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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!

Coram Deo

May 13-14, 2022

Scripture Resource Passage: Matthew 19:16-30

Self-awareness of spiritual poverty is not a 21st century phenomena. In the days before the betrayal, arrest and sentencing of Jesus, a person-standing Coram Deo, “In the presence of God” asked,What do I still lack?” (Matthew 19:20). 

If you are willing, in this 21st century season just a few weeks after Resurrection Sunday, each disciple may ask of the Risen Christ, “What do I still lack?” The setting in which this question was first asked arrives in today’s Scripture.

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The first asking of this question occurred as a wealthy young man encountered Jesus. His was the apparent self-satisfaction of Law-keeping coupled with a religious appearance. “What do I still lack?

Jesus’ response was personal. Jesus’ response penetrated the soul—cutting like a sharpened two-edged sword.  Please read it for yourself. If I am willing, Coram Deo in the presence of God, I may also ask: “What do I still lack?”

While we rushed toward Resurrection Sunday on April 17, 2022 there was an earlier walk, a first century walk on the Via Dolorosa.  The cross was carried. Wounds dripped blood onto stones. The sure footsteps of Jesus made the walk certain—Coram Deo.

Life Application Questions

What would prompt you to ask the question?

A disciple’s self-examination is wisely counseled by at least two New Testament writers. See: 2 Corinthians 13:5; 2 Peter 1:10-11.

What would your response be if in asking, God made it clear to you about a direction or instruction for your life?

The One

May 6, 2022

Scripture Resource Passage: Matthew 4

A healer, One who made the lame walk and brought vision to the blind—he was in their midst. The eyewitness accounts and testimonies were credible but almost impossible to believe.

Mary spoke to Martha. Martha told her neighbor. Caleb met with Matthew. They decided to ask their friend and physician Luke, if he wanted to go along with them. Together they would check out this man of Galilee about whom everyone was talking.

News about him spread all over Syria…” (Matthew 4:24a). The words came without benefit of today’s social media. The wonder was profound. Words were flashing like lightning.

Nearby, a few tax collectors were surprised to hear stories of the One being repeated by their vertically challenged friend. Another tax collector reported that while assessing some Galilean fishermen, they had told him a wild story; but, he added, “Who can believe anything fisherman say?”

These folks and others, “brought to [the One]…all who were ill with various diseases, those suffering severe pain, the demon-possessed, those having seizures, and the paralyzed; and he healed them. Large crowds from Galilee, the Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea and the region across the Jordan followed him” (Matthew 4:24b-25).

Life Application Questions

If Jesus came to your house what would it be like?

If Jesus walked through your neighborhood what would happen?

If Jesus came to Kosciusko County what would happen?

If Jesus came to Syria today what would headline the news reports?

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

Certain Uncertain Times

April 29, 2022

Scripture Resource Passage: Matthew 24

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Wars roar. https://www.cnn.com/europe/live-news/russia-ukraine-war-news-04-27-22/index.html

Volcanoes erupt. https://www.cnn.com/videos/world/2022/01/17/tonga-volcano-eruption-orig-tp-jc.cnn

Videos from Ukraine and Tonga are compelling. Are these signs of an imminent and ultimate divine intervention?

Jesus urges all disciples to precisely engage in understanding Earth’s events. “Now learn this lesson from the fig tree: As soon as its twigs get tender and its leaves come out, you know that summer is near” (Matthew 24:32).

Softly Jesus speaks, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but  my words will never pass away” (Matthew 24:35). Thus, we ask, “Jesus, could this be part of a final scene?”

Citizen-disciples of both Europe and the island nation of Tonga are allowed to ask this question as rocket launches and earthquakes move Earth. God whispers—listen to Jesus.

Volcanoes and wars continuously shatter life and the planet’s ecology. As servants of Christ, given that we do not know the epoch, millennia, century, decade, year, month, day, hour, minute or millisecond of His return, how shall we then live?

Jesus explains with a strong business management analogy: “Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom the master has put in charge of the servants in his household to give them their food at the proper time? It will be good for that servant whose master finds him doing so when he returns” (Matthew 24:45-46 emphasis added). We engage our world with tasks spiritually discerned.

Faithful disciples continue living their faith through the horrors of wars, volcanic eruptions, illnesses, injuries and the stuff of day-to-day life. Sometime earlier Jesus forever clarifies living as a disciple. “Seek first the Kingdom of God…” (Matthew 6:33). The certainty-certifying instruction from Jesus carries no time or culture stamp—the instruction applies.

Life Application Questions

When uncertain times of turmoil are occurring what is your usual response?

Given God’s sovereignty what do you believe about today’s volcanic eruptions?

Given God’s sovereignty what do you believe about today’s wars?

Regardless of turmoil or catastrophe, which of your lifetime discipleship plans are worth pursuing in each decade of your life?

Are there other words of Jesus which prompt your response during uncertain times?

Thank you for reading and praying for Ukrainians and the people of Tonga.

Ukraine remains top-of-mind; however, the people of Tonga have slipped into oblivion of the news cycles.

Comments and suggestions are welcome.

Water Fish Bread

April 22, 2022

Scripture Resource Passage: Matthew 14

Many times disciples wish Jesus would intervene. The current tumult happening in and around Ukraine is no exception. Afghanistan is reportedly wild with hunger. We wish Jesus would immediately and providently bring relief. Jesus at one time did intervene. Do we wait on divine transactions for solutions?

Desperate for water and something to eat. Anything would have helped; for the children something nutritious would be best. Moving into a deserted area there was not much anyone could do.

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Was there an overlooked resource? “As evening approached, the disciples came to him and said, ‘This is a remote place, and it’s already getting late. Send the crowds away, so they can go to the villages and buy themselves some food. Jesus replied, ‘They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat.’” (Matthew 14:15-16).

A committed group of disciples, focusing on their limited resources gave this reply: “We have here only five loaves of bread and two fish…” (Matthew 14:17). A question of faith: Will Jesus intervene in behalf of hungry people? On this occasion, but not every time then or now, Jesus provides for the 5,000+ who followed him.

Throughout history disciples have seen people in prison, people in need of food and water, people without safe housing, people suffering with illnesses and people in need of clothing. Some disciples view the events recorded in Matthew 14 as prompts to model the behavior of Jesus in caring for people. If there’s a teaching at this point, the instruction is to the disciples, not the crowds.

Life Applications

When an opportunity to help arises what is your response?

Do you have access to holy and spiritual resources?

Do people’s needs exceed your personal ability to meet those needs?

Are resources available to meet some of the needs you see?

Thank you for reading. Comments and suggestions are welcome.

Blessings to each of you.

Easter Prayers; Not a Bunny In View

Good Friday, April 15, 2022

Scripture Resource Passage: “He is risen as He said”

Evil stalks many lands. We mourn the ongoing tragedies.

Ukraine’s church buildings are not to be filled on Resurrection Sunday. Disciples accustomed to gathering in normal places may have to seek new settings.

Those disciples long to see the conflict end, and a return to safety for their nation. We support their prayers asking God to hear their cries.

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What of the disciples who are citizens of Russia? Where and how shall they gather? What will form the content of Easter?

A strategy (for the Russian disciples) might be found within a horrific episode from another nation. Hopefully the following links and resources will work for you as we sincerely pray for all disciples. The report is from a legitimate Wikipedia article.

“A limited number of Protestants, such as Karl BarthDietrich Bonhoeffer and Wilhelm Busch,[15][16] objected to the Nazis on moral and theological principles; they could not reconcile the Nazi state’s claim to total control over the person with the ultimate sovereignty that, in Christian orthodoxy, must belong only to God.[17]

Thank you for reading.

May the blessings of the Christ’s Resurrection sustain you.

Comments and suggestions are always welcome.

Personal Demonic Presence

Friday, April 8, 2022

Scripture Resource Passage: Matthew 9 

Reading today’s passage connects you with a spiritual power-encounter. Two blind men and one with a speech impediment are on the scene. The following reflection provides an entryway into investigating such occurrences, and today’s troubling international events.

Each illness cannot be clearly connected to demonic influence. Similarly, not all national conflicts can be written off as merely our human lust for power.  However, revealed within political structures evil can be realized with bullets or rocket attacks.

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While they were going out, a man who was demon-possessed and could not talk was brought to Jesus. And when the demon was driven out, the man who had been mute spoke” (Matthew 9:32-33a). Spiritual reality is truthful. There is a personal demonic presence in our world.

Sometimes, but certainly not every time, God brings healing to desperate people. Could the same be said of nations? Today’s passage documents an occasion when two blind men, and one who could not speak, were healed.

We would do Jesus an injustice were we to directly attribute all speech impediments to a personal demon. However, disciples must likewise not automatically dismiss evil’s presence at either personal or national levels.

Precisely how each individual’s life, or the lives represented by a nation are influenced with evil remains beyond our spiritual awareness. We know that today’s international waves of war are indeed tsunami’s of chaos and death. Are these waves merely a human lust for power? Consider the following Life Application Questions as entry points for praying through today’s Scripture passage.

Life Application Questions

What spiritual values help you remain hopeful when illness dominates?

What are your beliefs about the origins of illness?

Which spiritual practices help sustain your determination to follow Christ?

Is today’s personal and national violence exposing tectonic shifts in the powers of evil?

If your country was being invaded by an armed force, which spiritual resources would help you?

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

Let prayers for peace and the healing of the nations persist.

Spiritual Mosquitoes

Friday, April 1, 2022

Scripture Resource Passage: Matthew 14

Bible in hand, I sit down ready to read. My occasional journal is ready for fresh ink. I come to these moments seeking God’s guidance.

Without speaking aloud I address God. “Lord, You are Sovereign. I am here to listen. I am your servant. My heart is open. My mind is ready. May the presence of Christ and your Spirit direct me.”

My spiritual strategy of heart-guarding also includes times of quiet when I don’t read or write. I am silent. I intentionally sit in a comfortable place, with my feet on the floor listening for words from the Spirit—gathering what I hope is spiritual discernment.

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The mosquito arrives, buzzing my left ear. A person rings our doorbell. Then, I forgot to turn off the phone. Its insistent ring reminds me I am meeting with a special person in a few hours. My memory flies to the thought that perhaps there’s been a change of plans. There’s that mosquito again.

My quiet plan to hear God shatters like an ice cube dropped from twenty feet. Pieces of my soul are every-where and no-where. I apologize to God promising myself that in the future I’ll do better at eliminating interruptions. Afterall, could there be value in spiritual interruptions?

The wisdom of seeking solitude draws from the model of Christ. Matthew records Christ’s attempt to avoid such disruptions in these words: “When Jesus heard what had happened [the arrest of John], he withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place. Hearing of this, the crowds followed him on foot from the towns.When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed their sick” (Matthew 14:13-14 emphasis added).

Life Application Questions

Do you believe there is a need for solitariness?

Can you identify the events leading up to Jesus’ search for a solitary place?

Was the withdrawal to a solitary place meant to benefit Jesus?

What could be the value of a spiritual interruption?

Thank you for reading. I appreciate your attentiveness to these posts.

Comments and suggestions are always welcome.

Fishing Smells

Friday, March 25, 2022

Scripture Resource Passage: Matthew 4

Imagine the smells of a fishing business. Doesn’t seem like a fragrance particularly aligning with God’s holiness. See the holy Presence. Raw sunburned hands, eyes squinting against the hard diamonds of the sun’s reflection from Galilee’s waters, then suddenly Jesus. “You guys. Yes, you. I want you.”

Listening for the Spirit and hearing God’s Voice calls for our response. Sometimes God’s voice speaks in the cool wind of a day. Sometimes God’s voice thunders from Sinai. One sunny afternoon God’s voice was an invitation to change fishing tactics.

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The voice came during a work-day. “As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. ‘Come, follow me,’ Jesus said, ‘and I will send you out to fish for people.’ At once they left their nets and followed him” (Matthew 4:18-19).

Working your daily routine is ordinary stuff. Does God interrupt ordinariness with the extraordinary?

We believe Jesus continues calling people from ordinariness to the extraordinary. Jesus calls and if we listen while responding with willingness, we can potentially become our true selves.

Life Applications

Do you find it difficult to discern God’s voice?

What is your pattern of behavior when seeking God’s voice?

What circumstances enhance your ability to discern the call of Jesus?

Did the responses of Peter and Andrew influence James and John (Matthew 4: 20-22)?

Do disciples sometimes fail to respond to God’s voice?

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

Praying for Ukraine and the sadness of lives lost remains a priority.

Grace and peace to each of you.

Bleeding Woman

March 17, 2022

Scripture Resource Passage: Matthew 9

Matthew 9 is busy series of events. Heartfelt stories of compassion, belief and evil. Matthew presents a compelling compendium of pulsating life and truths about Jesus. Note how Matthew 9:1-26 unfolds.

First up—During a busy time of personal interactions and group pressure Jesus provides an insight into the Son of Man. Here also is a reminder that human beings have a capacity for thoughts, feelings and actions which carry the potential for good, but also evil—Matthew 9:1-8.

The opening account is quickly followed with a story of an individual’s hidden spiritual desire—Jesus saw a man, with spiritual longings, at his place of work. Jesus’ insight is correct and confirmed as we observe the quick response which occurs within a tax collector—Matthew 9:9.

Third story—Jesus contrasts two kinds of religious, possibly spiritual people. Some folks miss the point entirely, but mean well. Others miss the point, thus Jesus helps them with an analogy—You can see it for yourself by comparing Matthew 9:10-13 to Matthew 9:14-15.

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Finally—Jesus brings relief to a person with chronic suffering. While some men might have run from a bleeding woman, Jesus exudes compassion for her. He does this literally while traveling to bring relief for a family to whom death became an unwelcome reality—Matthew 9:18-26.

Life Application Questions

Was Jesus care for a bleeding woman unusual?

 In this rapid fire series of scenes is there a clear message being presented?

Do any of the encounters with Jesus deepen your understanding of God’s presence?

Do any of the encounters with Jesus leave you with continuing questions?

What do we learn from the variety of people who are met by Jesus and given personal attention?

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

Pray for Ukraine. The needs are profound.

Pray Continuously

Week of March 6, 2022

Scripture Resource Passage: 1 Thessalonians 5:17

What does it means to pray continuously? Is there a direct opportunity to enflesh these prayers?

Image of the original pen and ink drawing by Albrecht Dürer

Give purposefully—prepare an offering, give with discernment and avoid being scammed

Seek guidance—check in and listen to those you have long considered discerning disciples

Among credible groups who will be praying as they proactively engage our world consider: http://www.samaritanspurse.org

Thank you for reading and yes, praying continuously. It is a challenging spiritual discipline–at least for me. Ukraine’s people and land are not the least of those in need.

Today’s post is the sole missive from http://www.woodsedgeonline.com this week.

Grace and peace to each of you.