Archive for March, 2016

Portrait of the Suffering Servant

March 31, 2016

Isaiah 53-5

Verse of the Day for March 31, 2016 comes from Isaiah 53, the Old Testament passage that describes the Suffering Servant, the Messiah who would be born to redeem Israel and serve as a just payment for the sins of humanity:

Isaiah 53:5-6

But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was crushed for our wickedness [our sin, our injustice, our wrongdoing]; the punishment [required] for our well-being fell on Him, and by His stripes (wounds) we are healed. All of us like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, each one, to his own way; But the Lord has caused the wickedness of us all [our sin, our injustice, our wrongdoing] to fall on Him [instead of us].

In a blog entry posted last week on Good Friday, I shared a poem inspired, in part, by the providential intersection of two most significant events that occurred when Good Friday and the beginning of Passover fell on the same day back in 1998. I mentioned that at that time I participated in Holy Communion at our church on Good Friday, and although I had received the Lord’s Supper on countless occasions prior, that particular experience inspired the poetic work in which I personalized the passage connected to the Suffering Servant:

Taking It Personally

Isaiah 53

Cursed with a curse, He was hung on a tree.
The suffering servant bartered for a price,
Battered and bruised for my iniquity.
Behold the Lamb, unblemished sacrifice,
Offered once, Jesus Christ, my Passover.
Afflicted, stricken, smitten that God should
Freely pour out His mercy, moreover,

Lay on Him the chastisement of my peace.
From His side flowed water and sinless blood,
A new covenant established that I might cease
From dead works by a new and living way.
God’s good pleasure no longer concealed
But memorialized this solemn day.
Man of sorrows, with His stripes I am healed
In spirit, mind and body, for I am
Quickened and cleansed by the blood of the Lamb.

Isaiah 53 also brings to mind the reality of the covenant that God made with the Children of Israel so expressed in Exodus 15:26:

And said, If thou wilt diligently hearken to the voice of the Lord thy God, and wilt do that which is right in his sight, and wilt give ear to his commandments, and keep all his statutes, I will put none of these diseases upon thee, which I have brought upon the Egyptians: for I am the Lord that healeth thee.

This verse was the inspiration behind the Don Moen song of worship: “I am the Lord that healeth thee,” a most appropriate way to close today’s entry:

Advertisements

Isaiah 40:31–Wait training

March 30, 2016

Isaiah 40_31

Recently Bishop Charles Mellette of Christian Provision Ministries in Sanford, NC has been sharing a number of messages under the heading “Wait Training.” Based on Isaiah 40:31, the teaching series is designed to help believers become excellent “wait trainers” for God. He defines “Wait Training” in way:

In learning how to serve and work for God, your strength will be renewed and your life changed while helping others to have an encounter with God.

The foundational verse for the series is Isaiah 40:31 which offers comfort and assurance revealed in the passage from Isaiah 40:28-31 (New Living Translation):

28 Have you never heard?
Have you never understood?
The LORD is the everlasting God,
the Creator of all the earth.
He never grows weak or weary.
No one can measure the depths of his understanding.
29 He gives power to the weak
and strength to the powerless.
30 Even youths will become weak and tired,
and young men will fall in exhaustion.
31 But those who trust in the LORD will find new strength.
They will soar high on wings like eagles.
They will run and not grow weary.
They will walk and not faint.

This passage also bring to mind the closing verses of Psalm 27, my favorite Psalm:
Psalm 27:13-14 (NKJV)

13 I would have lost heart, unless I had believed
that I would see the goodness of the LORD
In the land of the living.
14 Wait on the LORD;
Be of good courage,
And He shall strengthen your heart;
Wait, I say, on the LORD!

These two related passages from Isaiah 40 and Psalm 27 also brought to mind the words of John Milton, 17th Century British statesman and poet, who said, “They also serve who only stand and wait.” His word are incorporated into this poem that is related to waiting:

Watching, Waiting, Seeking

Wait on the LORD; be of good courage,
and He shall strengthen your heart;
wait, I say, on the LORD!

Psalm 27:14

We are strengthened by the words of the bard gone blind,
Who said, “They also serve who only stand and wait.”
We look into the mirror of God’s word and find
That God has been ever faithful and never late.
We trust in the Lord, as the Word of God extols.
Like Job we wait until at last our change shall come,
Assured that in patience we now anchor our souls.
May we not faint and fall by the wayside as some
But follow in Christ’s steps, as we quickly obey
And bear up under and yield fruit of endurance.
We must walk in God’s love, the more excellent way
And through faith and patience claim our inheritance.
In these perilous times we are yielded and still,
Watching, waiting, seeking to fulfill all God’s will.

Donnie McClurkin and Karen Clark Sheard offer this comforting advice: “Wait on the Lord.”

Reconciliation: In right relationship with Him

March 29, 2016

2 Corinthians 5--19-20 2

The Verse of the Day for March 29, 2016 expresses God’s ultimate desire for unity for His people in terms of their relationship with Him:

2 Corinthians 5:21

For our sake He made Christ [virtually] to be sin Who knew no sin, so that in and through Him we might become endued with, viewed as being in, and examples of] the righteousness of God [what we ought to be, approved and acceptable and in right relationship with Him, by His goodness].

To more fully understand what this means and the means whereby we achieve this unity in our relationship with Him, we need to examine the preceding verse as well as the Verse of the Day:

2 Corinthians 5:20:

 So we are Christ’s ambassadors, God making His appeal as it were through us. We [as Christ’s personal representatives] beg you for His sake to lay hold of the divine favor [now offered you] and be reconciled to God.

Ambassadors in the natural sense are said to be mediators or those who reconcile warring factions together. Those who broker peace agreements behind the scenes are generally ambassadors. As Ambassadors for Christ, we likewise offer terms of agreement whereby reconciliation with God is restored for those who have separated themselves from God. The following poem reveals the role of believers who stand in Christ’s place, fulfilling our role:

As Ambassadors

31 Or what king, when he sets out to meet another king in battle, will not first sit down and consider whether he is strong enough with ten thousand men to encounter the one who is coming against him with twenty thousand?

32 Or else [if he feels he is not powerful enough], while the other [king] is still a far distance away, he sends an envoy and asks for terms of peace

Luke 14:31-32

 

As Christ, the Lord, implores and calls each soul to be reconciled,

So we beseech you in mercy and stand in his stead,

That mankind might reconnect–no longer exiled.

Just as a great king will send an entourage ahead

Of his army and offer terms of agreement,

Expressing his desire to redeem and restore

With a covenant that shall forever cement

And make known his will, even in times of war,

We see that behind every plan unfolds a process,

Conceived in wisdom long before the world began.

From God’s gracious right hand that shall forever bless

Flows loving favor, expressing His divine plan.

The day is forthcoming when all conflict shall cease,

As ambassadors offer final conditions of peace.

 

Listen to this stirring rendition of the Reconciliation Song by Stephen Newby and Antioch Live

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

He is risen, indeed

March 27, 2016

garden_tomb3

One of the most moving accounts associated with the resurrection of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, occurred when the women who came to anoint the body of Jesus, who had been crucified three days prior, found an empty tomb.

Luke 24:1-9  (New Living Translation) describe this sequence of events:

1But very early on Sunday morning the women went to the tomb, taking the spices they had prepared. 2 They found that the stone had been rolled away from the entrance. 3 So they went in, but they didn’t find the body of the Lord Jesus. 4 As they stood there puzzled, two men suddenly appeared to them, clothed in dazzling robes.
5 The women were terrified and bowed with their faces to the ground. Then the men asked, “Why are you looking among the dead for someone who is alive? 6 He isn’t here! He is risen from the dead! Remember what he told you back in Galilee, 7 that the Son of Man must be betrayed into the hands of sinful men and be crucified, and that he would rise again on the third day.”
8 Then they remembered that he had said this. 9 So they rushed back from the tomb to tell his eleven disciples—and everyone else—what had happened.

This record of the women at the empty tomb became the inspiration for the following poem which ends with the traditional greeting and response heard on the morning of the resurrection:

Witness

Luke 24:1-9
The account of the women at the empty tomb

Though we did not journey with the women
In the dark before dawn that first day,
Nor were we walking, weeping with them when
Two angels spoke, nor did we hear them say,
“He is not here but risen as he said;
Recall that on the third day he should rise;
Why seek you the living among the dead?”
Though we did not see with our naked eyes,
In our hearts we know God’s desire to bless.
Though we did not touch Christ nor did we see
The open tomb, yet we still bear witness.
We have a more sure word of prophecy.
By the spirit, fruit of our Promised Seed,
We surely know He is risen, risen, indeed.

Israel Houghton and Covenant Church remind us, lest we forget: “He’s Risen”

Jesus Christ, our Passover Lamb

March 26, 2016

1 Corinthians 5--7–8

Usually I post a blog based on the Verse of the Day found on Biblegateway.com; however, for today, March 26, 2016, I am posting comments inspired by two verses that appeared on the home page of Logos Bible Software.

1 Corinthians 5:7-8 (NLT):

7 Get rid of the old “yeast” by removing this wicked person from among you. Then you will be like a fresh batch of dough made without yeast, which is what you really are. Christ, our Passover Lamb, has been sacrificed for us. 8 So let us celebrate the festival, not with the old bread of wickedness and evil, but with the new bread of sincerity and truth.

For Christian believers Holy Week, the last week of Jesus Christ’s life on earth, culminates with Easter Sunday, which commemorates his resurrection from the dead. There have been times that during that same period, Jews are preparing for the start of Passover. The 8-day festival begins this year at Sundown on Friday, April 22 and ends on the evening of Friday, April 29. Passover, also known as Pesach, commemorates the Jewish exodus from Egypt, as families traditionally gather for a Seder dinner, where they retell the story of the escape from slavery, through the plagues, and to the parting of the Red Sea.

Jesus Christ appears as a type, a foreshadowing of events to come, throughout the Old Testament, as in the case of the Passover Lamb and other aspects of the Seder, the traditional meal served as part of the observance of Passover. The verse posted on the home page of Logos Bible Software reminds us that Jesus Christ died at the precise time that the Passover Lamb was slain.

The verse from 1 Corinthians 5:7 also brings to mind a most memorable intersection of Good Friday and the start of Passover which occurred in 1998. At that time as a congregation, our church participated in Holy Communion on Good Friday. Although I had observed and participated in the Lord’s Supper countless times since adolescence when I first learned the significance of what that observance really meant, on that particular occasion, I took communion and observed the elements of Christ’s sacrifice with new eyes. That experience also brought to mind Isaiah 53 and 1 Corinthians 5:7, inspiring the following poem in which I recognized and personalized the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on my behalf:

Taking It Personally

Isaiah 53

“For indeed Christ, our Passover,
was sacrificed for us.”
Corinthians 5:7b

Cursed with a curse, He was hung on a tree.

The suffering servant bartered for a price,

Battered and bruised for my iniquity.

Behold the Lamb, unblemished sacrifice,

Offered once, Jesus Christ, my Passover.

Afflicted, stricken, smitten that God should

Freely pour out His mercy, moreover,

Lay on Him the chastisement of my peace.

From His side flowed water and sinless blood,

A new covenant established that I might cease

From dead works by a new and living way.

God’s good pleasure no longer concealed

But memorialized this solemn day.

Man of sorrows, with His stripes I am healed

In spirit, mind and body, for I am

Quickened and cleansed by the blood of the Lamb.

The accompanying music video highlights the portrayal of Jesus Christ, our Passover.

If we confess, God is faithful to forgive

March 25, 2016

 

1 John-1 8-10

The Verse of the Day for March 25, 2016 is taken from 1 John 1:9 (NLT):

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

The context for 1 John chapter 1 is fellowship with God and with fellow believers. Translated from the Greek word koinonia, fellowship involves communion or oneness, harmony. In Acts the believers of the early Church were said to be “of one heart and one mind.” Having this close fellowship with God and with one another is God’s desire for His people expressed in 1 John 1:3-10:

3 We proclaim to you what we ourselves have actually seen and heard so that you may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. 4 We are writing these things so that you may fully share our joy.
5 This is the message we heard from Jesus and now declare to you: God is light, and there is no darkness in him at all. 6 So we are lying if we say we have fellowship with God but go on living in spiritual darkness; we are not practicing the truth. 7 But if we are living in the light, as God is in the light, then we have fellowship with each other, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, cleanses us from all sin.
8 If we claim we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and not living in the truth. 9 But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness. 10 If we claim we have not sinned, we are calling God a liar and showing that his word has no place in our hearts.

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.”

What does it mean to confess our sins to him? The phrase is also translated . . .”to confess our trespasses . . . our offenses . . . our sins.” To confess is to say with one’s mouth. With our mouths we acknowledge our shortcomings, our misdeeds, our sins of omission and sins of commission. We acknowledge that in far too many instances we have missed the mark and fallen short. I John 1:9 in the Amplified Bible assures us that:

9 If we [freely] admit that we have sinned and confess our sins, He is faithful and just (true to His own nature and promises], and will forgive our sins and cleanse us continually cleanse us from all unrighteousness [our wrongdoing, everything not in conformity to His will and purpose].

If we confess, . . . God will forgive. . . . To forgive means: to send away, dismiss, set free; to acquit by a verdict; to give no punishment to the guilty person and to view the guilty person as if he is innocent. Another definition means to let loose or set at liberty (a debtor).

Many times in thinking of confessing my sins to God, my Father, I think of the lyrics to this song:

Please Forgive Me

For each careless word and each thoughtless deed,
For each time I failed to follow your lead,
Each time I ignored you and went astray.
And let go your hand and walked my own way.

Please forgive me. Please forgive me.
Please forgive me. Please forgive me.
Please forgive me this time. Please forgive me each time.
Please forgive me.

When we confess our sins, God forgives our sins, and in essence, God does more than wipe the slate clean. The words of the Psalmist reveal what really transpires

Psalm 103:12:

As far as the east is from the west,
so far has he removed our transgressions from us.

The lyrics to the chorus of the familiar Gospel song also remind us:

My sins are blotted out, I know! (I know!)
My sins are blotted out, I know! (I know!)
They are buried in the depths of the deepest sea:
My sins are blotted out, I know! (I know!)

We conclude our discussion, as Morgan Cryar offers a musical rendering of 1 John 1:9 in “What Sin?”

Wages earn death; free gift gives eternal life

March 24, 2016

Romans 6--23

The Verse of the Day for March 24, 2016 comes from Romans 6:23 in the New Living Translation:

For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.

In reflecting on this verse, the often quoted words of Benjamin Franklin come to mind:

“In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.”

Spiritually speaking, by Adam’s disobedience sin entered the world, resulting in death. I guess you could say that death is the result of “sin tax.” Not to be confused with syntax, said the English professor.

Romans 5:12 reminds us of the source of sin and death:

12 Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned:

The latter part of the Verse of the Day draws a distinction between “the wages of sin which is death” and “the free gift of God which is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.”

In contrast, Jesus Christ, the second Adam, by his obedience overcame the power of sin and displayed the grace of God, whereby those who believe on him can receive “the free gift of God [which] is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Romans 5:15 further explains

15 But not as the offence, so also is the free gift. For if through the offence of one many be dead, much more the grace of God, and the gift by grace, which is by one man, Jesus Christ, hath abounded unto many.

Without question, there is considerable difference between “wages” which one earns and deserves through hard work but which result in death and a free gift, for which one does not work and which results in eternal life. Once more, God sets before humanity the choice between death and life, as He always “sweetens the pot” in favor of life.

This musical medley Scripture Memory Song combines Romans 5:8 and Romans 6:23:

Crown of life

March 23, 2016

James-1 12

Revised and re-posted below is a previous blog entry:

The Verse of the Day for March 23, 2016 is taken from James 1:12 in the New Living Translation:

God blesses those who patiently endure testing and temptation. Afterward they will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.

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.

The reference to “the crown of life” is one of five different crowns mentioned in the New Testament, in that a “crown of life” awaits the individual who endures trials while carrying out the purposes of God’s plan.

1 Corinthians 9:24-25 mentions an “incorruptible crown” awaiting those who discipline themselves and compete lawfully, those who “run their best race and win it”:

24 Don’t you realize that in a race everyone runs, but only one person gets the prize? So run to win! 25 All athletes are disciplined in their training. They do it to win a prize that will fade away, but we do it for an eternal prize…

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

19 After all, what gives us hope and joy, and what will be our proud reward and crown as we stand before our Lord Jesus when he returns? It is you!

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

8 And now the prize awaits me—the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give me on the day of his return. And the prize is not just for me but for all who eagerly look forward to his appearing.

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:

4 And when the Great Shepherd appears, you will receive a crown of never-ending glory and honor.

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

Much More

His lord said to him, “Well done,
good and faithful servant;
you have been faithful over a few things,
I will make you ruler over many things:
enter into the joy of your lord.”
Matthew 25:23

More than mere status or the embrace of the crown
Around the head or glory, honor or renown;
More than medals of gold or laurels that fade
With the thundering applause and ceaseless accolade;
More than any crowning achievement or success
Or the rarest prizes eyes could ever witness;
More than the taste of victory every time you try:
Such alluring sweetness can never satisfy.
So much more are these words when the race is finally won,
When we finish the course and cross the finish line,
And stand upon the bema where we shall incline
Our ears to hear God say, “Good and faithful servant, well done.”
We shall bask in ultimate ecstasy of victory
And savor the goodness of God for all eternity.

Here are two musical selections that mention the phrase “Well done” in light of serving God:

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

Here is a contemporary rendition “Well Done Good and Faithful Servant” by Lou Anne LaFortune

Put on the whole armor

March 22, 2016

Ephesians-6 10-11

The Verse of the Day for March 22, 2016 comes from Ephesians 6:10-11 in the Holman Standard Christian Bible:

[Christian Warfare] Finally, be strengthened by the Lord and by His vast strength. Put on the full armor of God so that you can stand against the tactics of the Devil.

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 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 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 passage from Ephesians 6 reminds of us spiritual warfare that we, as believers, are engaged in, even as in the natural, the nation, indeed, the world is currently experiencing a “time for war.”

II Corinthians 10:3-5 also reminds of this reality:

For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. 4For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, 5casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ

The complete passage related to the “whole armor of God” from Ephesians 6:10-20 is shared in a most inspiring video produced by David Wesley:

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

Jeremiah 17:7-8 and Psalm 1

March 21, 2016

Jeremiah-17 7-8

The Verse of the Day for March 21, 2016 comes from Jeremiah 17:7-8 in the Holman Standard Bible:

The man who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence indeed is the Lord, is blessed. He will be like a tree planted by water: it sends its roots out toward a stream, it doesn’t fear when heat comes, and its foliage remains green. It will not worry in a year of drought or cease producing fruit.

This passage echoes truths expressed in the First Psalm (KJV), 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.
2 But his delight is in the law of the LORD; and in his law doth he meditate day and night.
3 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.
4 The ungodly are not so: but are like the chaff which the wind driveth away.
5 Therefore the ungodly shall not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous.
6 For the LORD knoweth the way of the righteous: but the way of the ungodly shall perish.

When I think of the First Psalm in the King James Version, 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 asked us to memorize Psalm 1, which I did and still recall by heart to this day.

About seven years ago, Dr. John Tetsola commented about the power of “The First Word,” and his remarks inspired this poem which also 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.

Correspondingly, here is an expression of Jeremiah 17:7-8 set to music: