Archive for December, 2016

Peace: perfect peace

December 30, 2016


The Verse of the Day for December 30, 2016, the last Wednesday of the year, brings to our attention words from Jesus Christ found in John 16:33 (AMP):

I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have [perfect] peace. In the world you have tribulation and distress and suffering, but be courageous [be confident, be undaunted, be filled with joy]; I have overcome the world.” [My conquest is accomplished, My victory abiding.]

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

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 New Living Translation puts it this way:

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

These words of peace come from the Prince of Peace, source of everlasting peace. Aside from the peace that Christ gives, there is no real peace. I recall the lyrics from an old song often sung acapella around a campfire:

Peace, I thank thee for O Father

Peace, peace, peace

When I learn to live serenely cares will cease.

From thy Word I gather courage, visions of the day to be

Strength to lead and faith to follow all are given unto me

Peace, I thank thee for O Father

Peace, peace, peace

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

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

The verse is rendered this way in the Amplified Bible:

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

The word “peace” in this verse is repeated in the Hebrew text and rendered “perfect peace.” This figure of repetition could be literally translated “peace, peace.” God provides a “double portion of peace” to those who trust in Him. A similar expression is used elsewhere in Isaiah

Isaiah 27: 5 (NLT):

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

Isaiah 57:19 (NKJV)

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

Finally Colossians 3:15 provides this reminder:

15 And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts. For as members 8of one body you are called to live in peace. And always be thankful.

The Verse of the Day along with other scriptures related to the peace of God reinforce the comforting and reassuring message expressed in Isaiah 26:3 which promises that God will keep us in a state of perfect peace as we trust him. John Waller sings “Perfect Peace,” a musical composition blending words of the Gospel of John and Isaiah 26:3:

Rest in the Lord

December 28, 2016

Matthew 11--28

Revised and re-posted from a previous blog entry, the Verse of the Day for December 28, 2016 is found in Matthew 11: 28, but to better understand exactly what Jesus Christ is saying, we also need to examine verses 29 and 30 which close out the chapter.

Matthew 11:28-30 (AMP):

28 “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavily burdened [by religious rituals that provide no peace], and I will give you rest [refreshing your souls with salvation]. 29 Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me [following Me as My disciple], for I am gentle and humble in heart, and YOU WILL FIND REST (renewal, blessed quiet) FOR YOUR SOULS. 30 For My yoke is easy [to bear] and My burden is light.”

Jesus Christ invites his followers, all those who work and are heavy laden, to enter “a place of quiet rest . . . near to the heart of God.” The Lord draws to himself those who are burdened with care, that they might find rest to their souls. In thinking about a place of rest from one’s labor, we recall the original intent of the Sabbath, first spoken of Genesis 2:1-3:

So the creation of the heavens and the earth and everything in them was completed. 2 On the seventh day God had finished his work of creation, so he rested from all his work. 3 And God blessed the seventh day and declared it holy, because it was the day when he rested from all his work of creation.

This passage in Genesis connects the Sabbath and the “seventh day” and “rest,” all terms derived from the Hebrew word Shabbat. Described as the centerpiece of Jewish life, Shabbat (the Sabbath) is designated as a day of rest and celebration beginning on Friday at sunset and ending on the following evening after nightfall.

The concept of the Sabbath comes to mind while reflecting on the Verse of Day and the following verses in Matthew 11:28-30.This particular passage is the inspiration for the following original song in response to the invitation offered by the Lord:

I Will Rest in the Lord

I will rest in the Lord. I will rest in him.
No matter the challenge, I will put my trust in him.
My desire is not just to be a hearer
But also to be a doer of the Word.
May I so live my life to rest in the Lord.

Sometimes I carry a load that I’m not meant to bear.
I fall beneath the burden that could lead to despair.
Then I look unto Jesus, to lighten my load.
For he has said, “Come unto me. All ye that are heavy laden,
and I will give you rest, for my yoke is easy
and my burden is light.”

I will rest in the Lord. I will rest in him.
No matter the challenge, I will put my trust in him.
My desire is not just to be a hearer
But also to be a doer of the Word.
May I so live my life to rest in the Lord.

In bringing closure to this year while reflecting upon the triumphs and challenges of 2016, I recognize that countless times I have worked much more that I should have and rested far less than I could have. In looking forward to the New Year with fresh possibilities, I am determined more consistently “to rest in the Lord.”

Reggie and Ladye Love Smith offer a song of encouragement to round out our discussion of words of Jesus Christ in Matthew 11:28-30: “I will give you rest.”

Bless the Lord, O my soul

December 27, 2016


From Psalm 103:1-2 in the Amplified Bible comes the Verse of the Day for December 27, 2016. In reflecting upon this magnificent psalm, let us widen our focus to the first six verses:

Psalm 103:1-6 (AMP):

Bless and affectionately praise the Lord, O my soul,
And all that is [deep] within me, bless His holy name.

Bless and affectionately praise the Lord, O my soul,
And do not forget any of His benefits;

Who forgives all your sins,
Who heals all your diseases;

Who redeems your life from the pit,
Who crowns you [lavishly] with lovingkindness and tender mercy;

Who satisfies your years with good things,
So that your youth is renewed like the [soaring] eagle.

The Lord executes righteousness
and justice for all the oppressed.

The joyous words of the Psalmist encourage each believer not to forget the blessings and benefits that God has bestowed upon us. He goes on to celebrate the glorious attributes of God, who forgives, redeems, satisfies, and executes righteousness and justice.

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

Psalm 103:1-6 is set to music as a Christian Worship and Scripture song by Esther Mui:

Simeon’s song

December 26, 2016


In today’s blog entry we examine an occurrence taking place eight days after the birth of Jesus Christ, as recorded at the end of chapter 2 of the Gospel of Luke. Here we find a remarkable man who comes into the Temple in Jerusalem at the same time as Mary and Joseph, who are bringing the newly born Christ-child to be circumcised, according to customs described in Luke 2:22-24 (AMP):

22 And when the time for their purification came [that is, the mother’s purification and the baby’s dedication] according to the Law of Moses, they brought Him up to Jerusalem to present Him to the Lord [set apart as the Firstborn] 23 (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male that opens the womb shall be called holy [set apart and dedicated] to the Lord)” 24 and [they came also] to offer a sacrifice according to what is said in the Law of the Lord [to be appropriate for a family of modest means], “a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons.”

The subsequent verses, which form the Verse of the Day for December 26, 2016 introduce a remarkable man of God who sees the infant and recognizes him as the Promised Messiah and makes a prophetic declaration which has been preserved in Scripture:

Luke 2:25-32 (AMP):

25 Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon; and this man was righteous and devout [carefully observing the divine Law], and looking for the Consolation of Israel; and the Holy Spirit was upon him. 26 It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Christ (the Messiah, the Anointed). 27 Prompted by the Spirit, he came into the temple [enclosure]; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for Him the custom required by the Law, 28 Simeon took Him into his arms, and blessed and praised and thanked God, and said,

“Now, Lord, You are releasing Your bond-servant to leave [this world] in peace,
According to Your word;
For my eyes have seen Your Salvation,
Which You have prepared in the presence of all peoples,
A Light for revelation to the Gentiles [to disclose what was previously unknown],

Olshausen describes Simeon’s prophetic words as a “swan-like song, bidding an eternal farewell to this terrestrial life.” Sometimes referred to as “Nunc Dimittis,” translated from the Latin phrase meaning “you can now dismiss,” Simeon’s psalm of praise has been set to music in this composition by Michael Card: “Now that I’ve held him in my arms”:

And his name shall be called

December 25, 2016


On Christmas Day, the Verse of the Day for December 25, 2016 comes from Isaiah 9:6 in the Amplified Bible:

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

Often a “name” such as this is given to a human or something describing attributes of God/Yahweh. One translation renders the opening of the verse: “His essential characteristics shall be.” Here is brief discussion of some of those qualities:

Wonderful”—In Judges, the angel of the Lord is asked about the name of the Lord God, and he responds by saying: “Why do you ask my name, seeing it is wonderful (miraculous)?” (Judges 13:18).

“Counselor”—The Psalmist declares,

“I will bless the Lord who has counseled me;
Indeed, my heart (mind) instructs me in the night.” (Psalm 16:17)

Romans 11:33-34 also speaks of God as a counselor:

33 Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and decisions and how unfathomable and untraceable are His ways! 34 For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been His counselor?

“Mighty God”—one translation reads “God, the mighty man.”  The expression “the mighty God” is found in Isaiah 10:21 while the might of the Lord is also expressed in Psalm 24:8 (AMP):

Who is the King of glory?
The Lord strong and mighty,
The Lord mighty in battle.

Everlasting Father—This reference points to the everlasting Kingdom of the Father who reigns forever spoken of in 1 Chronicles 16:36 (Holman Standard Bible):

May Yahweh, the God of Israel, be praised from everlasting to everlasting.” Then all the people said, “Amen” and “Praise the Lord.”

Daniel 4:3 (AMP) echoes this point:

“How great are His signs and how mighty are His wonders! His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom and His dominion is from generation to generation.

Prince of Peace—This expression describes the notable attribute of being more than just a peacemaker but the embodiment of peace, as Ephesians 2:14 (AMP) makes known:

For He Himself is our peace and our bond of unity. He who made both groups—[Jews and Gentiles]—into one body and broke down the barrier, the dividing wall [of spiritual antagonism between us],

At the Messiah’s birth the multitude of the heavenly host proclaimed:

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

All of these attributes are encompassed in the name spoken of in Isaiah 9:6:

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

The verse is rendered this way:

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

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

George Friedrich Handel’s “Messiah,” the renowned, sacred oratorio with texts from the King James Version of the Bible is among the best known and most frequently performed music compositions in the Western world, particularly during the Christmas season. Isaiah 9:6, “For unto Us a Child born,” is set to music in this celebrated work. Listen as Sir Colin Davis conducts the London Symphony Orchestra and the Tenebrae Chorus in this excerpt.


Treasured in Mary’s heart

December 24, 2016


On December 24, 2016, traditionally known as Christmas Eve, the Verse of Day continues the narrative of the birth of Jesus Christ, as the shepherds enter and depart:

Luke 2:16-20 (AMP)

So they went in a hurry and found their way to Mary and Joseph, and the Baby as He lay in the manger. And when they had seen this, they made known what had been told them about this Child, and all who heard it were astounded and wondered at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured all these things, giving careful thought to them and pondering them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all that they had heard and seen, just as it had been told them.

As this account unfolds, we recognize not only did Mary give birth to a child, her first-born son, but the circumstances surrounding his birth must have been overwhelming. The shepherds who suddenly come on the scene relate that the “angel of the Lord” had spoken with them and told where to go and explained what they would find when they arrived. This group of exhilarated witnesses return, glorifying and praising God for all that they had heard and seen. Mary and Joseph are alone with their newborn son.

Mary, a mere teenager, hides the words spoken by the shepherds and the miraculous events surrounding the birth of son in the depths of her heart. “Mary treasured all these things,” meaning she “kept close, kept safe, treasured, preserved—set apart and preserved in a special place.” We might say that she hid memories of what happened in the “lock-box of her heart.”

In the days ahead she must return to Nazareth where she will not be looked upon favorably at all. In fact, she will be despised because she has given birth to child before the time that she was to have consummated her marriage with her husband. She will encounter a barrage of hateful words and shameful looks, as she faces staggering unbelief. She will need to draw upon inner resources and encourage herself in the Lord, as she “discusses, confers, converses, gives careful thought to and ponders” within herself. There is no one who could possibly understand what she is going through.

During this time of special bonding with her husband and child, Mary gave considerable thought to all that had transpired. One of the contemporary Christmas compositions focuses on Mary, as Clay Aiken asks, “Mary, Did You Know?”


Only God knows all that Mary treasured in her heart that night.

Another song of Bethlehem by way of Nigeria

December 23, 2016


Sheet music for Betelemu, Nigerian Christmas carol sung in the Yoruba dialect.

Sheet music for Betelehemu, Nigerian Christmas carol sung in the Yoruba dialect.

Three days ago I posted a blog entry “Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem” with commentary related to Matthew 2:4-6 which focuses on Bethlehem, the place of the Savior’s birth, and I shared two songs inspired by that small town located 6 miles west of Jerusalem in Judea: the Black spiritual “Children, Go Where I Send” plus a medley of “O Little Town of Bethlehem” and “Away in a Manger.” Since posting that entry, I discovered another related song, Betelehemu, a Nigerian carol sung in the Yoruba dialect.

According to, the Christmas song was originally composed for the Morehouse College Glee Club by the choir director for the college, Dr. Wendell P. Whalum, who received the song from Michael Babtunde Olantunji, a Rotary scholarship student who attended Morehouse in the 1950s. After graduation, he went to become known as Olantunji, an accomplished percussionist and recording artist in his own right, working with such artists as Stevie Wonder, Quincy Jones, Bob Dylan, and other noted jazz artists before his death in the US in 2003.

Here are lyrics with translation:

Betelehemu, Betelehemu, Betelehemu, Betelehemu.

Awa yi o ri Baba gbo jule.
Awa yi o ri Baba fehenti.
Awa yi o ri Baba gbo jule.
Awa yi o ri Baba fehenti.

Awa yi o ri Baba gbo jule.
Awa yi o ri Baba fehenti.
Nibo labi Jesu,
Nibo lagbe bii.

Betelehemu ilu ara,
Nibe labi Baba o daju,

Iyin, Iyin, Iyin, nifuno.
Iyin, Iyin, Iyin, nifuno.

Adupe fun o,
jooni,Baba olo reo.
Adupe fun o,
jooni,Baba olo reo.

Iyin, fun o Baba anu, Baba toda wasi


We are glad that we have a Father to trust.
We are glad to have a Father to rely upon.

Where was Jesus born?
Where was he born?

Bethlehem the city of wonder.
That is where the Father was born for sure.

Praise, Praise, Praise be to Him
We thank Thee, We thank Thee for this day,

Gracious Father.
Praise be to Thee, Merciful Father.

This amazing Christmas song has been sung by various soloists and ensembles, most notably including the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. Listen to this Christmas lagniappe or special treat recorded by the Morehouse Men’s Choir: “Betelehemu

Glory to God around the glory manger

December 23, 2016

Luke 2--14

The Verse of Day for December 23, 2016 comes from the concluding verses of the same passage containing the narrative of the birth of Jesus Christ found in the Gospel of Luke:

Luke 2:11-14 (AMP):

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

With its reference to the manger and multitude of the angelic host of heaven offering praise and glory to God, the passage brought to mind a Christmas spiritual often sung at this time of the year: “’Round de glory manger”

In previous blog entries I have listed this selection as one of my Top 10 Christmas Spirituals. “’Round de Glory Manger,” generally performed as a choral piece, has been offered as a solo by many singers, such as Harry Belafonte and Odetta. Kathleen Battle, renowned concert singer, included the spiritual in her Christmas Concert at Carnegie Hall, after having received arrangements for soloist by Jacqueline Hairston, cousin of late conductor, arranger, and composer, Jester Hairston. Here are lyrics to another favorite spiritual sung with joy during the Christmas season:

‘Round de Glory Manger:

They turned away Mary and a-Joseph
‘Way from the inn.
They turned away Mary and a-Joseph
‘Way from the inn.
They turned away Mary and a-Joseph
‘Way from the inn;
And that’s what made de Glory Manger!

An’ a Hallelujah, and a Hallelujah, Lord!
Wasn’t that a bright Bethlehem morning
‘Round de Glory Manger?

They laid my pretty little Jesus
Down in the straw.
They laid my pretty little Jesus
Down in the straw.
They laid my pretty little Jesus
Down in the straw;
And that’s what made de Glory Manger!

And all his pretty little fingers
Played in the straw.
All his pretty little fingers
Played in the straw.
And all his pretty little fingers
Played in the straw;
And that’s what made de Glory Manger!

They laid my sweet King Jesus
In de Glory Manger.
They laid the blessed son of Mary
In de Glory Manger.
They laid my precious Lord of Glory
In de Glory Manger;
And that’s what made de Glory–
That’s what made de Glory–
That’s what made de Glory Manger!

Listen as the Morehouse and Spelman Choirs offer a lively rendering of the Christmas classic arranged by Willis Laurence James:

Birth of Jesus Christ: Good news

December 22, 2016

Luke 2--10

Three days before Christmas Day, the Verse of the Day for December 22, 2016 is the familiar passage describing the birth of the Lord Jesus Christ, as recorded in Luke 2:8-11 where we add verses 12-14 in the Amplified Bible which gives a fuller account of what occurred:

Luke 2:8-14:

8And in that vicinity there were shepherds living [out under the open sky] in the field, watching [in shifts] over their flock by night.

9And behold, an angel of the Lord stood by them, and the glory of the Lord flashed and shone all about them, and they were terribly frightened.

10But the angel said to them, Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy which will come to all the people.

11For to you is born this day in the town of David a Savior, Who is Christ (the Messiah) the Lord!

12And this will be a sign for you [by which you will recognize Him]: you will find [after searching] a Baby wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.

13Then suddenly there appeared with the angel an army of the troops of heaven (a heavenly knighthood), praising God and saying,

14Glory to God in the highest [heaven], and on earth peace among men with whom He is well pleased, men of goodwill, of His favor].

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


 Good News Day

 This is the day the LORD has made;

 we will rejoice and be glad in it.

 Psalm 118:24


It’s a good new day

no blues day

new shoes

no way to lose

What a good new day



It’s a great day

I can’t wait day

lift your voice

let’s rejoice

Good God, a good news day



It’s a payday

goin my way day

no nay–all yea

what you say

Such a good news day



It’s a live it up day

overflowin cup day

It’s a bright and bubbly

doubly lovely

Show-nuff good news day



This celebrated passage from Luke 2 has served as backdrop for countless nativity scenes that have been on display for decades across the country. Within the past few years, some citizens and advocacy groups demanding separation of church and state have objected to public displays depicting the birth of Jesus Christ. Despite the resistance, many communities continue to display nativity scenes on public property: from historic Belen, New Mexico, whose name means Bethlehem in Spanish to the Pennsylvania city with that same name and numerous places in between.  All across the nation Christians continue  to proclaim the “good news of the birth of Christ (the Messiah) the Lord.”


Located in downtown Columbus, Ohio, this nativity scene featuring life-size figures has attracted crowds for 85 years.

Contemporary Christian vocal group Avalon share some “Good News”:




As this year concludes and as 2017 unfolds, may every day be a “Good News Day” for all who read these words.

Wrapped in swaddling clothes

December 21, 2016

Luke 2--6-7

As we continue in reading Scriptures related to the birth of Jesus Christ, the Savior, we recognize that a series of awe-inspiring circumstances intersect in a miraculous manner. In one such account we find a more complete unfolding of the narrative in Luke 2:1-7. Taken from that passage, the Verse of the Day for December 21, 2016 is revised and re-posted here:

Luke 2:6-7 (AMP):

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

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

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

Ezekiel 16:1-4 (KJV):

Again the word of the Lord came unto me, saying,

Son of man, cause Jerusalem to know her abominations,

And say, thus saith the Lord God unto Jerusalem; Thy birth and thy nativity is of the land of Canaan; thy father was an Amorite, and thy mother a Hittite.

And as for thy nativity, in the day thou wast born thy navel was not cut, neither wast thou washed in water to supple thee; thou wast not salted at all, nor swaddled at all.

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

swaddling clothes

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

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

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

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