Archive for January, 2016

With patience love one another

January 30, 2016

Ephesians 4--2-3

The Verse of the Day for January 30, 2016 comes from Ephesians 4:2 in the New Living Translation:

Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love.

Once again, the Amplified Bible offers a more expansive rendering of Ephesians 4:2:

Living as becomes you] with complete lowliness of mind (humility) and meekness (unselfishness, gentleness, mildness), with patience, bearing with one another and making allowances because you love one another.

This verse offers another reminder to live in humility and meekness with patience whereby we endure or bear up under, and “put up with,” making allowances for one another because we love one another. Patience is the golden strand woven throughout the gnarled threads that comprise the tapestries of our lives. As believers we are exhorted to wait patiently for the return of Christ who is our blessed hope. We are encouraged, not only to wait for him but to wait on him, as we serve one another in love.
Because we love one another, we are reminded of how we should behave. 1 Corinthians 13 provides quintessential definition of love and shows us what love looks like:

I Corinthians 13:4-7

4 Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud 5 or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. 6 It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. 7 Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.

1 Peter 4:8 in the Amplified Bible offers this reminder as to why we should love:

Above all, have fervent and unfailing love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins [it overlooks unkindness and unselfishly seeks the best for others].

1 John also discusses the love of God in more detail, exhorting believers, likewise to show their love to one another:

1 John 4:7-11 (NLT):

7 Dear friends, let us continue to love one another, for love comes from God. Anyone who loves is a child of God and knows God. 8 But anyone who does not love does not know God, for God is love. 9 God showed how much he loved us by sending his one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him. 10 This is real love—not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins. 11 Dear friends, since God loved us that much, we surely ought to love each other.

Throughout the New Testament believers are exhorted to love one another, which we recognize as the will of God for our lives. Hebrews 10:36 in the Amplified Bible encourages us to have patience:

For you have need of steadfast patience and endurance, so that you may perform and fully accomplish the will of God, and thus receive and carry away [and enjoy to the full] what is promised.

We close our blog entry with Kathy Traccolli, who offers yet another reminder to “love one another”:

To be first, become last, and serve others first

January 29, 2016

Mark-9 35

Revised and re-posted from a previous entry, the Verse of the Day for January 29, 2016 speaks of the oxymoronic nature of true servanthood: the last shall be first and the first shall be last. If you want to be in the premier position as number one, then put yourself in the last position by putting others first, and you will be great.

Mark 9:35 puts this way in the King James Version:

And he sat down, and called the twelve, and saith unto them, If any man desire to be first, the same shall be last of all, and servant of all.

Jesus Christ illustrates the same point that those who desire to be first should put themselves last and serve others first. Other places in the Scriptures also reveal this striking portrait of a true servant of the Lord:

Luke 22:26 (NLT)

But among you it will be different. Those who are the greatest among you should take the lowest rank, and the leader should be like a servant.

A similar response occurs in Mark 10:43 (NLT)

But among you it will be different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant,

A particularly noteworthy verse is found in Matthew 20:27 (NLT):

and whoever wants to be first among you must become your slave.

In following in the steps of Jesus Christ, one of the most noble character traits that a person can demonstrate is that of serving others. Throughout the life and ministry of Christ, he takes upon himself the form of a servant, thus modeling the behavior that he desires to see his followers emulate.

In the New Testament we find that the metaphor of the servant or bondslave is used in the Bible to portray this admirable heart of service. The distinction between the term “slave” and the “bond servant” which is translated from the Greek word doulos in the New Testament is that the servant or bondslave offers his life in “voluntary servitude.” Though often looked upon in a negative light, choosing to become a servant of the Lord is a most admirable character trait.

My attraction to this particular metaphor occurred more than 40 years ago when I was introduced to the concept of the doulos, translated “servant” but more accurately rendered “bondslave.” I produced an article “Doulos: A Different View of the Slave” published in 1975. In 1978 while completing my Master’s thesis, I explored the subject in light of Paul’s literary style in the Church Epistles. I went on to complete my Ph.D. in 1986 with a dissertation entitled Portrait of the Bondslave in the Bible: Slavery and Freedom in the Works of Four Afro-American Poets. Aside from a purely academic exploration of the topic of the bondslave, I have also endeavored to apply the precepts of this biblical term in a practical way. I express my personal application of the principles of servitude found in this intriguing figure in the poem “More Than Metaphor”:

More than Metaphor

For I am a man under authority, having soldiers under me:
and I say to this man, Go, and he goeth; and to another,
Come, and he cometh; and to my servant, Do this, and he doeth it

Matthew 8:9

To capture my essence I strive to find a word,
Phrase, image or mind picture to bring clarity,
To express my deep yearning for intimacy.
Like Paul, my calling card reads: “servant of the Lord.”
Each fiber of my being and each emotion
Pulsates with lifeblood flowing from a servant’s heart.
As I endeavor to learn and live to impart
The joy of serving with pure-hearted devotion,
I pledge to work in voluntary servitude,
As I fix my eyes, looking unto my Lord’s hands,
To heed His Word and to do more than He commands,
To serve with love from a heart filled with gratitude.
Beyond a single concept, more than metaphor
Is this branded bondslave, who embodies “the more.”

Listen to “The Servant Song” by Maranatha! Promise Band, as we close this blog entry.

Prayer works

January 28, 2016

prayer works

Instead of the Verse of the Day, today’s devotional centers on a life-changing time of ministry entitled “Prayer Works,” part of a series of teachings by Bishop Charles Mellette of Christian Provision Ministries in Sanford, NC. The objective was to encourage and help believers to expect that their prayers of faith will produce results.

In speaking of developing a “prayer life” or “life of prayer,” he stated the prayer is our right and privilege to talk to God about situations that we are dealing with. As we pray to God, expressing our petitions, He reveals His will for us. God, as “the master planner,” wants us to plan, but He does not want us to exclude Him. Jeremiah 29:11-14 in the Amplified Bible speaks of God’s plans for us connected to our prayers to Him:

11 For I know the plans and thoughts that I have for you,’ says the LORD, ‘plans for peace and well-being and not for disaster to give you a future and a hope. 12 Then you will call on Me and you will come and pray to Me, and I will hear [your voice] and I will listen to you. 13 Then [with a deep longing] you will seek Me and require Me [as a vital necessity] and [you will] find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.

In thinking about the title of the teaching, “Prayer Works,” one could think of the statement that prayer brings about results, where “works” is a verb meaning to have an effect, to produce, to bring about results by effort. On the other hand, one could view “works” as a noun, in the plural, something produced or accomplished by effort, exertion, or exercise of prayer. I recall this statement by Lord Alfred Tennyson: “More things are wrought by prayer than this world dreams of.” No matter how you view it: “Prayer works!”

Among the scriptures emphasized during the teaching was Luke 18:1-8, where we find the Parable of the harsh judge and the persistent widow who continually pressed him for justice toward her adversary. In this account Jesus Christ teaches a valuable lesson about prayer and never giving up on our requests. This particular passage inspired the following poem:

Prayer Works

Parable of the Persistent Widow
Luke 18:1-8

Once the Lord told a parable:
We should pray and not give up.
A widow made life unbearable
So that this judge was fed-up.

See, this lady drove him crazy,
Crying “I want my justice!”
She repeated, “Give it to me!”
As she raised such a ruckus.

This judge who feared neither God nor man
Gave in and answered her plea.
Keep on asking was her plan:
That’s how she won the victory

Here is the lesson we should learn:
If a harsh man will relent,
Surely God will show more concern
And be just to the fullest extent.

Give the Lord no rest but insist;
Knock on His door night and day:
You have whatever you say.
Prayer works for all who persist.

The accompanying video provides this stirring reminder: “The power of prayer should not be underestimated”:

Put on the whole armor and more

January 27, 2016

Ephesians-6 10-11

The Verse of the Day for January 27, 2016 is found in Ephesians 6:12-13, which is part of the most celebrated passage related to putting on the whole armor of God, beginning with verse 10 and continuing through verse 20. King James Version renders the first five verses of passage this way:

Ephesians 6:10-14:

10 Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. 12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. 14 Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness,

In addition to its use in this passage, the expression “to put on” is used in various other places in the New Testament. Note this reference to putting on something other than specifically “the whole armor of God”

Romans 13:12 (NKJV):

12 The night is far spent, the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light.

1 Thessalonians 5:8 (AMP) speak of similar elements of the armor mentioned in Ephesians 6:

But since we [believers] belong to the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet, the hope and confident assurance of salvation.

Romans 13:14 (NKJV) mentions something else to be put on:

But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts.

References in Ephesians and Colossians in the King James Version mention “putting on the new man” as part of the renewing of the mind: In Ephesians 4:22-25 (KJV) we this find this exhortation:

22 That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts;
23 And be renewed in the spirit of your mind;
24 And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.
25 Wherefore putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbour: for we are members one of another

Colossians 3:10 continues with these words:

And have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him:

Colossians 3:12-14 elaborate in terms of what believers are to put on:

12 Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; 13 bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do. 14 But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection.

The discussion of the above Scriptures reveal that the phrase “to put on” is directly connected to renewing the mind, whereby Paul encourages followers of God to “put off, put on, and put away.” We are encouraged to change of our minds and to develop new thinking patterns. We are to put off the old man and to put on the new man, as we put away lying or any other ungodly practices. This transformative process is ongoing in the life of every believer and becomes the topic of the following poem:

The Key to the Renewed Mind

Don’t lie to each other, for you have stripped off

your old sinful nature and all its wicked deeds.

10 Put on your new nature, and be renewed as you learn

to know your Creator and become like him.

Colossians 3:9-10 (Amplified Bible)

It has been said that the key to power is the renewed mind,
But what is the key to the renewed mind? God please show me,
For I seek to walk in power and excel and not be left behind,
As I strive to know levels of deepest intimacy.
With laser precision I target the old man nature
And put to death and mortify my members once for all.
I respond in obedience in answer to God’s call;
Not conformed, I transform myself, as new man, mature.
In the secret place of the Lord who ever inhabits
The praises of His people, here I desire to abide,
To put off the old man, vile, corrupt, wrapped in sinful pride
And put on the new man, as one changes garments, habits.
Above all I put on compassionate love from the start
And abide in my hiding place, filled with a grateful heart.

We conclude with another Scripture Memory Song: Put on the Full Armour (Ephesians 6:11-12):

The way down is the way up

January 26, 2016

james-4-10

The Verse of the Day for January 26, 2016 reveals that “The way up is the way down” or more precisely that “The way down is the way up.”:

James 4:10:

Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up.

This scripture reminds us that humility is the key to promotion. Of course, the ultimate example to illustrate such a paradox is the Lord Jesus Christ.

Philippians 2:5-9 in the Amplified Bible offer this reminder:

5 Let this same attitude and purpose and [humble] mind be in you which was in Christ Jesus: [Let Him be your example in humility:]
6 Who, although being essentially one with God and in the form of God [possessing the fullness of the attributes which make God God], did not think this equality with God was a thing to be eagerly grasped or retained,
7 But stripped Himself [of all privileges and [rightful dignity], so as to assume the guise of a servant (slave), in that He became like men and was born a human being.
8 And after He had appeared in human form, He abased and humbled Himself [still further] and carried His obedience to the extreme of death, even the death of the cross!
9 Therefore [because He stooped so low] God has highly exalted Him and has freely bestowed on Him the name that is above every name,

Jesus Christ points to the duality of humility and promotion when he says in Luke 14:11:

For whosoever exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted

Jesus Christ associates being humble with a child in Matthew 18:4 (Amplified Bible)

Whoever will humble himself therefore and become like this little child [trusting, lowly, loving, forgiving] is greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

The same point is made in a different way in Matthew 23:13 (Amplified Bible)

Whoever exalts himself [with haughtiness and empty pride] shall be humbled (brought low), and whoever humbles himself [whoever has a modest opinion of himself and behaves accordingly] shall be raised to honor.

The essence of this discussion of the paradox of humility and promotion is so clearly expressed in the title prayer from a collection edited by Arthur Bennett: The Valley of Vision: A Collection of Puritan Prayers and Devotions.

The Valley of Vision

Lord, high and holy, meek and lowly,
Thou hast brought me to the valley of vision,
where I live in the depths but see Thee in the heights;
hemmed in by mountains of sin I behold Thy glory.
Let me learn by paradox that the way down is the way up
that to be low is to be high,
that the broken heart is the healed heart,
that the contrite spirit is the rejoicing spirit,
that the repenting soul is the victorious soul,
that to have nothing is to possess all,
that to bear the cross is to wear the crown,
that to give is to receive, that the valley is the place of vision.
Lord, in the daytime stars can be seen from deepest wells,
and the deeper the wells the brighter Thy stars shine;
let me find Thy light in my darkness,
Thy life in my death,
Thy joy in my sorrow,
Thy grace in my sin, Thy riches in my poverty, Thy glory in my valley.

James 4:6 and James 4:10 are set to music with this reminder that we should  “Humble Yourselves.”

Without question, in terms of promotion with God, humility is the key. Indeed, the way down is the way up.

Before you speak–T-H-I-N-K

January 25, 2016

Think before you speak

The Verse of the Day for January 25, 2016 is taken from Philippians 4:8 (KJV):

Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.

This verse clearly relates how believers should think and serves as the foundational scripture for a blog entry based on words of advice, often directed toward children, but they certainly apply to children of God at any age.

Edited and re-posted below is a devotional based on the statement: “Think before you speak.” When written as an acrostic, the word “T-H-I-N-K” was broken down into a series of questions with scriptures related to each of the questions asked.

This particular statement immediately brought to mind James 1:19:

Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath:

The Amplified Bible renders the verse in this way:

Understand [this], my beloved brethren. Let every man be quick to hear [a ready listener], slow to speak, slow to take offense and to get angry

Proverbs 17:28 in the Amplified Bible makes this astute statement regarding speaking, or rather, not speaking:

Even fools are thought wise when they keep silent;
with their mouths shut, they seem intelligent

Proverbs 23:7 (AMP) also speaks of the center of our thoughts:

For as he thinks in his heart, so is he. As one who reckons, he says to you, eat and drink, yet his heart is not with you [but is grudging the cost].

This verse is coupled with this sobering reminder from Luke 6:45 in the Amplified Bible:

The upright (honorable, intrinsically good) man out of the good treasure [stored] in his heart produces what is upright (honorable and intrinsically good), and the evil man out of the evil storehouse brings forth that which is depraved (wicked and intrinsically evil); for out of the abundance (overflow) of the heart his mouth speaks.

Every believer is to be conscious of what that individual thinks. We are reminded to control our thoughts. Paul exhorts us to “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus.” We must never forget that “thoughts are the seeds to our words and deeds.” Therefore, always “Think before you speak” and ask these questions:

T Is it true?

In every situation we want always to speak the truth, and so we ask this question before we open our mouths in response: “Is it true?” We are always looking to the Word of God as our standard for what is true:

Psalm 19:9 declares:

The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever: the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.

Psalm 119:160 reiterates this truth:

Thy word is true from the beginning: and every one of thy righteous judgments endureth forever.

Whenever we open our mouths to speak we want to be a “true witness,” as Proverbs 14:25 indicates:

A true witness delivereth souls: but a deceitful witness speaketh lies.

Jesus Christ made this statement: “Your word is truth. Sanctify them through your word.”

H Is it helpful?

The words that we speak should be helpful, as Romans 14:19 reminds us:

Let us therefore follow after the things which make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another.

Colossians 4:6 also offers this encouragement regarding the words we speak:

Let your speech be always with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man.

Ephesians 4:29 reinforces the same message:

Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers.

I Is it inspiring?

The words that we speak can build up or tear down; they can encourage or discourage. Before we speak, we should ask, “Will what I say inspire and motivate those who hear me?”

1 Thessalonians 5:11 offers these words of encouragement:

Wherefore comfort yourselves together, and edify one another, even as also ye do

Believers are also exhorted to “admonish one another” in Romans 15:14

And I myself also am persuaded of you, my brethren, that ye also are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge, able also to admonish one another.

A similar expression is used in 1 Thessalonians 5:14*

And we urge you, brethren, admonish the unruly, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with all men.

A Bible study from Xenos Christian Ministries explains that to admonish is to apply moral correction through verbal confrontation which is motivated by love. We should always endeavor to speak the truth in love which involves “Communication of God’s truth in love in ways that strengthen Christians to go on following God’s will.”

N Is it necessary?

Although the Scriptures encourage us to always be ready to give an answer to everyone who asks, (I Peter 3:15), we may encounter situations whereby we should “hold our peace” and say nothing. Indeed, there are occasions when it may not be necessary to say what we have in mind. Indeed, Ecclesiastes reminds us that there is a time to speak and a time to refrain from speaking.
In exercising the grace of God, some believers may feel that they can say whatever they think or whenever they want to. 1 Corinthians 10:23 calls to our attention this truth:

All things are lawful for me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but all things edify not.

In life we all may encounter situations where it may be better to say little or nothing, as we ask, “Is it necessary?”

K Is it kind?

Most remarkably, what we put into our minds is what comes out of our mouths. Colossians 3: 12-14 (AMP) exhorts us:

12 Clothe yourselves therefore, as God’s own chosen ones (His own picked representatives), [who are] purified and holy and well-beloved [by God Himself, by putting on behavior marked by] tenderhearted pity and mercy, kind feeling, a lowly opinion of yourselves, gentle ways, [and] patience [which is tireless and long-suffering, and has the power to endure whatever comes, with good temper].
13 Be gentle and forbearing with one another and, if one has a difference (a grievance or complaint) against another, readily pardoning each other; even as the Lord has [freely] forgiven you, so must you also [forgive].
14 And above all these [put on] love and enfold yourselves with the bond of perfectness [which binds everything together completely in ideal harmony].

If we put kindness into hearts and minds, then what we say and what we do will clothed with kindness, as we follow Paul’s exhortation in Ephesians 4:32:

And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.

If we are endeavoring to speak the truth in love, we can be assured that what we speak will be kind because “love is kind.” (I Corinthians 13:4)

And so we have endeavored to answer the five questions which form the acrostic based on the statement: “‘T-H-I-N-K’ before you speak.”

The essence of the message of this post is captured in this scripture memory song “Meditate on These Things” from Integrity Music:

Bear and share the burdens

January 24, 2016

Galatians 6--1-2
The caption [Bear and Share the Burdens] introduces the Verse of the Day for January 24, 2016 which directs our attention to Galatians 6:1, to which we add verse 2 to complete the thought:

Galatians 6:1-2 (NKJV):

Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted. 2 Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.

Carry-burdens

These verses express the idea that there is a burden that we, as believers, can share. If we see a brother or sister fall under a heavy burden, we can come along side of that person and offer assistance in bearing that burden. There is, however, a burden that every believer must bear alone. This truth is revealed in Galatians 6:5 which indicates: “For every man shall bear his own burden.”

In thinking on these two verses, my mind recalls a backpacking experience that occurred at TFI (Total Fitness Institute) in California back in December, 1975. During this outdoor wilderness adventure I was assigned to a platoon of believers, and we portioned out our food supply for the week among the group. I volunteered to carry the food for the last day, which meant that my load stayed the same while the load that everyone else carried got lighter.

On this particular day, we were told that we would hike for a mile and then take a break and rest for a while. After a considerable amount of time, I was certain that we had hiked more than a mile, but we continued. When I realized that I was carrying the food for the last day and that everyone else’s load was lighter than mine, I became agitated and began to complain in my mind that “This is just not fair. . .” During this time of frustration and agitation as I struggled under my heavy load, I thought of the Lord Jesus Christ, who is lyrically described as “a burden bearer and heavy load sharer.” As I took my mind off myself and turned my thoughts toward the Lord and all that he gladly bore on my behalf, the distress and exasperation seemed to fade, and we arrive at our destination in a short time. That experience was the inspiration for this poem:

The Burden Bearer

Glory, Glory, Hallelujah,
When I lay my burden down.

I stumbled up the rugged road;
I almost fell beneath the load
And spurned the pain inside my head,
Recalling words of one who said
“Come unto me, and I will give you rest.”

The yoke I bear cannot compare
With all he took upon Himself:
All sins, disease, and guilt, despair
That I could not forebear myself.
His burden was not made of wood,
His cross beyond all words can name.
Have I resisted unto blood?
Could I for joy endure such shame?

From a glimpse into his face
I’m strengthened by a second wind;
My mind’s renewed to keep the pace
The load is lightened by my friend.

I feel better, so much better
since I laid my burden down.

The epigraph or short intro to the poem as well as the closing stanza are lyrics from an old gospel song that I recall my childhood days, recorded here by the Staple Singers. The album cover features the 15th Century painting entitled “The Adoration of the Lamb” by Hubert and Jan van Eyck.

The Verse of the Day and my experience occurring 40 years ago remind me of this: “I am so glad that Jesus Christ is our Burden Bearer.”

Still pursuing wisdom

January 23, 2016

James-1-5

The Verse of the Day for January 23, 2016 can be viewed as a follow-up to the Verse of the Day from yesterday where we focused our attention on the verbs, “ask, seek, and knock,” as revealed in Matthew 7:7-8. Today we are looking at the blog entry posted a year ago which has been modified, as we direct our attention to James 1:5 (NKJV) where we are encouraged to ask:

If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him.

The Verse for Today brought to mind the exhortation to pursue wisdom. Asking God for wisdom can be seen as part of our pursuit of wisdom which we are asked to do, not only James 1:5 but throughout the Book of Proverbs as well. Note what Proverbs 2:4-6 has to say:

4 If you seek her as silver,
And search for her as for hidden treasures;
5 Then you will understand the fear of the LORD,
And find the knowledge of God.
6 For the LORD gives wisdom;
From His mouth come knowledge and understanding;

The idea of pursuing wisdom brought to mind an incident that occurred almost fifty years ago. Having been drafted into the Army in 1967 during the Vietnam era, I was in basic training during the first weeks of the New Year. 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 the essence of message of the following poem:

In Pursuit of Wisdom

13 Happy (blessed, fortunate, enviable) is the man
who finds skillful and godly Wisdom,
and the man who gets understanding
[drawing it forth from God’s Word and life’s experiences],

14 For the gaining of it is better than the gaining of silver,
and the profit of it better than fine gold.

Proverbs 3:13-14 (AMP)

To cause to flee as one chases an enemy,
To relentlessly follow and then overtake,
As a hunter reads footprints and tracks down his game,
Likewise, wisdom arouses me as I awake.
Desire, a fire, flames the passion deep within me.
Though I have felt her touch and kissed her lips before,
As a lover pursues his beloved, so I
Yearn to be with wisdom, to know her even more,
Assured that all who pursue her shall also find.
As the sun rises to follow its daily course,
With zeal I seek wisdom with my heart, soul and mind,
As one traces a winding river to its source.
As one forsakes all to pursue a priceless treasure,
So I seek the Spirit of wisdom’s good pleasure.

Reflecting on an experience that occurred almost fifty years ago, I recognize that I am still asking for wisdom while earnestly seeking to find knowledge, understanding and all the attributes of God.

I conclude this blog entry with a song of worship that also came to mind, “My Soul Follows Hard after Thee” with lyrics by Don Moen:

Keep asking, seeking, knocking

January 22, 2016

Matthew_7-7-8

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

The Verse of the Day for January 22, 2016 comes from Matthew 7:7-8 (NKJV):

[Keep Asking, Seeking, Knocking] “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened

This passage brought to mind a scripture memory song composed more than 16 years ago. The arrangement of the lyrics shows an acrostic poem that spells out the word “ask,” the first three letters of which form the three verbs found in verse 7. In addition to singing the lyrics, the song involved gestures that reinforced the message. In a prayer notebook that I once had, I recall having a card with the words “Ask God” on one side and Matthew 7:7, 8 (KJV) on the other. Here are the lyrics to the simple song:

Ask and it shall be given you;
Seek and you shall find.
Knock and it shall be opened unto to you.

Ask, seek and knock.
Ask, seek and knock.

For everyone who asketh receiveth.
He that seeketh findeth.
And to him that knocketh, it shall be opened.

Ask, seek and knock.
Ask, seek and knock.

In reflecting on the passage from the Sermon on the Mount, I thought of the last phrase of the 8th verse: “. . . and to him that knocketh, it shall be opened.” Revelation 3:20 came to mind where the Master declares, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If any man hear my voice and openeth the door, I will come in and sup with him and he with me.”

In discussing Orientalisms or Eastern customs and manners found in Scripture, Bishop KC Pillai, converted Hindu Bible teacher, notes that eating with someone was a most intimate act. One did not eat with strangers or those outside his most intimate circle of family and friends. In that light, Revelation 3:20 takes on even more significance as an invitation to intimacy. Luke 24 speaks of Jesus and the disciples on the Road to Emmaus and of their breaking bread together, a time of intense intimacy when Jesus opened the eyes of their understanding that they might understand the Scriptures. This unfolding of Himself as revealed in the Scriptures occurred during a meal, a time of wonderfully rich fellowship and intimacy.

During the same period when I wrote the scripture memory song using Matthew 7:7-8, I also recall composing a song that we used to sing before serving our lunch at the summer program for school-age children where I worked. It is based in part on the passage from Revelation:

Come and dine with me, Jesus said
Come and dine with me, Jesus said
I’ve prepared a table to set before you
Come and dine with me, Jesus said

In thinking about the passage from Matthew 7:7-8, we recognize that in the Greek New Testament the three verbs are expressed in the present progressive tense: meaning keep on asking, keep on seeking, keep on knocking. In the New King James Version we find a similar preface in brackets before the actual scripture. In the same manner that a child will keep asking for a treat while shopping with his or her parents, Jesus Christ says to continue to ask, continue to seek, continue to knock.

A few years later after having composed the first scripture memory song, I also wrote another acrostic poem whose lyrics became another song based on the same passage:

Always ask, no matter how great or small the task.
Serve the Lord God with a pure heart and remove the mask.
Keep trusting in the Lord–all you have to do is ask.

Someday soon we shall stand on top of the mountain peak.
Every golden promise God has fulfilled, as we speak.
Each day adds another victory toward our winning streak.
Keep pressing toward the mark to obtain the prize we seek.

Keep renewing your mind, assess your thoughts and take stock.
Never give up–build your hope on Christ, the solid rock.
Overcome the odds–by faith get around any roadblock.
Count your blessings with every tick-tock of the clock.
Keep this in mind and call on the Lord: ask, seek, and knock.

Kim McFarland and the Thompson Community Singers offer this stirring reminder: “Just Ask in My Name”

Sowing and reaping

January 21, 2016

Galatians-6-7-9

The Verse of the Day for January 21, 2016 discusses one of the immutable principles of life: sowing and reaping:

Galatians 6: 7-8 (NKJV):

7 Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. 8 For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life.

2 Corinthians 9:6 reiterates this same principle:

But this I say: He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.

The original expression of this principle is known as “Seedtime and Harvest” which goes back to Jehovah’s words to Noah following the flood in Genesis 8:22:

“While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, winter and summer, and day and night shall not cease.”

This concept is expressed another way in terms of “giving and receiving,” particularly within the context of financially contributing to the work of the ministry within the Church, as revealed in Philippians 4:15 (NKJV):

15 Now you Philippians know also that in the beginning of the gospel, when I departed from Macedonia, no church shared with me concerning giving and receiving but you only.

Verse 7 of 2 Corinthians 9 also makes reference to giving following the mentioning of sowing and reaping:

7 So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver.

Giving is another expression of the universal principle whose application reaches far beyond an agricultural context, as revealed in Luke 6:38(NKJV)

38 Give, and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom. For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you.”

Whether we refer to the principle of “seedtime and harvest” or “giving and receiving” or as the Verse of the Day indicates, “sowing & reaping,” we are reminded that each individual on earth determines his or her own destiny: whatever an individual sows that individual shall also reap. Think about this: “Thoughts are seeds to your words and deeds.” With this in mind, we are always sowing and reaping, in thought, in word, and in deed.” Our discussion also brings to mind to mind this poem:

To Serve and To Sow

Those who sow in tears shall reap in joy.
He who continually goes forth weeping,
Bearing seed for sowing, shall doubtless come again
with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him.

Psalm 126:5-6

We learn to serve and to sow with a joyful heart,
To pour from the fountain of our soul and to give
All our strength to the Lord’s work and to do our part
To complete each task, to build that the Word might live,
For only deeds done for the sake of Christ remain.
The legacy of God’s will fulfilled lives beyond
The brief journey of our days filled with joy and pain,
This precious token of our covenant, the bond
Of devotion to the Master, perfected love
Shed abroad in our hearts, enfolded in His peace
That passes understanding, flowing from above.
As we plant and water, our God gives the increase.
Freely we have received that we might come to know
The love of God, as we learn to serve and to sow.

Listen to “Those Who Sow in Tears Shall Reap in Joy” by Esther Mui, Christian Praise Worship Song based on Psalm 126, source of the introductory passage of “To Sow and to Serve.”