R.C. Sproul: The pursuit of God

December 16, 2017

Psalm 63--8

This morning as I began my day, I learned that R.C. Sproul, beloved theologian, author, pastor, and founder of Ligonier Ministries, passed away earlier this week. Christianity Today commented concerning his influence: “He is responsible for introducing a generation to the authority of Scripture, the sovereignty of God, and the glory of the Gospel of justification by faith, salvation by grace, in Christ alone.”

In a tribute in memory of R.C. Sproul, Daniel Motley listed 20 of his quotes on the Glory of God. One in particular caught my attention and will serve as the Quote of the Day for the blog entry for December 16, 2017:

“The pursuit of God is not a part-time, weekend exercise. If it is, chances are you will experience a part-time, weekend freedom. Abiding requires a kind of staying power. The pursuit is relentless. It hungers and thirsts. It pants as the deer after the mountain brook. It takes the kingdom by storm…The pursuit of God is a pursuit of passion. Indifference will not do. To abide in the Word is to hang on tenaciously. A weak grip will soon slip away. Discipleship requires staying power. We sign up for duration. We do not graduate until heaven.”

In reflecting on the quote, I thought of an experience occurring more than 60 years ago. I recall going on a field trip to the Indiana Dunes State Park, outside of Gary, Indiana, when I was in middle school, what we called “junior high school,” back in the day. Somehow I came across a small stream running through a wooded area. As I followed the creek through the winding woods, I was determined to find the area where the stream began, but as I progressed, the size of the stream remained the same and continued to flow on seemingly endlessly. After about a half an hour, I realized that I needed to get back to area where we supposed to meet before departing on the bus and returning to “the Steel City.” When I arrived at the place where we were to meet, I learned that I was quite late, and that I had delayed their departure.

Although that experience occurred sometime ago, I am still earnestly pursuing God with a passion, with determination to find what I am seeking. R.C. Sproul’s comments also brought to mind this poem:

The Proof of Desire

 My whole being follows hard after You and clings closely to You

Psalm 63:8a (AMP)

 

The proof of desire is pursuit.

Mike Murdock

 

In each new season may our lives abound with fruit,

As we follow after God and seek His favor,

To show that the proof of desire is pursuit.

 

This passion to please is our relentless pursuit,

As we seek to taste His goodness as we savor.

In each new season may our lives abound with fruit.

 

As a seasoned tree is strengthened from leaf to root,

We flow with fullness of joy as we labor,

To show that the proof of desire is pursuit.

 

Though we may seek as silver God’s wisdom and truth,

This life swiftly passes, fleeting as a vapor.

In each new season may our lives abound with fruit.

 

We have yearned for God’s presence, even as a youth.

We now forsake all to scale the heights of Mount Tabor,

To show that the proof of desire is pursuit.

 

We ever seek to know God’s will and to do it,

To follow in the steps of Jesus, our Savior.

In each new season may our lives abound with fruit,

To show that the proof of desire is pursuit.

The quotation and commentary also make reference to Psalm 63:8 (KJV):

My soul followeth hard after thee: thy right hand upholdeth me.

The Amplified Bible puts it this way:

My whole being follows hard after You and clinPgs closely to You; Your right hand upholds me.

This verse is the inspiration for “My Soul Follows Hard after Thee” performed as a medley with “I’m Gonna Love You,” two classic praise and worship compositions of Don Moen of Hosanna! Music.

Of his kingdom there shall be no end

December 15, 2017

Luke 1--30-33

Yesterday, while waiting for in a crowded office area, a mother with her infant son gained the attention of those around her. When asked “What’s his name?” She responded, “Messiah”—the name reminded everyone of the real reason for the season that is upon us. Verse of the Day for December 15, 2017 offers the account of the Angel Gabriel’s announcement to Mary taken from Luke 1:30-33:

And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favor with God. And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name Jesus. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: And he shall reign over the house of Jacob forever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end.

Another passage containing the fulfillment of words spoken by the prophets concerning the Messiah is found in Zechariah 14:9

And the Lord shall be king over all the earth: in that day shall there be one Lord, and his name one.

This verse brings to mind that not only shall the Lord be king over all the earth, but “of his kingdom there shall be no end.” Other scriptures also proclaim that “of his kingdom there shall be no end,” as Revelation 11:15 makes known:

And the seventh angel sounded; and there were great voices in heaven, saying, The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ; and he shall reign forever and ever.

Psalm 45:6 (NLT) also makes known that the throne of the Messiah would be everlasting:

Your throne, O God, endures forever and ever.
You rule with a scepter of justice. 

Psalm 145:13 (NLT) further indicates that “For your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom. You rule throughout all generations.”

Daniel 4:3 proclaims:

How great are his signs,
how powerful his wonders!
His kingdom will last forever,
his rule through all generations.

A similar declaration was made in Daniel 7:13-14 (NLT):

13 As my vision continued that night, I saw someone like a son of man coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient One and was led into his presence.

14 He was given authority, honor, and sovereignty over all the nations of the world, so that people of every race and nation and language would obey him. His rule is eternal—it will never end. His kingdom will never be destroyed.

In 1 Chronicles 17:11-12 (NLT) we find a similar declaration regarding the throne of the everlasting kingdom of the Lord:

11 For when you die and join your ancestors, I will raise up one of your descendants, one of your sons, and I will make his kingdom strong.

12 He is the one who will build a house—a temple—for me. And I will secure his throne forever.

George Friedrich Handel’s Messiah, the renowned oratorio with texts from the King James Version of the Bible is among the best known and most frequently performed musical compositions in the Western world, particularly during the Christmas season. The celebrated work ends with the Hallelujah Chorus echoing the same declarations regarding the everlasting kingdom of the Messiah expressed in the Verse of the Day. Listen to a contemporary adaptation of the popular piece performed by the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir.

Biblical illiteracy: What to do?

December 13, 2017

Biblical illiteracy

December is Spiritual Literacy Month, focusing on what has been defined as “the ability to read the signs written in the texts of our own experiences.” As a committed believer with a passion to study and teach the Word of God, one of my foremost concerns is “Biblical Literacy” in the face of rampant “Biblical Illiteracy” which is has escalated to epidemic proportions in the Christian community.

Since 2011 the American Bible Society has released in-depth findings in its annual The State of the Bible Survey, which details Americans’ beliefs about the Bible, number of Bibles per household, the Bible’s role in society, its presence in U.S. homes and more. Some of the highlights from the survey for 2017 are included below:

  • The vast majority of households own at least one Bible, a proportion that has stayed relatively consistent since 2011. Nearly nine out of 10 U.S. adults (87%) say their household owns a Bible, with a median of 3.4 Bibles per household
  • Nearly one-third of adults surveyed say they never read, listen to or pray with the Bible (32%), a five-percentage point increase over 2016 (27%).
  • More than half of all adults surveyed wish they read the Bible more often (58%). This is down slightly from 2016 (61%). Each segment of the survey expresses a desire for more Bible reading, but despite this, two-thirds (67%) say their level of Bible-reading is about the same as it was one year ago.
  • Most Bible users (91%) still prefer to use a print version of the Bible when engaging with scripture; however, an equal number (92%) report using another Bible format than print in the past year. Using technology-related formats is also on the rise.

Although most Americans own a Bible, their actual reading and understanding of the Bible reveals something else.  George Gallup Jr. and Jim Castelli said in widely quoted survey results, “Americans revere the Bible but, by and large, they don’t read it.” According to Gallup, “Despite the impressive statistics concerning Bible reading and study, it is apparent that ignorance about its contents is widespread.”

Woodrow Kroll, president of Back to the Bible, made this comment: “When we speak of creeping Bible illiteracy in America, we are not talking about the inability to read but the choice not to read…This failure to read the Bible consistently, or to hear its truth consistently, is the major factor in Bible illiteracy in America. It is an epidemic in …America.”

In the midst of pervasive Bible illiteracy, what can one individual do to combat this devastating situation? The Scriptures indicate that God’s people are destroyed for lack of knowledge, knowledge of the Word of God (Hosea 4:6). Unfortunately Christians are woefully ignorant of the principles of the Bible and their practical application in daily living. The consequence of such ignorance is destruction. Throughout the New Testament, the phrase “I would not have you to be ignorant” is used. If we are not to be ignorant, then expectations are that we are to become enlightened as we read and apply the Word of God which is “a light unto our path and a lamp unto our feet.”

The best way to counter “Biblical illiteracy” is to support “Biblical literacy.” An old adage states, “If you don’t know, learn. Once you know, then teach.” We can teach by precept and by example, as we pursue the wisdom, knowledge and understanding that come from reading and studying the Scriptures.

In the coming year each believer can become a “Committee of One” to work to combat Biblical ignorance and help stamp out Biblical Illiteracy. Each of us can develop a strategy to read the Bible more in the coming year than previously. We can maintain a schedule to become consistent in our reading and studying of the Word of God. If you’ve never read the Bible all the way through, consider setting that as a goal this year. Various online resources provide Bible reading schedules to assist. If you are not involved in a Bible Study group, explore that possibility as a means of becoming more involved in “studying to show yourself approved as a workman of the Word.”

 As each of us becomes more enlightened, we can share what we have learned with others and apply the principles to our own lives as well. Just as light dispels darkness, so the Psalmist reminds us that “The entrance to Your word gives light. It gives understanding to the simple.” Jesus Christ also spoke these words “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Let your light so shine that men might see your good works and glorify your father which is in heaven.”

The lyrics to an old Perry Como song “Just One Little Candle” express a great truth:

It is better to light just one little candle,
Than to stumble in the dark!
Better far that you light just one little candle,
All you need’s a tiny spark!

If we’d all say a prayer that the world would be free,
The wonderful dawn of a new day we’ll see!
And, if everyone lit just one little candle,
What a bright world this would be!

This song also brings to mind “Thy Word is a Lamp unto My Feet” with the Maranatha Singers:

As we conclude this year and move into 2018, may the New Year be a year in which the eyes of our understanding are flooded with light, as we read and teach the Word of God as never before.

What are some of the ways to address the issue of biblical illiteracy? Share your thoughts.

When the fullness of time was come

December 12, 2017

Galatians 4--4-5

Revised and re-posted, the Verse of the Day for December 12, 2017 offers another passage related to the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ taken from Galatians 4:4-5 in the King James Version:

But when the fullness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons.

The Amplified Bible says this:

But when [in God’s plan] the proper time had fully come, God sent His Son, born of a woman, born under the [regulations of the] Law, so that He might redeem and liberate those who were under the Law, that we [who believe] might be adopted as sons [as God’s children with all rights as fully grown members of a family]. But when the fullness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons.

The expression “the fullness of the time” refers to “the time appointed by the Father” spoken of in Galatians 4:2. The phrase is also translated “that when the time is ripe” or “at the right time.” According to Logos Bible software, “God does nothing prematurely, but, foreseeing the end from the beginning, waits till all is ripe for the execution of His purpose.”

The same phrase is used in Ephesians 1:10 which refers to the return of Jesus Christ

10 That in the dispensation of the fullness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him:

Although as believers we recognize and celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, we also remember His birth is only the first part of the five-fold purpose of his life: his birth, his death, resurrection, ascension, and his return.

We, first of all, realize that Jesus Christ was born to die, for we cannot deny that he was also crucified, that he died, and that he was buried, but we also proclaim that “He is risen, indeed.”  In addition, Christ ascended to the Father, as we also proclaim: “For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command. …And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive…will be caught up together with them…and so we will always be with the Lord.” All of this comes to mind with the birth of Jesus Christ.

Among the most popular songs of the Christmas season is “Amen,” composed by Jester Hairston, one of the most celebrated arrangers of spirituals of the 20th Century. The lyrics not only tell of the birth of Jesus Christ, but they also give an overview of his entire life in a most memorable way:

Amen, amen
Amen, amen, amen
Sing it over one time children
Listen to my story
It’s a story about my Jesus
Amen

See the little baby
You know He’s wrapped in a manger
Born Christmas morning
Amen

See Him at the seashore
Talking to the fishermen
And He’s making them disciples
Amen, amen

Riding through Jerusalem
Waving palm branches
In pomp and splendor

See Him in the garden
Praying to His Father
In deepest sorrow, sorrow

Led before Pilate
Then they crucified Him
But He rose on Easter
Amen, amen, amen

Hallelujah!
Yes, He died to save you and me
And He lives forever and ever
Amen

Glory hallelujah!
He died to save you and me
And He lives forever
Amen, amen, amen

“Amen” is a signature piece for the contemporary gospel singer, Larnelle Harris, who always provides a powerful and unforgettable performance along with the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir:

A sign: a virgin shall conceive and bear a son

December 11, 2017

isaiah-7-14

Revised and re-posted is the Verse of the Day for December 11, 2017 based on one of the Old Testament prophecies concerning the birth of Jesus, the Messiah, found in Isaiah 7:14 in the King James Version:

Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.

The New Living Translation put it this way:

All right then, the Lord himself will give you the sign. Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son and will call him Immanuel (which means ‘God is with us’).

In the Gospel of Matthew the focal point is a portrait of Jesus Christ, the King. Chapter 1 provides an account of his birth, opening with the genealogy or record of the ancestors of the Messiah. The following section discusses the birth of Jesus, the Messiah:

Matthew 1:18-20 (NLT):

18 This is how Jesus the Messiah was born. His mother, Mary, was engaged to be married to Joseph. But before the marriage took place, while she was still a virgin, she became pregnant through the power of the Holy Spirit. 19 Joseph, her fiancé, was a good man and did not want to disgrace her publicly, so he decided to break the engagement quietly.

20 As he considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream. “Joseph, son of David,” the angel said, “do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife. For the child within her was conceived by the Holy Spirit. 21 And she will have a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”

Matthew 1:22-23 (NLT) establishes the fulfilling of that prophetic word spoken in Isaiah 7:14:

22 All of this occurred to fulfill the Lord’s message through his prophet:

23 “Look! The virgin will conceive a child!
She will give birth to a son,
and they will call him Immanuel,
which means ‘God is with us.’”

The two passages from Isaiah and Matthew concerning the birth of the Savior by a virgin are only two of the more than three hundred of prophecies concerning the Lord Jesus Christ and his first coming to earth, all of which came to pass with pinpoint accuracy. The odds of one single word coming to pass are astronomical, let alone more than 300.

We recognize, of course, what was said to the prophet Jeremiah, that God will hasten to perform His Word, so we see when God speaks a word prophetically, it always comes to pass. Remember these words of the Lord spoken in Isaiah 55:11 (in the Amplified Bible):

So shall My word be that goes forth out of My mouth: it shall not return to Me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it.

One of my favorite songs of the season celebrating the Savior’s birth is “O Come, O Come, Immanuel.” The popular Christmas song is a translation of the Latin text (Veni, veni, Emmanuel) by John Mason Neale and Henry Sloane Coffin  offered here by Selah:

A variation on the theme of the coming of Jesus Christ is this song “Immanuel, God with Us” by Amy Grant:

The songs of the season are constant reminders that, indeed, God is with us.

Mourning into dancing; beauty for ashes

December 10, 2017

Psalm 30--11

From Logos Bible software comes the Verse of the Day for December 10, 2017 to remind us of the transforming power of God:

Psalm 30:11 (NKJV)

You have turned for me my mourning into dancing;
You have put off my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness,

The New Living Translation puts it this way:

You have turned my mourning into joyful dancing. You have taken away my clothes of mourning and clothed me with joy,

The Verse of the Day also brings to mind Isaiah 61:3 which contains a similar reference indicating that God exchanges the “garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness.” About five years ago, I recall reflecting upon God’s amazing ability to transform the most horrific circumstances into a glorious display of His wisdom, power and might, I thought of the expression “beauty for ashes.” Isaiah 61:3 offers a series of such transformations or exchanges that only God can give. That particular verse was used as the epigraph or introduction to a poem with that title:

Beauty for Ashes

To console those who mourn in Zion,
To give them beauty for ashes,
The oil of joy for mourning,
The garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness;
That they may be called trees of righteousness,
The planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified.

Isaiah 61:3

 

Beauty for ashes–we are transformed to testify

Of lives so radically changed that we might glorify

The God of Heaven who touches the earth with His love

That overflows with bountiful blessings from above.

We are blessed and highly favored–no one can deny.

 

That we should be chosen by God some may wonder why,

But none can fathom God’s grace, no matter how they try.

Ascend into God’s presence on the wings of a dove:

Beauty for ashes.

 

Many times it may seem as if life has passed us by,

But God is faithful; on Him we can always rely.

Nothing in this life surpasses God’s unchanging love;

It is far beyond all that we could ask or think of.

Remember that God is not a man that He should lie:

Beauty for ashes.

I also recall having completed another poem containing a reference to Isaiah 61:3.  Shortly after writing the poem, I was asked to officiate at a funeral service and do the eulogy for someone who had not been affiliated with a local church. It was an unusual service for me in that for the first time the individual being eulogized had been cremated. On a table in front of the mortuary was an urn that contained the ashes of the deceased.  As it turned out, this was perfect occasion for sharing the previously composed poem with the line “Just as from ashes beauty and splendor arise.” The poem also contains a theme related to God with whom all things are possible and with whom nothing is impossible.

 No Matter How You Phrase It

And Jesus looking upon them saith,

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 His ways are not our ways.

In addition to reading the poem as part of the eulogy, I also commented about the beauty of gemstones that are formed from volcanic ash. Did you know that ashes in volcanoes under extreme heat and pressure provide the perfect conditions to form certain precious stones, such as diamonds?  As the volcanoes erupt, they push the gemstones to the surface where they can be seen after the site has cooled.  So, indeed, God both figuratively and literally “gives beauty for ashes.”

Crystal Lewis and Ron Kenoly offer a tender rendition of the song “Beauty for Ashes.”

God does everything on purpose

December 9, 2017

Romans 8--28

From time to time, instead of the Verse of the Day, our blog entry will feature the Quote of the Day. In this case, we are going to look at this statement from A.W. Tozer, renowned pastor and author.

“Everything God does has purpose and intention behind that design. It is a master design, and every little thing has its proper place and function.”

In reflecting on these comments a number of scriptures come to mind related to the purposes of God.  We are reminded that God is intentional and that He does everything “on purpose.” Solomon declares “To everything there is a season and a time for every purpose under the heavens.”

Solomon, in his wisdom, goes on to speak about the purposes of God planted in the heart of humanity who yearn to know and fulfill that purpose. There is a universal yearning to know why am I here and what role do I play in the grand scheme of life.

“The purposes of a person’s heart are deep waters, but one who has insight draws them out” (Proverbs 20:5)

God has a purpose for everyone, and nothing can stop that purpose from being fulfilled:

“Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails” (Proverbs 19:21).

Job made this discovery: “I know that you can do all things; no purpose of yours can be thwarted” (Job 42:2).

As Christian believers we must recognize that God has saved us and called us to a higher calling:

He has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace (2 Timothy 1:9).

As believers,

We must arise and strive to reach the place

Where the rivers of understanding flow

And never doubt God’s purpose and His grace.

In thinking about the Quote of the Day, Romans 8:28 also immediately comes to mind:

And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. [KJV]

Here is the Amplified Bible rendering:

We are assured and know that [God being a partner in their labor] all things work together and are [fitting into a plan] for good to and for those who love God and are called according to [His] design and purpose.

Romans 8:28, my favorite verse in the Bible, offers this reminder that because God is good, “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.” So no matter how bad any situation may appear to be, we know that it will work together for the good.

These lyrics also reinforce the message:

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.

The comments on the Quote of the Day and the related scriptures are summarized in the song: “Intentional” by Travis Greene.

Pray for the peace of Jerusalem

December 8, 2017
Jerusalem Western_wall_jerusalem_night 2

Photo shows men praying at the Western Wall in Jerusalem

The recent recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel by the United States once again brings attention to “The Holy City,” said to be the focal point of the world. In reflecting on this occurrence, Psalm 122 in the Amplified Bible comes to mind:

Prayer for the Peace of Jerusalem.

A Song of Ascents. Of David.

122 I was glad when they said to me,
“Let us go to the house of the Lord.”

Our feet are standing
Within your gates, O Jerusalem,

Jerusalem, that is built
As a city that is firmly joined together;

To which the [twelve] tribes go up, even the tribes of the Lord,
[As was decreed as] an ordinance for Israel,
To give thanks to the name of the Lord.

For there the thrones of judgment were set,
the thrones of the house of David.


Pray for the peace of Jerusalem:
“May they prosper who love you [holy city].

“May peace be within your walls
and prosperity within your palaces.”

For the sake of my brothers and my friends,
I will now say, “May peace be within you.”

For the sake of the house of the Lord our God [which is Jerusalem],
I will seek your (the city’s) good.

This particular psalm is said to be among the Psalms of Degrees or Songs (Psalms) of Ascent. Psalms 120-134 comprise a “hymn book” from which pilgrims sang as they were ascending Mount Zion, the highest point in Jerusalem, the place of celebration of the annual feasts mandated by God for the Children of Israel.  Clift McCann writes in The New Interpreter’s Bible that these psalms are all short enough to be memorized and several contain references to everyday life, implying that these psalms reflect the experiences of everyday people traveling or arriving at Jerusalem.

Logos Bible software notes this Psalm expresses the sacred joy of the pilgrims on entering the Holy City, where praise, as the religious as well as civil metropolis, is celebrated, and for whose prosperity, as representing the Church, prayer is offered. While the entire psalm has been described as a prayer, verse 6 is a specific exhortation to pray and the inspiration for these lyrics:

Pray for the peace of Jerusalem.

Pray for the peace of Jerusalem.

Pray for the peace of Jerusalem.

Pray for the peace of the City of Peace.

 

Watchmen on the wall, do not tarry

But carry the message and tell all the people to pray,

To give the Lord no rest, but call on Him night and day

And pray, pray for the peace of Jerusalem.

 

Pray for the peace of Jerusalem.

Pray for the peace of Jerusalem.

Pray for the peace of Jerusalem.

Pray for the peace of the City of Peace.

 

Watchmen on the wall, do not tarry

But carry the message and tell all the people to pray,

To give the Lord no rest but call on Him night and day

And pray, pray for the peace of Jerusalem.

 

Watchmen on the wall, do not tarry

But carry the message and tell all the people to pray,

To stand in the gap and make up the hedge night and day,

And pray, pray for the peace of Jerusalem.

 

Pray for the peace of Jerusalem.

Pray for the peace of Jerusalem.

Pray for the peace of Jerusalem.

Pray for the peace of the City of Peace.

The peace God desires, not only for Jerusalem but for the whole world, goes beyond the usual definition referring to “the normal non-warring condition of a nation, a group of nations or the world. . . a state of harmony among people or groups; cessation or freedom from strife or dissension.” In contrast, the Biblical definition encompasses a state of untroubled, undisturbed well-being, expressed in the Hebrew expression shalom.

According to Strong’s Concordance, shalom means “completeness, wholeness, health, peace, welfare, safety soundness, tranquility, prosperity, perfectness, fullness, rest, harmony, the absence of agitation or discord.” For the Christian believer, it is an inner reality, revealed as the peace of God that comes from the God of peace obtained through the Prince of Peace.  This peace which passes all understanding is not dependent upon outside conditions.

Now more than ever before, we need to heed the words of the Psalmist and “pray for the peace of Jerusalem.”

Esther Mui offers a lively musical rendering of Psalm 122 Song (KJV) “Pray for the Peace of Jerusalem”:

 

 

On Pearl Harbor Day: A spiritual parallel

December 7, 2017

The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941 stands out as one of the most successful surprise attacks in the history of warfare. More than 2,400 people were killed during the attack, with eighteen American ships suffering damage. The Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor with a force of 423 planes based on three aircraft carriers. The entire fleet of thirty ships went relatively undetected throughout its journey to Hawaii. The entire attack lasted less than four hours, resulting in the sinking of 21 out of 96 of the ships anchored in the harbor. Of the nearly 400 fighter planes sitting at airbases on the island 188 were destroyed and another 159 damaged.

The Japanese had incorrectly assumed that if they could cripple the US Pacific Fleet that the country as a whole would be demoralized and significantly set the country back as they struggled to rebuild. Instead, the attack solidified the emotions of the people and led to the eventual fall of the Japanese Empire. The United States entered the war as a strong fighting force within just sixty days after the Pearl Harbor bombing, a far cry from the six to eighteen months expected by the Japanese. On December 7, the nation recognizes this pivotal event of WWII, known as National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day or Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day or Pearl Harbor Day.

A Spiritual Parallel

Dennis Cramer, internationally recognized for his prophetic ministry, drew a spiritual parallel to the attack on Pearl Harbor. Here is an excerpt from a message to the Body of Christ. Although the message was originally spoken more than 12 years ago, it still has application, particularly today.

I believe this is the word of the Lord for you: It’s December 7, 1941, all over again! You have just been through your spiritual Pearl Harbor experience. You have just been blind-sided. You have just been hit below the belt. You have just been thrust into a spiritual war, a combat zone, a hostile environment, totally against your will.

A strong biblical response is necessary. . . You must fight back. You must defend yourself. You have been the target of a demonic “sneak attack” and you have suffered, nearly becoming another spiritual fatality. You’ve been spiritually bullied around too long. You’ve been spiritually victimized too long. You’ve been spiritually defeated far too long. It’s simply time to win. It’s time to emerge as the victor! And to the victor go the spoils!

I’m convinced that praise is the number one weapon of YOUR warfare. Through praise it’s time for you to execute vengeance, punish your enemy, bind evil forces, and carry out the judgment against all of hell. Also, as you praise God, I want you to do something more. It’s time for YOU to claim the four-fold guarantee of Christ’s atonement. Plus, realize that his atonement was and is a finished work. Jesus didn’t say, “It is over.” He said, “It is finished.” The work of the cross was and is a finished, completed, perfect work for YOU. There’s nothing more you can do except to receive within YOU what Christ did for YOU. This includes total forgiveness, healing, deliverance, and prosperity for you, as well as total defeat for your archenemy, the devil.

Receive now His forgiveness for all your sin, past and present. Receive now His total healing for your life: spirit, soul, and body. Receive now any deliverance you may require to be free. And, expect to walk in total prosperity now, both in natural things as well as in spiritual things. Accept the total package Christ has for YOU now. Remember, YOU are the one who must do the receiving. This is your right and your responsibility.

Reflecting on the significance of Pearl Harbor Day and the words of Dennis Cramer, this poetic expression came to mind:

Our Total Package

Our lives reveal our deepest thoughts as scrolls unfold.
Grace, mercy, peace, and God’s favor still overflow,
Flooding our hearts, as blessings abound one hundred fold.
Passion consumes us; we pursue that we might know
Fullness of joy as we seek to follow His ways,
As we stand with pure hearts in total forgiveness,
As we reckon our accounts: sum of all our days.
Washed and cleansed in the beauty of His holiness,
Touched by His power we receive total healing,
Far beyond the tokens of our inheritance.
With faces uncovered and His glory revealing,
We seize our destiny of total deliverance:
Foretaste of the sweetness of the final victory,
As we savor rewards of total prosperity.

Kevin Levar offers a song related to forgiveness, one of the components of the “Total Package”: “A Heart that Forgives”

Life, more abundant life

December 5, 2017

John 10--10

The Verse of the Day for December 5, 2017 offers another metaphor used by Jesus Christ to help his followers understand who he and why he came on the scene:

John 10:7, 9-10 (AMP):

So Jesus said again, “I assure you and most solemnly say to you, I am the Door for the sheep [leading to life]. I am the Door; anyone who enters through Me will be saved [and will live forever], and will go in and out [freely], and find pasture (spiritual security). The thief comes only in order to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have and enjoy life, and have it in abundance [to the full, till it overflows].

He begins by describing himself as the door or gate to the sheep that serves a dual purpose.  Such a gate or door can be used to keep enemies or those with harmful motives from entering the sheepfold. It can also be used to keep the sheep within the confines of safety.  The passage goes on to contrast the “thief” who comes with ill intent and attempts “to steal and to kill and to destroy the flock.” On the other hand, the Lord Jesus Christ comes not only to give life but more abundant life,

Verse 10 also brings to mind the Hebrew expression L’Chaim, literally meaning “to life!” The phrase is often used as a toast to celebrate a special occasion. L’Chaim reveals a great deal about the Jewish approach to life. The phrase is not to a good life, to a healthy life, or even to a long life. It is simply “to Life!”, recognizing that life is, indeed, good and precious and should always be celebrated and savored. According to a noted Rabbi, “L’Chaim” does not just mean “to life” as it is commonly translated, but “to lives”—to life in the plural: overflowing cup life, “bright and bubbly, doubly lovely,” life in all of its fullness.

John 10:10 serves as the epigraph or opening scripture for the following poetic expression:

Life

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

John 10:10

 

From the fountain, never-ending waters of life,

Countless blessings flow from the one who lives and gives

Wisdom, knowledge, understanding and new meaning

That we might conquer the last enemy called death

And know exceeding great and precious promises

Of His kingdom, ruled by righteousness, joy and peace.

 

Surpassing all our understanding is His peace,

Refreshing cool water from the river of life

To satisfy and fulfill all His promises:

The everlasting portion of the grace that gives

Beauty for ashes to resurrect life from death

And unfold mysteries to give life true meaning.

 

Along the journey, each soul seeks to find meaning,

To sail through the storms of life to a place of peace,

To walk through the valley of the shadow of death.

Every page recorded by the author of life

Speaks of the comfort and assurance that He gives

To all who decide to believe His promises.

 

Far beyond earthly treasures are God’s promises

To His dear children who come to know the meaning

Of true love from our most gracious Father, who gives

His spirit to season our speech with words of peace.

To minister to one another, to speak life:

In the tongue is the power of both life and death.

 

We know nothing separates us, not even death,

For God’s love still gives birth to untold promises

That we might be changed and walk in newness of life.

We strive to know God’s ways, understand their meaning.

To know the depths of boundless grace, mercy and peace

And endless love that empties itself yet still gives.

 

Our lives illumined with the light only He gives

To dispel darkness and nullify even death,

To brighten the way and lighten our paths with peace,

That we might stand upon abundant promises,

That enlighten us to understand the meaning

Of our fully partaking of the Bread of Life.

 

The faithful God who gives will keep His promises.

Even death can never alter the real meaning

Of perfect peace that leads to everlasting life.

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