Archive for December, 2013

Isaiah 43:19: All things new

December 31, 2013

Isaiah 43--19As we reflect upon the Verse of the Day for December 31, the last day of 2013, it provides a reminder of who God is and what He alone can do:

Isaiah 43:16, 18-19:

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

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

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

The passage from Isaiah brought 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 same yet never quite 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?

Each New Year represents a new beginning, as God reminds us once again that He makes all things new.  As I considered deeply the concept of a new beginning or a fresh start, I happened to think of the lyrics to a little song composed based on the words, “Behold, I make all things new.”

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.

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

This particular verse and the tragic death of his nephew became the inspiration for one of Don Moen’s signature musical compositions, “God Will Make a Way,” offered here by Hosanna! Music.

What a wonderful reminder and source of encouragement as 2013 ends and 2014 begins.

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John 16:33: Peace in our times

December 30, 2013

John_16-33

The Verse of the Day for December 30, 2013 comes from John 16:33:

These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.

Most appropriately, the reference to the peace that comes from the Prince of Peace occurs on the day before the Universal Hour of Peace Day which takes place on December 31. In addition, every year since 1967 the Roman Catholic Church celebrates World Peace Day on the first of January.  In 1981 the United Nations General Assembly declared September 21 as International Peace Day. Despite these occasions, we live in the midst of war-torn times, where there is a notable absence of peace.

The events of September 11, 2001 catapulted the world into a state of anxiety and fearfulness, as the world has been engulfed in wars and rumors of wars. Though we seek “peace in our times” and cry out for “Peace, peace, but there is no peace.” In the midst these turbulent times of seemingly endless turmoil and strife, the world is ever seeking some semblance of lasting peace. The words of Sara Teasdale certainly ring true:

One white shining hour of peace

Count many a year of strife well lost.

The peace that Jesus speaks of goes beyond the usual definition which refers to “the normal non-warring condition of a nation, a group of nations or the world. . . a state of harmony among people or groups; cessation or freedom from strife or dissension.”

In contrast, the Biblical definition encompasses a state of untroubled, undisturbed well-being, expressed in the Hebrew expression shalom. According to Strong’s Concordance, shalom means “completeness, wholeness, health, peace, welfare, safety soundness, tranquility, prosperity, perfectness, fullness, rest, harmony, the absence of agitation or discord.” It is an inner reality, for the peace of God indicates being free from anxiety and care; it is not dependent upon outside conditions.

The peace of God comes from the God of peace, and it is only possible to obtain it through the Prince of Peace. John 14:27 declares this truth:

Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world gives, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.

In his will is our peace

As my thoughts turned toward the peace that the Lord gives, I recall having composed this poem:

Peace

In His will is our peace.

Dante Alighieri        

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace, I pray.

From my life may there stream heavenly melodies.

As consummate virtuoso compose and play

Upon my soul, inspire glorious harmonies.

In such measured moments of sweetest quietude

Arrange serenades of praise. Let grace notes resound,

As my life crescendos in songs of gratitude,

From heart to heart, where your grace and mercy abound.

Orchestrate aubades, nocturnes, songs at eventide;

Complete cantatas of peace within me, align

My desires and your pleasure. Here we abide,

Saxophone and soloist, communing by design.

Knowing my purpose, I remain quiet and still,

Composed in perfect peace, the center of His will.

The essence of the intent of the poem is also expressed in the song “Instruments of Peace” recorded in Johannesburg, South Africa.

The Verse of the Day reminds us that the peace that Jesus Christ gives is a priceless commodity in our times.

In my Father’s house: No mirrors

December 29, 2013
The familiar passage from John 14 brought to mind thoughts about heavenly mansions.

The familiar passage from John 14 brought to mind thoughts about mirrors in our Father’s house.

The Verse of the Day for December 29, 2013 is a familiar passage from John 14:1-3:

Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me.

In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.

And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.

How many times have I recited or heard recited this celebrated passage from John 14 at a funeral or “homegoing” service for a friend of family member. The reference to “my Father’s house” brought to mind a song performed by one of my favorite a capella musical groups, Sweet Honey in the Rock, who sings of about “My Nana’s House.” The group offers a poignant rendering of a song written by Ysaye Barnwell, “No Mirrors in My Nana’s House” recorded on Nick JR:

The song caused me to think that if there are no mirrors in “my Nana’s house,” surely there are no mirrors in “my Father’s house.” In thinking about those “bright mansions above,” I pondered, “Will there be any mirrors in heaven?” My thoughts led to this poetic response:

No Mirrors in Heaven

Turn your eyes upon Jesus,

Look full into his wonderful face

And the things of earth will grow strangely dim

In the light of his glory and grace.

Traditional Gospel Song

 

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.

2 Corinthians 3:18

 

The eighth day lies beyond the perfection of seven

With this startling discovery: no mirrors in heaven.

We will not have time to indulge in vanity

When we see ourselves as we were designed to be

In the eyes of the savior when we behold his visage

And see ourselves fashioned like unto Christ’s glorious image.

The wisdom and power of God no one can deny

When we are released from the quarters of the butterfly

To behold full-face the splendor of the Savior:

One glimpse reveals the value of godly behavior.

When the good pleasure of His will has been fully shown,

Then shall we know, even as we are also known,

Transformed from mortal into immortality

To view the fullness of Christ in you and Christ in me.

Colossians-1-27

The closing line of the poem also brings to mind a passage of scripture that has long been particularly meaningful to me: Colossians 1:25-27

Whereof I am made a minister, according to the dispensation of God which is given to me for you, to fulfill the word of God;

Even the mystery which hath been hid from ages and from generations, but now is made manifest to his saints:

To whom God would make known what are the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory:

This particular passage was the inspiration for the lyrics to an original song:

Christ in You, Christ in Me

Even before the world began,

God put together His master plan,

Calling Jews and Gentiles into one body,

The riches of the glory of this mystery

Which is Christ in you, the hope of glory,

Christ in you, the hope of glory,

Christ in you, the hope of glory.

 

Enlighten my eyes, help me to see

All that you have called me to be.

Share with me the secrets that you have for me,

The riches of the glory of this mystery

Which is Christ in me, the hope of glory

Christ in me, the hope of glory,

Christ in me, the hope of glory.

 

Put on God’s Word, renew your mind.

Seek Him with your whole heart, and you will find

He’ll open your eyes; He’ll let you see

The riches of the glory of this mystery

Which is Christ in you, the hope of glory

Christ in you, the hope of glory,

Christ in you, the hope of glory.

 

I’m no longer bound; I’ve been set free.

I once was so blind, but now I see.

I’m walking into my destiny:

The riches of the glory of this mystery

Which is Christ in me, the hope of glory

Christ in me, the hope of glory,

Christ in me the hope of glory.

 

Christ in you, the hope of glory,

Christ in you, the hope of glory,

Christ in you, the hope of glory.

 

Christ in me, the hope of glory,

Christ in me, the hope of glory,

Christ in me, the hope of glory.

Here is another musical composition, Christ in You the Hope of Glory Song

Campaign Kerusso

The Verse of the Day from John 14 caused me to set my affections on things above.

You shall call his name Jesus

December 17, 2013

Matthew 1_20-21

In keeping with the message of the season, the Verse of the Day for December 17, 2013 is taken from Matthew 1:20-21:

But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost. And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name Jesus: for he shall save his people from their sins.

After Joseph learns that Mary is pregnant before they came together as husband and wife, he is considering divorcing her privately. The angel of the Lord, Gabriel, appears to him in a dream and makes prophetic declarations expressed in the future tense:

Mary shall bring forth a son.

Joseph shall call his name Jesus, no other name given under heaven whereby men must be saved (Acts 4:12)

Jesus shall save his people from their sins, just as his name makes known (Jesus—“the salvation of Yahweh”)

This passage from Matthew is the inspiration for the contemporary Christmas song “Call His Name Jesus” by Philips, Craig and Dean:

Mary’s song: praise and worship

December 16, 2013

Luke 1-46-47

The Verse of the Day for December 16, 2013 is part of a passage of Scripture described as “Mary’s Song” or the Magnificat, a term derived from the first word of Mary’s reply in the Latin Vulgate, meaning “to magnify.”

Luke 1:46-47, 49

And Mary said, My soul doth magnify the Lord, And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour. For he that is mighty hath done to me great things; and holy is his name

Her response to the revelation that she will bring forth the Messiah can be seen as an expression of praise and worship.  Mary responds by extolling and glorifying the Lord with her whole being.  From the depths of her soul she offers praise to God that overflows in true worship from her spirit, as she rejoices in God, the source of life and salvation.

Jeremy Myers points out that the song ties beautifully with poetry and prophecy from the Hebrew Scriptures: “This shows a tie between the Messiah they were hoping for and the Messiah who has come. The song of Mary is very similar to Hannah’s prayer for her miracle son (1 Samuel 2), as well as many of the Psalms (e.g., Psalms, 8, 33, 47, 100, 135, 136).”

As I thought about the passage from Luke, I noted similarities in the lyrics to “O Magnify the Lord” offered by Maranatha! Singers.

More prophecies: Of his kingdom there shall be no end

December 15, 2013

Luke_1-33

In light of the approaching celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ, the Verse of the Day for December 15, 2013, is another passage containing the fulfillment of words spoken by the prophets concerning the Messiah:

Luke 1:30-33:

And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God. And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name Jesus. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end.

That the Messiah would be called by his name before he was even born was foretold in Isaiah 49:1:

 Listen, O isles, unto me; and hearken, ye people, from far; The Lord hath called me from the womb; from the bowels of my mother hath he made mention of my name.

Likewise, the Lord would be called to God’s service from is spoken of in Psalm 22:10 (Amplified Bible):

I was cast upon You from my very birth; from my mother’s womb You have been my God.

Psalm 45:6 makes known that the throne of the Messiah would be everlasting:

Thy throne, O God, is forever and ever: the scepter of thy kingdom is a right scepter.

A similar declaration was also made in Daniel 7:13-14:

I saw in the night visions, and, behold, one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days, and they brought him near before him.

And there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages, should serve him: his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed.

In 1 Chronicles 17:11-12 we find a similar declaration regarding the throne of the everlasting kingdom of the Lord:

And it shall come to pass, when thy days be expired that thou must go to be with thy fathers, that I will raise up thy seed after thee, which shall be of thy sons; and I will establish his kingdom.

He shall build me a house, and I will establish his throne forever.

George Friedrich Handel’s “Messiah,” the renowned oratorio with texts from the King James Version of the Bible is among the best known and most frequently performed music compositions in the Western world, particularly during the Christmas season. The celebrated work ends with the Hallelujah Chorus which echoes the same declarations regarding the everlasting kingdom of the Messiah expressed in the Verse of the Day. Listen to a contemporary adaptation of the popular piece performed by the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir.

Born of a virgin: Another prophecy fulfilled

December 14, 2013

Birth of Jesus

The passage that makes up the Verse of the Day for December 14, 2013 is found in Luke 1:26-28 (King James Version)

And in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God unto a city of Galilee, named Nazareth, To a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary. And the angel came in unto her, and said, Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women.

Here we find another fulfillment of a prophetic word concerning the birth of Jesus Christ written centuries beforehand. That the Messiah would be born of a virgin was revealed in the recent the Verse of the Day for December 11, 2013, which relates to an Old Testament prophecy concerning the birth of Jesus, the Messiah:

Isaiah 7:14:

Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.

Matthew 1:22-23 establishes the fulfilling of that prophetic word:

All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet Isaiah:

‘The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel’–which means, ‘God with us.’

During this season that recognizes the miraculous birth of the Lord Jesus Christ, we have much to rejoice about and celebrate.

Perhaps the all-time favorite Christmas carol with a reference to the virgin birth is “Silent Night” with its memorable lyrics:

Silent night, holy night

All is calm, all is bright

Round yon virgin mother and child.

Sleep in heavenly peace

Sleep in heavenly peace

The American Boy Choir offers a moving rendition of this classic Christmas carol:

Bethlehem: Where the Savior was born

December 13, 2013
This painting by Polenov shows Bethlehem in 1882.

This painting by Polenov shows Bethlehem in 1882.

In the Verse of the Day for December 13, 2013 we find another passage related to one of the prophecies that foretold the birth of Jesus Christ. When Herod encountered the wise men who came seeking the “King of the Jews,” his response is recorded in Matthew 2:4-6:

And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he demanded of them where Christ should be born. And they said unto him, In Bethlehem of Judaea: for thus it is written by the prophet, And thou Bethlehem, in the land of Juda, art not the least among the princes of Juda: for out of thee shall come a Governor, that shall rule my people Israel.

The prophet referred to is Micah who had made this prophetic declaration regarding place where the Messiah would be born:

Micah 5:2–5 (New Living Translation):

But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, are only a small village among all the people of Judah. Yet a ruler of Israel will come from you, one whose origins are from the distant past. The people of Israel will be abandoned to their enemies until the woman in labor gives birth… And he will stand to lead his flock with the LORD’s strength, in the majesty of the name of the LORD his God. Then his people will live there undisturbed, for he will be highly honored around the world. And he will be the source of peace…

Located about six miles southwest of Jerusalem, Bethlehem is not only the birthplace of Jesus Christ, but the city has a rich heritage as a place of importance in God’s plan for humanity. Genesis 35:19 (New Living Testament) records the first mention of the town:

So Rachel died and was buried on the way to Ephrath (that is, Bethlehem)

In Hebrew the name means “house of bread.” Recall that the account of Naomi, Ruth and Boaz from the book of Ruth takes place in Bethlehem, where Naomi returns with Ruth after the famine in Moab. David, the King, the great-grandson of Ruth and Boaz, was born and grew up in Bethlehem. Eventually the Judean town became known as the City of David, for it was there that the prophet Samuel anointed him to be king over Israel (1 Samuel 16:1-13).

The account of the birth of Jesus Christ provides a confluence of circumstances that merge in Bethlehem. Mary and Joseph found themselves at that particular location when Caesar Augustus decreed that a census be taken. Every person in the entire Roman world had to go to his own town to register. Joseph, being a descendent of David, was required to go to Bethlehem to register with Mary, his wife who was pregnant at the time. Because of the overcrowded conditions due to the census, the inn where they sought refuge was full, and Mary gave birth to Savior of the World in the primitive conditions of a stable where the child was laid in a manger.

A number of the songs celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ mention Bethlehem, including the song connected to the Verse of the Day for December 11, 2013 which shares a version of “Children, Go Where I Send Thee,” with its resounding refrain:  “One for the little biddy baby who was born, born, born in Bethlehem.” Perhaps the all-time favorite Christmas carol is “O, Little Town of Bethlehem,” offered here as a medley with “Away in a Manger” by Kari Jobe.

Verse of the Day: Adoption of sons

December 12, 2013

galatians-445

The Verse of the Day for December 12, 2013 is taken from Galatians 4:4-5 :

But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons.

Apropos of the Christmas season the passage brings to mind the birth of Jesus Christ through whom we have the adoption as sons.  Adoption is a legal process whereby adopted sons had the same rights and privileges as sons who were naturally born into a family. Indeed, as legally adopted sons we have the right to our father’s inheritance and that his citizenship entails.

The same expression is used in Romans 8:23-24:

And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body.

This related passage is part of the introduction for an original poem written for a student in one the writing classes that I recently taught. It was an unusual class in that all seven of the students were nurses working on their bachelor’s degree. This particular student was a nurse in labor and delivery, an area where she loved to serve and where she hoped to someday become a nurse practitioner.

The French have a word that describes a female attendant at a birthing, une accoucheuse, a phrase that is used in the title of the poem came to mind as I reflected upon the two passages related to giving birth.

Une accoucheuse* with hands to bless

For we know that the whole creation groans and labors

with birth pangs together until now.

 Not only that, but we also who have the firstfruits of the  Spirit,

even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting

 for the adoption, the redemption of our body.

Romans 8:23-24

Your delight is to assist in bringing forth new life,

To observe, to help monitor the birthing process,

As a nurse practitioner, a kind of midwife,

As the French would say, “une accoucheuse,” with hands to bless

And bear witness of the golden aura of God’s glory:

Unbearable pain transformed into unspeakable joy.

The wonder of creation astounds in all you see,

Beholding the crowning entrance of each girl and boy.

You find extreme pleasure in all the work that you do.

Your life’s work is your great reward beyond any wage.

After countless times, each labor and delivery is new,

As tears of joy overflow throughout the final stage.

The whole of God’s creation, all of heaven and earth,

Also wait to experience the miracle of childbirth.

So many of the songs of Christmas refer to the birth of the Jesus Christ, and one of my favorite is the spiritual “Children, Go Where I Send Thee.” Listen to this rousing rendition by contemporary Christian artist, Mandisa. The lyrics begin and end with a reference to “the little biddy baby who was born, born, born in Bethlehem.”

During this season we are continually reminded of the birth of the Savior who came forth in the fullness of time that we might have the adoption as sons.

Immanuel: God with us

December 11, 2013

Isaiah-7-14

There were over three hundred of prophecies concerning the Lord Jesus Christ and his first coming to earth, all of which came to pass with pinpoint accuracy. The odds of one single word coming to pass are astronomical, let alone more than 300.

We recognize, of course, what was said to Jeremiah, that God will hasten to perform His Word, so we see that when God speaks a word prophetically that it always comes to pass. Remember these words of the Lord spoken in  Isaiah 55:11 (in the Amplified Bible):

So shall My word be that goes forth out of My mouth: it shall not return to Me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it.

The Verse of the Day for December 11, 2013, relates an Old Testament prophecy concerning the birth of Jesus, the Messiah:

Isaiah 7:14:

Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.

Matthew 1:22-23 establishes the fulfilling of that prophetic word:

All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet Isaiah: ‘The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel’–which means, ‘God with us.’

One of my favorite songs of the season celebrating the Savior’s birth is “O Come, O Come, Immanuel.” The popular Christmas song is a translation of the Latin text (“Veni, veni, Emmanuel”) by John Mason Neale and Henry Sloane Coffin in the mid-19th century, offered here by Selah:

A variation on the theme of coming of Jesus Christ is this song “Immanuel, God with Us,” performed by Amy Grant:

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