Archive for November, 2010

Nevertheless

November 20, 2010

The words of Jesus Christ remind us of the inherent power abiding in the Word of God when he declared, “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life.” (John 6:63) Without question the Word of God is energetic and life-giving, as revealed in Hebrews 4:12:

For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.

Each word in the Word of Life is an expression of power. Luke 1:37 in the King James Version says, “For with God nothing shall be impossible.” The American Standard Version offers this translation: “For no word from God shall be void of power.” Indeed, there is life-changing power in a single word from the Word, as the Poet notes:

. . . the power

of the printed word,

the power of a single light,

like a cloven tongue of fire,

to shatter the darkest night.

Earlier this year I heard a powerful life-altering message from Pastor Michael Bivens, whose teaching focused on a single word: “Nevertheless.”  After reviewing my notes, I was inspired to write a poem with that title which opens with 2 Timothy 1:12 where the word is used.

Nevertheless

For the which cause 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

that which I have committed unto him against that day.

                         2 Timothy 1:12

 

Nevertheless, I will remember and never forget               

Each one of all Your benefits, every need You have met.

Here I stand blameless but never in my own righteousness.

 Surrounded by Your abiding faithfulness and goodness,

I strive to live life in all its fullness with no regret.           

When the accuser confronts with each verbal assault and threat

To portray me as discontented, distressed and in debt,              

By faith in the power of a single word I confess:

Nevertheless.                                   

In the midst of trials, I will not worry; I will not fret,  

Despite wicked schemes designed to make me brew, stew and sweat.                                                         

To those who conspire against me to lead me into darkness

I say, God has never forgotten me. This truth I express:          

God is not a man; He cannot lie–He will be with me yet. . .      

Nevertheless.       

2 Timothy 1:12 is the verse that inspired the traditional hymn “I Know Whom I Have Believed.” Podcast.com provides the following information regarding the history of this treasured hymn:

Daniel Webster Whittle and James McGranahan, author and composer of this hymn, supplied many other choice gospel songs, including “There Shall Be Showers of Blessing,” “The Banner of the Cross,” and “Christ Liveth in Me.” Whittle was a Civil War veteran who accompanied Union general William Sherman on his march through Georgia. At the close of the war Whittle was promoted to the rank of major and was thereafter known as Major Whittle. After the war he returned to Chicago, where he became treasurer of the Elgin Watch Company. In 1873, at the urging of D. L. Moody, the major left his successful position to become an evangelist. He enjoyed a most effective ministry for the rest of his life. He was ably assisted musically by P.P. Bliss and later James McGranahan. Many of Whittle’s hymns bear the pseudonym “El Nathan.” The piece “I Know Whom I Have Believed” is known by that name.

This is a lovely hymn that reminds us of our confidence in Christ. Indeed, it is the Lord Jesus Christ who has loved us, redeemed us, and keeps us safe till the end. Amen.

Here is a rendition of the familiar hymn from the Joslin Grove Choral Society.

The word “nevertheless” also brings to mind another musical selection that includes the same word. Bishop T.D. Jakes and Mass Choir of the Potter’s House offer a stirring reminder that “This Test is Your Storm.” The final refrain reinforces the message of this blog post: “Nevertheless, it’s only a test.”

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My New Identity Kit

November 19, 2010
In August of this year, I returned to my hometown of Gary, Indiana to celebrate the 50th anniversary of my high school graduation. I recall learning to appreciate the rich beauty of the English language, as I excelled in the English classes that I took. Upon graduation I enrolled as a pharmacy student at Purdue University in the first class of a newly initiated 5-year program which allowed me to broaden my academic horizons through taking additional courses in English and speech. I continued to develop my writing skills after graduating and working as a pharmacist.  In 1971, I remember being asked to produce a writing sample at the beginning of my first year in ministry leadership training progran, and I wrote a brief commentary on 1 Corinthians 1:10:

 Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.

Since that time, more than 30 years ago, I have come to appreciate the same verse in the Amplified Bible that renders a more precise definition of the word “judgment.”

But I urge and entreat you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you be in perfect harmony and full agreement in what you say, and that there be no dissensions or factions or divisions among you, but that you be perfectly united in your common understanding and in your opinions and judgments.

Someone has said that opinions are like noses—everybody has one. Even so, believers are encouraged to hold the same opinion regarding who we are in Christ. The verse from 1 Corinthians also came to mind in response to this statement by Nate Clements: “Don’t let someone else’s opinion become your reality.”

 

 As we continue on our lifelong journey of discovery of who we are, many times we encounter varying opinions, as our identity unfolds through the changing seasons of life. Recently conversations with various individuals have centered on the issue of identity, as everyone struggles to find and maintain his or her “true identity” Among of the principal challenges of the whole of humanity is to find the answer to two of life’s fundamental questions: “Who am I?” and “Why am I here?” For the believer, God, our Father, the Creator of Life, provides the answers to those questions and every other question anyone may seek to find answers to in the Word of God which becomes the mirror in which we see ourselves clearly revealed. Recently I looked at some of the poems that I had written that relate to “identity” and I put them together and added some music to comprise this blog which I call “My True Identity Kit.”

 As a believer, the essence of who I am is grounded in God’s opinion of me and not any individual’s assessment of who I am. Israel Houghton and New Breed express this truth in the song “Identity.”

In August of 2003, I attended the Apostolic School of Ministry in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa where I wrote seven poems inspired by the series of teachings that I heard during that time. One, in particular, relates to who I am and how I see myself:

My True Identity

 But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord,

are changed into the same image from glory to glory,

even as by the Spirit of the Lord.

II Corinthians 3:18

 I look in the mirror of God’s Word and I see,

Not the man I am but the man I shall become,

Reflected in my eyes, my true identity.

Released from shackles of a slave mentality,

The bondage of Egypt I have now overcome.

I look in the mirror of God’s Word and I see.

I smile as I keep singing of “A Brand New Me.”

In my heart I have prepared for God a new home,

Reflected in my eyes, my true identity.

“I am what I am” is my new reality:

A first-born son, model of the Father’s Kingdom.

I look in the mirror of God’s Word and I see. 

God’s blessings in double measure overtake me,

Flowing by the spirit in knowledge and wisdom,

Reflected in my eyes, my true identity.

I live to fulfill my prophetic destiny,

As joys unfold with even greater joys to come.

I look in the mirror of God’s Word and I see

Reflected in my eyes, my true identity.

 One of the lines alludes to a popular song composed and performed by Dusty Springfield “A Brand New Me.” This selection, however, is by Jerry Butler, who croons as only “The Ice Man” can:

Another poem opens with a statement by Dr. Paula Price, whose words inspired this poetic work of identity: 

The Real Me

“Apostles are called to giants, heroes and winners.”

Dr. Paula Price

I am a man on a mission: I seek to find

The man I really am, my true identity.

Not by the outward but inner I am defined,

Renewed in faith, day by day, all for God’s glory.

I see the real me: a giant, a hero, a winner. 

I want to see for myself and never be blind

To the reality of all God called me to be.

I don’t conform to the world’s mold but renew my mind.

A banquet table is ever set before me.

I feast on God’s Word for breakfast, lunch and dinner. 

I focus on God’s will and seek to be aligned.

Like a rose, the love of God unfolds before me.

I am a new creation in Christ, one of a kind.

With enlightened eyes of understanding I see

That the real man within grows fatter, not thinner. 

I move to the front of the race; I won’t be left behind,

For I know who I am and move into my destiny.

My life reveals the purpose for which I have been designed.

I am released from all bondage; I have been set free

By the Kinsman Redeemer. No longer a sinner,

I see the real me: a giant, a hero, a winner.

  The contemporary black gospel song by Marvin Sapp reminds us of whose opinion is the only one that really matters. Despite the fact that others saw the worst in me, God saw only the best in me:

Earlier this year, Pastor Michael Bivens of Equip U Ministries, delivered a powerful life-changing message related to our identity, as revealed in the Word of God. At the end of the message he encouraged the congregation to make a list of qualities or attributes that the Bible declares us to be. I personalized the assignment and composed a list of metaphors which opened with the phrase “I am.” Upon completion of the poem, I went on to finish another poem “Moreover, I am” with a corresponding list, each line of which ends with the phrase “I am.” 

 I AM says “I am” and all that I AM says “I am”

 “I am. . .” 

I am light, the light of the world, sent forth to shine.

 I am salt, the salt of the earth, full of savor.

I am alive in Christ; eternal life is mine.

I am blessed: in the midst of famine is favor.

I am trusting in the Lord; I am not afraid.

I am made whole in Christ; by His stripes I am healed. 

I am so fearfully and wonderfully made.

I am redeemed, and by the Spirit I am sealed.

I am a sweet savor, a living sacrifice.

I am ever before Him, always on His mind.

I am clothed in righteousness, bought with a price.

I am His beloved, the one He runs to find.

I am cleansed and made whole by the blood of the Lamb.

I am, by the grace of God, what He says I am.

Moreover, I am

Moreover, the word of the Lord

came to me, saying,

Ezekiel 7:1  

Called out of darkness into the great light, I am.

Living by faith in the power of His Word, I am.

Walled in by sin but now free in the Lord, I am.

Giving my life that I might walk upright, I am.

Where death once reigned, now grace abounds; therefore, I am.

Moving by the Spirit and not the flesh, I am.

There is no condemnation; alive in Christ I am.

Proving what is the perfect will of God, I am

Enduring in patience until the end, I

All creation groans and travails until I am

Maturing in Christ unto the perfect man I am.

This generation shall make known all that I am.

Until the trumpet blast from the horn of the ram,

Be still and abide in peace and know that I AM.

The phrase “I am” brought to mind another powerful reminder from Israel Houghton and New Breed: “I Know Who I Am.”

 It seems as if I am continually trying to convince myself and others as to who I really am. Often I respond to those who attempt to portray me in an unflattering light, as a man of small stature and insignificance, as a villain or a loser, in contrast to the man in the mirror of God’s Word where “I see the real me: a giant, a hero, a winner.” In response to those who see me as a villain, I wrote this piece:

 A Hero Plays the Villain

 “A hero is an ordinary individual who finds the strength                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    to persevere and endure in spite of overwhelming obstacles.”

Christopher Reeve

 

Though a hero, I will play the villain.

I will partake of the bread of self-sacrifice.

Others depart to save face, but I will remain.

Though it may cost me my life, I will pay the price.

If I die, the Lord will raise me up again.

The victor is winner by any other name;

He gives unselfishly and will never restrain,

Though at times victor and victim are both the same.

Type-cast to serve in this seemingly menial role,

I follow Christ who poured out his life, even to death.

Proving that running to serve is life’s highest goal,

He whispered “Father, forgive them” with his last breath.

This drama may not unfold as I thought it would,

But I know that all things work together for the good.

 In one of the composition and literature classes that I taught at Otterbein College (now called Otterbein University) I recall engaging my class in lively discussions regarding “Heroes, Super-Heroes, and Real Heroes.” One of the poems that I shared was this original work which is actually a heroic sonnet:

Real Heroes

Like a herald, history sounds the names,

The roll call sung from the chronicler’s page,

The champions of life’s heroic games,

Whose flame still flames for years beyond their age.

Are they real heroes as history claims

Or mere cowards lauded as saint or sage?

Life’s truest heroes we always ignore,

To mold giants of legend and folklore.

 

Real heroes never swell the ranks among

Annals of recorded time. History

Omits the common folk; yet their unsung

Legacies speak to those with eyes to see.

Heroic lives inspire old and young

To become all our hearts have yearned to be.

We search for gold in those whom we live with

And seek real heroes, not image nor myth.

Life’s real heroes still dwell with us today,

To pioneer a new and living way.

 When I think of a musical composition that embodies the essence of “real heroes,” I think of Mariah Carey’s “Hero”:

Many times when an individual experiences a close encounter with God of the most intimate kind, that person is forever changed and adopts a new identity that often involves a new name. Certainly this was the case with Abram, whose name was changed to Abraham, and most notably with Jacob, who was given the name of Israel after his encounter with the Most High. I allude to Jacob’s transformation which I also identify with in this poem: 

New Name

He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit

says unto the churches. To him that overcomes

I will give to eat of the hidden manna,

and will give him a white stone, and in the stone

a new name written, which no man knows

except him that receives it.

Revelation 2:17

More than a moniker,

a sobriquet attached

to the bridal bouquet,

a new name to change

or not, hyphenate,

ignore, keep, or discard

like outdated his and her towels;

how to handle this essence of being,

my new identity.

Like the trickster,

who tried to run his game

and get over on Jehovah

when he wrestled out a blessing

from the evening till the break of day,

I woke up one morning

with a new name and a gimp leg

to remind me of that all-night-face-to-face encounter

when I sang

“I told Jesus, be all right if He changed my name.”

From Stone upon Stone: Psalms of Remembrance.

 The last line of the poem refers to a spiritual of the same title, performed here by Jennifer Bynum:

The Scriptures remind us that God makes all things new, as we excel, going from faith to faith, victory to victory and glory to glory. When a believer assumes a new identity, he or she closes out a previous chapter and moves forth in newness of life, as God begins to write a new chapter. The final poem of this collection describes what occurs as we seek “To Bring Closure”:

To Bring Closure 

“Your life is a book and everyday is a page.”

Elijah Pierce

In the eyes of God, each life is an open book,

Inscribed in first person, where nothing is hidden,

But to really see, we must take a closer look

To discern between each line as it is written.

Past pages reveal both the shame and the glory,

As we craft chronicles from confusion and strife,

Ongoing sagas of our personal history:

Tragic lines composed in the comedy of life.

We strive to bring closure to another chapter

And break free from the bondage of each past mistake,

To apply the painful lessons and grow thereafter

In fleeting years of heartbreak and exquisite laughter.

This real life drama transcends

the game of “Let’s Pretend,”

As each scene unfolds,

moving toward our perfected end.

“Aint Got Time to Die,” one of my favorite spirituals, is a fitting song to bring closure to this blog.

Photo credits:

http://www.banwellfc.com/Images/identity_kits_logo.jpg

 http://www.identitykits.co.uk/graphics/newlogo.jpg

 http://s225705621.websitehome.co.uk/__oneclick_uploads/2009/02/identity-theft-420.jpg

 http://boldperspective.com/wp-content/themes/vOne/images/your-identity-can-make-or-break-you.png

Not Enough

November 19, 2010

At times we have so much to say, but words are not enough.

As the month of November moves toward the last remaining days, we move closer to the final Thursday, the ever-popular day of food, family, football and more food, known as Thanksgiving Day. Originally the holiday was designated as a time set aside to offer thanks to God for his bountiful blessings. I especially look forward to this time of year when I attempt to express my gratitude for all that God has done for me.  Many times words cannot adequately convey the depth of gratitude that I feel, as I reflect upon the goodness of God over the past year. During such a moment of reflection, I composed this poem in which I recognize that many times words alone are not enough.

 Not Enough

 It’s not enough to say thank you,

for all the times you brought me through.

It’s not enough to say I’ll serve you, Lord, trust and obey.

The only way you’ll know is how I live.”

 Angelo and Veronica     

If I were fluent and could speak with 10,000 tongues

From every tribe that inhabits a place on this Earth

And could I speak 10,000 words of praise with each one,

Such words still fail to describe the measure of your worth.

Could I select choice words that men and angels have spoken,

They would be inadequate, as I try to express

All that lies within me, for words are but a token

Of my gratitude for your faithfulness and goodness.

As I strive to walk in love, the more excellent way,

I seek to align words and deeds so that they are one.

Read between the lines of all that I attempt to say,

As you assess my whole life when all is said and done.

In the midst of darkness, times have never been more tough.

Though my heart overflows, words alone are not enough.

Enjoy the YouTube video of Angelo and Veronica singing the song with the same title “Not Enough”:

Photo credit  http://venukapra.blogspot.com/