Political Faith

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Scripture Resource Passage: Hebrews 12:14-29. I highly recommend you read the Scripture passage before reading the blog–just a thought.

Earth’s hope resides in the truth Who is Messiah. Governments come and their governance passes away. Civilizations are built up, and then except for a few structures and possibly a potsherd or two, they almost disappear—the stones crumble. Earth’s hope resides in the truth Who is Messiah.

It is election season in North America. Our world would benefit, and the Kingdom possibly be hastened, with a generation of politically skillful citizens bringing Christ’s ethics to the arena. A prayer for such disciples, highlights today’s citizenship reminder in this spiritual reflection (Matthew 9:38).

Attack ads and ones which simply encourage you to “Vote for me,” appear on street corners and artificial-intelligence-informed media platforms. They (the unnamed demographers) know who you are and have identified your interests. Check out a documentary, The Social Dilemma now featured on Netflix, if you choose not to believe what is known about you.

Extremists and legitimate candidates all vie for our attention. To whom shall we listen? “Me, me, me!” Whoever shouts longest and loudly wins? Every failed system will melt into the ground. Check out Psalm 2 for a solid insight.

Given the failings of each form of human government (and to date each form has failed) disciples of Jesus rest upon this stupendous promise: “…we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken…” (Hebrews 12:28). Today, the distinction of citizenship in the public arena, living in a most secular city, invites your response. 

Morality, holiness and divine wisdom are called for in each political level of public service. Your challenge is presenting God’s wisdom. Imagine a world with 10,000 champions for God’s holiness, justice and mercy in our leading-political offices—we can only imagine. 

Many disciples have tried to be politically influential. From the fabled utopia like societies, to the individuals who abandoned the ship of state and fled to the desert, many capsized their faith in the Slough of Despond. Today, who will enter the political arena, not as a moral majority, but as disciples of Christ Jesus? Who are you and will you answer God’s invitation? We need you.

While disciples live today in the Kingdom of God, there is also a fulfillment of the Kingdom yet to come. O Lord, hasten the day—until that hour, conscientious committed Christ-followers are desperately needed in the political arena. There are vacancies at all levels, waiting for disciples to rally in response.

Life Applications

  1. As a testimony I acknowledge that both my father and father-in-law served in the military during World War II. In honor of their service to our country our family always votes. Do you have a personal reason for voting and does this reason help you during this election cycle?
  2. Do you as a disciple of Jesus believe there is a godly purpose for government?

Not Covid!

Hmmmm…not Covid but the yearly appearing and much too common cold virus has laid me out with a buzzed head and clogged sinus passages. No fever. No cough. No Covid.

But yuck!

Thus, no new blog post this week so please spend a few moments investigating the Blog Feed for a read and encouragement.

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I hope to be back next week with a new slice of faith’s challenge to share.

Grace and peace to each of you; and thanks again for distributing info about the site to your contacts.

Slowly Fading

Ignoring Heaven’s Voice

Scripture Resource Passage: Nehemiah 13:1-22   The post works best when you read the passage first–just a suggestion.

She felt prompted to ask, “Was it a slow fade?” Another skeptically asked, “The Word of God, it disappeared overnight?” 

Apparently the written Word’s influence disappeared during bleak and silent nights when Heaven’s voice was ignored

Without hearing God’s written Word, without Scripture’s regular influence God’s people wander like blind men enduring a wilderness night. No guidance directs them, save what they personally create and what the Satan whispers. The impact is felt by individuals, families and nations.

When leaders (especially leaders) are not hearing and listening with understanding, everyone suffers—a spiritual pandemic. Faith, according to many illustrations in Scripture, always involves social relationships, not solitary Lone Rangers. Nehemiah’s day was not an exception. Hint: neither is ours. 

Nehemiah’s book documents a national-level tragedy as he reports what happens when the Word of God is not heard. Chart the sad circumstances in today’s Scripture Resource Passage and compare it to our own (Nehemiah 13:1-22).

Whether as a slow fade or rapidly chosen disobedience Nehemiah’s people walked away from God. Nehemiah-the-strong walks directly into the midst of those ignoring God’s instructions (Nehemiah 13:1-3). He corrects impudent sinful behaviors as direct disregards of God (Nehemiah 13:4-5).  Nehemiah demands that illicit practices immediately cease; and to ensure compliance puts new leaders into place (Nehemiah 13:13). 

Under what circumstances had the people gone astray? We wisely ask, “How had such things happened?” These defiant acts occurred because, the Word of God was absent. Jesus will later remind his disciples: “Man does not live on bread alone but by every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4 as Jesus quotes Deuteronomy 8:3).  Disciple’s must maintain the life-giving connection with God’s written Word.

Nehemiah presses forward asserting: “your behavior and your attitudes are not right. We must set the house of God into proper order [a Simkins’ paraphrase]” (Nehemiah 13:15-19).

Life Application

1.     In what ways do you arrange your life in order to hear God speak through Scripture?

2.     In your experience are the words of Mark Hall’s song from Casting Crowns a true vision of a slow fade in a person’s spiritual life?

It’s a slow fade when you give yourself away

It’s a slow fade when black and white have turned to gray

Thoughts invade, choices are made, a price will be paid

When you give yourself always

People never crumble in a day

It’s a slow fade, it’s a slow fade.

Mark Hall, It’s a Slow Fade, by Casting Crowns from the album The Altar and the Crown, 2007.

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So Many Names; A Gracious Invitation

Resource Scripture Passage: Nehemiah 12, in the current Thoughtful Study Series

Reading some portions of the Hebrew Bible—the Old Testament—may leave you wondering, “Why are so many historical details considered sufficiently important to be included as holy writ?” This is a great question. Thanks for asking. 

The expansive range of Scripture’s teaching moves from the creation account to redemption’s climactic scenes—yes, from Genesis to Revelation (2 Timothy 3:16-17). There are thousands of details! I sure hope there’s not a test.

Additionally, throughout Scripture’s historical record the Messiah is central. Though some might disagree (which is their privilege) disciples believe Jesus remains the premier personality of Scripture. (There is a see-further reference in the Life Application section of this post.)

The three indicators noted below help me make sense of times when Scripture lists details like names (but also more than names) which do not sound like anyone in my neighborhood (North America). Thankfully, God is not limited by geography to the North American continent.

Indicator One—Nehemiah 12 draws attention to God’s people as individuals. These names, though unknown and possibly challenging to pronounce, are the names of real people. You may recall (or check it out again) the blog posting for Nehemiah 3 of August 18, 2020 and the article by Jen Wilkin mentioned there. It is a solid reference. 

Indicator Two—notice the presence of the priests in Nehemiah 12. Scripture does not here expound on their role. Checking a Bible encyclopedia will help you in your understanding, if this is new awareness for you. Nehemiah’s book has not primarily been about rebuilding a city but about responding to God’s gracious invitation of returning to life as His people. This makes Nehemiah’s account sound like Jesus’ story of the Prodigal Son—Luke 15:11-32.

Indicator Three—there is at least one group within the list of names of Nehemiah 12 who held another significant task—these individuals were to lead the songs of thanksgiving. Nehemiah 12 affirms:  “…the Levites: Jeshua, Binnui, Kadmiel, Sherebiah, Judah, and Mattaniah, who with his brothers was in charge of the songs of thanksgiving” (Nehemiah 12:8).  

Life Application  

  • Given the three indicators mentioned above, what do you make of Nehemiah 12?
  • The see-further reference: The New Testament letter of Hebrews, chapter 4, verses 14-16 identifies Jesus as “…our great high priest.” Do you find a connection from the Old Testament to the role taken by Jesus?

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! 

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!