Archive for December, 2015

All things new

December 31, 2015

Isaiah 43--19

As we close out 2015 and prepare to enter 2015, the Verse of the Day for December 31, 2015 comes from Isaiah 43:16, 18-19 (NLT):

I am the Lord, who opened a way through the waters, making a dry path through the sea. “But forget all that— it is nothing compared to what I am going to do. For I am about to do something new. See, I have already begun! Do you not see it? I will make a pathway through the wilderness. I will create rivers in the dry wasteland.

Isaiah 42:9 makes known the same truth:

Behold, the former things are come to pass, and new things do I declare: before they spring forth I tell you of them.

Isaiah 48:6 also reminds us that God is continually revealing “new things”:

Thou hast heard, see all this; and will not ye declare it? I have showed thee new things from this time, even hidden things, and thou didst not know them.

“To do a thing” means “to work, to do, to make, to fashion, to improvise, to create, to produce.” In discussing the word “new” we find that the Hebrew hadas is translated “new” in the sense of being fresh, recent—in contrast to the old or former. In the New Testament the Greek term kainos translated “new,” relates to that which is “unaccustomed or unused, not “new” in terms of time, or recent but “new” as to the form or quality (sometimes translated “fresh”); e.g. “new tongues” or “new covenant,” “new commandment,” “new creative act—new creation,” or “new man.” To do a new thing is “to redeem, restore, reaffirm, revive, literally, to make new again . . . renew commitment, renew vows,” etc.

Note this expression in 1 Samuel 11:14 (NIV):

Then Samuel said to the people, “Come, let us go to Gilgal and there reaffirm the kingship.”

In Romans 12:1-3 Paul discusses the concept of “the renewing of your mind,” the ongoing process of transformation that takes place in every believer.

Each New Year, thus, represents a new beginning, but this concept is especially noteworthy as we enter 2016. In reflecting upon the concept of “new beginnings,” I thought of the number 8, symbolic of such a “fresh start.” E.W. Bullinger, in his celebrated work, Numbers in Scripture, and in an Appendix to his Companion Bible, makes the following statement regarding this number:

Eight—Denotes resurrection or new beginning or regeneration or commencement. The eighth is a new first. It is the number that has to do with the Lord, who rose on the eighth day or new first day. By the Gematria, Jesus is 888. It or its multiple is seen in all that has to do with the Lord’s names, the Lord’s people, the Lord’s work. In Hebrew the number eight is Sh’moneh, from the root Shah’meyn, “to make fat,” “cover with fat,” “to super-abound.” As a participle it means “one who abounds in strength,” etc. As a noun it is “superabundant fertility,” “oil,” etc. So that as a numeral it is the superabundant number. As seven was so called because the seventh day was the day of completion and rest, so eight, as the eighth day, was over and above this perfect completion, and was indeed the first of a new series, as well as being the eighth. Thus it already represents two numbers in one, the first and eighth.

With the number 16, we note a new beginning which is doubled or established. The new number also follows 15 which is composed of multiples of five, the number of grace, which represents a triple expression of “grace upon grace upon grace.” This year represents another new cycle of a new beginning (8 x 2).

Each New Year represents a new beginning, as God reminds us once again that He makes

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.

Steven Curtis Chapman reinforces the message “You Make All Things New”:

Peace of God

December 30, 2015

John_16-33

The Verse of the Day for December 30, 2015, the last Wednesday of the year, brings to our attention words from Jesus Christ found in John 16:33 (NLT):

I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.”

In John 14:27 (NLT) the Lord makes another reference to peace:

“I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.

These words of peace come from the Prince of Peace, the source of everlasting peace. Aside from the peace that Christ gives, there is no real peace. I recall the words printed on a bumper sticker that reinforce this reality:

Know Christ, know Peace
No Christ, no Peace

The scriptures from John also bring to mind Isaiah 26:3 (NLT):

You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you!

The verse is rendered this way in the Amplified Bible:

You will guard him and keep him in perfect and constant peace whose mind [both its inclination and its character] is stayed on You, because he commits himself to You, leans on You, and hopes confidently in You.

Bible scholar, E.W. Bullinger, notes that the figure of speech “epizeuxis” is used in Isaiah 26:3. To emphasize the concept of peace, the phrase “perfect peace” indicates this figure of repetition where the word for peace is repeated in the Hebrew text, literally “peace, peace.” God provides a “double portion of peace” to those who trust in Him. A similar expression is used elsewhere in Isaiah

Isaiah 27: 5 (NLT):

unless they turn to me for help.
Let them make peace with me;
yes, let them make peace with me.”

Isaiah 57:19 (NKJV)

“I create the fruit of the lips:
Peace, peace to him who is far off and to him who is near,”
Says the LORD,
“And I will heal him.”

Finally Colossians 3:15 provides this reminder:

15 And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts. For as members of one body you are called to live in peace. And always be thankful.

The Verse of the Day along with other scriptures related to the peace of God reinforce the comforting and reassuring message expressed in Isaiah 26:3 which promises that God will keep us in a state of perfect peace as we trust him. Hillsong express our deepest yearning to “Let the Peace of God Reign”:

Voice of the bridegroom

December 29, 2015

The familiar passage from John 14 brought to mind thoughts about heavenly mansions.

Taken from John 14:1-3 in the New Living Translation, the Verse of the Day for December 29, 2015 is a familiar passage that expresses great comfort:

[Jesus, the Way to the Father] “Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me. There is more than enough room in my Father’s home. If this were not so, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am.

Recently this well-known passage from the King James Version was recited at a funeral or “home-going” service for a dear friend and fellow believer.

In discussing these verses, Bishop KC Pillai, converted Hindu and prominent Bible teacher whose areas of expertise are Eastern customs and manners known as Orientalisms, points out that this particular passage is more appropriate for a wedding than for a funeral. The words that Jesus speaks to his disciples are actually spoken by the bridegroom when he departs to literally prepare an apartment or dwelling place for his bride, according to the customary wedding ceremony during Biblical times. Pillai goes on to explain in more detail:

In New Testament Bible days a wedding ceremony lasted ten days. On the tenth day the bride and groom are declared husband and wife. For the first 12 months of their wedded life the two young people just learn to understand and live with each other. (Not a bad idea.) They live two months with the groom’s parents, then two months with the bride’s parents. They commute back and forth between the in-laws every two months, concluding their first year of married life in the home of the bride’s parent’s.

At the conclusion of this first year of marriage there is a unique religious service, with all the people of the town present. The husband brings forth his wife, appearing before all the village people. He stands his wife in front of him, facing himself, with the best man on his right side and the virgins that attended the wedding on his left hand, and with loving authority the husband says to his wife before them all, “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. And whither I go ye know, and the way ye know.”

In thinking about those “many mansions” that God has prepared for us, I recall the lyrics to a gospel song referring our dwelling place as “a building not made with man’s hands.” Those lyrics were the inspiration for this poem that includes a reference to the opening verses John 14:

Not Made by Man’s Hands

Lord, keep my day by day,
in a pure and perfect way.
I want to live, I want to live on
in a building not made by hand.

Traditional gospel song

I recall the poignant words of the Lord Jesus Christ,
Words of the Bridegroom to reassure his Beloved:
“I go to prepare a place for you, that where I am
There you may be also, and if I go and prepare
A place for you, I will come again and receive you
Unto myself that where I am, you may be also.”
Though my dwelling place is furnished just to my tastes,
Will I need an office where I can compose my thoughts?
Is there a kitchen for me to prepare meals that bless?
Or will Christ make his servants sit down and enjoy
Sumptuous feasts prepared to satisfy the appetites
Of those who hunger and thirst for more than food or drink?
I know I will enjoy my custom-crafted mansion,
Exquisite design from God’s mind, not made by man’s hands.

Listen to the Scripture song based on John 14:2, 3: In My Father’s House are Many Mansions:

Close the old, enter the new with a different approach

December 28, 2015

2 Corinthians-5--17

At various times when I am part of a large congregation where the Word of God is being proclaimed, I will zero-in on the minister or teacher so intently that I in my mind I block out those around me and focus on the message, as if I am in a one-on-one teaching situation. Such was the case this past Sunday, the last Sunday of 2015, as my wife and I visited our older daughter and her husband who are members of Grace Covenant Church in Chantilly, Virginia. Pastor Brent Fuller offered a remarkable message based on 2 Corinthians 5:14-17, as he shared words of inspiration to end the current and jumpstart the New Year with a “Different Approach,” the title of his teaching. As I reviewed my notes and upon further reflection, I was inspired to complete the following:

A Different Approach

2 Corinthians 5:14-17

Because of Christ’s undying love, I choose to love
Based on the love of God, not on what I can see.
Though blindsided by sin with a distorted view,
Through the lens of God’s love I now have a new creation reality.
I longer know Christ or anyone from a human viewpoint
And refuse to imprison others because of their last offense.
God in Christ forgave me each time I would fail or disappoint.
Each day provides one more fresh start, another day to commence:
The old life is gone; a new life has begun that causes me
To take a different approach: To love, see, and know differently.

The final verse of the passage from 2 Corinthians 5 speaks of the individual who abides in fellowship in Christ and becomes a new creation. In the New Testament, “new” is translated from kainos, meaning that which is “unaccustomed or unused, not ‘new’ in terms of time, or recent but ‘new’ as to form or quality (sometimes translated “fresh”) The word is used to describe “a new creative act—new creation, a new man in II Corinthians 5:17 which is more clearly expressed in the Amplified Bible:

Therefore if any person is [ingrafted] in Christ (the Messiah) he is a new creation (a new creature altogether); the old [previous moral and spiritual condition] has passed away. Behold, the fresh and new has come!

Steven Curtis Chapman reinforces the message of 2 Corinthians 5:17 with the song “All Things New.”

Forget not but remember

December 27, 2015

Psalm_103-1

From Psalm 103:1-2 in the New Living Testament comes the Verse of the Day for December 27, 2015:

[Psalm 103] [A psalm of David.] Let all that I am praise the Lord; with my whole heart, I will praise his holy name. Let all that I am praise the Lord; may I never forget the good things he does for me.

An expanded translation of these two verses is found in the Amplified Bible:

Psalm 103:1-2

1BLESS (AFFECTIONATELY, gratefully praise) the Lord, O my soul; and all that is [deepest] within me, bless His holy name!

2Bless (affectionately, gratefully praise) the Lord, O my soul, and forget not [one of] all His benefits—

The words of the Psalmist encourage believers not to forget the blessings and benefits that God has bestowed upon us. Unfortunately, it is so easy to forget God’s blessings and to take His generosity for granted. This seems to be especially the case after occasions where the blessings of the Lord are so clearly evident, such as those times when we are basking the overflow of God’s bountiful goodness following a great celebration, such as this past Christmas. One way that we can never forget is to always remember: to consciously recall and write down the blessings that we enjoy. The exhortation from Psalm 103, one of my favorite Psalms, brings to mind this song:

I Will Remember

I will remember. I will remember
I will remember your love in times of joy, in times of sorrow.
I will remember, always remember, each triumphant victory we have won
In the love you displayed in Your Son.
I will remember, always remember
I will remember. I will remember.
I will remember the fire that first warmed my heart.
I will remember. I will remember.
I will remember the desire to love and to serve only You.

I will remember, always remember.
I will never forget Your Word.
I will remember, always remember.
I will never forget You are my Lord.
I will remember, always remember.
I will remember. I will remember.
I will remember, always remember.
I will never forget Your Word.

As we come to the close of another year and prepare our hearts for the blessings and the challenges that God has in store in the coming year, let us not forget all His benefits but remember just how good God has been.

Listen to a musical rendering of Psalm 103 from the King James Version:

With a grateful heart

December 26, 2015

1 Thessalonians-5 18 New

This morning, the day after Christmas, I varied my usual routine and instead of reflecting on the Verse of the Day, I turned my thoughts toward expressing my gratitude to God for what was a glorious Christmas Day celebrated with one of my daughters and her husband in their new home outside of Washington, DC. As the morning unfolded, I was overwhelmed with gratitude to God as I listened to a recording of soothing piano music, a compilation of original music entitled “Peace” by Bryan Popin. The overflow of my time of worship was the following:

With a Grateful Heart

Give thanks with a grateful heart
Give thanks to the Holy One
Give thanks because He’s given Jesus Christ, His Son
Don Moen

I reflect with deep gratitude for the best Christmas ever,
And seek a new way to say thank you, something truly clever
To convey just how grateful I am for all that You have done,
But finding the right words said in just the right way can never
Satisfy this vast longing to respond as a faithful son:
You have supplied richly my heart’s desires and met each need,
Yet words are not enough; some concepts defy definition:
I must show You in thought, in word, and deed.
Show and tell, no child’s play but my mission.
Please read between the lines of songs of praise;
These humble attempts reflect so much more,
As I seek to walk in wisdom and to number all my days.
I surrender and linger in Your presence, yielded and still
With a grateful heart, abiding in the center of Your will.

The introductory lyrics come from the classic Don Moen song of worship from which the title is also taken.

For unto us is born

December 25, 2015

Isaiah-9-6

On Christmas Day, the Verse of the Day for December 25, 2015 comes from Isaiah 9:6 in the Amplified Bible:

For to us a Child shall be born, to us a Son shall be given;
And the government shall be upon His shoulder,
And His name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

In a discussion of the name that is given to the Messiah in this passage from Isaiah, the blog The Son of Jehovah, pointed out that the verse translated by the Jewish Publication Society of the Hebrew Bible refers to “a singular name that the promised Messiah was be called by rather than a series of titles.”

The verse is rendered this way:

For a child is born unto us, a son is given unto us; and the government is upon his shoulder; and his name is called Pele-joez- el-gibbor-Abi-ad-sar-shalom;

Often a “name” such as this is given to a human or something describing attributes of God/Yahweh, The site elaborates:

The name in Isaiah 9:6 should also be understood similarly, since it is directly stated in the singular as a name, not plural, as “names.” Therefore, it is more correctly to be understood as describing Yahweh, not the Messiah who comes in the name of Yahweh. (Deuteronomy 18:15-19) Some editions of the JPS give this name the following meaning: “Wonderful in counsel is God the Mighty, the everlasting Father, the Ruler of peace.

George Friedrich Handel’s “Messiah,” the renowned, sacred 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. Isaiah 9:6, “For unto Us a Child born,” is set to music in this celebrated work. Listen as Sir Colin Davis conducts the London Symphony Orchestra and the Tenebrae Chorus in this popular excerpt.

Instruments of peace on earth

December 23, 2015

Luke 2--14In the continuing account of the birth of Jesus Christ from Luke 2:11-14 (AMP), we find the Verse of the Day for December 23, 2015:

For this day in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord (the Messiah). And this will be a sign for you [by which you will recognize Him]: you will find a Baby wrapped in [swaddling] cloths and lying in a manger.” Then suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host (angelic army) praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest [heaven], And on earth peace among men with whom He is well-pleased.”

In the closing declaration of the passage the heavenly host offer this resounding benediction:

“Glory to God in the highest [heaven], And on earth peace among men with whom He is well-pleased.”

This expression brings to mind a recent blog entry entitled “Let the peace of God rule: Hold your peace,” which spoke of the peace of God. The following excerpt comments on this concept of ever-increasing importance:

Beyond the generally accepted definition of peace as “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,” the Bible speaks of peace as a state of untroubled, undisturbed well-being. It is an inner reality . . . the peace of God indicates being free from anxiety and care; it is not dependent upon outside conditions.

In the midst of a world ravaged in war and rumors of war, there is a notable absence of peace. The entire world is still seeking to find “peace in our times.” Despite the desperate cry for peace, peace, there is no peace. Events subsequent to September 11, 2001 have catapulted the world into a state of anxiety and fearfulness. As Americans, we are aware of the absence of peace, as the United States and other nations are engaged in the war on terrorism which continues to consume the thoughts of citizens across the globe.

Our war-torn times bring to mind the words of the Psalmist, who encourages us:

Psalm 34:14

Turn away from evil and do good; Seek peace and pursue it.

Once more we are reminded that the God of peace desires that the world may experience the peace of God that He has given through His son, the Prince of Peace The passage from Luke 2 brings to mind the following poem inspired in part by a line from Dante Alighieri, noted Italian poet: E’n la sua volontade e nostra pace, which is translated: “In his will is our peace.”:

Peace

E’n la sua volontade e nostra pace.
Dante

Lord, make us instruments of your peace, this we pray:
That from our lives may stream heavenly melodies.
As consummate virtuoso compose and play
Upon our souls, inspire glorious harmonies.
In such measured moments of sweetest quietude
Arrange serenades of praise. Let grace notes resound,
As our lives crescendo 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 us, align
Our desires and your pleasure. Here we abide,
Saxophone and soloist, communing by design.
Knowing our purpose, we remain quiet and still,
Composed in perfect peace, the center of His will.

“Lord, Make Us Instruments of Your Peace” expresses this deepest yearning of our hearts for peace.

We close our entry on peace with another song from South Africa, as Lionel Peterson offers “Peace”:

Good news of great joy for all people

December 22, 2015

Luke 2--10

The Verse of the Day for December 22, 2015 proclaims that “good news of great joy for all people” was first given to lowly shepherds, as revealed in Luke 2:8-11 in the Amplified Bible:

In the same region there were shepherds staying out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord flashed and shone around them, and they were terribly frightened. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people. For this day in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord (the Messiah).

Verse 10 indicates that the angel brought “good news” to the shepherds and ultimately to the entire world. The day that the Savior was born was, indeed, “A Good News Day,” poetically expressed in this way:

Good News Day

This is the day the LORD has made;
we will rejoice and be glad in it.
Psalm 118:24

It’s a good new day
no blues day
new shoes
no way to lose
What a good new day

It’s a great day
I can’t wait day
lift your voice
let’s rejoice
Good God, a good news day

It’s a payday
goin my way day
no nay–all yea
what you say
Such a good news day

It’s a live it up day
overflowin cup day
It’s a bright and bubbly
doubly lovely
Show-nuff good news day

As we celebrate the birth of the Savior, who is Christ the Lord (the Messiah) and as 2015 concludes while 2016 begins to unfold, may every day be a “Good News Day.”

Listen to “Good News, Great Joy,” Christmas worship song by Attila Juhas:

Wrapped in swaddling clothes–another glimpse

December 21, 2015

Luke 2--6-7As we continue in the season celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ, the Savior, we note that a more complete unfolding of the narrative is found in Luke 2:1-7 in the Amplified Bible, which was the focal point of yesterday’s Verse of the Day. Since the Verse of the Day for December 21, 2015 is taken from Luke 2:6-7, the previous entry is re-posted here:

6 While they were there [in Bethlehem], the time came for her to give birth, 7 and she gave birth to her Son, her firstborn; and she wrapped Him in [swaddling] cloths and laid Him in a manger, because there was no [private] room for them in the inn.

This concluding passage contains a reference to an ancient custom associated with birth, that is, Mary wrapped the child in “swaddling cloths” or as the King James Version renders “swaddling clothes” or “swaddling strips” in the New Living Translation. The practice was for a child, particularly a child of royal lineage, to be salted and swaddled. Shortly after birth, the child would be washed with water into which a pinch of salt had been added, symbolizing a covenant of salt, whereby the words spoken by the child would be words of truth, always seasoned with salt. The child would then be wrapped in swaddling bands or swaddling clothes, strips of fine linen to represent that the child would grow up to walk straight and tall.

Bishop KC Pillai, a converted Hindu who embraced Christianity, wrote extensively on Eastern customs and manners, known as Orientalisms, as revealed in the Bible. He point outs some of the distinctive features of the custom of swaddling and notes that when Israel strayed from the precepts of God and walked in idolatry, their abominable practices were described in this way in Ezekiel 16:1-4, indicating how far they had strayed from the precepts of Jehovah:

Ezekiel 16:1-4 (KJV):

Again the word of the LORD came unto me, saying,
2 Son of man, cause Jerusalem to know her abominations,
3 And say, thus saith the Lord GOD unto Jerusalem; Thy birth and thy nativity is of the land of Canaan; thy father was an Amorite, and thy mother a Hittite.
4 And as for thy nativity, in the day thou wast born thy navel was not cut, neither wast thou washed in water to supple thee; thou wast not salted at all, nor swaddled at all.

Swaddling continued to be practiced beyond Biblical times, as a recent blog entry from needleprint.blogspot.com, commented on the elaborately embroidered bands made for young prince Federigo, Duke of Urbino, notable 15th Century figure from the Italian Renaissance, pictured here:

swaddling clothesIn addition, when the angels announced to the shepherds that the Savior had been born, they were given a sign that established the truth of their words:

And this will be a sign for you [by which you will recognize Him]: you will find a Baby wrapped in [swaddling] cloths and lying in a manger.” (Luke 2:12).

The timing of the arrival of the shepherds had to be precise since the swaddling clothes were left on the child for only a few minutes. The shepherds could not arrive on the scene before the swaddling had begun, nor could they arrive after the custom had been completed. They had to be in the right place at the right time. As we so clearly see, the account of the birth of Jesus Christ abounds with signs, wonders, and miracles, one of which involves his being “wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid in a manger.”

“He’s Here” by Eddie James offers a powerful, musical rendering of the account of the Savior who was “born of a virgin, wrapped in swaddling clothes. . .”