All things are possible–Nothing is impossible: Same difference

July 11, 2020

The Verse of the Day for July 11, 2020, comes from Jeremiah 32:17 in the New International Version:

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

This verse offers encouragement and assurance during the challenging times in which we live, times described as perilous or difficult to deal with, where the nation and the world seem to be entangled in impossible situations.

The Verse of the Day also brings to mind two other scriptures that speak of the awesome power of God and His Word. Both say the same thing but in different ways, that nothing is too hard for God. In one place in the Gospels, Jesus Christ states “. . . with God all things are possible.” In another place, the Word declares, “For with God nothing shall be impossible.” The Amplified Bible renders Luke 1:37 in this way:

For with God, nothing is ever impossible and no word from God shall be without power or impossible of fulfillment.

As I acknowledged that the two verses express the same concept but in different ways, I thought of a principle from Geometry: “Things equal to the same thing are equal to each other.” These two verses also inspired this poetic response:

No Matter How You Phrase It

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


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

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

The line “Just as from ashes, beauty and splendor arise” brings to mind the verse which says, “God gives beauty for ashes.” Did you know that ashes under extreme heat and pressure form gemstones, and that diamonds, emeralds, rubies, and such come from ashes? You see this when many of the volcanoes erupt, and when they settle and cool, you find beautiful gems at the base. Similarly, watch God turn around what seems like a total disaster. No matter how challenging the situation may appear to be, He can turn it into a magnificent triumph.

In “No Matter How You Phrase It” we find a reference to another seemingly impossible situation whereby God “makes barrenness to bloom with rivers in the desert” which also illustrates the amazing power of God expressed in another original psalm:

Barrenness

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.
The beast of the field shall honor me,
the dragons and the owls: because I give waters in the wilderness,
and rivers in the desert, to give drink to my people, my chosen.

These people have I formed for myself;
they shall show forth my praise.
Isaiah 43:19-21


We are waiting with our eyes fixed toward open skies
That we might behold the wonders of this new thing.
From parched, lifeless places now shall it spring forth,
As the Lord makes a highway in the wilderness.
Even in the wasteland, shall He give cool waters;
To bless and refresh with rivers in the desert.
He has formed us for Himself: for His good pleasure
He chose us and set us apart to show forth praise.
All things for His glory: even the barren womb
He has prepared to bring forth life-changing seed.
Declare the Word, and thus shall it most surely be:
No word of God spoken shall be void of power.
Speak the Word only and barrenness shall vanish,
And fertile ground shall bring forth fruit in due season.

The Verse of the Day and the two poems reinforce a similar message that “Nothing is impossible.” These words also inspired this vibrant song of praise by Planetshakers”:

“That day” is not that far away

July 5, 2020

Revised and re-posted, the Verse of the Day for July 5, 2020, comes from Isaiah 12:4 (NIV) to remind us of what is coming on “that day”:

In that day you will say: “Give praise to the LORD, proclaim his name; make known among the nations what he has done, and proclaim that his name is exalted.

The New Living Translation says this:

In that wonderful day, you will sing: “Thank the Lord! Praise his name! Tell the nations what he has done. Let them know how mighty he is!

The passage of Scripture from which this celebratory verse is taken is labeled “Songs of Praise for Salvation”:

Isaiah 12:1-5 (NLT):

In that day you will sing:
“I will praise you, O LORD!
You were angry with me, but not anymore.
Now you comfort me.
2 See, God has come to save me.
I will trust in him and not be afraid.
The LORD GOD is my strength and my song;
he has given me victory.”
3 With joy, you will drink deeply
from the fountain of salvation
4 In that wonderful day you will sing:
“Thank the LORD! Praise his name!
Tell the nations what he has done.
Let them know how mighty he is!

The phrase “that day” is used throughout the Old and New Testaments” to refer to a day in the future, a new day of salvation and judgment:

Malachi 3:17 makes such a reference:

And they shall be mine, says the Lord of hosts, in that day when I make up my jewels; and I will spare them, as a man spares his own son that serves him.

Jesus Christ speaks of that day as a time of rejoicing for some:

Luke 6:23 (NLT)

Rejoice in that day and leap for joy!
For indeed your reward is great in heaven,
For in like manner their fathers did to the prophets…

In the New Testament we find references to “that day” as the day of the Return of Jesus Christ:

2 Thessalonians 1:10

When he shall come to be glorified in his saints and to be admired in all them that believe (because our testimony among you was believed) in that day.

2 Thessalonians 2:3 (NKJV) reiterates with this word of exhortation:

Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition,

In 2 Timothy 1:12 (NLT) Paul again speaks of “that day”:

For this reason, I also suffer these things; nevertheless, I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day.

The lyrics to the hymn “I Know Whom I Have Believed” offer a series of statements that the hymn writer does not know:

I know not why God’s wondrous grace
To me, He hath made known,
Nor why, unworthy, Christ in love
Redeemed me for His own.

The last verse culminates the series, bringing to mind something that neither the songwriter nor anyone else knows:

I know not when my Lord may come,
At night or noon-day fair,
Nor if I’ll walk the vale with Him,
Or “meet Him in the air.”

The chorus of the familiar hymn resounds with this assurance found in 2 Timothy 1:12:

But “I know Whom I have believed
And am persuaded that He is able
To keep that which I’ve committed
Unto Him against that day.”

Paul closes his letter to his beloved son in the faith, Timothy, with these stirring words:

2 Timothy 4:7-9 (NKJV)

7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 8 Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing

Indeed, believers today are looking upward with outstretched necks, looking forward with eager anticipation to the dawning of a new day when the Lord Jesus Christ shall return. “That day” is now nearer than when we first believed. We open our eyes, and we recognize, indeed:

A New Day Dawning

We have also a more sure word of prophecy;
whereunto you do well that you take heed,
as unto a light that shines in a dark place,
until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts:

2 Peter 1:19

A new day dawning, look up toward the Eastern sky.
New horizons reveal our redemption is nigh.
All darkness departs, as the sun of righteousness
Arises with healing in his wings in fullness
Of joy to share the bounty of endless supply.

He shall gather us in the twinkling of an eye
To seize the final victory no one can deny.
His beloved shall savor forever God’s goodness:
A new day dawning.

We shall comprehend each wherefore and every why
As we shall know what mortal hearts could not apply
And bask in the fullness of boundless blessedness
Perfected in the presence of His holiness.
All life unfolds as a gift from the Lord on high:
A new day dawning.

We close as Joseph Habedank paints a vocal picture of “that day” with the classic gospel song: “What a Day That Will Be”

Reflections of meeting a civil rights activist with a powerful voice

July 1, 2020
Black Heritage Postage Stamp honoring the famed contralto

Yesterday, I commented in my blog post how touched I was by a video of celebrities singing a refrain from the Black spiritual, “He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands.” I was moved to tears when I also heard my young grandson singing refrains from the same song. This morning I continued to reflect upon that experience as I recalled hearing lyrics of spirituals flowing from soul Marian Anderson, a vocal artist of extraordinary talent who left a legacy as one of the admired and respected persons of the 20th Century. I have fondest recollections of meeting the famed contralto during my final year at Purdue University.

Alpha Phi Alpha, the fraternity that I was a part of at the time, had just acquired a fraternity house on campus. That accomplishment was certainly historic for the black frat but not altogether recognized and celebrated as such at the time. When I learned that Ms. Anderson was offering a recital at Purdue as part of her farewell concert tour before retiring from the concert stage, I wrote to her and asked if she would consent to on our having a reception in her honor at our house. She was staying at the Purdue Memorial Union where she had broken the color barrier with her being the first person of color to stay at the hotel facilities when she first sang on campus back in the 1950s. Our fraternity house was less than a block away, and she graciously accepted the invitation.

When I met the renowned contralto, I recall recognizing greatness in this woman of magnanimous spirit. In the presence of “greatness,” there is an aura of reverential respect; one desires to bow or genuflect or demonstrate some gesture of obeisance. I remember this almost automatic response to overwhelming greatness. Without question, meeting Marian Anderson was one of the highlights, not only of my college career but of my life.

Here is an excerpt from a blog post where I comment on my encounter with greatness and pay tribute to Ms. Anderson:

As I continue to reflect upon past events, I realized that we are presently in the period between Ash Wednesday and Resurrection Sunday. An event of profound significance occurred in 1939 during Holy Week when Marian Anderson was scheduled to perform at Constitution Hall, which was owned by the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR), but because she was African American, the DAR refused to allow her to use the facility. Eleanor Roosevelt, the wife of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, resigned from the DAR in protest, and she supported the NAACP as it organized an Easter Sunday concert on the grounds of the Lincoln Memorial, with more than 75,000 Americans attending that integrated outdoor event. Here is a news clip of that momentous event.

Most ironically, Marian Anderson passed away over Easter weekend in 1993, and I wrote this tribute which opens with part of a line from James Weldon Johnson’s famous poem “O Black and Unknown Bards”:

“My Lord, What A Morning”—

In memory of Marian Anderson
1902-1993


“You sang a race. . .”
James Weldon Johnson

On this weekend celebrating
the Resurrection of the Savior,
when dogwood and rebud debut,
as jonquils and tulips spring forth
to remind us of new life,
we read the news of her passing.

Though her voice is hushed,
silenced by death’s icy finger,
a grace note sustains,
as memories remain
to strengthen her legacy.

The world is far richer because she lived
to weave her tapestry
of talent, grace, and humility.

I am grateful to have lived in this century,
to have heard that rare, rich contralto,
a voice that comes but once in a hundred years.

In this moment of silent reflection,
refrains from her life resonate
with the awesome beauty of Springtime:

“My Lord, What a Morning.”

Though the perilous uncertainty of our times
would menace and threaten as storm clouds,
above it all, her voice still shines,
to remind us, even now:

“He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands.”

Easter Sunday Morning
April 11, 1993


In 2005, Ms. Anderson was honored with a commemorative Black Heritage stamp featuring her portrait. Earlier that year I had read a passage from Exodus where the Children of Israel had to cross the River Jordan at flood stage. As I was reading some comments regarding our present age which has many parallels to crossing the Jordan, one of Ms. Anderson’s famous renditions of the spiritual “Deep River” came to mind: As I thought deeply about the lyrics and examined other situations, I was inspired to write this poem:

To Cross Over

Deep river, Lord,
I want to cross over into campground.


Black Spiritual


To cross over the swelling Jordan is my goal.
Here I stand at the beginning of my harvest
When waters of the river overflow and crest
Above my tableland to overwhelm my soul.
Streams converge upon me as far as I can see
And flood my camp from shore to shore. The rising tide
Would hold me back and keep me from the other side,
But I prepare my heart and mind for victory.
As you sent forth the sacred ark of the covenant
Borne on the strong shoulders of the priests, reliant
Upon your command that the waters would recede,
So, shall those who trust you, never fail but succeed.
Though trials seem to hinder me on every hand,
I shall walk through this Jordan and stand on dry land.

My reflections proved to be a source of strength and encouragement, as I remembered Romans 15:4 in the Amplified Bible:

For whatever was thus written in former days was written for our instruction, that by [our steadfast and patient] endurance and the encouragement [drawn] from the Scriptures we might hold fast to and cherish hope.

Listen to a rendering of “Deep River” by the inimitable Marian Anderson:

God has the whole world–even our times–in His hands

June 30, 2020

Recently one of my sons-in-law sent me a YouTube music video of a host of celebrities singing a simple refrain from the Black spiritual “He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands.’ My wife also sent me a clip of our three-and-a-half-year-old grandson “reading” from his picture book with the same title and singing some of the refrains. The entire experience moved me to tears as I recognized how simple the timeless words are, yet so profound. Once again, God reassures us that He is with us and that He has not forsaken us and that we never need to fear. I also thought of this blog entry which I have revised and re-posted:

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

2 Timothy 3:1

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

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

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

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

The Passion Translation renders the verse:

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

Without question, the recent events surrounding the Coronavirus pandemic have catapulted the world into a state of anxiety and fearfulness, as the world has been engulfed in wars and rumors of wars, as ethnic conflicts flare up across the nation and around the globe. The world is still seeking “Peace in our times” and continues to cry out for “Peace, peace, but there is no peace.” In the midst of these turbulent times of seemingly endless turmoil and strife, those with spiritual eyes to see observe all that is transpiring as some of “the signs of the times.” Although the present times are stressful and difficult to deal with, we can find strength and comfort in the words of the Psalmist who personalizes his assurance that the Lord God is aware of the times in which David lives and that He will deliver his servant. Note this reference in Psalm 31:15 in the Amplified Bible:

My times are in Your hands;
Rescue me from the hand of my enemies and from those who pursue and persecute me.

Verse 15 is also the inspiration for these original lyrics

My Times Are In Your Hand

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

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

My times are in your hand.
I submit every vision, each purpose, and plan.
Though I may never fully understand,
I stand secure in knowing my times are in your hand.
It’s so comforting to know
My times are in your hand.
My times are in your hand.

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

God: Our fortress, our deliverer

June 24, 2020


Revised and re-posted, one more time, the Verse of the Day for June 24, 2020, reminds us of who God is and what He will do:

2 Thessalonians 3:3 (NKJV):

But the Lord is faithful, who will establish you and guard you from the evil one.

The Wycliffe Bible puts it this way:

But the Lord is true, that shall confirm you, and shall keep [us] from evil.

Throughout the Bible, we see the faithfulness of God never fails to deliver those who serve him.

In the Old Testament some form of the verb palat, the Hebrew word for “deliver,” is translated “to pluck out of the hands of an oppressor or enemy; to preserve, recover, remove; to deliver from danger, evil, trouble; to be delivered, to escape.” Note how the term is used in Psalm 31:1-5 in the New Living Translation:

O LORD, I have come to you for protection;
don’t let me be disgraced.
Save me, for you do what is right.
2 Turn your ear to listen to me;
rescue me quickly.
Be my rock of protection,
a fortress where I will be safe.
3 You are my rock and my fortress.
For the honor of your name, lead me out of this danger.
4 Pull me from the trap my enemies set for me,
for I find protection in you alone.
5 I entrust my spirit into your hand.
Rescue me, LORD, for you are a faithful God.

Note the introduction to Psalm 18 another psalm of deliverance:

To the Chief Musician. A Psalm of David the servant of the LORD, who spoke to the LORD the words of this song on the day that the LORD delivered him from the hand of all his enemies and from the hand of Saul. And he said:

Psalm 18:1-3 (NKJV):

1 I will love You, O LORD, my strength.
2 The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer;
My God, my strength, in whom I will trust;
My shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.
3 I will call upon the LORD, who is worthy to be praised;
So shall I be saved from my enemies.

In the New Testament, the Greek verb ruomai is translated “to draw or snatch to one’s self from danger, to rescue, to deliver.”

In the poem “Why Don’t Somebody Help Me Praise the Lord,” my personal testimony expressed poetically, I refer to being rescued from of a horrible situation:

With lovin arms, you reached way down
And snatched me from Satan’s outhouse,
Sought me and flat-out rescued me,
Fixed me up in my Father’s house.

The Verse of the Day uses the expression “keep from evil.” We recognize a similar phrase in the prayer that the Lord Jesus Christ spoke before his crucifixion:

John 17:15 (New Living Translation)

15 I’m not asking you to take them out of the world, but to keep them safe from the evil one.

We are, of course, familiar with closing words of the Lord’s Prayer in Matthew 6:13 from the King James Version:

And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil:

The New Living Translation renders the verse this way:

And don’t let us yield to temptation, but rescue us from the evil one.

II Timothy 4:18 also reminds us

And the Lord shall deliver me from every evil work and will preserve me unto his heavenly kingdom: to whom be glory forever and ever.

The original poem “Just How God Will Deliver Us,” reinforces the message that God is faithful and that He will deliver us, just as He promised:

Just How God Will Deliver Us

But we had the sentence of death in ourselves,
that we should not trust in ourselves,
but in God which raises the dead:

Who delivered us from so great a death, and does deliver:
in whom we trust that he will still deliver us;

1 Corinthians 1:8-9

Just how God will deliver us, we do not know,
But of His unfailing love and power we are sure:
He can send a raven and command a widow
To sustain Elijah and all who will endure.
Though He may not be early, God is never late.
We rest in knowing that our Father is faithful,
As we trust Him, learning to labor and to wait.
For each promise fulfilled we are ever grateful,
And we express our gratitude in word and deed.
The Lord God is faithful to deliver every time
We call, so we walk by faith wherever Christ may lead,
For grand mountain vistas are waiting for all who climb.
The hand of God has brought us thus far along the way,
And we will finish our course is all we have to say.

Clint Brown provides a musical version of Psalm 18 which speaks of God as “my fortress and my deliverer.”

Isaiah 40:31: Watching, waiting, seeking:

June 23, 2020
The Verse of Day is customed crafted for the times in which we live.

One of my favorite Scriptures from the Old Testament comes from the closing verses of Isaiah 40, where we find the Verse of the Day for June 23, 2020: Isaiah 40:31. The entire passage offers comfort and assurance:

Isaiah 40:28-31 (New Living Translation):

28 Have you never heard?
Have you never understood?
The LORD is the everlasting God,
the Creator of all the earth.
He never grows weak or weary.
No one can measure the depths of his understanding.
29 He gives power to the weak
and strength to the powerless.
30 Even youths will become weak and tired,
and young men will fall in exhaustion.
31 But those who trust in the LORD will find new strength.
They will soar high on wings like eagles.
They will run and not grow weary.
They will walk and not faint.

In Psalm 103:3-5 (NLT) we find another reference to being renewed like the eagle.

He forgives all my sins
and heals all my diseases.
4 He redeems me from death
and crowns me with love and tender mercies.
5 He fills my life with good things.
My youth is renewed like the eagle’s!

These passages also bring to mind the closing verses of Psalm 27, my favorite Psalm:

Psalm 27:13-14 (NKJV)

13 I would have lost heart, unless I had believed
That I would see the goodness of the LORD
In the land of the living.
14 Wait on the LORD;
Be of good courage,
And He shall strengthen your heart;
Wait, I say, on the LORD!

All these passages bring to mind a series of teachings from Bishop Charles Mellette of Christian Provision Ministries in Sanford, NC under the heading “Wait Training.” Based on Isaiah 40:31, the teachings were designed to help believers become excellent “wait trainers” for God. He defines “Wait Training” in this way:

“As we learn to serve and work for God, He will renew our strength and our lives will change while helping others to have an encounter with God.”

In reading the passages from Isaiah 40 and Psalm 27, I thought of the words of John Milton, 17th Century British statesman and poet, who said, “They also serve who only stand and wait.” I incorporated his words into this poem related to waiting:

Watching, Waiting, Seeking

Wait on the LORD; be of good courage,
and He shall strengthen your heart;
wait, I say, on the LORD!


Psalm 27:14

We are strengthened by the words of the bard gone blind,
Who said, “They also serve who only stand and wait.”
We look into the mirror of God’s word and find
That God has been ever faithful and never late.
We trust in the Lord, as the Word of God extols.
Like Job, we wait until at last, our change shall come,
Assured that in patience we now anchor our souls.
We must not faint and fall by the wayside as some
But follow in Christ’s steps, as we quickly obey
And bear up under and yield fruit of endurance.
We must walk in God’s love, the more excellent way,
And through faith and patience claim our inheritance.
In these perilous times, we are yielded and still,
Watching, waiting, seeking to fulfill all God’s will.

Donnie McClurkin and Karen Clark Sheard offer this comforting advice: “Wait on the Lord.”

Father’s Day Reflections: Legacies

June 21, 2020

A photo of my son-in-law, William Simkins III, and my grandson, Kingston Edward Simkins, who embody the expression of “Legacies,” the subject of this Father’s Day Tribute.

As I begin my morning with a time of reflection and giving thanks to God, I realize that today, June 21, 2020, is Father’s Day. I am grateful for my Heavenly Father as well as my earthly father, Lonnie Johnson, who contributed so much to my success. In thinking about him, I recall words from my daughter, Melissa, who paid tribute to her grandfather in her first book Brand Me: Make Your Mark—How to Turn Passion into Profit. In Chapter 7 Pass on the Legacy, she comments on the impact her grandfather had on her life. Here is an excerpt from her thought-provoking discussion:

At the age of five, I had vivid memories of my Grandpa Johnson getting up early Saturday mornings to walk the streets of Gary, Indiana in search of one thing…aluminum cans. He would walk for miles with a trash bag going from corner to corner, house to house, and would even search the grocery store parking lots. Locals knew Mr. Johnson as the “can man.” It seemed a bit peculiar to me during my formative years until later in life when I discovered that this part-time endeavor was for me and my sister. He wanted to help my parents raise funds for college.

My grandfather was a straight A-student but had to drop out of grade school when his family moved to another state. Lonnie Johnson was bright, but he never had the opportunity to complete high school nor enjoy the benefits of a college education because of his family situation. What he lacked in formal education he made up for in his vision for life and his work ethic. Although he experienced many setbacks in life, he never lost his passion for education. He provided financial support for my father and his sister while they earned their undergraduate degrees. Most importantly, he was committed to leaving his mark in the world through creative foresight and vision.

Grandpa’s vision was larger than his lifetime. Picking up those cans represented a dream that in time would become a reality. Even though he knew it may not happen through his personal experience, he was determined that it would happen through his grandchildren. As I grew older, I came to know that Grandpa used every cent from those aluminum cans to establish a college fund for all four of his grandchildren. Although Grandpa is gone now, we all achieved our dream of going to college through the labor of his hands.

Today, I am living my grandfather’s legacy. My passion for education I attribute, in part, to his legacy. He left a financial legacy that has empowered me, my sister, and my two cousins to have access to education that he never experienced. Who is living your legacy?

Melissa’s question reminds me of an original poem composed on Father’s Day 18 years ago. I have since dedicated it to my sons-in-law and countless other brothers:

Legacies

I

Faithful and true heroes ever remain
And generate legacies we pass on
To each generation, father to son,
Heart to heart. The light of life left behind
Ever shines to brighten the path of truth,
Raised and then passed on from elder to youth.

II

Faithful and true heroes ever remain for all
Who hear the mandate and rise to answer God’s call.
Our lives of service are legacies we pass on
To the next generation, from father to son.
With the love of Christ in us, we tear down each wall.

We rally to support a brother should he fall.
Our ears have been pierced with the sharp tip of an awl:
A covenant of blood ever seals our union.
Faithful and true heroes ever remain.

Spiritual athletes excel beyond glove or ball.
They seek to bring out the best, as iron sharpens iron,
Striving to finish strong and pass on the baton.
On the shoulders of our fathers, we now stand tall
To view the future where greater victories are won.
Faithful and true heroes ever remain.

We conclude our Father’s Day tribute with Nichole Nordeman singing her song: “Legacy”

Morning reflections: Praise to the Lord for another year

June 17, 2020

This morning I begin my time of prayer and meditation thinking about the goodness of God and His mercy that have brought to see another day. Today is especially significant as I celebrate my 78th birthday. My heart overflows with gratitude to God, my gracious heavenly Father, for all that He has done. Out of the abundance of my heart, I offer this psalm of gratitude in celebration on this another “Good News Day.”:

Praise to the Lord

In celebration of my 78th Birthday
June 17, 2020

Praise to the Lord,
The almighty, the King of creation

Traditional hymn

Praise to the Lord continues to be my heart-song:
Thanksgiving abounds and resounds my whole life long.
Goodness overflows from Father’s horn of plenty,
As I declare His favor in 2020:
In a world of darkness with unthinkable crimes,
Love shines to all generations, even our times.
His lovingkindness and mercy abound to me:
With opened eyes focused on God’s will, as I see
Tokens of His love and grace and all He has done:
My wife, two daughters, their husbands, and a grandson.
Because of His healing presence, I am alive,
Made whole, not only do I live but also thrive
And know the life-giving power of God’s matchless Word:
All He gives and all that awaits–Praise to the Lord.

Travis Cottrell offers a beautiful rendition of the classic hymn from which the title of my psalm is taken:

National Cancer Survivors Day: We are more than conquerors

June 7, 2020

Cancer is the leading cause of death worldwide. Although the number of patients diagnosed with cancer appears to be increasing, cancer patients overall are living longer. While the number of cancer survivors in the United States continues to go up, a new report by the American Cancer Society – in collaboration with the National Cancer Institute – estimates more than 16.9 million cancer survivors are alive in the US today with more than 32 million survivors worldwide. We all know someone whose life has been touched by cancer.

On the first Sunday in June, National Cancer Survivors Day, communities across the U.S. and abroad hold celebrations to acknowledge the cancer survivors in their community, to raise awareness of the ongoing challenges cancer survivors face because of their disease, and – most importantly – to celebrate life.

According to the National Cancer Survivors Day Foundation, administrator for the celebration, “A ‘survivor’ is anyone living with a history of cancer – from the moment of diagnosis through the remainder of life.”

As a twenty-year prostate cancer survivor, I acknowledge that three words– “You’ve got cancer”: whether said to a loved one or to you, can change your life forever. While some may see cancer as a death sentence, I see it as a “life sentence” that transformed my thinking.

In celebration of National Cancer Survivor Day, I would like to share an excerpt from my book where I recount part of my journey of faith following my cancer diagnosis. Embracing Your Life Sentence: How to Turn Life’s Greatest Tragedies into Your Greatest Triumphs weaves original poetry and Scripture into my battle plan to show how I emerged, as not just a survivor but more than a conqueror.

More than a Conqueror

I posted a blog entry on Dr. J’s Apothecary Shoppe on June 4, 2017, the first Sunday in June. The post focused on what I called the Word of the Day, which in this case was “survivor.” In its most literal sense, the term means “one who survives.” FreeDictionary.com offers this series of definitions of the verb “to survive” as an action verb that has an object to receive its action. In this case, to survive cancer—

1. To live longer than; outlive.
2. To live, persist, or remain usable through any adverse situation.
3. To cope with (a trauma or setback); persevere after.
The verb is derived from Latin—supervivere, combining the prefix super + vīvere, to live.

Having been diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2000, I have come to understand what it means to be a cancer survivor on a deeply personal level. I recognize a survivor as one who, after encountering an extremely adverse situation, is revived to not only survive but to thrive. Jesus Christ, the ultimate example of a survivor, endured the cross, despising the shame, and after undergoing unimaginable physical abuse, along with the emotional and psychological trauma of the highest degree, arose triumphantly over death itself. Like Christ, I have been revived not only to survive but to thrive, having been transformed from victim to victor.
The true essence of who I am as a believer in Christ is expressed in Romans 8:37:

Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors, through him that loved us.

The Amplified Bible puts it this way—

Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors and gain an overwhelming victory through Him who loved us [so much that He died for us].

The expression “more than conquerors” is translated in the Greek New Testament from the verb hupernikao, a compound word with the prefix huper—a form of the same prefix found in survive—meaning over, beyond, above exceed, more than. Today, common expressions of the preposition would say over and above or above and beyond. The stem would be nikao, translated “to conquer, prevail, overcome, overpower, prevail.” Although translated as such, being more than conquerors or super conquerors, is not who we are, but it is what we do, how we live. We completely and overwhelmingly conqueror in the present tense with continuous action; we prevail mightily every day of our lives.

Each year I reflect with gratitude to God for being alive and being able to cherish another year of life. As is my tradition, I sometimes compose a poem of celebration on my birthday. Most remarkably, Romans 8:37 was the epigraph or introduction for a poem composed on my 74th birthday, expressing my new identity in light of the Word for the Day for Cancer Survivors Day and every day I draw breath:

Embracing Your Life Sentence—More than a Conqueror

Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors
and gain an overwhelming victory through Him
who loved us [so much that He died for us].
—Romans 8:37 (AMP)

Embracing Your Life Sentence, more than a conqueror,
Defying the odds as a brave conquistador.
Despite intense pressure, I learn to rest in grace,
More than enough to withstand the daily tests I face,
Not merely to survive but to thrive even more.

A mighty warrior, triumphant super victor
With a cause, prepared not to die but to live for.
At times I fell behind but fought to keep the pace:
Embracing Your Life Sentence, more than a conqueror.

To fulfill all the will of God and then to soar
To heights sublime where I have never been before.
Overcomer, bearing light in the darkest place,
I still fight the good fight, as I finish my race,
Moving forward, seeking to find the next open door:
Embracing Your Life Sentence, more than a conqueror.

Steven Curtis Chapman offers a musical summation of this post: “More than Conquerors”:


To obtain a copy of Embracing Your Life Sentence: How to Turn Life’s Greatest Tragedies into Your Greatest Triumphs go to https://lonnelledwardjohnson.com and click on “book.”It is also available through Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble, and bookstores everywhere.

Hope and understanding: Two great needs for these times

June 5, 2020

This week, Pastor Jim Critcher, one of the ministers at Grace Covenant Church, Chantilly, VA, offered words of exhortation and prayer points as we confront the disturbing circumstances resulting from the tragic death of George Floyd. He encouraged believers to apply two passages of Scripture that direct our hearts in seeking hope and understanding in light of what has been transpiring this week: Romans 15:13 and Philippians 4:6-7.

Romans 15:13

The Bible reminds believers that we are in what some say are “these last and evil days.” Also, Thessalonians speaks of “perilous times” or “times difficult to deal with” that shall come. Indeed, these dark and difficult days are here. As we confront the darkness and overwhelming despair, we must position ourselves to move in the opposite spirit or go in the opposite direction. To counter the toxic effects of the deadly element of despair, we must take a double dose of an antidote called hope. This verse reiterates this message:

Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you believe in Him so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

God, our Father, the God of hope, fills us to overflowing with hope. Without question, the Lord gives “a lively hope,” rendered as “a living hope” in other translations, while the New Living Translation states that because of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, “Now we live with great expectation.” Indeed, “the expectation of a future good” is one definition of hope. As Christian believers, we go to the Word of God where we discover what else God says about hope.

Hope counteracts thoughts of despondency, when we recognize that hope is a joyful and confident expectation. Though challenges confront us 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 Jesus Christ’s victory over sin, sickness and even death itself, we have hope that lives eternally. In the midst of difficult situations, we reflect upon the goodness of God who has been faithful in past instances, and the Word of God assures us of His steadfast love, as we rejoice

With our Souls Anchored in Hope

This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which enters the Presence behind the veil,

Hebrews 6:19


So, Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many.
To those who eagerly wait for Him He will appear
A second time, apart from sin and for salvation.
We know that where sin once reigned there shall not be any.
We look up, knowing that our redemption is drawing near
When Christ shall be Lord over every kindred, tribe, and nation.
Our salvation is nearer than when we first believed,
As the signs of his coming continue to abound.
We look to the Eastern skies, waiting for the sunrise.
The time of reaping draws near, for we are not deceived.
To those with eyes to see, end-time signs are all around.
When the bridegroom comes, he will not take us by surprise.
Though fiery trials oppress us, and it seems we cannot cope,
We watch and patiently wait with our souls anchored in hope.

Philippians 4:6-7

This celebrated passage provides another reminder:

6 Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all He has done. 7 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.

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

As we maintain “an attitude of gratitude,” we demonstrate our gratitude to God from the fullness of our hearts, overflowing with thanks. We also personally experience the peace of God that surpasses our understanding, and this peace stands guard as a military garrison to protect our hearts and minds as we abide in Christ Jesus.

We end this blog post on a hopeful note as we listen to one of my all-time favorite hymns: “On Christ the Solid Rock.” I recall that as a youngster I narrated the words while the Junior Choir sang the song. The following recording contains a medley of that treasured hymn along with “In Christ Alone”: