Be still and know God is in control

June 3, 2020

Last night as I went to bed, I was beginning to feel overwhelmed by the television broadcasts of the pressing issues and seemingly endless turmoil engulfing our nation and the world. This morning, I woke up with gratitude in my heart for seeing the light of a new day. As the day unfolded, I remembered words on a silver-framed plaque given to me: “God is in control!” These comforting words remind us to “de-stress” and hold to His unchanging hand that protects and provides for us. Other scriptures also came to mind, beginning with Isaiah 43:10, 13 (Amplified Bible):

‘Do not fear [anything], for I am with you;
Do not be afraid, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you, be assured I will help you;
I will certainly take hold of you with My righteous right hand [a hand of justice, of power, of victory, of salvation].’

13
“For I the LORD your God keep hold of your right hand; [I am the Lord],
Who says to you, ‘Do not fear, I will help you.’

Another verse providing comfort and strength particularly at this time comes from Psalm 46:10 (New Living Translation):

Be still and know that I am God! I will be honored by every nation. I will be honored throughout the world.

The verse begins with a quiet command to be still, literally to take no action and enter a state of tranquility. We recognize, however, following such a simple command is sometime easier said than done. Note the circumstances surrounding one of the first references to the expression found in Exodus 14:14. Here Moses is leading the Children of Israel out of the bondage of Egypt moving toward the Promised Land. Shortly after departing, they encounter a crisis that screamed “No Way!” Straight ahead is the Red Sea, and behind are the armies of Pharaoh in hot pursuit. Moses speaks words of assurance:

Exodus 14:14 (Revised Standard Version):

The LORD will fight for you, and you have only to be still.”

Psalm 37:7 also provides this exhortation [Amplified Bible]:

Be still before the LORD; wait patiently for Him and entrust yourself to Him; Do not fret (whine, agonize) because of him who prospers in his way, Because of the man who carries out wicked schemes.

When believers recognize the magnitude of God’s power and His love toward us, there is never a need to fear even though we may encounter tempestuous times that attempt to shake our very foundations. The Psalmist offers thanks to God for His deliverance out of many troubles:

Psalm 107:28-30

Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble,
and he delivered them from their distress;
29 he made the storm be still,
and the waves of the sea were hushed.
30 Then they were glad because they had quiet,
and he brought them to their desired haven.

As we encounter the storms of life, we can anchor our souls in the Lord, knowing that He is in control as we recall Psalm 46:10, the inspiration for this response:

Be Still and Know

Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth!

Psalms 46:10

Be still and know that I am God, that I am the eternal one.
Though your cherished dreams seem to have faded and gone
The way of all flesh, my divine plans you shall see,
As I weave the tapestry of eternity.


Though you seem forsaken, you are never alone,
Even when the burden of dark sin cannot atone,
And the hearts of men have hardened and turned to stone:
Be still and know that I am God.

Though storms may overwhelm, and friends may abandon
When diseases surface to assault flesh and bone.
These scenes reveal people whom we thought we could be,
As words of the Psalmist also help us to see,
When this life is over, and all is said and done:
Be still and know that I am God.

As we pause and calmly think about that—as we “Selah” this message, we also give heed to these words—

We Will be Still

We will be still and know that God is with us.
We will be still and anchor our souls in peace.
As we trust in the Lord, every storm will cease.

In closing, listen to Covenant Worship who offer this reminder: God is in Control:

Pentecost 2020: Prelude to the Revival of Revivals

May 31, 2020

The Day of Pentecost, as recorded in Acts 2, was an unprecedented move of God of global proportions:

Acts 2:1-8 New Living Translation (NLT)

On the day of Pentecost all the believers were meeting together in one place. 2 Suddenly, there was a sound from heaven like the roaring of a mighty windstorm, and it filled the house where they were sitting. 3 Then, what looked like flames or tongues of fire appeared and settled on each of them. 4 And everyone present was filled with the Holy Spirit and began speaking in other languages, as the Holy Spirit gave them this ability.

5 At that time there were devout Jews from every nation living in Jerusalem. 6 When they heard the loud noise, everyone came running, and they were bewildered to hear their own languages being spoken by the believers.
7 They were completely amazed. “How can this be?” they exclaimed. “These people are all from Galilee, 8 and yet we hear them speaking in our own native languages!

The fire of Pentecost fell and ultimately transformed the lives of those present, and they in turn transformed the world with their witness of the saving grace and power of the Holy Spirit. Since that time, revival fires have burned brilliantly for a season and then subsided and lay smoldering in the frigid dark nights of those who have lost their way.

Paul R. Dienstberger describes the circumstances out of which revivals have been birthed. “…[T]here appeared to be cycles like the book of Judges. First a period of spiritual fervor and blessing, then a falling away, then a revival of spiritual activity, then religious regression, and the cycles continued to repeat the pattern.” In their desperation, while at what the Psalmist declares is “their wit’s end,” the people cry out to God. Such heartfelt cries have gone out at various times for God to “send another Pentecost.” As fervent prayers arise God responds and sends forth times of revival or refreshing.

Elmer L Towns and Douglas Porter in their well-researched work, The Ten Greatest Revivals Ever, offer this definition of the term: “. . . God pouring Himself out on His people.” Revivals are characterized as a “visitations from God,” breaking out in many places around the world, not just in one place. The authors explain these powerful phenomena are not just isolated events but “moves of God” or “times of refreshing from the presence of the Lord.”

Towns and Porter cite the late Dr. J. Edwin Orr, who believes history’s greatest revival took place in the early years of the Twentieth Century, including the Welsh Revival, affecting Great Britain and Europe; the Asuza Street Revival, with its earth-shaking change upon America’s religious landscape, and the Korean Pentecost, the Manchurian Revival, and the Mizo Outpouring, impacting nations of the Far East.

This outpouring occurred in the first part of the Twentieth Century, leading up to what Towns and Porter describe as The Baby Boomer Revival—1965-1975. Also known as the Jesus Movement, this revival started primarily among young people in California and along the East Coast. This period also included the Asbury College Revival, sparking similar revivals in colleges across America and in other parts of the globe. Since that time, believers have been seeking to catch the wave of the next approaching revival movement. As the Twentieth Century drew to a close, various prophetic voices spoke of another move of God, a coming “spiritual tsunami” that would dwarf all preceding movements.

“There has never been a spiritual awakening in any country or locality that did not begin in united prayer,” A.T. Pierson

The present conditions with the COVID-19 global pandemic serve as sparks to ignite a mammoth revival fire of unprecedented magnitude. In light of Pierson’s statement, not only America, but the entire world has been calling out for strength and wisdom to deal with the devastating consequences of the current viral outbreak. One of the global prayer initiatives, UNITE714, focuses on calling out to God and praying 2 Chronicles 7:14 at 7:14 a.m. and 7:14 p.m. daily:

If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.

The prayer movement which brought together churches, pastors, leaders, and individuals across the globe to pray for a miraculous healing of our lands from the coronavirus and a spiritual awakening among the nations, culminated on Pentecost Sunday 2020.

Reflecting on the Day on the Pentecost and its significance to the world inspired this original psalm of praise.

The Song of Pentecost
Acts 2:1-4

Those with ears to hear seek your song of grace.
With no song to soothe the soul, all is lost.
Your melody makes life a quiet place
When the heart sings the song of Pentecost.

There in Eden’s garden fell the first frost
Where stillborn silence chilled the human race.
The purest harmony with God was lost.
Those with ears to hear seek your song of grace.

Voices of patriarchs could not replace
The inner melody from God. At most
Their sound was an echo, only a trace.
With no song to soothe the soul, all is lost.

With the sign of blood upon the doorpost
Moses led Israel toward the promised place.
The lyrics of the Law were their guidepost.
Your melody makes life a quiet place.

Man hears life’s sublime music in the grace
By Jesus Christ, who died and rose to post
A higher law that death cannot erase
When the heart sings the song of Pentecost.

Sound of rushing mighty wind: the signpost,
The prelude to the promised song of grace.
With the outpouring of the Holy Ghost,
The song of Pentecost can now embrace
Those with ears to hear.

One of the songs by Elevation Worship heard during the UNITE714 prayer event reminds us of the transforming power of God: Graves into Gardens:





Protection, Provision, & Perception: Three prayer points

May 25, 2020
Psalm 91:1 expresses the deepest yearning of our hearts at this time.

Recently, Pastor Jim Critcher, one of the ministers at Grace Covenant Church, Chantilly, VA, offered words of exhortation and prayer points as we press into God during the current COVID-19 pandemic. He encouraged us to apply these focal points: Protection, Provision, Perspective and Perception.

Protection

We are to pray Psalm 91 over ourselves, our families and our friends. This Psalm of David provides great comfort and strength in the midst of the chaotic times in which we presently live.

Psalm 91 (NKJV):

Safety of Abiding in the Presence of God

1 He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High
shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.
2 I will say of the LORD, “He is my refuge and my fortress;
My God, in Him I will trust.”
3 Surely He shall deliver you from the snare of the fowler[a]
And from the perilous pestilence.
4 He shall cover you with His feathers,
And under His wings you shall take refuge;
His truth shall be your shield and buckler.
5 You shall not be afraid of the terror by night,
Nor of the arrow that flies by day,
6 Nor of the pestilence that walks in darkness,
Nor of the destruction that lays waste at noonday.
7 A thousand may fall at your side,
And ten thousand at your right hand;
But it shall not come near you.
8 Only with your eyes shall you look,
And see the reward of the wicked.
9 Because you have made the LORD, who is my refuge,
Even the Most High, your dwelling place,
10 No evil shall befall you,
Nor shall any plague come near your dwelling;
11 For He shall give His angels charge over you,
To keep you in all your ways.
12 In their hands they shall bear you up,
Lest you dash your foot against a stone.
13 You shall tread upon the lion and the cobra,
The young lion and the serpent you shall trample underfoot.
14 “Because he has set his love upon Me, therefore I will deliver him;
I will set him on high, because he has known My name.
15 He shall call upon Me, and I will answer him;
I will be with him in trouble;
I will deliver him and honor him.
16 With long life I will satisfy him,
And show him My salvation.”

Provision

We are to pray for God’s provision to be made known around the world.

Psalm 23 (NKJV) reinforces this message:

The LORD is my shepherd;
I shall not want.
2 He makes me to lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside the still waters.
3 He restores my soul;
He leads me in the paths of righteousness
For His name’s sake.
4 Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil;
For You are with me;
Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.
5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
You anoint my head with oil;
My cup runs over.
6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
All the days of my life;
And I will dwell in the house of the LORD Forever.

Perspective & Perception

We are to ask God for an understanding of His perspective in this moment and a perception that would be tied to heaven and not to earth, as we ask God for that which He desires for us, expressed in Ephesians 1:15-17 (NKJV):

Therefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints, 16 do not cease to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers: 17 that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him, 18 the eyes of your [c]understanding being enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, 19 and what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power 20 which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places,21 far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come.

The email message from Pastor Jim inspired this response:

Protection-Provision-Perspective:
Three Ps to Ponder in these Stressful Times


When we dwell in the secret place of the Most-High,
We abide in the shade of the Almighty’s wings
In praise for His protection, our joyful heart sings
To Jehovah, the creator and Earth and sky.
In times of famine or fulness, God meets each need
With His generous provision for daily life.
The love of God sustains, His peace dispels all strife.
Despite countless failures, He helps us to succeed.
Once again, we pray: Open the eyes of our heart
That we might view life from a higher perspective
As we look to your Word with hearts more reflective
Of your unfailing promise never to depart.
We know you protect and provide but help us see
Your hand in making us all you designed us to be.

We close with Esther Mui offering a moving rendition of Psalm 91: My God, In Him I Will Trust:

Happy Mother’s Day–Queen of My Heart

May 10, 2020


For my beloved Brenda,
Not just on Mother’s Day
But every day,
You are Queen of my Heart

One of the joys of my life is preparing exquisite meals for people I love. As an expression of my love for my beautiful wife, here is the menu for our dinner, fit for a queen, which we will share with out daughter and son-in-law and grandson on this special Mother’s Day. I thank God that we are able to do this.

Mediterranean Dinner Extraordinaire

Greek Salad

Assorted Shishkabobs

Salmon-Chicken-Lamb

Savory Quinoa w/ Vegetable Medley

Selected Riesling

Mini-Hollywood-Two-tone Cheesecakes

Coffee/Tea

Perilous times: Time to sing the blues

May 2, 2020

In thinking about the times in which we live when so many are experiencing deepest sorrow and sense of loss, I recall words from poet Robert Bly: “It is easier to go through suffering if you have a name for it.” We have all learned the reality that suffering is a part of life; indeed, “There is a time to weep and a time to laugh; a time to mourn and a time to dance.” As the old folks used to say, “Ain’t no harm to moan. . . sometime.” During these dark times, the blues, an African American musical form, seems ideally suited to express the anguish and inner turmoil confronting the whole world.

Although this unique African American musical and poetic expression rooted in the oral tradition is often somber in tone, evoking a “soulful melancholody”, there can be brighter more vibrant qualities beneath the surface, expressing a wide range of emotions. Jan Farrington in a review of the musical, It Ain’t Nothin’ But the Blues, comments:

“Though we think of “the blues” as an endless song of sadness, . . . remember that blues music can sound every note of human life, from despair to joy. There’s anger, mourning and protest — but life and happiness break through even in the hardest times.”

Lines from an original poem, “All Blues,” raise a thought-provoking question and bring closure to our discussion of this evocative musical form:

just what is the blues?

is it somethin you get
a show nuff dis ease
like de rheumatiz
or de rockin pneumonia
and de boogie-woogie flu
or is it like Lightnin said
somethin you just borned with
whatsonever it is
somethin gets a holt of you
dis mornin dis evenin soooo blue
just what is the blues?
maybe Lady Day summed it up
when she said,
“The blues is everything.”
the sea,
the sky,
the blues and I
know all colors;
sea and sky,
the blues and I
know all colors:
all shades all hues all blues

Musically speaking, the blues emerged as amazing by-products of slavery, blending vestiges of spirituals with traditional West African musical and narrative forms to produce a new expression with a range of emotions. These songs called the blues, follow a 12-bar musical pattern, one long line of four bars, with repeated words and music in the next line, then a third line of four bars to rhyme lyrically with the first two lines that are always the same.

One of the distinctly American poetic forms that uses blues stanzas is the “Blues Sonnet” consisting of four blues stanzas followed by a heroic couplet to complete the variation of the classic 14-line sonnet, so widely recognized and celebrated. Here is an original psalm inspired by the current circumstances that have gripped the world to remind us how to view these adverse conditions:

Greater than Corona

A blues sonnet for these perilous times

To all who mourn in Israel, he will give a crown of beauty for ashes, a joyous blessing instead of mourning, festive praise instead of despair. In their righteousness, they will be like great oaks that the LORD has planted for his own glory.
Isaiah 61:3


Without warning, the deadly virus came on the scene.
Without warning, the deadly virus came on the scene:
A new global pandemic sparked by COVID-19.

This tool of the enemy comes to grip us in fear.
This tool of the enemy comes to grip us in fear,
But we cry out to the Lord, who is always near.

We know nothing low down on earth, nothing high above.
We know nothing low down on earth, nothing high above.
Not even death can separate us from God’s love.

So, get out our face, Coronavirus–don’t you see?
So, get out our face, Coronavirus–don’t you see?
In the name of Jesus Christ, we have the victory!

God of grace, God of the living and not the dead,
Gives joy for sorrow, beauty for ashes instead.

Recently I came across a magnificent musical illustration of what I am trying to say about Abba, Father’s sense of identification with those who sing the blues. Listen to Kevin Levar along with One Voice singing “Jesus Blues.”

Poem in Your Pocket Day 2020: April 30

April 29, 2020

In celebration of National Poetry Month, the American Academy of Poets has designated April 30 as National Poem in Your Pocket Day. Until this year, the idea was simple: people selected a poem that they loved during National Poetry Month and carried it with them to share with co-workers, family, and friends. People unfolded poems from pockets throughout the day with events in parks, libraries, schools, workplaces, and bookstores. In light of the current COVID-19 circumstances, the celebration can continue digitally.

Here are ways to celebrate Poem in Your Pocket Day 2020:

  • Select a poem and share it on social media using the hashtag #pocketpoem. 
  • Simultaneously participate in the Shelter in Poems initiative, and select a poem that brings you solace during this time of distance and solitude. Share what it means to you and use the hashtags #pocketpoem and #ShelterInPoems.
  • Record a video of yourself reading a poem, then share it on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, or another social media platform you use. 
  • Email a poem to your friends, family, neighbors, or local government leaders.
  • Schedule a video chat and read a poem to your loved ones.
  • Add a poem to your email footer.
  • Read a poem out loud from your porch, window, backyard or outdoor space. 

Poem in My Pocket:

During times of crisis and personal upheaval, especially meaningful poetry comes from the Book of Psalms. David, my all-time favorite poet, has provided comfort, encouragement, and strength during my darkest days. The Book of Psalms continues to be a source of inspiration as well. Despite the devastating aftermath of the Coronavirus pandemic, I wake up each morning abiding in the safety of the Lord, thankful for life, health, and strength, being able to express in words my gratitude. In reflecting on where I have been and where I am now, I often say, “If it had not been for the Lord, I shudder to think where I would be.” I also think of Psalm 124 which opens with a similar statement, “If it had not been for the Lord who was on our side. . . .” Here is personal poetic expression, an original psalm, that I would like to share on Poem in Your Pocket Day:

If It Had Not Been for the Lord


“If it had not been the LORD who was on our side,”
Let Israel now say—
Psalm 124:1


If it had not been for the Lord who was on our side,

We would have drowned in the sea from the tears we cried.

We shudder to think just where we would be today.

We would have lost our mind or turned and walked away,

But we learned that God is faithful—this cannot be denied.

He was there to guide when we were tempted and tried,

Our shelter from the storm where we could run and hide.

He was our deliverer—that is all we have to say:

If it had not been for the Lord.

Enemies rose up like a flood to wash aside,

But God came through and rescued us and turned the tide.

Pressing toward the mark, dawning of a brand-new day,

Through all our trials we learned to watch, fight, and pray.

The Lord is our keeper; in Him we confide:

If it had not been for the Lord.

We close with this musical reminder based on Psalm 124 from Esther Mui: “Our Help is in the Name of the LORD.” She causes us to think about where we all might have been, if it had not been for the Lord who was on our side.

When you can’t change your circumstances, change your attitude

April 17, 2020


In the midst of the upheaval from the coronavirus pandemic, people across the globe are trapped in circumstances they don’t like but  feel powerless to change. I thought of this statement from the late African American writer and vibrant personality, Maya Angelou:

“If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude.”

In observing the response of so many people who exhibit negative behavior in what they say and do, I thought such individuals could use “an attitude adjustment.”

In one sense,  we all are confronted with a whole new list of actions we must perform on our daily “to do list,” actions that we have to do or “got to do.”  In following the advice of Maya Angelou, I suggest, however, making an adjustment in how we think about essential tasks that we “got to do.”  

A number of years ago, a dear friend, Dr. Dale Sides , introduced the concept of changing our attitude from what we must do or “got to do” to thinking about what we have the privilege to do or “get to do.”  I shared the concept of changing our thinking from “gotta” to “gitta” with a friend and fellow teacher, Dr. Yolanda Stewart, who suggested that I express that concept in a poem to show just how important making such an attitude adjustment can be.  The poem seems ideally suited to the demands imposed on us in light of the current crisis that has changed our world so dramatically:

From “Gotta” to “Gitta“

Little biddy things can happen that don’t make much sense,

But changing one little letter can make a really big difference.

Subtle changes in the words we speak can also change our mood:

From “gotta” to “gitta” shows a whole new attitude.

“I ‘gotta’ go to work or stay at home and pass the time away”

Becomes “I ‘gitta’ go to work; I am thankful I have a job today!”

“I ‘gotta’ take care of these kids—now that’s another world”

Becomes “I ‘gitta’ nurture young minds who will someday change the world!”

Work heartily as to the Lord, whatever you do.

Remember in the end that He alone will reward you.

You may not agree with me, but it’s still so true,

Especially when you face tasks you really don’t “wanna” do.

Some doors may close, but this key to life you will find:

Put off the old, put on the new and renew your mind.

“ ‘Gotta’ to ‘gitta’ ” is thinking of another kind.

Move ahead in faith, and you won’t be left behind.

We have to change in the midst of these changing times.

Standing on the mountain top is the one who climbs.

Changing how we think and what we say does make sense;

From “gotta” to “gitta” makes a really big difference.

The poem also brings to mind  a vintage show tune sung by Roy Hamilton who tells us what we should emphasize, not just during the current crisis, but every day we should endeavor to maintain a positive attitude:

By his stripes I am healed

April 11, 2020


According to BibleGateway.com, the Verse of the Day for April 11, 2020 comes from 1 Peter 2:24. Here is rendering in the New Living Translation:

He personally carried our sins in his body on the cross so that we can be dead to sin and live for what is right. By his wounds you are healed.

The New King James Version renders the verse this way:

Who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness—by whose stripes you were healed.

1 Peter 2:24 is actually a variation of Isaiah 53:5 (KJV):

But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.

The Verse of the Day also brings to mind the reality of the covenant God made with the Children of Israel expressed in Exodus 15:26 (KJV):

And said, If thou wilt diligently hearken to the voice of the Lord thy God, and wilt do that which is right in his sight, and wilt give ear to his commandments, and keep all his statutes, I will put none of these diseases upon thee, which I have brought upon the Egyptians: for I am the Lord that healeth thee.

The phrase “I am. . .” also brought to mind a powerful life-changing message heard years ago related to our identity, as revealed in the Word of God. At the end of the message the minister encouraged the congregation to make a list of qualities or attributes the Bible declares us to be. I personalized the assignment and composed a list of metaphors which opened with the phrase “I am.”

I AM says, “I am,” and all that I AM says “I am”

I am light, the light of the world, sent forth to shine.

I am salt, the salt of the earth, full of savor.

I am alive in Christ; eternal life is mine.

I am blessed: in the midst of famine is favor.

I am trusting in the Lord; I am not afraid.

I am made whole in Christ; by His stripes I am healed.

I am so fearfully and wonderfully made.

I am redeemed, and by the Spirit I am sealed.

I am a sweet savor, a living sacrifice.

I am ever before Him, always on His mind.

I am clothed in righteousness, bought with a price.

I am His beloved, the one He runs to find.

I am cleansed and made whole by the blood of the Lamb.

I am, by the grace of God, what I AM says I am

This weekend when Christians around the world celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ, the Verse of Day and related verse remind each believer of who the Lord is and what he came to accomplish. The music of Don Moen reinforces that reality to remind me of who I am in light of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, and by his stripes I am healed.

We close with the Don Moen song of worship: “I am the Lord that healeth thee.”


Crafted prayer for this hour that we might be strengthened in the Lord

March 26, 2020

Psalm 18_1--3

As believers across the globe are calling on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ during these intense times that challenge us to the depths of our souls, I thought of this blog entry which is modified and re-posted here. Psalm 18:1-2 is a is an expression of David’s calling upon the Lord, and it reflects the cry of our hearts also:

Psalm 18:1-2 (NLT)

[Psalm 18] [For the choir director: A psalm of David, the servant of the Lord. He sang this song to the Lord on the day the Lord rescued him from all his enemies and from Saul. He sang:] I love you, Lord; you are my strength. The Lord is my rock, my fortress, and my savior; my God is my rock, in whom I find protection. He is my shield, the power that saves me, and my place of safety.

In this passage we find two references to the strength that comes from God Almighty: “O Lord, my strength” and “my God, my strength.” As I reflected upon this passage, I recall a “crafted prayer” composed as a petition to God that, as believers, we might be strengthened in the Lord.

Developed by Graham Cooke, the concept of “crafted prayer” involves using the Scriptures to construct specific, targeted prayers, addressed to God. Such prayers may be expressed individually as well as corporately. In his book Crafted Prayer, Cooke reveals that those who “pray the Bible” or use the Scriptures as the basis for their prayers will experience “the joy of always getting your prayers answered.”

A Crafted Prayer that We Might Be Strengthened in the Lord, Our God

O God, you have been our help in ages past; you have delivered our souls from destruction in days gone by, and we know that you are a very present help in the midst of every one of the trials and tribulations that we face each day, as you continue to deliver those who call upon your name. God of power and might, you are our hope for every tomorrow. As the days of our lives unfold before us, we face the future with confidence, knowing that our times are in your hands and that you shall deliver us out of the hand of the enemy.

God, you are our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. We come to you, the source of all strength and might, thanking you that you have fortified us through Christ Jesus. We know that the Lord saves His anointed; you will answer us from your holy heaven with the saving strength of your right hand.  Though our flesh and our hearts may fail, God, our almighty fortress, is the rock and firm strength of our hearts and our portion forever. In the day when we cry out to you, you answer us and strengthen us with strength in our souls.

We declare that the LORD is our light and our salvation; whom or what shall we fear? The LORD is the strength of our lives; of whom or what shall we be afraid? You declare that we should not fear, for you are with us. We should not be dismayed, for you are our God. You will strengthen us; yes, you will help us. Indeed, you will uphold us with the right hand of your righteousness.

We had fainted, unless we had believed to see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living. As we wait on the LORD, we will be of good courage, assured that He shall strengthen our hearts. We are confident that as we wait upon the LORD, we shall renew our strength. We shall mount up with wings as eagles; for you make known that just as you bore Israel upon eagles’ wings and brought them unto yourself, so you will elevate us and raise us above any circumstance that seeks to keep us from being all that you have called us to be. As we wait on you, we know that in due season, we shall run, and not be weary; and we shall walk, and not faint.

As you bless and refresh us and fill us anew with your overflowing goodness and mercy, so we pour into one another, as we encourage ourselves and one another in the Lord, Jesus Christ, who infuses inner strength into us. We minister and pray for one another that we may be mutually strengthened and encouraged and comforted by each other’s faith, as we go from strength to strength, and glory to glory, even from faith to faith. Your desire is that we may be invigorated and strengthened with all power according to the might of your glory, to exercise every kind of endurance and patience, perseverance and forbearance with joy.

We conclude our petitions with this declaration:

That we will be strengthened, perfected, completed, and made to be all that you have called us to be. We will be encouraged and consoled and comforted and will be of the same agreeable mind one with another. We proclaim that we will live in peace, knowing that the God of love, who is the source of affection, goodwill, love, and benevolence toward men and the author and promoter of peace is with us. We make known that according to the riches of God’s glory, that we are strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man; that Christ dwells in our hearts by faith; that we, being rooted and grounded in love, are able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height and that we know the love of Christ, which passes knowledge, that we are filled with all the fullness of God. Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. All these things we declare to be so through the accomplished work of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior, our soon-coming King, who is the strength our lives. Amen.

Psalm 18:1-2 are among the verses forming the foundation for “In Christ Alone,” the source of strength in whom we stand:

More than the crown

March 23, 2020

James-1 12The Verse of the Day for March 23, 2020 comes from James 1:12 (NIV):

And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away.

Today’s post, a revision of a previous entry, focuses on some of the references to “crowns” found in the Bible. Translated from the Greek word stephanos, the word crown relates to the symbol of victory given to athletes in the Greek games, such as the Olympics or other contests, where winners are honored or crowned with laurel leaves or olive branches. This reference to “the crown of glory” is one of five different crowns mentioned in the New Testament.

Incorruptible crown:

Paul uses athletic imagery in 1 Corinthians 9:24-27 where he describes the crown placed on the head of those who win a race. He contrasts this “corruptible” or perishable crown with the “incorruptible” or imperishable crown awaiting believers who discipline themselves and compete lawfully, those who “run their best race and win it”:

1 Corinthians 9:24-25

24 Do you not know that in a race the runners all compete, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win it. 25 Athletes exercise self-control in all things; they do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable one.

Crown of joy

The apostle Paul looked forward to a “crown of joy” or a “crown of rejoicing” to be enjoyed in the resurrection when he is reunited with fellow believers whom he led to the Lord and taught and served.

1 Thessalonians 2:19 (NKJV):

For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Is it not even you in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at His coming?

Crown of righteousness

In the second epistle to Timothy, Paul’s offers sobering yet encouraging words to his beloved son in the faith and makes reference to a crown of righteousness awaiting those who have remained faithful to the Gospel of Jesus Christ and those who eagerly awaiting his return:

2 Timothy 4:7-8 (New Revised Standard Version)

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. From now on there is reserved for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will give me on that day, and not only to me but also to all who have longed for his appearing.

Crown of life

The Verse of the Day mentions a “crown of life” awaiting the individual who endures trials while carrying out the purposes of God’s plan,

James 1:12:

Blessed is the man that endures temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him.

Crown of glory

1 Peter 5:4 speaks of a “crown of glory” awaiting those who fulfill their calling and finish the work that has been set before them:

And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away.

In reflecting upon the various aspects of crowns as they relate to athletic endeavors, I also think of what motivates me beyond the desire to receive rewards at the bema or the judgment seat of Christ, in that I am striving to hear something that will make all the time, energy and effort put into living my life for Christ worthwhile. I express that deepest yearning in the poem:

Much More

His lord said to him, “Well done,

good and faithful servant;

you have been faithful over a few things,

I will make you ruler over many things:

enter into the joy of your lord.”

Matthew 25:23

 

More than mere status or the embrace of the crown

Around the head or glory, honor or renown;

More than medals of gold or laurels that fade

With the thundering applause and ceaseless accolade;

More than any crowning achievement or success

Or the rarest prizes eyes could ever witness;

More than the taste of victory every time you try:

Such alluring sweetness can never satisfy.

So much more are these words when the race is finally won,

When we finish the course and cross the finish line,

And stand upon the bema where we shall incline

Our ears to hear God say, “Good and faithful servant, well done.”

We shall bask in ultimate ecstasy of victory

And savor the goodness of God for all eternity.

The phrase “Well done, good and faithful servant” is used in the Parable of the Talents and is the inspiration behind the contemporary rendition of “Well Done” by Erica Campbell: