Black Poetry Day: A dual celebration

October 17, 2018

This photo copy shows the first poem published in 1761 by Jupiter Hammon, the Father of Black Poetry.

Today’s blog post spotlights a special celebration. Although not recognized as a national holiday, October 17 is designated as Black Poetry Day. During this time we celebrate poets of African American heritage and their contribution to the literary landscape of the nation and of the world. Why was this particular day selected for the celebration? For the answer we go back to the America’s literary beginnings and the “Father of Black Poetry.”

Jupiter Hammon, the first person of African descent to publish a poem in colonial America, was born October 17, 1711. Publishing a literary work of any kind during this period was a remarkable accomplishment for anyone, but for a man born into slavery, writing and publishing “An Evening Thought” in 1761 was nothing short of a miracle.

Born on the estate of merchant Henry Lloyd of Oyster Bay, NY, Hammon was believed to have been a lay minister. As a devout Christian, he expressed his religious convictions in all of his poetry and prose. In addition to An Evening Thought, 1761, his works include “An Essay on the Ten Virgins,” 1779; “A Winter Piece,” 1782; “An Evening’s Improvement,” 1783; “An Address to the Negroes in the State of New York,” 1787. In 2013 a University of Texas at Arlington English professor, Cedric May, and his doctoral student, Julie McGowan, located an unpublished poem, “An Essay on Slavery,” handwritten by Hammon around 1786.

Some believe that Hammon may have had a powerful conversion experience during the Great Awakening, the religious revival of the mid 1700s, as he hammers out the word “salvation” more than twenty times throughout this first poem, “An Evening Thought.” Written in hymn stanzas or common meter, the same metrical pattern as many of the hymns of John and Charles Wesley and Isaac Watts from the same period, the structure of the poem leads some to speculate that Hammon’s poetry may have been set to music.

Black Poetry Day was first proposed in 1970 by Stanley A. Ransom. As author of America’s First Negro Poet: The Complete Works of Jupiter Hammon, Ransom has sought to bring wider recognition to Hammon and his works. Professor Ransom was among the scholars cited in my dissertation which examined the poetry of Hammon and three other black poets: Phillis Wheatley, George Moses Horton, and Frances E.W. Harper. Indeed, the poetry of Jupiter Hammon has profoundly influenced me as a practicing poet whose literary style also mirrors an attraction to the Bible for inspiration.

Black Poetry Day 2018 also marks a dual celebration as a “doubly lovely day” since I submitted the final approval for the release of my new book Embracing Your Life Sentence: How to Turn Life’s Greatest Tragedies into Your Greatest Triumphs. I share my response to a diagnosis of prostate cancer as I developed a holistic battle plan, weaving original poetry and Scripture to show how to I emerged, not just as a survivor but more than a conqueror. Here is one of the poems from the book revealing Hammon’s influence:

Watching, Waiting, Seeking

“Wait on the LORD; be of good courage,
and He shall strengthen your heart;
wait, I say, on the LORD!”
—Psalm 27:14

Reassured once more we will not be left behind,
But with patience we must still learn to watch and wait.
We look into the mirror of God’s word and find
Our God has ever been faithful and never late.
We trust in the Lord, as the Word of God extols.
Like Job we wait until at last our change shall come,
Assured that in patience we now anchor our souls.
May we not faint and fall by the wayside as some
But follow in Christ’s steps, as we quickly obey
And bear up under and yield fruit of endurance.
We must walk in God’s love, the more excellent way
And through faith and patience claim our inheritance.
In these perilous times we remain yielded and still,
Watching, waiting, seeking to fulfill all of God’s will.

In celebration of Black Poetry Day and the poetry of Jupiter Hammon, we close with a rendering of “I Love the Lord” arranged by Richard Smallwood. The original composition  was written by Isaac Watts in hymn stanzas, the same metrical pattern used by Hammon in all of his poetry. While living on the Lloyd estate, Hammon had access to the family library which contained a collection of Psalms, Hymns, and Spiritual Songs by Dr. Watts, the “Father of Hymnody,” revealing a possible influence on the poetry of Hammon:

For more details about Embracing Your Life Sentence and its publication, stay tuned to Dr. J’s Apothecary Shoppe and see https://www.lonnelledwardjohnson.com/

Favored for Life

October 15, 2018

Recently a student asked how I was feeling, and replied in a similar manner as my sister and others I know reply when asked the same question: “I am blessed and highly favored and forever grateful.” The student went on to ask, “How do you know that?” I responded “That’s what the Word of God says, and I believe that.” Most providentially, “favor” was the subject of the message at Christian Provision Ministries in Sanford, NC this past Sunday, as Bishop Charles Mellette taught regarding “Favored for Life.” The objective of the teaching was to help believers live the life they were favored to live.” As members of the Body of Christ, the Church Triumphant, we express our gratitude to God for all He has made us to be, as 2 Corinthians 2:14 in the New King James Version tells us:

14 Now thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and through us diffuses the fragrance of His knowledge in every place.

As we examine the word “favor” more closely, we note the word has also been translated “grace.” God extends His grace, His undeserved favor toward His people. A previous blog post on the Quote of the Day had this to say:

“God doesn’t believe in favoritism, yet He shows favor.”

Another Quote of the Day proclaimed:

“The Favor of God is upon you; you will have victory.”

Psalm 5:12 (NLT) declares:

For You, O Lord, bless the righteous man [the one who is in right standing with You]; You surround him with favor as with a shield.

Although the Scriptures reveal that God is no respecter of persons, we find that God also states, “I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.”(Exodus 33:19)

Indeed, we note that the word “favor” has also been translated “grace.” God extends His grace, His undeserved favor toward His people. In thinking about God’s grace and favor Ephesians 2:8-9 (AMP) come to mind:

8 For it is by free grace (God’s unmerited favor) that you are saved (delivered from judgment and made partakers of Christ’s salvation) through [your] faith. And this [salvation] is not of yourselves [of your own doing, it came not through your own striving], but it is the gift of God;

One of the Points of Power emphasized by Bishop Mellette reminded us that the favor of God is always attached to the presence of God. His comments inspired this response:

Where Favor Forever Will Dwell

He who diligently seeks good seeks favor
and grace, but he who seeks evil,
evil will come to him.

Proverbs 11:27

Faith comes by hearing, hearing by the Word of God.
As the most ardent suitors will pursue their love,
We follow after to acquire the love of God,
For favor comes to the faithful who rise above.
As moths flying in darkness are drawn to the light,
So favor follows those who walk in righteousness:
His beloved always find favor in God’s sight.
Those who worship in the beauty of holiness
Are destined to know endless blessing and favor
As fullness of joy overflows in His presence,
Being transformed into a sweet smelling savor:
The favored life in the spirit of excellence.
We walk upright by faith while striving to excel
In His presence where favor forever will dwell.

In reflecting on God’s favor, we recall last year’s theme at Christian Provision Ministries: “unlimited goodness and unlimited favor.” In light of that, this year and every year should be a demonstration of that reality. The concluding remarks from Sunday’s message “The Favored Life” reinforced the message: as we observe what the Lord is doing daily in abounding His grace and kindness toward us, and as we look to see what lies ahead, we should be forever grateful for “the favored life” we are privileged to live.

We conclude with True Worshippers offering “Favor”:

God’s thoughts and God’s ways

October 13, 2018

Today’s blog post entry combines the Verse of the Day for October 13, 2018 found in Jeremiah 29-11 with comments on a related verse from Isaiah 55:8.

As one of the most popular verses of the day, Jeremiah 29:11 appears on greeting cards, plaques, placards, and wall hangings of every kind. Believers rejoice in anticipating to see God’s plans for their lives unfold in glorious ways. Here is the New International Version of the widely recognized verse:

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

To understand more fully the magnitude of God’s declaration, take a look at the context of the verse taken from Jeremiah 29:11-14:

11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. 12 Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.

The words of Jeremiah were specifically addressed to Israel concerning their release from Babylonian captivity after seventy years of enduring unimaginable pain and suffering, shame and humiliation as a result of their rebellion and disobedience. As we read the passage, we recognize the truth expressed in Romans 15:4:

Whatsoever things were written aforetime, were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures, might have hope.

The prophetic word from Jeremiah can certainly have personal application, in that the plans that God has for each of His children are no less grand than those He has for the Children of Israel. We must recognize, however, that those plans may not unfold in the way that we think they should at the time when we think they should. The Scriptures remind us: As for God, His way is perfect. The Lord’s word is flawless; he shields all who take refuge in him” (Psalm 18:30).

The passage from Jeremiah 29 which speaks of the thoughts of God toward the people of God also brings to mind Isaiah 55:7-9

7 Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the LORD, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.
8 For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD.
9 For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.

This passage describes the mind of God, explaining that His thoughts are far beyond our thoughts. Isaiah 55:8 was also the inspiration for this expression of our desire that God will lead, guide, and direct us:

O Lord, prepare the way, straighten our path, and order our steps.
Shine your light upon us that we may not stumble,
That we may not walk in the light of our own sparks,
But illumine our way with the lamp of Your Word.
O Lord, direct our hearts into the love of God
And into the patient waiting for Jesus Christ.
Raise us up in righteousness and direct all our ways,
As we acknowledge Your thoughts are not our thoughts,
Neither are Your ways our ways, O Lord.

As we ask God for guidance and direction, He will lead us, teaching  us along the path that continues to unfold as a light shining more and more unto the perfect day (Proverbs 4:18). Jeremiah 29:11-13 also informs us of God’s concern for our future or “final outcome”, so that we need have no fear for our future.

Damaris Carbaugh shares “I Know the Plans” (Debby’s Song) a musical reminder of Jeremiah 29:11

We close this entry, as we listen to this Christian Worship and Scripture Song based on Isaiah 55:6-9

Psalm 62:1: Watching and waiting

October 11, 2018

The Verse of the Day for October 11, 2018 comes from Psalm 62:1 in the New International Version:

Truly my soul finds rest in God; my salvation comes from him.

Three other versions of the Bible provide additional insight into Psalm 62:1

Amplified Bible:
For God alone my soul waits in silence; from Him comes my salvation.

New King James Version:
Truly my soul silently waits for God;
From Him comes my salvation.

New Living Translation:
I wait quietly before God, for my victory comes from him.

Holman Christian Standard Bible:
I am at rest in God alone; my salvation comes from Him.

These various versions of the Verse of the Day remind us that we are not just waiting, but we are waiting silently, quietly in a state of rest. As a blog post entered earlier this year reminds us, “We are learning to wait on the Lord with patience.” Brian Adams offers these words of encouragement:

“Learn the art of patience. Apply discipline to your thoughts when they become anxious over the outcome of a goal. Impatience breeds anxiety, fear, discouragement and failure. Patience creates confidence, decisiveness, and a rational outlook, which eventually leads to success.”

We note this Biblical definition of patience which has also been translated endurance or perseverance, steadfastly bearing up under and remaining faithful while waiting. Patience or perseverance is a fruit of the spirit that should be evident in our lives, as we wait on the Lord.

As we wait on the Lord, we are not in a state of apprehension or anxiety, but we are in a state of “blessed assurance,” as the lyrics to one of the most popular hymns of all time remind us:

Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine!
O what a foretaste of glory divine!
Heir of salvation, purchase of God,
Born of His Spirit, washed in His blood.

Refrain:
This is my story, this is my song,
Praising my Savior all the day long;
This is my story, this is my song,
Praising my Savior all the day long.

Perfect submission, perfect delight,
Visions of rapture now burst on my sight;
Angels descending, bring from above
Echoes of mercy, whispers of love.

Perfect submission, all is at rest,
I in my Savior am happy and blest;
Watching and waiting, looking above,
Filled with His goodness, lost in His love.

The closing verses of my favorite psalm come to mind when we speak of waiting:

Psalm 27:13-14 (NKJV)

I would have lost heart, unless I had believed
that I would see the goodness of the LORD
in the land of the living.
14 Wait on the LORD;
Be of good courage,
And He shall strengthen your heart;
Wait, I say, on the LORD!

Verse 14 provides the introduction to this expression of the present state in which we find ourselves:

Watching, Waiting, Seeking

“Wait on the LORD; be of good courage,
and He shall strengthen your heart;
wait, I say, on the LORD!”
—Psalm 27:14

Reassured once more we will not be left behind,
But with patience we must still learn to watch and wait.
We look into the mirror of God’s word and find
Our God has been ever faithful and never late.
We trust in the Lord, as the Word of God extols.
Like Job we wait until at last our change shall come,
Assured that in patience we now anchor our souls.
May we not faint and fall by the wayside as some
But follow in Christ’s steps, as we quickly obey
And bear up under and yield fruit of endurance.
We must walk in God’s love, the more excellent way
And through faith and patience claim our inheritance.
In these perilous times we remain yielded and still,
Watching, waiting, seeking to fulfill all of God’s will.

Meditating on Psalm 62:1 and other verses related to waiting is great way to start the day, as we watch and wait.

We conclude with Psalm 62 rendered in music by Alan Keyes:

Passion of our heart

October 9, 2018

We begin our day by taking a close look at the Verse of the Day for October 9, 2018. Here we find instructions given to the Children of Israel, as God expresses His desire for His people, instructing them how to conduct their lives:

Deuteronomy 13:4 (NIV)

It is the Lord your God you must follow, and him you must revere. Keep his commands and obey him; serve him and hold fast to him.

This verse contains directives to the Children of Israel expressed in the form of six action verbs that can be paired together to express how His people should conduct their lives:

Follow and Revere him

In thinking about the verb to follow, I recall the simplicity of the Children’s Ministry song: “My Lord knows the way through the wilderness:”

My Lord knows the way
Through the wilderness
All I have to do is follow

(REPEAT)

Strength for today along the way
And all I need for tomorrow
My Lord knows the way
Through the wilderness
All I have to do is follow

Instead of using the verb revere or to have reverence for, some translations use the term fear, to have respect for or to honor. Regarding the fear of the Lord, Job 28:28 (NLT) offers this reminder:

And this is what he says to all humanity: ‘The fear of the Lord is true wisdom; to forsake evil is real understanding.’”

The Psalmist echoes a similar sentiment in Psalm 111:10 (NLT)

Fear of the Lord is the foundation of true wisdom. All who obey his commandments will grow in wisdom. Praise him forever!

Amplified Bible also connects the fear of the Lord with obedience:

The [reverent] fear of the Lord [that leads to obedience and worship] is a fountain of life, So that one may avoid the snares of death.

Keep His commands and obey him

The scriptures reveal the benefits that come to those who follow the Lord’s commands:

Exodus 4:40 (Holman Christian Standard)

Keep His statutes and commands, which I am giving you today, so that you and your children after you may prosper and so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you for all time.”

Note how the Word of God reinforces this message:

Deuteronomy 7:9 (Holman Christian Standard)

Know that Yahweh your God is God, the faithful God who keeps His gracious covenant loyalty for a thousand generations with those who love Him and keep His commands.

Regarding the verb obey, Deuteronomy 11:22 offers these words of wisdom:

“Be careful to obey all these commands I am giving you. Show love to the Lord your God by walking in his ways and holding tightly to him.

Serve him and hold fast to him.

The final verb means to stick to or to stick with, stay close, cleave, and keep close. It has also been translated to follow closely, join to, overtake, and catch. As believers, all of our energy and efforts should be toward pursuing and adhering to the precepts of the Lord, our God.

Deuteronomy 10:20 provides another directive to fear and to cling:

You must fear the Lord your God and worship him and cling to him. Your oaths must be in his name alone.

The Psalmist makes this statement:

Psalm 119:31 (NLT):

I cling to your laws. Lord, don’t let me be put to shame!
To serve and hold fast to him:

Deuteronomy 6:13 (Amplified Bible) reiterates the same message that the people of God are to serve Him alone:

You shall fear [only] the Lord your God; and you shall serve Him [with awe-filled reverence and profound respect] and swear [oaths] by His name [alone].

When Jesus Christ was tempted of the Devil in the wilderness, the Savior’s response came from this very passage in Deuteronomy 6:13:

Matthew 4:10 (Amplified Bible)

Then Jesus said to him, “Go away, Satan! For it is written and forever remains written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and serve Him only.’”

In reflecting upon the Verse of the Day and other related scripture, we find the Lord our God reveals His desire for His people. Once we recognize the inner longings of our Father’s heart, we seek to fulfill His will, an expression of

Passion of our Heart

Take delight in the Lord,

and He will give you your heart’s desires.

Psalm 37:4 (HCS)

 

The passion of our heart is to fulfill the call,

To walk worthy of the vocation, to stand tall

Yet humbly in His presence, to ever succeed

And abound in God’s grace and to sow righteous seed

That bears fruit each season, wherever it may fall.

 

To serve God with a pure heart, untainted with gall,

May we never forget His goodness but recall

The Word of God spoken to give life and to feed

The passion of our heart.

 

May we walk in peace and live to tear down each wall;

May we know the touch that will quicken and enthrall.

Touched by God’s hand, our lives now reveal such deep need.

We must do more than merely hear but must give heed

To the desire to please the Father with all

The passion of our heart.

To serve, to fear, to obey, to listen, and to cling are powerful verbs spoken as commands to the Children of Israel. In a similar way we can apply these action words to our lives today as believers. This inner yearning is personalized in the song “With all my heart”:

A song for Brenda

October 7, 2018

Instead of the usual Verse of the Day or some other variation, today’s blog entry is a special tribute to a special lady, my wife Brenda, as we celebrate a special occasion:

Through the ages, men have been inspired to write songs for the love of their lives. Often these compositions sing of the special lady by name. Thinking of my wife, Brenda, as she celebrates her 70th birthday inspired this expression of my love for my Sweet Lady:

A Song for Brenda

Celebrating her 70th birthday
October 8, 2018

Each man is inspired by his fair lady;
Many a man has penned a song or two:
For Molly and Dolly and Ora Lee
And for the love Nina never knew.

Some songs are written for the love that’s seen
In the eyes of the cutest girl in town:
Amy, Diana, Fanny, Gigi, and Jean
Liza, Delilah, and Sweet Georgia Brown.

Some songs are written to capture the grace
In the wide smiles that wile and beguile you:
Margie, Maria, and Nancy with the laughing face;
Laura, Louise, and don’t forget Sweet Sue.

Of all the lyrics composed for ladies
The finest words were omitted somehow.
There never was a tender ballad for Brenda
There never was her love song until now.

When Brenda and I moved to North Carolina the first time, from time to time we went to Myrtle Beach. While there we discovered beach music and the shag (we called it fast dancing or the bop or some other name). We loved to shag and still do. In fact, we placed first in the shag division in a dance contest when we were taking dance lessons back in the day. We have the trophy to prove it. On one of our trips to Myrtle Beach we heard what has become one of “our songs”: the beach music classic by OC Smith: Brenda:

or

Happy Birthday, Beautiful.

Trust in the Lord always

October 6, 2018

The Verse of the Day for October 6, 2018 comes from Isaiah 26:4; however, to appreciate more fully what the verse reveals about trust, we need to examine the preceding verse as well, where a familiar reference also speaks about the individual who trusts in God:

Isaiah 26:3-4 (NLT):

You will keep in perfect peace
all who trust in you,
all whose thoughts are fixed on you!
4 Trust in the LORD always,
for the LORD GOD is the eternal Rock.

Amplified Bible puts it this way:

3 You will guard him and keep him in perfect and constant peace whose mind [both its inclination and its character] is stayed on You, because he commits himself to You, leans on You, and hopes confidently in You.
4 So trust in the Lord (commit yourself to Him, lean on Him, hope confidently in Him) forever; for the Lord God is an everlasting Rock [the Rock of Ages].

Psalm 56:1-4: in the New Living Translation also speaks of trusting in the Lord. This particular passage offers great comfort, as a reservoir of strength and encouragement:

1 O God, have mercy on me,
for people are hounding me.
My foes attack me all day long.
2 I am constantly hounded by those who slander me,
and many are boldly attacking me.
3 But when I am afraid,
I will put my trust in you.
4 I praise God for what he has promised.
I trust in God, so why should I be afraid?
What can mere mortals do to me?

Verses 9-11 also reiterate the Psalmist’s determination to trust God:

9 My enemies will retreat when I call to you for help.
This I know: God is on my side!
10 I praise God for what he has promised;
yes, I praise the LORD for what he has promised.
11 I trust in God, so why should I be afraid? What can mere mortals do to me?

As believers, we learn to trust in the Lord, as we learn to follow the exhortation to walk

By Faith

Look at the proud; his soul is not straight or right within him, but the [rigidly] just and the [uncompromisingly] righteous man shall live by his faith and in his faithfulness.
Habakkuk 2:4 [Amplified Bible]

The practical aspect of faith is a walk, a lifestyle:
Moment by moment, we walk by faith, not by what we see,
Knowing that this kind of faith propels us to victory.
Even though some may misunderstand and seek to revile,
The shield of faith counters fiery darts of the enemy’s thrust.
We trust God, despite all the hinderer might do or say.
Being fully persuaded, we learn to trust and obey.
We persist and obey: signs of our perpetual trust,
For faith directly reflects our relationship with the Lord.
Walking from victory to victory will not seem odd,
For whatever we desire according to the Word,
We shall have when we pray and put our trust in the Lord.
For true faith comes by hearing and hearing the Word of God.
God is faithful and always comes through as the scriptures say:
Indeed, the just shall live by faith as we trust and obey.

As we walk by faith and learn to trust God more than ever before, we recall two acronyms to remind us of the meaning of T-R-U-S-T:
We proclaim that we will maintain a

Triumphant attitude” with
Rugged determination” and
Unswerving commitment,” as we further develop
Strengthened believing” and
Tremendous confidence”

We are also learning to T-R-U-S-T:
Taking Risks Under Stressful Times.

Even as David encouraged himself in the Lord in Psalm 56 and throughout the Psalms, so we too encourage ourselves, as we trust God with all our heart and do not lean to our own understanding but acknowledge Him in all our ways, knowing that He will direct our paths.

We close with a song of trust written and performed by Gary Oliver: “I will trust in you.” The lyrics refer to Isaiah 26:4, the Verse of the Day that reinforces the comforting and reassuring message God will keep us in a state of perfect peace as we trust him. As a result, we should trust in the Lord God forever, for He is the everlasting Rock of Ages.

Seek the Lord

October 5, 2018

The Verse of the Day for October 5, 2018 comes from Isaiah 55:6, but to round out the context, we add verses 7-9:

Isaiah 55:6-9 (Revised Standard Version):

“Seek the LORD while he may be found,
call upon him while he is near;
7 let the wicked forsake his way,
and the unrighteous man his thoughts;
let him return to the LORD, that he may have mercy on him,
and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.
8 For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways, says the LORD.
9 For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.

The New Living Translation puts it this way:

Seek the LORD while you can find him. Call on him now while he is near. ‎7 Let the wicked change their ways and banish the very thought of doing wrong. Let them turn to the LORD that he may have mercy on them. Yes, turn to our God, for he will forgive generously. ‎8 “My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the LORD. “And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine. ‎9 For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.

Previous blog posts on this passage have focused on the distinction between the ways of God and the ways of man. Today, however, we would like to emphasize the opening exhortation from verse 5 to “Seek the Lord.” This expression appears in the Psalms and elsewhere as a reminder of where our focus should be as believers.

To seek is to pursue, to put forth a diligent effort. The Psalmist also encourages us in this way:

Psalm 105:3-4

Glory in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice!
Seek the Lord and his strength, seek his presence continually!

In the Gospels Jesus Christ encourages his followers not only to seek but to ask and to knock as well:

Matthew 7:7-8 (New Living Translation)

[Effective Prayer] “Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.

This celebrated passage reveals that seeking will be rewarded, as expressed in the lyrics to this song shown as an acrostic poem that spells out the word “ask,” the first three letters of which form the three verbs found in verse 7.

Ask and it shall be given you;
Seek and you shall find.
Knock and it shall be opened unto to you.

Ask, seek and knock.
Ask, seek and knock.

For everyone who asks receives
He who seeks finds
And to him who knocks, it shall be opened.

Ask, seek and knock.
Ask, seek and knock.

Certainly this principle applies when seeking the Lord: that those who seek the Lord will find Him. Hosea speaks of a time when seeking the Lord will be rewarded:

Hosea 10:12

Sow for yourselves righteousness, reap the fruit of steadfast love; break up your fallow ground, for it is the time to seek the Lord, that he may come and rain salvation upon you.

Reflecting on the Verse of the Day inspired this response:

Seek the Lord

Seek the Lord while he may be found, call upon him while he is near;
Isaiah 55:6

Seek the Lord while he may be found, call upon Him while He is near;
Draw close; abide in the fullness of His presence. Have no fear
Come boldly before Him to find grace to help in time of need,
Trust the surety of His promises, and you will succeed.
Keep your ears near to the lips of God that you might clearly hear.

With more than enough to restore each loss, no matter how severe,
As a good shepherd provides, the Lord, our God, supplies each need.
Seek the Lord while he may be found.

As the Day Star rises and the hope of Christ’s return draws near,
Continue to move ahead as pioneers on a love frontier.
Trust in the Lord and follow His will wherever it may lead
God is always speaking that we might not only hear but heed.
Fight the good fight of faith as you stand to the end: persevere.
Seek the Lord while he may be found.

We conclude with a Christian Worship and Scripture Song from Isaiah 55:6-9:

No fear

October 2, 2018

In the midst of the uncertainty of our changing times, the Verse of the Day for October 2, 2018 touches upon a growing concern across the globe: fear.

Fear, a common and natural emotional response to potential danger, touches everyone, but if not properly addressed, it can become a deadly emotion with serious consequences. Excessive fear can cripple and impact our daily lives in negative ways. Unbridled fear, as a toxic emotion, limits and inhibits believers. Proverbs 29:25 makes this clear:

The fear of man brings a snare, but whoever trusts in the LORD shall be safe.

The Verse of the Day also brings to mind one of the chapters of my  forthcoming book. When diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2000, I did not see “a death sentence,” but I saw a “life sentence” that transformed my thinking. In Embracing Your Life Sentence: How to Turn Life’s Greatest Tragedies into Your Greatest Triumphs. I share the holistic strategy God inspired me to use to overcome this adversity. A vital part of the battle plan deals with confronting “the fear factor.” Here is an excerpt:

Regarding the toxic emotions of life,  we must learn to counteract their harmful effects with the proper remedy. In terms of responding to fear, we find that love is the perfect antidote.

The love of God  is the highest form of love, “a love which is more intimate than friend, or kin or wife;” This close-knit love is known as agape, a term used exclusively in the New Testament, to reveal the uniqueness of God’s love.

With love, as with any other emotion, there must be a demonstration or manifestation whereby one knows the reality of the emotion in question. We speak of the love of God in manifestation which is so clearly demonstrated in one of the most widely recognized verses in the Bible, John 3:16:

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.

The book of I John also reveals the perfect connection between fear and love, particularly in 1 John 2:5 (NKJV).

But whoever keeps His word, in him truly the love of God is perfected in him. By this know that we are in Him.

In those who hear the Word of God and keep it, the love of God is perfected or made perfect or complete, wanting nothing or brought to maturity in them. To be perfected is to be brought to a full end.

The love of God is perfected or made complete or full in us when we walk in the steps of Jesus Christ, the ultimate example of perfect love. Verse 18 provides the basis for love being the perfect antidote to fear.

There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love.

When an individual is perfected in love and walks in or demonstrates that love, there is no room for fear. The love of God is the key that releases each believer from the bondage of this self-imposed prison from which Christ came to set the captives free. Even in distressful and disturbing situations where we do not clearly understand what is transpiring in our lives health-wise and otherwise, we must always remember this:

There is No Fear in Love

There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear,
because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love.
—I John 4:18

There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear
And abounds to transform any adverse atmosphere.
We are perfected and made whole when we walk in love,
A true love that we live and not one we just speak of.
Such love is pure and never repels but draws us near.

This balm of love heals all wounds, no matter how severe
With words of compassion each soul on earth longs to hear;
Love conquers any disaster and rises above.
There is no fear in love.

We follow in Christ’s steps, knowing our mandate is clear.
Assured of triumph, there is never a need to fear.
We press toward the mark, the prize we seek to lay hold of
To ascend in victory on wings of a gentle dove.
We walk forth as bold pioneers on a love frontier:
There is no fear in love

Steffany Gretzinger offers this beautiful expression of our heart’s desire:

Scheduled for release in a few weeks, Embracing Your Life Sentence is designed to inform and inspire. Find out more about it at https://www.lonnelledwardjohnson.com/ or keep checking Dr. J’s Apothecary Shoppe.

Walking in the Spirit

September 28, 2018

The Verse of the Day for September 28, 2018 comes from 1 Corinthians 2:14 in the Revised Standard Version:

The unspiritual man does not receive the gifts of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.

Here is the rendering from the New Living Translation:

But people who aren’t spiritual can’t receive these truths from God’s Spirit. It all sounds foolish to them and they can’t understand it, for only those who are spiritual can understand what the Spirit means.

Revised and re-posted, today’s Verse of the Day contrasts two distinctive groups of people: those who are of a carnal or fleshly nature and those who are spiritual whose spiritual nature dominates. In the first instance, those of a carnal nature are led by bodily appetites, the five senses, and also by a self-exalting spirit, estranged from the life of the spirit. To those who walk after the flesh, spiritual matters or concerns of the Spirit are foolishness to those whose very nature is earthly, sensual, and devilish.

In Romans Paul contrasts those who walk after the spirit and those who walk after flesh in Romans 8:1(NKJV):

There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.

He goes on to explain how believers are different because we do not walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. 5 For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit.

Galatians 5: 16-18 in the Amplified Bible sharply delineate this dilemma:

16 But I say, walk and live [habitually] in the [Holy] Spirit [responsive to and controlled and guided by the Spirit]; then you will certainly not gratify the cravings and desires of the flesh (of human nature without God).
17 For the desires of the flesh are opposed to the [Holy] Spirit, and the [desires of the] Spirit are opposed to the flesh (godless human nature); for these are antagonistic to each other [continually withstanding and in conflict with each other], so that you are not free but are prevented from doing what you desire to do.
18 But if you are guided (led) by the [Holy] Spirit, you are not subject to the Law you are guided (led) by the [Holy] Spirit, you are not subject to the Law.

In the midst of the turbulent times of this present age, many think of the prophetic word spoken on the Day of Pentecost proclaiming words spoken by the prophet Joel regarding the Spirit of God:

Acts 2:17-18

17 ‘And in the last days it shall be, God declares,
that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh,
and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
and your young men shall see visions,
and your old men shall dream dreams;
18 yea, and on my menservants and my maidservants in those days
I will pour out my Spirit; and they shall prophesy.

Our discussion also brings to mind this original poem

The Spirit of God

“Spirit of the living God, fall fresh on me.”
Traditional Gospel Song

As the Spirit of God moved upon the water,
As an eagle ascends on high and stirs her nest,
Attentive to the cries of her starving young ones;
As she satisfies her young and then spreads her wings,
So Holy Spirit with a gentle wavering,
Flutter over, move upon us in a new way.
As a gentle dove would hover over her brood,
Cover our soul and saturate our whole being.
As we wait upon you, spread your wings, bear us up
That we might soar to heights above the fowler’s snare.
Renew our strength and refresh our desire to serve.
As you feed us and sustain us, we shall mount up
On eagle’s wings. We shall run and not be weary.
As we look to you, we shall walk and not faint.

We close with a reminder of how believers should be walking: “Walking in the Spirit.