Archive for August, 2018

I thank God for you

August 30, 2018


The last day in August is a special day for a number of reasons. It is the prelude to Labor Day and the celebration of the end of the summer marked by family outings, mini-vacations, and other celebrations. It is another “doubly lovely” day for my wife and me since we were married on August 31, as we celebrate another year of God’s blessings upon our marriage. Such occasions often inspire a poetic work, and here is an expression of my thoughts this year:

I Thank God for You

For my beloved Brenda
In celebration of our 45th anniversary
August 31, 2018

I thank God for you.

With gratitude to God, who hears and answers prayer,
We reflect and rejoice, aware of His constant care.
Forty-five years flow: multiples of amazing grace,
Unfailing love so strong, not even time can erase.

I thank God for you.

We look upon the beauty of the precious sapphire,
To remind us of the spark that first kindled desire.
As Christ loved the Church, willing to sacrifice his life,
So I renew my promise to serve my beloved wife.

I thank God for you.


Through each valley, plateau, climbing to a grand mountain view

We offer praise to God, our Father, who makes all things new.

God speaks to confirm His promise He will honor us:

All things work together according to His purpose.


I thank God for you.

   Photo taken during our first year of marriage.

Brenda and I have a number of songs that mean so much to us. One of our all-time favorite songs dates back to the beginning of our friendship and marriage: “You Make Me Feel Brand New” by the Stylistics:

Brenda and I have been so blessed with a loving family: our daughters Melissa and her husband William and our grandson Kingston; Angela and her husband Shajuan along with an extended family and a host of friends and acquaintances who continue to enrich our lives. We are grateful to God for all who have extended their love and blessings to us during this time of celebration.

Call on the name of the Lord

August 24, 2018

The Verse of the Day for July 24, 2018 comes from Psalm 116:1-2 in the Revised Standard Version:

[Thanksgiving for Recovery from Illness] I love the Lord, because he has heard my voice and my supplications. Because he inclined his ear to me, therefore I will call on him as long as I live.

The Psalmist acknowledges his love for the Lord who heard him when he called upon His name. Because the Lord “inclined his ear unto” the one who called upon Him, the caller will continue to call as long as he lives.

Verse 4 reiterates the same:

Then I called on the name of the Lord: “O Lord, I beseech thee, save my life!”

This declaration continues elsewhere in Psalm 116: 13, 17:

I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the Lord,

In addition to these references, other verses also remind us to call upon the name of the Lord:
1 Chronicles 16:8 and Psalm 105:1

Give thanks unto the Lord, call upon his name, make known his deeds among the people.

We find a similar exhortation in

Isaiah 12:3-5 (RSV):

3 With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation.

4 And you will say in that day:
“Give thanks to the LORD,
call upon his name;
make known his deeds among the nations,
proclaim that his name is exalted.
5 “Sing praises to the LORD, for he has done gloriously;
let this be known in all the earth.

In the Old Testament we find reference to a coming day when those who call upon the name of the Lord will be saved, as Acts 2:21 reveals:

And it shall be that whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.’

Romans 10:13 expresses the same views:

For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.

Throughout the Scriptures we see that believers are encouraged to call upon the name of the Lord. Note this invitation extended in Jeremiah 33:2-3 (NIV):

“This is what the Lord says, he who made the earth, the Lord who formed it and established it—the Lord is his name:
‘Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.’

One of the most often quotes passages from Jeremiah relates a promise given by God to Israel in Jeremiah 29:11-13, a passage that applies to Christians today as well:

11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.
12 Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.
13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.

Recently I came across a series of five poetic stanzas written twelve years ago during a time when I called upon the name of the Lord in light of references to some of the specific names of the Lord:

I call upon Jehovah Jireh, who provides

Even in times of famine in a barren land,

With more than enough you continue to lead and guide.

You uphold and supply with your gracious right hand.


I call upon Jehovah Rophe, the Lord who heals

Diseases through the power of life-giving blood.

Whole in spirit, soul and body, your word reveals

That you will work all things together for my good.


I call upon Jehovah Nissi, the Lord our banner.

Descending in favor to bless, the gentle dove,

A sign to remind us of your gracious manner,

That your presence remains a canopy of love.


I call upon the name of the Lord, Jehovah Shalom,

Who dispels doubt and fear and surrounds me in peace.

As you lead us into battle, let your Kingdom come.

We plant and water but you alone give the increase.


When I have grown weary in the struggle at length,

In my distress I call on the name of the Lord.

I rejoice in knowing He shall renew my strength,

For He is faithful, as I stand upon His Word.

The Verse of the Day as an expression of thanksgiving for recovery from an illness seems custom-crafted for me today. I am in final stages of publishing my book which expresses my gratitude to God for my recovery from a potentially devastating illness.

When diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2000, I did not see the diagnosis as “a death sentence,” but I saw a “life sentence” that transformed his thinking. I share lessons learned from this life-changing process, revealing my holistic strategy to combat prostate cancer to show how I emerged, not just as a survivor but more than a conqueror.

Be sure to check out Lonnell E. Johnson’s

Embracing Your Life Sentence: How to turn Life’s Greatest Tragedies into Your Greatest Triumphs

The book should be available to the public in Mid-October. I will keep you posted.

We close with this song of worship reminding us to “Call upon the Name of the Lord”:

Freely give: What does it mean?

August 22, 2018

Romans 8--32

The Verse of the Day for August 22, 2018 brings to mind that God is the ultimate “Giver.”

Romans 8:32 (Revised Standard Version):

He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, will he not also give us all things with him?

The King James Version renders the verse this way:

He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?

The Lord Jesus Christ uses a similar expression regarding giving  as part of the instructions he gives when he empowers and commissions the Twelve:

Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons. Freely you have received, freely give.

Giving freely or liberally is also to be characteristic of those who reverence God, as described in Psalm 112:9

They share freely and give generously to those in need.

In fact, the entire psalm provides a striking portrait of the believer:

Psalm 112 (New Living Translation)

Praise the Lord!

How joyful are those who fear the Lord
and delight in obeying his commands.
Their children will be successful everywhere;
an entire generation of godly people will be blessed.
They themselves will be wealthy,
and their good deeds will last forever.
Light shines in the darkness for the godly.
They are generous, compassionate, and righteous.
Good comes to those who lend money generously
and conduct their business fairly.
Such people will not be overcome by evil.
Those who are righteous will be long remembered.
They do not fear bad news;
they confidently trust the Lord to care for them.
They are confident and fearless
and can face their foes triumphantly.
They share freely and give generously to those in need.
Their good deeds will be remembered forever.
They will have influence and honor.
10 The wicked will see this and be infuriated.
They will grind their teeth in anger;
they will slink away, their hopes thwarted.

The Verse of the Day reminds us that as the supreme giver, God practices the very principles that He implements.  As a liberal giver par excellence, our Father gives, withholding nothing.  Without question, He is generous and extravagant in His giving. As the supreme expression of giving, God applies the very principles that He establishes.  Jesus Christ teaches this foundational principle in Luke 6:38:

Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again.

The essence of this principle is poetically expressed in this excerpt which opens with a poem by John Oxenham, followed by an original stanza:

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.


He who lives and never gives,

May live for years and never live.

But he who lives and lives to give

Shall live for years and years and years

With more to give and give and give.

Giving is a demonstration or manifestation of love. It has been said that you can give without loving, but you cannot love without giving. Whenever we think of love and its connection with giving, we think of God who demonstrated or manifested His love as revealed in one of the most quoted Bible verses of all time: John 3:16:

16 For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

This verse relates to Romans 8:32, in that we also ask, “If God is willing to give the greater, would he withhold the lesser?”

Verse 32 is part of the section of Romans 8 that lets believers know that with God there is no accusation as verses 32-34 reveal:

32 He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?

33 Who shall lay anything to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifieth.

34 Who is he that condemns? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us.

Though the adversary of souls, the accuser of the brethren, brings railing accusations against us day and night, Jesus Christ, our advocate, intercedes for us. As such, he is the consummate expression of love that the Verse of the Day speaks of so clearly.

Here is a musical rendering of Romans 8:32:

We all need grace

August 13, 2018

Once again, we are going to take a look at the Quote of the Day or August 13, 2018 coming from Christian hip hop recording artist, Lecrae:

“Believe the best about people. Pray for their shortcomings. You are not the standard. We all need grace.”

While reflecting on the statement, various scriptures came to mind:

The first sentence of the quote brings to mind Philippians 4:8 (New Living Translation)

Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.

The words of Jesus Christ also remind us that in the same way that we want people to think the best of us, we should think the best about them:

Luke 6:31 (NLT):

Do to others as you would like them to do to you.

The Word of God also encourages believers to pray for one another. Again, the Lord Jesus Christ tells his followers to pray for their enemies as well:

Matthew 5:44 (NLT):

But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you!

We pray that those whom we pray for will not come up short, but that they will hit the mark:
That the Lord will restore, support, and strengthen them, and he will place them on a firm foundation (1 Peter 5:10)

Lecrae also reminds us that no matter how honest and sincere we may be in our evaluations, we are not the standard. The Word of God should be the standard by which we live as Christians. It is the foundation upon which we build our lives:

The Psalmist declares in Psalm 111:10:

Fear of the Lord is the foundation of true wisdom. All who obey his commandments will grow in wisdom. Praise him forever!

The statement by Lecrae ends with this simple yet profound acknowledgement: “We all need grace.”

A previous blog post speaks of grace, offering perhaps the most common definition of grace as “unmerited favor.” To receive grace is to receive a gift, something so valuable that it must be given away because no one is wealthy enough to purchase something of inestimable value and worth. A common acronym for grace is “God’s Riches at Christ’s Expense.”

This passage speaks of what Hodge calls “the gratuitous nature of salvation” which involves the opposing ideas of grace and works, of gift and debt; of undeserved favor and what is merited. One excludes the other. “If by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then is it no more grace: otherwise work is no more work,” so says Romans 11:6.

In reflecting upon God’s grace, we note that even though God’s grace is described as “sufficient,” God gives even more grace to those who are humble, according to James 4:6 (Amplified Bible):

But He gives us more and more grace [through the power of the Holy Spirit to defy sin and live an obedient life that reflects both our faith and our gratitude for our salvation]. Therefore, it says, “God is opposed to the proud and haughty, but [continually] gives [the gift of] grace to the humble [who turn away from self-righteousness].”

The expression “more and more grace” is also used once in 1 Peter 1:2 (New Living Translation)

God the Father knew you and chose you long ago, and his Spirit has made you holy. As a result, you have obeyed him and have been cleansed by the blood of Jesus Christ. May God give you more and more grace and peace.

This verse also serves an introduction to this poetic response:

We All Need Grace

May God give you more and more grace and peace as you grow
in your knowledge of God and Jesus our Lord.

2 Peter 1:2 (New Living Translation)

We all need grace, as we press toward the mark for the prize.
Our hearts overflow with gratitude for each new sunrise
As He assures us He will supply every need.
This hunger to know more of His Word He will still feed.
We will follow His chosen path wherever it may lead.
As in the days of Noah, we will find grace in His eyes.

We desire to please our Father, to walk as the wise.
Before we even ask, every need our God supplies.
He has promised to richly supply all that we need:
We all need grace.

God’s faithfulness to promises comes as no surprise.
His mercy and favor unfold right before our eyes.
We walk in the steps of Christ, the Lord, knowing they lead
To God’s throne where we find grace to help in time of need.
Until the Lord returns when the Day-star shall arise,
We all need grace.

Scott and Becky Parker offer this song to remind us “We all need grace”


Ordained and called: God’s masterpiece

August 11, 2018

Today, August 11, 2018, is a “doubly lovely Good News Day,” meaning I am celebrating two special occasions: my ordination to the Christian ministry, occurring 44 years ago and the second birthday of my grandson, Kingston Edward Simkins. Both of these glorious celebrations occur during August, designated as “What will be your legacy?” Month. A blog entry posted on August 1, discusses the significance of the number 8, representing a new beginning.

Upon further reflection, I realized another aspect of a new beginning for me as a teacher. I taught my first class as an adjunct instructor at a Bible College in Kansas in 1976. Having come full circle, today I serve as an adjunct professor at Carolina College of Biblical Studies in Fayetteville, NC. Oh, the Providence of God.

Even more remarkable, at the beginning of this year, I reconnected with a former student in the second class that I taught at the Bible College in Kansas, Kevin Bell. He recently earned his doctorate and is serving as an online adjunct professor at several Christian colleges. We are now colleagues pursuing some of the same goals as teachers. When we first reconnected, he spoke of the New Testament History class that I taught and made specific reference to my closing illustration of the opening session. I brought a life-size blank canvas and a full-length mirror. I instructed the students to visualize painting a life-size self-portrait which when completed we would display in “The Living Gallery of the New Testament.” I closed the first session of the course with this original poem:

The Living Gallery of the New Testament

In the living gallery of the New Testament is reserved a special space:
An empty canvas awaits each feature of your face.
Each of us paints a self-portrait in minutest detail.
To develop your life’s masterpiece, you can never fail
When you follow Christ’s example, the Master of the Word,
Beholding as in a mirror, the glory of the Lord.
Each day abounds with potential for matchless artistry.
Now is your golden moment—you are making “His Story.”

A recent article posted in talks about the life-changing impact a work of art can have on a viewer and asks “Have you ever encountered a work of art that captured your attention and left you speechless?” I go on to describe a personal encounter with a wood carving that moved me to tears. Included in the conversation is a statement from Olafur Eliasson, ‘Icelandic-Danish artist, who explains “Why Art has the Power to change the world”:

“Most of us know the feeling of being moved by a work of art, whether it is a song, a play, a poem, a novel, a painting . . . . When we are touched, we are moved; we are transported to a new place that is, nevertheless, strongly rooted in a physical experience, in our bodies.”

Without question, a work of art has power to touch our lives in unforgettable ways.

These comments serve as a prelude to a poem written today in celebration of my ordination as a teacher. It builds upon the opening poem for the class taught 42 years ago with a similar theme:

Breath-taking Portraits in the Living Gallery

Even every one that is called by my name: for I have created him
for my glory, I have formed him; yea, I have made him.

Isaiah 43:7

Frank, honest, forthright, moving with spiritual insight,
Energized with a desire to serve with all their might.
Called as servants of the Lord, they have been given much;
They extend healing hands with a compassionate touch.
Walking in favor, ever eager, seeking to find
The strength to love God with their whole heart and soul and mind.
They desire to follow the Lord, to walk as the wise,
And just as Noah, they long to find grace in God’s eyes.
In the mirror of the Word we find pictures to paint,
Self-portraits of empowered people who do not faint.
From broad brush strokes, even down to the finest details,
Their whole lives reflect the love of God that never fails.
Masterpieces in the living gallery where we observe
Breath-taking portraits of all those called and ordained to serve.

Sarah Reeves offers “In the Details” to display the masterful skill of the ultimate artisan:

Stay the course

August 4, 2018

Instead of looking at the Verse of the Day, as we so often do, today we are going to examine the Phrase of the Day for August 4, 2018:

“Stay the course.”

The short three-word imperative sentence means “to keep going strongly to the end of a race or contest.” The expression is often used in an athletic context. Two recent blog posts spoke of the end of a race or an athletic event with specific references to the “finish line” while another entry indicated our desire as believers, not just to finish but to have a “strong finish” as we complete the work God has sent us to do.

Used by presidents and pundits, “Stay the course” has also been used in the context of a war or battle, meaning to pursue a goal regardless of any obstacles or criticism. According to the Cambridge Dictionary, the expression means “to continue doing something until it is finished or until you achieve something you have planned to do.” The phrase means to continue in some effort or course of action to its end, in spite of difficulties or obstacles. A synonym would be to persevere, to “keep on keeping on.” A person keeps trying to accomplish a task and simply does not give up.

These lyrics to a Children’s Ministry Song offer words of encouragement to God’s Children at any age:

Never give up
Keep your chin up
Never give up
But realize
You’ve got to go through
To get to the prize.

So never give up
Keep your chin up
In the end perseverance always pays.
In the end perseverance always pays.

In a similar way, this poem also exhorts believers to

Stay the Course

Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence

to make your calling and election sure:

for if you do these things, you shall never fall:

2 Peter 1:10


We barely begin to extol your wondrous ways.
We barely begin to extol your wondrous ways,
Though we born to give you praise all of our days.

We woke up this morning with our mind stayed on you.
We woke up this morning with our mind stayed on you.
For we know you’ll show us what we need to do.

We don’t want to be ignorant but walk as the wise.
We don’t want to be ignorant but walk as the wise.
Now we clearly see since you opened our blinded eyes.

You tell us to stay the course: To watch, fight and pray.
You tell me to stay the course: To watch, fight and pray.
We will trust you, Lord, no matter what others say.

Despite the trials of this life, we will endure.
With zeal we make our calling and election sure.

As we stay the course we will finish the word we have been sent to do with a “strong finish,” so says Jonathan Nelson:

New month: new beginning

August 1, 2018

The number 8 not only represents a new beginning, but it also symbolizes infinity.

On the first day of August, we awake to embrace the first day in a new month. August is the 8th month, with the number eight representing a new beginning. While considering deeply the concept of a new beginning or a fresh start, these lyrics came to mind:

Behold, I make all things new.
Behold, I make all things new.
Behold, I make all things new, brand new.
Things will never be the same.

Behold, I am making you new.
Behold, I am making you new.
Behold, I am making you new, brand new.
You will never be the same.

In reflecting upon the concept of “new beginnings,” I thought of the number 8, symbolic of such a “fresh start.” E.W. Bullinger, in his celebrated work, Numbers in Scripture, and in an Appendix to his Companion Bible, comments that eight denotes resurrection or new beginning or regeneration or commencement. The eighth is a new first. It is the number that has to do with the Lord, who rose on the eighth day or new first day. In Hebrew the number eight is derived from an expression that means “to make fat,” “cover with fat,” “to super-abound.” As a participle it means “one who abounds in strength,” etc. As a noun it is “superabundant fertility,” “oil,” etc. So that as a numeral it is the superabundant number. As seven was so called because the seventh day was the day of completion and rest, so eight, as the eighth day, was over and above this perfect completion, and was indeed the first of a new series, as well as being the eighth. Thus it already represents two numbers in one, the first and eighth.

In light of the significance of the beginning of the 8th month, here is a poetic reminder of who God is and what He does:

All Things New

Behold, I am the Lord God who makes all things new.
Trust me and you will see. You will never be the same.
As you look to me, it is no secret what I can do.

I am God–I do not lie, I am faithful and true.
Almighty, God of the impossible is my name.
Behold, I am the Lord God who makes all things new.

Some thought it was over, but I am by no means through.
I cover and restore to remove all guilt and shame.
As you look to me, it is no secret what I can do.

Never forget what I have already brought you through.
You have a divine purpose; your life is not a game.
Behold, I am the Lord God who makes all things new.

In me you overcome—I am Lord of the breakthrough
Who offers boundless promises that you can now claim.
As you look to me, it is no secret what I can do.

Trust me, obey and see what I have in store for you.
With your life you will make known my goodness and proclaim:
Behold, I am the Lord God who makes all things new.
As you look to me, it is no secret what I can do.

A familiar passage from Jeremiah 29:11-13 in the New Living Translation also came to mind:

11 For I know the plans I have for you,” says the LORD. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.
12 In those days when you pray, I will listen.
13 If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me.

Although the words of Jeremiah were specifically addressed to Israel concerning their release from Babylonian captivity after seventy years, we recognize the truth expressed in Romans 15:4:

Whatsoever things were written aforetime, were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures, might have hope.

The prophetic word from Jeremiah can certainly have personal application, in that the plans that God has for each of His children are no less grand than those He has for the Children of Israel.

As we ask God for guidance and direction, He will lead us and teach us all along the path that unfolds as a shining light that shines more and more unto the perfect day (Proverbs 4:18). Jeremiah 29:11-13 also informs us of God’s concern for our future or “final outcome”, so that we need have no fear for our future.

Damaris Carbaugh shares “I Know the Plans” (Debby’s Song) a musical reminder of Jeremiah 29:11

We rejoice and celebrate the goodness of the Lord in anticipation of the great plans He has for us as the new month unfolds.