Wait on the Lord one more time

October 18, 2017

 

To explore the Verse of the Day for October 18, 2017, we go to the last verse of Psalm 27, my favorite Psalm:

Psalm 27:14 (KJV):

Wait on the Lord: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the Lord.

The opening phrase “Wait on the Lord. . .” brings to mind a teaching series by Bishop Charles Mellette of Christian Provision Ministries in Sanford, NC entitled “Wait Training.” The objective of the series was to help believers become excellent “wait trainers” for God. He mentioned two vital components of “Wait Training”: love and service . . . by love, we serve one another. He added, “In learning how to serve and work for God, our strength will be renewed, and our lives will be changed while helping others to have an encounter with God.”

The expression “Wait Training” is a homonym for “Weight Training”: a system of conditioning involving lifting weights, especially for strength and endurance.” Those who excel as “Wait Trainers” will have their strength renewed and their lives will be changed. While we wait on God and work for Him, He will work for those who wait for him.

Many times after reciting Psalm 27 in its entirety and concluding with verse 14, I will go right into the closing verses of Isaiah 40, another passage related to the rewards of waiting:

Isaiah 40:28-31(NLT):

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.

During periods of transition, as believers advance from faith to faith, from glory to glory, and from victory to victory, we can sometimes grow weary to the point of utter exhaustion as we strive toward the next level of excellence in our lives. Here are words of encouragement inspired in part by the Verse of the Day:

Strengthened for the Journey

Wait on the LORD: be of good courage,

and he shall strengthen your heart;

wait, I say, on the LORD!

Psalm 27:14

 

Let us pause to reflect upon the past,

Not with longing to relive bygone days.

Though some were fine, such moments cannot last

A lifetime. The budding rose never stays

The same but unfolds in lovelier ways.

Let us linger to absorb the essence

Of this moment’s triumph. Another phase

Of growth we note within our lifetime since

We first began the quest toward excellence.

Let us look ahead with vision and strive

Toward greater goals, for each day we commence

To grow toward our perfection, as we thrive.

May we see clearly where our paths have led

And be strengthened for the journey ahead.

Sherri Youngward concludes with a Scripture Song inspired by Psalm 27:13-14:

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Celebrating Four Black Poets on Black Poetry Day

October 17, 2017

As the beauty of the day began to unfold with the morning sunrise, I recalled that today has been designated Black Poetry Day, a time to celebrate poets of color and their contribution to the diverse literary landscape of America and beyond. October 17 was selected since Jupiter Hammon, the first poet of African descent to publish a poem in America, was born October 17, 1711 in Long Island, New York.

Given the undeveloped and primitive conditions of the colonies, for any person to publish any literary work in colonial America in 1761 would be an extraordinary accomplishment, but for a slave to write as well as to have published a poem is nothing less than a miracle. Here is an excerpt:

An Evening Thought: Salvation by Christ, with Penetential Cries

Salvation comes by Jesus Christ alone,
The only Son of God;
Redemption now to every one,
That love his holy Word.

Dear Jesus we would fly to Thee,
And leave off every Sin,
Thy Tender Mercy well agree;
Salvation from our King.

Salvation comes now from the Lord,
Our victorious King;
His holy Name be well ador’d,
Salvation surely bring.

Dear Jesus give thy Spirit now,
Thy Grace to every Nation,
That han’t the Lord to whom we bow,
The Author of Salvation.

Dear Jesus unto Thee we cry,
Give us the Preparation;
Turn not away thy tender Eye;
We seek thy true Salvation.

Clearly, Hammon in relating his salvation experience in poetry, offers an exuberant testimony of his close encounter with the Lord Jesus Christ. Given the metrical pattern of Hammon’s poetry all of which was written in hymn stanzas (think of the lyrics to “Amazing Grace,” and you will see the same pattern). Having closely studied Hammon’s poetry, I think that Hammon either “flat-out” sang his poetry as you would sing a hymn and/or he recited it with a passionate expression that is comparable to what we might think of today as a “rapper” or “spoken word” artist. The  intensity of his life-altering “salvation experience” so “rocked his world” that he couldn’t keep his feelings to himself. The words seemed to overflow, erupting into a passionate song of praise from the depths of the soul of this extraordinary poet. Since its publication the world has been blessed and refreshed and enlightened by his pioneering literary work, “An Evening Thought.”

On Black Poetry Day, 2017 we close with a tribute to Jupiter Hammon, the “Father of Black Poetry,” along with three other noted African American poets who have greatly influenced me. I recognize their contribution to my life, as I ask:

Did They See Me?

In tribute to Jupiter Hammon, Phillis Wheatley,
George Moses Horton, and Frances E.W. Harper

At night as he began to write
And looked to God on high,
Could he have known that one like he
Would read his works and be
Inspired by the same desire
To love God’s holy Word.
I read works by Brother Hammon
And wonder did he find
Any comfort and assurance
That his works would still be read
Three hundred years beyond his time:
And in his mind did he stretch forth
The hand of fellowship
To greet a man of kindred mind
Eons beyond his time?

I read works by Jupiter Hammon
and wonder did he see me?

A fragile gentlewoman, did she know
The enduring value her words would show?
When she lifted her eyes toward open skies
And posed with quill, did she realize
The power of her words to kindle fire,
To enlighten souls to marvel and admire?
Did she muse on those who were yet to sing
And seek to leave a lamp for her offspring?
Surely she knew death could not entomb
Seeds bearing fruit beyond the barren womb.

I read works of Phillis Wheatley
and wonder did she see me?

Did he soar far beyond his time
To reach a place of tranquil clime
To gain a grander view?
Beyond that place could he foresee
A man like him who would be free,
The poet’s calling to pursue?
Did he invite a distant friend
To flee together and ascend,
To join him in his cherished flight,
Leaving behind the chains of night
To soar into the poet’s world,
To uncover and unfurl
The naked genius of his soul?

I read works of George Moses Horton
and wonder did he see me?

When she made songs for her people
Did she have me in mind?
One who would join the chorus
In years beyond her time?
Though she left no sons behind,
Her poems continue to remind
Those who read and heed the message
That justice speaks to every age.
When she made her songs, did she feel
Kindred to come would share her zeal?
Did she know such songs would stir my heart
With the wisdom they impart?

I read works of Mrs. Harper
and wonder did she see me.

Through an infinity of mirrors
I look back and ask
did they look ahead;
I look ahead and ask
will others look back
and be inspired by
the self-same fire;
will they marvel as I,
marvel at the power
of the printed word,
the power of a single light,
like a cloven tongue of fire,
to shatter the darkest night.

I read their works and wonder did they see me?

We conclude with John Michael MacDonald reading “An Evening Thought”

The will of God: The road less traveled by

October 16, 2017

Romans 12--2 last part

Instead of commenting on the Verse of the Day as we usually do, today we will select the Quote of the Day as a starting point for our blog post on October 16, 2017:

“To know the road ahead ask those coming back.”

Chinese Proverb

The statement brings to mind “The Road Not Taken” by Robert Frost, one of the most popular poems taught in American schools in the Twentieth Century. First published more than a century ago in 1916, the poem, particularly the last lines, is still often recited today. I recall having to memorize the entire poem in my junior year of high school in the late 1950s, and I still know it by heart today. Most providentially, the same poem found its way into a composition and literature class I taught as a college professor twenty years later. Here is the classic poem:

The Road Not Taken

by Robert Frost

 

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,

And sorry I could not travel both

And be one traveler, long I stood

And looked down one as far as I could

To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,

And having perhaps the better claim,

Because it was grassy and wanted wear;

Though as for that the passing there

Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay

In leaves no step had trodden black.

Oh, I kept the first for another day!

Yet knowing how way leads on to way,

I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh

Somewhere ages and ages hence:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference.

Even more remarkably, 10 years later I recognized a similar inclination to write poetry that has been described as “didactic,” in light of my desire to teach, particularly to incorporate concepts and principles from the Scriptures into my poems. In graduate school while working on my doctorate in English, I took a seminar which deepened my appreciation for the great American poet, having been first “Frost-bitten” back in the day in the middle of the Twentieth Century.

Reflecting on the Quote of the Day also brings to mind the closing lines from the celebrated poem by Frost, the inspiration, in part, for this piece:

The Will of God: the Road Less Traveled by

 

Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world,

but let God transform you into a new person

by changing the way you think.

Then you will learn to know God’s will for you,

which is good and pleasing and perfect.

Romans 12:2 (New Living Translation)

 

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference.

 

Robert Frost

 

I begin again this year of my jubilee.

Reflecting on life’s journey, I cannot deny

That the will of God is the road less travelled by:

To choose to serve, even though having been set free.

The straight and narrow way I once again select.

I press on, still striving toward the highest good.

In this place we renew our covenant of blood,

Reassured that “As for God His way is perfect.”

I see clearly with new eyes where our paths have led.

In the midst of turbulent times I remain still,

Proving that good and acceptable and perfect will.

I look back, waiting in the now, then look ahead.

Each day God offers another chance to commence:

The choice to do God’s will makes all the difference.

Although one can certainly learn from someone who has traveled the road that one may be taking, each individual must choose the road to take, and I concur with Frost that “the road less traveled by” makes all the difference, particularly in thinking of “the will of God” as that road.

Amy Grant closes today’s entry with her rendering of the hymn “Sweet Will of God.”

Renewing the mind: the key

October 14, 2017

Romans 12-2

Today marks the first day of the return of our blog. Dr. J’s Apothecary Shoppe is now open again along with our new website: lonnelledwardjohnson.com. From Romans 12:2 in the King James Version comes the Verse of the Day for October 14, 2017 with a reference to “renewing the mind.”

And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.

Here is how the Amplified Bible puts it:

And do not be conformed to this world [any longer with its superficial values and customs], but be transformed and progressively changed [as you mature spiritually] by the renewing of your mind [focusing on godly values and ethical attitudes], so that you may prove [for yourselves] what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect [in His plan and purpose for you].

For most of the years of my adult life as a believer, I recognized the importance of the opening verses of Romans 12 and committed this passage to memory. In my understanding of these verses, I thought of “the renewed mind” as something that believers had to obtain or lay hold of. Later, I read the passage more closely and recognized that the reference emphasizes “the renewing of the mind,” an active, ongoing process.

This section of scripture is associated with the familiar process of metamorphosis that butterflies and other organisms undergo. Christians are instructed not to be conformed but to be transformed by the renewing of their minds. The New Testament phrase is translated from the Greek word metamorphoo, from which the English word metamorphosis is derived. The phrase is also used to express that as believers strive to manifest more of Christ in their lives, they are also “changed” into the same image by means of this ongoing process.

Butterflies as they undergo metamorphosis are transformed from egg to larva or caterpillar to chrysalis (cocoon) to butterfly (adult). Christian believers also continually undergo a similar spiritual transformation as they mature in Christ. The essence of this amazing process is expressed in this poem:

Renewing the Mind 

Do not lie to one another, for you have stripped off the old   

(unregenerate) self with its evil practices,

 And have clothed yourselves with the new [spiritual self],     

which is [ever in the process of being] renewed and remolded into   

 [fuller and more perfect knowledge upon] knowledge after            

the image (the likeness) of Him Who created it.

Colossians 3:9-10 [Amplified Bible]

 

Now we know the key to power is renewing the mind,

As we seek to release this life-force within you and me,

For we long to walk in power and not be left behind,

As we strive to know deeper levels of intimacy.

With laser precision we now target our old nature

And put to death and mortify our members once for all.

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

Not conformed, we transform ourselves, to become new, mature.

In the presence of God, the Almighty who inhabits

The praises of His people, where we yearn to abide,

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

We 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.

 

 

Ready for the new thing

September 26, 2017

Isaiah 43--19

Although this passage from Isaiah is not the Verse of the Day for November 26, 2017, these words previously posted at the beginning of the New Year also come to mind at this time:

Isaiah 43:16, 18-19:

Thus says the Lord, who makes a way in the sea
And a path through the mighty waters,

18 “Do not remember the former things,
Nor consider the things of old.
19 Behold, I will do a new thing,
Now it shall spring forth;
Shall you not know it?
I will even make a road in the wilderness
And rivers in the desert.

 

The passage from Isaiah also brings to mind this poetic expression:

God is constant, never changing.

Yet God is fluid, ever changing.

Like the ocean and horizon at sunset and sunrise,

Always the similar yet never the same,

Infinitely wise, ruler of earth and skies,

We humbly recognize our savior and creator,

Who makes all things new.

Marvelous are your works;

Righteous are your ways.

Worthy of the glory,

We give our highest praise.

Never changing, yet ever changing,

Who is like unto our God?

There is no one like Him.

Who is like unto our God?

As I embark upon a new phase of my journey, a new beginning, God reminds me once again that He makes all things new. While considering deeply the concept of a new beginning or a fresh start, these lyrics reinforce the message:

Behold, I make all things new.

Behold, I make all things new.

Behold, I make all things new, brand new.

Things will never be the same.

 

Behold, I am making you new.

Behold, I am making you new.

Behold, I am making you new, brand new.

You will never be the same.

The same expression is also the title of another poem with the same message.

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.

These reflective comments and poetic expressions serve as a prelude to this announcement:

under-renovation

Beginning September 26, 2017, Dr. J’s Apothecary Shoppe will be temporarily closed for renovations. In addition, a new website is being developed along with other special projects designed to enhance the ministry of the Word of God which continues to be the life-force of Dr. J. Thank you for support and encouragement over the years. Please continue to pray for me during this time of transition, as God’s “new thing” unfolds. We will be sure to let you know when we are back in business. . . “Compounding after the art of the apothecary.”

We “close shoppe” with a Scripture Memory Song based on Isaiah 43:18-19, 25:

From here to there: You can get there

September 25, 2017

getting-from-here-to-there-Today, September 25, 2017, while reflecting upon yesterday’s morning’s teaching “From Here to There“ by Pastor Donna Taylor at Christian Provision Ministries in Sanford, NC, my thoughts turned to one of the early blog posts on Dr. J’s Apothecary Shoppe. This particular entry focused on Psalm 133 and included original poetry and an excerpt from a prophetic word by Al Thomas along with music videos related to striving to “get there”, to scale Mount Zion to arrive at the place of everlasting blessing.

Here is an excerpt from an excellent word of exhortation and encouragement from Al Thomas regarding God’s desire that we also reach that place of sublime communion with one another and with Him. Indeed, God always desires to take us from “here to there.”

“God Said, “YOU’VE BEEN HERE WAY TOO LONG, I WANT TO TAKE YOU
THERE–GET READY”

“There ahead of you is your destiny,” says the Lord. “The hope, the
dream and the fulfillment of My promise–it’s simply staring you in
the face! Here, is where you are now, but how you conduct yourself
today has everything to do with where I will take you tomorrow–My
there. Extend My grace to others when you least feel like doing
so–it will prepare you to go from here to there. Determine that you
are serious to get to My there for you (Luke 9:62). You will get
there by serving Me in the here and now (1 Corinthians 10:21, James
1:8).

“Are you serious about the vision you are following? If so, then
build in the now (here) for what I have shown you in the future
(there). If you are faithful in little, here, I will give you much
there (Luke 19:17). Use the compass of praise, private prayer and
undaunted searching in My word to guide you and keep you on course
(Mark 4:14-20).

“Be faithful today–tomorrow is almost upon you, and it is nearly
time to take you from here to there. Look up, it’s approaching and
you are about to leave here and arrive there–right where I’ve been
waiting for you. Pack up, say goodbye, and prepare to leave here for
there. My command is coming for many to move out–out there.”

“Faithful is He that called you, who also will do it” (1
Thessalonians 5:24).

As Pastor Taylor noted, to get from “here to there” on the surface, seems such a simple process: you simply go! On the journey, however, one encounters obstacles, pitfalls, diversions, distractions and all kinds of set-backs. At times it seems as though “you can’t get there from here.” In respond to that idea, these two poems offer encouragement along this tedious journey called life:

When at Last We Get There

Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended;

but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind

and reaching forward to those things which are ahead,

14I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call

of God in Christ Jesus. 

Philippians 3:13-14

 

Despite constant reminders to the contrary,

We know in our soul that we can get there from here.

Someday we shall see the place of our destiny

And worship before the throne of God and serve there

When at last death is swallowed up in victory

And war and strife, poverty and disease have ceased.

In this place true believers dwell in unity.

Redeemed from sin, restored and made righteous; released,

Set free from bondage to savor sweet liberty,

To bask in the fullness of God’s glory and grace.

His favor and everlasting goodness increased

Beyond measure, as the champions finish the race

To stand under the banner of Judah’s lion

When at last we get there, when we reach Mount Zion.

God ever sets before us pictures of possibilities. The glorious portrait of harmony and communion of the highest degree is set before us in Psalm 133 which inspired another poem with a similar theme:

From Here to There

1    Behold, how good and how pleasant it is

For brethren to dwell together I in unity!

2   It is like the precious oil upon the head,

Running down on the beard, the beard of Aaron,

running down on the edge of his garments.

3   It is like the dew of Hermon, descending upon the mountains of Zion;

For there the Lord commanded the blessing—life forevermore.

 Psalm 133:1-3

 

The final phase of life’s journey from here to there,

Yearning to return to Eden, beyond the place

Of the first promise spoken to all who would hear

And receive the fullness of the measure of grace

And know the never-ending flow of perfect peace:

Where perfect love has triumphed to cast out all fear;

Where all shall dwell in harmony and wars shall cease;

Where there shall be no night for the Lamb of God is near;

Where our joy shall never wane but only increase;

Where we know intimacy far beyond Hebron;

Where our raptured souls shall find rest and sweet release

In endless afterglow of sublime communion;

Where we know the everlasting blessings of unity

As we dwell in Zion for all eternity.

Just as these two poems capture the essence of the message of this post, we conclude with two musical selections to seal the prophetic word and the teaching from Pastor Taylor:

The first song is a love song that can be heard as a benediction of sorts, a message from the Father to His beloved, by way of Oleta Adams, relating this reminder: “I don’t care how you get there. Get there, if you can,” and you can get there from here.

The second selection is a musical rendering of Psalm 133 by Esther Mui:

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”:

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”: