I am the door of the sheep

December 5, 2016

john-10-10

The Verse of the Day for December 5, 2016 offers another metaphorical statement by Jesus Christ about himself:

John 10:7, 9-10 in the New King James Version:

[Jesus the Good Shepherd] Then Jesus said to them again, “Most assuredly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.

Providentially, Bishop Charles Mellette of Christian Provision Ministries in Sanford, NC has been ministering with a teaching series “Hearing the Voice of God” based on this same passage. His objective has been to teach that hearing the voice of God should be a lifestyle.

A previous blog entry notes that this particular passage speaks of Jesus Christ as the gate or door of the sheep which serves a dual purpose.  Such a gate or door can be used to keep enemies or those with harmful intents from entering the sheepfold. It can also be used to keep the sheep within the confines of safety. Ron Graham elaborates on this reference:

A ‘Sheepfold’ is a secure walled enclosure in which sheep are penned when not out to pasture in care of the shepherd. The sheepfold might be a permanent barn-like enclosure for shelter, an outdoor holding pen with stone walls, or a makeshift barricade of briars and crisscrossed pointed sticks. A single narrow opening was provided for entry and exit. If there was no secure door or gate, a keeper would guard the entrance or at night sleep across it. The purpose of the sheepfold was to keep the flock together, keep out wolves or dogs, and to make it difficult for thieves or vandals to steal or harm the sheep. A flock of sheep is a very valuable but vulnerable asset. A good shepherd knows and loves his sheep and guards them with his life against all predators. He keeps his flock together and fetches back any sheep that stray. A sheepfold was necessary for the protection of the flock.

farmyard-gate

The photo of a farmyard gate shows sheep quietly gazing on the other side of the entrance. Similarly, Jesus describes himself as a door or gate to the sheep.

The Sheep Gate is also mentioned in the rebuilding of the wall and the gates at Jerusalem during the time of Nehemiah. A teaching series on the gates of Jerusalem was the inspiration for this poem which comes to mind while thinking of John 10:

At the Sheep Gate

 I am the good shepherd; and I know My sheep,

and am known by My own

As the Father knows Me,

 even so I know the Father;

 and I lay down My life for the sheep.

John 10:14-15

 

Here stands a company of priests, a holy nation,

Those called, chosen and set apart faithfully to serve,

To restore the sacred place of adoration.

Our lives have become open books for all to observe.

Even as priests prepared the altar of sacrifice,

We commit our lives to serve the Lord and vow to keep

Our covenant both with God and with one another.

As the Good Shepherd lays down his life for the sheep,

We are willing to give our lives for a sister or brother.

We have been sent to the sheepfold to guard and protect

Indeed, we are willing to pay the ultimate price

To follow Christ that our love might be made perfect.

At the Sheep Gate God first speaks that His will might be known:

That shepherds with His heart should serve and preserve His own.

We close with this lively musical rendering of John 10:10: “I have come”

I am the bread of life

December 3, 2016

john-6-35

In the Gospel of John we find seven metaphors expressed as “I am” statements regarding the identity of the Son of God:

Jesus said, “I am the bread of life.”

I am the light of the world.

I am the door to the sheep.

I am the Good Shepherd.

I am the resurrection and the life.

I am the way, the truth, and the life.

I am the true vine; you are the branches.

The Verse of the Day for December 3, 2016 is the first of these seven metaphors found in John 6:35 in the New King James Version:

And Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst.

Bread is said to represent food which sustains life. As the “bread of life” Jesus provides nourishment and sustenance for anyone who comes to him. In a message to the New York University Bible Fellowship, Sahaed H. comments, “When we are hungry, it is because there is an emptiness in our stomachs that should not be there, and we must fill that emptiness with food. In the same way, because of our broken relationship with our Father God our souls have been starving. But when we come to Jesus and believe in him, Jesus, the bread of life, fills that void and restores our relationship with Father God. Then we can be truly satisfied from all our hunger.”

Bread

The photo displays a hearty brown bread which is also called the “staff of life” or a basic food that supports life. Some form bread is found in virtually every culture around the world.

Reflecting on this particular metaphor, inspired the following poem:

The Bread of God

This is the bread which comes down

 from heaven, that a man may eat thereof,

and not die.

I am the living bread which came down from heaven:

if any man eat of this bread, he shall live forever:

and the bread that I will give is my flesh,

which I will give for the life of the world.

John 6:50-51

Bread of Heaven, Bread of Heaven,

 feed me till I want no more.

Guide Me, O, Thou Great Jehovah

Traditional Hymn

Food to sustain, the staff of life, our daily bread:

One of two elements of a New Testament,

Healing our mortal bodies to the fullest extent,

Those who partake never hunger, as Christ has said.

Unleaven bread of truth sanctified, set apart,

So this bread symbolizes Christ’s broken body,

Bruised, battered and wounded, as if for only me.

As I eat this bread and believe with all my heart

That Christ finished the work which was his bread, his food,

I partake of the bread of life and testify

Of bread from heaven that man may eat and never die,

For man is sustained by knowing that God is good.

The living bread was given to redeem and restore:

The bread of God comes down from heaven to give life;

The bread of peace fulfills our souls, dispels all strife.

Bread of Heaven, feed me till I want no more.

The Fron Male Choir sing “Guide Me O Thou Great Redeemer,” the great hymn by William and Peter Williams with its opening verse from which the closing line of the poem is taken.

Reflections of my father on his birthday

December 2, 2016

Lonnie Johnson

This morning as I began my morning reflections and time of meditation, I recall that today, December 2, 2016 is my father, Lonnie Johnson’s, birthday. Born in rural Arkansas in 1922, my father migrated as a youngster with his mother to Gary, Indiana where I was born and reared. Recently my father had been very much in my thoughts, as my wife and I visited our daughter and son-in-law and our new grandson who live in Reston, Virginia. During the Thanksgiving holiday, as I held my grandson, I thought of my parents with a comforting assurance that they would have been so proud of their great grandson.

 

Upon returning home to Fayetteville, NC, I recall something that my father said a number of times, but I remember one specific occasion when he told me, “Son, I’m proud of you.” We were living in Arlington, Virginia in the first year of our marriage, and most remarkably I had returned to that general area a couple of weeks ago.

 

Every man since Adam has sensed a deep yearning to hear these words or some variation thereof from his father. I also recall another specific occasion occurring around Father’s Day, when I asked my dad what he wanted for Father’s Day, and he made a similar comment, “Son, just keep me proud of you.” I have since endeavored to live up to that admonition.

 

As my wife and I departed on the Megabus, we rode through the heart of Washington, DC, the place where we first met and later returned to live after we were married. I recall another unforgettable incident that occurred when my parents visited me for the first time when I lived in DC from 1969-71. During that visit I learned something about my father who inspired this poem:

 

Quiet as it’s kept

Quiet as it’s kept, Daddy loved the blues.

I remember the time back in the day when Dad could still drive,

and drive he did most of the way, not the whole way, but divided in half,

stopping to spend the night in a motel in Pennsylvania

somewhere about halfway between Gary, Indiana and DC

“Madear and Daddy” drove down to visit me one weekend over the 4th

and we went down to festivities off Constitution Avenue

in that “grassy as if it wanted wear” area near the Smithsonian.

Strolling like nomads in and out of blue and white striped tents,

seeking relief from the relentless blazing summer sun,

we sampled the chicken and rib tips and fresh squeezed lemonade

and finished off the feasting with a taste of the blues:

a folk festival of sorts, featuring local blues singers

and a quartet from Dad’s home state of Arkansas.

We followed the crowd into this one wide tan canvas expanse,

flaps raised and rolled up, wrapped all around the sides,

like a revival tent without the sawdust.

On the plywood stage covered with carpet remnants

in a rickety wooden folding chair sat old Flora.

She wasn’t blind but thick wire-rimmed glasses

magnified her dark orbs that closed like doll’s eyes

when she reared back her head and hollered.

Flora was good, but she wasn’t quite like Robert,

old Blind Robert that sang down in front of the Riggs Bank.

He was blind for sure (think he was born that way),

strumming and humming, and sliding that metal bar up and down the guitar strings

to lure folk into the tent to taste that thick authentic down home sound.

Blind Robert show could sing. . . .

 

Wonder why so many good blues singers be blind?

Brother Ray and Stevie. . . Blind Lemon Jefferson, Blind Willie McTell,

Blind Willie Johnson, Blind Blake n’nem;

All the Blind Boys, from Mississippi and Alabama,

All yall, I know yall see what it takes to show nuff sing the blues.

Of course, my Daddy got the same name as a famous blues singer,

Lonnie Johnson. I wonder what all that means, if anything.

 

While the brothers from Arkansas was playing and singing,

I’d glance over and catch Daddy nodding his head in agreement

or see him smiling or simply breathing a sigh,

like a tacit Amen or inner response that seemed to say,

“You got that right.”

We stood and watched and listened a good while

before we left and continued to stroll from tent to tent.

After a while, Daddy wanted to go back just one more time.

My Daddy show did love him some blues that time in DC.

 

Some say the blues is an acquired taste that you appreciate as you age.

As I have mellowed in the autumn of the years, I have come to enjoy the blues too.

I just wish I could have shared this newfound fondness for blueness

with my father back in the day, in my younger boppin doowop days,

but I just couldn’t get into them down in the alley sad songs back then.

I just didn’t know why the blues always be so sad.

What did I know? What did I know?

 

Now I know it takes a whole lot of living and

a lot more loving and losing to appreciate the blues.

Like the Lady say,

You don’t know what love is
        Until you’ve learned the meaning of the blues
        Until you’ve loved a love you’ve had to lose
        You don’t know what love is

Now I know just what Daddy meant when he nodded his head

and sighed and wanted to go back just one more time.

Quiet as it’s kept, my Daddy loved him some blues.

 

 

In all things I seek to find a spiritual application, and I came to the conclusion long ago that in a similar manner, God, my heavenly Father, sometimes affectionately called Abba, Father, my Daddy, also appreciates the blues which attempt to articulate a response to loss. As Ralph Ellison, notes,

 

“The blues is an impulse to keep the painful details and episodes of a brutal experience alive in one’s aching consciousness, to finger the jagged grain, and to transcend it, not by consolations of philosophy but by squeezing from it a near-tragic, near-comic lyricism.  As a form, the blues is an autobiographical chronicle of personal catastrophe expressed lyrically.”

 

 

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.”

Indeed, both my Daddy and Abba, Father, loved them some blues.

Back to the beginning

December 1, 2016

john-1-1-2

Revised and re-posted, the Verse of the Day for December 1, 2016 takes us all the way back to the beginning:

John 1:1-2, 14 (NKJV):

[The Eternal Word] In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God.

[ The Word Becomes Flesh ] And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.

Here is a scripture memory song based on John 1:1-2:

The familiar passage that opens the Gospel of John also brings to mind the opening scripture of the Bible, Genesis 1:1:

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.

This verse was among the first scripture memory songs that I was inspired to compose 14 years ago. I also used gestures to reinforce the message:

The index finger on the right hand was raised followed by the index finger on the left hand being raised to indicate “Genesis: 1:1.” Sweeping gestures were then used to reinforce the words “In the beginning” with hands that came together to represent an open Bible. The index finger on each hand would then be extended heavenward pointing to “God.” With the palms of the hand held outward with circular motions representing “God created,” followed by the index fingers pointing upward again on the words “the heavens.” With the hands pointing downward in a repeated criss-cross motion to represent “the Earth.” Genesis 1:1 would be repeated with the index fingers being raised on the right hand and the left hand.

Crosstown Kids offer their version of Genesis 1:1 as a scripture memory song

The video of the familiar hymn “Trust and Obey” opens with a reference to Genesis 1:1 and closes with a reference to John 1:1 in a magnificent manner:

When we go all the way back to beginning, guess who has always been there? God

Lord, you are good

November 29, 2016

psalm136-1

Five days after Thanksgiving Day, we continue to encounter reminders to be thankful, as the Verse of the Day for November 29, 2016 encourages us:

Psalm 136:1, 26 (NKJV):

[Thanksgiving to God for His Enduring Mercy] Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever.

Oh, give thanks to the God of heaven! For His mercy endures forever.

In the opening verse of Psalm 136 we note the refrain: “For His mercy endures forever.” The same refrain is repeated to conclude verse 26, the last verse. In fact, the expression punctuates every verse of the Psalm in the same way.

In reflecting on this passage, a previous entry that discussed the expression “Call and response” comes to mind. In music, particularly in jazz which incorporates improvisation, we find a technique labeled “call and response,” whereby a musician issues a phrase or line, and another player answers with a phrase or comment in response. The same technique is also seen in other areas of African American culture involving speakers, such as preachers or ministers of the gospel or worship leaders who issue a series of calls, and the audience, the congregation, or group being addressed answers with responses. In the case of the Verse of the Day, there is an opening exhortation or call to give thanks to the Lord, followed by the response: “For His mercy endures forever.”

One of the awesome attributes of God is that He is a God of mercy, and His mercy never fails. In Psalm 126 the term mercy is also translated “lovingkindness or grace.” Although our Father is a God of justice, he tempers justice with grace and mercy. Justice has been defined as “getting exactly what one deserves.” Whereas grace is said to be unmerited favor or getting something that one does not deserve, while mercy is defined as “withholding merited judgment” or “not getting what one deserves. God ever displays His mercy toward

His children, as Lamentations 3:22-23 reminds us:

It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness.

Throughout the Psalms, we see God abounds in mercy:

Psalm 119: 64:

The earth, O Lord, is full of Your mercy: teach me Your statutes.

Psalm 57:10

For Your mercy is great unto the heavens, and Your truth unto the clouds.

Psalm 69:13

But as for me, my prayer is unto thee, O Lord, in an acceptable time: O God, in the multitude of Your mercy hear me, in the truth of Your salvation.

Psalm 103:17

But the mercy of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting upon them that fear him, and his righteousness unto children’s children;

Israel Houghton and New Breed conclude this entry with this reminder: “Lord, You are Good and Your Mercy Endureth Forever.”

God does not need help

November 26, 2016

Jeremiah-32--17

In keeping with the recently established tradition of the “Quote of the Day” rather than the “Verse of the Day, we would offer the “Quote of the Day” for November 26, 2016:

“God does not need help; all He needs is cooperation.”

So often when believers encounter challenging situations, we call upon the Lord in our times of great need in the midst of seemingly impossible situations. When the resolution of the difficulties that we face are not coming forth as quickly and in the way that we think they should, our tendency is to try and help God out. Another quote from an unknown author provides a similar reminder in the form of message from God:

“Good Morning. This is God. I will be handling all your problems today. I will not need your help, so relax, and have a great day!”

When we encounter overwhelming situations that we cannot handle ourselves, here is a verse of scripture and comments to remember:

Jeremiah 32:17 (NIV):

“Ah, Sovereign Lord, you have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and outstretched arm. Nothing is too hard for you.

This particular verse brings to mind two scriptures that speak of the awesome power of God. Both say the same thing but in different ways, that nothing is too hard for God. In one place in the Gospels, Jesus Christ states “. . . with God all things are possible.” In another place, the Word declares, “For with God nothing shall be impossible.” The Amplified Bible renders Luke 1:37 in this way:
For with God nothing is ever impossible and no word from God shall be without power or impossible of fulfillment.

As we acknowledge that the two verses express the same concept but in different ways, a principle from Geometry comes to mind: “Things equal to the same thing are equal to each other.” These two verses also inspired this poem:

No Matter How You Phrase It

And Jesus looking upon them said,
with men it is impossible, but not with God:
for with God all things are possible
Mark 10:27

For with God nothing shall be impossible.
Luke 1:37

There is none like God who never fails to come through:
Whether you say “With God all things are possible”
Or say “With God nothing shall be impossible.”
No matter how you phrase it, the Word is still true.
As those who observe the times, we wisely surmise
That the Prince of Peace ascended to end all strife,
Leading captive even death to release new life,
Just as from ashes beauty and splendor arise.
We boldly declare the Word of God and assert
The Providence of an all-wise Father who makes
Barrenness to bloom with rivers in the desert.
With the Word of Life, even death itself awakes.
We seek to walk in wisdom and number our days,
Humbly discerning that your ways are not our ways.

The line “Just as from ashes beauty and splendor arise” brings to mind the verse which says, “God gives beauty for ashes.” Did you know that ashes under extreme heat and pressure form gemstones, and that diamonds, emeralds, rubies, and such come from ashes? You see this with many of the volcanoes that erupt: when they settle and cool, you find beautiful gems at the base. In a similar way, watch God turn around what seems like a total disaster. No matter how challenging the situation may appear to be, He can turn it into a magnificent triumph. Some of the lyrics to an old gospel song remind us “He is God all by Himself/He needs no help from anybody else.”

The Quote of the Day and Jeremiah 32:17 both reinforce the message that “Nothing is too difficult for God.” That message is the inspiration for one of the most popular songs of praise composed by Don Moen: “Ah, Lord God. . .”

At all times: Praise God

November 25, 2016

colossians-3-17

On the day after Thanksgiving, as our souls overflow with gratitude to God for all He continues to do on our behalf, we read the Verse of the Day for November 25, 2016:

Colossians 3:17 (NKJV)

And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.

The Amplified Bible puts it this way:

Whatever you do [no matter what it is] in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus [and in dependence on Him], giving thanks to God the Father through Him.

Regarding everything that we do as believers, similar sentiments are expressed in Colossians 3:23-24:

23 And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men, 24 knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance; for you serve the Lord Christ.

The Psalmist also encourages believers to ever be diligent in praising God:

Psalm 86:12

I will praise You, O Lord my God, with all my heart, and I will glorify Your name forevermore.

Psalm 34:1

I will bless the Lord at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth.

Every situation offers an opportunity to be thankful, no matter how bright or bleak life may be. We can always find something to be thankful for, if for nothing more than that we are alive or that our situation could be worse. We can begin with thanking God that we are alive and then adding to the long list of blessings we are enjoying at that moment. Each time we set our minds to be thankful, we are doing the will of God, which is the innermost desire of every believer. To give thanks is to do the will of God.

I recall this “all-occasion” poetic exhortation regarding the situations encounter:

In happy moments, praise God.
In difficult moments, seek God.
In quiet moments, worship God.
In painful moments, trust God.
In every moment, thank God.

At All Times

I will bless the Lord at all times,
His praise shall continually be in my mouth.

Psalm 34:1

When I see God’s goodness and mercy follow me,
As I savor the ecstasy of victory,
When joy overflows and floods my soul, I will praise God.

When gripped by the devices of this transient life
And caught in the straits of rising conflict and strife,
During these difficult moments, I will seek God.

When I long to abide within a tranquil mood
And linger in moments of sweetest quietude,
From the depths of my soul, I will worship God.

Despite raging seas, stormy winds and blinding rain,
When protracted pain strikes like a knife and numbs my brain
So that I can scarcely scream your name, I will trust God.

All along life’s journey, no matter the season,
Through every why and wherefore, for every reason
Every moment I draw breath, I will thank God.
I seek the Lord and ask myself, “What shall I do?”
“Give thanks: it is God’s will in Christ concerning you.”
“Give thanks: it is God’s will in Christ concerning you.”

One of the above verses from Psalm 86:12 is set to music in this Scripture Memory Song:

Abounding with thanksgiving

November 24, 2016

 

colossians-2-6-7-new

The Verse of the Day for November 24, 2016, Thanksgiving Day, speaks of expressing thanks or showing gratitude to God for what He has given to believers through His son:

Colossians 2:6-7

As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, as you have been taught, abounding in it with thanksgiving.

These same sentiments are expressed in the prayer found in Ephesians 3:16-19 (NLT):

16 I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. 17 Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. 18 And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. 19 May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.

In reflecting on these verses, I thought of an incident that occurred a year ago. Sitting in a waiting room, I observed a young child who was given a coloring book and some crayons. The child smiled and said, “Thank you.” He showed items to his mother, and she asked her son, “Did you say thank you?” The person who gave the gifts responded, “Yes, ma’am. He sure did.”

From the earliest days of childhood we are taught that when someone gives you a gift, our response should be some expression of gratitude, namely to say “Thank you.” And so it is with the Children of God, we are taught not only to express our gratitude to our Heavenly Father with the words that we speak but with way we conduct our lives. Our lives should be abounding with giving thanks to God, not just on the Fourth Thursday in November every year, but our lives should overflow with gratitude to God every day and in every way.

In a previous entry on Thanksgiving Day, I posted some of the following comments:

In any situation, one of the critical factors contributing to our success or failure is “attitude.” Of course, the discussion of attitude comes full circle with this reminder that “attitude begins with gratitude.” J. Rufus Moseley speaks of “an attitude of gratitude and boundless good will.” For believers thanksgiving is a magnificent and joyful “response-ability”; that is, our ability to respond to God’s love and grace. We endeavor to demonstrate our gratitude to God from the fullness of our hearts, overflowing with thanks. More than merely occasionally expressing how grateful we are, we desire to maintain a continual “attitude of gratitude,” which some have called “thanksliving.”

More than merely saying “thank you” to God, more than simply tithing or sharing of our abundance or giving of our time or material goods, thanksliving is a way of life, expressing gratitude to God in everything we say and do. This time of the year, as we approach the final holiday season of the year, our lives should especially abound with thanksgiving to God for “His unspeakable gift.” Without question, “thanksgiving” is the reason for every season.

We show with all our being, “Thank God it’s Sunday through Saturday.” We join with the psalmist in declaring, “It is a good thing to give thanks unto the Lord, and to sing praises unto thy name, O most High: To shew forth thy lovingkindness in the morning, and thy faithfulness every night. (Psalm 92:1, 2) Each day is a celebration of the grace of God through Jesus Christ, in whom we live and move and have our being. The essence of our attitude of endless gratitude is expressed in this poem:

Thanksliving

In everything give thanks: for this is the will of God

in Christ Jesus concerning you.

1 Thessalonians 5:18

What shall we render to the Lord for all

His grace? What can we say to offer praise

Worthy of His glory? How can we call

With all our being upon His name and raise

A new song from the depths of our heart?

We must do more than mouth a platitude–

To express our soul in words is an art;

Yet words cannot express our gratitude.

Our words are empty and without merit.

“Thank you” too soon becomes a hollow phrase.

So we must worship God with our spirit

And must give thanks well for all of our days.

To live is give thanks with tongue and limb;

With each breath, each move, let us live thanks to Him.

The closing phrase of the poem matches the ending of the Verse of the Day with reminders of “abounding in thanksgiving,” as the lyrics of a song appropriate of this season also come to mind: “Give Thanks with a grateful heart.” Don Moen offers this expression of gratitude to God in song:

 

 

 

More reminders to be thankful

November 23, 2016

Psalm 100-4

On Wednesday, November 23, 2016, the day before the national celebration of Thanksgiving Day, the Verse of the Day is another reminder to express our gratitude to God:

Psalm 100:4-5

Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, And into His courts with praise. Be thankful to Him, and bless His name. For the Lord is good; His mercy is everlasting, And His truth endures to all generations.

Throughout the Old and New Testaments we find similar exhortations to offer thanksgiving to God for His goodness and lovingkindness:

The Psalms overflow with prayers of thanksgiving, as expressed in Psalm 136:1, 26:

[Thanks for the Lord’s Goodness to Israel.] Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; For His lovingkindness (graciousness, mercy, compassion) endures forever. Give thanks to the God of heaven, For His lovingkindness (graciousness, mercy, compassion) endures forever.

Here is the more familiar rendering of this passage:

          Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good!

For His mercy endures forever.

Oh, give thanks to the God of heaven!

For His mercy endures forever.

We find similar encourage to be thankful in the Church Epistles. In fact, the Verse of the Day for yesterday reminded believers to always be thankful, as Colossians 3:17 states:

And whatever you do [no matter what it is] in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus and in [dependence upon] His Person, giving praise to God the Father through Him.

A similar reminder is found in Ephesians 5:20:

Always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

The Word of God reveals that the giving of thanks is to be more than an occasional act of gratitude; it is to be an ongoing part of our lives.

Philippians 4:6-7, another celebrated thanksgiving passage, is rendered this way in the New Living Translation (NLT):

Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.

Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.

Perhaps the most dramatic reminder to live in continuous thanksgiving is found in 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18. These three verses are inter-related, forming a three-fold cord that intertwines with our lives, as we seek to do God’s will. Here is the Amplified Bible’s rendering of these verses:

16 Be happy [in your faith] and rejoice and be glad-hearted continually (always);

17 Be unceasing in prayer [praying perseveringly];

18 Thank [God] in everything [no matter what the circumstances may be, be thankful and give thanks], for this is the will of God for you [who are] in Christ Jesus [the Revealer and Mediator of that will].

In a previous blog entry I made the following comments:

More than a holiday celebrated on the fourth Thursday in November, “Thanksgiving” should be an essential part of our ongoing conversation with God. Literally it is “giving of thanks” as an expression of “showing oneself grateful.”  It is an all-encompassing “attitude of gratitude” involving everything we do and say: “In everything give thanks, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you. (I Thessalonians 5:18)

Jesus Christ also reminded us that “Men ought always to pray and not to faint,” another reminder “to pray without ceasing.” We can “continue to be instant in prayer, as we follow these instructions: “In everything give thanks.” We combine these scriptural references to praying without ceasing in the following scripture memory songs:

We ought always to pray and not to faint.

We ought always to pray and not to faint.

We ought always to pray and not to faint.

To pray, pray, pray, pray, pray without ceasing.

In Everything Give Thanks

 

In everything give thanks,

In everything give thanks,

For this is the will of God

In Christ Jesus concerning you.

 

Repeat

 

When things in life don’t seem to turn out

Just as we think they should,

We know that God still has a grand plan

And works all things together—

He works all things together for our good.

 

 

In everything give thanks,

In everything give thanks,

For this is the will of God

In Christ Jesus concerning you.

 

 

The sun shines bright or the darkest night,

No matter what the mood,

We still give thanks always for all things.

In the name of Jesus Christ,

We keep an attitude of gratitude.

 

 

In everything give thanks,

In everything give thanks,

For this is the will of God

In Christ Jesus concerning you.

As the circumstances of our lives continue to unfold in the midst of the perilous times in which we live, unquestionably, “There is always something to pray about” and something always to give thanks for.

Listen to this lively music video by Bill & Gloria Gaither performing “In Everything Give Thanks,” featuring Charlotte Ritchie and Jeff & Sheri Easter.

Always be thankful

November 22, 2016

Colossians-3-Verse-15post

Colossians 3:15 in the New King James Version, the Verse of the Day for November 22, 2016, speaks of the peace of God and connects it to being thankful:

And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful.

For a more detailed rendering of the context, take a look at Colossians 3:15-17 in the New Living Translation:

15 And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts. For as members of one body you are called to live in peace. And always be thankful.

16 Let the message about Christ, in all its richness, fill your lives. Teach and counsel each other with all the wisdom he gives. Sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs to God with thankful hearts. 17 And whatever you do or say, do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through him to God the Father.

Clearly the context of the passage relates to “giving thanks.” We find the mirror image of these verses in Ephesians 5:19-20 which also speaks of “psalms and hymns and spiritual songs.” When we examine these two passages, we find a parallel connection in light of the context of “giving thanks to God.”

These two passages remind us that expressing our gratitude to God is to be connected to everything that we do: “Always giving thanks to God the Father for all things” with the exhortation reinforced that no matter what you do in word or deed, it is to be done with gratitude, giving thanks to God the Father through Christ.

The Word of God reveals that the giving of thanks is to be more than an occasional act of gratitude; it is to be an ongoing part of our lives. There is to be a continual overflow of gratitude to God, as we encourage ourselves through psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, as we allow the Word of God to dwell in us richly or to make itself at home in our hearts. Not only are we to edify and reassure ourselves, but we are to become a source of strength and encouragement for one another.

Each year around the Thanksgiving holiday, I like to post my list of “Top Ten Thanksgiving Songs”: five are traditional hymns, and five are contemporary songs of praise and worship, all of which focus on being thankful.  In actuality the list could be viewed as a collection of “psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs.” Here is here a brief definition of these terms plus a sampling of music from these three categories:

Psalms

Psalms are consider songs of praise directed to God, as directed in the Book of Psalms. Today a number of the Psalms of David have been set to music, as illustrated in one of most popular songs of thanks from the Bible is “ I Will Enter His Gates with Thanksgiving /He Has Made Me Glad offered by Maranatha Music.

Hymns

Hymns are described as formal and traditional songs often sung by a congregation in praise of God in a public worship setting. Out of the Protestant Reformation emerged songs written in the vernacular of the people. Here is a medley of three popular hymns of thanksgiving: “Come Ye Thankful People Come,” “We Gather Together,” and “For the Beauty of the Earth.”

Spiritual songs:

This category of songs is said to be inspired by the Holy Spirit, often based on a spiritual theme or teaching of spiritual principles. Much of contemporary praise and worship can be placed in this category.

Here is a new song of gratitude “I’m Thankful” by Alexander Delgado:

Every day let us encourage ourselves and one another, “singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs with thankfulness in your hearts to God.”

We conclude with Katherine Abbot offering a musical rendering of Colossians 3:15 “Let the peace of heart”: