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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!

Church Buildings Safe?

September 23, 2022

Scripture Resource Passage: Isaiah 66:1

“Let’s go to church,” he said. Oops.

He should have said, “Let’s go to the church building.” Jesus did not come to redeem stucco and electrical panels. Jesus did not come for steeples or stained glass contrivances. Jesus came for people.

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“Sometimes the very walls of our churches separate us from God and each other. In our various naves and sanctuaries we are safely separated from those outside, from other denominations, other religions, separated from the poor, the ugly, the dying.…The house of God is not a safe place. It is a cross where time and eternity meet, and where we are – or should be – challenged to live more vulnerably, more interdependently.” Madeleine L’Engle

Life Application Question: In your view, what is the value of a church building?

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

Bless A Child

September 16, 2022

Scripture Resource Passage: Matthew 19:13-15

Seems small. A loaf of bread is weensy compared to tanks and wall-busting missiles.

Staunchly refusing to be deterred by size, people are preparing to Bless A Child. You could join.

The logo to look for:

The connection is not complex. The link is provided and active. Please, Bless A Child. If you visit the site, numerous testimonial videos are available or check out the theme on YouTube.

www.samaritanspurse.org

Life Application Intention: Because you believe Christmas proclaims Messiah’s birth, by what means will you celebrate December 25, 2022? Whisper with me: I will Bless A Child.

A Flat Mind

September 9, 2022

Scripture Resource Passage: Romans 12:2

During this week the brain of my body and soul battles a virus. Hopefully this virus, like the others before it, will soon fade. Whenever such invaders blast through my defenses I am dragged to a truthful reminder: ‘Andrew, your brain hosts your mind and when your organic self struggles so too does your mind.’

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My flat mind would like to provide you with a pithy, precise and punctual portion of spiritual insight; but this week I have a brain, torched with a viral presence.

The words of Andreas Knapp push into my hopeful soul: “God’s love for us does not depend on how we present ourselves, morally or otherwise. In fact, the whole life of Jesus indicates that God does not attach conditions to his love. In this light, our emptiness is not a shortcoming, but a vessel that God can fill. Only with empty hands can we receive. Only where we acknowledge our neediness, (or a flat mind) and bring it before God…” [does God typically approach and touch us].

Life Application Question: In your view, what is the value of sickness?

Thank you for reading and may the viruses of our world stay far from your and the ones you love.

Prayer and a Mouse Tail

Friday, September 2, 2022

Scripture Resource Passage: Matthew 6

Prayer’s connection to the Divine exposes my soul; and, if I’m listening, prayer reveals the truth of my life. Like flecks of gold or self-centered flotsam my concerns tell heaven and earth ‘These are his identity.’

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This, then, is how you should pray: Our Father in heaven,hallowed be your name, your kingdom come,
your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.

Frederick Buechner began his novel, On the Road with the Archangel, with Raphael explaining how he delivers prayers to God.

“Some prayers I hold out as far from me as my arm will reach, the way a woman holds a dead mouse by the tail when she removes it from the kitchen. Some, like flowers, are almost too beautiful to touch, and others so aflame that I’d be afraid of their setting me on fire if I weren’t already more like fire than I am like anything else. There are prayers of such power that you might almost say they carry me rather than the other way round. Some prayers are very boring.”  Credit to Lee Eclov for this citation.

Life Application Question

The primary prayers of your life over the last six months focused on…

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

Close to God, When?

August 26, 2022

Scripture Resource Passage: Psalm 23–“Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death…”

Bright days, sunshine bursting flower buds into exuberance, give my soul spiritual relief. Those days are a deep breath of air filling my lungs with escape from turmoil. We all need such times because in case you have noticed, life’s disturbances are real. The classic read, Waiting for Godot, highlights a disciple’s challenge.

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It is when things go wrong, when the good things do not happen, when our prayers seem to have been lost, that God is most present. We do not need the sheltering wings when things go smoothly. We are closest to God in the darkness, stumbling along blindly. There is no such thing as belief without doubt or struggle.” Madeleine L’Engle

Life Application Question

Do you find the underlined phrase from L’Engle to be true?

Thank you for reading. Comments and suggestions are welcome.

The Immediacy of a Child

Friday, August 19, 2022

Scripture Resource Passage: Mark 10:13-16 (please read)

Across the western world arguments of personal rights and abortion legislation overflow news reports. Shouting marchers and placard bearers line sidewalks and spill into the streets. Law enforcement continues to be a buffer with little hope of appreciation or thanks from protestors.

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We are guilty of many errors and many faults,
but our worst crime is abandoning the children,
neglecting the fountain of life.
Many things can wait. Children cannot.
Right now their bones are being formed,
their blood is being made,
and their senses are being developed.
To them we cannot answer, “Tomorrow.”
Their name is today.

Gabriela Mistral

Life Application Questions

Viewed from the perspective of Jesus, in the Scripture passage cited above, what are appropriate responses given the current spiritual currents throughout the developed world?

Is an unborn child important to God?

Special: For each of the pregnant women in Ukraine and other crisis-filled areas of the world we pray: Grace, peace and safety for you and your child.

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

Reading What?, Part 2

August 13, 2022

Scripture Resource Passage: Ecclesiastes 12:11-12 (Note: Yes, I know the old language sounds sexist in today’s environment.) “The words of the wise are like goads, their collected sayings like firmly embedded nails—given by one shepherd. Be warned, my son, of anything in addition to them. Of making many books there is no end, and much study wearies the body.”

The last days of summer approach. Thunderstorms and pounding rains provide extra hazards. If you are searching for a thunderous challenging read, consider raining a Philip Yancey classic into your life. The Jesus I Never Knew, was published in 1995. Online sources make used copies readily available.

My copy looks like the photo below. Billy Graham once said, “There is no writer in the evangelical world I appreciate more.” High praise from a powerful voice who reached out to literally millions of people across multiple continents with diverse cultures. Consider using the close of summer to enrich your life with Yancey’s, The Jesus I Never Knew.

Repeat of last week’s post–Why Should We Read Fiction?

Kathleen A. Mulhern

By reading literature we learn to know ourselves in new ways. Literature can help us to have mercy on ourselves and others, can divest us of the ignorance that places ourselves at the center of the universe, can make possible new ways of understanding our own befuddled choices. Augustine recognized that we cannot know God without first knowing ourselves. In complex characters and broken situations and deeply human conundrums we have space to explore facets of our souls that we hide from ourselves as much as we do from others.

Prayers for the people and country of Ukraine continue.

Read What?

August 5, 2022

Scripture Resource Passage: Ecclesiastes 12:12

Alternate Title for the post: Why Reading?

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By reading literature we learn to know ourselves in new ways. Literature can help us to have mercy on ourselves and others, can divest us of the ignorance that places ourselves at the center of the universe, can make possible new ways of understanding our own befuddled choices. Augustine recognized that we cannot know God without first knowing ourselves. In complex characters and broken situations and deeply human conundrums we have space to explore facets of our souls that we hide from ourselves as much as we do from others.

Thank you Kathleen A. Mulhern for the carefully worded insight;

and, thank you for reading! Comments and suggestions are always welcome.

Waiting Under Grass

July 22, 2022

Scripture Resource Passage: Mark 13 (Please do not skip reading the passage)

Name, dates of birth and death are cleanly cut into the stone. One word appears beneath the name—Waiting.

Shootings blot the American landscape almost every day. Deaths from the guns of evil continue to increase. Children and other innocents are dying. There is little peace and quiet in the Americans or the lands of Europe. Waiting.

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Jesus spoke of such chaotic times with his close followers.

His apocalyptic precision proclaims, “For false messiahs and false prophets will appear and perform signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect” (Mark 13:22). Many will propose solutions which will not be solutions. The number of spiritual charlatans will increase, while we wait.

Other disciples have also seen such days. Their tombstones bear witness. Six feet beneath a cemetery lawn, with feet oriented toward the eastern sky, sleeps a disciple of Jesus. A testimony trenched into granite affirms a disciple’s faith: Waiting.

Some glad morning, in a sky filled with clouds, the Lord of Heaven and Earth returns. We, as it was for the disciples of generations before us, as it will be for those who follow us, wait.

We do not always wait patiently. Our anticipation often exceeds our ability to form just the right words. Our prayers are sometimes groans, words which cannot contain the grief. We are waiting, O Lord.

Life Application Questions

During your times of waiting what personal challenges do you encounter?

Which spiritual resources are helping you while waiting?

Do you have a particular prayer which sustains you in hours of turmoil?

While awaiting the foretold apocalypse what do you believe persists as the work of God’s people?

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