Archive for January, 2019

Remember: God is faithful

January 18, 2019

This morning as I began my day, I thought of the faithfulness of God, as this familiar passage from Lamentations 3:22-23 came to mind:

Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.

Refrains from one of my favorite hymns flooded my soul with song:

Great is Thy faithfulness
O God my Father
There is no shadow of turning with Thee
Thou changest not
Thy compassions they fail not
As Thou hast been
Thou forever will be
Great is Thy faithfulness
Great is Thy faithfulness
Morning by morning new mercies I see
And all I have needed Thy hand hath provided
Great is Thy faithfulness
Lord unto me

Other scriptures also remind me that God is faithful beginning with Philippians 1:6 in the Amplified Bible:

And I am convinced and sure of this very thing, that He Who began a good work in you will continue until the day of Jesus Christ [right up to the time of His return], developing [that good work] and perfecting and bringing it to full completion in you.

God completes the good work begun in us so that as believers we will be complete in every good work to do His will, as Hebrews 13:20-21 offers this benediction:

20 Now may the God of peace who brought up our Lord Jesus from the dead, that great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, 21 make you complete in every good work to do His will, working in you what is well pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen

Throughout the Scriptures we find that “. . . God is faithful and means what He says.” 1 Corinthians 1:9 (AMP) makes know this truth:

God is faithful [He is reliable, trustworthy and ever true to His promise—He can be depended on], and through Him you were called into fellowship with His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

This blessing and benediction also remind believers of God’s faithfulness:

1 Thessalonians 5:23-24 (AMP):

23 Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 24 He who calls you is faithful, who also will do it.

In Hebrews 6:10 (AMP) we find another reminder that God is faithful and that He is not unjust:

For God is not unjust so as to forget your work and the love which you have shown for His name in ministering to [the needs of] the saints (God’s people), as you do.

The New Living Translation puts it this way:

Hebrews 6:10

For God is not unjust. He will not forget how hard you have worked for him and how you have shown your love to him by caring for other believers, as you still do.

As believers we endeavor to serve God and minister to one another. Our efforts may not always be recognized nor appreciated. Those whom we serve in love may not always remember what we say and do, but we are assured that God never forgets. Not only is God, our Father, faithful and just, but He is also a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him (Hebrews 11:6), as the following poetic comments illustrate:

A Reminder: God Is Faithful

For God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labor of love,
which you have shown toward his name, in that you have ministered
to the saints, and do minister.
Hebrews 6:10

All the good deeds you have done may not be extolled
When the fervor of God’s love has long since grown cold.
Some so quickly forget all the good you have done,
And they fail to recall you were the only one
To answer the call, seek the Lord and intercede.
Time after time you were the one to meet the need.
When others were busy and chose to walk away,
You were there and remained in the thick of the fray.
In dark times when words of thanks are distant memories,
Recall our God knows all things, for He alone sees
Your labor and saves every tear you have shed.
Our Father is ever mindful of how you serve,
And He shall reward you beyond all you deserve.
As you strive to finish your course, have no regret:
Our God is faithful–He will never forget.

In reflecting upon God’s faithfulness as expressed in Philippians 1:6 and elsewhere in the Bible, I thought of this song which has come to mean so much to me: “Great Work” offered by Brian Courtney Wilson:

You will prosper but the weapons won’t

January 12, 2019

 

As the spiritual battle rages before us day by day, I recall a recent blog post which encouraged believers to “hold their peace,” even in the midst of the most intense and stressful situations, knowing that the Lord is fighting for us. We closed with a musical reminder that “The battle is not yours: It’s the Lord’s.” Today I recall similar words of encouragement regarding the spiritual attack that intensifies before our eyes. Isaiah 54:17 offers words to strengthen and fortify our faith:

No weapon formed against you shall prosper,
And every tongue which rises against you in judgment
You shall condemn.
This is the heritage of the servants of the LORD,
And their righteousness is from Me,” says the LORD.

This verse was the inspiration for the following:

You Will Prosper, but All the Weapons Will Not

 Isaiah 54:17

According to God’s promises, you will prosper:
All your days overflow in goodness and mercy.
Indeed, you will prosper, but the weapons will not.

In every trial, you rise as more than conqueror.
Though the weapons of your warfare you cannot see.
According to God’s promises, you will prosper.

You press toward the new level, as you now enter
And leave a legacy to touch eternity.
Indeed, you will prosper, but the weapons will not.

You set yourself to remain fixed in the center
Of the will of God, striving toward your destiny.
According to God’s promises, you will prosper.

No weapon formed against you can ever alter
Your purpose or change all God has called you to be.
Indeed, you will prosper, but the weapons will not.

You rest in knowing that God’s grace is far greater than sin, for He said, “Their righteousness is of me.”
According to God’s promises, you will prosper:
Indeed, all the weapons formed against you will not.

While meditating on the verse from Isaiah, I also thought of my recently published book Embracing Your Life Sentence: How to Turn Life’s Greatest Tragedies into Your Greatest Triumphs. Chapter Four focuses on the power of prayer which I came to understand and appreciate as a prayer warrior engaged in spiritual warfare after being diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2000. Here is an excerpt sharing some of the lessons I learned:

In his book Crafted Prayer: The Joy of Always Getting Your Prayers Answered, Bible teacher Graham Cooke, shows how to use the Scriptures to construct specific, targeted prayers, addressed to God offered individually as well as corporately. Cook maintains that crafted prayer is designed that those who pray will know “the joy of always getting your prayers answered.” The Bible offers this assurance to those who “pray the Word of God”:

Isaiah 55:11

So shall my word be that goes forth from my mouth; it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish what I please, and it shall prosper in the thing to which I sent it.

I John 5:14-15 also reminds us:

And this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us: 15And if we know that he hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of him.

Crafted prayers are like handcrafted arrows, works of art within themselves, designed to be on target consistently. Jeremiah described the nations who attacked Babylon in this way: “Their arrows shall be like those of an expert warrior; none shall return in vain” (Jeremiah 50:9). Similarly, crafted prayers are exquisitely designed and accurately dispatched to specific targets, and they always hit the mark.

Prayer has been described as a powerful offensive weapon in the spiritual arsenal of believers. The illustration and application of crafted prayer as arrows provides a picture of how prayer can be used offensively with precision to a limited degree. In light of how modern warfare has changed as we have moved further into the 21st Century, a more precise revision of the original analogy would take us from arrows to smart-bombs released with pinpoint laser accuracy.

In an article in the LA Times, Peter Pae writes about lasers and their use in modern warfare:

The word ‘laser’ is an acronym that stands for ‘light amplification by stimulated emission of radiation.’ The technology turns atomic particles into light with enough radiation to damage an object it encounters. The range and severity of the damage depend on how much power can be generated and how well the light can be focused on the target.

. . . [L]aser scientists say significant technical challenges recently have been overcome, transforming laser weapons from a laboratory project into a promising part of the U.S. arsenal. With such lasers, a fighter jet could destroy ground targets with pinpoint accuracy, significantly reducing the chance of injuring civilians.

The passage from Ephesians 6:18 also reminds believers of the power of prayer, used as an offensive weapon in the ongoing spiritual battle called life. For the Christian believer putting on the whole armor of God should apply to every situation, but this passage had particular application to my specific situation regarding cancer, especially the last verse of the passage:

Ephesians 6:18:

Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all saints.

Finally, we recognize this truth regarding our spiritual weaponry:

2 Corinthians 10:3-5 (NKJV)

3 For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. 4 For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, 5 casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ,

Without question, prayer can be a powerful offensive and defensive weapon. We recognize that “No weapon formed against me shall prosper” as lyrics from Fred Hammond conclude our discussion:

Embracing Your Life Sentence: How to Turn Life’s Greatest Tragedies into Your Greatest Triumphs is now available wherever books are sold and online. For more details check out https://lonnelledwardjohnson.com.

A New Year: A new way

January 9, 2019

As the New Year continues to unfold, I happened to read a statement from Apostle Eric Warren, and it will serve as the Quote of the Day for January 9, 2019:

God wants to reveal Himself to you and through you in a new way this year! Are you available?

Several thoughts came to mind as I continued to consider deeply the passage from Isaiah: which serves as a launching pad for the New Year.Isaiah 43:16, 18-19:

16 This is what the Lord says,
He who makes a way through the sea and a path through the mighty waters,
“Do not remember the former things,
Or ponder the things of the past.
19
“Listen carefully, I am about to do a new thing,
Now it will spring forth;
Will you not be aware of it?
I will even put a road in the wilderness,
Rivers in the desert.

The Message Bible puts it this way:

“Forget about what’s happened;
don’t keep going over old history.
Be alert, be present. I’m about to do something brand-new.
It’s bursting out! Don’t you see it?
There it is! I’m making a road through the desert,
rivers in the badlands.

Each New Year represents a new beginning, as God reminds us once again that He makes all things new. In thinking about a new beginning or a fresh start, I thought of the power of the Word of the Lord when spoken and believed:

God’s Unfailing Power

For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper
than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division
of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow,
and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.

Hebrews 4:12 [NKJV]

No word of God spoken shall be devoid of power
But shall prosper in the thing to which it is sent,
Beyond all past limits, to its farthest extent
And thus abound in fruit as seed of the sower,
Returning four-fold measure to the one who lent.
It is impossible not to fulfill God’s will,
Once spoken and thus declared that the Lord might show
The wonders of His amazing ways and instill
In us His unfailing power that we might know
That in the beginning God spoke, and it was so.
Sharper than a two-edged sword, cutting as a knife,
The word is quick to energize and encompass
The past, present and future, merging to bring forth life.
While yet in our mouths, it has come already come to pass.

The question raised at the end of the Quote of the Day brought to mind this response expressed in one of my all-time favorite Gospel songs: “Lord, I’m Available to You”:

 

Walk in love, as Christ also loved us

January 7, 2019

Taken from Ephesians 5:1-2, the Verse of the Day for January 7, 2019, offers this exhortation from the New American Bible—Revised Edition:

So be imitators of God, as beloved children, and live in love, as Christ loved us and handed himself over for us as a sacrificial offering to God for a fragrant aroma…

The Amplified Bible puts it this way:

Therefore be imitators of God [copy Him and follow His example], as well-beloved children [imitate their father].
2 and walk continually in love [that is, value one another—practice empathy and compassion, unselfishly seeking the best for others], just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and sacrifice to God [slain for you, so that it became] a sweet fragrance.

The Verse of the Day speaks of being followers or imitators of God and provides a notable example of such a faithful follower, as displayed in the life and ministry of Jesus Christ, the ultimate illustration of “Like father, like son.”
This passage from Ephesians also brings to mind 1 John 4:16, expressed in the Amplified Bible this way:

16 And we know (understand, recognize, are conscious of, by observation and by experience) and believe (adhere to and put faith in and rely on) the love God cherishes for us. God is love, and he who dwells and continues in love dwells and continues in God, and God dwells and continues in him.

In 1 John 4:8 we find an expression of who God is:

He who does not love has not become acquainted with God [does not and never did know Him], for God is love.

For Christian believers nothing is more satisfying than to know that God is love and that God loves us. We can thus, follow Christ’s example as we offer our lives as sacrificial expression of our devotion to God.

Here is another expression related to our discussion of walking in love:

Also

And walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us,
and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice
to God for a sweet-smelling savor

Ephesians 5:2

We must exercise authority and know who we are.
We must then walk in the fullness of that authority
We must also recognize that our hands were made to war,
As we demonstrate the power within that all might see.

We must walk in love, for love is the more excellent way.
We know love alone is the standard by which we measure.
We seek to please God and pour love upon all we do and say.
We must love as Christ loved, for love is a priceless treasure.

We also learn that our lives should reflect our stewardship.
We know each steward shall be called to give a full account,
God, our Father, evaluates our life-long fellowship,
And assesses our service and then totals the amount.

Even more than sacrifice, God seeks our obedience,
As we too seek to fulfill the Father’s deepest desire.
We learn that to obey is the highest form of reverence:
To be like Christ is the model toward which we all aspire.

Once more God tempers authority with love; this we know:
As dear children, we learn to steward and obey also.

Elevation Worship offers “Walk in Love” inspired by Ephesians 5:1-2 and other verses:

 

Thinking about Day Four of Creation on January 4

January 4, 2019

 

 

 

 

 

The number four relates to creation as noted on Day 4 in Genesis.

On the 4th day of the first month in the New Year, I happened to think of a statement a dear friend used to make regarding the Lord God Almighty when it comes to arranging life in all of its beauty: “God is very creative.” I also recall a previous blog entry re-posted today: Thoughts about the 4th Day of Creation on January 4, 2019.
Biblical scholar and prolific writer, E.W. Bullinger, discusses various aspects of the number 4 in his book Number in Scripture: Its Supernatural Design and Spiritual Significance:

FOUR

Now the number four is made up of three and one (3+1=4), and it denotes, therefore, and marks that which follows the revelation of God. . . namely, His creative works. He is known by the things that are seen. Hence the written revelation commences with the words, “In-the-beginning God CREATED.” Creation is, therefore, the next thing—the fourth thing, and the number four always has reference to all that is created. It is emphatically the number of Creation; of man in his relation to the world as created. . . .

The fourth day saw the material creation finished (for on the fifth and sixth days it was only the furnishing and peopling of the earth with living creatures). The sun, moon, and stars completed the work, and they were to give light upon the earth which had been created and to rule over the day and over the night

Genesis 1:14-19.

And God said, “Let there be lights in the expanse of the sky to separate the day from the night, and let them serve as signs to mark seasons and days and years, and let them be lights in the expanse of the sky to give light on the earth.” And it was so. God made two great lights – the greater light to govern the day and the lesser light to govern the night. He also made the stars. God set them in the expanse of the sky to give light on the earth, to govern the day and the night, and to separate light from darkness. And God saw that it was good. And there was evening, and there was morning – the fourth day.

This painting by Aaron Douglas accompanied “The Creation” in James Weldon Johnson’s God’s Trombones: 7 Negro Sermons in Verse.

Renowned African American poet, James Weldon Johnson (1871-1938), offers a vivid description of Genesis in “The Creation” taken from God’s Trombones, 7 Negro Sermons in Verse, one of his most celebrated works. This opening excerpt describes the fourth day:

And God stepped out on space,
And He looked around and said,
“I’m lonely —
I’ll make me a world.”

And far as the eye of God could see
Darkness covered everything,
Blacker than a hundred midnights
Down in a cypress swamp.

Then God smiled,
And the light broke,
And the darkness rolled up on one side,
And the light stood shining on the other,
And God said, “That’s good!”

Then God reached out and took the light in His hands,
And God rolled the light around in His hands
Until He made the sun;
And He set that sun a-blazing in the heavens.
And the light that was left from making the sun
God gathered it up in a shining ball
and flung it against the darkness,
Spangling the night with the moon and stars.
Then down between
The darkness and the light
He hurled the world;
And God said, “That’s good!”

For a powerful rendition of the entire poem recited by Whitley Phipps, click here.

Johnson and Johnson

As a practicing poet, I have been notably influenced by James Weldon Johnson, with whom I have much in common. In addition to being poets with the same last name, we have both taught literature at historically Black institutions, and both of us have been involved in careers outside of teaching, but most remarkably we both share the same birthday, June 17. I am not exactly sure what all of this means. That is perhaps the topic of another conversation.

A few years ago I recall having read about newly discovered rings around Saturn and other phenomena in outer space that caused me to see and appreciate the magnitude of the creative power of God in a new way. This information is staggering in light of the demonstrated power of God manifested through the Spoken Word of God recorded in Genesis where the account of the fourth day indicates, “And God made two great lights; the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night. . .” Then almost as a modest aside, we learn that “He made the stars also”: All the starry hosts with its millions upon millions of stars God made, each of which He numbered and called by name. That particular passage from Genesis inspired the following poem:

“. . . He Made the Stars Also”
Genesis 1:16

Seventy thousand million million million stars
Ten times more than grains of sand that cover the earth;
Galaxies that span far beyond Saturn and Mars:
Each star formed and fashioned and called by name at birth.

Ten times more than grains of sand that cover the earth;
Sparkling the night with lights, God made the stars also.
Each star formed and fashioned and called by name at birth.
The heavens declare God’s glory that men might know.

Sparkling the night with lights, God made the stars also:
Witness to Abraham of what was yet to be.
The heavens declare God’s glory that men might know.
As the stars and grains of sand, so shall your seed be.

All creation unified by a single bond.
Galaxies that span far beyond Saturn and Mars
Express the breadth of God’s love, reaching far beyond
Seventy thousand million million million stars.

On the fourth day of the New Year, we close with Karen Clark Sheard offering a musical interpretation of Psalm 19:1: “The Heavens Are Telling”

To number our days

January 2, 2019

As the New Year continues to unfold, the Verse of the Day for January 2, 2019 offers sound advice from the Psalmist:

Psalm 90:12 (New American Bible Revised Edition):

Teach us to count our days aright, that we may gain wisdom of heart.

Here is the more familiar expression from the King James Version:

So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.

Proverbs 4:7 also reminds us that

Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom: and with all thy getting get understanding.

In thinking about applying wisdom to our lives, we must recognize that wisdom is not a static entity; it is not a trophy to be displayed with pride, but wisdom connotes action; it is something that must be applied.

The Psalmist further states, “I will behave myself wisely in a perfect way. O when will you come unto me? I will walk within my house with a perfect heart (Psalm 101:2).

Wisdom is said to be the application of knowledge. We, thus, see that knowledge, wisdom, and understanding are intertwined as a three-fold cord. Furthermore, in discussing wisdom, we see that the Book of James identifies two sources of wisdom:

James 3:13-18

13 Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show by good conduct that his works are done in the meekness of wisdom.
14 But if you have bitter envy and self-seeking in your hearts, do not boast and lie against the truth.
15 This wisdom does not descend from above, but is earthly, sensual, demonic.
16 For where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing are there.
17 But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy.
18 Now the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.

In the Book of Proverbs we find two additional references to a synonymous phrase for “applying our hearts unto wisdom,” and they are “walking in wisdom” or “to walk as the wise”:

Proverbs 13:20

He who walks with wise men shall be wise: but a companion of fools shall be destroyed.

Proverbs 28:26

He that trusts in his own heart is a fool: but whoso walks wisely, he shall be delivered.

Two of the most enlightening scriptures regarding walking in wisdom occur in the New Testament:

Ephesians 5:15

See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise,

To walk circumspectly, means to walk carefully, accurately, “to be watchful on all sides.”

Colossians 4:5 instructs believers to

“Walk in wisdom toward them that are without, redeeming the time.”

The exhortation to number our days begins with today, as we learn to take one day at a time. The lyrics to the song “Day by Day” from the musical Godspell, based on the Gospel of Matthew, offer this reminder:

Day by day
Day by day
Oh Dear Lord
Three things I pray
To see thee more clearly
Love thee more dearly
Follow thee more nearly
Day by day

Walking in wisdom also involves being intentional and making deliberate choices that determine the direction and ultimate fulfillment of our purpose in God. Here is another reminder to heed the words of the Psalmist in the Verse of the Day:

To Number Our Days

Psalm 90:12

To number our days we must ascend to this place
To view another day beyond our three score years
Symbolic sum of God’s divinely ordered grace,
Flowing to each grateful heart that still perseveres.
From this summit of sweeping vistas now we see
The Great Divide where streams of understanding flow,
Unfolding golden days beyond our jubilee.
Even as we are known, so may we also know
The fullness of the love of God in word and deed:
This passion burns within as an enduring flame.
With ears near to the lips of God may we still heed
The call heard long ago when He first called our name.
Let us walk with wisdom and seek to know His ways
As we continue to learn to number our days.

We close with the Family Radio Broadcasting offering a musical reminder: “Teach Us to Number our Days.”