Archive for January, 2019

To serve: Power of the verb

January 29, 2019

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The Verse of the Day for January 29, 2019, speaks of the oxymoronic nature of true servanthood: the last shall be first and the first shall be last. If you want to be in the premier position as number one, then put yourself in the last position by putting others first, and you will be great.

Mark 9:35 (AMP)

Sitting down [to teach], He called the twelve [disciples] and said to them, “If anyone wants to be first, he must be last of all [in importance] and a servant of all.”

Jesus Christ illustrates the same point that those who desire to be first should put themselves last and serve others first. Other places in the Scriptures also reveal this striking portrait of a true servant of the Lord:

Luke 22:26 (AMP)

26 But it is not to be this way with you; on the contrary, the one who is the greatest among you must become like the youngest [and least privileged], and the [one who is the] leader, like the servant.

A similar response occurs in Mark 10:43 (AMP)

43 But this is not how it is among you; instead, whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant

A particularly noteworthy verse is found in Matthew 20:27 (AMP):

27 and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your [willing and humble] slave;

In following in the steps of Jesus Christ, one of the noblest character traits that a person can demonstrate is that of serving others. Throughout the life and ministry of Christ, he takes upon himself the form of a servant, thus modeling the behavior that he desires to see his followers emulate.

In discussing the contrasting concepts of being free and serving one another, one encounters a most provocative term in the Greek word doulos, the noun meaning “servant”, “bond servant,” or “bond-slave,” or “slave.” In fact, the verb “to serve” is derived from doulos and has been translated “to be a slave, to serve or render service or serving.”

Paul reiterates the message that though as a believer he is free in Christ, yet he chooses to serve others:

1 Corinthians 9:19 (AMP):

19 For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a slave to everyone, so that I may win more [for Christ].

As believers, the state or condition whereby we have been called to salvation is liberty or freedom: freedom from the yoke of bondage, freedom from the chains that bind us in sin. We are, however, not to use our freedom as an occasion for the flesh or as an excuse or pretext for indulging our selfish desires. Instead, we are to be servants, those bound by love to serve one another.
In the midst of our perilous times that preclude a super-abundant harvest season, we must learn

To Serve and To Sow

Those who sow in tears shall reap in joy.
He who continually goes forth weeping,
Bearing seed for sowing, shall doubtless come again
with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him.
Psalm 126:5, 6

We learn to serve and to sow with a joyful heart,
To pour from the fountain of our souls and to give
All our strength to the Lord’s work and to do our part
To complete each task, to build that the Word might live,
For only deeds done for the sake of Christ remain.
The legacy that fulfills God’s will lives beyond
The brief journey of our days filled with joy and pain.
This precious token of our covenant, the bond
Of devotion to the Master, perfected love
Is shed abroad in our hearts, enfolded in peace
That passes understanding, flowing from above.
As we plant and water, our God gives the increase.
Freely we have received that we might come to know
The love of God, as we learn to serve and to sow.

Without question, “to serve” is one of the most powerful verbs in the English language. Listen to this excerpt from “The Drum Major Instinct,” unforgettable sermon by Dr. Martin Luther King, who unfolds the beauty and simplicity in the words “To serve.”

We close with an expression of our utmost desire to offer to the Lord: A Servant’s Heart:

 

Rest assured

January 28, 2019

In beginning my morning meditation, a Word of the Day for January 28, 2019, came to mind:

“Rest assured”

The expression means to be convinced of, to have faith in and have no doubt. The verbs involve having trust or believing or relying on, placing confidence; to take at one’s word, according to Roget’s 21st Century Thesaurus.

Throughout the Scriptures, God, our gracious Heavenly Father, speaks words to comfort and assure us He is always with us and entirely aware of all that is happening to us. We can rest assured that He knows all about us, and He will take care of us. We are not to be full of care nor “care-full” about anything, but we are to cast all our care on the Lord, knowing that He cares for us. We are confident of this very thing: that He who began a good work in us, will be faithful to complete it. The Word of the Day reminds us to have confidence that what God promised He will fulfill.

Isaiah 41:10 in the Amplified Bible reinforces that message:

‘Do not fear [anything], for I am with you; Do not be afraid, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, be assured I will help you; I will certainly take hold of you with My righteous right hand [a hand of justice, of power, of victory, of salvation].’

He assures us of His everlasting presence and offers of words of comfort to the descendants of Jacob and by extension to believers living today:

Isaiah 46:3-4 (Amplified Bible):

“Listen to Me,” [says the LORD], “O house of Jacob,
And all the remnant of the house of Israel,
You who have been carried by Me from your birth
And have been carried [in My arms] from the womb,

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.

The opening phrase of the passage introduces this poetic reminder:

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.
And I have upheld you since 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.
I will perform all I said to do. You shall see.
Rest assured I will deliver. Listen to me.

God continually reminds us of who He is and what He alone can do. We can rest assured that His Word will come to pass. Here is a musical reminder inspired by Isaiah 46:4 and other verses:

Overcoming dangerous emotions

January 25, 2019

The blog post for January 25, 2019, includes both a Quote of the Day and an expanded rendering of the Verse of the Day. All in all, we have not merely a double-decker but a triple-layer sandwich–delicious, nutritious, and soul-satisfying made from the Bread of Life.

We begin with a statement from author and philanthropist, Steve Maraboli, who offers this sobering reminder:

Nothing is worth your health. Nothing is worth poisoning yourself into stress, anxiety, and fear.

The Verse of the Day for Biblegateway.com provides a response to the quote found in m Philippians 4:8, but to comprehend more fully this remedy, we need to examine verses six and seven as well:

Philippians 4:6-8 (Amplified Bible):

Do not be anxious or worried about anything, but in everything [every circumstance and situation] by prayer and petition with thanksgiving, continue to make your [specific] requests known to God. And the peace of God [that peace which reassures the heart, that peace] which transcends all understanding, [that peace which] stands guard over your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus [is yours].

Finally,believers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable and worthy of respect, whatever is right and confirmed by God’s word, whatever is pure and wholesome, whatever is lovely and brings peace, whatever is admirable and of good repute; if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think continually on these things [center your mind on them, and implant them in your heart].

Both the Quote of the Day and the Verse of Day bring to mind my newly published book, Embracing Your Life Sentence: How to Turn Life’s Greatest Tragedies into your Greatest Challenges. In Chapter 4, The Fight of My Life, the Fight for My Life, I talk about “Overcoming Toxic Emotions” in a section related to our discussion today.

A deep internal cleansing or detoxing of the body can be part of the strategy some individuals choose to undergo when they have cancer. Similarly, some patients may need an emotional detox program to overcome toxic emotions, which can negatively impact the body’s response to disease. In discussing the concept of renewing the mind, Bishop Charles Mellette speaks of managing your mind: “You have to renew your mind to manage your thoughts (pictures of the mind that have constructive possibilities that affect your life, positively and negatively).”

If not properly handled, these toxic emotions can precipitate a destructive, downward spiral that could sabotage the destiny of a believer. The following poem speaks of negative feelings with devastating consequences:

Dangerous Emotions

We capture their rebellious thoughts and teach them to obey Christ.

2 Corinthians 10:5b

As the champions of God, ministers of the Word,
We must overcome each dangerous emotion.
As we fight the good fight, using our shield and sword,
Clothed with the whole armor, not seeking promotion
Of ourselves but of the Savior, who gave His life,
An example that we should follow in His steps,
That we might slay giants of fear, envy, and strife.
Stubborn rebellion that would defy God’s precepts
And defile desire to serve Him in purity,
We defeat with one smooth stone of obedience.
Resentment, guilt, anger and green-eyed jealousy:
Each toxic emotion yields deadly consequence.
Pride, described as the most dangerous of them all,
Leads to destruction and goes before a downfall.

In critical situations where a person may have accidentally ingested a highly toxic substance, the state poison control center, if contacted, can suggest a specific antidote to counteract that poison. In some cases, they recommend a universal antidote. Activated charcoal has the well-earned reputation of being such an antidote since it can facilitate the removal of many poisonous substances before they can cause harm. In the case of some of the toxic emotions previously discussed, another universal antidote comes into play to counteract any and all of these negative issues of life. A heavy dose of thanksliving will counter the potentially crippling adverse effects of resentment, guilt, anger, and green-eyed jealousy along with fear, envy, and strife. A contributing factor to the increased activity of these negative thinking patterns is a stubborn rebellion, which aggravates situations involving toxic emotions.

The chapter goes on to explain the concept of thanksliving as opposed to “thanksgiving. The discussion involves the proper attitude, coming full circle with a reminder that attitude begins with gratitude. J. Rufus Moseley speaks of “an attitude of gratitude and boundless goodwill. “ It is a great and joyful response-ability, that is, our ability to respond to God’s love and grace. As believers, we continually endeavor to demonstrate our gratitude to God from the fullness of our hearts, overflowing with thanks. More than merely occasionally expressing how grateful we are, we desire to maintain a continual attitude of gratitude, a lifestyle of thanksliving. The essence of this attitude of endless gratitude we express in everything we say and do: “With each breath, each move we live thanks to Him,”

To close we listen to Debra Arnott with a musical summary of Philippians 4:6-8:

 

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

Keep on asking, keep on seeking, keep on knocking

January 22, 2019

The Verse of the Day for January 22, 2019, highlights the importance of praying and receiving answers to our prayers:

Matthew 7:7-8 (Amplified Bible):

[Prayer and the Golden Rule] “Ask and keep on asking and it will be given to you; seek and keep on seeking and you will find; knock and keep on knocking and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who keeps on asking receives, and he who keeps on seeking finds, and to him who keeps on knocking, it will be opened.

In thinking about this passage, we recognize the Greek New Testament expresses the three verbs in the present progressive tense: meaning keep on asking, keep on seeking, keep on knocking. In the same manner that a child will keep asking for a treat while shopping with his or her parents until the parent relents, Jesus Christ says to continue to ask, continue to seek, continue to knock in our petitions to God, our Father.

This passage inspired an acrostic poem that spells out the word “a-s-k,” the first three letters of which form the three verbs found in this excerpt from the Sermon on the Mount. Here are lyrics to a scripture memory song based on

Matthew 7:7-8:

Ask and it shall be given you;
Seek and you shall find.
Knock and it shall be opened unto to you.
Ask, seek and knock.
Ask, seek and knock.

For everyone who asks receives.
He who seeks finds.
And to him who knocks, it shall be opened.
Ask, seek and knock.
Ask, seek and knock.

Always ask, no matter how great or small the task.
Serve the Lord God with a pure heart and remove the mask.
Keep trusting in the Lord–all you have to do is ask.

Someday soon we shall stand on top of the mountain peak.
Every golden promise God has fulfilled, as we speak.
Each day adds another victory toward your winning streak.
Keep pressing toward the mark to obtain the prize you seek.

Keep renewing your mind, assess your thoughts and take stock.
Never give up–build your hope on Christ, the solid rock.
Overcome the odds–by faith get around any roadblock.
Count your blessings with every tick-tock of the clock.
Keep this in mind and call on the Lord: ask, seek, and knock.

This passage also brings to mind Luke 18:1-7 where Jesus Christ illustrates the power of persistence in getting answers to prayer when he shares a parable teaching “that men ought to pray and not give up and lose heart.” The principal characters are a self-righteous judge “who did not fear God and had no respect for man.” The judge encounters “a desperate] widow,” who kept coming to him and saying, “Give me justice and legal protection from my adversary.” For a time he did not respond to her persistent requests; but later he said to himself, ‘Even though I do not fear God nor respect man, yet because this widow continues to bother me, I will give her justice and legal protection; otherwise by continually coming she [will be an intolerable annoyance and she] will wear me out.’”

The Lord Jesus ends the parable by saying “Listen to what the unjust judge says! And will not [our just] God defend and avenge His elect [His chosen ones] who cry out to Him day and night? Will He delay [in providing justice] on their behalf? 8 I tell you that He will defend and avenge them quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will He find [this kind of persistent] faith on the earth?”

1 Thessalonians 5:17-18 reinforces the exhortation to be persistent in prayer with this reminder to “pray without ceasing.” Certainly, this does not mean believers need to walk around with clasped hands and closed eyes. We cannot remain on bended knee all day every day, but we can express our gratitude to God in everything we say and do, as we maintain a perpetual attitude of gratitude called “Thanksliving.”

The passage from Luke 18 and the words from 1 Thessalonians 5 combine in these lyrics:

We ought always to pray and not to faint.
We ought always to pray and not to faint.
We ought always to pray and not to faint.
To pray, pray, pray, pray, pray without ceasing.
In everything give thanks, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.

We close as the Las Vegas Community Choir offers this stirring reminder: “Ask, and It Shall Be Given Unto You”:

Remember: God can make a way

January 21, 2019

As I listened to the morning message at Christian Provision Ministries in Sanford, NC this past Sunday, January 20, 2019, a number of thoughts came to mind as Bishop Charles Mellette reiterated the theme for the Ministry:

“This is the year of spiritual renewal and expecting God’s will to be done.”

He reminded the congregation that we are destined to win as he encouraged believers to focus on this reality: “God is making a way.” He went on to emphasize this Point of Power: “God will never be stranded. He always makes a way.” Among the scriptures shared was Isaiah 46:9 from the Amplified Bible:

“Remember [carefully] the former things [which I did] from ages past;
For I am God, and there is no one else;
I am God, and there is no one like Me,

One of the first blog posts of the New Year offered another reminder of who God is and what He says He will do, as we press toward the mark in 2019. Simply put, “God can make a way out of no way.” So says Isaiah 43:19 (AMP):

“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.

As we think about the countless times when God came through for His people in the midst of seemingly impossible situations, I recall this original, vernacular poem reminding us that “The Lord will make a way somehow”:

Hand upon the Plow

Jesus said to him, No one who puts his hand 

to the plow and looks back [to the things behind

is fit for the kingdom of God.

Luke 9:62

“Keep your hand on the plow, hold on!”
–Black Spiritual

 

When life ain’t like it spose to be,
Right then and there it occurs to me
Folks been in fixes worse than me,
Right in the Bible where I see:

The Lord will make a way somehow.
Just keep your hand upon the plow.

Pharaoh said, “Kill each Hebrew boy,”
But Moses’ Ma was full of joy
Cause Pharaoh’s daughter raised her boy.
The Lord will make a way somehow.

The lions looked so lean and thin
When they threw Daniel in the den,
But Brother Daniel didn’t bend.
Just keep your hand upon the plow.

When Jesus died, God paid the cost
And at that time all seem like lost,
But God planned ahead for Pentecost.
The Lord will make a way somehow.

Paul and Silas didn’t rant and wail
When they threw both of them in jail.
They called on God, and He didn’t fail.
Just keep your hand upon the plow.

When troubles start upsetting you
Remember, there’s just one thing to do:
Look to God and He’ll see you through
What he did for them, He’ll do for you.

The Lord will make a way somehow.
Just keep your hand upon the plow.

The inspiring message reiterated this point: “God, Your will be done!” We simply say, “Yes to the will of God.” The day before hearing this soul-stirring sermon, I shared with a believer this anonymous poem that has come to mean so much to me:

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 close with this reminder from Elevation Worship that in the same way God has made a way out of no way previously, He will “Do It Again”:

 

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”