Archive for March, 2015

Mediator of unity

March 28, 2015

1 Timothy-2 5-6

In this present season, as we approach the celebration of Jesus Christ’s resurrection, we focus on Jesus Christ and his ultimate purpose to reconcile and bring humanity back to unity with God. Originally posted last year, the Verse of the Day for March 28, 2015 is an expression of that unity:

For, There is one God and one Mediator who can reconcile God and humanity—the man Christ Jesus. He gave his life to purchase freedom for everyone. This is the message God gave to the world at just the right time.

1 Thessalonians 5:18 in the Amplified Bible also speaks of Jesus Christ as a mediator:

18 Thank [God] in everything [no matter what the circumstances may be, be thankful and give thanks], for this is the will of God for you [who are] in Christ Jesus [the Revealer and Mediator of that will].

For 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. 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 may become 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:

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God is my defense

March 27, 2015

The Verse of the Day for March 27, 2015 provides a comforting reminder of who God is and what He provides:

Psalm 62:7 (New Living Translation)

My victory and honor come from God alone. He is my refuge, a rock where no enemy can reach me.

Throughout the Psalms we find similar exhortations. Take a look at these verses:

Psalm 59:1-2, 9-10, 16-17 (NLT):

1Rescue me from my enemies, O God.
Protect me from those who have come to destroy me.
Rescue me from these criminals;
save me from these murderers.
You are my strength; I wait for you to rescue me,
for you, O God, are my fortress.
10 In his unfailing love, my God will stand with me.
He will let me look down in triumph on all my enemies.

16 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.
17 O my Strength, to you I sing praises,
for you, O God, are my refuge,
the God who shows me unfailing love.

Psalm 18:1-2 NLT is also noteworthy:

[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.

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.

Here is a personal poetic expression, an excerpt from a psalm entitled “A Prayer to Know the Fullness of Your Grace”:

Protect Me

As a child runs to safety in his father’s arms,

So I, too, run to you, “my shelter from life’s storms.”

Lord, I long to dwell with you in the secret place,

My buckler, my shield, deliverer, my fortress,

Strong tower, defender, who responds to my prayer.

For Lord, you are faithful, who will establish me

And protect me and deliver me from evil.

We close this entry with Esther Mui offering a musical rendition of selected verses from Psalm 59 as a Christian Scripture Worship song “God is My Defense.”

Sharing fully the sufferings and the glory

March 26, 2015

Philippians-1-29

Revised and re-posted, the Verse of the Day for March 26, 2015 comes from Philippians 1:29 (NIV):

For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe in him, but also to suffer for him.

The verse is rendered this way in the Amplified Bible:

29 For you have been granted [the privilege] for Christ’s sake not only to believe in (adhere to, rely on, and trust in) Him, but also to suffer in His behalf.

This particular verse also brings to mind Philippians 3:10-11 (Amplified Bible):

10 [For my determined purpose is] that I may know Him [that I may progressively become more deeply and intimately acquainted with Him, perceiving and recognizing and understanding the wonders of His Person more strongly and more clearly], and that I may in that same way come to know the power outflowing from His resurrection [which it exerts over believers], and that I may so share His sufferings as to be continually transformed [in spirit into His likeness even] to His death, [in the hope]

11 That if possible I may attain to the [spiritual and moral] resurrection [that lifts me] out from among the dead [even while in the body].

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 Concordance and Lexicon 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, a sharing fully, 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 Patti, Larnelle Harris, and Steve Green:

If we confess, He is faithful

March 25, 2015

1 John-1 8-10

Originally posted a year ago, the following blog entry has been modified and re-posted:

The Verse of the Day for March 25, 2015 is taken from 1 John 1:9 (NIV):

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

The context for 1 John chapter 1 is fellowship with God and with fellow believers. The term “fellowship” is translated from the Greek word, koinonia, whose root is derived from koinos (common). Such fellowship is said to be a place of having all things (in) common, a commonality or community (common unity). Note how the concept is used in verses three through ten:

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.

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

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.

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

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.

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

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.”

We close this entry with Morgan Cryar offering a musical rendering of 1 John 1:9 in “What Sin?”

Beyond the crowns: To hear well done

March 23, 2015

James-1 12

Revised and re-posted, the following blog entry examines James 1:12 (NIV):

Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.

The Verse of the Day for March 23, 2015 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, 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 in 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 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 go on to 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, welld

And savor the goodness of God for all eternity.

Here is a musical selection referring to the parable of the talents where we hear words that mean more than any crown:

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

Be strong: Put on the full armor

March 22, 2015

Ephesians-6 10-11

The Verse of the Day for March 22, 2015 is found in the closing exhortation of Ephesians 6:10-11 (NIV):

[The Armor of God] Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.

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.” 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 or full armor 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 6:10-20 is shared in a most inspiring video produced by David Wesley:

We end our comments with the classic reminder from Don Moen to “Be strong and courageous”

Like a tree: Jeremiah 17:7-8 and Psalm 1

March 21, 2015

Jeremiah-17 7-8Originally posted a year ago, the following blog entry is modified and re-posted below:

Blessed is the man that trusteth in the Lord, and whose hope the Lord is. For he shall be as a tree planted by the waters, and that spreadeth out her roots by the river, and shall not see when heat cometh, but her leaf shall be green; and shall not be careful in the year of drought, neither shall cease from yielding fruit. Jeremiah 17:7-8 KJV

The Verse of the Day for March 21, 2015 also 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 absolute power of “The First Word,” and his remarks later 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 inflamed 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:

Tasting the goodness of God

March 20, 2015
Thwe Verse of the Day makes reference to the "milk of the Word" which believers should desire.

The Verse of the Day makes reference to the “milk of the Word” which believers should desire, as new born babes.

The Verse of the Day for March 20,  2015 comes from 1 Peter 2:2-3 (NIV)

Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good.

The last phrase of the verse brings to mind that the essence of God is goodness. He is the embodiment of all that is good. The following blog entry which has been revised and re-posted takes a good look at the “goodness of the Lord.”

Psalm 33:4-5(KJV) makes this declaration:

For the word of the Lord is right; and all his works are done in truth.

He loveth righteousness and judgment: the earth is full of the goodness of the Lord.

Without question, the goodness of God surrounds us and sustains us every day. It is the goodness of God that leads us to repentance. God’s goodness toward us is expressed in Jesus Christ, who acknowledged that there is no one good except the Father. The very essence of God is goodness which this song makes known:

The Goodness of the Father

For the goodness of the Father leads us to repentance,

From his goodness flows his favor,

O, taste and see that the Lord is good.

He has promised goodness to his servants,

He has clothed us with salvation.

Let us rejoice in goodness, and declare that only the Lord, our God, is good.

O how good, He’s so good, beyond compare,

Exquisite and rare, He’s so good.

O how good, He’s so good,

Come join with me: O, taste and see that the Lord is good.

As I completed the poem I also recalled the lyrics to an original song that I composed when I coordinated a summer children’s summer program ten years ago and used music as a means of memorizing scripture. In this case, Psalm 34:8:

O taste and see that the Lord is good: blessed is the man that trusteth in him. Here is the song:

Oh, Taste and See

Chorus:

Oh, taste and see, see that the Lord is good, so good.

Blessed is the man that puts his trust in Him.

Verse 1

Partake of the Word of God,

Taste and see that it is good.

It will fill you up

More than any kind of food.

(Chorus)

Verse 2

Partake of the Word of God,

Let it richly dwell within.

It will help you grow.

It’s better than a vitamin.

(Chorus)

Verse 3

Partake of the Word of God,

Read the Word and put God first.

It will feed your soul

And satisfy your thirst.

(Chorus)

Oh, taste and see, see that the Lord is good, so good.

Blessed is the man that puts his trust in Him.

As Christian believers, we give thanks to God for His grace and goodness. With our lips we give praise and bless the Lord and sing of His goodness. One of the most quoted passages from the Old Testament is Psalm 23, one of my favorites that I committed to memory years ago, mentions the goodness of the Lord in the last verse:

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.

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.

Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth 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.

The last verse reminds us that goodness, like a rear guard, a powerful “back-up,” follows us throughout our lives. Israel Houghton shares this lively musical reminder of this life-sustaining truth:

Let us pray: Gracious God, our Father. We praise you and acknowledge that the Lord is good and that His mercy endures forever. We have tasted of God’s goodness, and we know that goodness of God draws us unto repentance, and that goodness and mercy shall follow us all the days of our lives. Even now, we are walking in confidence that you are with us and that your grace and mercy go before us, as we endeavor to walk in the steps of the Lord Jesus Christ, who leads us into victory. In the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

Fruit of the spirit abound in the garden of His presence

March 19, 2015

The Verse of the Day for March 19, 2015 is a familiar passage related to “the fruit of the spirit.”

Galatians 5:22-23 (NIV)

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.

More than 10 years ago I composed a scripture memory song based on the King James Version of the familiar passage where the first three fruit were sung slowly and softly, almost in a whisper. The first syllable of “longsuffering” was sung strongly for several seconds to emphasize the meaning of the term. The remaining fruit were sung in succession with the final phrase being repeated.

Galatians 5:23-24 (KJV);

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace,

longsuffering, gentleness, goodness,

faith, meekness, temperance:

Against such there is no law.

Against such there is no law.

The poem following poem  makes reference to the fruit of the spirit which should abound in the lives of believers who cultivate those attributes which reveal a fruitful, bountiful life:

In the Garden of His Presence

For we are fellow workmen (joint promoters,

laborers together) with and for God;

you are God’s garden and vineyard

and field under cultivation,

[you are] God’s building.

1 Corinthians 3:9 Amplified Bible


In the garden of His presence, all grace abounds,

As love overflows from a fountain and resounds

With joy to quench the thirst wherever there is need.

Peace flourishes all around, sown from righteous seed.

Gentleness embraces the ears with no harsh sounds.

Overwhelming goodness of the Father astounds

The heart, as patience and temperance exceed all bounds.

From this ample harvest every soul God shall feed

In the garden of His presence.

As a fragrant flowering hedge, meekness surrounds

And thrives all seasons, as the gardener makes his rounds.

Though faithfulness is abundant, we still give heed

In following wherever the Spirit may lead,

As we stroll through bountiful vineyards of the grounds

In the garden of His presence.

As we walk in the presence of the Lord today, may the fruit of the spirit abound in our lives.

……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

My hope is built: The bedrock of our lives

March 18, 2015

The Verse of the Day for March 18, 2015 comes from Romans 15:13 (NIV):

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

As part of the magnificent benediction appearing at the end of the Book of Romans, this particular verse draws our attention to the concept of hope which should be the bedrock of our lives as Christians:

The following blog entry which takes a closer look hope has been revised and modified and is re-posted below:

The times in which we are living can be so oppressive and troubling. As the Scriptures reveal, “perilous times” or “times difficult to deal with” shall come. Indeed, these dark and difficult days are here. As we confront the darkness and overwhelming despair, we must position ourselves to move in the opposite spirit or go in the opposite direction. To counter the toxic effects of the deadly element of despair, we must take a double dose of our antidote which is hope. An important scripture touching upon this topic is found in 1 Peter 3: 15 (NIV) which reminds us:

But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.

I Peter 1:3 speaks of “a lively hope” which is rendered “a living hope” in other translations, while the New Living Translation states that because of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, “Now we live with great expectation.” Indeed, “the expectation of a future good” is one definition of hope. As Christian believers we go to the Word of God where we discover what God says about hope.

The Psalmist offers this marvelous reminder:

Psalm 71:5

Hope counteracts thoughts of despondency, when we recognize that hope is a joyful and confident expectation. Though we are confronted with challenges on every hand, even in the face of death itself, we still have hope:

2 Corinthians 1:9-10

Yes, we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves but in God who raises the dead, who delivered us from so great a death, and does deliver us; in whom we trust that He will still deliver us,

Jesus Christ is described as our “blessed hope,” and because of Jesus Christ’s victory over sin, sickness and even death itself, we have hope that lives eternally.

As a child I have fond memories of singing in the Junior Choir, where I recall “leading” my first song at the age of eight or nine. Actually I did not “sing,” but I narrated the verses while the choir sang the lyrics to “On Christ, the Solid Rock,” a “vintage hymn,” which resounds with “hope.” The Maranatha Singers offer a moving rendition of the timeless hymn that has come to mean even more to me over the years.

In the midst of difficult situations, we reflect upon the goodness of God who has been faithful in past instances, and the Word of God assures us of His steadfast love, as we rejoice in hope, so expressed in this poem:

Rejoice in Hope

Rejoice in our confident hope. Be patient in trouble,

and keep on praying.

Romans 12:12 (NLT)

 

And now we truly know God is able to do

Exceedingly and abundantly above all

That our finite minds can ask or could even think.

He uplifts and strengthens us each time that we fall.

Our paths lead to disaster, to the very brink.

Despite delays and setbacks, His Word is still true:

God is faithful to His promise; He will come through.

When life begins to unravel, we may ask why

The fulfillment of His will seems to be delayed.

All those who call on Him, He will never deny.

We are assured He will reward all who have obeyed.

Our faithful God is not a man that He should lie.

Through every trial, we are covered by the Blood,

We rejoice in hope, knowing that the Lord is good.

To close out this blog entry here is a contemporary Christian song expressing great hope, “There Will be a Day” performed by Jeremy Camp.