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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!

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.

The Imperfect Disciple

Called to Perfection

Easter Week 2021, Inaugural Post

Be perfect as I am perfect.” Scripture’s stunning phrases trouble me. Piercing words expressing the true desire of God. Nothing missing. No voids or lapses. Rather completeness, with holiness and wholeness, living as the human being I am meant to be. I should be saturated with the presence of Almighty God—no sin within or around my soul. 

Trembling at the instruction and yes, many many years as a disciple, I confess to missing the mark. Perhaps you know the be perfect-instruction first occurs in the pages of the Torah—to be specific Leviticus 19 (be holy) and Deuteronomy 18 (be blameless). The readings will not make you happy. To achieve less, to be less, to live in disobedience being less than who God intends—well, it is a reality disciples’ identify as sin.

Each of the English translations for the Hebrew Bible pinpoint the command and I struggle like a moth attached to an insect-display board—be perfect. Later, Jesus will repeat the profound challenge (Matthew 5:48). I am impaled by the pin as it were death. Let no one proclaim grace, without first deeply acknowledging this reality.

On my best days, reaching my highest spiritual potential, I have good qualities; but actually none achieve divine perfection. Let me be clear, some days my thoughts, actions and emotions are spiritually destructive.

Drawing near to the Father, approaching the God of Heaven and Earth enhances my awareness—the vision sharpens. It is as if a cataract cloud of non-seeing is replaced with lenses of clarity. “I was blind…now I see.” Oddly, Scripture reminds me, “If we claim to be without sin [complete, whole, without void], we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us” (1 John 1:8).

Life Applications

  • When our brother John saw his own imperfections he wrote: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us” (1 John 1:9-10).
  • From one imperfect disciple to others, I trust you see the high and holy challenge before us.

To be continued

I look forward to reading your comments and suggestions.

Fools Before Sunrise, The Third Day

April 2, 2021One day after Fool’s Day

Scripture Resource Passage: John 20

During the dark of the moon, looking to the sky on a cloudless night the stars glisten, illuminating faith’s imagination. Only a fool would say, “There is no light.” 

It was as it should have been—early dark of the second morning—then, the blazing light-fire of God kindled and the universe realigned. “Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance” (John 20:1).

We affirm, “Yes, there is light. He is risen as He said.” For us as for all disciples of Jesus, even on that Easter morn, disciples have seen only the first hints of the new day Light, believing He is risen as he said.

A Fool’s Faith-Light

Scripture and heaven’s host proclaim the love ballad of God. Our brother John comes near the end of telling Jesus-stories (the Gospel) adding this note, “…these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name” (John 20:31). 

Life’s Dreariness Threatens

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The nights of Friday and Saturday reveled within their bleak zone. No blaze of His holy presence. No radiant glow of even a bush to burn lest it be consumed. There was only faith’s foolish light.

Each disciple moves through times and days when light seems to flee. Life itself seems determined to ruin us. Such are caused by my own foolishness, at other moments the pretenses of others—who can say? 

Occasionally I sight a star reflecting the Lord’s glory. I find hope. Jim Elliot comes along and like our brother John pens a startling phrase encouraging faith: “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.” On Fool’s Day April 1, 2021 we, the household of faith said, “He is risen as he said.”

Life Application

  • Resurrection Day’s celebration happens Easter Sunday, April 4, 2021. When songs and hymns are presented, which of them will most help you celebrate the truth of Christ’s resurrection?
  • When events darken your life, where do you see the promise of Christ’s Day moving from night sky to blazing light?

The Imperfect Disciple

Initial Post Arrives Easter Week, 2021

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Perfection? What? Surely you jest. As for my discipleship, life continues to be marked with imperfection. To me and possibly you as well, a series delving into The Imperfect Disciple (TID) is precise and appropriate. Please read along as the series develops, offering comments and suggestions as 2021 flows through her days.

The inaugural post arrives next week. Others will appear as they come of age. The regular and weekly Friday posts will continue uninterrupted. As always, my thanks for reading.

Yes, the color orange for the titled banner had to go. WordPress was unable to make the selection work in real time. To each very observant reader, you were not mistaken as I did commit to an orange banner–not everything or everyone works perfectly. Right again: human imperfection. How fitting. If the banner high-lighted first paragraph in this notice is difficult to read on your device, please let me know ASAP.

Grace and peace to each of you

Finding Trees and Bunnies

Finding Peace and Joy

March 26, 2021

Scripture Resource Passages: Acts 13 and Romans 14

Christmas makes me happy. Great foods, solid memories and most years, family gatherings. As you are aware happiness can be secular, thoroughly crafted by the spirit of the times, not necessarily the Holy Spirit of God.  

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Around us individuals and families sang White Christmas with Frank, Bing or Burl (yes, I am an old guy); however, Christmas for some carried no connection with acknowledging the birth of the Anointed One. Easter/Resurrection day is a similar reality. Are they happy? Yes.

Extremely joyful because of Jesus well, not necessarily.

The Scripture Resource passages cited in this post are words from our brothers Luke and Paul. They are not records of Christmas or Easter celebrations but point to truthful realities of great joy. The passages do not include recipes for excellent food. There are no picturesque scenes with Christmas trees or bunnies. Yet, there is abounding joy through the presence of the Spirit. Check them out–poignant emotions and passionate joy are precisely recorded in the two passages.

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High level and deeply intense words of spiritual resonance abound in Scripture’s record describing early adopters of The Way. Both Acts 13:42-52 and Romans 14:13-18 provide clear accounts of troubling conflict contrasting with spiritual presence. First century disciples were not dealing with a pandemic; they were, however, experiencing crushing struggles. You can read the words for yourself and please do not miss the conclusion of the cited paragraphs.

 

Acts 13:42-52

  • The disciples were urged
  • The disciples encountered jealousy
  • A disciple had abuse heaped upon him
  • Some disciples spoke boldly
  • Some disciples were glad and were honored
  • Some disciples encountered artificially stirred up crowds
  • Some disciples encountered persecution
  • Some disciples were finding and filled with joy and the Holy Spirit

Romans 14:13-18

  • Some disciples experienced internal church strife and judgment
  • Some disciples experienced distress
  • Some disciples were in a figure of speech, having their faith destroyed
  • Some disciples were finding peace and joy in the Holy Spirit

Life Application

  • During stress-filled times, how does the Spirit find you?

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

The Imperfect Disciple

Inaugural post arrives Easter Week-April 4, 2021

If you consider yourself spiritually accomplished, more than likely reading or reflecting on posts from The Imperfect Disciple (TID) will not encourage further growth. If, however, your spirituality remains a work in process, please check in, offer suggestions and respond in ways which are meaningful to you. As previously noted posts of TID will not be part of the weekly postings of http://www.woodsedgeonline.com

The colored banner and accompanying image will serve to alert you when a TID posting is available–beginning Easter-week April 4, 2021. Grace and peace to each of you.

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Prayer’s Privilege

March 19, 2021

Scripture Resource Passages: Ephesians 1:15-20; 3:14-21

Our prayers for life, liberty and happiness abound. Listen to disciples praying individually or in groups and you will hear prayers for help, support and assistance. Walk through a hospital’s Intensive Care Unit or Emergency Department and the prayers magnify with intensity. Journey through a Pediatric Neonatal Unit and trauma guides any disciple’s prayers. Oh God, grant wisdom and relief—above all, relief from pain. Personal, poignant and passionate prayers flood our hearts beseeching Heaven for rescue and mercy.

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Prayer is not a small part of our faith. Disciples’ journey inward while holding the prayers of Jesus tightly to our chests. The great prayers found in Scripture fill our lives. Examine the prayers of Paul as he prays for churches and other disciples. Check out Ephesians 1:15-20; 3:14-21 for this post’s readings. 

As you read stay alert for both what is present along with personal and missing concerns. Serving as an example: Paul’s prayers do not include prayers for relief from Roman Emperors. Later, during obvious times of persecution, the Apostle Peter does not pray to be spared from political oppression. Re-read 1 and 2 Peter for any hint of political prayer in the form of a complaint to God. It is missing.

Disciples pay attention to the specific content of all prayers provided throughout God’s Word. We profit by observing what is missing from the supplications which occurred during times we know were challenging. 

Today, a pandemic continues to surge around and in us; and make no mistake—it rages. It is an extreme time. Illnesses, sufferings and deaths reported each day. Disciple’s families, congregations and friends are not somehow exempt from the viral contagion. Given these challenges of what use shall we make of prayer’s privilege?

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Asked in another way: What is there to learn from the prayers recorded in Scripture? As you read the texts be sure to sit with them for sufficient time to absorb both what is being requested and what words might be missing from the prayer-filled pleas.

Life Application: 

Using the time of personal, family, national and international disruption as a prompt, compare your prayerful concerns to those of Jesus and his Scripture writers, noting similarities as well as the kind of prayers which are not paralleled in Scripture.

I am looking forward to reading your comments and suggestions. Grace and peace to each of you.

A Supreme Court Decision

March 12, 2021  

Scripture Resource Passage: John 5:16-30

Lifting up Jesus, raising holy hands and singing, we acknowledge the saving achievement. God’s people are enamored of Him. We celebrate and honor the Father. We desperately seek the Spirit’s movement in our midst; and to Jesus we look for redemption in the supreme court of justice.

Disciples can make this move because rightly understood, as informed by Scripture passages like John 5, God places the highest influence on Jesus.  John writes: “The Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgment to the Son, that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father”(John 5:22-23).

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Seeking ultimate justice in North America, in the United States of America, inevitably includes a threat or a promise to take whatever the issue or circumstance, “All the way to the Supreme Court!” 

God effectively says, “Jesus is Heaven’s Supreme Court. All justice is delivered through Him. Amen!” 

When speaking of the ultimate judgment court in the history of the universe, Scripture sets out the scene with Jesus in solo practice. This is strong language we should immediately grasp. 

Our brother John contributes a stirring statement from Jesus: For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself. And he has given him authority to judge because he is the Son of Man” (John 5:26-27).

Life Applications

  1. To enrich today’s focus, compare John’s recorded emphasis with the words of Heaven in Matthew 3:17
  2. Consider developing specific actions in which you can manifest the supremacy of Jesus.

Justice in the Form of a Person

Coming Friday, March 12, 2021

Trials, impeachments and accusations are often the fodder of frenzied feeding throughout blog sites and other news reports. Accurate? Truthful? Possible? Discerning fact from fabrication (including blatant falsehoods) is not always easy.

This week’s post examines the strategy of God for the delivery of final-justice. I look forward to reading your comments and insights.

Welcome to all new readers.

To you who are offering referrals–my thanks. Grace and peace to each of you.