Archive for April, 2016

Speaking the truth in love

April 30, 2016

Ephesians_4-15

Although the Verse of the Day for April 30, 2016 comes from Ephesians 4:15, we also need to look at verse 14. These two verses contrast God’s desire that believers no longer behave as children but that they “grow up” or mature:

Ephesians 4:14-15 (KJV):

14 That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive;
15 But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ:

Throughout the Scriptures we find references to those who speak the truth. One of the attributes of those who desire to dwell in the presence of God is described in Psalm 15:1-2 (New Living Translation):

1Who may worship in your sanctuary, LORD?
Who may enter your presence on your holy hill?

2 Those who lead blameless lives and do what is right,
speaking the truth from sincere hearts.

Psalm 37:30 (Amplified Bible) expresses the same sentiment concerning the righteous:

The mouth of the righteous proclaims wisdom, and his tongue speaks justice and truth.

Zechariah 8:16 (AMP) also outlines how those who are godly should conduct their lives:

These are the things which you should do: speak the truth with one another; judge with truth and pronounce the judgment that brings peace in [the courts at] your gates.

Jesus Christ, the embodiment of truth itself, offered these words:

John 7:18 (NLT):

Those who speak for themselves want glory only for themselves, but a person who seeks to honor the one who sent him speaks truth, not lies.

The Verse of the Day reminds us that believers are to grow up, to mature, and not behave like children. Not only are we to speak the truth, but we are to speak the truth in love. In Ephesians 4:22-25 we find a similar exhortation to change, to renew our minds:

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

To sum up our discussion, the contemporary Christian vocal group “A cappella” asks, “Are we teaching the truth in love?”

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Our redeemer still lives

April 29, 2016

Job 19.25-26

The Verse of the Day for April 29, 2016 comes from Job 19:25 (KJV):

For I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth

This verse refers to the concept of “redeemer,” one who exercises the right of redemption. The act of redeeming literally means  “to purchase out, buy up;  buy out of the hands of a person; to set free; to buy off, to secure for oneself or one’s own use; to buy up from the power or possession of any one.” According to the King James Dictionary, to be redeemed, then, is to be forgiven, to be made holy, to be freed, adopted, and reconciled to God.

This often quoted passage with its reference to redeemer also brings to mind that as believers we have been redeemed or purchased back from hand of the enemy by Christ Jesus, who performs the role of a Kinsman Redeemer. A previous blog entry which is modified and re-posted below introduced this prototype.

This heroic figure is foreshadowed in the Book of Ruth, where a male relative assumes the responsibility to act on behalf of a family member who is in danger or trouble or in need of vindication.

A scripture memory song describes this Old Testament prototype:

The Kinsman Redeemer, our wonderful savior.

The Kinsman Redeemer, we know that He is able

To restore and to bless, to turn sadness into joy.

When we read the Word of God and learn the truth,

We see that the Kinsman Redeemer was Boaz who married Ruth.

I recall a series of teachings based on the Book of Ruth and some of the lessons to be learned from that amazing love story that reveals the heroic figure of the Kinsman Redeemer. The teachings inspired this poem which the Verse of the Day brought to mind:

Another Lesson from the Book of Ruth

For whatever was thus written in former days was written

for our instruction, that by [our steadfast and patient] endurance

and the encouragement [drawn] from the Scriptures we might  

hold fast to and cherish hope.

Romans 15:4

In times of crisis when famine engulfs the land,

Those willing to glean, to sacrifice will survive.

Like Ruth, they shall be satisfied and even thrive

To see blessings flow from the Father’s own right hand.

As a Kinsman Redeemer arose to rescue

Two brave women in despair, Naomi and Ruth,

So their example reveals an eternal truth:

What God did then, He does no less for me and you.

Dismissing failures, our Savior ignored each flaw

As he called us by name and set the captives free,

For our redemption canceled any penalty

When he redeemed our souls from the curse of the Law.

Jesus Christ, our Savior and Redeemer, still lives.

And through all eternity he endlessly gives.

Heidi French Lovett offers a musical expression of “Jesus our Redeemer”:

The verse from Job also brings to mind George Friedrich Handel’s Messiah, the renowned oratorio based on texts from the King James Version of the Bible. One of the most well-known selections from this frequently performed musical composition is based Job 19:25-26: “I Know that My Redeemer Liveth.”

Let this mind: Renewing the mind

April 28, 2016

Philippians-2 5-7

The Verse of the Day for April 28, 2016 comes from Philippians 2:5-8 (KJV):

Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.

The opening phrase brings to mind one of the first scripture memory songs that I wrote:

Let This Mind Be in You

Let this mind be in you
Which was also in Christ Jesus.

Let this mind be in you
Which was also in Christ Jesus.

Let this mind be in you
Which was also in Christ Jesus.

Let this mind . . .
Let this mind . . .
Let this mind be in you.

God gets no pleasure
In forcing us to obey.
But He wants us to follow Him
His spirit leads the way.

Let this mind . . .
Let this mind . . .
Let this mind be in you.

We say we are waiting,
Waiting on God to move,
But we’re the ones God’s waiting on,
His perfect will to prove.

Let this mind . . .
Let this mind . . .
Let this mind be in you.

Now don’t keep God waiting.
He wants to reign in you.
Ask yourself what is God waiting
For you to let Him do?

Let this mind . . .
Let this mind . . .
Let this mind be in you.

The first part of the Verse of the Day and the accompanying song also bring to mind the spiritual process known as “renewing the mind.” In nature we note this process of metamorphosis that butterflies and other organisms undergo, reminding us that, similarly, Christians are instructed not to be conformed but to be transformed by the renewing of their minds (Romans 12:1). The New Testament phrase is translated from the Greek word metamorphoo, from which the English word metamorphosis is derived. The phrase is also used to express that as believers strive to manifest more of Christ in their lives, they are “changed” into the same image.

This ongoing process reveals we have within us the power to transform our lives as we renew our minds. We hear the statement: “The renewed mind is the key to power”; however, one may ask, “What is the key to renewed mind?” This question is answered in the following way:

The Key to the Renewed Mind

Do not lie to one another, for you have stripped off the old
(unregenerate) self with its evil practices,
And have clothed yourselves with the new [spiritual self],
which is [ever in the process of being] renewed and remolded into
[fuller and more perfect knowledge upon] knowledge after
the image (the likeness) of Him Who created it.

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? Help us to see,
For we seek to walk in power and excel and not be left behind,
As we strive to know levels of deepest intimacy.
With laser precision we target the old man nature
And put to death and mortify our members once for all.
We respond in obedience in answer to God’s call;
Not conformed, but we transform ourselves, as we mature.
In the secret place of the Lord who ever inhabits
The praises of His people, here we 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 we put on compassionate love from the start
And abide in our hiding place, filled with a grateful heart.

We end with a scripture memory song based on Philippians 2:3-15

To seek and to save the lost: The prodigal son

April 27, 2016

Luke 19_10

The Verse of the Day for April 27, 2016 is taken from Luke 19:10 (KJV):

For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.

In reflecting on this verse, I thought of a similar expression that comes at the end of the Parable of the Prodigal Son, as the father responds to his resentful son who stayed behind while his younger brother “squandered his substance in riotous living”:

Luke 15:32b:

. . . for thy brother was dead, and is alive again; and was lost, and is found.

In Luke 15 we find three parables related to lost items: “The Parable of the Lost Sheep”, “The Parable of the Lost Coin”, and “The Parable of the Prodigal Son.” That particular parable is a favorite of mine, and I recall also seeing for the first time the Rembrandt portrait of the Prodigal Son which moved me in a most remarkable manner.

Rembrandt's Return_of_the_Prodigal_Son

I have personalized and poetically expressed my identification with the Prodigal Son, who is impacted and forever changed by the compassion of his “Forgiving Father,” the “Real Hero” of the passage. Each time I read this account, I think of this piece:

Homecoming

The Parable of the Prodigal Son
Luke 15:11-32

I prodigalled
and partied
and boogied my
nights away.

I humped and bumped
and stumbled
till I found myself
in a ditch.

I squandered all
of my bread,
down to my
very last crumb.

I had no friends
to turn to
I had no place to go
but home.

I tried to sneak back
unnoticed,
but Daddy ran
to meet me
and greet me with
open arms
(like I’d been down
the road apiece,
or just got
back from town,
or never been
gone at all).

He didn’t ask me
where I’d been,
didn’t ask how
much I’d spent.

He forgave me,
just forgot
all the times I’d
plumb missed the mark.

He spread the
welcome table
and had a
family feast
to satisfy
my hunger
and meet my
every need.

Later on in the
midnight peace
when Pa and I
were alone,
we said nothing,
yet so much;
then through tears
of joy he said,

“It’s all right, son–
it’s all right, now.”

Listen to this moving rendition of “Prodigal” by Casting Crowns:

A reminder: Jesus saves

April 26, 2016

 

Hebrews 7--25

From Hebrews 7:25 (KJV) comes the Verse of the Day for April 26, 2016:

Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them.

The Amplified Bible offers this powerful rendering:

Therefore He is able also to save to the uttermost (completely, perfectly, finally, and for all time and eternity) those who come to God through Him, since He is always living to make petition to God and intercede with Him and intervene for them.

This verse makes known Jesus Christ is a complete Savior, who fulfills his purpose as the Son of God:

For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost (Luke 19:10)

The Psalmist offers these comforting words to remind us of God’s faithfulness to rescue those who are lost:

Psalm 31:8

And hast not shut me up into the hand of the enemy: thou hast set my feet in a large room.

Psalm 106:10

And he saved them from the hand of him that hated them, and redeemed them from the hand of the enemy.

Psalm 107:2

Let the redeemed of the Lord say so, whom he hath redeemed from the hand of the enemy;

In thinking about Jesus Christ who saves to the uttermost, I recall a blog entry where I commented on our being rescued from a “horrible pit.” What follows is an excerpt from the post entitled “There is no pit so deep. . .”

A couple of days ago, I read a commentary regarding Corrie ten Boom and her sister Betsy, who were imprisoned in Nazi concentration camps because they helped Jews to escape in Holland. They found themselves in a horrible situation, in a deep pit, and Betsy’s last words before she died spoke of hope, even in a most difficult situation. Corrie ten Boom, was later rescued and gave her testimony of the amazing power of God’s love that sustained her over the years of her life. Betsy said these words which became the opening line and the title of the following poem:

“There is no pit so deep. . .”

“There is no pit so deep that He is not deeper still.”
Betsy ten Boom

He also brought me up out of a horrible pit,
Out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock,
and established my steps.

Psalm 40:2

“There is no pit so deep that He is not deeper still.”
In times of turmoil and deep distress we rest until
We see that God’s Word comes to pass, for we have no doubt
That He will again deliver us and bring us out
With renewed strength to climb an even steeper hill.

We are assured that every promise God will fulfill.
When we are exhausted, God will refresh and refill.
No matter how severe the problem we thought about,
“There is no pit so deep. . .”

Despite our best efforts, at times life goes all downhill.
In times of despair we seek courage and strength to instill,
As we persevere to triumph along this treacherous route.
Rooted and grounded, we are no longer tossed about.
We remember these words as we strive to fulfill God’s will:
“There is no pit so deep. . .”

Travis Cottrell reminds us “Jesus Saves,” the essence of the message of the Verse of the Day:

Christ in you and me: the hope of glory

April 25, 2016

Colossians-1-27

The Verse of the Day for April 25, 2016 originally served as the foundation for two previous blog entries that have been modified and re-posted below:

Colossians 1:27-28 (Amplified Bible Classic Edition):

To whom God was pleased to make known how great for the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ within and among you, the Hope of [realizing the] glory. Him we preach and proclaim, warning and admonishing everyone and instructing everyone in all wisdom (comprehensive insight into the ways and purposes of God), that we may present every person mature (full-grown, fully initiated, complete, and perfect) in Christ (the Anointed One).

I was initially introduced to this scintillating passage in the King James Version:

27 To whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory:

28 Whom we preach, warning every man, and teaching every man in all wisdom; that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus:

This passage from Colossians 1:27-28 mentions the concept of “the mystery” which Dr. Mark Hanby refers to as part of the “progressive revelation of God”—reflected in God’s desire for a dwelling place, displayed in the Tabernacle in the Wilderness (first dimension) leading to Solomon’s Temple (second dimension), and culminating in the Temple of the Living God, the body of Christ (third dimension).

Derived from the Greek word musterion, translated “sacred secret,” the essence of “this mystery” is that Jews and Gentiles would be united in one body, the Body of Christ. This “great mystery” was hidden in Christ before the foundations of the earth. Had Satan known this mystery or great secret, the Scriptures declare that he never would have crucified the Lord of glory, Jesus Christ. The mystery was revealed to the Apostle Paul as the context of the Verse of the Day indicates.

In Chapter 3 of Ephesians, Paul speaks of the spiritual impact that the Church, the Body of Christ, was designed to demonstrate:

Ephesians 3:10 (New Living Translation)

God’s purpose in all this was to use the church to display his wisdom in its rich variety to all the unseen rulers and authorities in the heavenly places.

God’s desire is that members of the Body of Christ, both individually and corporately, might know and apprehend more fully the meaning of the mystery of the one body. We express our yearning to understand the riches of the glory of this mystery to a greater degree in this way:

Oh, To See the Mystery
Ephesians 3

Enlighten our eyes that we might openly see;
Expand our mind and widen our comprehension
To understand the temple of the mystery.
Teach us to comprehend fully each dimension
And ascertain the magnitude without measure:

Reveal to us the true length,
though it is endless;

Teach us to find the full breadth,
though it is boundless;

Help us to reach the vast height,
though it is measureless;

Teach us to probe the great depth,
though it is fathomless.

Show us your divine design for the inner man.
Make plain the purpose, the pattern, the symmetry
Unfolded in the blueprints of your master plan
For the One Body, temple of awesome beauty.
Share with us the value of this priceless treasure,
The riches of the glory of this mystery
Held in the secret places of your good pleasure.
Take our hands and lead us, as you would guide precious youths,
Those who love and live to explore the depths of your truths.

The lyrics to this original song were also inspired by Colossians 1:27-28:

Christ in You and Me, the Hope of Glory

Even before the world began,
God put together His master plan,
Calling Jews and Gentiles into one body,
The riches of the glory of this mystery
Which is Christ in you, the hope of glory,
Christ in me, the hope of glory,
Christ in you and me, the hope of glory.

Enlighten our eyes, help us to see
All that you have called us to be.
Reveal to us all that we were meant to be.
Share with us secrets as we make history,
The riches of the glory of this mystery
Which is Christ in you, the hope of glory
Christ in me, the hope of glory,
Christ in you and me, the hope of glory

As we put on God’s Word, renewing our mind,
We seek Him with our whole heart, and we now find
He has opened our eyes and helped us to see
The riches of the glory of this mystery
Which is Christ in you, the hope of glory
Christ in me, the hope of glory,

We’re no longer bound; we’ve been set free.
We once were so blind, but now we see.
We’re walking into our destiny:
The riches of the glory of this mystery
Which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.

Christ in you, the hope of glory,
Christ in you me, the hope of glory,
Christ in you and me, the hope of glory.

Charlie LeBlanc offers a musical reminder that it’s “Christ in You! (Hosanna! Music)”

Shakespeare and the Word: A personal reflection

April 24, 2016
“I commend my soul into the hands of God, my Creator, hoping and assuredly believing, through the only merits of Jesus Christ, my Saviour, to be made partaker of life everlasting.” ― William Shakespeare

“I commend my soul into the hands of God, my Creator, hoping and assuredly believing, through the only merits of Jesus Christ, my Saviour, to be made partaker of life everlasting.”
                                                      ― William Shakespeare

In recognition of the birthday of William Shakespeare, Andy Rau, Senior manager of content for Bible Gateway, posted a blog entry “Shakespeare and the Word,” noting the celebrated bard’s use of the Geneva Bible throughout his literary works. Rau comments:

The most frequently repeated figure on the books of the Bible to which Shakespeare refers is 42 books—eighteen from each of the Testaments and the remaining from the Apocrypha. Shakespeare’s writing contains more references to the Bible than the plays of any other Elizabethan playwright. A conservative tally of the total number of biblical references is 1200, a figure that I think could be doubled.

The blog post closes with this exhortation: “It’s worth your time to take a second look at your favorite Shakespeare play with an eye for subtle references to people, places, and events in Scripture.”

The closing comments brought to mind a most remarkable encounter with Shakespeare that occurred while I was in graduate school. I refer to this experience in an Examiner.com article published in connection Law Day 2012.

Here is an excerpt from that article:

When I was working on my Ph.D. in English at Indiana University in Bloomington, I enrolled in a course on Shakespeare taught by the late Professor Roy Battenhouse, recognized scholar and author of Shakespeare and the Christian Tradition. The course was especially memorable in that the half dozen or so students met at Professor Battenhouse’s home which was in walking distance from the campus, and his wife served us tea and other homemade delicacies. I was first exposed to The Merchant of Venice during that class, and I completed a paper discussing Shylock’s demand for justice and the resultant resolution of the bond. The paper was later published as an article in The College Language Association Journal XXXV No. 3. March 1992: 353-66, which is now reprinted and attached as a pdf.

shylocks-daniel-justice-more-than-thou-desirst–new

In celebration of Shakespeare’s birth, listen to the “The Quality of Mercy” speech from a production by the British Broadcasting Corporation, as Portia argues the case for mercy in light of justice.

Secure in the Father’s hand

April 21, 2016

John 10--28-30 2

The Verse of the Day for April 21, 2016 comes from John 10:28-30 (Amplified Bible):

And I give them eternal life, and they shall never lose it or perish throughout the ages. [To all eternity they shall never by any means be destroyed.] And no one is able to snatch them out of My hand. My Father, Who has given them to Me, is greater and mightier than all [else]; and no one is able to snatch [them] out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father are One.

The passage offers comfort to those who put their trust in the Lord, knowing that they are securely held in His hand and that no one is able “to snatch them or pluck them out of the Father’s hand.” Knowing that God is good and that there is no one good but the Father, we realize that we are in good hands, even better than Allstate Insurance.

Not only does God, our Father, hold us in the palms of His hands, but the scriptures also reveal that He has tattooed portraits of His beloved people in the palms of His hands.

The Amplified Bible (AMP) offers this rendering of Isaiah 49:16

Behold, I have indelibly imprinted (tattooed a picture of) you on the palm of each of My hands; [O Zion] your walls are continually before Me.

The New King James Version (NKJV) says this:

See, I have inscribed you on the palms of My hands;
Your walls are continually before Me.

Although tattooing is extremely popular today, and we see the names and portraits of individuals inked on the skin of countless people across the world, what God has done is unique in expressing His love for people. Bishop KC Pillai, a converted Hindu, who dedicated his life to enlightening students of the Bible regarding Orientalisms or customs and practices from the Eastern sectors of the world, explains that tattooing is the oriental way of remembering people expressed in Isaiah 49:16:

If you give a present you may lose it, but if you tattoo something on an individual you will never lose it. Therefore, we always remember you. They tattoo all over the arm different places, but never in the palm. The palm is too tender and delicate. It takes time to look for other tattoos, but here in the hand [there is] no time to look, just as open as your palm.

Every time God “does something with His hand” those whom He loves come to mind, for He remembers everything about them. God put us in His palms—we are always before Him, figuratively beyond the lyrics of Willie Nelson: “We are always on His mind.”

In reflecting on the passage from John 10, I recall a similar expression of comfort as far as God’s hands are concerned:

Psalm 31:15 (NKJV):

My times are in Your hand; Deliver me from the hand of my enemies, And from those who persecute me.

This verse, in part, provides the inspiration for the following lyrics:

My Times Are In Your Hand

There are times in life when I simply don’t understand,
When I cannot see the intricacy of your perfect plan,
When I’m tossed about and full of doubt,
When it seems I just can’t endure,
Your spirit comes beside me,
To comfort and to guide me,
To redirect and reassure,
To help me understand that my times are in your hand.

My times are in your hand.
My times are in your hand.
Your spirit comes beside me,
To comfort and to guide me,
To redirect and reassure,
To help me understand that my times are in your hand.

My times are in your hand.
My times are in your hand.
I submit every vision, each purpose and plan.
Though I may never fully understand,
I stand secure in knowing my times are in your hand.

It’s so comforting to know
My times are in your hand.
My times are in your hand.
My times are in your hand.

Stephen Collins also offers a song: My Times are in Your Hands.

Final Victory: Soon and very soon

April 20, 2016

1-corinthians-15 57

The Verse of the Day for April 20, 2016 reminds believers of the accomplished work of Jesus Christ when he arose triumphantly over sin and all of its devastating consequences, even over death itself. As the hymn reminds us, “Up from the grave he arose/with a might triumph over his foes. . .”:

1 Corinthians 15:55-57 (Amplified Bible)

O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting? Now sin is the sting of death, and sin exercises its power [upon the soul] through [the abuse of] the Law. But thanks be to God, Who gives us the victory [making us conquerors] through our Lord Jesus Christ.

The passage which is often recited on Resurrection Sunday also reminds me of remarks that I shared during a memorial service for a church member who passed away a few years ago. I also included verse 54:

54 And when this perishable puts on the imperishable and this that was capable of dying puts on freedom from death, then shall be fulfilled the Scripture that says, Death is swallowed up (utterly vanquished forever) in and unto victory.

Picture this: Pick up a nitroglycerin tablet which is remarkably small, a fraction of an inch in diameter and height. Pinching the tablet between the thumb and forefinger would cover it completely. Imagine using all the water in the Pacific Ocean to wash down such a small object. Without question, the nitroglycerin tablet would be “swallowed up” and utterly overwhelmed by the vastness of the ocean.

Another illustration came to mind as I thought of the time when I came across a dead mouse, a small rodent about 4 inches long, as walked I outside of the condo where we were living at the time. I scooped up the tiny carcass and placed it inside the small plastic bag that was then stuffed inside the 13-gallon trash bag that would be tossed into a dumpster that would compress hundreds of similar-sized trash bags, all of which would be taken to a massive landfill encompassing several acres. I could see that in the same way the dead mouse would be “swallowed up” when it eventually found its way to the landfill, even so to an even greater degree, “. . . Death is destroyed; victory is complete!” according to the Good News Translation. I rejoiced as I saw how God illustrated in such a striking manner just how inconsequential death, the last enemy, has become because of Jesus Christ’s triumphant defeat of him “who has the power over death, that is the devil.”

The selected passage from I Corinthians 15 was also used as the epigraph or introductory scripture for “Final Victory”, an original blues poem that speaks of “Old Man Crab”, referring to cancer, the dreaded disease that takes its name from the constellation Cancer, portrayed as “the crab.” I was first inspired to compose the poem after my father, Lonnie Johnson, died of complications from cancer in 1996. My mother, Jessie Marie Johnson, survived two bouts with “old man crab” and after another valiant fight, died of cancer in 2002. I revised the poem in 2001 after I was diagnosed with prostate cancer, and the entire poem has since taken on even greater significance.

Final Victory

I Corinthians 15:53-57 & Romans 8:37-39

Old man crab is mighty sneaky,
always creepin and up to no good,
Old man crab, is mighty sneaky,
always creepin and up to no good,
That low-down dirty rascal,
Messin with folk all round the neighborhood.

One dark day old man crab came callin,
Crawlin in like some uninvited mouse,
One dark day old man crab came callin,
Crawlin in like some uninvited mouse,
That nasty dirty devil,
Sneakin in the back door of my sister’s house.

First you first attacked my mama, old man crab,
You tried to pinch her with your greatest fears,
First you first attacked my mama, old man crab,
You tried to pinch her with your greatest fears,
But she didn’t want no she-crab soup,
You tried to served with pain and bitter tears.

You may have come to our house, old man crab,
But I’m sorry, you can’t stay.
You may have come to our house, old man crab,
But I’m sorry, you can’t stay.
Whatsonever in the world you may do,
Everyday we still gonna watch, fight, and pray.

Nothin’ low down on earth, old man crab,
Or nothin high up in heaven above,
Nothin’ low down on earth, old man crab,
Or nothin high up in heaven above,
Not even death, your creepin pardner,
Can ever separate us from God’s love.

So git out my face, old man crab,
I got your number, don’t you see.
So git out my face, old man crab,
I got your number, don’t you see.
You may win this li’l biddy battle,
But we show-nuff got the final victory.

Some say our Savior’s comin in the mornin;
Some say in the midnight hour or high noon
Some say our Savior’s comin in the mornin;
Some say in the midnight hour or high noon
I got a feelin He’s comin back
To gather us together soon . . . and very soon.

Because of Jesus Christ and his mighty triumph over sin, disease, and death, as believers in his resurrection, we have a decidedly different perspective on death. We rejoice, as we anticipate the manifestation of the ultimate triumph over the last enemy when we shall experience the reality of the “Final Victory.”

The closing phrase of the poem is taken from a song performed by the late Andrae Crouch, along with CeCe Winans and the Gaithers, “Soon and Very Soon.”

First fruits are first

April 19, 2016

 

1 Corinthians-15-Verse-20

The Verse of the Day for April 19, 2016 makes reference to “firstfruits” as found in 1 Corinthians 15:20-22 (Amplified Bible):

But the fact is that Christ (the Messiah) has been raised from the dead, and He became the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep [in death]. For since [it was] through a man that death [came into the world, it is] also through a Man that the resurrection of the dead [has come]. For just as [because of their union of nature] in Adam all people die, so also [by virtue of their union of nature] shall all in Christ be made alive.

Actually, “Firstfruits” was one of the three feasts established by God for the Children of Israel to observe when they left Egypt for the Promised Land. Passover was instituted on Day 14 of Nisan (the first month), the Feast of the Unleaven Bread was to begin the next day, Nisan15, and the Feast of the First Fruits to begin three days following Passover on Nisan 17. They are referred to as one feast.

Jesus Christ appears as a type, a foreshadowing of events to come, throughout the Old Testament, as in the case of the Passover Lamb. Jesus was recognized as “The Lamb of God that takes away the sins of the world.” Those previous indications are fulfilled in Jesus Christ, whom Paul describes as “our Passover.” Indeed, Jesus died at the very time that the Passover lamb was being sacrificed in the Temple.

Although generally mistaken for Passover, the Feast of Unleavened Bread lasts seven days, while Passover is only one 24-hour period. When the Children of Israel departed from Egypt on the evening after Passover, God specifically told them not to allow their bread to rise, but to grab everything and leave in haste. There was to be no leaven or yeast to speed up the process of preparing the bread for baking, but God instructed them that no leavening should touch the bread: Just bake it and depart. God then told them that in the future they were to commemorate this feast by removing all leavening or yeast from their houses for seven days. In the New Testament, Jesus Christ makes a connection with this feast when He says, “I am the Bread of Life.”

“Firstfruits,” in its most literal sense, refers to the first portion of the harvest which belongs to God. In terms of time, this portion of the harvest comes first; it is a token or pledge dedicated or given to God in expectation of a greater harvest to follow. When the Children of Israel prepared to enter into the Promised Land, they were instructed to offer the first portion of their produce to God. The “first born,” whether human or animals, was also considered as God’s special possession and can be considered a type of first fruit. Just as Jesus Christ is described as “the “firstfruit “among those who died, so also are believers “a kind of firstfruits of His creation,” so described in James 1:8, which introduces this poem:

Firstfruits

Of His own will He brought us forth by the word

of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits

of his creatures.

James 1:18

Transform and then so fashion our visage
To be like Christ, the brightness of your glory.
In your fire refine us that we might be
Fashioned and cast in His express image:
As boldface type printed upon the page,
As a new coin minted in your treasure,
Stamped with the essence of your character
To convey the power of your message.
So saturate each spirit, heart, soul and mind,
Every fiber of our being, each pore;
So permeate our presence that we might find
Our true calling as Christ’s ambassador.
More than vessel, vehicle, or instrument,
Like Christ, we are firstfruits of God’s intent.

Steve McConnell offers a musical expression entitled “First Fruits.”