting God’s leaders (Hebrews 13:17)?

I look forward to seeing your comments and suggestions. Thank you for reading.

Satan’s Messenger Comes, then Flees

April 9, 2021

Scripture Resource Passage: 2 Corinthians 12:7

If only it were as simple as a Halloween evening. If only it were as clear as authors’ and cinema’s foul characters portray. Lon Chaney and Boris Karloff were theatric masters. Their skills sent movie-goers deep into shiver-land; but evil is more pervasive and profound than human authors and playwrights portray. Conversely, God’s grace and support is more expansive than the universe.

British brother C.S. Lewis once observed (in paraphrase), “We either think too much about the devil or not enough.” This post’s Scripture passages encourage disciples in seeking spiritual strength, while dealing with evil’s reality. 

Today’s primary passage, found in the second letter originally sent to the disciples in Corinth, indicates one level of a profoundly obscured vision. The puzzling words are these: “Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me” (2 Corinthians 12:7b). 

Let’s not suppose evil overwhelms over the Apostle. God Almighty, Absolute Sovereign Lord of the Universe, the One Who is Grace-giver choses to develop his church-planting leader through a faith-crisis. Paul prays, “Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness’” (2 Corinthians 12:8-9). 

God has not ceded his Apostle to evil’s foul work; rather God makes use of evil’s “thorn in…[the] flesh,” for the Apostle’s benefit. Pause and wrap your mind around God’s astounding power and use of the Satan.

James advises, Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you (James 4:7). We should note there is no promise of the Satan permanently fleeing from us, or our world. Scripture does not give us insight into how long, or to what extent Satan flees. Would that it was a once-for-a-lifetime-event which I could invoke and have done with him. 

Personally, I cannot report the Satan perpetually fleeing from me, with an exorcism-like surety. Looking around our world today, looking into my own heart, I find him whose name is cursed ever lurking, ready to destroy every good and perfect gift (1 Peter 5:8). Confessing my vulnerability, I call out to the Father and hear the blessed promise given first to our brother Paul, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9).

Life Application—How do the words of Jesus “Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil…” work in your life (Matthew 6:13)?

I look forward to reading your comments and suggestions. Thank you for reading.