The best is yet to come

September 23, 2017

Verse of the Day for September 23, 2017 comes from Romans 5:3-5(NKJV):

And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope.

The Message Bible puts it this way:

There’s more to come: We continue to shout our praise even when we’re hemmed in with troubles, because we know how troubles can develop passionate patience in us, and how that patience in turn forges the tempered steel of virtue, keeping us alert for whatever God will do next. In alert expectancy such as this, we’re never left feeling shortchanged. Quite the contrary—we can’t round up enough containers to hold everything God generously pours into our lives through the Holy Spirit!

This particular passage from Romans leads us to hope, a topic of considerable importance today.  A previous post speaks of “Hope: the antidote for despair”:

In the midst of tumultuous times that flood our souls as tribulation abounds on every hand, it is easy to see how persistent discouragement can lead to despair which is defined as the complete loss or absence of hope; to despair means to lose or be without hope. Once despair sets in, this mental state is perpetuated by prevailing unbelief. The downward spiral plummets into the depths of despair, a living hell with the welcome banner: “Abandon hope all ye who enter here.”

To overcome a toxic emotion such as despair, we must move in the opposite spirit or in the opposite direction.  We find that “hope” is the antidote for despair. Hope is the expectation of a future good. Again, as Christian believers go to the Word of God, they will find out that God is our hope

The Psalmist offers this marvelous reminder:

Psalm 71:5

For You are my hope; O Lord God, You are my trust from my youth and the source of my confidence.

Hope counteracts thoughts of despondency, when we recognize that hope is a joyful and confident expectation. Though we are confronted with challenges on every hand, even in the face of death itself, we still have hope:

2 Corinthians 1:9-10

Yes, we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves but in God who raises the dead, who delivered us from so great a death, and does deliver us; in whom we trust that He will still deliver us,

Jesus Christ is described as our “blessed hope,” and because of his victory over sin, sickness and even death itself, we have hope that lives eternally. So often believers are shackled to the past, as old wounds, previous hurts, and disappointments continually surface to cloud our future which ever unfolds with glorious expectation that our best days are ever on the horizon. In thinking about hope as our expectation of a future good, we recognize that “the best is always yet to come,” but we must remember

To Soar on Wings of Hope

The best is yet to come. . .

song composed by Cy Coleman,

with lyrics by Carolyn Leigh.

                

Knowing the best lines are yet to be sung

Lonnell E. Johnson

 

At times we seek to capture the fleeting what never was;

While the distant past seeks to satisfy, it never does.

Whittier’s poignant lines “Of all sad words of tongue or pen,”

Cause us to consider “The saddest these: it might have been.”

But wasted efforts seek to recapture things left behind:

Fragments of those distant memories, vestiges of the mind.

Though our lives may not have unfolded as we thought they would,

Now we know that all things have worked together for the good.

Each glorious triumph and disaster, we choose to forget.

As we savor the goodness of God, we have no regret.

We must leave behind all of the hurt of the past somehow,

For all life crescendos into the ever-present now.

Although the past attempts to sway us from our destiny,

We rise to soar on wings of hope: the best is yet to be.

 

We close our entry with Bishop Paul S. Morton proclaiming “The Best is Yet to Come”:

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Receive one another

September 22, 2017

Romans 15--7

The Verse of the Day for September 22, 207 is found in Romans 15:7 (NKJV):

Therefore receive one another, just as Christ also received us, to the glory of God.

In the preceding verses, we find a discussion of how believers should related to one another in Romans 15:2 (NKJV):

Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, leading to edification.

The Amplified Bible puts it this way:

Let each one of us make it a practice to please (make happy) his neighbor for his good and for his true welfare, to edify him [to strengthen him and build him up spiritually].

A previous blog entry discussed seven principles that can be universally applied to “launch, challenge, and grow relationships.”  These seven principles were expressed as verbs which connote action when specifically applied in terms of what should be done to “one another.”  Here is a poetic summary of those principles taught by Apostle Carolyn Warren:

We must learn to value and steward relationships,

As we ever strive to launch, grow and to maintain them.

As we love, honor, forgive and encourage each other,

We must admonish, serve, and make peace with one another.

In order to apply these seven principles, believers must apply the overarching principle expressed in Romans 15:7 and that is to “receive one another.” The New Living Translation puts it this way:

So accept each other just as Christ has accepted you; then God will be glorified.

The J.B. Phillips Translation offers this rendering:

So open your hearts to one another as Christ has opened his heart to you, and God will be glorified.

Romans 12:10 (AMP) further encourages believers with these words:

Be devoted to one another with [authentic] brotherly affection [as members of one family], give preference to one another in honor;

The King James Version says this:

Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another;

We might joking say that believers are encouraged to take a trip to “Philadelphia, the City of Brotherly Love,” since this is the term translated “brotherly affection.” The ESV goes on to say “Outdo one another in showing honor.”

The Verse of the Day and other related scriptures also incorporates two principles of Christian living expressed as verbs applied in terms of how we should behave toward “one another.” In this case, love one another and honor one another, as these previously posted comments exhort us:

Love one another:

To decide, demonstrate, freely give and practice love:

The first thread whereby we must launch all relationships

And follow Christ’s command that we love one another.

Love is an essential element of life, and Jesus Christ is the model, the standard of love who offered this reminder:

John 13:34-35:

 I give you a new commandment: that you should love one another. Just as I have loved you, so you too should love one another.

35 By this shall all [men] know that you are My disciples, if you love one another [if you keep on showing love among yourselves].

 

Honor one another:

To place value on, respect and hold in high esteem:

Giving preference, we take the lead–we are intentional;

With genuine affection we honor one another.

Another vital component necessary for building and maintaining fruitful relationships is honor.  To honor means to place value on, respect, to place esteem upon, to esteem. The word also means “to prefer—to go before, to lead, to be intentional.” Clearly, this is the essence of the latter part of Romans 12:10.

Apostle John Tetsola comments, “Honor produces an exchange, in that when we give honor, we receive honor in return.” He elaborated upon this principle by stating that associated with honor is the “process of welcoming the person you honor in your heart, whereby you celebrate their anointing and receive the individual with gladness.” He calls this the “process of acceptance” which we apply when we honor one another.

Spoken word poet, Amena Brown reads selections from Romans 12, from The Voice, a new Bible translation, from which the Verse of the Day was taken.

We conclude with the musical group Acapella offering this vocal reminder of actions that we can take, as we love one another and honor one another, and “Be Devoted”:

Pray: The latter rain is coming

September 20, 2017

Joel 2 23-24

The Verse of the Day for September 20, 2017 offers words from the Prophet Joel regarding rain:

Joel 2:23 (AMP)

Be glad then, you children of Zion, and rejoice in the Lord, your God; for He gives you the former or early rain in just measure and in righteousness, and He causes to come down for you the rain, the former rain and the latter rain, as before.

As a God of order and planning, the Almighty One never simply causes it to rain randomly, but He sends rain in due season.  God instructed the Children of Israel to walk in His precepts and follow His guidance.  They would then be fruitful, as God showered them with His blessings.  God expresses His desires for His children in terms of rain.

Deuteronomy 28:12 notes:

The Lord will open to you His good treasure, the heavens, to give the rain to your land in its season, and to bless all the work of your hand.

The Bible reveals rain as the life source for an agricultural people whose lives depend upon crops. In the Land of Israel God, indeed, sends rain in due season in two specific forms:  the former rain and latter rain.  In the Middle East, the former rain occurs in October or November, accompanying the planting of crops, while the latter rain occurs in the Spring, around March or April, just before the harvest. In addition to Joel, Jeremiah and Hosea also, speak of these seasons:

Jeremiah 5:24(NKJV):

They do not say in their heart,
“Let us now fear the Lord our God,
Who gives rain, both the former and the latter, in its season.
He reserves for us the appointed weeks of the harvest.”

Hosea 6:1-3(NKJV):

Come, and let us return to the Lord;
For He has torn, but He will heal us;
He has stricken, but He will bind us up.
After two days He will revive us;
On the third day He will raise us up,
That we may live in His sight.
Let us know,
Let us pursue the knowledge of the Lord.
His going forth is established as the morning;
He will come to us like the rain,
Like the latter and former rain to the earth.

The same message is spoken in Acts 2, on the Day of Pentecost when Peter addresses the multitude in referring to Joel:

Acts 2:16-18(NKJV):

16 But this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel:

17 ‘And it shall come to pass in the last days, says God,
That I will pour out of My Spirit on all flesh;
Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
Your young men shall see visions,
Your old men shall dream dreams.
18 And on My menservants and on My maidservants
I will pour out My Spirit in those days;
And they shall prophesy.

To appreciate the promise of God who will send the latter rain when He pours out of His spirit upon all flesh, think of what happened the first time God opened the windows of heaven and “poured” out rain.  Genesis 7 gives the account of Noah and the ark when the heavens opened, and it rained for forty days and nights.  In the last days when God opens the windows of heaven to pour out of His spirit on all flesh, do you think the outpouring will be any less great than the first time God poured out? God predates Morton salt whose motto is “When it rains, it pours.”

Anyone who is spiritually observant can sense that a great outpouring of the Spirit of God is already taking place.  In a similar way, one can tell when a torrential downpour is about to occur.  The essence of what is taking place spiritually is seen in the lyrics to a popular ballad, “Soon It’s Gonna Rain”:

See how the wind begins to whisper.

See how the leaves go streaming by.

Smell how the velvet rain is falling

Out where the fields are warm and dry.

 

Soon it’s gonna rain, I can see it

Soon it’s gonna rain, I can tell

Soon it’s gonna rain, what are we gonna do?

To answer the question posed at the end of the song, here is my advice: “Pray and get ready for rain!” As Zechariah 10:1(NKJV): exhorts:

Ask the Lord for rain
In the time of the latter rain.
The Lord will make flashing clouds;
He will give them showers of rain,
Grass in the field for everyone.

Indeed, there is a parallel between the natural and the spiritual.  Conditions are favorable for a worldwide outpouring of God’s spirit.  The abundant latter rain precedes a correspondingly great harvest.  Jesus Christ reminded His disciples in Matthew 9:37-38:

 “The harvest truly is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore, pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.”

As we enter into the great harvest, following the Latter Rain, we need to follow the exhortation of Jesus Christ and pray.

The Book of James also reminds us the importance of prayer in conjunction with the harvest.

James 5:7-8(NKJV):

Therefore be patient, brethren, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, waiting patiently for it until it receives the early and latter rain. You also be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand.

James goes on to illustrate what can happen when a man of God prays:

James 5:17-18(NKJV):

17 Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain; and it did not rain on the land for three years and six months. 18 And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth produced its fruit.

The Old Testament account of reveals that after a three-and- half-year drought, Elijah heard the “sound of abundance of rain.”  He sent his servant to investigate, but he saw nothing in the sky.  Elijah told him to go check again seven times.  After the seventh time, the servant saw a cloud about the size of a man’s hand.

Shortly thereafter we note “that the heaven was black with clouds and wind, and there was a great rain.”

God still answers prayer.  His desire is to bless more than ours is to ask.  Let us continue to pray for rain, the latter rain, an abundance of spiritual outpouring, which God promised to send before the abundant harvest toward which is already on the way.  “Pray, the Latter Rain is on the way!”

Alvin Slaughter sings of “The Latter Rain” spoken by the Prophet Joel:

 

 

Watch the way you talk

September 19, 2017

Ephesians 4--29

The Verse of the Day for September 19, 2017 reminds believers to be aware of the words we speak:

Ephesians 4:29 in the Amplified Bible states:

Let no foul or polluting language, nor evil word nor unwholesome or worthless talk [ever] come out of your mouth, but only such [speech] as is good and beneficial to the spiritual progress of others, as is fitting to the need and the occasion, that it may be a blessing and give grace (God’s favor) to those who hear it

The Message Bible puts it this way:

Watch the way you talk. Let nothing foul or dirty come out of your mouth. Say only what helps, each word a gift.

The King James version speaks of “corrupt communication” which Logos Bible software describes as literally, “insipid,” without “the salt of grace” (Colossians 4:6), so worthless and then becoming corrupt. Such language is also called “foolish talking.” Its opposite is “that which is good to edifying.”

A previous blog entry on Ephesians 4:29 offers these comments:

Throughout the Scriptures believers are exhorted to be mindful of the words they speak. For the words that we speak are expressions of what is in our hearts. “Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks,” says Solomon. With this in mind, John Bunyan recognizes that individuals must become guardians of “every gate that opens in our heart.” Howard Morgan speaks of “gates” in this way: “They are the places that we have to monitor diligently so that we allow only that which is positive and healthy into our lives.” Three such gates are the “ear gate,” “eye gate,” and “mouth gate.” The picture of the three wise monkeys comes to mind to remind us that we must consciously seek to “hear no evil, see no evil, and speak no evil.”

We are encouraged not only to watch what goes into the mouth but watch what comes out of the mouth. Paul further reminds us: “Let your words always be seasoned with salt that they may minister grace to the hearers.”

James 1:19 (AMP) has this to say about the matter:

Understand this, my beloved brothers and sisters. Let everyone be quick to hear [be a careful, thoughtful listener], slow to speak [a speaker of carefully chosen words and], slow to anger [patient, reflective, forgiving];

We must be very concerned about the words that we speak since the “power of life and death” is in the tongue. This message is reinforced with this reminder:

The Power of the Tongue

But the tongue can no man tame;

it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison

James 3:8

 

We know the tongue has power to generate life,

To produce seeds that will eventually take root

And will bring forth two very different kinds of fruit:

Love, joy and peace or envy, confusion and strife

Can build or destroy a brother, a friend, a wife.

With his hand, the helmsman easily turns great ships,

So we covenant to guard the gates of our lips,

For words can heal or pierce the heart as a sharp knife.

We desire life and long to see good all our days,

So we speak the truth and refrain from speaking lies.

Like Jesus, we want our tongue to speak what God says.

We seek to be wise but never in our own eyes.

Pressing toward the finish, the coming of God’s kingdom,

We seek not just a word but the spirit of wisdom.

As born-again believers, we are encouraged to make positive confessions and to speak words of positive affirmation regarding ourselves and others. The Verse of the Day and other related scriptures also remind believers that we are to be concerned about the words we speak, as we are encouraged to let our words always be seasoned with salt, being mindful the words spoken should minister grace to the hearers.

TobyMac expresses our desire that the words that come from our mouths will build up and not tear down, as we “Speak Life”:

Seeing ourselves through the eyes of God

September 18, 2017

Ephesians 1 18

We begin this brand new week with the Quote of the Day for September 18, 2017: a profound statement from Dr. Kingsley Fletcher:

“If you can see yourself through the mirror of time or through the eyes of God, you will see what God intends for your life.”

2 Corinthians 4:17-18 in the Amplified Bible provide the accompanying scriptures:

17 For our light, momentary affliction (this slight distress of the passing hour) is ever more and more abundantly preparing and producing and achieving for us an everlasting weight of glory [beyond all measure, excessively surpassing all comparisons and all calculations, a vast and transcendent glory and blessedness never to cease!],

18 Since we consider and look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen; for the things that are visible are temporal (brief and fleeting), but the things that are invisible are deathless and everlasting.

If we could only see ourselves from God’s perspective rather than from our own myopic viewpoint, we would get a totally different view of our lives in light of eternity.  Rather than focusing on transitory pressures and afflictions of the moment, we need to recognize the grand scope of God’s plan for our lives. The challenging circumstances we currently face are part of the preparation process that will result in our becoming “vessels of honor, sanctified [set apart for a special purpose and], useful to the Master, prepared for every good work.”

The quote also brings to mind the prayer found in Ephesians 1:14-23 expressing God’s desire for His people. Verses 17-18 reveal His intentions:

17 [For I always pray to] the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, that He may grant you a spirit of wisdom and revelation [of insight into mysteries and secrets] in the [deep and intimate] knowledge of Him,

18 By having the eyes of your heart flooded with light, so that you can know and understand the hope to which He has called you, and how rich is His glorious inheritance in the saints (His set-apart ones),

Verse 18 brings to mind the words of the hymn “Open My Eyes that I Might See” which is, in essence, a prayer expressed in song. The lyrics to the hymn are displayed while Nathanael Provis plays the melody on piano:

Another contemporary song presenting a similar request is “Open the Eyes of My Heart” performed by Michael W. Smith. The lyrics offer an appeal that God will enlightened us, just as He desires that we might also be enlightened. Not only is our prayer that God will enlighten us and illuminate our lives by means of the spirit of wisdom and revelation, but God‘s prayer for us is the same.

Be imitators of God and walk in love

September 17, 2017

Ephesians 5--1-2

Revised and re-posted, the Verse of the Day for September 7, 2017, offers this exhortation found in Ephesians 5:1 which is complete by adding verse 2:

Ephesians 5:1-2 (AMP):

Therefore be imitators of God [copy Him and follow His example], as well-beloved children [imitate their father].

and walk continually in love [that is, value one another—practice empathy and compassion, unselfishly seeking the best for others], just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and sacrifice to God [slain for you, so that it became] a sweet fragrance.

As believers we are to be imitators or mimics of God, our Father. In a similar manner to a young boy who wants to walk in his father’s shoes and wear his father’s hat, we are to be followers of God. Our lives are to be filled to overflowing with love. Our lives should be a reflection of the saying, “Like father, like son.”

This passage from Ephesians 5 also brings to mind 1 John 4:16, expressed in the Amplified Bible this way:

16 And we know (understand, recognize, are conscious of, by observation and by experience) and believe (adhere to and put faith in and rely on) the love God cherishes for us. God is love, and he who dwells and continues in love dwells and continues in God, and God dwells and continues in him.

In 1 John 4:8 we find an expression of who God is:

He who does not love has not become acquainted with God [does not and never did know Him], for God is love.

For Christian believers nothing is more satisfying than to know that God is love and that God loves us.  We can thus, follow Christ’s example as we offer our lives as sacrificial expression of our devotion to God.

The passage from Ephesians also brings to mind this poetic reminder:

In the footsteps of our faithful fathers 

Follow the steps of good men instead,

and stay on the paths of the righteous.

Proverbs 2:20

 

We still walk the paths of the righteous, chosen ones,

In the footsteps of our faithful fathers, as sons

Who must follow their lead that we might know the way,

Acknowledging God in all that we do and say.

We have not been here, for each step is strange and new.

Moving ahead, our eyes are now only on You.

As we continue to pursue the paths of truth,

We see Your guiding hand has been there since our youth.

Former days intertwined in confusion and strife,

In darkened, dead-end pathways, all bearing no life.

Along our journey we have known Your grace before,

Assured that Your favor will abound even more.

We are strengthen and encouraged in this new phase

And pledge to follow onward the rest of our days.

Elevation Worship offers “Walk in Love” inspired by Ephesians 5:1-2 and other verses:

True wisdom: From above

September 16, 2017

 

 

James 3--13

Once more we begin the day with the Verse of the Day for September 16, 2017 found in James 3:13 in the Amplified Bible Classic Edition:

Who is there among you who is wise and intelligent? Then let him by his noble living show forth his [good] works with the [unobtrusive] humility [which is the proper attribute] of true wisdom.

The verse opens with a question regarding the topic of “true wisdom, as verses 14-18 compare and contrast the wisdom that is from above with the wisdom that is from beneath:

The “wisdom from beneath” is identified as having certain negative attributes: Being bitterly jealous with selfish ambition, covering up the truth with boasting and lying. Verse 15 clearly states, “Jealousy and selfishness are not God’s kind of wisdom. Such things are earthly, unspiritual, and demonic.”

Godly or heavenly wisdom, on the other hand, is described as “First of all pure, it is also peace-loving, gentle at all times, and willing to yield to others. It is full of mercy and the fruit of good deeds. It shows no favoritism and is always sincere,” according to the New Living Translation.

In examining the Verse of the Day in its wider context, we note another exhortation to “set our affection on things above and not on things of the earth,” as the life of each believer should reflect

True Wisdom

Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom:

and with all thy getting get understanding.

Proverbs 4:7  

 

When you choose to build, look to the Scriptures and you will find

That seeking after wisdom is the key to your success,

For wisdom has great power to promote and to bless.

With wisdom you can perceive the Father’s hidden design.

Companion to wisdom is power to loose and to bind

The enemy and then become the strongman of righteousness.

Follow the way of wisdom and path of holiness.

Pursue wisdom as a treasure, priceless as peace of mind.

As you move toward your destiny, wisdom serves as a midwife

To give birth to dreams within you, waiting to be fulfilled.

Wisdom defeats deceptive spirits and nullifies strife.

Walk in the power of your calling and seek to be filled

With wisdom which brings riches and honor and a long life.

Use wisdom first to dismantle, then accurately build.

We conclude with Keith and Kristyn Getty offering “The Perfect Wisdom of Our God”:

 

 

To know God is to love

September 15, 2017

 

1 John 4--16 new

The Verse of the Day for September 15, 2017 is found in 1 John 4:16 in the Amplified Bible:

And we know (understand, recognize, are conscious of, by observation and by experience) and believe (adhere to and put faith in and rely on) the love God cherishes for us. God is love, and he who dwells and continues in love dwells and continues in God, and God dwells and continues in him.

In 1 John 4:8 (AMP) we also find an expression of who God is:

 He who does not love has not become acquainted with God [does not and never did know Him], for God is love.

For Christian believers nothing is more satisfying than to know that God is love and that God loves us, and nothing can separate us from that love. This powerful declaration is reiterated in Romans 8: 38-39 (NIV):

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

This passage from Romans 8 relates the constancy of the love of God which never fails. In a previous blog entry, I commented, “No matter the circumstances of our lives, whether on the pinnacles of success and dreams come true or in the pits of disappointment and failure, we are assured that God loves us. I recall a statement from the late Dr. Adrian Rodgers, “God cannot love us any more than He does, and He will not love us any less.”

God desires that each individual believer might know Him and experience His unconditional love, that is, to have a personal knowledge of who He is, to know Him as a loving father. This kind of knowing is more than “head knowledge” but relates to “heart knowledge.” A person may “know” by name the CEO of the company where that individual works, but the same person also “knows,” to a far greater degree, a co-worker who happens to be a close friend.

God desires that we know him, as He expresses His deep desire for intimacy on a very personal level. We come to know God through the Word of God which makes known the love of God.  As we establish and maintain our relationship with Him, we also experience the love of God, the most powerful force in the universe.  Once an individual knows God on such an intimate, experiential level, that person “knows for himself or herself,” and that individual is forever changed.

The closing verses of Ephesians 3 also reveal God’s desire that we experience His love, expressed in this prayer:

 To Know the Love of Christ         

To know the love of Christ which passes knowledge;

that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

Ephesians 3:19

 

Father, expand our minds and widen our comprehension

To know Your love in an even fuller dimension.

As we call upon Your name and bow in humility,

Help us to see to an even greater degree.

Enlighten our eyes with the wisdom that comes from above.

You call us beloved, worthy of endless love.

When tempted, knowing You love us dispels all fear.

As we seek to please You, open our ears that we might hear

Your word and endeavor to hide it deep within our heart.

Despite past failures, misdeeds, and shortcomings on our part,

Your love is constant and never changes but ever grows

And unfolds in matchless beauty a dew-kissed rose.

No force on Earth, no power in heaven above,

Not death nor life can separate us from Your love.

We conclude with a Truth Song “The Love of Christ” based on Ephesians 3:17b-19:

 

Dying antelope transformed into a butterfly

September 13, 2017
Antelope into Butterfly--Rear view

This sculpture from Zimbabwe shows the transformation taking place as a dying antelope is changed into a butterfly.

Have you ever encountered a work of art that profoundly moved you? A painting, a sculpture, a musical composition, a photograph, or a scene from nature—a sunrise or a waterfall, a field of sunflowers or a fiery autumn leaf?  Were you inspired to think deeply, to “Selah” the moment: to pause, to consider deeply while reflecting upon what you observed or heard, as you endeavored to understand more full your breath-taking experience?

More than 20 years ago while living in Columbus, OH, I recall seeing a special exhibition called Chapungu, a collection of sculpture from Harare, Zimbabwe on display at the Franklin Park Conservatory. One of the sculptured works of art that particularly arrested my attention was entitled “Dying Antelope Transformed into a Butterfly.”

After considerable reflection, several scriptures came to mind, including 1 Peter 3:18 (KJV):

For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit:

The New Living Translation provides this rendering:

‎1 Peter 3:18 (NLT):

Christ suffered for our sins once for all time. He never sinned, but he died for sinners to bring you safely home to God. He suffered physical death, but he was raised to life in the Spirit.

The verse contrasts being “put to death in the flesh” with being “quickened or made alive.”

Translated from the Greek word zōopoieō, the expression meansto cause to live, make alive, give life, restore to life, endued with new and greater powers of life, of seeds quickened into life, i.e. germinating, springing up, growing)

The phrase “quickened by the Spirit” also brought to mind this stanza from the poem “Constant Reminders”:

God makes known to us a new covenant,

Quickened within us by a lively hope,

Energized by ever-increasing faith,

That we might know and be known by His love,

Surpassing even the knowledge of God:

How great and how precious is each promise.

The sculpture provided a graphic illustration of having been put to death with respect to the flesh in stark contrast to having been quickened or made alive with regard to the Spirit, inspiring this response:

A Lesson from Chapungu

Our soul has escaped as a bird from the snare of the fowlers;                                                                        

The snare is broken, and we have escaped.             

Psalm 124:7

With our eyes open to see what God has to say,

We stroll through varied green scenes while looking to see

Secret messages, sculpted letters speak clearly

In rocks that cry out from quarries of Zimbabwe.

Hunted game escapes, just beyond the fowler’s snare,

An antelope transformed into a butterfly,

Snatched from the clasp of death, energized to glorify

The God of the living, not the dead, to declare

Those who trust Him are released from the fear of death.

He upholds us with His victorious right hand.

Not even death can limit all that He has planned,

For God sustains all life and safeguards every breath.

The Lord protects His own, quickening flesh and bone,

That we might proclaim His praise a living stone.

Esther Mui offers Psalm 124 “Our Help is in the Name of the Lord” from which the introductory verse of the poem is taken.

 

Rejoice in the Lord always

September 12, 2017

Philippians 4--4-5

The Verse of the Day for September 12, 2017 offers a marvelous reminder of the attitude that believers should have as we approach every day that we draw breath.

Philippians 4:4 in the Amplified Bible Classic Edition:

Rejoice in the Lord always [delight, gladden yourselves in Him]; again I say, Rejoice!

The New Living Translation puts it this way:

Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again—rejoice!

Despite the horrific conditions that Paul found himself in while imprisoned in an underground dungeon known as “a house of darkness,” his letter to the church at Philippi abounds with references to joy and rejoicing.  Renowned Biblical teacher John McArthur refers to Philippians as the “Epistle of Joy,” where Paul mentions some form of the word “joy” at least 16 times in these four chapters. McArthur notes that Paul also mentions Christ 50 times and states, “And that is because his joy is found in Christ and so is our joy.”

Philippians 4:4 brings to mind a scripture memory song sung as a round in Children’s Ministry classes taught years ago. Here is a recording of the verse:

Paul’s exhortation to rejoice is clearly stated. Philippians 4:4 is simply a reiteration of Psalm 118:24 “This is the day that Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it.” This verse is used as an epigraph or brief introduction to a celebratory poem that expresses the essence of joy that should abound in our lives every day.

Good News Day

This is the day the LORD has made;

we will rejoice and be glad in it.

 Psalm 118:24

 

It’s a good news day

no blues day

new shoes

no way to lose

What a good news day

 

It’s a great day

I can’t wait day

lift your voice

let’s rejoice

Good God, a good news day

 

It’s a payday

goin my way day

no nay–all yea

what you say

Such a good news day

 

It’s a live it up day

overflowin cup day

It’s a bright and bubbly

doubly lovely

Show-nuff good news day

Israel Houghton offers a lively song of praise inspired, in part, by Philippians 4:4:

As the damaging effects of Hurricane Irma continue across Florida and the southwest, weather officials indicate that the impact could have been far worse. In everything we give thanks; even in the midst of massive devastation and destruction we can acknowledge that God is good and rejoice.