Archive for September, 2017

Dying antelope transformed into a butterfly

September 13, 2017
Antelope into Butterfly--Rear view

This sculpture from Zimbabwe shows the transformation taking place as a dying antelope is changed into a butterfly.

Have you ever encountered a work of art that profoundly moved you? A painting, a sculpture, a musical composition, a photograph, or a scene from nature—a sunrise or a waterfall, a field of sunflowers or a fiery autumn leaf?  Were you inspired to think deeply, to “Selah” the moment: to pause, to consider deeply while reflecting upon what you observed or heard, as you endeavored to understand more fully your breath-taking experience?

More than 20 years ago while living in Columbus, OH, I recall seeing a special exhibition called Chapungu, a collection of sculpture from Harare, Zimbabwe on display at the Franklin Park Conservatory. One of the sculptured works of art that particularly arrested my attention was entitled “Dying Antelope Transformed into a Butterfly.”

After considerable reflection, several scriptures came to mind, including 1 Peter 3:18 (KJV):

For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit:

The New Living Translation provides this rendering:

‎1 Peter 3:18 (NLT):

Christ suffered for our sins once for all time. He never sinned, but he died for sinners to bring you safely home to God. He suffered physical death, but he was raised to life in the Spirit.

The verse contrasts being “put to death in the flesh” with being “quickened or made alive.”

Translated from the Greek word zōopoieō, the expression meansto cause to live, make alive, give life, restore to life, endued with new and greater powers of life, of seeds quickened into life, i.e. germinating, springing up, growing)

The phrase “quickened by the Spirit” also brought to mind this stanza from the poem “Constant Reminders”:

God makes known to us a new covenant,

Quickened within us by a lively hope,

Energized by ever-increasing faith,

That we might know and be known by His love,

Surpassing even the knowledge of God:

How great and how precious is each promise.

The sculpture provided a graphic illustration of having been put to death with respect to the flesh in stark contrast to having been quickened or made alive with regard to the Spirit, inspiring this response:

A Lesson from Chapungu

Our soul has escaped as a bird from the snare of the fowlers;                                                                        

The snare is broken, and we have escaped.             

Psalm 124:7

With our eyes open to see what God has to say,

We stroll through varied green scenes while looking to see

Secret messages, sculpted letters speak clearly

In rocks that cry out from quarries of Zimbabwe.

Hunted game escapes, just beyond the fowler’s snare,

An antelope transformed into a butterfly,

Snatched from the clasp of death, energized to glorify

The God of the living, not the dead, to declare

Those who trust Him are released from the fear of death.

He upholds us with His victorious right hand.

Not even death can limit all that He has planned,

For God sustains all life and safeguards every breath.

The Lord protects His own, quickening flesh and bone,

That we might proclaim His praise as a living stone.

Esther Mui offers Psalm 124 “Our Help is in the Name of the Lord” from which the introductory verse of the poem is taken.

Rejoice in the Lord always

September 12, 2017

Philippians 4--4-5

The Verse of the Day offers a marvelous reminder of the attitude that believers should have as we approach every day that we draw breath.

Philippians 4:4 in the Amplified Bible Classic Edition:

Rejoice in the Lord always [delight, gladden yourselves in Him]; again I say, Rejoice!

The New Living Translation puts it this way:

Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again—rejoice!

Despite the horrific conditions that Paul found himself in while imprisoned in an underground dungeon known as “a house of darkness,” his letter to the church at Philippi abounds with references to joy and rejoicing.  Renowned Biblical teacher John McArthur refers to Philippians as the “Epistle of Joy,” where Paul mentions some form of the word “joy” at least 16 times in these four chapters. McArthur notes that Paul also mentions Christ 50 times and states, “And that is because his joy is found in Christ and so is our joy.”

Philippians 4:4 brings to mind a scripture memory song sung as a round in Children’s Ministry classes taught years ago. Here is a recording of the verse:

Paul’s exhortation to rejoice is clearly stated. Philippians 4:4 is simply a reiteration of Psalm 118:24 “This is the day that Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it.” This verse is used as an epigraph or brief introduction to a celebratory poem that expresses the essence of joy that should abound in our lives every day.

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 news day

no blues day

new shoes

no way to lose

What a good news 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

Israel Houghton offers a lively song of praise inspired, in part, by Philippians 4:4:

As the damaging effects of Hurricane Florence continue across the Carolinas and the southeast, weather officials indicate that the impact could have been far worse. In everything we give thanks; even in the midst of massive devastation and destruction we can acknowledge that God is good and rejoice.

Psalm 121: Shall I lift up my eyes to the hills?

September 11, 2017

Psalm 121--1-2

On September 11, 2017, 911-Remembrance and Service Day, the nation is encouraged to remember, reflect, and volunteer. As the nation recovers from the ravages of some of the most destructive hurricanes on record, we recognize the overwhelming need for volunteers.

The Verse of the Day for September 11, 2017 is a familiar passage from Psalm 121 celebrating God’s guardian care for His people, as we look to God for the help the nation so desperately needs.

Psalm 121:1-2 in the Amplified Bible Classic Edition:

I will lift up my eyes to the hills [around Jerusalem, to sacred Mount Zion and Mount Moriah]—from whence shall my help come?

My help comes from the Lord, Who made heaven and earth.

KC Pillai and other scholars point out that the first verse of Psalm 121 is often rendered as a statement when in actuality it should be a question. In contrast to the rendering of in the verse 1 in other versions, such as the King James, which opens with “I will lift up my eyes to the hills from whence cometh my help”, Pillai suggests that the verse should be read: “Shall I lift up my eyes to the hills? From whence comes my help?” The answer follows in verse two: “My help comes from the Lord who made heaven and earth.”

This particular psalm is said to be among the Psalms of Degrees or Songs (Psalms) of Ascent. Psalms 120-134 comprise a “hymn book” from which pilgrims sang as they were ascending Mount Zion, the highest point in Jerusalem, the place of celebration of the annual feasts mandated by God for the Children of Israel.  Paul Stroble, in his blog devoted to this psalm points out that “Clift McCann writes in The New Interpreter’s Bible that these psalms are all short enough to be memorized and several contain references to everyday life, implying that these psalms reflect the experiences of everyday people traveling or arriving at Jerusalem.”

Stroble, also mentions that various writers refer to Psalm 121 as “the psalm for the journey of life,” and “the psalm for sojourners.”  He continues his discussion of the merits of this psalm that he finds especially meaningful “because of the comfort of its promises as one travels literally and figuratively.” Indeed, Zion is the ultimate destination of those pilgrims journeying to Jerusalem and those sojourning through life, as this poetic excerpt reveals:

Zion

For the LORD hath chosen Zion; he hath desired it for his habitation.

Psalm 132:13

 

To ascend the holy hill, the quest to reach Mount Zion,

To dwell in that high mountain, a place of untold beauty.

Still onward and upward in this lifelong journey,

We situate ourselves in an accurate position,

As our obedience activates the blessings of God.

God’s spirit overflows and floods our hearts with new song.

We conclude with a composition inspired by Psalm 121 offered by the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir.

Psalm 121 is a favorite Psalm of many believers. It may be hard to choose, but do you have a favorite Psalm? Tell us about it.

 

I will carry you

September 10, 2017

Isaiah 46--4

The Verse of the Day for September 10, 2017 comes from Isaiah 46:4

Even to your old age I am He, and even to your advanced old age I will carry you! I have made you, and I will carry you; be assured I will carry you and I will save you.

Here is the Verse in the New King James version:

Even to your old age, I am He,
And even to gray hairs I will carry you!
I have made, and I will bear;
Even I will carry, and will deliver you.

The Psalmist also reminds of God’s unfailing promise:

Psalm 97:10(NKJV)

You who love the Lord, hate evil! He protects the lives of his godly people and rescues them from the power of the wicked.

The Amplified Bible renders the verse this way:

O you who love the Lord, hate evil; He preserves the lives of His saints (the children of God), He delivers them out of the hand of the wicked.

The promise that God will deliver brings to mind this poem,  inspired, in part, by the Verse of the Day along with the preceding verse:

Listen to Me

Isaiah 46:3-4

 

Listen to me. Open your ears and clearly hear

I have always been there. Though you had not perceived

My presence in the wasteland, I was ever near.

Indeed, I knew you before you were first conceived.

Even to your old age and gray hairs I am He

Who still holds you and causes you to remember.

I open deaf ears and cause blinded eyes to see

The passion that consumes your soul was once an ember.

Though I seem to be delayed, I will not tarry

But will return for the faithful ones who remain:

Those whom I have made those I will also carry;

Those whom I have called by name I will sustain.

Rest in me: I will perform all I said to do.

Know that I will sustain you and will rescue you.

In thinking about God as a deliverer, these original lyrics also come to mind:

I Will Deliver You

 

I will deliver you from the snare of the fowler.

As a bird escapes from the cage, so I will release you from captivity.

I will lift you up, out of the hand of your fiercest enemy.

I will draw you to myself and hide you under the safety of my wing.

 

I will deliver you from the raging deep waters.

The sea shall not overwhelm you, but I will bring you through the storms in peace.

I will lift you up, and bear you up on the wings of an eagle.

I will provide for you and hide you in my secret dwelling place.

These lyrics also bring to mind yet another song of great comfort and assurance: “I Will Carry You” offered by Michael W Smith:

What’s going on: More signs of the times

September 9, 2017

Matthew 24--3

Late Thursday, September 7, 2017, a magnitude 8.0 earthquake, the most powerful earthquake to hit Mexico in a century, struck off the southern coast. US Geological Survey (USGS) predicts “High casualties and extensive damage are probable, and the disaster is likely widespread, requiring a national or international response.”

This recent quake occurred while the US was still reeling from the devastation of Hurricane Harvey, followed closely by the threatening dangers of Hurricane Irma.  This horrifying sequence of events continues to rivet the attention of the world, as many echo the sentiments of Marvin Gaye, asking, “What’s going on?” Others observe the news and comment, “These are just signs of the times,” recalling the remarks made by Jesus Christ when asked about the days before His return to Earth.

In Matthew 24, known as the Mount Olive Discourse, and in Luke 2, we find a list of signs said to occur before Christ returns. Indeed, one of the last signs involve “the sea and waves roaring”: [there will be] distress and anguish among nations, in perplexity at the roaring and tossing of the sea and the waves.  The recent spate of hurricanes would certainly qualify as one of the signs.

Other “signs of the time” include the following:

Earthquakes in various places

In an article “Are earthquakes signs of the end times?” Steven A. Austin and Mark L. Strauss discuss the controversy generated by such Christian writers and Bible teachers who maintain that Jesus predicted that an increase in frequency and intensity of earthquakes would occur prior to his return. In actuality, Jesus Christ indicated that earthquakes would occur in various places, nothing more.

“Wars and rumors of wars”

Jesus spoke of increasing conflict when he said, “Nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom.” At the heart of the phrase “nation against nation” is the Greek word ethnos, from which the English word “ethnic” is derived.  With increased globalization, come increased ethnic conflicts which now ravage the world.

Never has there been a more revealing picture of kingdoms in conflict than with the recent focus on the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and its threat to the Middle East and beyond. The Islamist militant group that is determined to establish a Caliphate that will dominate the world with its ideology is a demonstration of “Kingdom against kingdom.” Caliphate is another name for “kingdom.”

Famine.

According to the Food Aid Foundation, about 795 million people in the world are suffering from chronic undernourishment. Almost all the hungry people live in developing countries, representing 13.5 percent, or one in eight, of the population of developing counties. Estimates indicate that one in every eight people on Earth goes to bed hungry each night.

Pestilences

The global health crises such as the Ebola outbreak in West Africa and the threat of the Zika virus have captured the attention of world. Other infectious diseases, such MRSA, (Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus infection) and other drug-resistant infections, along with flesh-eating diseases and sexually transmitted diseases fall into the category of “pestilences.” Previous epidemics of contagious diseases have included Hepatitis C, HIV, SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome), Mumps, and Measles. Some would say that such outbreaks might refer to the “pestilences” that Jesus Christ spoke about.

Cosmic phenomena: “signs in the heavens above”

On August 21, 2017, the nation watched with wonder the solar eclipse of the sun, described as “the sight of a lifetime.”  Many observers also recognized this astronomical occurrence as prelude to another intersection of stars and planets that will be seen as ‘The Great Sign” spoken of in Revelation 12:1-2.  Projected to occur 33 days after the total eclipse on September 23, 2017, this rare cosmic conjunction is also are designed to display Jesus Christ and the glory of his second coming.

With the increasing frequency of these recent events, many recognize them as so-called “signs and wonders” spoken of in Luke 21:25-28. In addition, the hearts of people will fail because of fear, for “the powers of heaven shall be shaken.”

As the nightly news reports earthly and heavenly phenomena amidst escalating conflict among nations, along with increasing earthquakes and other natural disasters. In addition, famine continues to be a global issue of great concern, not to mention deadly diseases that threaten civilization. To many observers, the culmination of these “signs of the times” appear to indicate the return of Christ draws closer and closer day by day.

Luke 21:27-28

Then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. 28 Now when these things begin to happen, look up and lift up your heads, because your redemption draws near.” “And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draws near.”

The lyrics of “Redemption Draweth Nigh” reinforce this message”:

 

Teach me to do your will

September 8, 2017

Psalm 143--10

Psalm 143:10 (AMP) is the source of the Verse of the Day for September 8, 2017:

Teach me to do Your will [so that I may please You], for You are my God; Let Your good Spirit lead me on level ground.

The Psalmist expresses his desire to learn the will of God. He seeks guidance, direction, and instruction from God Almighty that he might know the will of God in order to do it. In a similar manner, as believers, we also seek to know God’s will that we, like Caleb, “might do all the will of the Lord.” Our efforts to seek to find the will of God pleases God, our Father, who also unfolds before us

The Good Pleasure of God’s Will

Having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself,

According to the good pleasure of His will,

Ephesians 1:5 [NKJV]

 

“The safest place in the whole wide world

 is the perfect will of God.”

Contemporary Christian Song

 

God makes all things new in this another new season,

In this place where our divine destinies intersect.

As we finish the work, what we lack, He will perfect,

Far beyond anything our mortal minds can reason.

To abide in God’s perfect will Jesus led the way.

In the garden, he said, not my will but yours be done,

Praying that as he and the Father, so might we be one

To reverse the curse of Adam who chose to disobey.

God’s desire is that we know joy without measure.

In fulfilling God’s will His presence is ever near.

Signs, wonders, and miracles happen when we are here

Where we prove His perfect will and know His good pleasure.

The will of God is a safe haven where we can hide:

In the good pleasure of God’s will we long to abide.

In considering the topic of the will of God, George Muller, a remarkable man of faith and prayer, came to mind.  As a notably influential Christian figure of the 19th Century, the German-born evangelist and philanthropist established orphanages in Bristol and founded the Scriptural Knowledge Institution for Home and Abroad, Mueller offered these insightful comments:

How to Ascertain the Will of God

1.—I seek at the beginning to get my heart into such a state that it has no will of its own in regard to a given matter. Nine-tenths of the trouble with people is just here. Nine-tenths of the difficulties are overcome when our hearts are ready to do the Lord’s Will, whatever it may be. When one is truly in this state, it is usually but a little way to the knowledge of what His will is.

2.—Having done this, I do not leave the result to feeling or simple impression. If so, I make myself liable to great delusions.

3.—I seek the Will of the Spirit of God through, or in connection with, the Word of God. The Spirit and the Word must be combined. If I look to the Spirit alone without the Word, I lay myself open to great delusions also. If the Holy Ghost guides us at all, He will do it according to the Scriptures and never contrary to them.

4.—Next, I take into account providential circumstances. These often plainly indicate God’s Will in connection with His Word and Spirit.

5.—I ask God in prayer to reveal His Will to me aright.

6.—Thus, through prayer to God, the study of the Word, and reflection, I come to a deliberate judgment according to the best of my ability and knowledge, and if my mind is thus at peace, and continues so after two or three more petitions, I proceed accordingly. In trivial matters, and in transactions involving most important issues, I have found this method always effective.

As we seek to position ourselves in the perfect will of God that we might do it, God takes us to the place where we long to be:

The Will of God

Author unknown

The will of God will never take you,
Where the grace of God cannot keep you.
Where the arms of God cannot support you,
Where the riches of God cannot supply your needs,
Where the power of God cannot endow you.

The will of God will never take you,
Where the spirit of God cannot work through you,
Where the wisdom of God cannot teach you,
Where the army of God cannot protect you,
Where the hands of God cannot mold you.

The will of God will never take you,
Where the love of God cannot enfold you,
Where the mercies of God cannot sustain you,
Where the peace of God cannot calm your fears,
Where the authority of God cannot overrule for you.

The will of God will never take you,
Where the comfort of God cannot dry your tears,
Where the Word of God cannot feed you,
Where the miracles of God cannot be done for you,
Where the omnipresence of God cannot find you.

We conclude with a lovely Scripture Song by Sherri Youngward (featuring Taylre Nelson) “Your Unfailing Love”–Psalm 143:8-10:

No longer a mystery

September 7, 2017

Colossians-1-27

The Verse of the Day for September 7, 2017 is found in Colossians 1:28, but to comprehend more fully the context, let us examine verse 27 as well:

Colossians 1:27-28 (Amplified Bible):

27 God [in His eternal plan] chose to make known to them how great for the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in and among you, the hope and guarantee of [realizing the] glory. 28 We proclaim Him, warning and instructing everyone in all wisdom [that is, with comprehensive insight into the word and purposes of God], so that we may present every person complete in Christ [mature, fully trained, and perfect in Him—the Anointed].

 

As part of a section labeled “The Incomparable Christ” in the Amplified Bible, these verses formed the foundation for a previous blog entry which has been modified and re-posted below:

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 full meaning of the mystery of the one body. We express our yearning to understand the riches of the glory of this mystery to an even 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 hand and lead us, as you would guide a youth,

Who loves and lives to explore the depths of your truth.

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

Christ in You, Christ in Me

 

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 you, the hope of glory,

Christ in you, the hope of glory.

 

Enlighten my eyes, help me to see

All that you have called me to be.

Share with me the secrets that you have for me,

The riches of the glory of this mystery

Which is Christ in me, the hope of glory

Christ in me, the hope of glory,

Christ in me, the hope of glory.

 

Put on God’s Word, renew your mind.

Seek Him with your whole heart, and you will find

He’ll open your eyes; He’ll let you see

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, the hope of glory.

 

I’m no longer bound; I’ve been set free.

I once was so blind, but now I see.

I’m walking into my destiny:

The riches of the glory of this mystery

Which is Christ in me, the hope of glory

Christ in me, the hope of glory,

Christ in me the hope of glory.

 

Christ in you, the hope of glory,

Christ in you, the hope of glory,

Christ in you, the hope of glory.

 

Christ in me, the hope of glory,

Christ in me, the hope of glory,

Christ in me, the hope of glory.

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

Our dwelling place

September 6, 2017

The Verse of the Day for September 6, 2017 comes from John 14:23 in the Amplified Bible:

Jesus answered, “If anyone [really] loves Me, he will keep My word (teaching); and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our dwelling place with him.

This verse begins with the conditional clause “if a man,” followed by the verb “love.” “If an individual loves Jesus Christ, he will adhere to the words that the Lord speaks. If those conditions are met, that individual who meets those conditions will be graced with the very presence of God, the Father and Jesus Christ, His son. John 14:23 establishes the conditions which, if met, will result in a corresponding action on God’s part.

In reflecting upon the Verse of the Day, a parallel verse also comes to mind, as we focus on Revelation 3:20 (Amplified Bible):

Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears and listens to and heeds My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will eat with him, and he [will eat] with Me.

God has been seeking and continues to seek a dwelling place, a place of intimate fellowship with His creation. Likewise, as believers we are seeking to dwell in the presence of God.

The Psalmist describes this inner yearning to abide in this special place of intimacy:

Psalm 84:1-4:

How lovely is your dwelling place,
O Lord of Heaven’s Armies.
I long, yes, I faint with longing
to enter the courts of the Lord.
With my whole being, body and soul,
I will shout joyfully to the living God.
Even the sparrow finds a home,
and the swallow builds her nest and raises her young
at a place near your altar,
O Lord of Heaven’s Armies, my King and my God!
What joy for those who can live in your house,
always singing your praises.

Psalm 90:1 makes known this truth:

Lord, You have been our dwelling place [our refuge, our sanctuary, our stability] in all generations.

One of the metaphors used to describe born-again believers collectively is that of a building, an edifice, the Temple of the Living God, so described in Ephesians 2:19-22:

19 Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 20 having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone, 21 in whom the whole building, being fitted together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, 22 in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.

Our heart’s deepest yearning for intimacy reveals our desire to abide in His presence, as we long to see:

Our Dwelling Transformed

 He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High

shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.

Psalm 91:1

 

Despite perilous times embroiled in confusion and strife,

We continue to learn that everything has its own price,

As we pursue the ultimate goal, a set apart life:

Joint heirs with Christ, presented as a living sacrifice.

With clean hands and a pure heart, we prepare a dwelling place.

To attract the Lord, we provide a pleasing ambiance:

As our songs of love flow from the depths of our inner space,

Our habitation designed and arrayed for God’s entrance.

To walk by the spirit of life, we are driven to pursue.

We dance to brand new music, softly playing in our mind,

And strive to understand that God alone makes all things new.

As the eyes of the Lord scan this green planet, may they find

A dwelling transformed into a place of simple beauty,

As we offer all that we are and ever hope to be.

Esther Mui offers a tender rendering of Psalm 91 with its reference to God’s dwelling place:

Preparing for another storm

September 5, 2017
Hurricane_Katrina_August_28_2005_NASA

Hurricane Katrina, one of the most devastating and destructive storms in recent memory, occurred in August, 2005.

As Southeast Texas and the Gulf Coast area continue to recover from the massive devastation of Hurricane Harvey, Florida and the East Coast begin preparation for Hurricane Irma, already a Category 4 storm possibly headed toward the eastern seaboard. In thinking about this sequence of events, we recall words related to the cycle of life, whereby, as believers, we are either in the midst of a storm or coming out of one and preparing to go through another storm.  The statement was made following one of the most devastating and destructive storms in recent memory, Hurricane Katrina, occurring in 2005. During this present Hurricane season, we recognize:

This Ever-present Truth

For He commands and raises the stormy wind,

which lifts up the waves of the sea.

They mount up to the heavens, they go down again to the depths;

Their soul melts because of trouble.

He calms the storm, so that its waves are still.

 Then they are glad because they are quiet;

  so He guides them to their desired haven.

 Psalm 107:25-26, 29-30

 

As we navigate through the stages of our lives,

Mild breezes that caress our days are soon transformed

Into wild gales and floods, as one more storm arrives.

Despite this ever-present truth, we are alarmed

And unprepared for life’s torrential winds and rain,

As the raging storm center races toward our shore,

Gathering force and mounting into a hurricane.

We find ourselves near the eye of the storm once more.

The whirlwind soon passes over and leaves behind

Rising flood waters that would overwhelm the soul,

But through prayer and strong faith we know that we shall find

Courage to endure, though each storm exacts its toll.

God prepares us to go through howling gusts and rain,

With strength between storms, ready to go through again.

Although President Trump proclaimed September 3, 2017, as a National Day of Prayer for the victims of Hurricane Harvey and for our national response to that crisis, we continue to pray for our nation during this time of recovery and preparation.

We conclude with Alvin Slaughter and the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir offering “Peace in the Midst of the Storm”:

What I know, do not know, and only God knows

September 4, 2017

2 Timothy 1--13-14

Taken from 2 Timothy 1:13-14, the Verse of the Day for September 4, 2017 offers words of encouragement. This message is reinforced when we add verse 12:

Here is the passage in the New King James Version:

2 Timothy 1:12-14

12 For this reason I also suffer these things; nevertheless I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day.

13 Hold fast the pattern of sound words which you have heard from me, in faith and love which are in Christ Jesus. 14 That good thing which was committed to you, keep by the Holy Spirit who dwells in us.

This passage also brings to mind a previous blog entry “These three things I Know”:

  • Some things I know
  • Some things I don’t know
  • Some things only God knows

Some things I know. . .

One thing I know for sure is that that God loves me.  I know that I love God and that’s really all that matters.  Not only do I know that God loves me and that I love God, but these lyrics express what I really know:

I know that I know that I know that I know.

I know that I know You still love me.

I know that I know that I know that I know.

I know that I know You still love me.

 

No matter how many times I go astray

And leave your side and choose to disobey.

When I’m overwhelmed and can’t even pray,

No matter what I do or do not say.

 

I know that I know that I know that I know.

I know that I know You still love me.

I know that I know that I know that I know.

I know that I know You still love me.

 

No one else knows my heart: You are the one

To call me home when I have no place to run.

When I look all around at all that I’ve done,

Despite all my failures, You still call me Son.

 

I know that I know that I know that I know.

I know that I know You still love me.

 

I know that I know that I know that I know.

I know that I know You still love me.

Romans 8:28, my favorite verse in the Bible, offers this reminder that because God is good, “We know that all things work together for the good, to them that love God, to them that are the called according to His purpose.” So no matter how bad any situation may appear to be, I know that it will work together for the good.

Some things I don’t know. . .

I recall the lyrics to one of my all-time favorite Gospel songs “I don’t know about tomorrow.” Without question, I don’t know the answers to countless questions that defy the human mind. Quite honestly, I don’t know the answers to the questions that God asked Job. Some things are not mine to know: if God does not reveal them in the Word or by personal revelation, then I just don’t know

Romans 11:33-34 reiterate this:

33 O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out!

34 For who hath known the mind of the Lord? or who hath been his counsellor?

Some things only God knows . . .

When asked about his return to the earth, Jesus Christ responded in Matthew 24:36 (NLT):

“However, no one knows the day or hour when these things will happen, not even the angels in heaven or the Son himself. Only the Father knows,

Although we are assured that the Lord Jesus Christ will return, no one is privy of the exact day and hour, but “of the times and seasons we have no need”;  as I Thessalonians 5:1-3 remind us, the Lord’s return will happen suddenly, at the precise time that no one knows, only God.

When confronted with staggering vision of the dry bones, the prophet is asked this question in Ezekiel 37:3:

“Son of Man, can these bones live?” He responds, “O Lord God, You know!” As the New Living Testament puts it, “O Sovereign Lord,” I replied, “You alone know the answer to that.”

Thinking about matters that only God knows also brings this poem to mind:

“Lord, You Know!”

Likewise the Spirit also helps our infirmities:

For we know not what we should pray for

 as we ought: but the Spirit itself makes

intercession for us with groanings

which cannot be uttered.

Romans 8:16

 

Many times we journey and don’t know which way to go.

When the right words won’t come, and we can’t even pray.

Sometimes the only thing to say is “Lord, you know!”

 

We set our sights above but our thoughts fall below.

Though we walk by faith, we stumble along the way.

Many times we journey and don’t know which way to go.

 

We triumph in Christ and rise to defeat each foe.

Even though we wage spiritual warfare night and day,

Sometimes the only thing to say is “Lord, you know!”

 

God puts us in a place for us to prove what we know;

He tests us to see whether we rebel or obey.

Many times we journey and don’t know which way to go.

 

God leads the way and only asks that we follow.

We start in strength but often seem to go astray.

Sometimes the only thing to say is “Lord, you know!”

 

We long to serve the Lord, the one who loves us so,

But doubts and fears arise and somehow still dismay.

Many times we journey and don’t know which way to go.

Sometimes the only thing to say is “Lord, you know!”

Despite what we may think that we know and what we may think that we don’t know, we are comforted and assured with the words of I John 3:20:

For if our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and knows all things.

In closing, we note the lyrics to the hymn “I Know Whom I Have Believed” stating matters the hymn writer does not know:

I know not why God’s wondrous grace
To me He hath made known,
Nor why, unworthy, Christ in love
Redeemed me for His own.m

The chorus of the familiar hymn resounds with this assurance found in 2 Timothy 1:12, the verse preceding the Verse of the Day:

But “I know Whom I have believed
And am persuaded that He is able
To keep that which I’ve committed
Unto Him against that day.”

The last verse brings to mind something that neither I nor anyone else knows:

I know not when my Lord may come,
At night or noon-day fair,
Nor if I’ll walk the vale with Him,
Or “meet Him in the air.”

We conclude with “I Know Whom I Have Believed” which actually responds to what I know as well as what I do not know: