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!

Evil Does Not Persist

Scripture Resource Passage: Revelation 20:7-10 A very important, though admittedly challenging passage. Please let me know what you make of it.

During today’s troubling hours and in times to come, evil’s foulness will continue. We, the disciples of Christ Jesus sustain faith in many ways including our certain hope: Evil shall not persist! 

Evil shall not persist! Emphatically and enthusiastically Christ Jesus, the proclaiming Herald of Heaven, speaks across time and space. Evil shall not persist! At the highest volume of redemption’s story: Evil shall not persist!

At Messiah’s return in full redemption all troubles pass away. Tears will be no more. Illness and injury are banished. Death disappears (Revelation 21). Evil shall not persist!

Until that day, evil continuously promotes times of trouble (2 Corinthians 4:4). The foul presence rises to challenge individuals. Across the globe like a virus gone wild, cataclysmic events continue infecting humanity. During these times redemption’s Master Story-teller speaks, defining discipleship—do not leave your first love (Revelation 2:4). 

Reading passages like Revelation 20:7-10 documents the foul dragon’s disease laden breath and contagion; but there is also the conclusion of the matter. A resounding hallelujah chorus of thousands even now rehearses the words—evil does not persist!

The times covered in various parts of Christ’s Revelation include sour soul-threatening days (Matthew 24:22). Discerning the scope of what threat occurs at a precise moment may not be Christ’s intention. Whatever stance you prefer in understanding or identifying the two troubling foul figures mentioned in the Revelation 20:7-10 passage (Gog and Magog), celebrate that there is a crowning consummation in salvation history. Evil does not persist!

Today’s evil, and whatever form future’s evil takes, we know this: evil is habitual. Whatever you choose to believe about the opponent of God be sure of this: evil does not persist! Come quickly Lord Jesus!

Life Application

  1. There is good news. “[Which is] like cold water to a weary soul…[and it] is good news from a distant land” (Proverbs 25:25). Being aware of evil’s presence what disciplines have you set in place to be spiritually sustained?
  2. Consider Psalm 43:5 as rich passage to be memorized. Could you write it on your bathroom mirror so that you might see it first thing in the morning or in the wee hours of a sleep-disturbed night? “Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.” Evil does not persist!

The Hallelujah Chorus

Coming Friday, January 22, 2021–a new post emphasizing the transitory nature of evil. We make no mistake when we acknowledge evil’s true presence. We make a profound error when we assume life as it is now, is what life shall always be.

I look forward to completing the post and reading your comments. Stay encouraged. God’s abiding presence sustains.

The “P-word,” Accompanied with Deep Sighs

January 15, 2021

Scripture Resource Passage: Revelation 18–this week’s post is meant to be read as an extension of the post from January 8, 2021.

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Comes The Kingdom, Justice Prevails

Disciples of Jesus wait for God and make no mistake, the waiting will be arduous. But wait we must and the days include discipleship’s final exam—patient endurance, which may be the connecting theme in Revelation 18. We wait for the Day of Him Who is the sure promise of justice. 

Long have God’s disciples waited for that Day. Micah anticipated Revelation’s emphasis with these words: “He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8); with these words God’s disciples were called in covenant law to patient endurance. 

With Babylon’s death (Revelation 18) the victory of righteousness in Christ and justice for all sin-oppressed people will come to pass. Racial injustice tries to claim top billing and center stage as a current and hotly debated emphasis in 21stcentury North America; but sin-troubles have never been limited to life on this continent. 

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Racial injustice rings its tragic tones. Thankfully, like a struck bell with faith-enduring resonance, the Book of Exodus sounds in many African American church traditions. The speeches and sermons of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. are but one source calling disciples to keep eyes on the prize—patient endurance. With Babylon’s death racial justice peals from Revelation 18.

Resonating like a vibrating guitar string, children cry out for safety, food, shelter and water. Disciples have heard the strong invitation of Jesus (Matthew 19:14) overwhelming the practice of keeping children on the side-lines. With Babylon’s death the sounds of age-related injustice vibrate and perish according to Revelation 18.

Replying like an echo from a deep canyon weeping refugees continue circulating around the globe, crossing treacherous waters in flimsy un-seaworthy rigs. The practices of all sin-dispossessed refugees continues repeating itself in many nations. Citizens of heaven and earth will know their new homeland forever. With Babylon’s death justice strides forth as promised in Revelation 18. This too calls for patient endurance.

Grief embattled Rachel weeps for her murdered children, according to the old prophet (Jeremiah 31:15). Jesus comes and the promise calls for renewal (Matthew 2:18). With Babylon’s death the promise of justice for the grieving parents of murdered innocents leaps from promise to fulfillment in Revelation 18. Whisper gently through tears, gently now—patient endurance.

Our brother John may or may not have had Rome in mind portraying the end of “Babylon the great” (Revelation 18:2). Regardless of that discernment, we are absolutely certain of God’s promise “She will be consumed by fire, for mighty is the Lord God who judges her” (Revelation 18:8). Be sure of this: Babylon dies. This too, calls for patient endurance.

Life Application

  1. What do the promises of Revelation 18 mean to you?
  2. Does the waiting of Anna and Simeon (Luke 2:22-38) give us a pattern of patient endurance?

Ah, the “P-word,” Again

Coming Friday, January 15, 2021–a new post emphasizing the “P-word.” This short piece may provoke pithy and deep sighs.

I look forward to your comments and insights. Blessings on your week and lest we forget, please continue to pray for government leadership around the globe. Many, many countries are struggling with oppression and confusion during the early days of 2021. Grace and peace to each of you.

Patient Endurance, A Disciple’s Invitation for Turbulent Times

Scripture Resource Passage: Revelation 14of course, please read the passage before, or as you read the post.

Thunderous Super-naturals, forceful images amidst dramatic scenes flow from the Book of Revelation—God’s message forecefully proclaimed. During turbulent times disciples of Jesus find revealed truths meant for all of life’s seasons.

Accompanying the descriptions of universe-changing events come careful clear calls for faithfulness. “This [meaning the conditions of which John writes] calls for patient endurance on the part of the people of God who keep his commands and remain faithful to Jesus” (Revelation 14:12). John has repeated and doubled down with this emphasis.

Previously, in Revelation 13:10 John reported, “This [a clear attachment to the truths being conveyed] calls for patient endurance and faithfulness on the part of the saints.” We remember that John is serving as Christ’s secretary in writing Revelation. These are clearly the words of our Lord (Revelation 1:1). 

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During Jesus’ life of teaching, the close disciples were called to faithfulness with an agricultural figure of speech. “Jesus…‘No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.’”(Luke 9:62).

Friends, patience endurance, perhaps especially in turbulent times, is always a disciple’s challenge. Consider this passage found in the Book of Hebrews 10:36: “Patient endurance is what you need now, so that you will continue to do God’s will. Then you will receive all that he has promised.”

Our brother James once wrote “Be patient, then, brothers and sisters, until the Lord’s coming….be patient and stand firm, because the Lord’s coming is near…Brothers and sisters, as an example of patience in the face of suffering, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. As you know, we count as blessed those who have persevered. You have heard of Job’s perseverance and have seen what the Lord finally brought about. The Lord is full of compassion and mercy” (James 5:7-11)—beautiful words: compassion and mercy.

Recently, I confessed to limited convictions for precise meanings of the forceful images and dramatic scenes revealed to God’s people in the Book of Revelation. However, my limited conviction of such does not apply to Christ’s instructions for the life of His disciples—patient endurance wraps our faith into a gift for the King; and, I take heart in Christ’s welcome to those with limited understanding (Luke 18:16). 

Life Applications

  1. During the months of a pandemic, during the multiple weeks of political discord in North America what practices of faithfulness do you pursue in daily life? Or simply: what spiritual disciplines keep you moving forward in faith?
  2. Are you a person able to encourage others in their quest for patient endurance?

Spiritual Puzzling for 2021

Scripture Resource Passage: Revelation 11 As always, please the Scripture passage first and maybe even, again at the end of reading the post. You don’t want to be lost or lured into the inadequacies of my mind or any else’s.

My confession: Numerous passages in the Bible leave me puzzling. Three puzzles always show up especially when reading the book of Revelation. First, “What’s happening in this passage?” Number two: “Is there a message here for me?” Number three is a variation: “What is the message for all 21st century disciples?” Honestly, those who tell me they have everything in the Book of Revelation charted, fail to convince me. They will sometimes say, “Look at this chart!”

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                  Today, I’m seeking to discern the astounding images in Revelation 11. I feel like a kid at a circus midway overwhelmed by colors, smells, sonic blasts of uncertain origin and very loud voices. In spite of these feelings, however, I begin with full confidence that Revelation’s descriptions are the providence of Jesus Christ (Revelation 1). 

                  Confessing my limited mental spiritual acuity and being aware of my kid-like mind emphasizes my three original questions. If you find yourself likewise struggling, here’s my strategy: I seek to identify the certainties.

                  The following paragraphs are three examples of Christ’s certainties I find in Revelation 11:1-14. I trust you’ll find them helpful.

                  Certainty of place–Revelation 11 provides me with an understanding that the abode of God has the certainty being a specific place (Revelation 11:1). If a place can be measured, which is the instruction in the text, then it has substance. The temple of God is a place and time I hope to see. I believe eternal life is wherever God resides.

                  Certainty of evil–Revelation 11 emphasizes, as do other Bible passages, the certainty of a spiritual and personal evil. Revelation 11:7 speaks of the certainty of the opponent of God, cursed be his name. Life occurs with evil around us. Crushed beneath Messiah’s heel, life will flee from him (Genesis 3:15). Finally, to my faith, the greatest certainty.

                  Certainty of God’s sovereign power–Revelation 11 encourages me that the certainty of God’s power to bestow “the breath of life,” persists (Revelation 11:11). Echoes resound throughout eternity’s halls encouraging us to reminisce on passages like Genesis 2:7, Ezekiel 37:5-14

                  These things being said, I commend those of my friends who are not content to remain with my meager list of certainties. I am speaking of those who honorably, and with passion, seek greater understanding in the precision of Christ’s Revelation through our brother John. For me, and my most limited mind, I find rest, assurance and faith in God’s sovereignty. God’s sovereignty is the strongest certainty I find in the entire text of Revelation. Truthfully, for me and possibly for you, the certainty of God’s sovereignty is a resting place.

Life Application

  1. Where do you discover a disciple’s call to obedience when Scripture’s metaphors/images are vivid and strong?
  2. Aiding my understanding and deep look into Scripture’s images has been helped by the work of various individuals. Here are three I find reliable: E.W. Bullinger, Figures of Speech Used in the Bible—Though somewhat dated this work remains a classicRobert A. Lowery, Revelation’s Rhapsody; Listening to the Lyrics of the Lamb; D. Brent Sandy, Plowshares & Pruning Hooks, Rethinking the Language of Biblical Prophecy and Apocalyptic. An online search will provide further publication information and purchase opportunities.

Spiritual Puzzling for 2021

Coming Friday, January 1, 2021

Please accept my invitation to gain puzzling-perspective amid persistent particular problematic potentials for the New Year.

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Lest I forget: Thank you for improving the posts and the site itself by joining into the conversation with your comments. Though we’re limited to an online community I trust you’ll find strong encouragement whenever you visit the site. Grace and peace to each of you.

A favorite image you may remember from an April, 2020 post. I look forward to completing the New Year’s post, then receiving your comments on and after January 1, 2021!

God of Surprises; Beyond Exhaustion

Scripture Resource Passages: Luke 2 and Hebrews 12:1-2

Jesus has come! Hallelujah and Amen! Alpha and Omega moves toward humanity but without revelation’s thunder. Yes, He comes in the form of an infant. How odd of the God Who remains, the Lord of Surprises. Jesus arrives in a fashion we could not imagine. God provides a stunning strategy. Observant watchers still ponder the Christ’s birth.

In the 21stcentury any unborn child might be referred to by some, as the product of conception. When disciples and angels review what God has wrought through the Spirit and Mary, we refer to him as Jesus. 

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Disciples now celebrate Christmas morning. Much about the day of long ago remains hidden. We can speculate at the joy or pain Jesus might have felt at the arrival. Scripture remains silent on the issue of his soul’s experience at being born to Mary and Joseph. There are no direct passages which record his interior feelings.

Jesus was greeted, as Scripture records, with the presence of a loving mother and apparently supportive father who made as much preparation as possible. Truly, the details are minimal but Luke 2 certainly sounds like comfort and a warm embrace were waiting. We can wish that the same would be true for all infants. Sadly, even as we wonder about the interior soul of our Lord we can know troubling 21century truths.

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Statistics, from a usually reliable source, document 2019’s birth-stories and describe a disastrous reality. Numbers for the 2020 plagued year of Covid-19 will fill future headlines. Three points document reality.

  • Every day, some 7,000 babies die in the first month of life. In 2019, an estimated 2.4 million newborns died.
  • Globally, worldwide about 810 women die each day from preventable complications related to pregnancy or childbirth.
  • If current trends continue, 48 million children under the age of 5 are projected to die between 2020 and 2030, half of them newborns

Given the startling truths of conception, pregnancy, birth and life’s early years make it all the more startling that as Luke 2 reports, the Christ came to us an infant. If the 2019 statistics are accurate, what might have been the numbers at the time of Christ’s birth? 

While there is not an explanation of the interior soul work of Jesus at his birth Scripture provides a careful explanation of Christ’s work among us; and, the explanation calls us to be filled with determination and conviction alongside the God of Surprises.  And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.…(Hebrews 12:1-2)

Life Application

How important is your personal determination, spiritual conviction, and mental mindset?