Archive for February, 2015

The Proof of Desire

February 6, 2015

Proverbs 21--21

The Verse of the Day for February 6, 2015 comes from Proverbs 21:21 (New Living Translation):

Whoever pursues righteousness and unfailing love will find life, righteousness, and honor.

Matthew 6:33 (NLT) echoes a similar exhortation to pursue righteousness:

Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.

These verses bring to mind comments that were made in a previous blog entry related to pursuing wisdom. The post is modified and re-posted below:

In reflecting on the Verse of the Day, an incident came to mind that occurred while I was in basic training, after having been drafted into the U.S. Army back in 1967. At the end of the training period, we were told to prepare for a thorough inspection of our barracks by the Inspector General. I recall that I had received my first pay which I had placed in the bottom of an empty stationery box that I had hidden underneath some of the clothing items that lined my footlocker. In my haste to prepare for the IG inspection, I inadvertently threw what I thought was an empty box into the trash which I later recalled having thrown into the dumpster behind the barracks. We passed the inspection with flying colors and our company performed well on the parade field, being selected as the group with the best formation. As a result we were given a pass to go into the neighboring town for the day.

As I went to get my pay which I had stashed away, I realized that I had thrown my month’s wages into the trash, as I remembered what I had done in preparing my footlocker for inspection. Without hesitation, I walked swiftly to the back of the barracks and climbed into the dumpster. In pursuing the object, I ignored the strange looks and snide comments and inquiries that asked “Johnson, what are you doing? What are you looking for?” I walked over to the area where I recall that I dumped the trash, and I diligently searched for and finally found the box that contained the money that I was looking for.

The Bible urges us to follow after or to pursue wisdom in the same manner that you would seek to find hidden treasures, such as silver or gold. In a similar manner, the object that I was seeking was more valuable to me than the embarrassment or inconvenience that I had to endure in order to obtain it. When I jumped into the dumpster without hesitation, I demonstrated that was I was seeking was valuable enough for me to put forth a serious effort to find. As mature followers of the Lord Jesus Christ, we demonstrate our desire for more of the life-sustaining Word of God, as we pursue “righteousness and unfailing love.” The following poem personalizes our yearning for more of God:

The Proof of Desire

Pursue love, and desire spiritual gifts,

but especially that you may prophesy.

I Corinthians 14:1

 

The proof of desire is pursuit.

Mike Murdock

 

In each new season may our lives abound with fruit,

As we follow after God and seek His favor,

To show that the proof of desire is pursuit.

 

This passion to please is our relentless pursuit,

As we seek to taste His goodness and to savor.

In each new season may our lives abound with fruit.

 

Seasoned trees are strengthened from the leaf to the root,

As we flow with fullness of joy while we I labor,

To show that the proof of desire is pursuit.

 

Though we may seek as silver His wisdom and truth,

This life swiftly passes, fleeting as a vapor.

In each new season may our lives abound with fruit.

 

Having yearned for God’s presence, even as a youth,

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

To show that the proof of desire is pursuit.

 

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

To follow in the steps of Jesus, our Savior.

In each new season may our lives 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”

Responding to “Golden Healing” with “An Exquisite Exhibit”

February 5, 2015

Ephesians 2--10

Recently I encountered the poem “Golden Healing,” on a wonderful blog “Faith Unlocked,” a collection of “Christian Poetry, quotes, and thoughts.” I was so impressed with the poem that I re-blogged it and wrote the following comment:

What an exquisite piece –a work of art crafted to convey the message that everything God does is on purpose. . . as for God, His way is perfect. Your poem brings to mind my favorite verse in the Bible–Romans 8:28:

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

“Golden Healing” also brought to mind Ephesians 2:10, the inspiration for the following blog entry, which I am also re-posting”:

Ephesians 2:10

For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago. (New Living Testament)

This verse brings to mind to an experience that occurred seven years ago when my wife and I visited family and friends in San Francisco and Los Angeles. During our stay in the City by the Bay, we enjoyed a most enlightening experience at the Asian Museum where we saw a special exhibit from the Ming Dynasty. One of the pieces on display was a stationery box which is similar to the one shown below. Although the final product reveals what the designer had in mind, we do not see how the object looked at the various stages of development. So it is with the Church, the Body of Christ, which is made reference to in the Book of Ephesians, especially in Chapters 2 and 3. The Church, as such, is still a work in progress, but I believe that God is putting “the finishing touches on His crowning achievement.” The poem “Exquisite Exhibit” conveys in part my thoughts regarding the Church and my role in this amazing masterpiece of God’s creation.

This ryoshi-bako or stationery box is similar to the one that inspired the poem that draws a parallel with God’s masterpiece, the Church.

This ryoshi-bako or stationery box is similar to the one that inspired the poem that draws a parallel with God’s masterpiece, the Church.

Exquisite Exhibit

Viewing a Ryoshi-bako (stationery box)

Power and Glory: Court Arts of China’s Ming Dynasty

Asian Museum–San Francisco, California

For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew

in Christ Jesus so that we can do the good things

he planned for us long ago.

Ephesians 2:10

God’s purpose was to show his wisdom in all its rich variety

to all the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms.

They will see this when Jews and Gentiles

are joined together in his church.  

Ephesians 3:10

 

Sublime thoughts never diminish, only increase,

As I marvel at this ancient masterpiece.

The designer sees the end long before he starts

And envisions intricate details of the parts

And fashions a wood box inlaid with jade and gold,

Lacquered vessel for deepest thoughts the mind can hold.

Beyond all that I see, God formed and fashioned me

With precise measure of each scroll and filigree.

Displayed by the skillful hands of the Master craftsman,

Beyond the finest design of any artisan,

The Church, exquisite exhibit now on display,

Treasures from the hand of God take one’s breath away.

With the eyes of our heart now opened, we find

We are the masterpiece Jehovah had in mind.

A number of years ago I hosted a radio show “Poetry and Praise,” and I would close each show with this reference to Ephesians 2:10.

Every day of our lives we recognize and celebrate the truth that as born-again believers we are all new creations in Christ, and we praise God that He has given us all things richly to enjoy. Indeed, “. . . we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” The word “workmanship” is translated from the Greek word poiema, which means “masterpiece, a glorious creation, a centerpiece of attention, as the French would say, le piece de resistance, or showpiece.” Of course, the Greek word poiema is transliterated into our English word poem, which in the minds of many people, certainly present company included, is always a “masterpiece” or glorious creation. So that the people of God represent the real poetry of life, for which we praise God. Yes, each of us is a poem, or God’s handiwork or workmanship, a special work created by God that we should be to the praise of His glory….

Listen to “I am a masterpiece” written and performed by Roger Day:

Golden Healing

February 5, 2015

Faith Unlocked

Kintsugi

Crumbled and shattered
Useless and scattered
Passed into Your care
Restored by Your craft

Brokenness becomes beautiful
Gathered now, still dutiful
Gilded cracks renewing
Purposeful once again

Kintsugi (金継ぎ) (Japanese: golden joinery) or Kintsukuroi (金繕い) (Japanese: golden repair) is the Japanese art of fixing broken pottery with lacquer dusted or mixed with powdered gold, silver, or platinum, a method similar to the maki-e technique. As a philosophy it treats breakage and repair as part of the history of an object, rather than something to disguise.

View original post

Old Wisdom

February 5, 2015

I am re-blogging this entry, and I will comment on it in another blog entry.

Faith Unlocked

haiku-prompt-badge-winter-14-15

Written following this week’s Haiku Challenge on RonovanWrites – “New and Old”

Receive old wisdom
As if ’twere revealed anew
Nurture timeless faith

ronovan-writes-serious-haiku

View original post

I love you, Lord; you are my strength.

February 4, 2015

Psalm 18--1

Below is the blog entry for the Verse of the Day posted a year ago; it is modified and re-posted here:

Psalm 18:1-2 (New Living Translation):

[Psalm 18] [For the choir director: A psalm of David, the servant of the Lord. He sang this song to the Lord on the day the Lord rescued him from all his enemies and from Saul. He sang:] I love you, Lord; you are my strength. The Lord is my rock, my fortress, and my savior; my God is my rock, in whom I find protection. He is my shield, the power that saves me, and my place of safety.

In the Verse for the Day for February 4, 2015, we find two references to the strength that comes from God Almighty: “O Lord, my strength” and “my God, my strength.” As I reflected upon this passage, I recall a “crafted prayer” that I composed as I petitioned God that as believers, we might be strengthened in the Lord.

Developed by Graham Cooke, the concept of “crafted prayer” involves using the Scriptures to construct specific, targeted prayers, addressed to God. Such prayers may be expressed individually as well as corporately. In his book Crafted Prayer, Cooke reveals that those who “pray the Bible” or use the Scriptures as the basis for their prayers will experience “the joy of always getting your prayers answered.”

A Crafted Prayer that We Might Be Strengthened in the Lord, Our God

O God, you have been our help in ages past; you have delivered our souls from destruction in days gone by, and we know that you are a very present help in the midst of every one of the trials and tribulations that we face each day, as you continue to deliver those who call upon your name. God of power and might, you are our hope for every tomorrow. As the days of our lives unfold before us, we face the future with confidence, knowing that our times are in your hands and that you shall deliver us out of the hand of the enemy.

God, you are our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. We come to you, the source of all strength and might, thanking you that you have fortified us through Christ Jesus. We know that the Lord saves His anointed; you will answer us from your holy heaven with the saving strength of your right hand. Though our flesh and our hearts may fail, God, our almighty fortress, is the rock and firm strength of our hearts and our portion forever. In the day when we cry out to you, you answer us and strengthen us with strength in our souls.

We declare that the LORD is our light and our salvation; whom or what shall we fear? The LORD is the strength of our lives; of whom or what shall we be afraid? You declare that we should not fear, for you are with us. We should not be dismayed, for you are our God. You will strengthen us; yes, you will help us. Indeed, you will uphold us with the right hand of your righteousness.

We had fainted, unless we had believed to see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living. As we wait on the LORD, we will be of good courage, assured that He shall strengthen our hearts. We are confident that as we wait upon the LORD, we shall renew our strength. We shall mount up with wings as eagles; for you make known that just as you bore Israel upon eagles’ wings and brought them unto yourself, so you will elevate us and raise us above any circumstance that seeks to keep us from being all that you have called us to be. As we wait on you, we know that in due season, we shall run, and not be weary; and we shall walk, and not faint.

As you bless and refresh us and fill us anew with your overflowing goodness and mercy, so we pour into one another, as we encourage ourselves and one another in the Lord, Jesus Christ, who infuses inner strength into us. We minister and pray for one another that we may be mutually strengthened and encouraged and comforted by each other’s faith, as we go from strength to strength, and glory to glory, even from faith to faith. Your desire is that we may be invigorated and strengthened with all power according to the might of your glory, to exercise every kind of endurance and patience, perseverance and forbearance with joy.

We conclude our petitions with this declaration:

That we will be strengthened, perfected, completed, and made to be what we ought to be. We will be encouraged and consoled and comforted and will be of the same agreeable mind one with another. We proclaim that we will live in peace, knowing that the God of love, who is the source of affection, goodwill, love, and benevolence toward men and the author and promoter of peace is with us. We make known that according to the riches of God’s glory, that we are strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man; that Christ dwells in our hearts by faith; that we, being rooted and grounded in love, are able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height and that we know the love of Christ, which passes knowledge, that we are filled with all the fullness of God. Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. All these things we declare to be so through the accomplished work of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior, our soon-coming King, who is the strength our lives. Amen.

The essence of the message of the Verse of the Day is embodied in the song “Praise the Name of Jesus”:

Psalm 59: God is My Defense

February 3, 2015

psalm-59-16-17

The Verse of the Day for February 3, 2015 comes from Psalm 59:16 (New Living Translation):

But as for me, I will sing about your power.

Each morning I will sing with joy about your unfailing love.

For you have been my refuge,

a place of safety when I am in distress.

The closing verse of Psalm 59 reiterates the same message:

17 O my Strength, to you I sing praises,

for you, O God, are my refuge,

the God who shows me unfailing love.

The Psalmist expresses watchful attitude toward God who will come to his rescue in other related verses.

Psalm 5:3

Listen to my voice in the morning, LORD. Each morning I bring my requests to you and wait expectantly.

Psalm 59:9:

You are my strength; I wait for you to rescue me, for you, O God, are my fortress.

Psalm 88:13 |

O LORD, I cry out to you. I will keep on pleading day by day.

Psalm 101:1

I will sing of your love and justice, LORD. I will praise you with songs.

2 Samuel 22:3 summarizes a similar expression of looking to God as a source of safety, a refuge and savior:

My God is my rock, in whom I find protection. He is my shield, the power that saves me, and my place of safety. He is my refuge, my savior, the one who saves me from violence.

Esther Mui offers a musical rendition of selected verses from Psalm 59 as a Christian Scripture Worship song “God is My Defense.”

Psalm 59:1-2, 9-10a, 16-17:

1 Deliver me from my enemies, O my God;
Defend me from those who rise up against me.

2 Deliver me from the workers of iniquity,
And save me from bloodthirsty men.

9 I will wait for You, O You his Strength;
For God is my defense.

10a My God of mercy shall come to meet me;

16 But I will sing of Your power;
Yes, I will sing aloud of Your mercy in the morning;
For You have been my defense
And refuge in the day of my trouble.

17 To You, O my Strength, I will sing praises;
For God is my defense,
My God of mercy.

2015: Open window to more than we’ve ever seen

February 2, 2015

1 Corinthians-2-9

The Verse of the Day for February 2, 2015 is taken from 1 Corinthians 2:9 (New Living Translation):

That is what the Scriptures mean when they say, “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him.”

To complete the context of the passage, we must also at the preceding verses which further clarify the promise that God is unfolding.

But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory:

Which none of the princes of this world knew: for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.

But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.

10 But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God.

As the New Year continues to unfold, we are mindful that according to Jewish tradition, a particular character or letter of the Hebrew alphabet is designated to represent each year. For 2015, the year of 5775 in the Jewish calendar, “Hey,” the fifth letter of the Hebrew alphabet, is said to represent “a window.” The picture often shows a man with hands lifted with the idea of revealing or beholding sometime great.  In light of this I have adapted following line as my personal theme which serves as the introduction to this poetic description composed earlier this year:

In 2015 we will know

“An open window to more than we have ever seen in 2015”

 

In 2015, we will know God’s sure mercy and pure grace,

As we abide in His presence, ever seeking His face,

We come to know God’s peace to an even higher degree

When God displays his favor and His everlasting glory,

We will come to know fullness of joy in the most holy place.

 

We will know abundance, not lack, not even the slightest trace.

We will savor sweetest of victories as we finish our race

And soar into eternity beyond time and mind and space,

Where we will behold what all creation has yearned to see.

In 2015 we will know.

 

God opens windows of heaven, pouring blessings to replace

Pain with praise, beauty for ashes, as joy floods each empty space.

As we finish, we did not fall behind but have kept the pace.

We will look back and acknowledge God’s divine Sovereignty,

Displayed as a tapestry woven into eternity.

The comfort and full assurance of the Father’s warm embrace

In 2015 we will know.

The phrase “windows of heaven” represent a source from which God pours forth abundance and overflow. Genesis 7 gives the account of Noah and the ark when the heavens opened, and it rained for forty days and nights. In Malachi 3:10 we find another reference to the “windows of heaven” which God promises to open and pour out blessings beyond measure.

On the Day of Pentecost, Peter referred to Joel, who prophesied that in the last days, the period of time in which we currently live, that God promised that He would pour out of His spirit on all flesh. When God opens the windows of heaven and pours out blessings, such an outpouring will be far greater than the first time God poured out in Genesis.

2015 represents the year of the window, from which we anticipate will flow the boundless blessings of Lord for His people.

Bill and Gloria Gaither reinforce the message that the windows of heaven are open.

As He is one: We are one

February 1, 2015

deuteronomy-6-4-5

The Verse of the Day for February 1, 2015 is found in Deuteronomy 6:4-5 (New Living Translation):

“Listen, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord alone. And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength.

This passage is part of the Shema, a daily prayer that is spoken the Jewish tradition. The Hebrew word Shema, which means “hear,” begins this most important request in verse 4. The entire prayer includes verses 4-9. In the New Living Translation, the word shema is translated “Listen”:

“Listen, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord alone.And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength. And you must commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these commands that I am giving you today. Repeat them again and again to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up. Tie them to your hands and wear them on your forehead as reminders. Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates

The Verse of the Day brings to mind a related verse that speaks of unity in the New Testament. In 1971, I remember being asked to produce a writing sample at the beginning of my first year in a ministry leadership training program, 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, 44 years ago, I have come to appreciate the same verse in the Amplified Bible that renders a more precise definition of the word “judgment.”

1 Corinthians 1:10:

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. I think of the lines from a song that was especially meaningful to me when I really experienced the love of Christ for myself and came to know Him intimately and personally as my savior: “We are one in the Spirit.” Here are the lyrics:

We are one in the Spirit
We are one in the Lord
We are one in the Spirit
We are one in the Lord

And we pray that all unity
May one day be restored
And they’ll know we are Christians
By our love, By our love
Yes, they’ll know we are Christians
By our love

We will walk with each other
We will walk hand in hand
We will walk with each other
We will walk hand in hand
And together we’ll spread the news
That God is in our land

We will work with each other
We will work side by side
We will work with each other
We will work side by side
And we’ll guard each man’s dignity
And save each man’s pride

All praise to the Father
From whom all things come
And all praise to Christ Jesus His only son
And all praise to the Spirit
Who makes us one

Jars of Clay provide a musical reminder that, indeed, “We are one in the Spirit.”