Archive for November, 2009

Rejoice in Hope

November 30, 2009

Beyond the darkest clouds rays of hope abound

The times in which we are living can be oppressive and troubling. As the Scriptures reveal, “perilous times” or “times difficult to deal with” 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 our antidote which is hope, defined as the expectation of a future good. Again as we go to the Word of God in the Amplified Bible, we find out that God is our hope.

Psalm 42 verses 5 and 11 offer this marvelous reminder as to what to do when we encounter despair and we are “feeling low”:

Why are you cast down, O my inner self? And why should you moan over me and be disquieted within me? Hope in God and wait expectantly for Him, for I shall yet praise Him, my Help and my God.

Indeed, God is the center of the hope of our lives, as revealed in 1 Peter 1:20-21:
It is true that He was chosen and foreordained (destined and foreknown for it) before the foundation of the world, but He was brought out to public view (made manifest) in these last days (at the end of the times) for the sake of you.

Through Him you believe in (adhere to, rely on) God, Who raised Him up from the dead and gave Him honor and glory, so that your faith and hope are [centered and rest] in God.

Once again the Psalmist reiterates the source of hope for the world:

Psalm 65:5
By fearful and glorious things [that terrify the wicked but make the godly sing praises] do You answer us in righteousness (rightness and justice), O God of our salvation, You Who are the confidence and hope of all the ends of the earth and of those far off on the seas;

Psalm 71:5
For You are my hope; O Lord God, You are my trust from my youth and the source of my confidence
.

Psalm 119:116
Uphold me according to Your promise, that I may live; and let me not be put to shame in my hope!

Psalm 130:5-6
I wait for the Lord, I expectantly wait, and in His word do I hope.
I am looking and waiting for the Lord more than watchmen for the morning, I say, more than watchmen for the morning.

Hope counteracts thoughts of despondency, when we recognize that hope is a joyful and confident expectation, so defined in the Amplified Bible in a number of different verses. 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
Indeed, we felt within ourselves that we had received the [very] sentence of death, but that was to keep us from trusting in and depending on ourselves instead of on God Who raises the dead.

[For it is He] Who rescued and saved us from such a perilous death, and He will still rescue and \save us; in and on Him we have set our hope (our joyful and confident expectation) that He will again deliver us [from danger and destruction and draw us to Himself],

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 in hope, so expressed in this poem:

Rejoice in Hope
Rejoice in our confident hope,
Be patient in trouble, and keep on praying.

Romans 12:12 (NLT)

And we now truly know God is able to do
Exceedingly and abundantly above all
That our finite minds can ask or could even think.
He uplifts and strengthens us each time that we fall.
Our paths lead to disaster, to the very brink.
Despite delays and setbacks, His Word is still true:
God is faithful to His promise; He will come through.
When life begins to unravel, we may ask why
The fulfillment of His will seems to be delayed.
All those who call on Him, He will never deny.
We are assured He will reward all who have obeyed.
Our faithful God is not a man that He should lie.
Through every trial, we are covered by the Blood,
We rejoice in hope, knowing that the Lord is good.

Despite overwhelming circumstances that could easily lead to despair, we learn to “Trust His Heart” as this song so beautifully relates:

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From failure to success: another view

November 23, 2009

This morning I happened to come across a blog entry originally posted more than five years ago. As I read the comments that seemed custom-crafted just for me at this present time, I felt like David, who encouraged himself in the Word of the Lord. I thought this entry might also be a source of encouragement to others as well, and so I am re-posting this discussion of the term “failure,” as viewed from a different perspective. This two-part entry is based on Romans 8:35, 37:

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?

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

The journey continues--ever upward toward the light

Part 1

Many times as I go through life and encounter situations that I do not totally understand, I will from time to time write down my thoughts while endeavoring to process the experience that I am going through. After some serious consideration, I have changed my thinking from accepting the duality of “either/or” to embracing concept of “both/and.” In the process I have gone from the designation of being a “total failure” to “not being as successful” as I would like to have been in certain categories.

I think of the lyrics to a powerful song called “Lessons to be Learned”:

Why did that right road take that wrong turn?
Why did our heart break, and why did we get burned?
Just like the seasons there are reasons for the path we take:
There are no mistakes, just lessons to be learned.

What are the lessons God is teaching me during this season of my life? I am a life-long learner, an ever-eager student in the University of Life, and I am continually learning more about God and my relationship with Him. For me, one of the verses that I so often share has become more than just a cliché. Romans 8:28 for me is “life verse”, a constant reminder that God is good and that all things work together for the good, no matter the circumstances.

Romans 8:28

And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.

In the minds of many I am a failure. . . Does it really matter what “people say”?

Here is an-mail that I received that I will include at this point. Most providentially I received this email at a time when I was asking this very question in terms of my own perceived shortcomings.

What is failure?
________________________________________
Failure doesn’t mean that you are a failure;
it does mean you haven’t yet succeeded.

Failure doesn’t mean that you have accomplished nothing;
it does mean you have learned something.

Failure doesn’t mean that you have been a fool;
it does mean you have a lot of faith.

Failure doesn’t mean that you have been disgraced;
it does mean you were willing to try.

Failure doesn’t mean you don’t have it;
it does mean you have to do something in a different way.

Failure doesn’t mean you are inferior;
it does mean you are not perfect.

Failure doesn’t mean you’ve wasted your life;
it does mean you have a reason to start afresh.

Failure doesn’t mean you should give up;
it does mean you must try harder.

Failure doesn’t mean you will never make it;
it does mean it will take a little longer.

Failure doesn’t mean God has abandoned you;
it does mean God has a better way.

Author unknown
________________________________________

The Living Word Library © 1996 – 2008
editor@wordlibrary.co.uk

The last line of the statement about failure brings to mind this poem:

We Pray—God Answers

Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray,
believe that you receive them, and you will have them.
Mark 11:24

We pray, asking to receive and seeking to find.
If we knock, the door shall be opened all our days,
For God answers prayer in one of three sovereign ways:

Sometimes we pray and find that the answer is “yes.”

In Christ each promise is “yes” and “amen”,
For God is not a man that He should lie.
He has already spoken—What shall we say then
But give thanks, for when we call Him, He hears each cry.

Other times we find that the answer is “not yet.”

We need more patience so that after we have done
All the will of God, as sons we might be instilled
With confident assurance given to each one,
Set as an empty vessel, yet to be fulfilled.

Or God may say, “I have something better in mind.”

Before we abandon hope, feeling left behind,
Though it may seem we cannot pass another test,
But if we stop and think a moment, we will find
God, our all-wise Father, really knows what is best.

Part 2

Success and its antonym, failure, are connected in this definition which introduces the last stanza of a familiar poem of great inspiration entitled “Don’t Quit.”

Success is failure turned inside out—
The silver tint of the clouds of doubt,

Here is a video adaptation of the words of this popular poem:

As I was thinking about the entire subject of failure and success, another poem came to mind, a very penetrating expression of the view of life through the eyes of the noted 19th Century poet, Emily Dickinson, who wrote these words:

Success is counted sweetest
By those who ne’er succeed.
To comprehend a nectar
Requires sorest need.

In response, I wrote this poem to express my view regarding success in light of those who fail to achieve it:

I Have Sipped a Sweetness

Do you not know that in a race all the runners compete,
but [only] one receives the prize? So run [your race]
that you may lay hold [of the prize] and make it yours.

Now every athlete who goes into training
conducts himself temperately and restricts himself in all things.
They do it to win a wreath that will soon wither,
but we [do it to receive a crown of eternal blessedness]
that cannot wither.
1 Corinthians 9:24-25 Amplified Bible

Said the fragile lady who never knew such bliss,
“Success is counted sweetest by those who ne’er succeed.”
In her enigmatic style went on to say this:
“To comprehend a nectar requires sorest need.”
Said the dark poet of another time and place,
I have sipped a sweetness beyond any honey,
The rush in the blood of the one who wins his race,
A foretaste of the glory to come that inspires
Self discipline to sublimate carnal desires,
Casting aside every weight, each besetting sin,
I press toward the mark, the prize now set before me
And run with patience the race I’m destined to win.
Then shall I know ultimate ecstasy of victory
And savor God’s goodness for all eternity.

In closing, let me make this final statement about what appears to be failure. I’m sure that if we scrutinized our lives closely we could easily be overcome by a sense of failure in light of the circumstances that surround us. We can take courage and be strengthened, however, by the example of someone whose life ended most tragically without apparent accomplishment of his mission. He died a shameful death, and those who believed in him, deserted him. Yes, Jesus Christ, in the eyes of the world was a disastrous failure at the end of his life. However, we know “the rest of the story,” and I am writing these words of exhortation to you because of his triumph over the worst possible circumstances—even death itself. Because he was a super-conqueror, in all these things we are more than conquerors.

So take heart, my brothers and sisters, and be encouraged. The best is always yet to come. So we must take heart and remember that when we experience what seems to be failure, that “a set-back is just a set-up for a comeback.”

I also take comfort in the timeless universal truth that “This too shall pass.” This expression is set to music and rendered in a most inspiring manner, as Yolanda Adams reminds us:

National Aviation Month: A Local Color Story

November 19, 2009

Another first for the city of Columbus: Lonnie Corman takes flight in plane that he built.

Photo is personal property of Yvette Corman Davis.

November is National Aviation Month, and as Christian Spirituality Examiner for Columbus, Ohio, I was preparing an article in celebration of the occasion but with an African American focus. I have a friend whose father was among the noted Tuskegee Airmen, and the thought occurred that I could pay tribute to those distinguished pioneers in aviation. I also thought of Bessie Coleman and her role as one of the pioneers in terms of women in flight. As I was going to continue working on the article, my wife mentioned that I should talk with a friend of hers, an attorney whose grandfather not only built an airplane but he flew it himself back in the 1920s. Upon talking with her, she shared with me more information regarding her grandfather, Lonnie Carmon, who was recognized as the first Black aviator in Columbus, Ohio. She later sent me the text from a tribute she had completed on her website along with photos that she had also incorporated. Quite providentially I extracted from the information and compiled a slide show as well from the photos and completed an article which may be of interest as we celebrate National Aviation Month. Here is the web address:

http://www.examiner.com/examiner/x-20264-Columbus-Christian-Spirituality-Examiner~y2009m11d18-Lonnie-Carmon-Columbus-Ohios-first-black-aviator

Lonnell Johnson/Dr. J

The Covenant of Generational Transfer

November 17, 2009

That in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is upon the sea shore; and thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies;

Recently Pastor Michael Bivens shared a message regarding “The Covenant of Generational Transfer” in which he spoke of the relationship that God established with Abram whose name was later change to Abraham, whom we know as the “father of faith.” The message so inspired me that after reviewing my notes I composed a poem with the same title.

The Covenant of Generational Transfer

I will make you exceedingly fruitful; and I will make nations of you,
and kings shall come from you.

And I will establish My covenant between Me and you and
your descendants after you in their generations, for an everlasting
covenant, to be God to you and your descendants after you.
Genesis 17:6-7 (NKJV)

To share this covenant that no man can confer
Is to know the joy of the chosen, those set apart,
As you make known the attitudes that you prefer:
Those who worship with clean hands and a pure heart.
In your presence I make solemn declarations:
Exceeding expectations, I abound in fruit;
From my loins shall emerge powerful nations;
Destined for success, to flourish from leaf to root,
My legacy shall be a line of righteous kings.
With enlightened eyes more than ever I now see
The riches of the mystery and all that it brings:
The overflowing fullness that is Christ in me.
As I finish my course, again I realize
I must take the baton and press on to win the prize.

Paul Wilbur offers a rousing celebration of praise to the “Lord God of Abraham.”

Upon further reflection, I recall another poem that I had composed sometime ago with a similar theme:

The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob

Go and gather the elders of Israel together, and say to them,
‘The LORD God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, of Isaac,
and of Jacob, appeared to me, saying, “I have surely visited you
and seen what is done to you in Egypt;
Exodus 3:16

Father, show me your face and reveal who you are.
Like Abraham, I too long to obey your voice,
To know you intimately and not from afar.
You are the God whom I serve; I have made my choice.
Father, may you find me to be a faithful son.
Like Isaac, I yield my life: willing sacrifice,
Offered on the altar of the most Holy One;
I obey, willing to pay the ultimate price.
Father, I will not wrestle and defy your will.
Like Jacob, I submit, as the Spirit reproves,
Tutors and chastens that I might learn to be still
In your presence and follow as the Spirit moves.
Oh, God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel:
My Father, Abba, Father, the God of Lonnell.

Abraham offers Isaac as a sacrifice.

Jacob's heavenly vision sent forth in a dream.

Donald Lawrence and the Tri-City Singers remind us that we are, indeed, heirs of the promise that God made to Abraham in “The Blessing of Abraham.”

How Firm a Foundation: Morning Meditation

November 12, 2009

How firm is my foundation: Not a question but a statement

How firm a foundation. . . more than just a hymn.


This morning during my devotional time this passage from Hebrews 13:5-6 came to mind, as the words from the Amplified Bible ministered to me in a most comforting yet energizing way:
Hebrews 13:5-6 (Amplified Bible)

Let your character or moral disposition be free from love of money [including greed, avarice, lust, and craving for earthly possessions] and be satisfied with your present [circumstances and with what you have]; for He [God] Himself has said, I will not in any way fail you nor give you up nor leave you without support. [I will] not, [I will] not, [I will] not in any degree leave you helpless nor forsake nor let [you] down (relax My hold on you)! [Assuredly not!]

So we take comfort and are encouraged and confidently and boldly say, The Lord is my Helper; I will not be seized with alarm [I will not fear or dread or be terrified]. What can man do to me?

I also thought of the lyrics to the “How Firm a Foundation” which I recall singing countless times in the past, but the words arrested my attention this morning and reinforced the message of the passage from Hebrews. The lines from the last stanza impacted me in a particularly profound way:

“The soul that on Jesus hath leaned for repose I will not,

I will not, desert to his foes;  

That soul, though all hell should endeavor to shake,

I’ll never, no never, no never, forsake!”

Here are the lyrics to the entire song:

“How Firm a Foundation”

How firm a foundation, ye saints of the Lord,
Is laid for your faith in His excellent Word!
What more can He say than to you He hath said
Who unto the Savior for refuge have fled?

In every condition, — in sickness, in health,
In poverty’s vale, or abounding in wealth,
At home and abroad, on the land, on the sea, —
The Lord, the Almighty, they strength e’er shall be.

“Fear not, I am with thee, oh, be not dismayed,
For I am thy God and will still give thee aid;
I’ll strengthen thee, help thee, and cause thee to stand,
Upheld by My righteous, omnipotent hand.

“When through the deep waters I call thee to go,
The rivers of sorrow shall not overflow;
For I will be with thee thy troubles to bless
And sanctify to thee thy deepest distress.

“When through fiery trials thy pathway shall lie,
My grace, all-sufficient, shall be thy supply.
The flames shall not hurt thee; I only design
Thy dross to consume and thy gold to refine.

“E’en down to old age all My people shall prove
My sovereign, eternal, unchangeable love;
And when hoary hairs shall their temples adorn,
Like lambs they shall still in My bosom be borne.

“The soul that on Jesus hath leaned for repose
I will not, I will not, desert to his foes;
That soul, though all hell should endeavor to shake,
I’ll never, no never, no never, forsake!”

To reinforce the message of the passage and the song, here is a rendition of the powerful hymn from the album, “Together for the Gospel Live” from Sovereign Grace Music.



A most remarkable sunesis or coming together of rivers of understanding, occurred in my mind that overflowed with inspiration to compose this poem:

“This I Know Is True”
Hebrews 13:5-6

God says, “I will never, never, never leave you.”
“All those called by My name I will never forsake.”
Despite all that befalls me, this I know is true.

To do His will I do whatever it may take.
His words of comfort encourage and speak to me:
“All those called by name I will never forsake.”

I walk by faith beyond anything I can see.
Since God is my helper, I say, “I will not fear.”
His words of comfort encourage and speak to me.

Though He may seem far away, He is always near.
I will not covet anything: I am content.
Since God is my helper, I say, “I will not fear.”

When fiery trials press me to the fullest extent,
I rest in the Word of God, in absolute trust.
I will not covet anything: I am content.

I rest in the Word of God, in absolute trust.
God says, “I will never, never, never leave you.”
I rest in the Word of God, in absolute trust.
Despite all that befalls me, this I know is true.

As I was concluding this blog, a song from my distant childhood days came to mind with these lyrics:

Yes, I’m working on a building.
It’s a true foundation.
I’m holding up the blood-stained banner for my Lord.
Just as soon I get through working on a building,
I’m going up to Heaven to get my reward.

I went to see if I could find a recording to share, and I came across this lively performance by the Oak Ridge Boys who comfirm the essence of the message regarding our “true foundation” which is indeed firm.

Lonnell Johnson/Dr. J

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November 1, 2009

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