Flowers on the Wall?

Can you imagine? Flowers on the walls? There were certainly guards, swords and fearful workers.

Coming Friday, August 7, 2020 a multi-week study in a portion of the Hebrew Bible emphasizing ethical behavior developed from godly directives.

Many thanks for reviewing the posts (and commenting) as well as recommending the site to others. I appreciate your interest and trust you find the materials encouraging.

The blogs are offered freely. I provide them in the interest of encouraging individuals and small groups to pursue the lifestyle of disciples as apprentices of the Master. Maybe, just maybe someone was planting flowers along the walls–see you Friday.

Special Weekend Edition; Spirituality in the Public Arena

Resource Scripture Passage: “…we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5).

Providing a resource into the broad world of spirituality–across many faith-perspectives–Duke University has an excellent resource-media site which also happens to be available without charge.

dukespiritualityandhealth@gmail.com

Please don’t miss this as a resource–though an individual issue of CROSSROADS may not call your name, choosing to subscribe (again, it is free) helps you be aware of contemporary spirituality discussions. Links in the August, 2020 issue include articles investigating Moral Injury to Health Care Professionals re: the Covid-19 crisis. This edition also features a most timely piece of research: Religiosity Buffers Negative Effects of Police Abuse on Black Adolescents.

Hopefully you’ll find the work of the university’s research team helpful in pursuing your own spirituality. Blessings to each of you and please remember to refer others to: http://www.woodsedgeonline.com

Raising Parents

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Scripture Resource Passage: Ephesians 6:2 

by Brooky Brown

Sarah was conflicted. She was excited, happy, and feeling more than a little guilty. She had done the unthinkable. She’d fallen in love at age 70 after being single for more than 25 years following her divorce. The single life afforded her the opportunity to move back to her hometown to assist her aging parents. Since her dad’s passing, it was just she and her mom walking through their grief and learning to live their new normal. In her opinion, they’d done a rather good job of it. 

But now she was moving 3,000 miles away with her new husband and leaving her mom home alone. She was sure God had blessed their marriage, but what about her mom? 

They tried to get her mother to move with them. But Mom was adamant that wasn’t going to happen. She was not leaving her home.

As Sarah listened to her mom, she discovered what she thought was best for her mother wasn’t at all what her mom wanted or what would make her happy.

How was she supposed to “honor” her mother, as the Bible told her to, when she would be living so far away?

Together she and her husband worked out a plan for Sarah to fly home for three months during the worst of Midwest winters and her husband would come and go as work allowed. They thought it was a good idea.

Mom thought it was ridiculous. 

“Listen,” she said. “When you get married it’s forever. When you’re young that’s a long time. At your ages, forever isn’t that long so you need to be together all the time.”

Sarah was frustrated. How could this tiny 90-pound woman be so stubborn?

In her 90s, Sarah’s mom was fiercely independent and basically self-sufficient. She still drove and she was a good driver, so she could get her own groceries and go out to eat when she wanted to. What worried Sarah most was the isolation her mom would endure and the toll it would take on her mind. She knew once or twice a year visits wouldn’t counteract that. So, she enlisted the help of friends, neighbors, and family to check in with her mom frequently. She also vowed to call her mom daily. That was the best Sarah could do given the determined little woman wouldn’t budge.

Life Applications:

  • Have you had to change any of your preconceived ideas about honoring your parents while helping them through their advanced years?
  • Is it possible honoring your parents requires listening to them as you strive to help them achieve their dreams? Are you surprised they still have dreams even when they’re “older than dirt?”

About the author: Brooky Brown is a retired journalist.

Spiritual Awareness in Dangerous Times

Scripture Resource Passage: Esther 9

                  Violent plots, angry words lead to a deadly hanging: may not be what you had in mind when reading today’s Resource Scripture Passage. Friends, the Book of Esther is not a gentle pat-on-the-head from a Grandfather God. The words scream, describing the foul profanity of anticipated mass murder. 

                  Esther’s book is a solid reminder that violence is not limited to the centuries we know best or to the current social upheavals being experienced around the globe. The determined effort of a few disciples and the veiled presence of the Almighty were absolutely necessary to avoid disaster. For the full context consider reading chapters 1 through 8 as well as today’s passage.

                  Esther chapter 9 does not make for dainty-time reading. There is no laughter when in God’s view, humanity fouls itself with fear and evil. In this story intrigue and political power are meant initially for destruction. Genocide is the promise. Ethnic cleansing is the moniker for mass murder.  Homes and businesses will be destroyed. Innocent children are to be killed—all in the name of religious and political correctness. How will the followers of God respond?

                  Even if you read Esther 9 without considering the earlier parts of the story visualize a vital detail: a scheme is in process. Throughout the kingdom ruled by Xerxes God’s people are to be killed—from the youngest to the oldest. A hanging is scheduled for faithful Mordecai. A seventy-five-foot-high gallows is the gibbet which will suspend him with a broken neck, and as a public forerunner preceding the national slaughter. 

                  Then, and quite suddenly, the story moves with a hurricane force wind of the Spirit. The gallows are used on the builder—the Schemer himself.

                  Please be aware that Esther and Mordecai’s story should be taught with care and with mindfulness of the age group. Within Scripture’s historical record a father is killed, as are ten of his children. Though the account does not tell us directly, disciples have long suspected God was acting behind the scenes to prepare and alter the Schemer’s plans. In addition to Mordecai’s role Esther strides directly in the turmoil answering the question of spirituality for such a time as this—troublesome times. 

Life Applications                 

  • If you were asked to construct a single sentence describing a central truth from Esther 9 what would it be?
  •  As a resource on the involvement of disciples in the political arena check out, Paul Marshall, “Politics,” in The Complete Book of Everyday Christianity, eds. Robert Banks and R. Paul Stevens, Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 1997, pp. 767-773.

Spiritual Awareness in Dangerous Times

Coming Friday, July 24, 2020

Friends, thank you for sharing the site information with your online communities. Welcome to the newest readers–glad you found the site.

The studies and resources in each of these postings are available without charge for your personal use and in small group settings. Previous postings remain accessible for your review and potential use.

Blessings to each of you.

Holiness, Illusive Pursuit

Scripture Resource Passage: Ephesians 5:1 (Berean Study Bible)

            William Law identified the personal and church-wide challenge to holiness in his long ago book titled, A Serious Call to a Devout and Holy Life. You may find Law’s book difficult to read, given that it appeared in 1729. He captures the major themes in today’s Scripture Resource Passage. 

            The high challenge to disciples: “Be imitators of God…” (Ephesians 5:1). To which we might say, “Who me? Live totally like Jesus? Holiness and all? Really?”

            The specific instruction reminds me that my spiritual challenge is living precisely as would Christ Jesus. 

            The list of specific behaviors (from the surrounding sentences) are daunting, and disturbing, if considered in isolation from other truths. Each of us know no one will perfectly imitate Jesus. 

            I certainly will not make the grade—in fact no one has ever accused me of living precisely like Jesus. One person did tell me, “We never thought you were the Messiah.” To which I replied, “Neither did I!”

            Scripture agrees and disciples of Jesus confess, “…all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God…” Fortunately, Scripture then adds, “…and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus” (Romans 3:23-24 NIV). However, let no one run to the grace-message without serious consideration of God’s holy calling. 

            While emphasizing grace as God’s gift through Jesus Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit, we do not want to lessen the seriousness of God’s call. 

            Please notice there is indented or italicized text, in your well edited New Testament portion of Ephesians 5, which calls attention to God’s documented anger. Seven hundred years before the Ephesian letter appeared for the churches, Isaiah was God’s voice calling His people to a faithful life. Isaiah 51:17 and 52:1 are two passages which provide instruction as well as warnings to all generations.

 Life Application

Where and when do you find holiness in your life?

Likewise, where and when do you find yourself most likely to disobey God?

Spiritually Filled Shrewdness

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            Scripture Resource Passage: 1 Peter 2:25

Election season is upon us in America. We should ask: What’s leadership to do with being a disciple of Jesus? 

            Truth is, just as it was in first century days, leaders continue to dance our lives. Their music is not always pleasant. Their harshness can be caustic—burning souls nearby. While remaining hopeful we also listen to reality’s true-truth-filled lyrics.

            Today’s posting is a Bible study—hopefully you will find it helpful. In writing, I did not want it to be technical; but I did want it to be accurate. With that study point acknowledged, we’re off—I hope you puzzle through and ponder the post.

            Correcting church flaws while encouraging individual disciples, a close follower of Jesus wrote letters to the young church in the city of Ephesus and personally to a young leader, Timothy. 

            The letters provide outlines for leadership groups as well as emphasizing Gospel truths. By the time of the letters (approaching thirty years since the death, burial and resurrection of Christ), many churches had organized themselves; however, some churches apparently selected leaders in a haphazard manner. 

            Using the historic term typically associated with a person who had lived for multiple decades Paul (the close follower mentioned earlier) wrote of the personal characteristics for a leader, an “overseer—episkopos.” Naming an individual as an “overseer,” provided a connection with leadership models in the Jewish tradition of acknowledged older adults. 

            Navigating culture always requires  spiritually filled shrewdness and age-advised wisdom (Matthew 10:16). First century churches were taught they needed mature leaders who understood God’s fulfilling work through Jesus Christ. Sounds logical if you are going to be a church.

            Through Paul’s letters God provides a straightforward series of basic instructions (Ephesians, 1 & 2 Timothy), helping the church(es) identify individuals possessing such competency. To the first century churches God seems to be saying, “Your new leaders should at least look like this.” 

             However, the spiritual expectations (they are never called qualifications) specifically found in 1 Timothy 3:1-16  are oddly no more than individual disciples should possess. Read them over carefully and please leave the marriage challenge for another day (there’s more involved than is immediately obvious).         

            If you are looking for lofty standards of behavior based in the psychology of Jesus, then consider the Sermon of the Mount recorded in Matthew 5-7. This is not to minimize the Ephesus or Timothy letters; but, leads to a profound image of the Christ as Overseer—episkopos (1 Peter 2:25). 

            The holy calling for spiritually filled, aged, shrewd overseers is not found in Ephesians or Timothy’s letters. My transition: The calling is given with a harsh observation and actually written to another group of first century disciples.

             “For you like sheep were going astray, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer—the episkopos of your souls” (1 Peter 2:25 NIV).

            Leaders of boards, mayors and councils of cities, leaders in metropolitan areas, provincial heads, governors of states, leaders of nations and yes, churches ought to know their standards and services are best when they mirror the Overseer, the spiritually filled, aged One, who manifests the shrewdness of God—Jesus—the episkopos of our souls. 

Life Application

When you think of an upcoming election what does today’s post have to do with every appointed or electoral office?

Looking Within Your Soul

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by D. Brent Sandy

Ready for scalpel? Not so fast my friend—how did you come to the awareness that surgery was needed and might be helpful?

Preparation: In our lives many of us have made a visit to a health-care facility for at least one of the following tests.

  • An X-ray: beams of energy are sent through the body, which, when blocked by bones or other body parts, partially reveals what’s inside.
  • CT scan: X-ray beams rotate around the body, creating 3D images, which provide another insight into the composition of our bodies.
  • An MRI: strong magnets and radio waves affect atoms in the water molecules within the body’s tissues, making it possible to detect various issues.
  • An Ultrasound: sound waves are sent into the body and, because different tissues reflect sound waves differently, add to our understanding of what is inside.
  • Nuclear imaging: injections of tiny amounts of a radioactive material release radiation, providing another internal picture of the body.
  • PET scan:radioactive sugar is injected into the body, and when cancer cells take up the radioactive substance, they expose themselves.

These impressive tools permit medical staff to see what is inside us. Might there be something equally valuable in revealing what is spiritually inside our souls?

The sharpened scalpel: Scripture reveals itself as a wondrous spiritual tool: “The word of God is living and active. Sharper than a two-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit…it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12).

Keeping a medical based analogy for contemporary readers, perhaps we may paraphrase the passage this way: “The word of God is a two-edged scalpel.”  With this scalpel a soul is uncovered, and “laid bare before the eyes of [God]…” (Hebrews 4:13b). 

Startling paraphraseThe word of God is a two-edged scalpel.

Life Application Questions

  1. When you look inside your soul (preparation) what do you see and, what would you like to do (the sharpened scalpel) about your vision?
  2. When God looks inside your soul (preparation) what can be seen and, what would God like to do for you (the scalpel)?

D. Brent Sandy, Ph.D., is the author of Plowshare & Pruning Hooks, Rethinking the Language of Biblical Prophecy and Apocalyptic. InterVarsity Press Academic, 2002. Available on Amazon.com.

The Spirituality of Clothing

Scripture Resource Passage: Colossians 3:17

                  The Johannsen family consists of Roberta who is a single mom and three adolescents. Rachel is thirteen, Ron is fifteen, and Robert is seventeen years of age respectively. Roberta acknowledges that encouraging spiritual values with her teenagers is a challenging process. 

                  Insightful and helpful spiritual wisdom for adolescents may come from parents or peers. We also know the power of market-place advertising and the significance of peer pressure. Teens (and each of us) can benefit from spiritually appropriate input, when it is delivered at precisely the right time.

                  Believing in seizing a teachable moment Roberta continues making solid investments of time and conversation with her children. Following a church-youth-group encounter Roberta wisely listened and talked her children. Part of the weekend emphasis had included a discussion of appropriate clothing styles.

                  Roberta asked a friend, “How do I help my daughter, who faces the pressure of adolescence, think through decisions about her appearance?”

                  She continued, “I want to do more than say ‘No, you can’t wear that!’ I want her to think about the spirituality of clothing.”

                  She asked her friend, “Did I really say ‘the spirituality of clothing?’” 

                  She explained, “I also have to find a way to include my boys in this conversation. I’m not sure how to work this into our family time.”

                  Individual families and the family of nations often choose to ignore fundamental spiritual instructions. The disaster outlined in the classic book The Lord of the Flies by William Golding gives a clever account of events which occur without maturing spiritual guidance. Likewise, the challenge of early (or late) adolescent years is not lessened simply because a family chose the spiritual values of Jesus.

Life Application 

  • As Roberta continues to be a single mom, what encouragement would you give her in conversations with her children?
  • What do you think of Roberta’s identifying: the spirituality of clothing?