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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!

Even Angels Long to Look

A new post arrives Friday, October 22, 2021

Mystery within an enigma wrapped in riddle? Is that what faith feels like?

Well, yes.

Some days, some years, some decades I confess to believing even angels long to look into life’s confusion; and, disciples ought not hesitate in saying, “I just don’t get it.”

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I look forward to reading your comments and suggestions after reading the upcoming post.

Grace and peace to each of you.

Citizens of the City

October 15, 2021

Scripture Resource Passage: Hebrews 13

Doubling down, hope dreams of a different life. The first part of the double calls to faith’s named patriarch. “…for he [Abraham] was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God.

The double’s second half reminds all disciples: “For here we do not have an enduring city, but we are looking for the city that is to come” (Hebrews 11:10 and 13:14). Citizens of the City wisely and selectively examine the future.

However, and meanwhile disciples living outside the City of God must not become so heavenly-minded as to be of no earthly good. Much of following Christ means we are vitally connected with this world’s turmoil and confusion. We do not approach this world’s life as unimportant. Disciples live in this tumultuous life while remembering “…our citizenship is in heaven” (Philippians 3:20). 

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Christ calls his disciples to the challenge with these examples: For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me” (Matthew 25:35-36).

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Looking forward to the full benefits of the City of God? Yes, disciples look forward. Engaged with the challenges of people’s daily needs? Yes, disciples are also engaged in doing all that we can, for as long as we can, providing for as many as we can. Profound decisions these choices in living toward the City of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Life Applications

When picturing a city whose builder and maker is God what images come to mind?

Can you describe ways in which your faith seeks to live toward our current cities and the City?

Are there specific actions which you believe help disciples live faithfully in both realities as redeemed human beings and citizens of the City?

Thank you for reading. Comments and suggestions are always welcome.

Citizenship Looking Forward

A new post coming Friday, October 15, 2021

Immigrants, aliens and citizens, can we all just get along? Obviously and apparently, the answer is, no. We cannot just get along. Disciples always want to explore society’s tense challenges for therein reside opportunities for witness.

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I look forward to seeing your comments or suggestions after reading this week’s post.

Blessings on your day.

Planetary Travel and Disciples of Jesus

October 8, 2021

Scripture Resource Passage: Colossians 1

When believers are among those who some day travel to distant moons or galaxies, the constant truth shall remain: among all travelers in the universe God’s people chart trajectories requiring endurance and patience. We celebrate God’s provision knowing our need for endurance and patience will continue regardless of the galaxy we call home.

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Anticipating our need for spiritual provision Scripture explains we individually, possibly corporately “…[are] being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience…” (Colossians 1:11). Disciples since the time of Christ have found it to be so. We celebrate!

Endurance and patience come from God flowing like a river via the Spirit. Divine strength enables all creation to find meaning and purpose through Christ. Without God’s spiritual resources we are left to our own limited abilities (John 7:37-39).

Consider your life in comparison to cataclysmic changes occurring in the world’s communities. Recently, states of the western United States were literally turning the sky red with fire as lives were lost, forests burned and buildings destroyed. No nation or country escapes the escapades of nature. Care for a volcano anyone?

Fires likewise are raging in the nation of Greece. Revolution-like events occur in Afghanistan. Syria remains in turmoil. South Sudan and Myanmar suffer profound political turmoil. Venezuela continues experiencing wild inflation. Haiti has widespread devastation because of earthquakes followed by devastating storms.

If you are a disciple of Jesus, living in these or any of the other myriad places where turmoil is the coin of life, how might your need for patient endurance be amplified? Simply put: food, clean water and supporting your family can be very spiritual matters.

Life Applications

How do you celebrate God’s provision of spiritual strength?

Among the family challenges you face as a disciple, which of them require strong habits of patient endurance?

Are there circumstances which currently diminish your spiritual tenacity?

Are you pursuing life-time tasks which require specialized endurance or training?

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

Planetary Travel and Disciples of Jesus

A new post coming Friday, October 8, 2021

Leaving the planet, Earth that is, bound for a destination somewhere in the galaxy–what will that mean for the faith of disciples on board?

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More than wild speculation, the reality of leaving the planet builds each year and each decade as technology evolves. Two generations will pass. Disciples of Jesus may find themselves living out their faith on a new heavenly body. Let’s not be unprepared for any opportunity the Father has prepared for those who love him and are called according to his purpose. Jules Verne, Isaac Asimov, Frank Herbert, Arthur Clarke, Robert Heinlein, H.G. Wells, Ray Bradbury and thankfully C.S. Lewis might have insights to inform us–imagine if there really was a place like Middle Earth.

I look forward to seeing your comments and suggestions after the blog posts on Friday.

The Imperfect Disciple Reads

Friday, October 1, 2021

A Wesley Worth Hearing Again

Stocking your pantry for winter reading? Compelled to consider spiritual renewal? This is my encouragement to stalk and purchase a copy of The Radical Wesley and Patterns for Church Renewal, by Howard Snyder, 1980 InterVarsity Press. You will necessarily search because it remains out of print.

Focused on the life of John Wesley (1703-1791), Howard Snyder’s The Radical Wesley and Patterns for Church Renewal, will leave your soul tumbling. Read quickly if you must, but consider marking passages for moments of consideration and prayer. Wesley promoted a carefully framed, Spirit-filled-vigorous life for disciples of Jesus.

The historical setting of the Wesley’s provides context in the book. While Snyder keeps the 1700s in mind, with appropriate notes along the way, the author’s intent resides beyond presenting a precise church history account.

 Readers searching for renewal patterns will also find it applicable beyond the personal level as well as helpful in cross-cultural contexts. Though not primarily mentioning international or cross-cultural church movements, the truths raised by Snyder will prove helpful to leaders.

Ready for opposition? Ready to have your motives and methods challenged? Ready to have your integrity called into question? Prepare yourself, if you seek renewal. The tension will be unavoidable and as Snyder explains accompanied by predictable outcomes.

Three specifics should be anticipated. “The renewal body will either: 1.) become increasingly radicalized and leave or be forced out of the institutional [read existing] church…; 2.) lose its vitality to the point where it is no longer a threat to the institutional church…; 3.) become accommodated to the institutional church by being given a recognized but limited place within the structure…” (p 131).

Whether meeting as a single local community, possibly today’s so-called linked churches or in a parachurch work group, some issues are consistent. It is to those issues that Snyder’s work continues to make a contribution forty plus years after publication.

Additional Resource: Readers may be interested in pursuing http://victorshepherd.ca/. Victor Shepherd provides a remarkable resource. Shepherd’s strength resides in research and writing—precision as well as depth. My thanks to long-time ministry colleague James Clubine, Th.D. for alerting me to Dr. Shepherd’s contributions.

Spiritual Cataracts and Heart Problems

Friday, September 24, 2021

Scripture Resource Passage: 1 John 4

Our brother John sees multiple disciples climbing mountainous spiritual heights: “In this world we are like Jesus” (I John 4:17b). Like Jesus? Me? Us?

Left to my own wisdom John’s vision completely surpasses my ability. However, accepting God’s call provides a spiritual-cataract-lens replacement, preparing me to spy-out hidden fissures and sometimes, to walk like Jesus. I confess, that typically relying on my own eyesight I stumble over pebbles.

What is Cataract and How to treat it effectively? | Pittsburgh Eye Associate

Again, for absolute clarity: the high-holy challenge of being like Jesus surpasses my ability. On some days this challenge is beyond even, my imagination. Perhaps you reply, “Well occasionally I am (meaning you) like Jesus.”

I reply, “Sometimes I am not like Jesus at all.” Sadly, there are more heart and vision problems in my life than any other kinds of failure.

If only being like Jesus was a simple collection of behaviors. Scripture explains that being like Jesus begins within. Proverbs teaches: “As a man thinks in his heart so is he” (23:7). Jesus reminds me of my tendency to self-deception. “These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me” (Matthew 15:8).

Being like Jesus is fundamentally more about life’s heart-like interior, rather than being confined to outward behaviors. Outward behaviors toward God and other people are visually revealed on the high pathway, as I walk my faith.

Envisioning this challenging road John writes, “Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister” (1 John 4:20-21).

Life Applications

Can you identify specific times when you struggle to be like Jesus?

Which practices of spiritual discipline help you maintain your heart and vision?

Thank you for reading. Comments and suggestions are welcome. Grace and peace to each of you.

Coming next week, a book recommendation for your fall/winter reading list.

Rip Roaring Spiritual Stories

September 18, 2021

Scripture Resource Passage: Mark 12:1-12 –please don’t skip reading the resource passage

Stories with life-changing turbulence flow from Jesus like waters over Victoria Falls.  Truth tumbles over and into the lives of those around him. Some stories (today’s passage), are immediately understood by everyone. Some of his stories are meant to disguise spiritual truths (Matthew 13:11-16).

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One story begins simply, but with a hint of hiddenness: “Jesus then began to speak to them in parables: ‘A man planted a vineyard. He put a wall around it, dug a pit for the winepress and built a watchtower’” (Mark 12:1).

Our Lord insists a familiar Scripture (to first century listeners who might have physically been at the scene described by Mark) provides the story’s application. It is a soul-disturbing picture of Messiah’s acceptance and rejection. “The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; the Lord has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes” (Psalm 118:22-23).

Each of Jesus’ initial disciples were Jews. Other members of Abraham’s extended family rejected Jesus as Messiah. Using stories and parables individuals were blessed with spiritual insight, becoming disciples. The rejecter’s considered scandalous the inference that Jesus might be Messiah. Mark’s Gospel reports: “Then the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders looked for a way to arrest him because they knew he had spoken the parable against them” (Mark 12:12)

The drama, turmoil and eventually Jesus’ death, are each part of the accounts, stories and parables recounted in the Gospels. Some of these we find refreshing and life giving. As disciples, we agree Jesus is like Niagara’s waters. He is the spiritual river-source of our lives (John 4).

Other parables leave us reminded that we too, sometimes live like prodigal children having run from the One sent by the Father (Luke 15:11-32).

Life Application

Does this parable help you when dealing with people who do not honor Jesus as Messiah?

An online resource for a listing of Jesus’ teaching through parables is available at: https://www.kevinhalloran.net/a-complete-list-of-jesus-parables-in-the-new-testament/

Thank you for reading. I look forward to any comments or suggestions you care to provide. Thank you as well, for checking out the post in spite of my missing Friday’s usual posting schedule. Life does indeed, sometimes happen–repeatedly!

Animosity Received

Scripture resource Passage: John 15

Animosity sent, received and understood bruises my soul. “I don’t like you and neither does anyone else!” Hard to take.

Many early disciples experienced the brutality revealed in Jesus’ words: “…As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you” (John 15:19b).

Precisely delivered, this truth from the wisdom of Jesus is a sobering insight into the potential life of a disciple.

However, and some might consider it rather technical, should we automatically grant that our Lord meant these words to be all inclusive? Will “the world,” always hate every disciple in each generation? Our reply resides not in the accuracy of Jesus, but in our understanding of “the world’s” identity.

One commentator explained, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Ephesians 6:12). If “the world” is our demonic opponent, then yes, each disciple in every generation shall be hated.

Fortunately, disciples are not expected to live solitary lives. We are called to community, not isolation. Even those of us with the tendencies of introverts, ought always engage in discipleship with community support. Disciples are not called to the Lone-Ranger lifestyle.

The community of the King exists. When operating faithfully she provides appropriate resources even when disciples are being challenged to the point of martyrdom (Revelation 6:9). Many disciples have suffered from the attacks of both non-believers as well as disciple-dressed-antagonists who fancy themselves as doing righteous things. The challenge can be profound (Luke 14:28).

Life Application

Are there prayerful actions you can take this week to sustain the believing community you know best?