Archive for March, 2020

Crafted prayer for this hour that we might be strengthened in the Lord

March 26, 2020

Psalm 18_1--3

As believers across the globe are calling on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ during these intense times that challenge us to the depths of our souls, I thought of this blog entry which is modified and re-posted here. Psalm 18:1-2 is a is an expression of David’s calling upon the Lord, and it reflects the cry of our hearts also:

Psalm 18:1-2 (NLT)

[Psalm 18] [For the choir director: A psalm of David, the servant of the Lord. He sang this song to the Lord on the day the Lord rescued him from all his enemies and from Saul. He sang:] I love you, Lord; you are my strength. The Lord is my rock, my fortress, and my savior; my God is my rock, in whom I find protection. He is my shield, the power that saves me, and my place of safety.

In this passage we find two references to the strength that comes from God Almighty: “O Lord, my strength” and “my God, my strength.” As I reflected upon this passage, I recall a “crafted prayer” composed as a petition to God that, as believers, we might be strengthened in the Lord.

Developed by Graham Cooke, the concept of “crafted prayer” involves using the Scriptures to construct specific, targeted prayers, addressed to God. Such prayers may be expressed individually as well as corporately. In his book Crafted Prayer, Cooke reveals that those who “pray the Bible” or use the Scriptures as the basis for their prayers will experience “the joy of always getting your prayers answered.”

A Crafted Prayer that We Might Be Strengthened in the Lord, Our God

O God, you have been our help in ages past; you have delivered our souls from destruction in days gone by, and we know that you are a very present help in the midst of every one of the trials and tribulations that we face each day, as you continue to deliver those who call upon your name. God of power and might, you are our hope for every tomorrow. As the days of our lives unfold before us, we face the future with confidence, knowing that our times are in your hands and that you shall deliver us out of the hand of the enemy.

God, you are our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. We come to you, the source of all strength and might, thanking you that you have fortified us through Christ Jesus. We know that the Lord saves His anointed; you will answer us from your holy heaven with the saving strength of your right hand.  Though our flesh and our hearts may fail, God, our almighty fortress, is the rock and firm strength of our hearts and our portion forever. In the day when we cry out to you, you answer us and strengthen us with strength in our souls.

We declare that the LORD is our light and our salvation; whom or what shall we fear? The LORD is the strength of our lives; of whom or what shall we be afraid? You declare that we should not fear, for you are with us. We should not be dismayed, for you are our God. You will strengthen us; yes, you will help us. Indeed, you will uphold us with the right hand of your righteousness.

We had fainted, unless we had believed to see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living. As we wait on the LORD, we will be of good courage, assured that He shall strengthen our hearts. We are confident that as we wait upon the LORD, we shall renew our strength. We shall mount up with wings as eagles; for you make known that just as you bore Israel upon eagles’ wings and brought them unto yourself, so you will elevate us and raise us above any circumstance that seeks to keep us from being all that you have called us to be. As we wait on you, we know that in due season, we shall run, and not be weary; and we shall walk, and not faint.

As you bless and refresh us and fill us anew with your overflowing goodness and mercy, so we pour into one another, as we encourage ourselves and one another in the Lord, Jesus Christ, who infuses inner strength into us. We minister and pray for one another that we may be mutually strengthened and encouraged and comforted by each other’s faith, as we go from strength to strength, and glory to glory, even from faith to faith. Your desire is that we may be invigorated and strengthened with all power according to the might of your glory, to exercise every kind of endurance and patience, perseverance and forbearance with joy.

We conclude our petitions with this declaration:

That we will be strengthened, perfected, completed, and made to be all that you have called us to be. We will be encouraged and consoled and comforted and will be of the same agreeable mind one with another. We proclaim that we will live in peace, knowing that the God of love, who is the source of affection, goodwill, love, and benevolence toward men and the author and promoter of peace is with us. We make known that according to the riches of God’s glory, that we are strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man; that Christ dwells in our hearts by faith; that we, being rooted and grounded in love, are able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height and that we know the love of Christ, which passes knowledge, that we are filled with all the fullness of God. Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. All these things we declare to be so through the accomplished work of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior, our soon-coming King, who is the strength our lives. Amen.

Psalm 18:1-2 are among the verses forming the foundation for “In Christ Alone,” the source of strength in whom we stand:

More than the crown

March 23, 2020

James-1 12The Verse of the Day for March 23, 2020 comes from James 1:12 (NIV):

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

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

Incorruptible crown:

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

1 Corinthians 9:24-25

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

Crown of joy

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

1 Thessalonians 2:19 (NKJV):

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

Crown of righteousness

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

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

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

Crown of life

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

James 1:12:

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

Crown of glory

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

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

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

Much More

His lord said to him, “Well done,

good and faithful servant;

you have been faithful over a few things,

I will make you ruler over many things:

enter into the joy of your lord.”

Matthew 25:23

 

More than mere status or the embrace of the crown

Around the head or glory, honor or renown;

More than medals of gold or laurels that fade

With the thundering applause and ceaseless accolade;

More than any crowning achievement or success

Or the rarest prizes eyes could ever witness;

More than the taste of victory every time you try:

Such alluring sweetness can never satisfy.

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

When we finish the course and cross the finish line,

And stand upon the bema where we shall incline

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

We shall bask in ultimate ecstasy of victory

And savor the goodness of God for all eternity.

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

 

What are you going to wear? Above all things put on love.

March 17, 2020


Colossians 3:12 in the New Living Translation, the Verse of the Day for March 16, 2020, provides a picture of how we should behave toward one another. To gain a fuller understanding of what our behavior should be, take a look at verses 12-17:

12 Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. 13 Make allowance for each other’s faults and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. 14 Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony. 15 And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts. For as members of one body you are called to live in peace. And always be thankful.

One approach is to view this passage in light of clothing that everyone puts on every day. We ask, “What are we going to wear today?” The Word of God provides the answer:

Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.

Put another way, we ask, “What are we going to put on?” The answer comes forth clearly:

13 Make allowance for each other’s faults and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others.

We must recognize that forgiveness is another garment that is always fashionable, but we must choose to put it on. As poet John Oxenham notes:

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

Indeed, forgiveness is an aspect of love, the outer garment that we are instructed to put on that will pull together all the other garments that we should wear.

Colossians 3:14:

Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony.

In addition to putting on the proper garments, God desires that we show ourselves grateful at all times and make gratitude or thanksgiving a part of our daily attire, as verses 15-17 also reminds us:

15 And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts. For as members of one body you are called to live in peace. And always be thankful.
16 Let the message about Christ, in all its richness, fill your lives. Teach and counsel each other with all the wisdom he gives. Sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs to God with thankful hearts.
17 And whatever you do or say, do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through him to God the Father.

More than merely occasionally expressing how grateful we are, we are encouraged to maintain a continual “attitude of gratitude,” whereby we express our thanks to God in everything we say and do. The closing verse of the passage from Colossians 3 brings to mind these poetic words of encouragement:

In happy moments, praise God.
In difficult moments, seek God.
In quiet moments, worship God.
In painful moments, trust God.
In every moment, thank God.


At All Times

I will bless the Lord at all times,
His praise shall continually be in my mouth.
Psalm 34:1


When God’s goodness and mercy follow closely,
And we savor the ecstasy of victory,
When joy overflows and floods our souls, we will praise God.

When gripped by the devices of this transient life
And caught in the straits of rising conflict and strife,
During these difficult moments, we will seek God.

When we long to abide within a tranquil mood
And linger in moments of sweetest quietude,
From the depths of our souls, we will worship God.

Despite raging seas, stormy winds and blinding rain,
When protracted pain strikes like a knife and numbs the brain
So that we can scarcely scream your name, we will trust God.

All along life’s journey, no matter the season,
Through every why and wherefore, for every reason
Every moment we draw breath, we will thank God.

We seek the Lord and ask ourselves, “What shall we do?”
“Give thanks: it is God’s will in Christ concerning you.”
“Give thanks: it is God’s will in Christ concerning you.”

Don Moen offers this moving reminder to “Give Thanks”:

March Forth on March 4th—one more reminder

March 4, 2020


Today’s date speaks a command—March Forth—on March 4th. The two words form an imperative sentence that encourages us to march forth into victory. . . today!

In a previous blog post, I discuss this unofficial holiday that has been created by Deborah Shouse, noted writer, speaker and creativity coach, who invites individuals to march forth into their lives, take on new experiences, and celebrate their accomplishments. Most remarkably, I am currently teaching an online writing course with a grammar component for North Carolina College of Biblical Studies.

This blog post is a revision of one of the original entries posted on March 4th. In looking at the Bible, we find a similar expression to “march forth” in Psalm 68:7 (Amplified Bible):

O God, when You went forth before Your people, when You marched through the wilderness—Selah [pause, and calmly think of that]!—

We find a related verse in Psalm 45:4

In your majesty ride forth victoriously in the cause of truth, humility and justice; let your right hand achieve awesome deeds.

Now thanks be unto God who always causes us to triumph in Christ and makes manifest the sweet savor of His knowledge by us in every place. (1 Corinthians 2:14)

In the military we hear the command “Forward March. “Forward “ is the preparatory command whereby the individual shifts weight to the right foot before stepping out smartly on the left foot with on the command “march.”

As believers we find that we can follow the command to “Forward March” in four areas: Family Life, Finances, Favor, and Faith:

Forward March in Family Life, as we recognize that God places the solitary in families and gives the desolate a home in which to dwell (Psalm 68:6), and we pray the prayer of Ephesians 3:14-21

14 For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, 15 Of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, 16 That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man; 17 That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; 19 And to know the love of Christ, which passes knowledge, that you might be filled with all the fulness of God. 20 Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, 21 Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.

In addition, we “Forward March in Finances”:

God’s desire for His people is health and well-being:3 John 2 Beloved, I pray that you may prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul prospers. The blessings of the Lord makes us rich and adds no sorrow with it. We are blessed that we might be a blessing.

Moreover, we also Forward March in Favor:Where sin did abound, grace (favor) did much more abound.—We are blessed and highly favored in the Lord.

2 Corinthians 9:8 tells us:

And God is able to make all grace (favor) abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work.

Finally, we Forward March in Faith, as we move from—Faith to Faith—Victory to Victory. We follow in the footsteps of faithful Abraham, our Father, the father of Faith. Like Abraham, we walk by faith, not by sight. (2 Corinthians 5:7)

Romans 4:20-21 describes the “Father of Faith” in this way:

He did not waver at the promise of God through unbelief, but was strengthened in faith, giving glory to God, 21 and being fully convinced that what He had promised He was also able to perform.

And so, we march forth on March 4, 2020, as we “Forward March” in four areas: Family Life, Finances, Favor, Faith.

An appropriate song to close out this blog entry is “Moving Forward” by Israel Houghton: