Archive for July, 2016

Children of God: What it means

July 31, 2016

John 1-12

The Verse of the Day for July 31, 2016 describes what it means to be children of God:

John 1:12-13 (AMP):

But to as many as did receive and welcome Him, He gave the right [the authority, the privilege] to become children of God, that is, to those who believe in (adhere to, trust in, and rely on) His name— who were born, not of blood [natural conception], nor of the will of the flesh [physical impulse], nor of the will of man [that of a natural father], but of God [that is, a divine and supernatural birth—they are born of God—spiritually transformed, renewed, sanctified].

1 John 3:1-3 also points out the difference between the children of God and the children of the world:

3 See what an incredible quality of love the Father has shown to us, that we would [be permitted to] be named and called and counted the children of God! And so we are! For this reason the world does not know us, because it did not know Him. Beloved, we are [even here and] now children of God, and it is not yet made clear what we will be [after His coming]. We know that when He comes and is revealed, we will [as His children] be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is [in all His glory]. And everyone who has this hope [confidently placed] in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure (holy, undefiled, guiltless).

Verse 9 speaks of those who are “born of God” as being “born again.”

1 John 3:9 (AMP)

No one who is born of God [deliberately, knowingly, and habitually] practices sin, because God’s seed [His principle of life, the essence of His righteous character] remains [permanently] in him [who is born again—who is reborn from above—spiritually transformed, renewed, and set apart for His purpose]; and he [who is born again] cannot habitually [live a life characterized by] sin, because he is born of God and longs to please Him.

In reflecting on the distinction between those who are born of the flesh and those who are born again of the spirit of God, I thought of comments and a poem posted this past Father’s Day when I made reference to the statement “Spirit is thicker than blood.” Here is an excerpt from that post:

The statement “Spirit is thicker than blood” . . . I first heard more than 30 years by the late Skip Mesquite, celebrated saxophonist and songwriter, who performed with Tower of Power and other prominent musicians and singers back in the day. When I learned of his falling asleep in Christ, I commented about one of his songs: “Hey, Brother,” the composition written for his brother by blood, trying to explain why he was closer to his brothers in the spirit than to his own “flesh and blood.” I was so moved by his performance that I was inspired to write “We Be Brothers” which I dedicated to Skip. Since first completing the poem, I have read it countless times, expressing the bond of brotherhood shared with fellow believers.

We Be Brothers

“Spirit is thicker than blood.

Oh, yes, it is, brother.”

Skip Mesquite,

songwriter, saxophonist

         

men born again in brotherhood

beyond thin skinship of the soul

not blood but spirit makes us kin

we be true brothers, brother-man

 

I dig your gig, so rap to me

and play the sounds I need to hear

tune me in and play my number

just call me on your saxophone

 

soothe my soul with those mellow notes

flowing from your horn of plenty

man, make your heart-song melt my dark

and paint my skies in sunrise hues

 

I can escape the basement gloom

to scale the palace stairs with you

we climb to where the air is rare

we be true brothers, brother-man

The Verse of the Day and related scriptures reinforce the distinction made between those born of the spirit and those born of the flesh:

Listen to “Born Again” by Third Day

It’s all about relationships: Closing comments

July 30, 2016

Romans 12--10

Over the past 10 days or so the blog entries on Dr. J’s Apothecary Shoppe have focused on the concept “It’s all about relationships,” the theme from a life-changing conference attended three years that related seven principles that can be universally applied to “launch, challenge, and grow relationships.” While we can universally apply these principles in achieving and maintaining successful relationships, we can also specifically apply them in the area of race relations, a critically important area in America today.

 

Upon further reflection on the series of entries, I recall a statement from Dr. Augustin Fuentes on the subject of race, pointing out some of the myths associated with the subject:

There is not a single biological element unique to any of the groups we call white, black, Asian, Latino, etc. In fact, no matter how hard people try, there has never been a successful scientific way to justify any racial classification, in biology. This is not to say that humans don’t vary biologically, we do, a lot.  But rather that the variation is not racially distributed. . . . Seriously, there are no biological races in humans today, period.

The point of the discussion is that there is only one race, the human race, as Acts 17:26 so clearly reveals Jehovah God’s divine design for humanity:

Acts 17:26 (NLT):

And He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their pre-appointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings,

In light of that reality, the seven principles discussed and shared are indeed universal concepts that apply to all relationship—indeed, “It is all about all relationships.”

Whether with God, family, friends, co-workers, husband or wife,

“It’s all about relationships,” the foundation of life.

These seven principles are related to verbs that connote action when specifically applied in terms of what should be done to “one another.” The reciprocal pronoun used in the plural carries the notion of a group of people acting upon themselves, i.e., upon one another. For example, we are to “love another and so forth. . .”

1) Love

2) Honor

3)  Forgive

4)  Encourage

5)  Admonish

6)  Serve

7)  Make peace

The following poem summarizes the seven principles which form the foundation as we learn to

Value and Steward Relationships

“Paying close attention to the relationships in your life is not an extracurricular activity–           it’s the reason for life itself.”

Dane Findley

 

 

We must learn to value and steward relationships,

As we ever strive to launch, grow and to maintain them.

We form a seven-fold perfected cord of purpose:

Golden strands of strength intertwine with one another.

1

To decide, demonstrate, freely give and practice love:

The first thread whereby we must launch all relationships

And follow Christ’s command that we love one another.

2

To place value on, respect and hold in high esteem:

Giving preference, we take the lead–we are intentional;

With genuine affection we honor one another.

3

To forgive, release from payment, to do a favor,

Even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do,

Bearing with one another, and forgiving one another.

4

To call alongside of and to call to be near,

In the midst of fiery trials that seek to beset us,

Comfort each other and encourage one another.

5

To put in mind, to instruct, we seek to give warning.

The Word of Christ dwells in us that we might minister:

We must exhort, urge, and admonish one another.

6

To render service to, to act as a bond slave who serves

And joyfully gives advantage to the one being served,

So use your freedom to serve one another in love.

7

As agents of change we transform our environment;

We give no offense and remove every stumbling block.

We have salt in ourselves, and make peace with one another.

 

 

We must learn to value and steward relationships,

As we ever strive to launch, grow and to maintain them.

As we love, honor, forgive and encourage each other,

We must admonish, serve, and make peace with one another.

 

“Be Devoted,” the music video used to close the discussion of Principle Six, makes reference to “Serve one another” and a number of other principles, thus this song by Acapella is appropriate to conclude our final comments:

 

 

 

Beyond race relations: Make peace with one another

July 29, 2016

Romans 14--19

In recent blog posts instead of examining the Verse of the Day, we have been continuing  the series based on the concept “It’s all about relationships,” the theme from a conference attended three years that related seven principles that can be universally applied to “launch, challenge, and grow relationships.” These principles can be universally applied in achieving and maintaining successful relationships, but they can also be specifically applied in an area of race relations, a critically important area in America today.

These seven principles are related to verbs that connote action when specifically applied in terms of what should be done to “one another.” The reciprocal pronoun used in the plural carries the notion of a group of people acting upon themselves, i.e., upon one another. For example, we are to “love another and so forth. . .”

1) Love

2) Honor

3)  Forgive

4)  Encourage

5)  Admonish

6)  Serve

7)  Make peace

Earlier posts have discussed the first six principles, and today we will look at the seventh:

Make peace with one another

In the midst of our war-torn world, we find a desperate yearning to experience “peace in our times.” Events occurring since September 11, 2001 have catapulted the world into a state of anxiety and fearfulness.  We are increasingly more aware of the absence of peace, as the United States is now entrenched in the war on terrorism which continues to consume the thoughts of many citizens. The world is seeking relief from the turmoil and strife of these troubled times, crying out, “Peace, peace, and there is no peace.”

Translated from the Hebrew expression shalom, this priceless concept encompasses a state of untroubled, undisturbed well-being. According to Strong’s Concordance, shalom means “completeness, wholeness, health, peace, welfare, safety soundness, tranquility, prosperity, perfectness, fullness, rest, harmony, the absence of agitation or discord.” It is an inner reality, for the peace of God indicates being free from anxiety and care; it is not dependent upon outside conditions.

The peace of God comes from the God of peace, and it is only possible to obtain it through the Prince of Peace, who declares this truth:

John 14:27 (AMP):

27 Peace I leave with you; My [perfect] peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be afraid. [Let My perfect peace calm you in every circumstance and give you courage and strength for every challenge.]

The Lord Jesus Christ also spoke these word about those who make peace:

 Blessed are the peace makers, for they shall be called the children of God. (Matthew 5:9)

“You are the salt of the earth,” one of the striking metaphors used by the Lord, describes those who follow him. Salt, a remarkable change-agent, facilitates the process of change. Such an agent of change appears on the scene and influences the total environment. Jesus Christ elaborates on salt and makes reference to peace:

Mark 9:50 (AMP)

Salt is good and useful; but if salt has lost its saltiness (purpose), how will you make it salty? Have salt within yourselves continually, and be at peace with one another.”

Peace, one of the fruit of the spirit, should be evident in the lives of believers today. As we sow the seeds of peace, we shall reap an abundant harvest of the same, according to James 3:18:

And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace of them that make peace.

Romans 14:19 (AMP) reminds us:

So then, let us pursue [with enthusiasm] the things which make for peace and the building up of one another [things which lead to spiritual growth].

Fruit produced from applying the principle of making peace should be especially evident in the Church. Prior to and during the times of Jesus Christ, Jews and Gentiles did not socially interact. The separation was comparable to the practice of segregation experienced by African Americans in the Deep South in the early 20th century. Jesus Christ, however, through his sacrifice on the cross and his subsequent resurrection, obliterated those barriers that separated these two cultural groups, unifying these factions into one body, the Church, known as the Body of Christ.

Ephesians: 2:14-17 (NLT) speak of the accomplished work of Jesus Christ, the savior of the whole world:

14 For Christ himself has brought peace to us. He united Jews and Gentiles into one people when, in his own body on the cross, he broke down the wall of hostility that separated us.

15 He did this by ending the system of law with its commandments and regulations. He made peace between Jews and Gentiles by creating in himself one new people from the two groups.

16 Together as one body, Christ reconciled both groups to God by means of his death on the cross, and our hostility toward each other was put to dEeath.

17 He brought this Good News of peace to you Gentiles who were far away from him, and peace to the Jews who were near.

In Ephesians 4:3 (NLT) we find another exhortation of peace:

Make every effort to keep the oneness of the Spirit in the bond of peace [each individual working together to make the whole successful].

As our thoughts turn toward the peace that the Lord gives and our desire to abide in peace, words from the Medieval Italian poet and philosopher, Dante Alighieri, come to mind, a line that introduces the following poetic prayer:

Peace

In His will is our peace.

Dante

                       

O, Lord, make us instruments of your peace, we pray.

From our lives may there stream heavenly melodies.

As consummate virtuoso compose and play

Upon our soul, inspire glorious harmonies.

In such measured moments of sweetest quietude

Arrange serenades of praise. Let grace notes resound,

As our lives crescendo in songs of gratitude,

From heart to heart, where your grace and mercy abound.

Orchestrate aubades, nocturnes, songs at eventide;

Complete cantatas of peace within us, align

Our desires and your pleasure. Here we abide,

Saxophone and soloist, communing by design.

Knowing our purpose, we remain quiet and still,

Composed in perfect peace, the center of His will.

The essence of the intent of the seventh principle and related scriptures is also expressed in the song “Instruments of Your Peace,” recorded in Johannesburg, South Africa.

 

We conclude our discussion with these words:

As agents of change we transform our environment;

We give no offense and remove every stumbling block.

We have salt in ourselves, and make peace with one another.

 

 

 

In the home-stretch: Pressing toward the mark

July 28, 2016

Philippians 3--13-14

Revised and re-posted below is the Verse of the Day for July 28, 2016 taken from Philippians 3:14, but to understand more fully that particular verse, we need to take a look at the preceding verse as well:

Philippians 3:13-14:

13 Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before,

14 I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.

Our understanding is illuminated as we examine some of the athletic imagery in the passage. Immediately my thoughts turn toward my high school track days when I ran anchor on the mile relay.  Once the baton hit my hand, I grabbed it and focused on completing the race.  If the other three members of the team had given me a lead, my task was to maintain it or if we were behind when I got the baton, I had to make up the distant and then pull ahead before crossing the finish line.  To press toward the mark is to focus intently, to “scope in on” as one does with a telescope which blocks everything out except that which you are looking at.

I recall that I had to be “single-minded,” focusing all of my energy and efforts on finishing my race. I did not look to the right nor to the left, certainly I did not look behind, but I pressed toward the mark, striving to cross the finish line. I recognized that I had to cross the finish line before I could receive the prize.

Philippians 3:13-14 is used as the introduction to a poem that expresses where we as believers find ourselves as we finish the race that is set before us:

In the Home-stretch

Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended:

but this one thing I do, forgetting those things

which are behind, and reaching forth

unto those things which are before,

I press toward the mark for the prize

Of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.

 

Philippians 3:13-14

 

We rest in the home-stretch, as we press toward the mark,

Secure in the Savior, as all things become new.

Constantly seeking, we know we shall someday find

Our heart’s desire fulfilled, for God’s Word is still true,

Even as these perilous times have never been more dark.

Though at times we faint and grow weary in our mind,

We rest in the home-stretch, as we press toward the mark.

Each day we grow in grace, empowered by the Word.

We fix our heart and set our affections above.

Like David, we encourage ourselves in the Lord.

Nothing can separate us from His boundless love.

We rest in hope, assured that all those who endure

Shall lay hold of the prize that they have sought to win.

We purify our hearts, as the Lord himself is pure.

Strengthened by the presence of Christ who dwells within,

We rest in the home-stretch, as we press toward the mark,

We live to give, and we love to serve above all:

Waiting for the Lord, we still say “Yes” to our call.

We rest in the home-stretch, as we press toward the mark.

As I recall my track and field experiences, I recognize that many times the outcome of the entire track meet was known beforehand, based on the accumulation of points from all the previous track and field events,  with the last two races being relays.  Drawing a spiritual parallel with the spiritual athletic arena that we find ourselves in today, the believers’ team is so far ahead that we cannot lose; however, the challenge is for each individual believer to finish the race, having achieved his or her P.B. (personal best).

In a similar way, believers are encouraged in their individual races to

Cast aside every weight and the sin that so easily besets,

Forget the past, press toward the mark,

Look straight ahead with no regrets.

We close, as Wayne Pascall offers an original rendition of “Press for the Prize” from Philippians 3:13-21:

 

Beyond race relations: To serve

July 27, 2016

Galatians-5-13

In recent blog posts instead of examining the Verse of the Day, we have been continuing  the series based on the concept “It’s all about relationships,” the theme from a conference attended three years that related seven principles that can be universally applied to “launch, challenge, and grow relationships.” These principles can be universally applied in achieving and maintaining successful relationships, but they can also be specifically applied in an area of race relations, a critically important area in America today.

These seven principles are related to verbs that connote action when specifically applied in terms of what should be done to “one another.” The reciprocal pronoun used in the plural carries the notion of a group of people acting upon themselves, i.e., upon one another. For example, we are to “love another and so forth. . .”

1) Love

2) Honor

3)  Forgive

4)  Encourage

5)  Admonish

6)  Serve

7)  Make peace

Earlier posts have discussed the first five principles, and today we will look at the sixth.

Serve one another

One of the most striking facets of the ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ was his taking upon himself the form of a servant who did not come into the world to be served but to serve. In discussing this topic of the servant or bond slave, an image almost immediately comes to mind: a basin and a towel, representative of a teachable moment in the ministry of Jesus Christ, who put off his robe and girded himself with a towel, portraying so clearly the heart of a true servant or bond slave when he washed the disciples’ feet in the account from John 13.12-15:

12 After washing their feet, he put on his robe again and sat down and asked, “Do you understand what I was doing? 13 You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and you are right, because that’s what I am. 14 And since I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash each other’s feet. 15 I have given you an example to follow. Do as I have done to you.

Elsewhere in the Scriptures we find similar exhortations to serve one another:

Galatians 5:13 in the New Living Translation:

For you have been called to live in freedom, my brothers and sisters. But don’t use your freedom to satisfy your sinful nature. Instead, use your freedom to serve one another in love.

As believers, we have been blessed with a wide range of spiritual abilities or talents, as 1 Peter 4:10 (NLT) confirms and states how they should be used:

God has given each of you a gift from his great variety of spiritual gifts. Use them well to serve one another.

To serve in its most literal sense means to perform the duties of a servant or bond slave; in our case we serve one another from a position of “voluntary servitude.” We exercise our freedom in Christ Jesus and choose to serve one another. To serve is not to assume the lowest position in the eyes of God, but those who aspire to serve are recognized as great. In Matthew 20:25-27 Jesus Christ reiterates this point:

25 But Jesus called them to Himself and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and those who are great exercise authority over them. 26 Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your servant. 27 And whoever desires to be first among you, let him be your slave—

For a definition of what it means to serve, listen to this excerpt from the classic sermon “The Drum Major Instinct” by Dr. Martin Luther King, who speaks of vast possibilities for greatness for those who choose “to serve.”

As believers we are called upon to serve, we as we are ever challenged to sow as well, expressed in this way:

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 souls 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

This 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.

 

As believers, we respond to the call and demonstrate our choice:

To render service to, to act as a bond slave who serves

And joyfully gives advantage to the one being served,

So use your freedom to serve one another in love.

We conclude with the song “Be Devoted” by Acapella who encourage believers to “serve one another.”

 

 

 

 

 

Beyond race relations: Admonish one another

July 25, 2016

Colossians 3--16 2

In recent blog posts instead of examining the Verse of the Day, we have been continuing  the series based on the concept “It’s all about relationships,” the theme from a conference attended three years that related seven principles that can be universally applied to “launch, challenge, and grow relationships.” These principles can be universally applied in achieving and maintaining successful relationships, but they can also be specifically applied in an area of race relations, a critically important area in America today.

These seven principles are related to verbs that connote action when specifically applied in terms of what should be done to “one another.” The reciprocal pronoun used in the plural carries the notion of a group of people acting upon themselves, i.e., upon one another. For example, we are to “love another and so forth. . .”

1) Love

2) Honor

3)  Forgive

4)  Encourage

5)  Admonish

6)  Serve

7)  Make peace

Earlier posts have discussed the first four principles, and today we will look at the fifth.

Admonish one another

Throughout the letters written by Paul to the believers in the some of the Churches established in First Century, we find terms related to the words admonishment or admonish. A number of references encourage believers to “admonish one another.”

Many who hear the term “admonish” associate the verb with giving orders or reprimanding or rebuking, but the concept involves more than that. Derived from variations of the Greek word nous translated “mind,” the word is primarily translated “to give advice, to warn, to put in mind (remind)” and only secondarily “to chastise” or “rebuke”. Here are places where the verb form is rendered “admonish one another,” whereby believers are mutually active in this process:

Paul speaks these words to the believers in Romans 15:14 (AMP):

Personally I am convinced about you, my brothers and sisters, that you yourselves are full of goodness, amply filled with all [spiritual] knowledge, and competent to admonish and counsel and instruct one another.

We find a similar pronouncements to the Thessalonian believers:

1 Thessalonians 4:1 (AMP):

[Sanctification and Love] Finally, believers, we ask and admonish you in the Lord Jesus, that you follow the instruction that you received from us about how you ought to walk and please God (just as you are actually doing) and that you excel even more and more [pursuing a life of purpose and living in a way that expresses gratitude to God for your salvation].

1 Thessalonians 5:14:

We [earnestly] urge you, believers, admonish those who are out of line [the undisciplined, the unruly, the disorderly], encourage the timid [who lack spiritual courage], help the [spiritually] weak, be very patient with everyone [always controlling your temper].

Colossians 3:16 is another place where the expression “admonish one another” is found. When we look at the context of verses 15-17, we find a wonderful “gratitude sandwich” with verse 16 being right in the center of three references to being thankful, as noted in the New Living Translation:

Colossians 3:15-17:

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

16 Let the message about Christ, in all its richness, fill your lives. Teach and counsel each other with all the wisdom he gives. Sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs to God with thankful hearts.

17 And whatever you do or say, do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through him to God the Father.

More than merely saying “thank you” to God, more than giving of our abundance or giving of our time or material goods, we express our gratitude to God in everything we say and do. It is always an appropriate time to give thanks to God. One of the songs I recall from years ago declares, “Now is the right time to praise the Lord!” No matter the circumstances, no matter the conditions, weather-wise or otherwise, we are to follow this admonition:

In happy moments, praise God.

In difficult moments, seek God.

In quiet moments, worship God.

In painful moments, trust God.

In every moment, thank God.

 

 

At All Times

I will bless the Lord at all times,

His praise shall continually be in my mouth.

Psalm 34:1

 

 

When God’s goodness and mercy follow closely,

And we savor the ecstasy of victory,

When joy overflows and floods our souls, we will praise God.

 

When gripped by the devices of this transient life

And caught in the straits of rising conflict and strife,

During these difficult moments, we will seek God.

 

When we long to abide within a tranquil mood

And linger in moments of sweetest quietude,

From the depths of our souls, we will worship God.

 

Despite raging seas, stormy winds and blinding rain,

When protracted pain strikes like a knife and numbs the brain

So that we can scarcely scream your name, we will trust God.

 

All along life’s journey, no matter the season,

Through every why and wherefore, for every reason

Every moment we draw breath, we will thank God.

 

We seek the Lord and ask ourselves, “What shall we do?”

“Give thanks: it is God’s will in Christ concerning you.”

“Give thanks: it is God’s will in Christ concerning you.

Colossians 3:16 and other related scriptures offer this reminder:

To give counsel, to instruct, we seek to give warning.

The Word of Christ dwells in us that we might minister:

We put in mind, urge, and admonish one another.

Colossians 3:16 is set to music as one of verses using the term “teaching and admonishing one another”:

 

 

 

Beyond race relations: Encourage one another

July 24, 2016

1 Thessalonians 5--11

The blog post for July 24, 2016 continues the series based on the concept “It’s all about relationships,” the theme from a conference attended three years that related seven principles that can be universally applied to “launch, challenge, and grow relationships.” These principles can be universally applied in achieving and maintaining successful relationships, but they can also be specifically applied in an area of race relations, a critically important area in America today.

These seven principles are related to verbs that connote action when specifically applied in terms of what should be done to “one another.” The reciprocal pronoun used in the plural carries the notion of a group of people acting upon themselves, i.e., upon one another. For example, we are to “love another and so forth. . .”

1) Love

2) Honor

3)  Forgive

4)  Encourage

5)  Admonish

6)  Serve

7)  Make peace

Earlier posts have discussed the first three principles, and today we will talk about the fourth:

Encourage one another:

Among the signs of the times in the last days before Christ returns is the reference to “wars and rumors of wars” where “nation shall rise against nation and kingdom against kingdom.” The word “nation” is translated from the Greek word “ethnos”—from which we get terms, such as “ethnic” and “ethnicity.” Clearly, we find the world is rampant with ethnic conflicts, both internationally as well as intra-nationally. Some of the clashes that we are witnessing in America are really conflicts among cultural groups: African Americans, Native Americans, Hispanic/Latino Americans and other ethnic groups. In the midst of rising conflicts of this nature, as believers we recognize from these indicators that the return of Christ is near, and we offer words of comfort and assurance, as “we encourage one another.”

Derived from the expression translated “to come along beside of” or “to comfort together,” or “to mutually encourage,” the phrase “encourage one another” is used throughout the New Testament, especially in the Church Epistles written by Paul. We find these words in Romans 1:12 (AMP):

When we get together, I want to encourage you in your faith, but I also want to be encouraged by yours.

In a situation where Paul could not be present, he sent Timothy to encourage the believers of Thessalonica in their faith:

1 Thessalonians 3:2 (AMP):

And so we sent Timothy, our brother and God’s servant in [spreading] the good news of Christ, to strengthen and encourage you [exhorting, comforting, and establishing you] in regard to your faith,

In a literal sense the expression means to “pour courage into each other.” Before one can give something to someone else, that individual must have received what the person gives to another. As believers, we receive from God the encouragement that we need so that we can then encourage and comfort others in their time of need. This is precisely the message of 2 Corinthians 1:3-5 Amplified Bible (AMP):

Blessed [gratefully praised and adored] be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort, who comforts and encourages us in every trouble so that we will be able to comfort and encourage those who are in any kind of trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For just as Christ’s sufferings are ours in abundance [as they overflow to His followers], so also our comfort [our reassurance, our encouragement, our consolation] is abundant through Christ [it is truly more than enough to endure what we must].

A source of boundless encouragement and comfort in the midst of our perilous times is the hope of the return of Jesus Christ. Indeed, this the focal point of the letters written to the Thessalonian believers. Chapter 4 of 1 Thessalonians describes the return of the Lord Jesus Christ and the gathering together of those who have died in Christ along with those believers who are alive, offering these encouraging words:

1 Thessalonians 4:18:

18 Therefore comfort and encourage one another with these words [concerning our reunion with believers who have died].

The words of encouragement continue in 1 Thessalonians 5:9-11

For God has not destined us to [incur His] wrath [that is, He did not select us to condemn us], but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Ch1rist, 10 who died [willingly] for us, so that whether we are awake (alive) or asleep (dead) [at Christ’s appearing], we will live together with Him [sharing eternal life]. 11 Therefore encourage and comfort one another and build up one another, just as you are doing.

We close our comments with a passage from Hebrews 10:23-25 that offers this hopeful advice as to how and why and when we should be “encouraging one another”:

23 Let us seize and hold tightly the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is reliable and trustworthy and faithful [to His word]; 24 and let us consider [thoughtfully] how we may encourage one another to love and to do good deeds, 25 not forsaking our meeting together [as believers for worship and instruction], as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more [faithfully] as you see the day [of Christ’s return] approaching.

These words and other related scriptures remind believers:

To call alongside of and to call to be near,

In the midst of fiery trials that seek to beset us,

Comfort each other and edify one another.

“Encourage one another”, as this musical reminder tells us

 

 

Beyond race relations: Forgive one another

July 23, 2016

Ephesians 4_32

The blog post for July 23, 2016 is a continuation of the series based on the concept “It’s all about relationships,” the theme from a conference attended three years ago that related seven principles that can be universally applied to “launch, challenge, and grow relationships.” These principles can be universally applied in achieving and maintaining successful relationships, but they can also be specifically applied in race relations, a critically important area in America today.

These seven principles are related to verbs that connote action when specifically applied in terms of what should be done to “one another.” The reciprocal pronoun used in the plural carries the notion of a group of people acting upon themselves, i.e., upon one another. For example, we are to “love another and so forth. . .”

1) Love

2) Honor

3)  Forgive

4)  Encourage

5)  Admonish

6)  Serve

7)  Make peace

Earlier posts have discussed the first two principles, and today we will talk about the third:

Forgive one another

The Verse of the Day posted on June 26, 2016 centered on Leviticus 18:19 (AMP):

You shall not take revenge nor bear any grudge against the sons of your people, but you shall love your neighbor (acquaintance, associate, companion) as yourself; I am the Lord.

The expression to “not take revenge nor bear any grudge” is “to forgive,” and most remarkably, June 26 is National Forgiveness Day, a designated time to forgive and be forgiven. In some sense every day could be seen as Forgiveness Day, not only in America but across the globe. Some of the following comments are extracted and expanded from that blog entry:

Forgiveness, a vitally important concept in Christianity, is described as a two-way street. This virtue is eloquently expressed in the Lord’s Prayer: “Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. . . .” The subject is connected to some of the last words that Jesus Christ, who was also brutally slain, as he spoke before his death on the cross: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

In addition, Paul also exhorts believers to “be kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake has forgiven you.” Dr. Arch Hart, Christian psychologist, offers a definition of forgiveness that seems to be particularly applicable in the situations with where one individual has hurt another in some way: “Forgiveness is giving up my right to hurt you for hurting me.”

James E. Hurst cites Dr. Sidney Simon who offers this definition of this critical concept:

“Forgiveness is freeing up and putting to better use the energy once consumed by holding grudges, harboring resentments, and nursing unhealed wounds. It is rediscovering the strengths we always had and relocating our limitless capacity to understand and accept other people and ourselves.”

Dr. Robert D. Enright, founder of the International Forgiveness Institute and pioneer researcher with the first scientifically proven forgiveness program in the country, has developed Forgiveness Is a Choice: A Step-by-Step Process for Resolving Anger and Restoring Hope. This study guide demonstrates how forgiveness, when approached in the correct manner, benefits the forgiver far more than the forgiven, indicating that forgiveness can reduce anxiety and depression while increasing self-esteem and hopefulness toward one’s future. The title of Dr. Enright’s workbook also brings to mind this poem:

We Choose to Forgive

 And be kind to one another, tenderhearted,

forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.

Ephesians 4:32 (NKJV)

 

 

We choose to forgive and to release from payment,

To clear the account and forego the debt once more.

Though rightfully owed to us, we choose to forgive,

To be gracious, in spite of the ingratitude.

Our desire is to be kind and tenderhearted;

Even as God for Christ’s sake has forgiven us,

We rise to the occasion of the Word of God.

Not keeping a record of any wrongs suffered,

We seek to walk in the footsteps of the Savior.

As Joseph, in compassion, assured his brothers

What Satan meant for evil, God fashions for good,

Widen our vision to see a much more grand scope:

May we also see all things working together

For the good, even in perilous times as these.

More than a year ago on June 17, 2015, a series of horrific events occurred in Charleston, SC, where Dylann Roof, seemingly mild-manner young White man,  sat in on a midweek Bible study for an hour before opening fire in a brutal attack that left nine dead at historic Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, SC. When Roof appeared in court on the following Friday facing nine counts of murder, many of the family members of those slain stated, “I forgive you.”

The response to the events in Charleston has served as a glorious demonstration of the power of forgiveness in an interracial context. Throughout the nation we find similar situations where Caucasians have inflicted injury, even death, on African Americans and where African Americans have retaliated in attacking those of another ethnicity who injured them. Without question, race relations are strained, to say the least, but we recognize that to overcome such enmity a spirit of forgiveness must prevail. Christians must set the example and lead the way in responding to the Biblical command:

To forgive, release from payment, to do a favor,

Even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do,

Bearing with one another, and forgiving one another.

Matthew West, popular Christian singer, tells the story behind one of the songs that he wrote “Forgiveness”:

Listen to the complete recording of “Forgiveness”

Beyond race relations:honor one another

July 21, 2016

Romans 12--10

From the Amplified Bible comes the Verse of the Day for July 21, 2016

Psalm 119:30:

I have chosen the faithful way; I have placed Your ordinances before me.

Here is the verse in the Good News Testament:

I have chosen to be obedient; I have paid attention to your judgments.

In addition to looking at the Verse of the Day, today’s post also examines the concept “It’s all about relationships,” the theme from a conference attended three years that related seven principles that can be universally applied to “launch, challenge, and grow relationships.” These principles that can be universally applied in achieving and maintaining successful relationships, but they can also be specifically applied in an area of race relations, a critically important area in America today.

These seven principles are related to verbs that connote action when specifically applied in terms of what should be done to “one another,” a phrase that is used 31 times in the Scriptures. The reciprocal pronoun used in the plural carries the notion of a group of people acting upon themselves, i.e., upon one another. For example, we are to “love another and so forth. . .”

1) Love

2) Honor

3)  Forgive

4)  Encourage

5)  Admonish

6)  Serve

7)  Make peace

Earlier this week a blog post discussed the first of the seven principles, “Love one another,” and today we will talk about the second:

Honor one another

The idea of honor is a very important concept in the Word of God where to honor means to respect, to esteem, to have high regard for, and to reward. It also translated to place value on, respect, to place esteem upon, to esteem; to prefer—to go before, to lead, to be intentional.

Apostle John Testola notes that “Honor produces an exchange,” in that when we give honor, we receive honor in return. This is essentially the principle of giving and receiving. Of course, we always receive in greater measure than we give. Luke 6:38 reveals this universal principle:

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.

Although this verse is often used in terms of the financial resources that we give, it has wider implications which would include the giving and receiving of honor. We are encouraged to give honor to whom honor is due.

Just as honor generates honor in greater measure, so likewise is the converse true. As Apostle Testola also mentioned, “Dishonor produces an exchange,” in that “a lack of honor produces a curse.” He explained that “God releases based on the bridge of honor that has been built.”

Another principle taught by Dr.Tetsola related to the statement: “Honor is about value.” The Apostle went on to explain that to “value is to hold in high esteem in your sight.”  He said, “What you don’t value, you don’t honor. . . You never sow into anyone’s life you don’t value.” Honor, he explained, is a genuine expression of the heart. You cannot offer what is not in your heart to give.

Apostle Tetsola elaborated upon the principles discussed by stating that associated with honor is the “process of welcoming the person you honor in your heart, whereby you celebrate their anointing and receive the individual with gladness.” He calls this the “process of acceptance.”  Certainly these principles could be applied in the area of interracial relationships whereby each party would honor the other, just as we are reminded in Romans 12:10:

The Holman Christian Standard Bible puts it this way:

Show family affection to one another with brotherly love. Outdo one another in showing honor.

This video clip reiterates the message:

Finally, from the Book of Proverbs comes these words of wisdom regarding honor:

Proverbs 15:33:

The fear of the LORD is the instruction of wisdom and before honor is humility.

The title of the following is taken from the closing phrase of this verse.

Before Honor is Humility       

“Our honor activates the honor

that is in the heart of God.”

Apostle John Tetsola

 

“Before honor is humility,” says the Lord.

We honor each other according to the Word,

Not withholding honor to whom honor is due.

We follow these precepts, for the Word of God is true,

Giving life, sharper than any two-edged sword.

 

 

We honor one another and walk in one accord.

Where honor abounds God’s favor shall be restored.

When you give honor, honor is given to you.

“Before honor is humility.”

 

 

The power of this precept cannot be ignored.

All those who bestow honor have great reward.

We must give honor in all that we say and do,

Pressing toward the mark for the prize, we continue

Striving for the perfection we all are moving toward:

“Before honor is humility.”

We summarize the second principle of building and sustaining relationships in the area of race relations:

To place value on, respect and hold in high esteem:

Giving preference, we take the lead–we are intentional;

With genuine affection we honor one another.

In closing, listen to “For the honor” by Elevation Worship

Do not fear: No need to fear

July 19, 2016

Isaiah 41--10

Taken from Isaiah 41:10 (AMP) the Verse of the Day for July 19, 2016 was originally posted a year ago, but the truth of this particular verse certainly has application to our lives as believers in light of the uncertainty of turbulent times:

‘Do not fear [anything], for I am with you; Do not be afraid, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, be assured I will help you; I will certainly take hold of you with My righteous right hand [a hand of justice, of power, of victory, of salvation].’

I recall reciting this verse which I had learned by heart after I experienced a situation that disturbed me and brought to the surface something that I thought I had dealt with, but I found myself being afraid—needlessly.  So when I read the verse from Isaiah 41, it was especially meaningful to me and addressed a concern in a precise way.

This encouraging word is one of 365 scriptures that address the issue of fear, providing yet another reminder to believers: “Do not fear.” We could view this particular verse as one of our daily memos from God to have no fear.

Recognizably, fear is a common and natural emotional response to potential danger, but if not properly addressed, it can become a deadly emotion with serious consequences. Excessive fear can become crippling and impact our daily lives in a negative way. Unbridled fear is a toxic emotion that can run rampant to limit and inhibit.

As with each of the toxic emotions of life, we want to counteract their harmful effects with the proper remedy. When we encounter a negative emotion, we are encouraged to move in the opposite spirit. In terms of responding to fear in light of moving in the opposite spirit, we find that love is the perfect antidote.

In those who hear the Word of God and keep it, the love of God is “perfected” or made perfect or complete, wanting nothing or brought to maturity in them. To be “perfected” is to be brought to a full end. 1 John 4:18 provides the basis for love being the perfect antidote to fear:

There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love.

When an individual is “perfected in love” and walks in or demonstrates that love, there is no room for fear. The love of God is the key that releases each believer from the bondage of this “self-imposed prison” from which Christ came to set the captives free.

Self-imposed Prison

“Fear is a self-imposed prison that will keep you

 from becoming what God intends for you to be.”

 Rick Warren

 

There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear,

 because fear involves torment. But he who fears

 has not been made perfect in love.

I John 4:18

 

This self-imposed prison, not made with bars of steel,

Nor formed with bricks, yet each subtly constructed wall

Restricts the mind, scars the soul and cripples the will

And impounds us to a state of constant free fall.

Held captive by past mistakes that seek to instill

Fear: this deadly acronym binds, confines the heart,

So disguised as “false evidence appearing real”

Keeps us from being all God intends us to be.

But Christ, our sovereign Lord, pardoned each life sentence,

Commuted penalties, declaring not guilty.

With his blood, having blotted out every offense,

Displayed undying love: key to set captives free.

Pure freedom to serve awaits those with ears to hear,

For perfected love destroys all walls built by fear.

The essence of the message for today is “Have no fear—walk in love.” We conclude as Whitley Phipps offers this encouraging musical reminder: “No Need to Fear”