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 for a Building

July 23, 2021

Scripture Resource Passage: Exodus 37:1 – 38:31   Please read the passage

The Tabernacle was a packable, transportable, spiritually significant meeting place. God was Designer and Architect. The detailed construction story opened in Exodus 25. Bezalel’s work in building the traveling tent—the Tent of Meeting—the Tabernacle, is detailed in Exodus 37-38.

For thoughtful disciples of Jesus and all investor’s we want to ask: Is there spiritual value in the Tabernacle’s construction details?

Before making your reply please hover over Bezalel’s divinely provided instructions. God through Moses provided exacting details. Just imagine the expense! We know that today’s disciples do not typically travel about the land with similar portable buildings, opting instead for fixed properties. Likewise, we do not have a divinely designated spiritual structure for meeting with God.

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No instructions about rooms, decorations or arks flow over the lips of Jesus or any of his appointed/called/sent leaders. Unfortunately, in spite of this awareness disciples regularly comment, “We’re going to church,” treating a building as if it were the abode of God (Acts 7:47-49).

Buildings which are architecturally attractive, solidly functional or grotesque meeting houses, rise as statements of faith. They communicate some portion of our spiritual vision of God—there is theology in architecture.

Life Applications

How does Exodus 37-38 inform your discipleship?

It is fair to ask: As you look around the buildings and properties of any congregation with which you are familiar, what spiritual messages are communicated?

Do the words of Jesus found in John 4:24 provide any insight on the subject of buildings, tents or other places of connecting with God?

I look forward to reading your comments and suggestions. Grace and peace.

No Cheap Ticket

Friday, July 16, 2021

Scripture Resource Passage: Exodus 34:1–35          

Preparation— Did you remember to bring stone tablets? Before you arrive in the Presence, are you even thinking of stone tablets? 

“Stone tablets? No, it never occurred to me. You mean that’s my admission ticket?” one disciple replied.

[When you come before Me,] “The Lord said to Moses, ‘Chisel out two stone tablets like the first ones, and I will write on them the words that were on the first tablets, which you broke’” (Exodus 34:1).

Spiritual contact is no cheap ticket. However, I never included stone tablets in moments of preparation. I am just imagining your experience is similar to my own.

Audience— Access to the Sovereign is the high and holy privilege. However, Moses received a direct instruction before an audience, an invitation calling him to approach the Holy One. He appears before the One we know as the Father—Creator, Sustainer, Life-giver, the One Who brings justice to all (Exodus 34:7 and Isaiah 6).

“The Lord said to Moses… ‘Be ready in the morning, and then come up on Mount Sinai. Present yourself to me there on top of the mountain. No one is to come with you or be seen anywhere on the mountain; not even the flocks and herds may graze in front of the mountain’” (Exodus 34:2-3)

Task— Afterwards, Moses has a task. The account reads, “And he [Moses] wrote on the tablets the words of the covenant—the Ten Commandments” (Exodus 34:28b).

God stood near to Moses during those days on Mt. Sinai and we have brief glimpses of the experience. Moses’ times with God included both information as well as preparation. Leadership’s challenges will soon dominate his life. 

His task will carry him into Pharaoh’s presence. Moses will be directed in the challenges of establishing as a nation, this wandering mass of humanity. The task takes a lifetime and even then, it will not be completed but littered with regrets, obstinate obstacles, compromising challenges and foolishness. 

Life Applications

Today, are there specific practices of spiritual preparation which apply when you appear before God?

What is comparable to being in the Presence?

As a song of reflection consider Love Ran Red, by Chris Tomlin, 2014.  Available as video, lyrics and chords on YouTube as well as other sites.

A Pregnant Path

July 9, 2021

Scripture Resource Passage: 1 Thessalonians 5

Expectant women know that on a certain day—a delivery is coming. The precise hour of the clock, the bursting of new life, is typically an educated estimation. Pregnancy leads to labor and delivery, and hopefully abundant life.

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Words of promise surround the events of Christ’s promised return.“While people are saying, ‘Peace and safety,’ destruction will come on them suddenly, as labor pains on a pregnant woman…”(1 Thessalonians 5:3).

Without personally experiencing pregnancy, or labor pains, the Apostle writes as if he has been up close. He chooses the image of the upcoming onset of birth’s labor for a figure of speech, in explaining the timing of Christ’s return. 

Paul possesses an authorized understanding of Jesus’ imminent return. Consider Jesus’ true words which can be found in Revelation 16:15: “Look, I come like a thief!” Paul emphasizes, in writing to the disciples of Thessalonica, this certain-suddenness of Christ’s return.

I have watched as my family traversed the pregnant path of labor and delivery. I number these among the most amazing experiences of my life. 

Now with deep anticipation, while hearing the pregnant laboring groans of all creation, alongside other disciples I await Christ’s return. The honest and fervently intense screams of church and society increase my anticipation. Come quickly Lord Jesus—we await your day.

Life Applications

  • When does life feel most secure to you?
  • When do you experience safety?
  • In what ways do you hear creation’s pains of labor?

I look forward to reading your comments and suggestions.

As The Imperfect Disciple

July 2, 2021

Two posts for Imperfect Disciples are available for your reflection. Check them out by date.

April 6, 2021

June 17, 2021

These are the first posts in an occasional series which continues throughout the year.

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Grace and peace to each of you. To all friends throughout the United States of America–happy July 4th.

As always your comments and suggestions are most welcome.

Training Days

June 25, 2021

Scripture Resource Passage: Exodus 23

During training days, when the people of God were being called, formed and enlightened as to their new identity, specific instructions were provided. Exodus 23 specifies a few of these, some of which remain among the elementary truths of our Faith: “Do not spread false reports. Do not help a guilty person by being a malicious witness” (Exodus 23:1).

There was an extensive pagan culture in the long ago. The training day instructions were vital in shaping the people while laying out particulars for the new nation; yes, they were to be a peculiar people, a royal priesthood called into holiness. 

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In this way God’s spoken instructions, later to be written, functioned as the teacher, the trainer, the tutor; or, in the words of an earlier day in our own language, the pedagogue was functioning as intended. It is an old word and has slipped into near archaic language. Yet the pedagogue remains a perfectly acceptable way of imaging how God interacted, and continues to interact with disciples.

Our brother Paul once wrote: “Wherefore the law was our pedagogue in Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after the faith is come, we are no longer under a pedagogue” (Galatians 3:24-25 Douay-Rheims translation of 1899, American Edition).

A contemporary translation is provided by the New International Version: “So the law was our guardian until Christ came that we might be justified by faith. Now that this faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian.”

Life Applications

Do parts of God’s elementary instructions, regardless of the era in which they were first delivered, encourage decisive behaviors for you?

An extensive and somewhat academic very clear resource hyperlink—if you choose to invest more time in understanding God’s identification of the pedagogue, the guardian, the trainer, the tutor: https://digitalcommons.liberty.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1114&context=sor_fac_pubs

The Imperfect Disciple

June 18, 2021

When the Spotlight Feels Like Fire

Scripture Resource Passage: Exodus 6

Moses’ words of self-description, “…I speak with faltering lips,” are emotionally bracketing bookends within his soul (Exodus 6:12 & 30). Today’s Scripture resource is held together with identical-twin statements. 

When we repeat our words and phrases, when we repeat ourselves in the same conversation, passion resides within. As readers of Scripture we do not have the luxury of audibly hearing Moses’ words; however, careful observation in Scripture-reading draws our attention to his mental and emotional condition when he twice reports, “…I speak with faltering lips.” 

Good news, God’s strategy includes the faltering-one and disciples of Jesus who also suffer from fog-blurred faith. Thankfully, being imperfect does not remove us from the counsel of God.

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For Moses, God was unwilling to leave him behind even as specific leaders were set in place (Exodus 6:13-14). The fearful one, the faltering-one is becoming the publicly identified leader of all God’s people. 

God’s Boldness

The pharaoh’s ruled Egypt. Yet, there was more at work in those days than palace, pyramid and sphinx-building. 

The heritage of Messiah comes through the generations of the families, certified and publicly named in the historical record of Exodus 6. These are the Hebrews, the Jews, the family of Abraham of whom God spoke (Genesis 12); and we ask, “They are to be led by Moses-the faltering-one?”

The Spirit of God clearly invites readers to pay attention to the kind of persons with whom God works. Moses seems to have temporarily landed on center stage and apparently feels like he is in a solo presentation. The spotlight feels like fire. The gaze of pharaoh burns him. 

Moses trembles. His emotions expose excessive fear. As Scripture readers, we know what is coming. Moses did not know. 

Vision blurring fog-like days, plagues and blessings will happen as God establishes the Covenant People in the Covenant Land.  For us as readers of Scripture the faltering bookends of Moses form an enclosure proclaiming God’s boldness in dealing with weakness. 

Life Application

Do you have a strategy for times when your faith falters?

I look forward to seeing your comments and suggestions.

Grace, peace and confidence to each of you.

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?