Archive for September, 2019

God Himself asks, “Can I get a witness?”

September 26, 2019

The Verse of the Day highlighted on Logos Bible Software for September 26, 2019 comes from Deuteronomy 30:19 (New King James Version):

I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you, life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore, choose life, that both you and your descendants may live;

The authors of the Apologetics Study Bible discuss this verse in more detail:

To call heaven and earth as witnesses is not to suggest that they somehow represent living and sentient beings. This is a literary device (an “apostrophe”) the purpose of which is to provide an element in covenant making, namely, witnesses to the mutual pledges made by each party. God is here swearing to act upon the decisions Israel is required to make. In treaties outside Israel, the “gods” of the partners are invoked as witnesses. Since there is only one true God, He invokes His creation (“the heavens and the earth,” Genesis 2:1) as His two witnesses.

The Verse of the Day also brings to mind the expression “Can I get a witness?”, a phrase originating in the African American Church during the 19th Century. Members of a congregation would often share their personal testimony and “bear witness” of God’s divine presence and intervention in their lives. After sharing their personal account of how God came through and made “a way out of no way,” speakers would then address the audience by asking, “Can I get a witness?” Within the community, those who had experienced a similar move of God in their personal lives would respond with a hearty “Amen” or vigorous hand-clapping or raising hands or some other form of affirmation.

In reflecting on the Phrase of the Day, I also thought of the expression “Call and response” which I also discuss in a previous blog post from which this excerpt is taken:

In music, particularly in jazz which incorporates improvisation, we find a technique labeled “call and response,” whereby a musician issues a phrase or line, and another player answers with a phrase or comment in response. The same technique is also seen in other areas of African American culture involving speakers, such as preachers or ministers of the gospel or worship leaders who issue a series of calls, and the audience, the congregation, or group being addressed answers with responses.

“Can I get a witness?” is the call, and the group being addressed responds in some way to affirm the speaker and to bear witness of the same. The question raised is also the title of the following:

Can I Get a Witness?

This is the third time I am coming to visit you
(and as the Scriptures say, “The facts of every case must be established
by the testimony of two or three witnesses”).
2 Corinthians 13:1

Can I get a witness? Tell me what do you see?
Can you testify God is who He said He would be?
Probing the depths of God’s love, what do you discern?
We embrace afflictions that we might truly learn
To please the Master, striving toward our destiny.

As we stand, do you see bond-slaves now set free?
Those transformed who yearn for deeper intimacy,
As the passion for God’s Word continues to burn.
Can I get a witness?

Assess the whole of our life’s work done heartily
As to the Lord, who reigns for all eternity.
By grace, far beyond any wages we might earn,
Wherein we boldly stand blameless at Christ’s return
When we will hear “Well done, you have served faithfully.”
Can I get a witness?

Philipps, Craig, and Dean raise the same question: “Can I Get a Witness?”

Love one another and more

September 23, 2019

The Verse of the Day for September 22, 2019 offers this reminder of how we should behave toward fellow-believers:

Romans 15:7 (NIV)

Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.

The New Living Translation puts it this way:

So, accept each other just as Christ has accepted you; then God will be glorified.

The J.B. Phillips Translation offers this rendering:

So, open your hearts to one another as Christ has opened his heart to you, and God will be glorified.

In the Scriptures we find seven principles expressed as verbs which connote action specifically applied in terms of what should be done to “one another.” Here is a poetic summary of those principles:

We must learn to value and enhance relationships,
As we ever strive to nurture and to maintain them.
Within the One Body, with each sister and brother
As we love, honor, forgive and encourage each other,
We must admonish, serve, and make peace with one another.

To apply these seven principles, believers must apply the overarching principle expressed in Romans 15:7 and that is to “receive one another” that our lives may glorify God, our Father. His desire is that His children remain fruitful and bring glory to Him. Similarly, our desire is to give glory and honor to God by the way we choose to live. As believers, our heart’s desire is expressed in these lyrics:

Let our lives bring praise to you Lord, so the world will know that we are Yours.
Let our heart and soul sing of Your goodness.
May we proclaim each day new mercies and Your faithfulness.
As we apply Your Word and consider our ways,
May we praise Your name all our days

Let our lives bring praise to you Lord, so the world will know that we are Yours.
When we arise in the morning, we greet You.
With the dawning of a new day we rise to meet You.
When we begin with praise, somehow, we always find
Throughout the day You are on our mind.
Let our lives bring praise to you Lord, so the world will know that we are Yours.

The Verse of the Day also reminds us of the first principle: “love one another.” Each day we receive or accept one another, as we decide to demonstrate, freely give, and practice love: the first thread whereby we must initiate all relationships and follow Christ’s command that we love one another. The Lord further explains in

John 13:35 (New Living Translation)

Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.”

Michael W. Smith offers comments and a spirited rendition of a “Love One Another.”

Watch your mouth and other matters

September 19, 2019
The Verse of the Day for September 19, 2019 is also the opening verse for Chapter 2 of my new book.

Around this same time last year, I was putting the finishing touches on my new book which has since been released. In Embracing Your Life Sentence: How to Turn Life’s Greatest Tragedies into Your Greatest Triumphs, I share my holistic strategy to overcome prostate cancer. Part of my approach involves going to the Bible and looking for principles that I can apply to my situation. As it turns out, the Verse of the Day for September 19, 2019 is the same verse I used to introduce Chapter 2 which opens with

Ephesians 4:29 in the Message Bible:

Watch the way you talk. Let nothing foul or dirty come out of your mouth. Say only what helps, each word a gift.

Here is an excerpt from that chapter:

Watch your mouth and other matters

With regard to the mouth as a gate that I had to watch, I had to monitor not only what went into the mouth—what I chose to eat– as well as what came out of my mouth–what I chose to speak. Since “The power of life and death is in the power of the tongue,” I carefully chose the words that I would speak, as this original poem states:

We know the tongue has power to generate life,
To produce seeds that will eventually take root
And will bring forth two very different kinds of fruit:
Love, joy and peace or envy, confusion and strife
Can build or destroy a brother, a friend, a wife.

Throughout the whole process of responding to the diagnosis of prostate cancer, I had to encourage myself to make positive confessions and to speak words of positive affirmation. The Scriptures remind believers to let our words always be seasoned with salt, that they may minister grace to the hearers.

Most amazingly I did not have to look in the mirror to watch my mouth, but then again, I did! I looked into the mirror of the Word of God and made sure that what I said lined up with what the Word of God says. The Book of James speaks of not just being one who hears the Word but also one who does the Word: “a hearer and a doer.” Indeed, my actions speak louder than my words in this instance.

To sum up what I learned about watching in a strategic way, I came across this statement attributed to Frank Outlaw, founder of Bi-Lo Stores. Each line opens with an exhortation to “watch.” What we are to observe closely could we arranged as an acrostic that can be rearranged to spell “W-A-T-C-H”:

“Watch your thoughts, they become words;
watch your words, they become actions;
watch your actions, they become habits;
watch your habits, they become character;
watch your character, for it becomes your destiny.”

Each chapter of Embracing Your Life Sentence: How to Turn Life’s Greatest Tragedies into Your Greatest Triumphs concludes with a psalm of remembrance of God’s goodness and faithfulness. As the journey continues, I am

Watching, Waiting, Seeking

Wait on the LORD; be of good courage,
and He shall strengthen your heart;
wait, I say, on the LORD!
Psalm 27:14

We are strengthened by the Word of God where we find
Courage to endure while seeking to watch and wait.
Those who watch and wait are never left behind,
For God has always been faithful and never late.
We trust in the Lord, as the Word of God extols.
Like Job, we wait until at last, our change shall come
Assured that in patience we now anchor our souls.
May we not faint and fall by the wayside as some
But follow in Christ’s steps, as we quickly obey
And bear up under and yield fruit of endurance.
We must walk in God’s love, the more excellent way
And through faith and patience claim our inheritance.
In these perilous times we are yielded and still,
Watching, waiting, seeking to fulfill all God’s will.

We are encouraged to make positive confessions and to speak words of positive affirmation regarding ourselves and others. The Verse of the Day for September 19, 2013 and other scriptures remind believers to let our words always be seasoned with salt, that they may minister grace to the hearers.

Johnny Holmes expresses the essence of our desire that thoughts that come from our hearts conveyed in the words that come from our mouths will be acceptable unto God, as revealed in Psalm 19:14:

Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight. O Lord, my strength and my redeemer.

Quite providentially, September is also Prostate Cancer Awareness Month, and I am blessed to share this excerpt from my book on my cancer journey. In Embracing Your Life Sentence—How to Turn Life’s Greatest Tragedies into Your Greatest Triumphs, I share original poetry, Scripture, and my battle plan to show how I emerged, not just as a survivor but more than a conqueror. This message of hope can be applied to overcome any adversity. For more information check out my website: https://lonnelledwardjohnson.com

The love God cherishes for us

September 16, 2019

The Verse of the Day for September 15, 2019 comes from 1 John 4:16 in the Amplified Bible:

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 (AMP) we also find an expression of who God is and a portrait of the person who does not respond to God’s love:

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, and nothing can separate us from that love. Romans 8:38-39 (NIV) reiterates this powerful declaration:

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

This passage from Romans 8 relates the constancy of the love of God which never fails. In a previous blog entry, I commented, “No matter the circumstances of our lives, whether on the pinnacles of success and dreams come true or in the pits of disappointment and failure, we are assured that God loves us. I recall a statement from the late Dr. Adrian Rodgers, “God cannot love us any more than He does, and He will not love us any less.”

God desires that each individual believer might know Him and experience His unconditional love, that is, to have a personal knowledge of who He is, to know Him as a loving father. This kind of knowing is more than “head knowledge” but relates to “heart knowledge.” A person may “know” by name the CEO of the company where that individual works, but the same person also “knows” to a far greater degree a co-worker who happens to be a close friend.

God desires that we know him, as He expresses His deep desire for intimacy on a very personal level. We come to know God through the Word of God which makes known the love of God. As we establish and maintain our relationship with Him, we also experience the love of God, the most powerful force in the universe. Once an individual knows God on such an intimate, experiential level, that person “knows for himself or herself,” and that individual is forever changed.

The closing verses of Ephesians 3 reveal God’s desires that we experience His love, expressed in this prayer:

To Know the Love of Christ

To know the love of Christ which passes knowledge;
that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
Ephesians 3:19

Father, expand our minds and widen our comprehension
To know Your love in an even fuller dimension.
As we call upon Your name and bow in humility,
Help us to see to an even greater degree.
Enlighten our eyes with the wisdom that comes from above.
You call us beloved, worthy of endless love.
When tempted, knowing You love us dispels all fear.
As we seek to please You, open our ears that we might hear
Your word and endeavor to hide it deep within our heart.
Despite past failures, misdeeds, and shortcomings on our part,
Your love is constant and never changes but ever grows
And unfolds in matchless beauty a dew-kissed rose.
No force on Earth, no power in heaven above,
Not death nor life can separate us from your love.

We conclude with a Truth Song “The Love of Christ” based on Ephesians 3:17b-19

And to know the love of Christ

September 15, 2019

And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them.

1 John 4:16 NIV