Archive for the ‘Application of Biblical Principles’ Category

Verse of the Day on Black Poetry Day 2020

October 17, 2020
October 17 is the birthday of Jupiter Hammon, the first person of African descent to publish a poem in America was born October 17, 1711.

Today’s blog post spotlights a special celebration. Although not recognized as a national holiday, October 17 is designated as Black Poetry Day. During this time, we celebrate poets of African American heritage and their contribution to the literary landscape of the nation and of the world. Why was this particular day selected for the celebration? For the answer we go back to America’s literary beginning and the “Father of Black Poetry.”

Jupiter Hammon, the first person of African descent to publish a poem in colonial America, was born on October 17, 1711. Publishing a literary work of any kind during this period was a remarkable accomplishment for anyone, but for a man born into slavery, writing and publishing “An Evening Thought” in 1761 was nothing short of a miracle.

Born on the estate of merchant Henry Lloyd of Oyster Bay, NY, Hammon was believed to have been a lay minister. As a devout Christian, he expressed his religious convictions in all of his poetry and prose. In addition to An Evening Thought, his works include “An Essay on the Ten Virgins,” 1779; “A Winter Piece,” 1782; “An Evening’s Improvement,” 1783; “An Address to the Negroes in the State of New York,” 1787. In 2013, a University of Texas at Arlington English professor, Cedric May, and his doctoral student, Julie McGowan, located an unpublished poem, “An Essay on Slavery,” handwritten by Hammon around 1786.


Today, October 17, 2020, is a special day of celebration for me as a Black poet strongly influenced by the Bible, and I think of Hammon as my literary forefather. Other than the Psalmist, David, no poet has influenced me more. I am revising and re-posting the Biblegate Software Verse of the Day for October 17, 2020, that comes from Psalm 25:14-15 and contains an original poem written in a similar manner as the poetry of Jupiter Hammon.


The passage is rendered this way in the Amplified Bible:


Psalm 25:14-15:


The secret [of the sweet, satisfying companionship] of the Lord have they who fear (revere and worship) Him, and He will show them His covenant and reveal to them its [deep, inner] meaning. My eyes are ever toward the Lord, for He will pluck my feet out of the net.


The reference to “He teaches them his covenant” brings to mind an account whereby David extends a covenant of grace to the descendant of someone with whom David had previously established a covenant, his beloved friend, Jonathan. Here we find Mephibosheth, the only remaining descendent of Saul, whom David replaced as King of Israel. David’s response to the crippled son of his friend occurred in a place called LoDebar, recorded in 2 Samuel 9:6-7.


6 His name was Mephibosheth; he was Jonathan’s son and Saul’s grandson. When he came to David, he bowed low to the ground in deep respect. David said, “Greetings, Mephibosheth.”
Mephibosheth replied, “I am your servant.”
7 “Don’t be afraid!” David said. “I intend to show kindness to you because of my promise to your father, Jonathan. I will give you all the property that once belonged to your grandfather Saul, and you will eat here with me at the king’s table!”


The following poem refers to this account and speaks of

The Power of Covenant


When covenant relationships are re-established,
you enter into a place of safety and kindness.
Apostle Eric L. Warren


To redeem, restore, and then supersede is God’s plan:
To see His faithfulness, examine this account:
God’s favor extended beyond any earthly amount
That can be measured or assessed by the mind of man:
Mephibosheth displays the power of covenant
To children’s children, to countless generations–
First to Israel, then extended to all nations,
God’s loving-kindness above and beyond abundant.
Covenants demonstrate the faithfulness of God.
Spiritual covenants supplant natural relationships,
Beyond the authority of all earthly kingships,
For we know that in truth, “Spirit is thicker than blood.”
From LoDebar–barren place of nothingness–
He takes us to abide in safety and loving-kindness.

We seal our blog entry for today with “Covenant Song” by Caedmon’s Call:

On Black Poetry Day and every day, may we never forget God’s covenant made to His people.

Yom Kippur – Day of Atonement and More in 2020

September 27, 2020

Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement) is one of two Jewish High Holy Days. It follows 10 days after the first High Holy Day, Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New Year), on the 10th of Tishri, the Hebrew month corresponding to September-October on the secular calendar. The purpose of Yom Kippur is to bring about reconciliation between people and between individuals and God. Ariela Pelaia notes that this solemn occasion is also the day when God decides the fate of each human being, according to Jewish tradition. The observance of Yom Kippur involves three elements: Teshuvah (Repentance), Prayer, and Fasting.

This year, 2020, The Return, a national and global event occurred on the Mall of the Nation’s Capital in Washington, DC on September 26, the day before Yom Kippur. This event brought 50,000 people together and called for national repentance, prayer, and celebration, marking 40 days before elections on November 3rd. Most remarkably, Yom Kippur 2020 begins on the evening of Sunday, September 27, and ends in the evening on Monday, September 28.

The ten days preceding Yom Kippur are known as the Ten Days of Repentance. As the longest Jewish observance, the service on Yom Kippur begins in the morning and lasts until nightfall. Many prayers are said but one is repeated at intervals throughout the service. Known as Al Khet, this prayer asks for forgiveness for sins that may have been committed during the year. According to Jewish tradition, only offenses committed against God can be forgiven on Yom Kippur. It is thus important that people try to reconcile with others before participating in Yom Kippur services. During this period, Jews are encouraged to seek out anyone whom they may have offended and request forgiveness to begin the New Year with a clean slate.

Colossians 2:16-17 offers this reminder:

Therefore, don’t let anyone judge you in regard to food and drink or in the matter of a festival or a new moon or a sabbath day.
These are a shadow of what was to come; the substance is the Messiah.

As Christians, we may not commemorate Yom Kippur and any of the other holy days in the Jewish tradition, but we can certainly learn and grow in our understanding of their significance. We recognize that whatever things were written before time in the Old Testament, were written for our learning. Certainly, as followers of Christ, we can increase our knowledge and understanding of the Scriptures and our appreciation of our relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ, whose presence is foreshadowed in the Old Testament and revealed throughout the New.

Here is a crafted Christian Prayer for a Jewish Holy Day

Almighty God—our Father—from everlasting to everlasting you are the same—our Father, the Father of Glory, the Father of Jesus Christ, our Lord, who is Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the Ending, the First and the Last, the author and finisher of our Faith, we praise you and honor you as we humble ourselves before you on Yom Kippur, a solemn fast day, the Day of Atonement, to make atonement before the LORD our God.

God, our Father, the only-wise God, our creator, our maker, who fashioned all things after your will, you have made us and you know us: you know our down-sitting and our uprising; you understand our thoughts from afar. You have searched us and known us, and you are acquainted with all our ways. Despite all of our shortcomings and misdeeds, our sins of omission and sins of commission, you are patient and merciful. Thank you that you have not dealt with us after my sins nor rewarded us according to our iniquities. We praise you that you are forgiving and understanding. We thank you that you forgive us of our sins, even as we forgive those who have sinned against us. We praise you for Jesus Christ, the expression of your love, and your desire that we might be reconciled to you again. He shed His life’s blood upon the altar to make atonement for our souls, for the life of the flesh is in the blood and the precious blood of Jesus, the Savior, who makes atonement for our souls. By his shed blood, we are made one with you, even as Jesus Christ prayed that we might be one with you, even as you and your son were one. We thank you that we are one in you through Jesus Christ, our Lord, in whose name we pray. Amen.

We also declare this Manifesto to Remember

Even though we did not know
We had positioned ourselves in submission
To that good and acceptable and perfect will of God,
Even as Jehovah God had aligned our lives that we might be
In this appointed place at this anointed time on Yom Kippur,
As we end the year, in a solemn reflective way
As the former things have passed away
We behold that indeed, the Lord God in His grace makes all things new,
So, we begin the New Year, as we declare this manifesto
Never to forget but ever remember
In 2020 on the 27th of September.

Tommy Walker reinforces this message with “We Will Remember”

Pray: The latter rain is on the way!

September 20, 2020

The Verse of the Day for September 20, 2020, comes from Joel 2:23 in the New Living Translation:

Rejoice, you people of Jerusalem! Rejoice in the LORD your God! For the rain, he sends demonstrates his faithfulness. Once more the autumn rains will come, as well as the rains of spring

This verse from a prophetic passage from Joel brings to mind a teaching I delivered as the morning message at the church I was attending at that time. In the midst of powerfully energetic teaching the sound of thunder and turbulence poured from the speakers, as the following announcement interrupted my message:

We interrupt this teaching to bring you a world-wide weather advisory. This is not a test! Heavy rains are projected for the coming months. Conditions are favorable for a downpour across the world. According to meteorologists and Bible scholars, the latter rain is on its way. This is not a test! Take precautionary measures and prepare for an abundance of rain. Read your Bible and stay tuned for further developments on the projected worldwide outpouring of the spirit of God.


In actuality, the interruption was planned as it set the stage for my message entitled “Pray: The Latter Rain Is on the Way”

This excerpt from that memorable teaching notes that God’s ways are never hidden, and rain is one of the specific ways by which God reveals Himself. Since He is a God of order and planning, God never simply causes it to rain randomly, but He sends rain in due season. He instructed the Children of Israel to walk in His precepts and follow His guidance. If they obeyed, they would then be fruitful, as God showered them with His blessings. God expresses His desires for His children in terms of rain.

Deuteronomy 28:9-11(NLT):

9 “If you obey the commands of the LORD your God and walk in his ways, the LORD will establish you as his holy people as he swore he would do.10 Then all the nations of the world will see that you are a people claimed by the LORD, and they will stand in awe of you.
11 “The LORD will give you prosperity in the land he swore to your ancestors to give you, blessing you with many children, numerous livestock, and abundant crops.12 The LORD will send rain at the proper time from his rich treasury in the heavens and will bless all the work you do. You will lend to many nations, but you will never need to borrow from them.

Rain is the life-source for an agricultural people whose lives are dependent upon crops. In the Land of Israel God, indeed, sends rain in due season in two specific forms: the former rain and the latter rain. In the Middle East, the former rain occurs in October or November, accompanying the planting of crops, while the latter rain occurs in the Spring, around March or April, just before the harvest. Prophets Jeremiah, Hosea, and Joel all speak of both seasons of rain.

In Acts 2, on the Day of Pentecost, Peter addresses the multitude in referring to the Prophet Joel:

Acts 2:16-18

16 No, what you see was predicted long ago by the prophet Joel:
17 ‘In the last days,’ God says,
‘I will pour out my Spirit upon all people.
Your sons and daughters will prophesy.
Your young men will see visions,
and your old men will dream dreams.

To appreciate the promise of God who will send the latter rain when He pours out of His Spirit upon all flesh, think of what happened when God first opened the windows of heaven and “poured” out rain. Genesis 7 gives the account of Noah and the ark when the heavens opened, and it rained for forty days and nights. In the last days when God opens the windows of heaven to pour out of His spirit on all flesh, do you think the outpouring will be any less great than the first time God poured out? God predates Morton salt whose motto is “When it rains, it pours.”

Anyone who is spiritually observant can sense that a great outpouring of the spirit of God is about to take place. In a similar way, one can tell when a torrential downpour is about to occur. We see the essence of what is about to take place spiritually in the lyrics to the song

“Soon It’s Gonna Rain”:

See how the wind begins to whisper.
See how the leaves go streaming by.
Smell how the velvet rain is falling
Out where the fields are warm and dry.

Soon it’s gonna rain, I can see it
Soon it’s gonna rain, I can tell
Soon it’s gonna rain, what are we gonna do?

To answer the question posed at the end of the song, here is my advice: “Pray and get ready for rain!” As Zechariah 10:1 exhorts:

Ask ye of the LORD rain in the time of the latter rain; so, the LORD shall make bright clouds, and give them showers of rain, to everyone grass in the field.

Indeed, there is a parallel between the natural and the spiritual. Conditions are favorable for a worldwide outpouring of God’s spirit. The abundant latter rain precedes a correspondingly great harvest. Jesus Christ reminded His disciples in Matthew 9:37-38:

37 He said to his disciples, “The harvest is great, but the workers are few. 38 So pray to the Lord who is in charge of the harvest; ask him to send more workers into his fields.”

As we enter into the great harvest, following the Latter Rain, we need to follow the exhortation of Jesus Christ and pray.

The Book of James also reminds us of the importance of prayer in conjunction with the harvest.

James 5:7:

Dear brothers and sisters,[c] be patient as you wait for the Lord’s return. Consider the farmers who patiently wait for the rains in the fall and in the spring. They eagerly look for the valuable harvest to ripen.

James goes on to illustrate what can happen when a man of God prays:

James 5:17-18

17 Elijah was as human as we are, and yet when he prayed earnestly that no rain would fall, none fell for three and a half years! 18 Then, when he prayed again, the sky sent down rain and the earth began to yield its crops.

The Old Testament account of reveals that after a three-and-half-year drought, Elijah heard the “sound of abundance of rain.” He sent his servant to investigate, but he saw nothing in the sky. Elijah told him to go check again seven times. After the seventh time, the servant saw a cloud about the size of a man’s hand. Shortly thereafter “that the heaven was black with clouds and wind, and there was a great rain.”

God still answers prayer. His desire is to bless more than ours is to ask. Let us continue to pray for rain, the latter rain, an abundance of spiritual outpouring, which God promised to send before the abundant harvest toward which we are steadily moving. “Pray, the Latter Rain is on the way!”

Alvin Slaughter and the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir offer a musical benediction to our prayer with Holy Spirit Rain Down:

9-11-2020: Remembering beauty for ashes

September 11, 2020

Today, September 11, 2020, marks the 19th anniversary of the terrorist attacks on New York City and Washington DC. In addition, the nation pauses to remember the eighth anniversary of the September 11, 2012 attack against the U.S. consulate in Benghazi where four Americans were killed, including the U.S. Ambassador to Libya. On such solemn occasions, we look for rays of hope, like radiant beams of light that penetrate plumes of dust and debris on that fateful day, September 11, 2001. This morning I thought of the passage from Isaiah 61:3:

To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he might be glorified.

Today, we reflect upon God’s amazing ability to transform the most horrific circumstances into a glorious display of His wisdom, power, and might. The expression “beauty for ashes” from Isaiah 61:3 offers a series of such transformations or exchanges that only He can give. That particular verse introduces this original poem with that title:

Beauty for Ashes

To console those who mourn in Zion,
To give them beauty for ashes,
The oil of joy for mourning,
The garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness;
That they may be called trees of righteousness,
The planting of the LORD, that He may be glorified.

Isaiah 61:3


Beauty for ashes–we are transformed to testify
Of lives so radically changed that we might glorify
The God of Heaven who touches the earth with His love
That overflows with bountiful blessings from above.
We are blessed and highly favored–no one can deny.

That we should be chosen by God some may wonder why,
But none can fathom God’s grace, no matter how they try.
Ascend into God’s presence on the wings of a dove:
Beauty for ashes.

Many times it may seem as if life has passed us by,
But God is faithful; on Him, we can always rely.
Nothing in this life surpasses God’s unchanging love;
It is far beyond all that we could ask or think of.
Remember that God is not a man that He should lie:
Beauty for ashes.

I also recall having completed another poem containing a reference to Isaiah 61:3. Shortly after writing the poem, I was asked to officiate at a funeral service and do the eulogy for someone who had not been affiliated with a local church. It was an unusual service for me in that for the first time the individual being eulogized had been cremated. On a table in front of the mortuary was an urn that contained the ashes of the deceased. As it turned out, this was the perfect occasion for sharing the previously composed poem with the line “Just as from ashes, beauty and splendor arise.” The poem also contains a theme related to God with whom all things are possible and with whom nothing is impossible.

No Matter How You Phrase It

And Jesus looking upon them saith, With men, it is impossible, but not with God: for with God all things are possible
Mark 10:27

For with God, nothing shall be impossible.
Luke 1:37


There is none like God who never fails to come through:
Whether you say “With God all things are possible”
Or say “With God, nothing shall be impossible.”
No matter how you phrase it, the Word is still true.
As those who observe the times, we wisely surmise
That the Prince of Peace ascended to end all strife,
Leading captive even death to release new life.
Just as from ashes, beauty and splendor arise,
We boldly declare the Word of God and assert
The Providence of an all-wise Father who makes
Barrenness to bloom with rivers in the desert.
With the Word of Life, even death itself awakes.
We seek to walk in wisdom and number our days,
Humbly discerning that His ways are not our ways.

In addition to reading the poem as part of the eulogy, I also commented about the beauty of gemstones that are formed from volcanic ash. Did you know that ashes in volcanoes under extreme heat and pressure provide the perfect conditions to form certain precious stones, such as diamonds? As the volcanoes erupt, they push the gemstones to the surface where they can be seen after the site has cooled. So, indeed, God both figuratively and literally “gives beauty for ashes.”

Crystal Lewis and Ron Kenoly offer a tender rendition of the song “Beauty for Ashes.”

On the anniversary of the terrorist attacks of 9-11, we recall God’s amazing power to transform an unimaginable disaster into a glorious display of His power and grace to restore.

God is looking for a dwelling place: Is your heart prepared?

September 6, 2020

The Verse of the Day, for September 6, 2020, comes from John 14:23 (Amplified Bible):

Jesus answered, “If anyone [really] loves Me, he will keep My word (teaching); and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our dwelling place with him.

The verse begins with the conditional clause “if anyone,” followed by the verb “loves.” “If an individual [really] loves Jesus Christ, that person will adhere to the words that the Lord speaks. If they meet those conditions, that individual will be graced with the very presence of God, the Father, and Jesus Christ, His Son. John 14:23 establishes the conditions which, if met, will result in a corresponding action on God’s part.

As we continue to reflect upon the Verse of the Day, a parallel verse also comes to mind, as we begin to focus on Revelation 3: 20, as my mind becomes flooded with warm memories of a recent dining experience.

Revelation 3:20 (Amplified Bible)

Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears and listens to and heeds My voice and opens the door, I will come into him and will eat with him, and he [will eat] with Me.

A number of years ago, I recall hearing a message “God is Looking for a Dwelling Place,” and I was inspired to write the following poem:

A Dwelling Transformed

He who dwells in the secret place of the Most-High
shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.
Psalm 91:1


Despite perilous times embroiled in confusion and strife,
We continue to learn that everything has its own price,
As we pursue the ultimate goal, a set-apart life:
Joint heirs with Christ presented as a living sacrifice.
With clean hands and a pure heart, we prepare a dwelling place.
To attract the Lord, we provide a pleasing ambiance:

As our songs of love flow from the depths of our inner space,
Our habitation designed and arrayed for God’s entrance.
To walk by the spirit of life, we are driven to pursue.
We dance to brand new music, softly playing in our mind,
And strive to understand that God alone makes all things new.
As the eyes of the Lord scan this green planet, may they find
A dwelling transformed into a place of simple beauty,
As we offer all that we are and ever hope to be.

The poem reflects the innermost desire of many fellow believers who are earnestly seeking to situate themselves to be in position for the next “move of God,” yearning for a fresh visitation from the Lord. While to bask in His glorious presence would bring with it, unspeakable joy, the deepest yearning of our heart is to experience an unprecedented visitation that goes on without interruption, a move of God extending indefinitely. Francis Frangipane reiterates this point, “Let us also keep in mind that the goal of a visitation from God is that we become the habitation of God.” Indeed, we long to see times of visitation transformed into times of habitation.

Imagine this scenario—you have a good friend who sometimes comes by to visit. You would like to have that individual come by more often, so you prepare a place for your friend to stay. In a similar way, the Shunamite woman and her husband prepared a special abode for Elijah, who visited them periodically. You know what your close acquaintance likes and does not like, so you have what they like, so you custom design an appointed the place to suit your visitor.

It is no different with God. We endeavor to provide the perfect atmosphere, the ideal conditions that will welcome Him so that He shows up often and stays long. In fact, our ultimate desire is to turn a visitation into a habitation, but how is this accomplished?

When God makes visiting a habit, then visitation becomes habitation. God visits so often and enjoys Himself so much that His visits become more and more frequent, and He stays longer and longer until His visits are a habit, and He decides to abide. Our heart’s deepest yearning for intimacy is expressed in this poem:

Times of Visitation

As you once visited Abraham, our father,

and sent angelic hosts to reinforce your pledge,

in these times of barrenness and seeming defeat,

where are the times of visitation set for us?

We offer our hearts, places prepared for you to meet.

As you sojourn, may you find in our lives a place

so prepared for you to come with friendly intent

that on each occasion where you show up

that your ultimate purpose is most apparent.

As you clearly reveal your promise to fulfill

your will, receive our obedience as sacrifice,

may favor be our portion as your faithful ones.          

May you find us yielded vessels, clean and fitted

for the glory of your presence that you might pour

blessings without measure to overflow and flood

our souls, as we commune with you in perfect peace.

May we never squander times of visitation

but shut the door in face of the enemy,

as we open wide the portals of our spirit

and transform our hearts into your habitation.


Esther Mui offers a tender rendering of Psalm 91 with its reference to God’s dwelling place

Prostate Cancer Awareness Month 2020

September 5, 2020

As the ninth month of the year continues to unfold, we sound the trumpet to alert the public that September has been designated as Prostate Cancer Awareness Month. as we focus on this important health concern among American men.

About 1 in 9 men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer during their lifetime. Last year, over 170,000 men received such a diagnosis. Other than skin cancer, prostate cancer is the most frequently diagnosed cancer in men, especially in African American men. However, prostate cancer develops mainly in older men. About 6 out of 10 cases are diagnosed in men aged 65 or older, and it is rare before age 40. The average age at the time of diagnosis is about 66.

Although prostate cancer can be a serious disease, the good news is that most men diagnosed with prostate cancer do not die from it—”I am a living witness!” In fact, in the United States, more than 2.9 million men who have been diagnosed with prostate cancer at some point in their lives are still alive today. A diagnosis of prostate cancer or any other cancer or debilitating disease is not a “death sentence,” but it can be a “life sentence” to build your faith and trust in God.

During National Prostate Cancer Awareness Month, we remember those we have lost to prostate cancer and celebrate survivors, as we renew our commitment to preventing, detecting, and treating this frequently occurring illness. During September, we encourage men to have a health check-up and talk to their doctor about prostate cancer. In fact, September 17 is also designated Take a Loved One to the Doctor Day. Light blue is the color of the ribbon bringing attention to prostate cancer.

Blue signifies the blue skies or the life-giving air and often symbolizes hope or good health. As the poet proclaims:

pastel blue
lighter, brighter
subtle twinge
of powder blue
like Betty Lou
hop-scotchin
up to sky blue
and back

As a prostate cancer survivor, I recognize the personal significance of September as Prostate Cancer Awareness Month. Receiving a diagnosis of prostate cancer in 2000 was life-changing for me, as I asked God what to do. He gave me a holistic strategy, a battle plan, that took me down the road less traveled by that ultimately led to my being not just as a survivor but more than a conqueror. I share my testimony in Embracing Your Life Sentence: How to Turn Life’s Greatest Tragedies into Your Greatest Triumphs. The book closes with an original poem of celebration with Romans 8:37 as its introduction, expressing my new identity not, just during Prostate Cancer Awareness Month but every day I draw breath:

Embracing Your Life Sentence–
More than a Conqueror


Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors
and gain an overwhelming victory through Him
who loved us [so much that He died for us].

Romans 8:37 (AMP)


Embracing Your Life Sentence, more than a conqueror,
Defying the odds as a brave conquistador.
Despite intense pressure, I learn to rest in grace,
More than enough to withstand the daily tests I face,
Not merely to survive but to thrive even more.

A mighty warrior, triumphant super-victor
With a cause, prepared not to die but to live for.
At times I fell behind but fought to keep the pace:
Embracing Your Life Sentence, more than a conqueror,

To fulfill all the will of God and then to soar
To heights sublime where I have never been before.
Overcomer, bearing light in the darkest place,
I still fight the good fight, as I finish my race,
Moving forward, seeking to find the next open door:
Embracing Your Life Sentence, more than a conqueror,

We close with the Rend Collection reinforcing the message “More than Conquerors”:

My book is available through Amazon.com and wherever books are sold and through my website: https://lonnelledwardjohnson.com. Check out another tribute to Prostate Cancer Awareness Month on Medium.com and celebrate the goodness and the grace of God with me.

Dr. J is celebrating as not just a survivor but more than a conqueror.

Reflections on my ordination and my legacy

August 11, 2020

August is a special month, and I recently published an article in Medium.com recognizing this month as “What will be Your Legacy Month.” August 11 is especially significant since it relates to a milestone in my life. An event of supreme significance occurred 46 years ago when I was ordained to the Christian ministry.

Ordination is the public recognition of a response of an individual to the call of God to serve. The recognition of this inner prompting to be of greater service may have transpired a considerable time prior to the actual ordination ceremony. I recall as a child being aware of the presence of God, and as I grew older and was introduced to the Bible, I remember reading the passage from Isaiah 6 where the glory of God overwhelms the Prophet, who responds to the question: “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us.” Isaiah answers saying, “Here am I, send me.” This simple response resonated within me for years, and I publicly acknowledge that I had heard and accepted the call in 1974 at age 32.

Ordination is said to be a process whereby individuals are called, chosen, and set apart to serve, considered as a “special sacrament.” Such an entry point for service can begin with “the new birth” experience when one accepts Jesus Christ as savior and endeavors to follow in his steps. A child, however, who gratefully and joyfully accepts the blessings of the Father, eventually matures to the point of being about the “Father’s business.” In the minds of some, ordination is considered a kind of “rite of passage” which commences with a higher level of service in ministering to Body of Christ, expressed in Ephesians 4:11-13:

11 And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers,
12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ,
13 till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ;

In reflecting upon my ordination ceremony which also involved a prayer of consecration, the laying on of hands, and a word of prophecy, all of which have been sources of inspiration and direction over the years. I wrote an original psalm inspired by that experience, and I later dedicated to other fellow servants who continue to respond to God, those who heard His voice and answered

The Call of God

I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord,
beseech you to walk worthy of the calling
with which you were called,
Ephesians 4:1

The call of God resounds like a repeated name
From the lips of a beloved friend who knows us.
We wait and clearly hear our name and see the flame
Lighting the path to fulfill God’s divine purpose
As we choose to embrace a higher destiny.
This holy calling only God can verify.
We know our ears cannot hear; our eyes cannot see;
Yet from the depths of our heart, we cannot deny
That we have truly heard and seen what few will know.
We must, therefore, arise and strive to reach the place
Where the mighty rivers of understanding flow,
And we must never doubt God’s purpose and His grace.
In the unbroken line of all those ordained of God,
We stand. Having heard, we rise to heed the call of God.

August 11 is a “double lovely” day since it is also the birthday of my 4-year-old grandson, Kingston Edward Simkins, who answers, in part, the question raised in the monthlong celebration of What will be Your Legacy Month.”

Kingston and Grandpapa Johnson love to read together

Kingston Edward Simkins is part of my legacy that I believe will extend for generations to come. The lyrics to “The Blessing,” a powerful benediction by Elevation Worship featuring Kari Jobe and Mark Carney, express my innermost desire:

God, our refuge and strength: Be still and know

August 10, 2020

Revised and re-posted, the Verse of the Day for August 10, 2020 offers this blessed assurance found in Psalm 46:1 (AMP):

[God the Refuge of His People.] [To the Chief Musician. A Psalm of the sons of Korah, set to soprano voices. A Song. ] God is our refuge and strength [mighty and impenetrable], a very present and well-proved help in trouble

As we examine the verse more closely, we find great comfort and strength. First of all, God is described as “our refuge,” a place of trust, described in

Psalm 2:12 (NLT):

Submit to God’s royal son, or he will become angry,
and you will be destroyed in the midst of all your activities—
for his anger flares up in an instant.
But what joy for all who take refuge in him!

Throughout the Psalms and elsewhere we find numerous references to God as a source of strength. Psalm 27:2 reveals that “The Lord is the strength of my life. Of whom shall I be afraid,” while Psalm 18:2 declares:

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.

The expression “a very present help” literally means “a help He has been found exceedingly.” As the Amplified Bible puts it, “a very present and well-proved help in trouble.” I also recall the opening and closing stanzas of the hymn by Dr. Isaac Watts: “O God, Our Help in Ages Past.”

O God, our help in ages past,
Our hope for years to come,
Our shelter from the stormy blast,
And our eternal home.

O God, our help in ages past,
Our hope for years to come,
Be Thou our guard while troubles last,
And our eternal home.

“In the time of trouble” also brings to mind other verses:


Psalm 27:5

For in the time of trouble he shall hide me in his pavilion: in the secret of his tabernacle shall he hide me; he shall set me up upon a rock.

Psalm 37:39

But the salvation of the righteous is of the Lord: he is their strength in the time of trouble.

Isaiah 33:2

O Lord, be gracious to us; we have waited for You. Be their arm every morning, our salvation also in the time of trouble.

Psalm 46 opens with a striking declaration regarding who God is in verse 1, and the powerful psalm ends with a directive from God Almighty in verses 10 and 11:

10Let be, and be still, and know (recognize and understand) that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations! I will be exalted in the earth!
11The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our Refuge (our High Tower and Stronghold). Selah [pause, and calmly think of that]!

Verse 10 introduces this poem with the first three words of the psalm as its title:

Be Still and Know

Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth!
Psalms 46:10


Be still and know that I am God, that I am the eternal one.
Though your cherished dreams seem to have faded and gone
The way of all flesh, my divine plans you shall see,
As I weave the tapestry of eternity.

Though you seem forsaken, you are never alone,
Even when the burden of dark sin cannot atone,
And the hearts of men have hardened and turned to stone:
Be still and know that I am God.

Though storms may overwhelm, and friends may abandon
When diseases surface to assault flesh and bone.
These scenes reveal people whom we thought we could be,
As words of the Psalmist also help us to see,
When this life is over, and all is said and done:
Be still and know that I am God.

We pause and calmly think about that—as we “Selah” this Psalm and give heed to these words of Kari Jobe, who tenderly encourages us: “Be Still My Soul (In You I Rest)”


Promoting peace

July 27, 2020

Today, I received a blog post from Pastor Brett Fuller, Senior Pastor at Grace Covenant Church, Chantilly, VA, whose words inspired me to excerpt them and post comments in response as the Word for the Day on Dr. J’s Apothecary Shoppe on July 27, 2020.

Pastor Brett opened with these words “Promoting Peace”:

Peace is a wonderful thing to possess and it’s equally tragic when it’s lost. Antagonistic environments seek to rob us of our peace. In conflict, even the most conciliatory of us find ourselves struggling to hold on to our God-given divine equilibrium.

Jesus gave a solution. He said in Matthew 10:12-13, “As you enter the house, give it your greeting. 13 “If the house is worthy, give it your blessing of peace. But if it is not worthy, take back your blessing of peace.”

The world is in perpetual conflict. People need help getting right with God and with one another. As divine agents of reconciliation, we are to be “promoters of peace” wherever we go. In fact, Ephesians 6:15 says we are to “…shod our feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace”. . . .

Pastor Brett’s words of encouragement remind us that as believers we are to be “instruments of peace.” We are to let the peace of God rule in our hearts to which we are called in one body, and we are to be thankful. The peace that the Bible speaks of goes beyond the usual definition which refers to “the normal non-warring condition of a nation, a group of nations or the world. . . a state of harmony among people or groups; cessation or freedom from strife or dissension.”

In contrast, the Biblical definition encompasses a state of untroubled, undisturbed well-being, expressed in the Hebrew expression shalom. According to Strong’s Concordance, shalom means “completeness, wholeness, health, peace, welfare, safety soundness, tranquility, prosperity, perfectness, fullness, rest, harmony, the absence of agitation or discord.” It is an inner reality, for the peace of God indicates being free from anxiety and care; it is not dependent upon outside conditions.

The peace of God comes from the God of peace, and it is only possible to obtain it through the Prince of Peace. John 14:27 declares this truth:

Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world gives, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.

As my thoughts turned toward the peace that the Lord gives, I recall having composed this poem:

Peace

In His will is our peace.

Dante


O, Lord, make us instruments of your peace, we pray.
Touch our lives to flow with heavenly melodies.
As consummate virtuoso, compose and play
On our souls and inspire glorious harmonies.
In such measured moments of sweetest quietude
Arrange serenades of praise. Let grace notes resound,
As our lives crescendo in songs of gratitude,
From heart to heart, where your grace and mercy abound.
Orchestrate aubades, nocturnes, songs at eventide;
Complete cantatas of peace within us, align
Our desires and your pleasure. Here we abide,
Saxophone and soloist, communing by design.
Knowing our purpose, we remain quiet and still,
Composed in perfect peace, the center of Your will.

The essence of the intent of the poem is also expressed in the song “Instruments of Peace” recorded in Johannesburg, South Africa.

The blog post from Pastor Brett reminds us that the peace that Jesus Christ gives is a priceless commodity that we should not share with those who do not receive it.

One more reminder: Do not fear

July 19, 2020

Many times, the Verse of the Day and its commentary seem custom-crafted to address a specific issue that confronts believers on that day. Today, July 19, 2020, the inspiration for this prescription from Dr. J’s Apothecary Shoppe comes from Isaiah 41:10 (Revised Standard Version) to which I add verse 13 to solidify this reminder to have no fear:

So do not fear, for I am with you;
do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you;
I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

13 For I am the LORD your God
who takes hold of your right hand
and says to you, Do not fear;
I will help you.

This comforting passage brings to mind my book Embracing Your Life Sentence: How to Turn Life’s Greatest Tragedies into Your Greatest Triumphs where I discuss fear as one of the factors impacting my response to prostate cancer more than 20 years ago. Here is an excerpt from Chapter 5 The Fear Factor: “Do not fear; I will help you”:


. . . My situation with prostate cancer forced me to face head-on one of the potentially toxic emotions confronting me throughout the healing process: fear. A cancer diagnosis itself can evoke great fear, in that the term “cancer” too often generates one of the fundamental human fears–the fear of death.

Although we recognize fear as a common and natural emotional response to potential danger, but if not properly addressed, it can become a deadly emotion with serious consequences. Excessive fear can become crippling and impact our daily lives in a negative way. I recognized firsthand that unbridled fear is a toxic emotion that limits and inhibits. Pastor Rick Warren describes fear as “. . . a self-imposed prison that will keep you from becoming what God intends for you to be.”

Fear and Its Antidote

As noted in previous comments, we find 365 references to “have no fear” or “do not fear” in the Bible, so some say. This encouraging word from Isaiah 41 is yet another reminder to believers: “Do not fear.” We could view these particular verses as one of those daily memos from God to have no fear.

If not properly understood and dealt with, fear can metastasize into a toxic emotion that can negatively impact our lives. As believers, we must learn to counteract its harmful effects with the proper remedy. In this case, we find that love is the perfect antidote: the love of God, the highest form of love. This love is “more intimate than friend, or kin or wife.” This close-knit love is also known as agape, a term used exclusively in the New Testament, to reveal the uniqueness of God’s love.

The book of I John also reveals the “perfect” connection between fear and love, particularly in 1 John 2:5

But whoever keeps His word, in him truly the love of God is perfected in him. By this know that we are in Him. [NKJV]

In those who hear the Word of God and keep it, the love of God is “perfected” or made perfect or complete, wanting in nothing or brought to maturity in them. To be “perfected” is to be brought to a full end.
The love of God is “perfected” or made complete or full in us when we walk in the steps of Jesus Christ, the ultimate example of perfect love. Verse 18 provides the basis for love being the perfect antidote to fear:

There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love.

When an individual is “perfected in love” and walks in or demonstrates that love, there no room for fear. The love of God is the key that releases each believer from the bondage of this “self-imposed prison” from which Christ came to set the captives free.

I recall learning about the love of God as a counteractant to fear in a very simple yet profound way. One of the first books that my wife and I used to teach our daughters about our Heavenly Father was My Little Golden Book about God. This was a kind of primer for our daughters who memorized the words and associated them with the illustrations long before they could actually “read.” Some of the most cherished lines were these words which closed out the small book: “Do not fear. I am here. And I love you, my dear. Close your eyes and sleep tight. For tomorrow will be bright. All is well, dear child. Good night.”

This simple response encourages all children of God to have no fear, for God is ever-present, and He continues to say, “And I love you, my dear.” Even in distressful and disturbing situations where we do not clearly understand what is transpiring in our lives health-wise and otherwise, we must remember

There is no Fear in Love

I John 4:18

“Fear is a self-imposed prison that will keep you
from becoming what God intends for you to be.”
– Rick Warren


There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear
And abounds to transform any adverse atmosphere.
We are perfected and made whole when we walk in love,
A true love that we live and not one we just speak of.
Such love is pure and never repels but draws us near.

This balm of love heals all wounds, no matter how severe
With words of compassion each soul on earth longs to hear;
Love conquers any disaster and rises above.
There is no fear in love.

We follow in Christ’s steps, knowing our mandate is clear.
Assured of triumph, there is never a need to fear.
We press toward the mark, the prize we seek to lay hold of
To ascend in victory on wings of a gentle dove.
We walk forth as bold pioneers on a love frontier:
There is no fear in love.

The essence of the message for today is “Have no fear—walk in love.” We conclude as Whitley Phipps offers this encouraging musical reminder: “No Need to Fear”