Archive for March, 2018

Christ, our Passover Lamb

March 30, 2018

1 Corinthians 5--7–8

For Christian believers Holy Week, the last week of Jesus Christ’s life on earth, culminates with the celebration of his resurrection from the dead. During the same time, Jews are preparing for the start of Passover, the 8-day festival which begins this year today at Sundown on Friday, March 30 and ends on the evening of April 7. Passover, also known as Pesach,  commemorates the Jewish exodus from Egypt, as families traditionally gather for a Seder dinner, where they retell the story of the escape from slavery, through the plagues, and to the parting of the Red Sea.

Throughout the Old Testament the reference to the Passover Lamb and other aspects of the Seder and other events appear as “foreshadowing” or as “types” that unfold in the life of Jesus Christ, the Messiah.  Note this reference in 1 Corinthians 5:7-8 (NLT):

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

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

Taking It Personally

Isaiah 53

 

“For indeed Christ, our Passover,

 was sacrificed for us.”

Corinthians 5:7b          

 

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

The suffering servant bartered for a price,

Battered and bruised for our iniquity.

Behold the Lamb, unblemished sacrifice,

Offered once, Jesus Christ, our Passover.

Afflicted, stricken, smitten that God should

Freely pour out His mercy, moreover,

Lay on Him the chastisement of our peace.

From His side flowed water and sinless blood,

A new covenant established that we might cease

From dead works by a new and living way.

God’s good pleasure no longer concealed

But memorialized this solemn day.

Man of sorrows, with His stripes we are healed.

By the blood of the Lamb we are made whole,

Quickened, cleansed in spirit, body, and soul.

 

Kent Cole Cooley offers “Jesus Our Passover Lamb” to conclude:

Made the righteousness of God

March 29, 2018

2 Corinthians 5--21

As we continue moving toward the celebration of Jesus Christ’s resurrection, the Verse of the Day for March 29, 2018 reminds us of the accomplished work of our Lord Jesus Christ:

2 Corinthians 5:21 (NIV)

God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

By means of this remarkable exchange, God replaces the righteousness of humanity, which is but “filthy rags” with the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ.

Romans 3:22 in the Amplified Bible further explains:

This righteousness of God comes through faith in Jesus Christ for all those [Jew or Gentile] who believe [and trust in Him and acknowledge Him as God’s Son]. There is no distinction,

Not only do we now have the righteousness of God through Jesus Christ, but we have so much more:

1 Corinthians 1:30 (REV):

But of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God—and righteousness, and holiness, and redemption,

The Amplified Bible puts it this way:

But it is from Him that you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God [revealing His plan of salvation], and righteousness [making us acceptable to God], and sanctification [making us holy and setting us apart for God], and redemption [providing our ransom from the penalty for sin],

Because of accomplished work of Jesus Christ, those who trust in him are made new, as 2 Corinthians 5:17 makes known:

Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.

The Amplified Bible explains in more detail:

Therefore if any person is [ingrafted] in Christ (the Messiah) he is a new creation (a new creature altogether); the old [previous moral and spiritual condition] has passed away. Behold, the fresh and new has come!

Those who accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior are made alive and obtain new life by the spirit of life in Christ Jesus. Romans 8:10-11 (Revised English Version) reiterates this point:

10 But, if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the spirit is life because of righteousness. 11 Moreover, if the spirit of him who raised Jesus out from among the dead lives in you, he who raised Christ Jesus out from among the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his spirit that dwells in you.

1 John 4:13 explains:

This is how we know that we abide in him and he in us because he has given us of his spirit.

Since we have received the spirit of life, we are also encouraged to walk in that spirit:

The Spirit of Life in Christ Jesus

For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus 

has made me free from the law of sin and death

Romans 8:2

 

As we move into this new season, we shall see what it brings,

As we learn that the life in the Spirit is where we should be.

No longer in bondage to sin and death we have been set free.

Since we have been brought into the new, we can now do new things,

For our desire is to please God, to succeed and to excel,

We know that we are saved by grace, not by our own merit.

We covenant with God that we will walk in the Spirit

And provide a place where the Spirit of God may dwell.

Ever aware of God’s loving kindness and faithfulness,

We embrace the Spirit of the Living God and understand

That to walk in the spirit, not in the flesh, is God’s command.

As we mature, we attain a measure of Christ’s fullness.

The Spirit of Life in Christ Jesus has set us free

To walk into the fullness of all God has called us to be.

We close with the Verse of the Day set to music by Hosanna! Music: God made Him (2 Corinthians 5:21):

 

One God and one mediator

March 28, 2018

As we move farther along toward the culminating celebration of the Resurrection this week, the Verse of the Day for March 28, 2018 reminds us of the unique role that Jesus Christ played in reconciling fallen humanity back to God:

1 Timothy 2:5-6 (NIV):

For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all people. This has now been witnessed to at the proper time.

Galatians 3:20 (AMP) explains what this means:

Now the mediator or go-between [in a transaction] is not [needed] for just one party; whereas God is only one [and was the only One giving the promise to Abraham, but the Law was a contract between two, God and Israel; its validity depended on both].

Jesus Christ also revealed his singularly important position when he made known:“I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father but by me.”

This truth is affirmed in Acts 4:12:

And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.

Another aspect of Christ’s unique role as our mediator is found in Hebrews 9:15:

Therefore he is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, since a death has occurred that redeems them from the transgressions committed under the first covenant.

As the mediator of a new covenant, his function transcends the first covenant (the Mosaic Law). Note the difference between the two covenants:

But in fact the ministry Jesus has received is as superior to theirs as the covenant of which he is mediator is superior to the old one, since the new covenant is established on better promises.

Prior to Jesus Christ, failure to keep the Law of the Old Covenant resulted in experiencing the “curse of the law.” On the other hand, the new covenant mediated through Christ Jesus provided remission of sins and positioned believers to stand before God clothed in righteousness by the grace of God, to stand boldly before His presence with no sense of sin, guilt, shame nor condemnation.

We are reminded of this truth in 2 Corinthians 5:21:

For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

Through Jesus, a perfect sacrifice, our mediator, we are made right with God through faith in Christ Jesus. During this week we are especially mindful of the accomplished work of Jesus Christ, our mediator. We have been made new in Christ and must now

Arise to a New Place

Therefore if anyone is in Christ, they are a new creation:

old things are passed away; behold, all things are made new.

2 Corinthians 5:17

 

In Christ you are free from the burdens you once bore.

The shackles of past shortcomings have been lifted,

For the yoke of guilt and shame you will bear no more.

Arise to a new place–all things have been shifted.

 

The shackles of past shortcomings have been lifted.

No longer restricted, cast off every care.

Arise to a new place–all things have been shifted.

Even in darkest times I have always been there.

 

No longer restricted, cast off every care.

Released from bondage, reproach has been rolled away.

Even in your darkness I have always been there.

Pure joy comes with the dawning of a brand new day.

 

Released from bondage, reproach has been rolled away

In a place where love abounds and peace never ends.

Pure joy comes with the dawning of a brand new day.

We walk together, hand in hand as faithful friends.

 

Released from bondage, reproach has been rolled away,

For the yoke of guilt and shame you will bear no more.

We walk together hand: in hand as faithful friends.

In Christ you are free from the burdens you once bore.

 

We close with a musical statement similar to the first part of the Verse of the Day:“There is a God”

Celebrating the Resurrection on April Fools’ Day

March 26, 2018

Each year Christians across the globe celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ following his crucifixion on Easter or Resurrection Sunday. Known as a “movable feast,” this commemoration always takes place on a Sunday, but each year that actual date varies based on calculations related to the settings of the moon. Most amazingly this year, Easter or “Resurrection Sunday”, occurs on April 1 or April Fools’ Day. While some may say the occurrence is odd, others say the connection is most appropriate. With this situation we note the distinction between the ways of men who purport themselves to be wise, and the ways of God who uses foolishness to confound the wise.

The focal point of the celebration is the ultimate triumph of Jesus Christ whom God raised from the dead following his crucifixion on the cross and his burial. Paul notes these two contrasting views:

1 Corinthians 1:18-25

18 For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written:
“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise;
the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.”
20 Where is the wise person? Where is the teacher of the law? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. 22 Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, 24 but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.

Indeed, in the eyes of the world, the cross of Jesus Christ does not make sense; it is pure foolishness to the human mind. Those who believe the message of the cross are the biggest fools on earth, so unbelievers say.

In a previous blog post on April Fools’ Day, the story is told of a man who wore a sandwich board in New York City as he walked the streets. On the front written in bold letters was this statement: “I’m a fool for Christ’s sake!” People passed and chuckled or snickered, but they changed their expressions when they turned around to read the back of the sign which asked, “Whose fool are you?” This story reminds believers that, like the Apostle Paul, “We are fools for Christ’s sake.”

The lyrics to the chorus of the popular song “Everybody Plays the Fool” also come to mind:

Everybody plays the fool sometime
There’s no exception to the rule
Listen, baby, it may be factual, may be cruel
I ain’t lyin’, everybody plays the fool

Since everybody plays the fool sometime in life and in love, many have decided that, like the gentleman in New York, we will be a fool for Christ’s sake, since “the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.”

The overall message makes known Jesus Christ’s mighty triumph over his foes– sin, every disease and its devastating consequences–even death itself. This demonstration of the power and the wisdom of God makes celebrating the resurrection on April Fools’ Day even more meaningful.

We close as Helen Yousaf encourages believers to be “Fools for Christ”:

If we confess, God is faithful to forgive

March 25, 2018

 

The Verse of the Day for March 25, 2018 is  taken from 1 John 1:9 (NIV):

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

The context for 1 John chapter 1 is fellowship with God and with fellow believers. Translated from the Greek word koinonia, fellowship involves communion or oneness, harmony. In Acts the believers of the early Church were said to be “of one heart and one mind.” Having this close fellowship with God and with one another is God’s desire for His people expressed in 1 John 1:6-10:

6 So we are lying if we say we have fellowship with God but go on living in spiritual darkness; we are not practicing the truth. 7 But if we are living in the light, as God is in the light, then we have fellowship with each other, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, cleanses us from all sin.
8 If we claim we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and not living in the truth. 9 But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness. 10 If we claim we have not sinned, we are calling God a liar and showing that his word has no place in our hearts.

Verses 6-10 begin with the conditional clause “if we” followed by a verb: “If we say…, if we walk…, if we say…, if we confess…, if we say….” These expressions establish the conditions which if met on our part, will result in a corresponding action on God’s part. These two parts of the conditional sentences are especially noted in 1 John 1:9. If we do our part, which is confess our sins, our faithful and just God will do His part, which is “to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

What does it mean to confess our sins to him? T

he phrase is also translated . . .”to confess our trespasses . . . our offenses . . . our sins.” To confess is to say with one’s mouth. With our mouths we acknowledge our shortcomings, our misdeeds, our sins of omission and sins of commission. We acknowledge that in far too many instances we have missed the mark and fallen short. I John 1:9 in the Amplified Bible as9sures us that:

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

What does it mean to forgive?

To forgive means: to send away, dismiss, set free; to acquit by a verdict; to give no punishment to the guilty person and to view the guilty person as if he is innocent. Another definition means to let loose or set at liberty (a debtor). Dr. Arch Hart has said, “I forgive when I give up my right to hurt you because you hurt me.” Simply put, to forgive is to love, and to love is to forgive. Remember, however, that “You can give without loving, but you cannot love without giving.”

I learned this firsthand in a very graphic way when late one night after getting off from work, I was accosted by a man who demanded that I give him my wallet. As I reluctantly complied, do you think I loved giving him my wallet? Nonetheless, I complied with his demand that I “give.” As I recall, when I went to my car, hurt and humiliated, I prayed and asked God to forgive the man who was in such desperate straits that he resorted to robbery.

Literally to forgive means to “give for.” You give to those who choose not to give. These lines from John Oxenham express a profound truth about love and giving:

Love ever lives, outlives forgives,
And while it stands with open hands it lives,
For this is love’s prerogative:
To give and give and give.

You actually could keep adding “and give” to last line ad infinitum. For such love expresses endless giving.

During the week prior to the celebration of the Resurrection, our thoughts turn to the quintessential example of forgiveness: the Lord Jesus Christ. As he is dying on the cross, having been brutalized and humiliated beyond any atrocious behavior inflicted upon any mortal, among the last words spoken by the Lord are recorded in Luke 23:34:

“Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

Some of the lyrics to the song “Please Forgive Me” reinforce this truth.

God first gave to us so that we might live.
We give to others when we learn to forgive.
Jesus, our example so perfect and true,
Said, “Father, forgive them; they know not what they do.”

I forgive you. I forgive you.
I forgive you. I forgive you.
I forgive you this time. I forgive you each time.
I forgive you.

When we forgive, we also recall another expression of truth by Jesus who said, “It more blessed to give than to receive.” In a situation where one person offers forgiveness and another receives forgiveness. Who is most blessed? I often say, “When you choose to give, you cannot lose, but when you choose not to give you cannot win.” In his book Total Forgiveness, R. T. Kendall states,

“Forgiveness is not total forgiveness until we bless our enemies—and pray for them to be blessed. Forgiving them is a major step; totally forgiving them has fully been achieved when we set God free to bless them. But in this, we are the first to be blessed, and those who totally forgive are blessed the most.”

To sum up our discussion of forgiveness, Kevin Levar offers “A Heart that Forgives”:

More than crowns

March 23, 2018

James-1 12The Verse of the Day for March 23, 2018 comes from James 1:12 (NIV):

And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away.

Today’s post focuses on some of the references to “crowns” found in the Bible. Translated from the Greek word stephanos, the word crown relates to the symbol of victory given to athletes in the Greek games, such as the Olympics or other contests, where winners are honored or crowned with laurel leaves or olive branches. This reference to “the crown of glory” is one of five different crowns mentioned in the New Testament.

Incorruptible crown:

Paul uses athletic imagery in 1 Corinthians 9:24-27 where he describes the crown placed on the head of those who win a race. He contrasts this “corruptible” or perishable crown with the “incorruptible” or imperishable crown awaiting believers who discipline themselves and compete lawfully, those who “run their best race and win it”:

1 Corinthians 9:24-25

24 Do you not know that in a race the runners all compete, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win it. 25 Athletes exercise self-control in all things; they do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable one.

Crown of joy

The apostle Paul looked forward to a “crown of joy” or a “crown of rejoicing” to be enjoyed in the resurrection when he is reunited with fellow believers whom he led to the Lord and taught and served.

1 Thessalonians 2:19 (NKJV):

For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Is it not even you in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at His coming?

Crown of righteousness

In the second epistle to Timothy, Paul’s offers sobering yet encouraging words to his beloved son in the faith and makes reference to a crown of righteousness awaiting those who have remained faithful to the Gospel of Jesus Christ and those who eagerly awaiting his return:

2 Timothy 4:7-8 (New Revised Standard Version)

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. From now on there is reserved for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will give me on that day, and not only to me but also to all who have longed for his appearing.

Crown of life

The Verse of the Day mentions a “crown of life” awaiting the individual who endures trials while carrying out the purposes of God’s plan,

James 1:12:

Blessed is the man that endures temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him.

Crown of glory

1 Peter 5:4 speaks of a “crown of glory” awaiting those who fulfill their calling and finish the work that has been set before them:

And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away.

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

Much More

His lord said to him, “Well done,

good and faithful servant;

you have been faithful over a few things,

I will make you ruler over many things:

enter into the joy of your lord.”

Matthew 25:23

 

More than mere status or the embrace of the crown

Around the head or glory, honor or renown;

More than medals of gold or laurels that fade

With the thundering applause and ceaseless accolade;

More than any crowning achievement or success

Or the rarest prizes eyes could ever witness;

More than the taste of victory every time you try:

Such alluring sweetness can never satisfy.

So much more are these words when the race is finally won,

When we finish the course and cross the finish line,

And stand upon the bema where we shall incline

Our ears to hear God say, “Good and faithful servant, well done.”

We shall bask in ultimate ecstasy of victory

And savor the goodness of God for all eternity.

The phrase “Well done, good and faithful servant” is used in the Parable of the Talents and is the inspiration behind the contemporary rendition of “Well Done” by Erica Campbell:

 

Spirit, soul, and body

March 22, 2018

1 Thessalonians_5-23Although this particular verse is not designated as the Verse of the Day for March 22, 2018 for Biblegate.com, this scripture came to mind as I began my day with a time of prayer and reflection:

1 Thessalonians 5:23

And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.

As part of the benediction that closes out the first epistle to the Thessalonians, the verse reminds us that believers are tri-dimensional beings with a body —the physical dimension–as well as a soul—the mental or emotional aspects of our being, along with the spiritual components—having been created in the image of God. .

I happened to think growing up in the church and hearing the personal testimonies of older members, many of whom began by saying, “I thank God for my life, health, and strength.” Some would remark, “I thank God for a reasonable portion of health and strength.” Others would express their gratitude that they were “yet clothed in their right mind.” Years later, I recall an elderly gentleman who always expressed thanks to God for “a healthy body and a sound mind.”

This morning I recognized the importance of having a sound mind and being able to process whole thoughts and to recall information needed to complete a particular task. As I was preparing today’s blog post, I thought of a particular poem that I thought would be appropriate for the discussion. I went to retrieve it from a file of collected poetry, but it was not there. I knew that it was somewhere on a flash drive that I was using, but I couldn’t pinpoint the location. “Out of the blue,” the name of another of collection of poetry flashed across my mind, and I went on to locate the piece I was searching for.

When I realized what I had done, my soul erupted in praise to God for the presence of mind and the mental stamina to figure out how to retrieve “the lost item”  and then go on to incorporate it into my blog. I was so overwhelmed with gratitude that I couldn’t complete the task at hand. Yes, indeed, I had to stop and thank God that I am “yet clothed in my right mind.”

The selected verse of the Day reminds us that, as believers, we are formed, made, and created as marvelous displays of the wisdom, power, and might of God in these three areas:

Spirit

The spiritual dimension is vitally important because God is Spirit, and His masterpiece is created in the image and likeness of God. Those who are born-again of God’s Spirit receive everlasting life. God’s desire for His people is conveyed in this powerful prayer:

Ephesians 3:16-21

16 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

20 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.

Soul

When God breathed into man the “breath of God,” man became a living soul, with a mind, a will, and a host of emotions.  Again, the Psalmist asks, “What is man, that you are mindful of him? and the son of man, that you visit him?” God’s masterful creation is always on God’s mind. Shakespeare also expresses admirable qualities of humanity:

What a piece of work is a man! How noble in reason!
How infinite in faculty! In form and moving how
express and admirable! In action how like an angel!
In apprehension how like a god! The beauty of the
world! . . .

Body:

The human body with its delicate and intricate parts was initially formed, in that Adam’s body was fashioned from the dust of the Earth. The Psalmist reveals that God knows all about His matchless creation:

Psalm 139:13-16

You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body
and knit me together in my mother’s womb.

Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex!

You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion,
as I was woven together in the dark of the womb.

You saw me before I was born.

Every day of my life was recorded in your book.
Every moment was laid out
before a single day had passed.
Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it.

In looking for the poem I could not find earlier today, I came across this piece relating the absolutely priceless value of having “a healthy body, a sound mind, and a fruitful spirit”:

A Question of Wealth

 Beloved, I wish above all things

that thou mayest prosper and

be in health, even as thy soul prospereth.

3 John 2

How do you measure the fullest meaning of wealth?

What is the total value?  How much is the price

Of a fruitful spirit, a sound mind and good health?

Can you calculate the sum and then square it twice?

To prosper and be in health, even as your soul

Prospers cannot be measured by any amount

Withdrawn from the world’s treasures, for even the whole

Earth could never contain so vast a bank account.

But those who set their affections on things above

And not on things on the earth are free to explore

The infinite riches of God’s favor and love,

For they alone know their true value even more.

The truly rich ask to receive and seek to find

The priceless wealth of strength in God and peace of mind.

We close with a musical benediction from Hosanna! Music – The God of Peace (1 Thessalonians 5:23 – NIV)

This vibrant garden scene

March 21, 2018

Jeremiah-17 7-8The Verse of the Day for March 21, 2018 is found in Jeremiah 17:7-8 in the New International Version:

“But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him. They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.”

Here is the passage in the King James Version:

Blessed is the man that trusteth in the Lord, and whose hope the Lord is. For he shall be as a tree planted by the waters, and that spreadeth out her roots by the river, and shall not see when heat cometh, but her leaf shall be green; and shall not be careful in the year of drought, neither shall cease from yielding fruit.

This familiar passages echoes the truths expressed in the First Psalm, one of my favorite psalms.

Psalm 1

1 Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful.

But his delight is in the law of the Lord; and in his law doth he meditate day and night.

And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.

The ungodly are not so: but are like the chaff which the wind driveth away.

Therefore the ungodly shall not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous.

For the Lord knoweth the way of the righteous: but the way of the ungodly shall perish.

When I think of the First Psalm, I also recall the first passage of scripture I ever committed to memory. In reflecting on these two related passages, I realized that the Verse of the Day for yesterday identified the fruit of the spirit listed in Galatians 5:22-23, resulting in a post entitled “Fruit of the Spirit in the Garden.” The passages from Jeremiah and Psalm 1 along with the reference to the fruit of the spirit merged in my mind, inspiring this fresh poetic response:

This Vibrant Garden Scene

Jeremiah 17:7-8

Psalm 1

Galatians 5:23-24

 

I have tasted your goodness and put my trust in you.

Assured of great promises, the Lord is my hope

Who strengthens my soul when I feel I cannot cope.

From deep waters you bless and refresh and make new.

Bearing fruit throughout every season of my life,

Love and joy never diminish, only increase.

Gentleness, goodness, and a great harvest of peace

Bring forth even in the midst of turmoil and strife.

Planted by the rivers as a bountiful tree,

Faithfulness and meekness rooted in self-control

Add to the fruitful harvest that restores the soul,

As fruit of the spirit abounds beyond all we see.

Even in times of drought, my leaves will remain green:

The boundless bounty of this vibrant garden scene.

We close with a musical rendition of the Verse of the Day from Jeremiah 17:7-8:

Fruit of the spirit in the garden

March 19, 2018

Galatians-5-23-24

The Verse of the Day for March 19, 2018 provides a list of “the fruit of the spirit” offered in the New International Version:

Galatians 5:22-23:

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.

This familiar passage brings to mind God’s desire that our lives should always abound in fruitfulness. No matter the season, we should always bring forth fruit, so says the Psalmist in the first Psalm, the first passage of scripture committed to memory as a youngster back in the middle of the 20th Century. It describes the man of God I continue to strive to be:

Psalm 1:1-3 (KJV):

1 Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful.

But his delight is in the law of the Lord; and in his law doth he meditate day and night.

And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.

A personal metaphor often used to describe my life is “a garden,” a place where the fruit of the spirit should so abound that those whom I encounter will partake of bounty of my life and be nourished and refreshed by my fruitfulness.

The following poem makes reference to such a place where the fruit of the spirit flourishes; here I cultivate those attributes which reveal a fruitful, bountiful life:

I Sing in My Garden

Oh, sing unto the LORD a new song!

Sing to the LORD, all the earth.

Sing to the LORD, bless his name;

 Proclaim the good news from day to day.

 Psalm 96:1-2

 

I sing in my garden and reap the good,

The bounty of living seventy-five years.

Each note seems to evoke a stream of tears

That fall, not because of some somber mood

But flow from a heart filled with gratitude.

The folk song of the farmer thrills my ears

Each time plowing, planting or harvest nears.

I compose my song, having understood

Lyrics I did not know when I was young,

When life was uncertain, my song unsure.

Now from my green garden I garner truth.

A song of conviction flows from my tongue.

I am seasoned and strengthened to endure,

Knowing the best lines are yet to be sung.

In thinking about life as a garden, the familiar gospel song often heard as we approach Resurrection Sunday comes to mind: “In the Garden” sung by Alan Jackson:

Overflow with hope

March 18, 2018

Romans 15--13

As part of the benediction from the closing chapter of Romans, the Verse of the Day for March 18, 2018 speaks a joyful, peaceful blessing full of hope to believers:

Romans 15:13 (NIV):

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

As Christian believers we go to the Word of God and find out that God is our hope. The Psalmist offers this marvelous reminder:

Psalm 71:5

For You are my hope; O Lord God, You are my trust from my youth and the source of my confidence.

One of the verses from “Amazing Grace” also encourages us:

The Lord has promised good to me

His Word my hope secure

He will my strength and portion be

As long as life endures.

One definition of hope is the expectation of a future good, as Romans 8:23-25 also speaks of our hope:

 23 And we believers also groan, even though we have the Holy Spirit within us as a foretaste of future glory, for we long for our bodies to be released from sin and suffering. We, too, wait with eager hope for the day when God will give us our full rights as his adopted children, including the new bodies he has promised us. 24 We were given this hope when we were saved. (If we already have something, we don’t need to hope for it. 25 But if we look forward to something we don’t yet have, we must wait patiently and confidently.)

The Verse of the Day with its reference to God’s desire that our lives “abound in hope” or “overflow in hope,” brought to mind the closing verse of “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

Because our lives are overflowing with hope, these words encourage and strengthen us to be:

Drinking from the Saucer

John Paul Moore

I’ve never made a fortune,
And I’ll never make one now
But it really doesn’t matter
‘Cause I’m happy anyhow

As I go along my journey
I’m reaping better than I’ve sowed
I’m drinking from the saucer
‘Cause my cup has overflowed

I don’t have a lot of riches,
And sometimes the going’s tough
But with kin and friends to love me
I think I’m rich enough

I thank God for the blessings
That His mercy has bestowed
I’m drinking from the saucer
‘Cause my cup has overflowed

He gives me strength and courage
When the way grows steep and rough
I’ll not ask for other blessings for
I’m already blessed enough

May we never be too busy
To help bear another’s load
Then we’ll all be drinking from the saucer
When our cups have overflowed

We close with Cheri Keaggy offering Romans 15:13 as “the Benediction Song”