Nine times two and so much more

November 17, 2018

As we continue to move toward the end of 2018, the thought occurred to me that 18 is the number nine times two. I also recall the spiritual significance of nine in light of E.W. Bullinger’s Number in Scripture: Its Supernatural Design and Spiritual Significance from which this excerpt comes:

Nine–denotes finality of judgment. It is 3 x 3. The number nine or its factors or multiples is seen in all cases where judgment is the subject. In mathematical science it possesses properties and powers which are found in no other number. Among others may be mentioned (1) that the sum of the digits which form its multiples are themselves always a multiple of nine; e.g., 2 x 9 = 18 (and 1+8=9); 3 x 9 = 27 (and 2+7=9); 4 x 9 = 36 (and 3+6=9); 5 x 9 = 45 (and 4+5=9), etc. It is a factor of 666, which is 9 times 74.

But nine is the square of three, and three is the number of Divine perfection, as well as the number peculiar to the Holy Spirit. It is not surprising, therefore, to find that this number denotes finality in divine things (as in the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22-23 and in the manifestation of the Spirit in I Corinthians 12).

As individuals seek to number their days and apply their hearts unto wisdom, we recognize all we do will examined by God, our gracious heavenly Father, the Righteous Judge. Romans 8:26 reminds us that God “searches the depths of each soul and probes each heart.” We recognize this searching of the hearts is ongoing, for God does not look on the hearts of humanity simply one time, but the probe continues in that He searches again and again.

While thinking about these ideas, I also thought about the concept of “research” (literally to search again and again) and recall a discussion regarding God, our Father, as the ultimate “Researcher” who conducts this grand “research project” whose primary purpose is for the advancement of human knowledge about God, that we might “fear God and keep His commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.” In the process we discover, interpret and develop knowledge, which we apply as we grow in our understanding of the Creator and His vast universe.

I also recall that a number of poems I have written centering on “searching” or “trying,” as in examining closely and scrutinizing in detail in order to render some kind of assessment or evaluation. This morning I came across one such poem written when I was participating in a clinical trial related to prostate cancer at the Ohio State University. During this time I wrote a poem reflecting on that experience, as I thought about one of the reasons I chose to participate in the clinical trial which caused me to think of lyrics to the song “If I Can Help Somebody”:

Then my living shall not be in vain!
If I can help somebody as I pass along,
Then my living shall not be in vain!

All of this information is flowing together in a most remarkable way as “I . . . arise and strive to reach the place /where the rivers of understanding flow.” That experience culminated in this poem written nine years ago:

Search Me Again

23 Search me, O God, and know my heart; 

Try me, and know my anxieties;

24 And see if there is any wicked way in me,

And lead me in the way everlasting.

Psalm 139:23-24

As you follow your protocol, search me again;
Probe the depths of my soul, as you once more explore
My life’s work, as you have done many times before.
While you search, take pleasure in all that may remain,
For your thoughtful study of my ways will explain
The lapses, that though I fall short, you will restore,
That I might be renewed to serve you even more
And so prove that my living will not be in vain.
May you find in me admissible evidence.
May your research validate my life and confirm
All that lives in me, as you once more analyze
The thesis of this “research project,” in a sense.
Despite intense scrutiny may all your findings affirm
Pure-hearted devotion and joyful service in your eyes.

We close with Hillsong offering this magnificent song of worship “Search Me O God”:

Veterans Day Reflections

November 13, 2018

Each year as November 11 approaches, I pause to reflect upon Veterans Day, a national holiday of special significance to me. First of all, I am a veteran, having served two years in the US Army, from 1967 to the end of 1968 during the Vietnam era. Most providentially that experience directly relates to my being here in Fayetteville, NC where I lived from 1985 to 1994 when I taught as an associate professor at Fayetteville State University. In 2013 I returned to teach as an adjunct professor at Carolina College of Biblical Studies.

Born and reared in Gary, Indiana, I visited Purdue University, the first college campus I ever set foot on, when I was about 13 or 14. At that time I decided I would attend Purdue and major in Pharmacy. When I graduated from high school in 1960, I enrolled at Purdue and graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Pharmacy in 1965, later becoming a registered pharmacist, working as a staff pharmacist at Methodist Hospital in Gary. While enjoying the “good life,” I received my “greetings from Uncle Sam” in 1967 was drafted into the US Army. Back then I thought this was the worst thing that could have happened to me. Being drafted into the Army in the late 60s was not an ideal situation for a young African American male in light of the disproportionate number of black men sent to Viet Nam, some of whom did not return and others who were forever changed by that experience.

In January 1967 after a tearful farewell with my parents, I boarded the bus that took me to Fort Campbell, Kentucky. Upon completing of my basic training, I went to Fort Sam Houston, in San Antonio, Texas, where I could choose to work in a dispensary filling prescriptions, as I had done before, or I could choose to become a pharmacy instructor and teach pharmacy technicians. The second choice sounded intriguing since I had not done that before, and so I opted to become a pharmacy instructor, which turned out to be ideally suited to me and opened up a new world of classroom teaching which ignited a passion to teach. This passion motivated me to pursue a Master’s degree in English from Emporia State University in Kansas and a Ph.D. in English from Indiana University. This passion continues to burn, even as I am teaching at CCBS where I teach classes on campus and online.

My time of service as pharmacy instructor began with intense training at the Medical Field Service School. During this time, I recall one veteran from Kentucky whom I knew briefly while serving as a pharmacy instructor at Fort Sam Houston. He and I had many things in common: we were both drafted as pharmacists who opted to become pharmacy instructors, but there was one notable difference. I had not signed up for an extra year of service, despite the Army’s indicating I might not get a pharmacy position if I didn’t. My fellow serviceman, had signed up for the extra year, but we both received pharmacy positions. The extra year, however, increased the likelihood of going to Vietnam if a pharmacy position needed to be filled there.

About nine months after we completed our training as instructors, my fellow instructor received orders for Vietnam, and by the end of the year, he was shipped overseas. In the early part of the next year, we received the news that he had been killed. The impact of that experience did not fully resonate with me until years later on Memorial Day when I looked up the name of this individual on the website for the Vietnam Memorial and recognized that he was from a small town in Kentucky. I was teaching a composition and literature class at the time at the Louisville campus of Indiana Wesleyan University when I saw my colleague’s death in a totally different light. In literature we find a term called a Christological figure or Christ Figure. The term refers to an object, person, or figure representing Christ allegorically or symbolically. Such a figure shares qualities generally found in Christ, with one of the most notable qualities being “self-sacrifice.”

I was overwhelmed by the reality that my fellow instructor, in a sense, went in my place. What transpired while I was in the Army culminated in an awareness of the ultimate sacrifice of Jesus Christ, who took my place and gave his life that I might live. My whole experience in the military brings to mind my favorite verse in my favorite chapter of the Bible: Romans 8:28

And we know that all things work together for the good, to them that love God, to them that are the called according to His purpose.

Today I recognize more clearly than ever what Satan meant for evil, God in His providence, transforms into something great and glorious. Each Veterans Day, I reflect with gratitude to God for my time of service in the military, recognizing the contribution that veterans have made and continue to make to secure the blessings of liberty that we enjoy today.

We conclude with a Veterans Day Tribute (November 11, 2018 edition—100-year anniversary).

Filled with the knowledge of His will

November 12, 2018

In reflecting on the Verse of the Day for November 12, 2018, we note an excerpt from one of the powerful prayers expressed to God on the behalf of believers:

Colossians 1:9 (NIV):

For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you. We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives,

The phrase “the knowledge of His will” stood out as I began to consider deeply this verse that emphasizes “The Will of God,” the place where we ever desire to be found as followers of the Lord Jesus Christ.

As the will of God unfolds before us, however, many times we find ourselves in a place where, according to our five senses, we by no means desire to be. Recall the words of Jesus Christ as he faced indescribable anguish and physical suffering beyond anything imaginable when he prayed to his Father three times regarding the situation confronting him in Mark 14:36 (New Living Translation):

“Abba, Father,” he cried out, “everything is possible for you. Please take this cup of suffering away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.”

In thinking about doing the will of God, we sometimes find ourselves in similar situations. I recall this statement from Douglas Adams: “I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I needed to be.” Regardless as to how our circumstances may appear, the lyrics of the gospel song remind us: “the safest place in the whole wide world is in the perfect will of God.”

Bible scholar and translator Kenneth Wuest speaks of “knowledge of His will” as “advanced and perfect experiential knowledge.” The term is related to God’s desire that we become enlightened, that the eyes of our heart may be flooded with light so that we might “know,” being enlightened to the point that we come to know for ourselves or come to know a new reality in a more profound personal way. Once we know for yourselves, we will never be the same.

The Verse of the Day with its reference to being filled with the knowledge of His will also relates to this poetic expression:

The Will of God

To find the will of God is the greatest discovery.

To know the will of God is the greatest knowledge. 

To do the will of God is the greatest achievement.

 Albert Schweitzer

 

My food is to do the will of Him who sent me and to finish His work.

John 4:34 [NKJV]

                                                 

To unearth at last the world’s most priceless treasure

And gaze upon the splendor of God’s sovereignty

Is to savor joy unspeakable beyond measure:

To find the will of God is the greatest discovery.

To know intimacy beyond the highest degree,

A confident assurance when we acknowledge

And embrace the path prepared for us, our destiny.

To know the will of God is the greatest knowledge.

To live life, knowing we are covered by the Blood

Is to walk with no regret, never to lament,

For all decisions work together for the good:

To do the will of God is the greatest achievement.

Guided and protected by the Shepherd’s staff and rod,

We rejoice to find, to know and do the will of God.

We close with Colossians 1:9-12 set to music from The Colossians Project by Eastbrook Church:

Perilous times: My times are in your hands

November 4, 2018

As a youngster back in the day in the middle of the 20th Century, I recall elderly adults testifying that we were living in “the last and evil days.” As we continue to move rapidly into the first quarter of the 21st Century, some believers refer to 2 Timothy 3:1 and echo similar views of the times in which we presently live:

2 Timothy 3:1

But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come:

This verse has also been translated this way in the Amplified Bible:

But understand this, that in the last days dangerous times [of great stress and trouble] will come [difficult days that will be hard to bear].

Other versions of the Bible describe perilous times as “violent periods of time” or “times full of danger.”

The Passion Translation renders the verse:

But you need to be aware that in the final days the culture of society will become extremely fierce and difficult for the people of God.

Without question, the events subsequent September 11, 2001 catapulted the world into a state of anxiety and fearfulness, as the world has been engulfed in wars and rumors of wars, as ethnic conflicts flare up across the globe. The world is still seeking “Peace in our times” and continues to cry out for “Peace, peace, but there is no peace.” In the midst these turbulent times of seemingly endless turmoil and strife, those with spiritual eyes to see observe all that is transpiring as some of “the signs of the times.” Although the present times are stressful and difficult to deal with, we can find strength and comfort in the words of the Psalmist who personalizes his assurance that the Lord God is aware of the times in which David lives and that He will deliver his servant.

In the Old Testament some form of the verb palat, the Hebrew word for “deliver,” is translated “to pluck out of the hands of an oppressor or enemy; to preserve, recover, remove; to deliver from danger, evil, trouble; to be delivered, to escape.” We note how the term is used in Psalm 31:1-4, 15 in the Amplified Bible:

In You, O LORD, I have placed my trust and taken refuge;
Let me never be ashamed;
In Your righteousness rescue me.
2
Incline Your ear to me, deliver me quickly;
Be my rock of refuge,
And a strong fortress to save me.
3
Yes, You are my rock and my fortress;
For Your name’s sake You will lead me and guide me.
4
You will draw me out of the net that they have secretly laid for me,
For You are my strength and my stronghold.
15
My times are in Your hands;
Rescue me from the hand of my enemies and from those who pursue and persecute me.

Verse 15 is also personalized and expressed in these original lyrics

My Times Are In Your Hand

There are times in life when I simply don’t understand,
When I cannot see the intricacy of your perfect plan,
When I’m tossed about and full of doubt,
When it seems I just can’t endure,
Your spirit comes beside me,
To comfort and to guide me,
To redirect and reassure,
To help me understand that my times are in your hand.

My times are in your hand.
My times are in your hand.
Your spirit comes beside me,
To comfort and to guide me,
To redirect and reassure,
To help me understand that my times are in your hand.

My times are in your hand.
My times are in your hand.
I submit every vision, each purpose and plan.
Though I may never fully understand,
I stand secure in knowing my times are in your hand.

It’s so comforting to know
My times are in your hand.
My times are in your hand.

Jason Silver offers “Refuge,” a worship song based on Psalm 31:1-5, 15-16

 

Bear one another’s burdens and the Burden Bearer

October 23, 2018

Revised and re-posted is the Verse of the Day for October 23, 2018 expressing the idea that there is a burden that we can share, according to Galatians 6:2-3 in the Amplified Bible:

2 Carry one another’s burdens and in this way you will fulfill the requirements of the law of Christ [that is, the law of Christian love].3 For if anyone thinks he is something [special] when [in fact] he is nothing [special except in his own eyes], he deceives himself.
If we see a brother or sister fall under a heavy burden, we can come along side of them and offer assistance in bearing that burden. There is, however, a burden that every believer must bear alone. This truth is revealed in Galatians 6:5 which indicates: “For every man shall bear his own burden.”

In thinking on these verses, my mind also recalls a backpacking experience that occurred at TFI (Total Fitness Institute) in California back in December, 1975. During this outdoor wilderness adventure I was assigned to a platoon of believers, and we portioned out our food supply for the week among the group. I volunteered to carry the food for the last day, which meant that my load stayed the same while the load that everyone else carried got lighter.

On this particular day, we were told that we would hike for a mile and then take a break and rest for a while. After a considerable amount of time, I was certain that we had hiked more than a mile, but we continued. When I realized that I was carrying the food for the last day and that everyone else’s load was lighter than mine, I became agitated and began to complain in my mind that “This is just not fair. . .” During this time of frustration and agitation as I struggled under my heavy load, I thought of the Lord Jesus Christ and all that he gladly bore on my behalf. As I took my mind off myself and turned my thoughts toward the Lord, the distress and exasperation seemed to fade, and we arrive at our destination in a short time. That experience was the inspiration for this poem:

The Burden Bearer

Glory, Glory, Hallelujah,
When I lay my burden down.

I stumbled up the rugged road;
I almost fell beneath the load
And spurned the pain inside my head,
Recalling words of one who said
“Come unto me, and I will give you rest.”

The yoke I bear cannot compare
With all he took upon Himself:
All sins, disease, and guilt, despair
That I could not forebear myself.
His burden was not made of wood,
His cross beyond all words can name.
Have I resisted unto blood?
Could I for joy endure such shame?

From a glimpse into his face
I’m strengthened by a second wind;
My mind’s renewed to keep the pace
The load is lightened by my friend.

I feel better, so much better
since I laid my burden down.

The Verse of the Day and my experience more than 40 years ago .brought to mind lyrics from an old gospel song that I recall my childhood days, recorded here by the Staple Singers: “Glory, Glory, Hallelujah.” The epigraph or short intro to the poem as well as the closing stanza come from this gospel music classic:

We rejoice each day to know that the Lord Jesus Christ is truly our “Burden Bearer.”

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”: