“I plead the blood”–What does it mean?

August 3, 2014

Psalms-51--7Recently, while reading a passage from Leviticus, I posted a blog entry related to the ceremonial directives concerning blood under the Old Covenant in contrast to the blood of Jesus Christ under the New Covenant. Included in the discussion was an original psalm expressing what the blood of Jesus Christ means to me. The poem “Beyond Hyssop” was also part of another blog post which I have revised and re-posted here as I introduce the expression “I Plead the Blood” and explain what it means to me:

Beyond Hyssop

Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean:

wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.

Psalm 51:7

 

Can any stalks of hyssop purify my leprous soul?

Can they daub with precious lamb’s blood the lintels of this house?

Where are the purgatives to cleanse and balms to me make whole

When the passions of my sinful flesh surface and arouse

My senses with flames rekindled from those carnal embers?

Can I be made clean once more, as I wrestle this body

Of death each day and seek to beat back my mortal members?

Though hyssop may flush my rancid soul of iniquity,

Beyond the strength of this remedy is life-giving blood

Of the Lord Jesus, ultimate, unblemished sacrifice

Sent from the bosom of the Father, who alone is good.

Such a costly prescription is far beyond any price.

Truly this balm in Gilead has healed my wounded soul,

Deeply cleansed me from within, and his blood has made whole.

The poem refers to the “life-giving blood of the Lord Jesus,” and concludes with this statement: “. . . and his blood has made me whole.” As I reflected upon the power, the “wonder-working power in the precious blood of the Lamb,” I recalled an occasion when I was battling the flu and had gone to the doctor. I returned home and immediately went to bed after having taken the prescribed medication. A couple of days later as I began to recover, I learned that a minister from Louisiana was ministering in a nearby city, and I mustered up the strength to go hear him. Fortunately, I went with a group of believers, and I did not have to drive.

The minister, whose name I cannot recall, taught on the blood that Jesus Christ shed and related the seven times that the Lord shed his blood. For me, it was a life-changing message, the principles of which I applied immediately, and subsequently I have come to a greater understanding of what it means to “plead the blood.”

Revelation_12-11

Although that specific term is not used in the Bible, the expression is often used by Christian believers. Dele Oke in an issue of the Living Word discusses “pleading the blood”:

“Pleading the blood simply means applying the blood to our life and circumstances just like the Israelites applied it to their door posts and were protected from the destroyer (Exodus 12).

Pleading the blood is simply the taking hold of the authority and power available to us by the death and resurrection of Jesus.

Pastor John Chappell III goes on to explain:

“To ‘Plead the Blood; of Jesus means to appropriate, apply, declare, proclaim, and put your trust in the competed work of His shed Blood. Use whichever words you are comfortable with. However, the expression, “In Jesus’ Name, I plead the Blood” (over family members and others) is powerful.

‘Pleading the Blood’ provides total provision for every need, including protection; divine healing, and financial needs, healing of relationships, inner healing, deliverance, wisdom, and spiritual eyesight.”

The original teaching that I heard inspired this song which captures the essence of the message:

I Plead the Blood

I plead the blood. I plead the blood. I plead the blood over my life.

Jesus bled seven times and shed His blood for me

That I might triumph and walk forth in perfected victory.

I plead the blood.

 

Refrain:

I plead the blood.

I plead the blood.

I plead the blood over my life.

 

He freed me from sin and every disease with sweat and blood He shed for me.

I plead the blood.

 

Repeat Refrain

 

His face was beaten more than any man so I could sense the presence of God.

I plead the blood.

 

Repeat Refrain

 

He cancelled each curse and negative word and banished affliction and strife.

I plead the blood.

 

Repeat Refrain

 

Jesus was wounded when they tore His flesh; by His stripes I am truly healed.

I plead the blood.

 

Repeat Refrain

 

When they nailed His hands, and He shed His blood, He blessed all the works of my hands.

I plead the blood.

 

Repeat Refrain

 

The nails in His feet gave me the victory wherever the soles of my feet shall tread.

I plead the blood.

 

Repeat Refrain

When they pierced His side, blood and water flowed: God accepted and sent the Paraclete to help.

That’s why I plead the blood.

 

I plead the blood.

I plead the blood.

I plead the blood over my life.

Jesus bled seven times and shed His blood for me

That I might triumph and walk forth in perfected victory.

I plead the blood.

In looking for a music video to close out this discussion, I discovered this soul-stirring rendition of  “I Plead the Blood” by  the Stephens:

Wonder-working power in the blood of the Lamb

February 4, 2023

The Verse of the Day posted on the Logos Bible Software Home page for February 4, 2023, comes from Leviticus 16:30 (New Living Translation):

30 On that day offerings of purification will be made for you, and you will be purified in the Lord’s presence from all your sins.


The passage from Leviticus reveals the elaborate purification process given to Moses for the Children of Israel whereby their sins were atoned for or forgiven under the Law or the Old Covenant:

As Hebrews 9:13 reminds us:

Indeed, under the law, almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness of sins.

The context related to this verse points out the distinction between the Old Covenant established by the blood sacrifice of animals and the New Covenant implemented through the shed blood of Jesus Christ. Hebrews 9:13-14 point out this distinction:

For if the blood of goats and bulls, and the sprinkling of defiled persons with the ashes of a heifer, sanctify for the purification of the flesh, 14 how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God.

The reference to the distinctive power inherent in the blood of Jesus Christ brings to mind these original lines related to the color red:

red

red clay red

Adamic dust red

red man

red

yearning

to return to Eden

red

red

blood red

red

yes, Lord, red

Lamb’s blood

red

precious blood

red

blood-stained banner

red

like the crimson flow

that cleanses scarlet sins

and washes white as snow

red

Amen red

red

blood red

As I read the Verse of the Day and related scriptures, I also thought of this original psalm as I personalized the shedding of blood by Jesus Christ on my behalf:

Beyond Hyssop

Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean:

wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.

 Psalm 51:7

Can any stalks of hyssop purify my leprous soul?

Can they daub with precious lamb’s blood the lintels of this house?

Where are the purgatives to cleanse and balms to me make whole

When the passions of my sinful flesh surface and arouse

My senses with flames rekindled from those carnal embers?

Can I be made clean once more, as I wrestle this body

Of death each day and seek to beat back my mortal members?

Though hyssop may flush my rancid soul of iniquity,

Beyond the strength of this remedy is life-giving blood

Of the Lord Jesus, ultimate, unblemished sacrifice

Sent from the bosom of the Father, who alone is good.

Such a costly prescription is far beyond any price.

Truly this balm in Gilead has healed my wounded soul,

Deeply cleansed me from within, and his blood has made me whole.

Lyrics of the stalwart hymn also remind us “There is power, wonder-working power in the blood of the Lamb,” as Ephesians 2:13 also makes known:

But now in Christ Jesus, you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ.

In Hebrews 10:19 we find this exhortation:

Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus,

1 John 1:7 also reinforces the message of the purifying presence of the blood of Jesus Christ:

But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.

The context for this section of 1 John chapter 1 is fellowship with God and with fellow believers. Verses 6-10 begin with the conditional clause “if we” followed by a verb: “If we say… if we walk… if we say… if we confess… if we say….” These expressions establish the conditions which if met on our part, will result in a corresponding action on God’s part. These two parts of the conditional sentences are especially noted in 1 John 1:9. If we do our part, which is to confess our sins, our faithful and just God will do His part, for the ‘blood of Jesus Christ, His Son, cleanses us from all unrighteousness.” Without question, the blood of Jesus Christ is an amazing spiritual repository of life-generating power.

We conclude with CeCe Winans’ offering in song: “The Blood Medley”:

Renewing the mind is the key…

January 27, 2023

The Verse of the Day for January 27, 2023, is found in Ephesians 6:12-13, which is part of the most celebrated passage related to putting on the whole armor of God, beginning with verse 10 and continuing through verse 20. The New Living Translation renders the passage this way:

Ephesians 6:10-14:

The Whole Armor of God

10 A final word: Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil. 12 For we[a] are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.

13 Therefore, put on every piece of God’s armor so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil. Then after the battle, you will still be standing firm. 14 Stand your ground, putting on the belt of truth and the body armor of God’s righteousness.

In addition to its use in this passage, the expression “to put on” is used in various other places in the New Testament. Note this reference to putting on something other than specifically “the whole armor of God”

Romans 13:12 (NKJV):

12 The night is far spent, the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light.

1 Thessalonians 5:8 (AMP) speaks of similar elements of the armor mentioned in Ephesians 6:

But since we [believers] belong to the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet, the hope and confident assurance of salvation.

Romans 13:14 (NKJV) mentions something else to be put on:

But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts.

References in Ephesians and Colossians in the King James Version mention “putting on the new man” as part of the renewing of the mind: In Ephesians 4:22-25 (KJV) we find this exhortation:

22 That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts;

23 And be renewed in the spirit of your mind;

24 And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.

25 Wherefore putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbor: for we are members one of another

Colossians 3:10 continues with these words:

And have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him:

Colossians 3:12-14 elaborate in terms of what believers are to put on:

12 Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; 13 bearing with one another, and forgiving one another if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do. 14 But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection.

The discussion of the above Scriptures reveals that the phrase “to put on” is connected to renewing the mind, whereby Paul encourages followers of God to “put off, put on, and put away.” We are encouraged to change our minds and develop new thinking patterns. We are to put off the old man and put on the new man, as we put away lying or any other ungodly practices.  This transformative process is ongoing in the life of every believer and becomes the topic of the following original poem:

The Key to Renewing the Mind

Don’t lie to each other, for you have stripped off

 your old sinful nature and all its wicked deeds.

10 Put on your new nature and be renewed as you learn

to know your Creator and become like him.

Colossians 3-9-10

It has been said that the key to power is renewing the mind,

But Father, reveal this ongoing process, and clearly

Show us how to walk in power, excel, and not fall behind,

As we strive to know deeper levels of intimacy.

With laser precision, we target the old-man nature

And put to death all of our carnal members once and for all.

We respond in obedience in answer to God’s call;

Not conformed, we transform ourselves, being made new, mature.

In the secret place of the Lord who ever inhabits

The praises of His people, here we desire to abide,

To put off the old man, vile, corrupt, wrapped in sinful pride

And put on the new man, as one changes garments, habits.

Above all, we put on compassionate love from the start

And abide in our hiding place, filled with a grateful heart.

We conclude with another Scripture Memory Song: Put on the Full Armour (Ephesians 6:11-12)            

God is doing a new thing in 2023

January 2, 2023

As we think about the New Year with new possibilities and new opportunities to learn and grow, here is my heart’s desire for those who read Dr. J’s Apothecary Shoppe:

As the New Year unfolds in beauty in 2023,

May we rise to become all God has called us to be.

We explore the exceeding great and precious promises that God has in store for us, reminded of who He is and what He alone can do:

Isaiah 43:16, 18-19:

Thus saith the Lord, which maketh a way in the sea, and a path in the mighty waters;

Remember ye not the former things, neither consider the things of old.

Behold, I will do a new thing; now it shall spring forth; shall ye not know it? I will even make a way in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert.

Each New Year represents a new beginning, as God reminds us once again that He makes all things new.  As I considered deeply the concept of a new beginning or a fresh start, I happened to think of this poetic expression:

All Things New

Behold, I will do a new thing; now it shall spring forth;

shall ye not know it? I will even make a way in the wilderness,

and rivers in the desert.

Isaiah 43:19                                                                                                                                     

Behold, I am the Lord God who makes all things new.

Trust me and you will see. You will never be the same.

As you look to me, it is no secret what I can do.

I am God–I do not lie, I am faithful and true.

Almighty, God of the impossible is my name.

Behold, I am the Lord God who makes all things new.

Some thought it was over, but I am by no means through.

I cover and restore to remove all guilt and shame.

As you look to me, it is no secret what I can do.

Never forget what I have already brought you through.

You have a divine purpose; your life is not a game.

Behold, I am the Lord God who makes all things new.

In me you overcome—I am Lord of the breakthrough

Who offers boundless promises that you can now claim.

As you look to me, it is no secret what I can do.

Trust me, obey and see what I have in store for you.

With your life you will make known my goodness and proclaim:

Behold, I am the Lord God who makes all things new.

As you look to me, it is no secret what I can do.

As we embark further into the New Year, we may encounter challenges and demanding situations that seem impossible to resolve on our own. The Bible reminds us of God’s unfailing power and strength to turn seemingly impossible situations into triumphant victories. We must never forget the message of Isaiah 43:19.

As Lara Martin reminds us, “God is Doing a New Thing”:

Wrapped in swaddling clothes: What does that mean?

December 23, 2022

As we continue reading Scriptures related to the birth of Jesus Christ, the Savior, we recognize that a series of awe-inspiring circumstances intersect in a miraculous manner. In one such account, we find a more complete unfolding of the narrative in Luke 2:11-14. Taken from that passage, the Verse of the Day for December 23, 2022, is revised and re-posted here:

Luke 2:11-14 (NKJV):

For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; You shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men.

This concluding passage contains a reference to an ancient custom associated with birth, that is, Mary wrapped the child in “swaddling cloths” or as the King James Version renders “swaddling clothes” or “swaddling strips” in the New Living Translation. The practice was for a child, particularly a child of royal lineage, to be salted and swaddled. Shortly after birth, the child would be washed with water into which a pinch of salt had been added, symbolizing a covenant of salt, whereby the words spoken by the child would be words of truth, always seasoned with salt. The child would then be wrapped in swaddling bands or swaddling clothes, strips of fine linen to represent that the child would grow up to walk straight and tall.

Bishop KC Pillai, a converted Hindu who embraced Christianity, wrote extensively on Eastern customs and manners, known as Orientalisms, as revealed in the Bible. He points outs distinctive features of the custom of swaddling and notes that when Israel strayed from the precepts of God and walked in idolatry, their abominable practices were described in this way in Ezekiel 16:1-4, indicating how far they had strayed from the precepts of Jehovah:

Ezekiel 16:1-4 (NKJV):

Again the word of the Lord came unto me, saying,

Son of man, cause Jerusalem to know her abominations,

And say, thus saith the Lord God unto Jerusalem; Thy birth and thy nativity is of the land of Canaan; thy father was an Amorite, and thy mother a Hittite.

And as for thy nativity, on the day you were born thy navel was not cut, neither were you washed in water to supple thee; you were not salted at all, nor swaddled at all.

Swaddling continued to be practiced beyond Biblical times, as a blog entry from needleprint.blogspot.com commented on the elaborately embroidered bands made for young prince Federigo, Duke of Urbino, a notable 15th Century figure from the Italian Renaissance, pictured here:

In addition, when the angels announced to the shepherds that the Savior had been born, they were given a sign that established the truth of their words:

And this will be a sign for you [by which you will recognize Him]: you will find a Baby wrapped in [swaddling] cloths and lying in a manger.” (Luke 2:12 AMP).

The timing of the arrival of the shepherds had to be precise since the swaddling clothes were left on the child for only for a few minutes. The shepherds could not arrive on the scene before the swaddling had begun, nor could they arrive after the custom had been completed. They had to be in the right place at the right time.  As we so clearly see, the account of the birth of Jesus Christ abounds with “signs, wonders, and miracles,” one of which involves his being “wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid in a manger.”

“He’s Here” by Eddie James offers a powerful, musical rendering of the account of the Savior who was “born of a virgin, wrapped in swaddling clothes. . .”

Peace is Here

December 19, 2022

This past Sunday, December 18, 2022, Pastor Telos Fuller, of Grace Covenant Church, Chantilly, VA, delivered another life-changing message: “Peace is Here.” He spoke of “the peace of God” and “peace with God.” I recall this definition of the peace of God: “a state of untroubled, undisturbed well-being. It is an inner reality. . . the peace of God indicates being free from anxiety and care; it is not dependent upon outside conditions. The peace of God is only possible through the Prince of Peace, as Pastor Telos began with John 14:25-27 where Jesus is preparing his disciples for his ultimate departure from this life and offers words of comfort:

25 “These things I have spoken to you, while I am still with you. 26 But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you. 27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.

Pastor Telos went on to explain that as believers we have the peace of God, as Romans 5:1 declares:

Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.

If we have peace with God, then we have the peace of God. Colossians 3:15 reiterates this message:

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

I also thought of this passage from Philippians 4:6-7 in the New Living Translation:

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.

The teaching concluded with a reminder that God invites us into the peace that only Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace can give. The peace of God is not the absence of problems, but it is the presence of Jesus in the midst of any situation we face.

Isaiah 26:3 encourages us with these words.

You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you!

As I reviewed my notes and considered deeply the message: “Peace is Here,” I thought of this original poem to conclude this entry:

Hold Your Peace

So shall they fear
The name of the Lord from the west,
And His glory from the rising of the sun;
When the enemy comes in like a flood,
The Spirit of the Lord will lift up a standard against him.

Isaiah 59:19

The LORD will fight for you, and you shall hold your peace.

Exodus 14:14

These days when the enemy enters as a flood

With distress and intense pressure on every side,

Despite signs of defeat, the Lord God is still good.

In the thick of battle in peace we shall abide.

The Spirit of the Lord raises a bold standard:

The Lord of Hosts bears His arm; as Jehovah Nissi,

He covers us with His love, though foes may have slandered.

He displays His banner for all the world to see:

Faithful Adonai has never slept nor slumbered.

God is not slack but hastens to perform His Word.

Despite outward signs, we are never outnumbered,

For we know that the battle belongs to the Lord.

On the battlefield, fierce attacks seem only to increase,

But as God said to Moses, “Stand still and hold your peace!”  

Here is a music video from Brianne Danter, a musical reminder entitled “Peace:”

Reflections on Psalm 1 and my first psalm

December 16, 2022

During my morning devotional today, I thought of Psalm 1, the first passage of Scripture I ever committed to memory. Here is the First Psalm 1 from the Amplified Bible:

Blessed [fortunate, prosperous, and favored by God] is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked [following their advice and example],
Nor stand in the path of sinners,
Nor sit [down to rest] in the seat of scoffers (ridiculers).

But his delight is in the law of the Lord,
And on His law [His precepts and teachings] he [habitually] meditates day and night.

And he will be like a tree firmly planted [and fed] by streams of water,
Which yields its fruit in its season;
Its leaf does not wither;
And in whatever he does, he prospers [and comes to maturity].


The wicked [those who live in disobedience to God’s law] are not so,
But they are like the chaff [worthless and without substance] which the wind blows away.

Therefore the wicked will not stand [unpunished] in the judgment,
Nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous.

For the Lord knows and fully approves the way of the righteous,
But the way of the wicked shall perish.

As I completed reading the passage, an original psalm, a blues sonnet, written more than 15 years ago also came to mind:

Talk about a Man

Psalm 1

Talk about a man who show is blessed—I’m the man.

Talk about a man who show is blessed—I’m the man.

At first, I couldn’t, but now I see God’s master plan.

To study the Word of Life show is my delight.

To study the Word of Life show is my delight.

I’m all the time thinking about it—day and night.

Planted by the rivers of water, my roots reach deep.

Planted by the rivers of water, my roots reach deep.

By the still waters, the Good Shepherd leads his sheep.

In God, all His promises are yes and amen.       

In God, all His promises are yes and amen.

I have been so blessed since I can remember when.

The Word of God soothes my soul like a healing balm.   

I’m the man they talking about in that First Psalm.

                                                                 

I would like to comment on Psalm 1 and the first “psalm” I ever wrote as a poet strongly influenced by David, the Psalmist whose work continues to delight me.  In my freshman composition course at Purdue University in 1961, we were given this prompt to discuss in an in-class essay: “May I tell you what delights me?” I completed the assignment by making a list of items that bring me pleasure: specific kinds of music, a variety of foods, certain literary works, and other delights. The professor asked for volunteers to share what they had written, and I offered to read mine. When I finished, she said, “Oh, you’ve written a poem.” I responded, “I did?” In my mind, I only shared “a few of my favorite things.” (By the way, there was a performance of the Broadway musical, “The Sound of Music,” during the time I was enrolled at Purdue.) Years later when I began to acknowledge my poetic inclination and attempted to refine my efforts, I learned that I had actually written a free-verse catalog poem in the style of Walt Whitman and other 20th-century writers. Although that experience occurred more than 60 years ago, the Psalms of David continue to be near the top of my list of “what delights me.”

In a recent blog post I concluded with this song of worship which seems an appropriate way to close today’s entry:

“My Delight is in You Lord,” featuring Christy Nockels:

Emmanuel (God with us): Song of the season and every day

December 11, 2022

The Verse of the Day for December 11, 2022, is a revision of a previous blog entry.  This verse relates to an Old Testament prophecy concerning the birth of Jesus, the Messiah found in Isaiah 7:14 (NLT):

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:

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 fulfillment 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 related to the birth of the Savior by a virgin are only two of the more than three hundred 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 Jeremiah, that God will hasten to perform His Word, so we see that when God speaks a word prophetically that 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 in the mid-19th century, offered here by Selah:

A variation on the theme of the coming of Jesus Christ is this song “Emmanuel,” offered by Norman Hutchins:

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

Second Sunday of Advent: Celebrating Jesus, the Light of the World

December 4, 2022

The Verse of the Day for December 4, 2022, provides another metaphor Jesus uses to describe himself occurring in John 8:12 in the New Living Testament:

[Jesus, the Light of the World] Jesus spoke to the people once more and said, “I am the light of the world. If you follow me, you won’t have to walk in darkness, because you will have the light that leads to life.”

A number of biblical references speak of Jesus Christ in terms of light. The first chapter of John opens with this reference to light:

There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. This man came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all through him might believe. He was not that Light but was sent to bear witness of that Light. That was the true Light which gives light to every man coming into the world. (John 1:6-9)

One of the remarkable aspects of light is that light dispels darkness. If the smallest candle can dispel or penetrate the depths of darkness, how much greater is the light provided by “the light of the world.” Concerning the coming Messiah, it was prophesied that “those who sat in darkness have seen a great light.” Indeed, those who follow Jesus will not walk in darkness but will have the light of life.

Today, November 4, 2022, is the second Sunday of Advent, the season celebrating the Earthly birth of Jesus Christ, as well as preparation and anticipation of the second coming of Christ. During this time of year, I think of the following poem, an original psalm, dedicated to a group of missionaries who were sent to local areas to carry the light and introduce Jesus Christ:

Light of the World

“You are the light of the world. A city that is set on

 a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do men light a lamp,

 and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand;

 and it gives light to all who are in the house.

 Let your light so shine before men, that they

 may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.”        

Matthew 5:14-16

A call comes ringing. . .     

The light that from creation split the dark

still shines today.  The same sun that once graced

Eden’s green place still warms the earth each day.

Without the light, there is no life, no hope

For growth, no power to live and give birth.

Without the light, there is only the night

To swallow the land and smother all life.

Somewhere someone sits in darkness, crying. . .

Send the light. . .

The love of Christ constrains us to go forth,

To shine as beacons and carry the love,

To offer shelter from stormy places,

To light the path of everyone who longs

To be at home in God’s family room.

 Send the light. . .

With torch held high, let us stand upon the Rock:

a lantern, a lampstand, a beacon, a lighthouse,

a city set on a hill that cannot be hid

Let it shine. . .

Though the darkness thickens, let our lights shine.

Let us speak God’s Word and echo God’s voice that

First spoke light into being, commanding it to shine

So let it shine. . .

So let it shine. . .

So let it shine. . .

forever more.

The lyrics to the familiar gospel song sung so often during this time of the year also come to mind: “Jesus, the Light of the World.”

Isaac Cates and Ordained offer a moving rendition of this classic gospel number featuring Margaret Rainey and Kami Woodard to close out the second Sunday in Advent.

Celebrating the Life of Lonnie Johnson: Ordinary Man of Extraordinary Deeds

December 2, 2022

Today, December 2, 2022, would have been the 100th birthday of my father, Lonnie Johnson, who passed away in 1996. I would like to share a few words of reflection upon the life of Lonnie Johnson: An Ordinary Man of Extraordinary Deeds.

Born in rural Arkansas in 1922, Lonnie Johnson eventually moved to Gary, Indiana where he met my mother, the lovely Jessie Marie Garrett, whom he married. In 1992, my parents celebrated their Golden Wedding Anniversary in a special ceremony reaffirming their marriage vows. I had the absolute joy of officiating on that beautiful occasion. For a man to remain married to the same woman for more than fifty years is indeed an extraordinary accomplishment, but this is just one feature of the man whose life we celebrate.

My father did not have much formal education. Although he didn’t complete high school, he knew the value of education and instilled the importance of education in his children and grandchildren. My sister Cheryl has a Master’s degree and is a retired schoolteacher. I am a Professor of English who has taught for more than 40 years at the collegiate level. Unquestionably, we would not be where we are today without the support of our parents, but especially our father who worked very hard to put us through undergraduate school. During my second senior year of a five-year program, my sister and I were both in college at the same time, yet I never heard him complain. For forty years he worked as a crane operator in the Billet Mill at US Steel. For him, hard work was a way of life, and he passed that value on to me and my sister.

Not only did my father and mother support my sister and me in our college years, but my parents also made provisions to provide support for their grandchildren when each of them graduated from high school. In a real sense, they established a kind of scholarship fund–The Lonnie and Jessie Johnson Grandkids Scholarship fund. My Dad used to collect cans and put the money into the fund for his grandchildren. Among his greatest sources of pride were his children and grandchildren: my sister’s two sons Keith and Brian and my two daughters, Melissa and Angela.

When I reflect upon my father, I recall that he was “always there.”  Just as he was proud of his family, he was also proud of his home. My family and I lived in various parts of the country, and Mother and Dad would visit from time to time. After a few days, Dad would get restless and want to get back home. He loved his home. During the time that my sister and I were in college, my parents were purchasing a home: in fact, my parents purchased two homes–another extraordinary accomplishment for a man such as my father.

When I think of my father, I think of a good man who was always doing good. I recall the words of John Wesley who challenged Christians with these words: “Do all the good you can, to all the people you can, in all the places you can, at all times you can, as long as ever you can.”  I believe that the good men do lives on after them. It has been said that the greatest gift you can give is a good example. If that is the case, then Lonnie Johnson has left us an incredible gift. I know that his legacy lives on in my sister and me, and our children, and grandchildren, and in generations to come, as we follow his example of the strength of character and integrity, his quiet strength and diligence.

I close with a poem written in tribute to my father and recited at his memorial service.

Plainsong

for Lonnie Johnson

1922-1996     

Your plainsong I know by heart,                          

a hymn stanza learned with ease,            

lined out like the flow of chanted words,

syllables fused into a single sound:

I-love-the-Lord-He-heard-my-cry”

raised and repeated over countless Sunday mornings.

Your plainsong I continue to sing, expressed not in words

but in faithful deeds borne of a heart to serve.

Your rock-solid presence like a mantle clock keeping time

even beyond man’s three score years and ten.

Your plainsong resonates and flows through my being.

I sing with the strength of character, integrity,

unconsciously humming refrains, improvising

common melodies with grace notes, making my own

your plainsong that will not let go of me.

Many times when I think of my father, I am grateful to God that Lonnie Johnson was a good father, a good gift from God our Father, who alone is good. This contemporary worship song comes to mind: a fitting way to close this tribute:

“Good, Good Father” by Chris Tomlin:

In the midst of trouble and anguish, we delight in the Word of God

November 15, 2022

The Verse of the Day for November 15, 2022,  makes reference to two inseparable traveling companions that so often overtake us, particularly in the midst of the turbulent times in which we live.

Psalm 119:143 (New Living Translation)

As pressure and stress bear down on me, I find joy in your commands.

The Amplified Bible renders the verse this way:

Trouble and anguish have found and taken hold of me, yet Your commandments are my delight.

Despite the most intense pressures that come with the perils that we face each day, we can say along with the Psalmist that the Word of God brings us delight. A previous blog entry spoke of  my delighting in the Psalms, as I pointed to other places in Psalms 119 and elsewhere that echo this same sentiment:

Psalm 119:24

Your laws please me; they give me wise advice. 

Psalm 119:47:

How I delight in your commands! How I love them! 

Psalm 40:8 in the Amplified Bible makes this statement:

I delight to do Your will, O my God; yes, Your law is within my heart.

In Psalm 1, the first passage of scripture that ever I committed to memory as a pre-teen, we find this striking portrait:

1 Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners,
nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful.
2 But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in his law doth he meditate day and night.
3 And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season;
his leaf also shall not wither, and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.

Psalm 94:18-19 provide yet another reminder that God is the source of our comfort and delight, rendered here in the Amplified Bible:

18 When I said, My foot is slipping, Your mercy and loving-kindness, O Lord, held me up.
19 In the multitude of my [anxious] thoughts within me, Your comforts cheer and delight my soul!

Verse 19 is the inspiration for this original scripture memory song:  

In the Multitude of My Thoughts  

In the multitude of my thoughts within me,
Your comforts delight my soul.
You soothe my mind and strengthen the depths of my heart and soul.
I delight myself in the abundance of Your peace.  

You are my God. I know You love me.
You are my God. You’ve set me free.
You are my God. You will never leave me.
You are my God. I long to be all you’ve called me to be.  

In the multitude of my thoughts within me,
Your comforts delight my soul.
Your comforts delight my soul.
Your comforts delight my soul.

From time to time, we all may lose focus and become anxious regarding our ever-fluctuating circumstances. During times of uncertainty when our feet seem to slip, and we are about to lose our grip, we can turn our thoughts toward the promises of God, assured that just as He has been with us through the stormy trials of the past, so He will be with us now. Along with the Psalmist, we take comfort in this knowledge that delights our souls.

Christy Nockels expresses the essence of this message with the song “My Delight is in You.”