Archive for March, 2014

Isaiah 53: Taking it personally

March 31, 2014

Isaiah 53-5

The Verse of the Day for May 31, 2014 is taken from Isaiah 53: 5-6:

But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.

Isaiah 53 provides a portrait of “the Suffering Servant” and is often referenced during Holy Week, or the commemoration of the last week of Jesus Christ’s life on earth, which takes place during the same period as the Jewish Passover celebration. Such was the case in 1998 when Passover began at sunset on Good Friday, April 15. The congregation at my church at the time partook of the Lord Supper or Holy Communion, and although I had taken communion seemingly countless times prior to that particular occasion, I apprehended to a much greater degree the suffering of the Lord Jesus Christ and was inspired to compose this poem:

Taking It Personally
Isaiah 53

Cursed with a curse, He was hung on a tree.
The suffering servant bartered for a price,
Battered and bruised for my iniquity.
Behold the Lamb, unblemished sacrifice,
Offered once, Jesus Christ, my Passover.
Afflicted, stricken, smitten that God should
Freely pour out His mercy, moreover,
Lay on Him the chastisement of my peace.
From His side flowed water and sinless blood,
A new covenant established that I might cease
From dead works by a new and living way.
God’s good pleasure no longer concealed
But memorialized this solemn day.
Man of sorrows, with His stripes I am healed
In spirit, mind and body, for I am
Quickened and cleansed by the blood of the Lamb.

Listen to this recording of Isaiah 53: 3-7 set to music from Christian Worship & Scripture Songs (Esther Mui), words to consider deeply today.

 

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God’s desire for unity

March 28, 2014

1 Timothy-2 5-6

The Verse of the Day for March 28, 2014 is an expression of unity:

For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time. 1 Timothy 2:5-6 KJV

Those who accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, believing in their hearts that God raised him from the dead, receive the power to become children of God (John 1:12).

Romans 8:16 reminds us:

The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God:

This reality is confirmed in 1 John 5:6 :

This is he that came by water and blood, even Jesus Christ; not by water only, but by water and blood. And it is the Spirit that beareth witness, because the Spirit is truth.

Just as God is one, He desires that we, as His sons and daughters, become one. Jesus Christ expresses that same desire in the prayer that Jesus Christ offered to God just prior to the events leading to his crucifixion and ultimate resurrection in John 17:20-23:

20“I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word;

21 that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me.

22 And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one:

23 I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me.

God’s desire, expressed through Jesus Christ, has always been for unity. Likewise, God’s desire for His children is that they also be one, to be unified by the love of God. John 13:35 makes known that desire:

By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.

A musical expression of the unity that should be evident in the followers of Jesus Christ is “We are one in the spirit.” The popular folk classic that reached its height during the late 1960s, the period when I first experienced and subsequently manifested God’s love, is rendered here by Jars of Clay:

Philippians 1:29 and 3:10

March 26, 2014

Philippians-1-29
The Verse of the Day for March 26, 2014 also brings to mind this passage from Philippians 3:10-11

God desires that each individual believer might know Christ, that is, have a personal knowledge of who he is, to know him. This kind of knowing corresponds to the Greek word ginosko, translated “to know” in the New Testament. Biblical scholar E.W. Bullinger in his Critical Greek Lexicon and Concordance translates the verb:

To perceive, observe, obtain knowledge of or insight into. It denotes a personal and true relationship between the person knowing and the object known, i.e. to be influenced by one’s knowledge of the object, to suffer one’s self to be determined thereby (p. 485).

Once an individual knows God on such an intimate, experiential level, that person “knows for himself or herself,” and that individual is forever changed.

God desires that we know him, as He expresses His deep desire for intimacy on a very personal level. We come to know God through the Word of God. As we establish and maintain our relationship with him, we also experience not only the power of his resurrection but also the fellowship of sufferings, knowing that if we suffer with him we will also be glorified with him, as Romans 8:18 makes known:

For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that shall be revealed in us.

As we move into the season preceding the celebration of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, we take comfort in knowing that as we partake of his suffering, we shall also be partakers or those who share fully in the glory of his resurrection.

In expressing our desire to know Christ on such an intimate level, we become “seekers of God’s heart,” expressed in this moving song by Sandi Patty, Larnelle Harris, and Steve Green:

 

I John 1:9: If we, then God

March 25, 2014

1 John-1 8-10

The Verse of the Day is taken from 1 John 1:9:

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

The context for 1 John chapter 1 is fellowship with God and with fellow believers, as verses three through ten reveal:

3 That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ.

4 And these things write we unto you, that your joy may be full.

5 This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.

6 If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth:

7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.

8 If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.

9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

10 If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.

Verses 6-10 begin with the conditional clause “if we” followed by a verb: “If we say…, if we walk…, if we say…, if we confess…, if we say….” These expressions establish the conditions which if met on our part, will result in a corresponding action on God’s part. These two parts of the conditional sentences are especially noted in 1 John 1:9. If we do our part, which is confess our sins, our faithful and just God will do His part, which is “to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

Morgan Cryar offers a musical rendering of 1 John 1:9 in “What Sin?”

Beyond the crowns: To hear well done

March 23, 2014

James-1 12The Verse of the Day for March 23, 2014 makes reference to “the crown of life” one of five different crowns mentioned in the New Testament.

Translated from the Greek word stephanos, the word crown relates to the symbol of victory given to athletes in the Greek games, such as the Olympics or other contests, where winners are honored or crowned with laurel leaves or olive branches.

1 Corinthians 9:25 mentions an “incorruptible crown” awaiting those who discipline themselves and compete lawfully, those who “run their best race and win it”:

Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain.

And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible.

A “crown of joy” is spoken of in terms of leading others to Christ.  1 Thessalonians 2:19 :

For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Are not even ye in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at his coming?

2 Timothy 4:8  speaks of a “crown of righteousness” for living righteously in this world.

Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing.

A “crown of life” awaits the individual who endures trials while carrying out the purposes of God’s plan, as James 1:12 states:

Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him.

1 Peter 5:4 speaks of a “crown of glory” awaiting those who fulfill their calling and finish the work that has been set before them:

And when the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away.

In reflecting upon the various aspects of crowns as they relate to athletic endeavors, I also think of what motivates me beyond the desire to receive rewards at the bema or the judgment seat of Christ, in that I am striving to hear something that will make all the time, energy and effort put into living my life for Christ worthwhile. I express that deepest yearning in the poem

Much More

His lord said to him, “Well done,

good and faithful servant;

you have been faithful over a few things,

I will make you ruler over many things:

enter into the joy of your lord.”

Matthew 25:23

 

More than mere status or the embrace of the crown

Around the head or glory, honor or renown;

More than medals of gold or laurels that fade

With the thundering applause and ceaseless accolade;

More than any crowning achievement or success

Or the rarest prizes eyes could ever witness;

More than the taste of victory every time you try:

Such alluring sweetness can never satisfy.

So much more are these words when the race is finally won,

When we finish the course and cross the finish line,

And stand upon the bema where we shall incline

Our ears to hear God say, “Good and faithful servant, well done.”

We shall bask in ultimate ecstasy of victory

And savor the goodness of God for all eternity.

Here are two musical selections that refer to the parable of the talents:

“He’ll understand and say well done” by the Davis Sisters, one of the premier gospel singing groups of the 20th Century”

Here is a contemporary  rendition “Well Done Good and Faithful Servant” by Billy Grabbe

Be strong in the Lord and put on. . .

March 22, 2014

Ephesians-6 10-11The Verse of the Day comes from the familiar passage related to the “whole armour of God” found in Ephesians 6:10-11. The first part of Ephesians 6:10 exhorts us to be strong in the Lord, and reminds us of similar words of encouragement found in an earlier blog post: “Be strong and take courage.”

Joshua 1:9

This is my command—be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” (New Living Translation)

In examining Joshua 1:9, we find great encouragement in midst of circumstances whereby we could be greatly discouraged. Just as Joshua felt discouraged when he was confronted with the task of leading the Children of Israel into the Promised Land after the death of Moses, we also have similar concerns, as we transition from the Wilderness of our lives into the “Promised Land” that God has set before us.

The first part of Ephesians 6:11 tells us to “put on the whole armour of God.” The phrase”put on” is part of an expression connected with renewing the mind, whereby believers are exhorted to “put off, put on, and put away.” The essence of this message was also discussed in an earlier blog post where I shared the poem “Moving in the Opposite Spirit” which ends with the same phrase:

. . . .

To reverse the curse and counter iniquity.

God orders our steps, and we choose the path of peace,

Not to seek revenge but pray for each enemy,

For all giving assures that favor will increase;

Renewed in the spirit of our mind night and day,

Being transformed “to put off, put on, put away.”

The celebrated passage from Ephesians 6:10-18 is shared in a most inspiring video produced by David Wesley:

Jeremiah 17:7-8 and the First Psalm

March 21, 2014

Jeremiah-17 7-8

The Verse of the Day for March 21, 2014 from Jeremiah 17:7-8 in the King James Version echoes the truths expressed in the First Psalm, one of my favorite psalms:

1 Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful.

But his delight is in the law of the Lord; and in his law doth he meditate day and night.

And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.

The ungodly are not so: but are like the chaff which the wind driveth away.

Therefore the ungodly shall not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous.

For the Lord knoweth the way of the righteous: but the way of the ungodly shall perish.

When I think of the First Psalm, I recall the first passage of scripture I ever committed to memory. More than 60 years ago, back in the day, in what we called “junior high school,” I remember that Mrs. Little, the local undertaker’s wife, gathered kids from the neighborhood and told us to memorize Psalm 1, which I did and still recall by heart to this day.

About seven years ago, Dr. John Tetsola commented about the power of “The First Word,” and his remarks inspired this poem which makes reference to the First Psalm, the “First Word” for me:

The First Word                                           

When you’re in a difficult situation,

go back to ‘the first word.’ It still works.

Dr.  John Tetsola

 

Though only a child, I heard the word of the Lord.

Just like Samuel, I clearly heard God speak to me:

I still remember the power of “the first word.”

 

The desire to read and to learn by heart God’s Word:

Planted deep within my soul seeds of destiny.

Though only a child, I heard the word of the Lord.

 

Early years of famine and drought God has restored.

My Shepherd ever sets a table before me.

I still remember the power of “the first word.”

 

From an early age God became my shield and sword,

As the Psalms enflamed a passion for poetry.

Though only a child, I heard the word of the Lord.

 

The sound words of the First Psalm could not be ignored:

“Planted by the rivers of waters, like a tree. . .”

I still remember the power of “the first word.”

 

Striving toward the finish, ever pressing forward,

I now fondly recall glimpses of God’s glory.

Though only a child, I heard the word of the Lord:

I still remember the power of “the first word.”

 

Listen to a musical version of this beautiful psalm offered by Kim Hill.

 

Proof of desire is pursuit

March 20, 2014

milk bottle

The Verse of the Day for March 20, 2014 comes from 1 Peter 2:2-3 KJV:

As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby:

If so be ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious.

In a similar manner to that of a newborn who expresses a need for nourishment in the natural, so we as believers desire the “sincere milk of the word” whereby we may grow spiritually. Once an infant is hungry, he or she will make known the need for sustenance and cry out until that hunger is satisfied. As we mature and grow up, having tasted the goodness of the Lord, we find that our appetite changes, or so it should. Hebrews 5:12-14 remind us of the change in diet that should take place:

12 You have been believers so long now that you ought to be teaching others. Instead, you need someone to teach you again the basic things about God’s word.You are like babies who need milk and cannot eat solid food.

13 For someone who lives on milk is still an infant and doesn’t know how to do what is right.

14 Solid food is for those who are mature, who through training have the skill to recognize the difference between right and wrong.

As mature followers of the Lord Jesus Christ, we demonstrate our desire for more of the life-sustaining Word of God, as we pursue spiritual matters. In the following poem I personalize this yearning for more of God:

The Proof of Desire

     Pursue love, and desire spiritual gifts,

     but especially that you may prophesy.

     1 Corinthians 14:1

The proof of desire is pursuit.

 Mike Murdock

In each new season may my life abound with fruit,

As I follow after God and seek His favor,

To show that the proof of desire is pursuit.

This passion to please is my relentless pursuit,

As I seek to taste His goodness and to savor.

In each new season may my life abound with fruit.

As a seasoned tree is strengthened from leaf to root,

I flow with fullness of joy as I labor,

To show that the proof of desire is pursuit.

Though I may seek as silver His wisdom and truth,

This life swiftly passes, fleeting as a vapor.

In each new season may my life abound with fruit.

I have yearned for God’s presence, even as a youth.

I now forsake all to scale the heights of Mount Tabor,

To show that the proof of desire is pursuit.

I ever seek to know God’s will and to do it,

To follow in the steps of Jesus, my Savior.

In each new season may my life abound with fruit,

To show that the proof of desire is pursuit.

In reflecting upon the pursuit of spiritual matters, I thought of the lyrics of the Don Moen song “My Soul Follows Hard after Thee.”

The Lord is my shepherd: The good shepherd

March 17, 2014
The accompanying painting by 19th Century German artist Bernard Plockhorst depicts the Good Shepherd whose sheep follow Him willingly and eagerly because he is willing to do anything for their well being, even if it means laying down his own life.

The accompanying painting by 19th Century German artist Bernard Plockhorst depicts the Good Shepherd whose sheep follow Him willingly and eagerly because he is willing to do anything for their well being, even if it means laying down his own life.

The Verse of the Day for March 17, 2014 is taken from the first three verses of the 23rd Psalm in the King James Version:

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.

Jesus Christ refers to himself as “the good shepherd” in a couple of instances in the Gospel of John, with this being the second of seven metaphors that the Savior uses. Jesus states, “I am the good Shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” This indicates that the shepherd is fully committed to his sheep and consequently has their full trust. In the “sheepfold discourse” in John 10, we find another reference to “the good shepherd:” “I am the good shepherd; and I know my sheep, and am known by my own.

Some of the specific qualities of “the good shepherd” can be found in Psalm 23, one of the most recognized and recited passages in the Old Testament:

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters.
 He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.

 Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil; for You are with me;
Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.

 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
You anoint my head with oil; my cup runs over.
 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life;
And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.


Jeff Majors offers this moving, vocal rendering of the 23rd Psalm accompanied on the harp.

To know: I know that I know

March 11, 2014

Deuteronomy_7-9

The Verse of the Day for March 11, 2014 is found in Deuteronomy 7:9:

Know therefore that the Lord thy God, he is God, the faithful God, which keepeth covenant and mercy with them that love him and keep his commandments to a thousand generations;

The verb “to know” in this instance is translated from the Hebrew word yada , which according to Strong’s Concordance means: to  know, to learn, to perceive, to discern, to experience, to confess, to consider, to know people relationally, to know how, to be skillful, to be made known, to make oneself known, to make to know.

The same verb is used in Deuteronomy 4:35 in Amplified Bible:

To you it was shown, that you might realize and have personal knowledge that the Lord is God; there is no other besides Him.

This kind of knowing corresponds to the Greek word ginosko, translated “to know” in the New Testament.  Biblical scholar E.W. Bullinger translates the verb:

To perceive, observe, obtain knowledge of or insight into.  It denotes a personal and true relationship between the person knowing and the object known, i.e. to be influenced by one’s knowledge of the object, to suffer one’s self to be determined thereby.

Once an individual knows God on such an intimate, experiential level, that person “knows for himself or herself,” and that individual is forever changed.

God desires that we know him, as He expresses His deep desire for intimacy on a very personal level. We come to know God through the Word of God. As we establish and maintain our relationship with him, we also experience his love. I recall that the popular love song of the 1950s recorded by the Teddy Bears expresses a profound truth when connected to God: “To know, know  him is to love, love him.”

Not only can we know God, but we can know that we know Him, as 1 John 2:3 makes known:

And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments.

As I continue to draw even closer to God, I also come to know Him at even deeper levels of intimacy, where I can now sing this love song for Him:

 I Know that I Know that I Know

I know that I know that I know that I know.

I know that I know You still love me.

I know that I know that I know that I know.

I know that I know You still love me.

No matter how many times I go astray

And leave your side and choose to disobey.

When I’m overwhelmed and can’t even pray,

No matter what I do or do not say.

I know that I know that I know that I know.

I know that I know You still love me.

I know that I know that I know that I know.

I know that I know You still love me.

No one else knows my heart: You are the one

To call me home when I have no place to run.

When I look all around at all that I’ve done,

Despite all my failures, You still call me Son.

I know that I know that I know that I know.

I know that I know You still love me.

I know that I know that I know that I know.

I know that I know You still love me.

Smokie Norful offers a powerful testimony in song that verifies that he knows God for himself, as he sings “I Know too Much about Him.”