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!

Tough Teaching for Serious Disciples; Marriage Controversy from the Long Ago

Scripture Resource Passage: Ezra 10

Does God know best? Truly, we ask, “Does God know best?” Reading today’s Scripture Resource Passage will not make you happy. The passage screams with discrimination and discrimination toward women.

Highlight the following: If you’re not in a good soul-place, it might be best to read a more gentle passage, something like Psalm 23. Ezra 10 is neither simple, soul-satisfying or uncomplicated. Consider yourself warned, if you choose to read it. I choose not to walk idly by this passage, though it makes me uncomfortable. Frankly, for me, it is a very tough passage. Welcome to the challenge.

When a child does not listen or fails to pay attention it may be irresponsible behavior. Defiant behavior happens when you are looked in the face and a forbidden occurs. 

Imagine someone saying, “Some of the things God says are really tough; and God probably does not really mean it like it sounds.”  “After all,” the same someone proclaims, “Following God should be uncomplicated and really just a matter of choose-‘n-pick.” Meaning: we choose and then pick which of God’s instructions we obey.

Many individuals and nations have tried this approach—selecting the choose-n-pick strategy to God’s specific instructions. Does it surprise you to know that every group, in addition to some of God’s so-called leaders, have advocated choose-‘n-pick? 

An ominous Scripture reading occurs in Ezra 9 and 10. The episode (from the days of Nehemiah thus the emphasis at this point because of the Thoughtful Study Series) is a shaming report of times during which the people followed God’s instructions when they felt like it. Here is the context and it is a tough teaching. To God’s people, the Hebrew people of that time, marriage with anyone outside of the family of Abraham, was forbidden. 

Specifically, from the earliest days (Genesis 24) there is a strong bias for marriage to occur only within the family of faith. Many years later, during the time of the Exodus, Scripture documents a straightforward assertion of that which will happen should the people of Israel (moving into the Land of Promise), violate God’s instruction (Exodus 34). 

Other passages (Deuteronomy 7) are an insistent communication regarding marriage. Again, no ole choose-n-pick here. As you read the Bible accounts of Moses, Esau, Joseph (yes, that Joseph), David and Solomon, God’s clearly worded instructions are ignored. The instructions were not lost in complicated language—there was defiant disobedience. Deuteronomy records the instruction: “Do not intermarry with them. Do not give your daughters to their sons or take their daughters for your sons….” 

Possibly one hundred years after those words were given Joshua reiterated the same instruction from God (Joshua 23). Not a ‘Follow this instruction if you agree;’ or, ‘Think about this, you might find it helpful.’ Simply ‘Don’t marry outside the faith.’

The words are easy. Read them in contemporary English or stretch back into the original language of the Hebrew Bible, the words are straightforward. Choose-‘n-pick is not an option. Now you know the context of why following God in the times of Nehemiah was intensely and extensively complicated. 

Life Application

  • Disciples ought to ask themselves: Are there times I play choose-‘n-pick with God?

Leadership with Instructions

If you are just joining this series, reviewing the previous week’s blog posts will orient you to this mid-point pause of reflection. Thank you for reading!

As conductor Peter’s leadership role is responding to the composer’s composition. His task features the necessity of guiding orchestra members in a faithful presentation—a performance. As a conductor he accepted this responsibility. The cadence, the flowing movement of song and lyric together can provide wondrous harmony.

            For Peter Johansson, and the orchestra, each note in three-quarter time, from a whole note to a demihemidemisimquaver (a 256thnote), as well as any corresponding rest(s) is/are vital. Otherwise, the composer would not have put them into place.

            As the conductor Mr. Peter Johansson accepts that his job resides in keeping the other musicians focused on following the composer’s direction. The Composer is to be trusted.

            God’s leaders, in the context of Nehemiah’s story which we have been following in recent weeks, are conductors. A leader’s task is not writing an original script or new musical score for God’s people. Leaders are responsible for following the Composer’s composition for the era in which they live. 

Life Applications

  • Have you decided: What is the value (for today’s disciples) to posses a historical record like the Book of Nehemiah?
  • Are you able to identify particular instructions from God’s script meant for you?
  • Blessings on your conducting-life! 

Social Injustice

Leadership, Plugging the Leaks

Scripture Resource Passage: Nehemiah 5

            Living in a time of thundering silence Nehemiah is willing to speak. He provides a voice for the voiceless. He champions oppressed people. He does so fully aware that his commitment will not be popular; at least it will not be popular in the court yards of oppressors. It is fair to ask: What’s in this record for 21stcentury disciples?

            Today’s reading from Nehemiah (5:1-13) amplifies the counter point of moral justice—moral injustice. It was a time when leaders abandoned virtue and vulnerable people suffered. Social turmoil, racial discrimination and lousy political leadership were society’s guiding forces. Disenfranchised people were crying out in pain because of injustices authored by those in power. The scenes are as contemporary as racial turmoil in the 21stcentury and just as painful. What’s in this Scripture-record for today’s disciples?

            As you might guess, there is more to our difficulties than Nehemiah’s story can resolve. Peer inside any family or any of Scripture’s many books. Each story you see or read contains enough moral failure to sink a ship. Families leak water continuously. No amount of bailing is sufficient. Moral courage is conspicuous by her absence. What’s in Nehemiah’s records for today’s disciples?

            If only someone would speak and say, “Plug the leaks!” Good news—there is a leak-plugger, a seam-filler, an obedient courage-filled servant of God who in a time of near total devastation speaks — “No more!” That someone is Nehemiah. In spite of society’s turmoil, one person makes a difference and life changes.

            Nehemiah, when confronted with systemic graft, abuse of power, racial scheming, and outright fraud speaks: ‘This is evil.’ Nehemiah looks like Jesus. Thank you Nehemiah for your faithful discipleship in the days before the coming of Messiah. 

            Four questions to encourage your personal application of today’s passage are presented below.

Life Application Questions

  1. What examples of injustice do you see around you?
  2. During times of controversy what helps you know it is time speak up?
  3. Have you witnessed an example of moral courage within your family or on a national level?
  4. Is there a message for each generation’s disciples in Proverbs 31:8-9?

Weekend Extra for Courage, Opposition, Fear

Continue discovering spiritual encouragement through the current Thoughtful Study Emphasis by investigating Hand Me Another Brick.

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Hand Me Another Brick: Building Character in Yourself and Others is available through numerous online sellers and on Kindle. Though published many years ago (1983) the resource is solid, timely and leads readers whose interests include spiritually based character formation. Charles Swindoll writes clearly and in a helpful manner. Consider adding it to your resources. Cost (at last check) ranged from $2 to $6 on Amazon Prime and other sellers.

Blessings on your weekend.

woodsedgeline.com receives no money for encouragement to purchase this resource

Courage, Opposition, Fear

Scripture Resource Passage: Nehemiah 4

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            The Bible has construction reports? Yes, including a construction report with spiritual values which calls for lioness-like determination. 

            Hopefully, your personal fear-level is completely unlike the City of Jerusalem in the days of Nehemiah. Their fearfully begun construction project required courage as well as cooperation.

            Yet, there is more. The armed-ready-to-kill-you-opposition plots sabotage (Nehemiah 4). 

            To all these things God appears to say ‘Be courageous, physically alert and spiritually strong for your adversary does indeed know your address!’

            To the people who share the labor of rebuilding Jerusalem Nehemiah might have invoked a powerful analogy: ‘Have the tenacity of one of God’s great untamed cats. Be like the lioness on the hunt! Show courage!’

            Classically defined, courage is the ability to continue moving forward in spite of extreme danger. Does Nehemiah’s story have anything for us?

            In matters of the heart Nehemiah’s story asks for a commitment from each generation. Captured in one sentence: “For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid,  but gives us power, love and self-discipline” (emphasis added). The words may sound like an inspirational phrase from Nehemiah; actually the words are from an Apostle of the Church (2 Timothy 1:7).

            A significant part of Nehemiah’s story is the inner conviction and the soul-strength to fulfill the dream of enhancing Jerusalem. Indeed, Nehemiah is not timid while demonstrating tenacity and muscular strength similar to that of God’s great cats.

            When the lioness chases prey there will be a precise moment when she aggressively extends a paw and four claws launch from sheaths. The dew-claw engages as the hooks grab and hold. Tenacity has her reward. 

            She does so, our lioness, while running at full speed over rough terrain avoiding hooves launched with the intention of tearing off her head. An amazing sight to behold.

            Is it courage or hunger? A good allotment of each, we suppose. Hunger drives her—courage is her way forward. 

            Tenacity, timing and many attempts increases the success rate of a lioness.  As a solo hunter she is typically below 20%. When the lioness has a hunting companion, their success rate moves above 30%. Repeatedly, in the company of others, she stealthily seeks her goal. How like Nehemiah she is—determined to succeed.  

Life Applications:

  • Does God still call people to projects which require profound amounts of courage and tenacity?
  • Does God call you?

Courage and Opposition

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Fully alert, focused, determined

Coming Friday, August 21, 2020 a blog in the continuing foundational study series.

I hope you find the posts helpful in spiritual formation for your life as a disciple. Please feel free to provide links to the site.

Thank you for continuing to make use of the materials and greetings to the newest readers. You are welcome here.