Archive for the ‘Bible’ Category

The Church: God’s crowning achievement

July 21, 2018

 

The Church is designed to be the Crowning Achievement of God’s creative wisdom.

Inspired by a new series of teachings entitled “Church Matters” by Bishop Charles Mellette of Christian Provision Ministries of Sanford, NC, I have been thinking about the magnitude of the Church, as God is putting the “finishing touches on His crowning achievement.” God is perfecting the Church, individually and corporately. A blog entry posted last month spoke of the “perfecting work” God is performing:

Hebrews 13:20-21:

20 Now the God of peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant,
21 Make you perfect in every good work to do his will, working in you that which is well-pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ; to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.

When we encounter situations we where we recognize that we are being perfected or brought to a higher level of maturity, we must remember this:

James 1:2-4 (NLT):

2 Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. 3 For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. 4 So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing

1 Peter 5:10 (NKJV offers these words of comfort

10 But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you.

As we find ourselves in transition moving toward the perfection or completion of all that God has planned for us, we must remember:

Philippians 1:6

6 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.

As reflections of God’s love, we are not just a good work, but we are part of God’s masterpiece, a glorious display of His workmanship. The good work that was begun in us when we first accepted Christ as our Savior culminates in the glorious manifestation of all that God designed us to be. God desires that we fulfill His purpose for each believer, individually as well as corporately as members of the Body of Christ.

Another phrase to describe the Church is God’s “crowning achievement” evokes a number of synonyms: crowning accomplishment, crowning glory, masterpiece or masterwork, showpiece, smash hit, work of a master, great work or magnum opus. Ephesians 2:10 declares that “. . . we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.”

The word “workmanship” is translated from the Greek word poiema, which means “masterpiece, a glorious creation, a centerpiece of attention, as the French would say, le piece de resistance, or showpiece.” Of course, the Greek word poiema is transliterated into our English word poem, which in the minds of many people, present company included, is always a “masterpiece” or glorious creation. Likewise, the Church is always a work in progress—always in transition, as Ephesians 4:13 reminds us of the direction we are moving in:

Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ:

The Church has been designed to display the infinitely variegated, wisdom of God, as Ephesians 3:10 in the Amplified Bible reveals:

[The purpose is] that through the church the complicated, many-sided wisdom of God in all its infinite variety and innumerable aspects might now be made known to the angelic rulers and authorities (principalities and powers) in the heavenly sphere.

Though we may not presently see the fullness of that revelation, we are ever moving in that direction. “For we know when that which is perfect is come then that which is in part shall be done away.” The Church is always moving . . . from faith to faith . . . from glory to glory . . . from victory to victory. We are continually getting closer to

The Finish

Jesus said unto them, my meat is to do the will of him that sent me,
and to finish his work.

John 4:34

I am convinced and confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you

will [continue to] perfect and complete it until the day of Christ Jesus [the time of His return].

Philippians 1:6

In this present season God is placing a great demand
On those who excel, those seeking to run and win the race.
Though the way seems grueling, we are still guided by His hand.
God exhorts us to run as He sustains us by His grace.
First we cross the finish line, then we mount the victor’s stand.

Awaiting true sons, all creation still groans and travails
Until our full redemption when, at last, Christ shall descend.
Each one who endures to the end is the one who prevails.
With strength to finish our course, we strive to the very end.
First we cross the finish line, then we mount the victor’s stand.

We run with purpose, and we discipline our lives to win,
And we know all things are working together for the good.
Laying aside every weight and every besetting sin,
To do the will of God and to finish: this is our food.
First we cross the finish line, then we mount the victor’s stand.

We now run the race, being conformed into his image,
Assured our God is faithful to provide and to protect,
For each day we see ourselves transformed into Christ’s visage,
Knowing this work He began, He will complete and perfect.
First we cross the finish line, then we mount the victor’s stand.

As we run, we watch and wait, knowing that we shall endure.
As with Timothy, we make full proof our ministry.
We ever seek to make our calling and election sure,
Pressing toward the finish, the mark of full maturity.
First we cross the finish line, then we mount the victor’s stand.

As believers we are members in particular in the Body of Christ, the Church, God’s masterpiece, His “Crowning Achievement.” Philippians 1:6 and other verses reinforce the message that we are part of God’s “Great Work” sung by Brian Courtney Wilson: “Great Work”

What are the desires of your heart?

July 20, 2018

As I began my day in quiet reflection, a question came to mind. I guess you might say this is the “Question of the Day” for July 20, 2018:

“What are the desires of your heart? What is the innermost yearning that fuels the passion of your soul?”

In response Psalm 37:3-5 in the Amplified Bible came to mind:

3Trust [rely on and have confidence] in the LORD and do good;
Dwell in the land and feed [securely] on His faithfulness.

4 Delight yourself in the LORD,
And He will give you the desires and petitions of your heart.

5 Commit your way to the LORD;
Trust in Him also and He will do it.

A previous blog entry recognizes this particular passage as a double entendre or as having two meanings. If we delight ourselves in the Lord, He will give us the deepest yearnings of our heart. In addition, we could state that as we find pleasure in the Lord, He will place those heart’s desires within each of us, so that our innermost longings become our insatiable hunger to please Him.

Again, Psalm 40:8 reveals this truth:

I delight to do Your will, O my God; yes, Your law is within my heart.

The passage from Psalm 34 and related verses also bring to mind the first poem that I wrote. The situation seemed to be rather accidental (providential), taking, place during my freshman year in college in my composition class. I was asked to write a response to this prompt: “May I Tell You What Delights Me?” I made a list of things that brought me pleasure, and when I read what I had written to the class, my professor described it as poetry. That incident occurred years before I fully recognized and embraced my calling as poet. Years later in graduate school, I realized I had written a free-verse, catalogue poem. Near the top of the list of sources of delight for me was the Book of Psalms, which not only speaks of what God takes pleasure in but also relates what the Psalmist delights in or takes pleasure in.

From time to time, we may lose our focus and become anxious regarding our ever-fluctuating circumstances. During times of uncertainty when trouble and anguish attempt to derail us from our destiny, when our feet seem to slip, and we are about to lose our grip, we can turn our thoughts toward the promises of God, assured that just as He has been with us through the stormy trials of the past, so He will be with us now. Along with the Psalmist, we take comfort in this knowledge which delights our souls so much.

Each day we are learning to answer yes to God’s call to service, knowing this, according to the Amplified Bible:

“We are assured and know that [God being a partner in their labor] all things work together and are [fitting into a plan] for good to and for those who love God and are called according to [His] design and purpose.”

That’s Romans 8:28, my all-time favorite verse in the entire Bible.

Paul reminds us, “Faithful is He who calls you, who will also do it.” Once again, the Psalmist also clearly offers a similar reminder in Psalm 112:1(AMP):

1 Praise the Lord! (Hallelujah!) Blessed (happy, fortunate, to be envied) is the man who fears (reveres and worships) the Lord, who delights greatly in His commandments.

Our heart’s desire is to please God and that desire He has placed there. This poetic response expresses our heart’s desire toward God:

The Passion of Our Heart

The passion of our heart is to fulfill the call,
To walk worthy of the vocation, to stand tall
Yet humbly in His presence, to ever succeed
And abound in God’s grace and to sow righteous seed
That bears fruit each season, wherever it may fall.

To serve God with a pure heart, untainted with gall,
May we never forget His goodness but recall
The Word of God spoken to give life and to feed
The passion of my heart.

May we walk in peace and live to tear down each wall;
May we know the touch that will quicken and enthrall.
Touched by God’s hand, our lives now reveal such deep need.
We must do more than merely hear but must give heed
To the desire to please the Father with all
The passion of our heart.

1 Peter 5:10 in the Amplified Bible (AMP) offers this benediction:

10 And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace [Who imparts all blessing and favor], Who has called you to His [own] eternal glory in Christ Jesus, will Himself complete and make you what you ought to be, establish and ground you securely, and strengthen, and settle you.

Listen to this delightful version of Psalm 37:4 by Junko Nishiguchi Cheng from Saddleback Church in Southern California:

No fear in love

July 19, 2018

The inspiration for the blog post for July 19, 2018 comes from Isaiah 41:10 (Revised Standard Version) to which I add verse 13 to solidify this powerful reminder to have no fear:

Fear not, for I am with you, be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my victorious right hand.

For I, the LORD your God, hold your right hand; it is I who say to you, “Fear not, I will help you.”

Last week I posted a blog entry on Friday, the 13th, related to fear and commented on this same passage. Prior to that, a post stated “Fear is not real!” and used the same passage and other related scriptures. In my forthcoming book Not Just a Survivor—More than a Conqueror, I also discuss fear as one of the factors impacting my response to prostate cancer 18 years ago.

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 with deadly consequences. As believers, we must learn to counteract its harmful effects with the proper remedy. In this case, we find 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 (NKJV):

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

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

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.
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 Wintley Phipps offers this encouraging musical reminder: “No Need to Fear”:

The Strong, the Wise and the Righteous

July 18, 2018

The Verse of the Day for July 18, 2018 comes from Psalm 119, the longest chapter in the Bible. Also known as the Torah Psalm, this passage makes reference to the Word of God in every verse, employing such synonyms as “statues, Law, judgments, precepts, etc. The Verse of the Day is the next to the last verse of the Aleph or the first section where David makes a bold declaration of his intent:

Psalm 119:7 (New Living Translation):

As I learn your righteous regulations, I will thank you by living as I should!

The section ends with another declaration of intent, ending with a passionate plea:

Psalm 119:8 (NLT):

I will obey your decrees. Please don’t give up on me!

David goes on to demonstrate his efforts to live uprightly and follow the precepts of God:

Psalm 119:11 (NLT):

I have hidden your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.

At the dedication of the Temple, David, who is described as “a man after God’s own heart,” comments on the attributes of God by saying,

17 I know, my God, that you examine our hearts and rejoice when you find integrity there. You know I have done all this with good motives, and I have watched your people offer their gifts willingly and joyously. (1 Chronicles 29:17)

David goes on to speak of his own state before God:

2 Samuel 22:23-26

23 I have followed all his regulations;
I have never abandoned his decrees.
24 I am blameless before God;
I have kept myself from sin.
25 The LORD rewarded me for doing right.
He has seen my innocence.
26 “To the faithful you show yourself faithful;
to those with integrity you show integrity.

God is always on the lookout for individuals who are “upright in heart.” A classic illustration of God looking for and finding such an “upright” person is found in Job, who is described in this way in the first verse of the book that bears his name:

Job 1:1 (Amplified Bible):

1 There was a man in the land of Uz whose name was Job; and that man was blameless and upright, and one who [reverently] feared God and abstained from and shunned evil [because it was wrong].

Psalm 11:7 (NLT) also makes known the kind of people who get God’s attention:

For the righteous LORD loves justice. The virtuous will see his face.

II Chronicles 16:9 reveals that the eyes of Lord are always scanning the planet, looking for individuals with an upright or perfect heart. Such an individual is further described in Psalm 37:37 as “the perfect man . . . the upright,” whose life is a reflection of the peace of God. These two verses are combined in a Scripture memory song with these lyrics:

II Chronicles 16:9 and Psalm 37:37

For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro,
For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro,
For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro,
Throughout the whole earth
To show Himself strong, to show Himself strong,
To show Himself strong in behalf of them
Whose heart is perfect toward Him.
The man with a perfect heart is whole and complete:
Mark the perfect man and behold the upright,
For the end of that man is peace.

For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro,
For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro,
For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro,
Throughout the whole earth

Ten years ago I recall a Bible teaching that described those who survive in times of famine. The Verse of the Day and related scriptures brought to mind this response:

The Strong, the Wise and the Righteous

“In times of famine, those who survive
and prosper are the strong,
the wise and the righteous.”
Apostle Eric L. Warren

In times of severe famine those who survive are the strong
In mind, those empowered by the Spirit of Might.
Though living in a strange land, they sing the Lord’s song,
Striving to please their God, in whom He takes delight.
During drought and scarcity of food the wise
Search for wisdom as bold hunters pursue their game.
They seek to do all God’s will and not compromise.
God hears every cry when they call upon His name
And satisfies the deepest hunger of their soul.
Walking worthy of their calling as faithful sons,
They learn that to run to serve is life’s highest goal.
In times of famine they shall find grace in the Lord’s eyes;
Set apart for His glory: the strong, righteous and wise.

We end our comments on the Verse of the Day “a musical rendering of Psalm 119:1-8 offer as a worship song by Jason Silver: “All Your Commandments”

Putting off the old, putting on the new

July 16, 2018

The Verse of the Day for July 16, 2018 reminds believers of who we are in Christ Jesus:
Colossians 2:9-10 in the Revised English Version:

for in him dwells, in a bodily manner, all the fullness of what God is,

and you have been given that fullness by being in union with him, the one who is the head over every ruler and authority.

To understand more fully our identity in Christ, we must take a look at the preceding verses found in Colossians 2:6-10 (REV)

6Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, walk in him, 7having been firmly rooted and now being built up in him and established in your trust, just as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.
8See to it that no one takes you captive through empty, deceitful philosophy that is according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ, 9for in him dwells, in a bodily manner, all the fullness of what God is, 10and you have been given that fullness by being in union with him, the one who is the head over every ruler and authority.

This passage reminds believers that as we have received Christ Jesus, the Lord, we are to walk in him. This practice is an aspect of renewing the mind, whereby we put off the old and put on the new.

These lines reflect our prayer to God:

Open our ears to hear the Word that we might do it,
To put on the mind of Christ and learn to renew it.

The following poem refers to this ongoing process:

Putting off the old, putting on the new

9Never lie to one another, since you have put off the old self with its practices

10and have put on the new self that is being renewed to a true knowledge

that is in accord with the image of the one who created it

Colossians 3:9-10 (REV)

 

The Word of God instructs us to renew our mind:
To walk in the love of God is to walk in victory.
As we strive toward even deeper levels of intimacy,
We will walk in power and will not be left behind.
With laser precision we target our old man nature
And consider ourselves dead to sin once for all.
We respond in obedience in answer to God’s call;
In the secret place of the Lord who ever inhabits
The praises of His people, here we desire to abide,
To put off the old, vile, corrupt, wrapped in sinful pride
And put on the new, as one changes garments, habits.
Above all we put on compassion from the start
And abide in our hiding place, filled with a grateful heart.

The last line of the poem makes a reference to “a grateful heart,” part of the lyrics of a song reminding believers to “Give Thanks with a Grateful Heart.”

Give Thanks with a Grateful Heart
Give thanks with a grateful heart
Give thanks unto the Holy One
Give thanks because He’s given Jesus Christ, His Son (repeat)
And now let the weak say, ‘I am strong’
Let the poor say, ‘I am rich
Because of what the Lord has done for us’ (repeat)
Give thanks
Give Thanks

As we put on the Lord Jesus Christ, renewing our minds as we walk in love, our souls overflow with gratitude, expressions of a grateful heart.

We close with Kutless offering “Complete” based on Colossians 2:9-10:

Friday, the 13th and every day: No fear in love

July 13, 2018

Some people have a negative reaction to Friday, the 13th, but believers are encouraged to have no fear.

Today, July 13, 2018, is actually the second “Friday, the 13th” occurring this year. Although some react to this day in an extremely negative way, for Christian believers, however, we thank “God it’s Friday” and every day of the week. Along with the Psalmist, we declare, “This is the day that the Lord has made. We will rejoice and be glad in it.” Indeed, every day is a “Good News Day.”

A previous blog post focused on Friday, the 13th, and examined Scriptures related to fear. Here is an excerpt from that entry:

While not everyone harbors an ungrounded fear of Friday, the 13th, we cannot deny that fear seems to abound during these intense times. We all recognize that fear is 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. Unbridled fear is a toxic emotion that limits and inhibits. Proverbs 29:25 makes this clear:

The fear of man brings a snare, but whoever trusts in the LORD shall be safe.

Fear is a tool of the Enemy used as a barrier to stifle our confidence in God, as it attempts to limit our access to the Father’s throne of grace. Satan tries to instill fear in believers in the same way that a ferocious lion roars, seeking to instill fear that paralyzes its victim, described in I Peter 5:8:

Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.

It has been said that fear is the only thing that defeats the promises of God. Pastor Rick Warren describes fear as “. . . a self-imposed prison that will keep you from becoming what God intends for you to be.”

The Bible addresses the issue of fear with numerous reminders that as believers we are not to fear. The comforting exhortation to “fear not” or “do not fear” is said to occur 365 times in the Bible, indicating a daily memo from God that we are to have no fear.

We also find great encouragement in Isaiah 41:10, 13:

Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you,
Yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.’

For I, the LORD your God, will hold your right hand, saying to you, ‘Fear not, I will help you.’

When we encounter stressful situations that cause us to respond in fear, we are encouraged to seek the strength to overcome any obstacle that attempts to block our path to success. Again the Psalmist offers this reminder:

Psalm 34:5

I sought the LORD, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears.

In 1 John 4:18 we find 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.

Many are familiar with the acronym used to define fear: False-Evidence-Appearing-Real, but about five years ago a friend shared a new acronym for fear: Forgetting-Everything-Already-Realized. Many times fear comes into play when situations appear to be turning out in ways we had not expected. Too often we fear that God will not come through for us when we need Him to, and we panic. We forget that God is faithful to His Word, and He always keeps His promises. This phrase inspired the following poem, especially appropriate for Friday, the 13th.

Have No Fear: Remember Love

There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear:
because fear involves torment. He who fears
has not been made perfect in love
I John 4:18

Forgetting Everything Already Realized,
Everything God performs He does with excellence.
Already set before us is every promise.
Realized with each sunrise this eternal truth:
Love Overcomes and gives us Victory Every time.
Only believe, knowing love energizes faith.
Victory is ours each time we trust God and believe,
Ever mindful that perfect love casts out all fear.
God cannot love us more and will not love us any less.
May we never forget but always remember:
Despite the storms and fiery trials, we will not fear,
Knowing nothing can separate us from God’s love.

Friday, the 13th, is simply another day to remind us to put on our “no fear gear”; as believers, we walk in the love of God which casts out all fear. We close with a tender reminder from Steffany Gretzinger: “No Fear in Love”:

Man shall not live by bread alone

July 12, 2018

Once again we begin by taking a close look at the Word for the Day for July 12, 2018:

Matthew 4:4 (AMP):

But Jesus replied, “It is written and forever remains written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes out of the mouth of God.’”

This verse, of course, is part of Jesus Christ’s response to the first prong of the temptation in the wilderness, whereby the Devil attempts to get the Savior to turn stones into bread. With each temptation Jesus responds with “It is written,” as Christ counters with Scripture, in this first instance, from a passage from the Pentateuch, specifically from

Deuteronomy 8:2-3:

2And you shall remember all the way which the LORD your God led you these forty years in the wilderness, to humble you, and to prove you, to know what was in your heart, whether would keep his commandments, or no.
3And he humbled you, and suffered you to hunger, and fed you with manna, which you did not know, neither did thy fathers know; that he might make you know that man does not live by bread only, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of the LORD.
Here God reminds Israel of their 40-year sojourn in the wilderness where He proved them and taught them a valuable lesson, the essence of which Jesus Christ repeats after having been in the wilderness for 40 days and 40 nights without food when he responds, “It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.”

I recall referring to this verse in a session of an English Grammar class I taught at Carolina College of Biblical Studies focusing the sentence, the basic unit of written communication. I shared that a complete sentence must have three elements:

• subject
• verb
• complete thought

Building a sentence is like making a sandwich: You must have two essential ingredients: two slices of bread (subject and verb), along with something to go in between (complete thought).

As writers, we can express our creativity in putting together a wide array of delicious sandwiches from the basic grilled cheese all the way to the “The Dagwood” with many layers stuffed with wide array of ingredients and condiments.

During this session I also share the derivation of the term sandwich. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, “sandwich” is said to be named after John Montagu, 4th Earl of Sandwich (1718-1792), who once spent twenty-four hours at the gaming-table without other refreshment than some slices of cold beef placed between slices of toast. The word was first used in the late 1770s. The sandwich found its way into the American diet in the 19th Century and was particularly popular in the 20th Century.

During the period of time when I first developed the comparison of sentences to sandwiches, I was also participating in a clinical trial for Prostate Cancer at the James Cancer Treatment Center in Columbus, Ohio. The study involved eating two slices of bread each day, alternating between bread prepared with soy protein as its main ingredient and almond flour. These two experiences inspired this poem which I share at the end of the class session:

A New Bread, a New Class, a New Analogy

Daily: Eat the entire two slices. Both slices can be eaten at the same meal as a sandwich.

Nutrition-40 Soy Bread Study—OSU Medical Center

And Jesus answered him, saying, it is written, That man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God.
Luke 4:4

Halfway between the study I eat a new bread:
No longer soy-almond but pure soy bread instead.
As I am teaching a new class, I find a way
To help students understand what I’m trying to say
When I share that man shall not live by bread alone,
As Jesus said when asked to make bread from a stone.
To construct a good sentence, this I admonish:
You must build a sentence as you would a sandwich:
A subject and verb must express a complete thought.
This analogy helps students see what I taught:
One slice of bread is the subject, one slice the verb,
But “more” takes you from mediocre to superb.
Much more than two slices but what goes in between
Can be a work of art to convey what you mean.

We conclude our reflections by listening to the beauty and simplicity of words spoken by Jesus Christ set to music by Toby Pfeiffer: “Not by Bread Alone”:

Is anything too difficult? Nothing is too difficult

July 11, 2018

The Verse of the Day for July 11, 2018 comes from Jeremiah 32:17 in the Amplified Bible:

‘Ah Lord GOD! Behold, You have made the heavens and the earth by Your great power and by Your outstretched arm! There is nothing too difficult or too wonderful for You—

The Verse of the Day is part of the prayer that Jeremiah prays to God prior to Israel’s going into captivity because of their rampant disobedience and blatant idolatry. Here are the opening words of that prayer recorded in Jeremiah 32:17-20

17 “O Sovereign LORD! You made the heavens and earth by your strong hand and powerful arm. Nothing is too hard for you! 18 You show unfailing love to thousands, but you also bring the consequences of one generation’s sin upon the next. You are the great and powerful God, the LORD of Heaven’s Armies. 19 You have all wisdom and do great and mighty miracles. You see the conduct of all people, and you give them what they deserve. 20 You performed miraculous signs and wonders in the land of Egypt—things still remembered to this day! And you have continued to do great miracles in Israel and all around the world. You have made your name famous to this day.

The prayer continues, and we find Verse 27 translated as a rhetorical question:

“Behold, I am the LORD, the God of all flesh; is there anything too difficult for Me?”

We find a similar question raised in the midst of another seemingly impossible situation in Genesis when the angel of the Lord visits Abraham, who happens to be 100 years old and Sarah, his barren wife, is well past the years of childbearing at 90:

Genesis 18: 13-14 (AMP):

13 And the LORD asked Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh [to herself], saying, ‘Shall I really give birth [to a child] when I am so old?’ 14 Is anything too difficult or too wonderful for the LORD? At the appointed time, when the season [for her delivery] comes, I will return to you and Sarah will have a son.”

These two passages speak of the mind-boggling power of God: whether expressed as a bold statement: “Nothing is too difficult for you” or as a question: “Is there anything too difficult for the Lord?” both expressions come to the same conclusion: “Nothing is too hard for God!”

No matter how challenging the situation may appear to be, God can turn it into a magnificent triumph. No matter how lifeless and hopeless the circumstances we face may seem, God specializes in touching seemingly impossible situations, making “barrenness to bloom with rivers in the desert.” We see the amazing power of God illustrated in this way:

Barrenness

19 Behold, I will do a new thing; now it shall spring forth; shall ye not know it? I will even make a way in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert.
20 The beast of the field shall honor me, the dragons and the owls: because I give waters in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert, to give drink to my people, my chosen.
21 This people have I formed for myself; they shall show forth my praise.

Isaiah 43:19-21

We are waiting with our eyes fixed toward open skies
That we might behold the wonders of this new thing.
From parched, lifeless places now shall it spring forth,
As God shall make a highway in the wilderness.
Even in the wasteland shall He give cool waters
To bless and refresh with rivers in the desert.
He has formed us for Himself: for His good pleasure
He chose us and set us apart to show forth praise.
All things for God’s glory: even the barren womb
He has prepared to bring forth life-changing seed.
We declare the Word and thus shall it most surely be:
No word of God spoken shall be void of power.
Speak the Word only and barrenness shall vanish,
And fertile ground shall bring forth fruit in due season.

The Verse of the Day and related verses and the poem all relate a similar message that “Nothing is too difficult for God.” The closing words of the Verse of the Day became the inspiration for one of the most popular songs of praise composed by Don Moen: “Ah, Lord God. . .” which reinforces that message.:

Power of God at work in us

July 9, 2018

Ephesians-3-20-21

The Verse of the Day for July 9, 2018 is the benediction from the prayer found in culminating verses of Chapter 3 of Ephesians:

Ephesians 3:20-21

Now to Him who is able to [carry out His purpose and] do superabundantly more than all that we dare ask or think [infinitely beyond our greatest prayers, hopes, or dreams], according to His power that is at work within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations forever and ever. Amen.

That powerful prayer reveals our Heavenly Father’s intent toward believers that they might demonstrate  the exceeding greatness of God’s power or ability recorded by Paul in those two verses which shine as crowning jewels in that exquisite revelation of God’s ability. Verse 19   precedes the powerful declarative statement, reminding believers of God’s desire that we might experience the fulfillment of all that He intends us to be:

The Fullness of God

To know the love of Christ which passes knowledge;

that you may be filled with all fullness of God

Ephesians 3:19

 

In wisdom God gives power to loose and to bind,

To enlighten souls and open eyes of the blind.

All the promises of God are “yes and amen.”

God’s Word is true today, just as it was back then

When Christ first spoke the truth to those with ears to hear.

We walk in the spirit of love and have no fear.

We have been empowered by the spirit of might.

To serve the Lord, to please Him is our soul’s delight.

Secure, knowing nothing can snatch us from His hand,

We shall know fulfillment of all that God has planned.

Filled with all the fullness of God that we might see:

The riches of the glory of this mystery.

We walk by faith and not by sight, for we now know

God sealed us by a covenant, and it is so.

Every day we confront challenging circumstances that seek overwhelm our souls, but we must remember that we are powerful people. Literally we are full of power, the same power that raised Jesus Christ from the dead. There is no greater power, and by exercising that power, God is able “to do superabundantly more than all that we dare ask or think [infinitely beyond our greatest prayers, hopes, or dreams], according to His power that is at work within us,

The opening phrase of verse 20 brought to mind the expression that “God is able,” which in turn caused me to think of the lyrics to this song:

He’s able, He’s able, I know He’s able,
I know my Lord is able to carry me through.
He’s able, He’s able, I know He’s able,
I know my Lord is able to carry me through.
He healed the brokenhearted and set the captive free,
He made the lame to walk again and caused the blind to see;
He’s able, He’s able, I know He’s able,
I know my Lord is able to carry me through.

With this awareness of who God is in mind, we acknowledge that no matter how challenging and insurmountable any situation may appear to be, we recall that nothing is too hard for God, who reminds us: “I am the God of all flesh. Is there anything too hard for me?” In fact, the old gospel song reminds us,

“Got any rivers you think are uncrossable?

Got any mountains you cannot tunnel through?

God specializes in things called impossible,

And He will do what no other power (Holy Ghost power) can do.

We close with the magnificent benediction from Jude, a further reminder that God is able:

24Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy,

25To the only wise God our Savior, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, now and ever. Amen.

We conclude as Shannon R. Linville offers Ephesians 3:14-20 as a Scripture Song:

You have magnified Your word above all Your name

July 8, 2018

Psalm 138--2

The Verse of the Day for July 8, 2018 comes from Psalm 138:2 in the Amplified Bible Classic Edition:

I will worship toward Your holy temple and praise Your name for Your loving-kindness and for Your truth and faithfulness; for You have exalted above all else Your name and Your word and You have magnified Your word above all Your name!

Without question God is great and greatly to be praised. Throughout the Psalms and elsewhere in the Scriptures, we find references to the name of the Lord who is great and greatly to be praised:

Psalm 148:13 proclaims:

Let them praise the name of the Lord: for his name alone is excellent; his glory is above the earth and heaven.

Proverbs 18:10  declares:

The name of the Lord is a strong tower: the righteous runneth into it, and is safe.

The lyrics to this scripture memory song reiterate this message:

Praise Ye the Lord

(Psalm 113:1-3)

Praise ye the LORD.

Praise, O ye servants of the LORD,

Praise the name of the LORD.

Repeat

Blessed be the name of the LORD

From this time forth and for evermore.

Blessed be the name of the LORD

From this time forth and for evermore.

Repeat

 

From the rising of the sun

Unto the going down of the same

The Lord’s name is to be praised.

 

From the rising of the sun

Unto the going down of the same

The Lord’s name is to be praised.

So we see that the name of the Lord great, for the Bible states that He has “a great name.” Just as our individual names reveal our identity, so the name of the Lord reveals who He is:

1 Chronicles 29:11 reminds us of just how great God is:

Thine, O Lord is the greatness, and the power, and the glory, and the victory, and the majesty: for all that is in the heaven and in the earth is thine; thine is the kingdom, O Lord, and thou art exalted as head above all.

The Psalmist also recognizes the magnitude of the name of the Lord:

Psalm 113:2-3 (AMP):

Blessed be the name of the Lord From this time forth and forever.

From the rising of the sun to its setting the name of the Lord is to be praised [with awe-inspired reverence].

Psalm 148: 12-13 (KJV) reinforces the same message:

12 Both young men, and maidens; old men, and children:

13 Let them praise the name of the Lord: for his name alone is excellent; his glory is above the earth and heaven

Although there is no greater power in the universe than God almighty, the latter part of Psalm 138:2 reminds us that God has magnified His Word above all His name. Once we recognize to a greater degree the magnitude of the Word of God which is expanded far beyond the greatness of God and all that He is, our hearts should overflow with gratitude for the privilege of not only reading the Word of God, but have the privilege of teaching it. He has committed unto us “the word of reconciliation.” (2 Corinthians 5: 19). What an indescribable honor to have access to the heart of God, for out of the abundance of His heart His mouth speaks, as we recognize and reverence

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.

We close with a musical rendering of Psalm 138, a Christian Worship and Scripture Song by Esther Mui: