Home Altar: Week of August 29, 2021

by Peter Dutton

August 29
Romans 5:1-5

Suffering that Leads to Perseverance and Hope

“But we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope” (vv. 3-4).

As my wife, Ruthie, and I review a lifetime of work in Thailand and Laos, can we say, like Paul, that we have suffered—or that we “take glory in our sufferings”? Unlike earlier years—years filled with the excitement and challenge of new work in new places and new cultures—we now look back on several key events in which we have suffered: the loss of our 23-year-old son in a motorcycle accident and the loss of our life’s work in Northern Laos when we were denied re-entry by Laos’s communist government. The sleepless hours in planes and detention centers as we traveled back and forth are forever etched in our minds. Somehow, through God’s grace—as we experienced it from Covenanters on both sides of our world—we found the perseverance to take the next step, to carry on. And now, years later, we recognize it—we recognize the hope and the love God poured into our hearts. From this perspective we can now thank God, even “take glory” in these events.

Thank you, Father, for bringing us through—through to perseverance and hope. We are hopeful as we look to what’s next. AMEN.

August 30
2 Corinthians 12:11-13

Perseverance, Despite Disappointing Perception

Paul here is concerned about perception—as have I been for almost my whole life! He says, “I have made a fool of myself, but you drove me to it.” Then, in a dose of honest reflection: “I am not in the least inferior to the ‘super-apostles,’ even though I am nothing.” Despite all these perceptions—accurate or not, correct or incorrect, generous or scathing—he says, “I persevered in demonstrating among you the marks of a true apostle, including signs, wonders, and miracles” (v. 12).

The question for me is, “Am I persevering? Or just muddling through? Am I demonstrating the marks of a true apostle?” I must confess that our years of ministry have not been filled with “signs, wonders, and miracles,” as I had hoped they would be during my years in seminary. But they are there—God’s protection during a severe motorcycle accident, God’s planting and growth of his church from almost no believers. Yes, they are there, along with many other demonstrations of God’s grace.

Thank you, Father, for giving us some perception of and even a role in your plans. Help us to persist—even if it means muddling through at times. AMEN.

August 31
2 Thessalonians 3:1-5

Thank You for Helping Your People Persevere

I’m grateful that Jesus suffered and died, and that he persevered through betrayal, abandonment, and accusation. At some point in our lives, each one of us will likely face similar situations and circumstances if we haven’t already.

In our years in Laos we experienced alternately, feast then famine, approval then rejection by officials in the government. We went from being heroes to menaces. Knowing that Jesus himself experienced the swings of public approval and disapproval helped us tremendously as we negotiated the process of rejection and removal.

Thank you, Father, for strengthening us and giving signs of your approval along the way. AMEN.

September 1
Hebrews 12:1-3

Those Who Went Before Us

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders….And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us” (v. 1).

Part of the joy of being Covenant global personnel is the cloud of witnesses we experience, the supporters and friends who have followed our lives and ministries through the years. We know many pray for us— and we’re grateful.

We know from Scripture that all of us have a cloud of prayer supporters—people who may or may not have gone on before us—who are examples to us and hold us up in prayer before our Father. What are we called to do? Run the race to the best we know how. Take the next step. And ask our Lord for that extra cup of perseverance we probably need!

Thank you, Lord, for giving us a cloud. We want to honor you, Lord, in the things we do and say. AMEN.

September 2
James 1:2-8

Keep on Keeping On

“Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything” (v. 4).

Perseverance. As global personnel for almost 40 years, I can’t say that I understand on a theoretical level, the interplay of perseverance (something I do) and being “mature and complete, not lacking anything” (something God ascribes to me). But on a practical level, I do have an understanding! That has come through multiple instances where I have trusted God enough to “keep on keeping on,” to keep on plugging away even though I haven’t immediately seen the results.

So I love the attitude I see in the writer of James. He says, “Consider it pure joy…whenever you face trials” (v. 2). Why? Because they offer us a chance to prove God’s faithfulness. And there’s the promise God gives us that whatever we may feel we lack, God will give us when we sincerely ask him. Praise be to our Lord!

Thank you, Lord, that as I persist, you work in me, completing me and making me more mature. AMEN.

September 3
2 Peter 1:3-11

Grow into Effectiveness

“His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life….For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness…selfcontrol … perseverance….If you possess these qualities…they will keep you from being ineffective” (vv. 3, 5, 8).

Ineffective, unproductive. These traits are often considered cardinal sins for us as western Christians.

My life in Asia has given me a contrasting perspective. Equally important, for instance, are the efforts to take time, to sit and talk, to get to know, to not be dominated by the need to achieve results. All these are important if we hope to experience spiritual fruit and results.

But I can’t get away from the conviction that I have been given one life to live. We are meant to use the time we’ve been given to live effective, godly lives. We are called to make every effort to see these qualities—knowledge, self-control, perseverance, love, godliness—become important in our lives.

Lord, help me today to take time to be with people, to love them. Help me to develop the qualities I need to be an effective servant. AMEN.

September 4
Hebrews 10:32-39 

Receive God’s Promises

“You knew that you yourselves had better and lasting possessions. So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. You need to persevere” (vv. 35-36). 

The power of deferred reward. “Yeah, right!” the child in me says. But the adult in me knows it’s true.

I’ve seen it a hundred times in these years I’ve been given: When we were sent to a forgotten corner of Laos and wondered, “What on earth?” When we were thrown out of Laos and sent here to Roi Et to work with our fledgling Thai church. In both cases we have been rewarded (if only in part)—rewarded with churches established, friends, and joy. I know God has his eye on me. And I’m counting on those better and lasting possessions I know are coming! 

We, Lord, are among those who want to never shrink back. We want to believe and act on that belief! AMEN.

About the Author: Peter Dutton

My wife, Ruthie, and I have served as Covenant global personnel in Thailand and Laos for more than 33 years. As we return to the U.S., our Covid-conscious plans, for sure, include a healthy dose of uncertainty and unpredictability. Will we return to push on with our work establishing churches in Northeast Thailand? Or will we call this chapter finished and help in new ministries in Atlanta, Georgia? We look forward to finding out! We welcome any comments or dialog from our friends: peter-ruthie.dutton@covchurch.org.

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