Archive for the ‘Bible’ Category

A Triptych from Hebrews 6: Take a Look (Panel 3)

June 10, 2021

Today’s blog entry is the third of a series of three poems that form a triptych inspired by Hebrews 6:10-12. OxfordDictionaries.com defines a triptych as, “a set of three associated artistic, literary, or musical works intended to be appreciated together.” WordNet 3.6 provides this definition of triptych art, as “art consisting of a painting or carving (especially an altarpiece) on three panels (usually hinged together).” Here is an example of one panel of a triptych carved from wood with three sections on each leaf. Each of the three poems that form my triptych is also accompanied by commentary and a musical selection related to that work.

ONE LEAF OF A TRIPTYCH IN CATHEDRAL OF SEVILLE

For our discussion of the third panel of our triptych from Hebrews 6, we are going to look at Hebrews 6:12, but we begin with a statement from Brian Adams:

“Learn the art of patience. Apply discipline to your thoughts when they become anxious over the outcome of a goal. Impatience breeds anxiety, fear, discouragement and failure. Patience creates confidence, decisiveness, and a rational outlook, which eventually leads to success.”

As believers, perfecting the art of patience involves learning to wait on the Lord. The closing verses of my favorite psalm come to mind:

Psalm 27:13-14 (NKJV)

I would have lost heart, unless I had believed
that I would see the goodness of the Lord
in the land of the living.

14 Wait on the Lord;
be of good courage,
And He shall strengthen your heart;
Wait, I say, on the Lord!

Note this Biblical definition of patience which has also been translated endurance or perseverance, steadfastly bearing up under and remaining faithful while waiting. Patience or perseverance is a fruit of the spirit that should be evident in our lives, as we wait on the Lord.

When we examine one of the words translated “patience”, we see a compound word meaning “to stay, remain, abide”, literally abiding under. The verb form means to stay under (behind), i.e. remain; figuratively, to undergo, i.e. bear (trials), have fortitude, to persevere — abide, endure, suffer, tarry behind.

The root idea of the noun is that of remaining under some discipline, subjecting oneself to something which demands the yielding of the will to something against which one naturally would rebel.  It means cheerful (or hopeful) endurance, constancy — enduring, patience, patient continuance (waiting). It is a bearing up in a way that honors and glorifies our heavenly Father, not merely to grin and bear it.

James 5:11 provides an excellent example of the word for patience being used as a verband as a noun. The New Living Translation offers this rendering containing a familiar phrase that encompasses a character trait most often associated with Job:

11 We give great honor to those who endure under suffering. For instance, you know about Job, a man of great endurance. You can see how the Lord was kind to him at the end, for the Lord is full of tenderness and mercy.

The Book of Job is a classic example of the principle of first usage and first spiritual principle, which highlights as particularly important the first time that a concept is mentioned in the Bible.  It is believed by E.W. Bullinger and other Bible scholars that the first book written was the Book of Job, believed to have been composed by Moses. Job, whom Chuck Swindoll described as a “man of heroic endurance,” was, indeed, a real person, and his story is one of the first demonstrations of many spiritual principles, one being that God is “full of compassion and tender mercy” and that he rewards those who demonstrate “patience.” Although it is said that “Patience is its own reward,” God also rewards patience, as so clearly demonstrated at the end the Book of Job. Recall Job 42:10:

And the LORD turned the captivity of Job when he prayed for his friends: also the

LORD gave Job twice as much as he had before.

Hebrews 10:36 (AMP) also reinforces the message that patience precedes what one is striving to achieve:

For you have need of patient endurance [to bear up under difficult circumstances without compromising], so that when you have carried out the will of God, you may receive and enjoy to the full what is promised.

Previously, while working on a teaching related to patience, I read about an apple orchard run by “Farmer Johnson” in Washington State, an individual with whom I spiritually identified. Reading about the apples produced by this individual also inspired the following poem which opens with Hebrews 6:12, another reference using “patient endurance” or patience.

Farmer Johnson

Then you will not become spiritually dull and indifferent.

Instead, you will follow the example of those who are going

to inherit God’s promises because of their faith and endurance.

Hebrews 6:12

He leadeth me, He leadeth me,
By His own hand He leadeth me;
His faithful follower I would be,
For by His hand He leadeth me.


Lyrics by Joseph H. Gilmore

Farmer Johnson owns orchards in Washington State.
His apples are renowned and said to be the best.
As scriptures remind us to labor and to rest,
This Farmer Johnson is patient and learns to wait
For the bountiful fruit of his harvest season.
Patience now abounds to complete and perfect me,
As I walk by faith, despite all that I may see.
I assess my times and unfold the real reason
For all the trials and seeming setbacks that came.
At times I felt as though being torn asunder
But like Job, I still abide and bear up under.
God yet delivers those who call upon His name.
Committed to go wherever the Lord shall send,
A faithful follower, I endure to the end.

As a youngster I recall singing this hymn “He Leadeth Me” countless times, performed here by the Michael Curb Congregation.

A Triptych from Hebrews 6: Take a look (Panel 2)

June 9, 2021

Today’s blog entry is the second of a series of three poems that form a triptych inspired by Hebrews 6:10-12. OxfordDictionaries.com defines a triptych as, “a set of three associated artistic, literary, or musical works intended to be appreciated together.” WordNet 3.6 provides this definition of triptych art, as “art consisting of a painting or carving (especially an altarpiece) on three panels (usually hinged together).” Here is an example of one panel of a triptych carved from wood with three sections on each leaf. Each of the three poems that form my triptych is also accompanied by commentary and a musical selection related to that work.

ONE LEAF OF A TRIPTYCH IN CATHEDRAL OF SEVILLE

Watchman Nee, early 20th Century church leader and teacher in China, describes the life of each believer in this way—“the Christian journey, from start to finish, is a journey of faith.” As we journey through life, we encounter challenges designed to build our faith. Believers are on a journey that takes us from faith to faith, glory to glory, and victory to victory as we pursue the will of God for our lives.

My life continues to unfold as a journey of faith  with several notable milestones along the way.  At 12 years of age I became a member of Carter Chapel C.M.E (Christian Methodist Episcopal) Church in Gary, Indiana, where I accepted Christ as my savior. The spiritual foundation for my life was laid in that church where I was actively involved throughout elementary and high school. I recall attending a summer camp in Saugatuck, MI as a rising sophomore and volunteering to do a short teaching on youth night. For some reason, I was inspired to share from Hebrews 11 verses one and six, two verses related to faith, the bedrock of my life:

Upon graduation as Valedictorian, Class of 1960 from Froebel High School, I attended Purdue University from 1960-1965, earning a BS Degree in Pharmacy and becoming a Registered Pharmacist in Indiana. In 1967 I was drafted into the U.S. Army during the Vietnam era, as I experienced a close encounter of the most intimate kind with Jesus Christ, my Savior. While serving as a pharmacy instructor at the Medical Field Service School in San Antonio at Fort Sam Houston, Texas, I rode the crest of the Jesus Movement and experienced a powerful conversion that introduced me to the transforming power of God through receiving the Holy Spirit and studying the Bible. During my stint in the military, I discovered the joys of classroom teaching, a passion that continues to burn. I also recognized my poetic inclination and sought to develop the art and craft of the poet.

Here is an original psalm inspired in part by Hebrews 6:11

This Far by Faith

And we desire that each one of you show the same diligence

to the full assurance of hope until the end,      

Hebrews 6:11

 “We have come this far by faith.”      

Traditional Black Gospel Song   

Though we see truth, there is still the rest of the story, 

As we strive to be all that God called us to be,   

Created to be to the praise of His glory, 

We walk by faith and not by what we can see. 

We now rise above to view life from God’s grand scope: 

Each day our faith will increase and not diminish.

With diligence to the full assurance of hope, 

We will complete our course, striving toward the finish.  

A great cloudof witnesses surround us to cheer 

Us on from faith to faith and victory to victory.

The mighty hand of our gracious God brought us here,

For such a time as this—behold our destiny. 

While pressing toward the mark, we must still watch and wait,

As we sing our song, “We have come this far by faith.” 

Growing up in the 1950s in Gary, IN, I have fond musical memories from the “Golden Age of Gospel Music.” One of the most popular songs of this period was “We’ve Come This Far by Faith,” a selection often used as a processional for morning services at countless Black churches across the country. The opening lyrics of the renowned gospel favorite are woven into the tapestry of the poem:

Voices of Hope, a choir from Los Angeles under the direction of Thurston Frazier, offer a rendition of one of the most popular gospel songs of the Fifties and Sixties.

A Triptych from Hebrews 6: Take a look

June 8, 2021

This morning while listening to a YouTube recording of peaceful relaxation music for meditation, one of the accompanying verses arrested my attention and brought to mind three verses from Hebrews 6:10-12. These verses inspired three poems which when connected together form “A Triptych from Hebrews 6.” OxfordDictionaries.com offers this definition of the term “triptych”: “A set of three associated artistic, literary, or musical works intended to be appreciated together.” WordNet 3.6 provides this definition of triptych art, as “art consisting of a painting or carving (especially an altarpiece) on three panels (usually hinged together).” Here is an example taken from the same source: a cathedral door in Seville, Spain.

ONE LEAF OF A TRIPTYCH IN CATHEDRAL OF SEVILLE

Over the next three days, I will feature a blog post inspired by one the verses from Hebrews 6:10-12. The first panel of this collection appeared in a recent blog post, “Each sunrise reminds us God is faithful” Here is an excerpt:

In Hebrews 6:10 (New Living Translation) we find another reminder that God is faithful and that He is not unjust

For God is not unjust. He will not forget how hard you have worked for him and how you have shown your love to him by caring for other believers, as you still do.

As believers we endeavor to serve God and minister to one another. Our efforts may not always be recognized nor appreciated. Those whom we serve in love may not always remember what we say and do, but we are assured that God never forgets. Not only is God, our Father, faithful and just, but He is also a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him (Hebrews 11:6), as the following poetic comments illustrate:

A Reminder: God Is Faithful

For God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labor of love,

which you have shown toward his name, in that you have ministered

to the saints and do minister.

Hebrews 6:10

All the good deeds you have done may not be extolled

When the fervor of God’s love has long since grown cold.

Some so quickly forget all the good you have done,

And they fail to recall you were the only one

To answer the call, seek the Lord and intercede.

Time after time you were the one to meet the need.

When others were busy and chose to walk away,

You were there and remained in the thick of the fray.

In dark times when words of thanks are distant memories,

Recall our God knows all things, for He alone sees

Your labor and saves every tear you have shed.

Our Father is ever mindful of how you serve,

And He shall reward you beyond all you deserve.

As you strive to finish your course, have no regret:

Our God is faithful–He will never forget.

In reflecting upon God’s faithfulness as expressed in the Word of God, I thought of this medley of two songs that have come to mean so much to me: “He’s Been Faithful” and “Great is Thy Faithfulness” offered by The Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir:

To serve is not a dirty word

May 22, 2021

Revised and re-posted, the Verse of the Day for May 22, 2021 comes from Galatians 5:13 in the New Living Translation and highlights the paradox between freedom and servitude:

For you have been called to live in freedom, my brothers and sisters. But don’t use your freedom to satisfy your sinful nature. Instead, use your freedom to serve one another in love.

This verse and other related scriptures bring to mind the idea of the servant or slave who has been set free. In the early 70s or thereabout, I was introduced to the Greek term “doulos”, translated servant or more literally “bondslave,” one of the most misunderstood concepts found in the Scriptures. The portrayal of the servant or slave, as revealed in the Bible has particular significance to me for a number of reasons, aside from my being a descendant of slaves brought from Africa to America.

In 1975, I produced an article “Doulos: A Different View of the Slave.” In 1978, while completing my master’s thesis, I explored the subject in light of Paul’s literary style in the Church Epistles. I went on to complete my Ph.D. in 1986 with a dissertation entitled Portrait of the Bondslave in the Bible: Slavery and Freedom in the Works of Four Afro-American Poets. 

Being a doulos involves a deep commitment to one’s Lord and Master.

The term doulos has become an intricate part of my life since I first learned of the concept of the “bond servant” or “bond slave” back in the early 70s. As used in the Bible, doulos is a metaphor that I have personalized and internalized. I explored the concept in master’s thesis which looked at the literary style of Paul in the Church Epistles, where he opens the Book of Romans with his “calling card”: “Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle (note the order).” Beyond its biblical significancethat, the concept is deeply embedded into my soul, in that it has become the essence of who I am, as I attempt to express in this poem:

More Than Metaphor

Paul, a bondservant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle,

separated to the gospel of God

Romans 1:1

To capture my essence, I strive to find a word,

Phrase, image or mind picture to bring clarity,

To express my deep yearning for intimacy.

Like Paul, my calling card reads: “servant of the Lord.”

Each fiber of my being and each emotion

Pulsates with lifeblood flowing from a servant’s heart.

As I endeavor to learn and live to impart

The joy of serving with pure-hearted devotion,

I pledge to work in voluntary servitude,

As I fix my eyes, looking unto my Lord’s hands,

To heed His Word and to do more than He commands,

To serve with love from a heart filled with gratitude.

Beyond a single concept, more than metaphor

Is this branded bondslave, who embodies “the more.

The basin and towel are symbolic of the essence of servanthood as demonstrated by the Lord Jesus Christ in John 13.

In discussing this topic of the servant or bond slave, an image almost immediately comes to mind: a basin and a towel, representative of one of my favorite passages regarding the ministry of Jesus Christ, who revealed so clearly the heart of a bond servant when he washed the disciples’ feet in the account from John 13. This very moving excerpt inspired another related poem:

Let Me Wash Your Feet

John 13:4-5, 19

As Jesus put off his garments and wrapped a towel

around himself,

So I lay aside my pride with nothing to hide and

expose myself.

As a humble servant I long to wash your feet.

You could yourself

Perform this deed of loving service, but let me

Serve you myself.

To allow me to wash your feet is to bless me,

as Christ himself

Blessed the Twelve before he departed from this earth.

You have yourself

The key to the door of blessing for you and me:

As Jesus took

Upon himself

The servant’s form

That I myself

Might freely give

To you yourself,

So I ask you

As Christ himself

Still asks of me,

So I ask you to

Let me to wash your feet.

One of the ancient practices associated with bond servants in the Bible is the year of the Jubilee, the Old Testament practice whereby the 50th year was a special sabbatical period when Hebrew slaves were released from their obligation of servitude, and they were free to leave their masters and go out on their own. These servants could by their freedom of will choose to serve their masters for the rest of their lives in light of the close relationship they had established. On my 50th birthday, I wrote “This Year of My Jubilee,”  alluding to this Old Testament practice:

This Year of My Jubilee

Exodus 21:1-6

Leviticus 25:1-17

I stand alone, clothed only with the wind

At the end of my seventh sabbath year.

Gathering of blessings now flow through my mind

As the shofar’s call resounds in my ear

To proclaim this year of my jubilee.

I reflect upon the wonders of this grace

Wherein I stand, a bondslave now made free.

In this golden moment as I embrace

The truth and pledge to love as you command,

Pierce my ear–place your brand upon my soul.

Enlighten me so I may understand

That to run to serve is life’s highest goal.

Unfold before me pleasures of your ways

And seal my vows to serve you all my days.

Once more Michael Card has the perfect song entitled “Jubilee” to accompany this poem.

I will conclude this entry by posting a PDF of the original article “Doulos: A Different View of a Slave” which was first published in 1975. Accompanying the article is a letter to  Apostle Thamo Naidoo to whom I sent the original article along with two of the poems posted above: “More Than Metaphor” and “This Year of My Jubilee.” I am grateful to my beloved Brother Lester Wiley Carver, who encouraged me to post the article. I trust that it will minister to all who read it. I welcome any comments or thoughts that this post might have inspired.

Before reading the article, listen to a powerful song written and performed by Dean Ellenwood, who captures the depth of commitment embodied in the individual called of God to be a  bondslave, a true Doulos. 

Doulos

Doulos: A Different View of a Slave

When a believer accepts Jesus Christ as Lord, that individual assumes the position of a “servant” or “bondslave”–a doulos.

Be likeminded: What does that mean?

May 20, 2021

Revised and re-posted below is the Verse of the Day for May 20, 2021,  coming from Romans 15:5-6 in the New Living Translation:

May God, who gives this patience and encouragement, help you live in complete harmony with each other, as is fitting for followers of Christ Jesus. Then all of you can join together with one voice, giving praise and glory to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Here is the New King James rendering:

Now the God of patience and consolation grant you to be likeminded one toward another according to Christ Jesus: That ye may with one mind and one mouth glorify God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Here we find a verse that encourages believers to be “likeminded,” but exactly what does that mean?  In addition to its use in Romans 15:5, the phrase is used in Philippians 2:2:

Fulfil ye my joy, that ye be likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord of one mind.

In these two instances the expression is used as a verb derived from a compound word meaning to think, “to be minded in a certain way, attitude, disposition of mind.” The Jubilee Bible translates the phrase “to be unanimous among yourselves.”

The phrase “likeminded,” is also used as an adjective in Philippians 2:20 where Paul describes his relationship with his “spiritual son,” Timothy:

For I have no man likeminded, who will naturally care for your state.

Here the term is translated from another compound word meaning  “equal souled.”

Verse 6 of Romans 15 exhorts the followers of Christ to be unified with “one mind and with one mouth glorify God. . . .” The one mind that Christians should have is “the mind of Christ” referred to in Philippians 2:5 in the Amplified Bible which offers this reminder:

Let this same attitude and purpose and [humble] mind be in you which was in Christ Jesus: [Let Him be your example in humility:]

The Scriptures also encourage us to put on the mind of Christ, to put off the old and put on the new. We are not to be conformed to the world, nor should we think as the world thinks, but the Word of God exhorts us to be transformed by the renewing of our minds. When we, as believers, keep our minds focused or stayed on the Lord, we are kept in perfect peace. Although we endeavor to remain consistent in our efforts to let this mind be in us which was also in Christ Jesus, our thoughts stray from time to time. This original poem makes known the reality of our sometimes-failing efforts to stay our minds on the Lord:

Mindful

What is man that You are mindful of him,
And the son of man that You visit him?

Psalm 8:4

Although we croon “You were always on my mind,”

We admit that has not been the reality.

Our thoughts may stray down some distant alley, and we find

Ourselves in places where we do not desire to be.

Those times of wandering are fewer than before,

As we are mindful that you are ever mindful,

We strive to abide in your presence more and more.

Your Word, both spoken and written, is remindful

That your passionate thoughts toward all men are constant,

That your thoughts toward us are endlessly good.

You are ever mindful to keep your covenant,

But we must align our thoughts to be as they should.

We want our lives to speak in all we say and do,

So that others see Christ and say, “God is with you.”

Jennifer Jill closes with a musical exhortation of Philippians 2:5-11: “Let this Mind Be in You.”

Each sunrise reminds us God is faithful

May 17, 2021

This morning I began my day overwhelmed by the splendor of the sunrise, a reminder of the faithfulness of God, as this familiar passage from Lamentations 3:22-23 also came to mind:

“Because of the Lord’s great love, we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness”

Refrains from one of my favorite hymns flooded my soul with song:

Great is Thy faithfulness
O God my Father
There is no shadow of turning with Thee
Thou changest not
Thy compassions they fail not
As Thou hast been
Thou forever will be

Great is Thy faithfulness
Great is Thy faithfulness
Morning by morning new mercies I see
And all I have needed Thy hand hath provided
Great is Thy faithfulness
Lord unto me

Other scriptures also ­­­­remind me that God is faithful beginning with Philippians 1:6 in the Amplified Bible:

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.

God completes the good work begun in us so that as believers we will be complete in every good work to do His will, as Hebrews 13:20-21 offers this benediction:

20 Now may the God of peace who brought up our Lord Jesus from the dead, that great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, 21 make you complete in every good work to do His will, working in you what is well pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen

Throughout the Scriptures we find that “. . . God is faithful and means what He says.” 1 Corinthians 1:9 (AMP) makes know this truth:

God is faithful [He is reliable, trustworthy and ever true to His promise—He can be depended on], and through Him you were called into fellowship with His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

This blessing and benediction also remind believers of God’s faithfulness:

1 Thessalonians 5:23-24 (AMP)

23 Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 24 He who calls you is faithful, who also will do it.

In Hebrews 6:10 (AMP) we find another reminder that God is faithful and that He is not unjust:

For God is not unjust so as to forget your work and the love which you have shown for His name in ministering to [the needs of] the saints (God’s people), as you do.

The New Living Translation puts it this way:

Hebrews 6:10

For God is not unjust. He will not forget how hard you have worked for him and how you have shown your love to him by caring for other believers, as you still do.

As believers we endeavor to serve God and minister to one another. Our efforts may not always be recognized nor appreciated. Those whom we serve in love may not always remember what we say and do, but we are assured that God never forgets. Not only is God, our Father, faithful and just, but He is also a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him (Hebrews 11:6), as the following poetic comments illustrate:

A Reminder: God Is Faithful

For God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labor of love,

which you have shown toward his name, in that you have ministered

to the saints and do minister.

Hebrews 6:10

All the good deeds you have done may not be extolled

When the fervor of God’s love has long since grown cold.

Some so quickly forget all the good you have done,

And they fail to recall you were the only one

To answer the call, seek the Lord and intercede.

Time after time you were the one to meet the need.

When others were busy and chose to walk away,

You were there and remained in the thick of the fray.

In dark times when words of thanks are distant memories,

Recall our God knows all things, for He alone sees

Your labor and saves every tear you have shed.

Our Father is ever mindful of how you serve,

And He shall reward you beyond all you deserve.

As you strive to finish your course, have no regret:

Our God is faithful–He will never forget.

In reflecting upon God’s faithfulness as expressed in the Word of God, I thought of this medley of two songs that have come to mean so much to me: “He’s Been Faithful” and “Great is Thy Faithfulness” offered by The Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir:

Listen to the Song of the Lord

May 16, 2021

The Verse of the Day for May 16, 2021 offers a strong word to encourage and exhort, a reminder custom-crafted for the perilous times in which we live. Take a look at Zephaniah 3:17 in the Amplified Bible:

“The Lord your God is in your midst, A Warrior who saves. He will rejoice over you with joy; He will be quiet in His love [making no mention of your past sins], He will rejoice over you with shouts of joy.

The first part of the verse describes the Lord our God as “A Warrior who saves” and brings to mind a similar picture found in Jeremiah 20-11-12 in the New International Version:

But the Lord is with me like a mighty warrior;
    so my persecutors will stumble and not prevail.
They will fail and be thoroughly disgraced;
    their dishonor will never be forgotten.
12 Lord Almighty, you who examine the righteous
    and probe the heart and mind,
let me see your vengeance on them,
    for to you I have committed my cause.

This passage was also the inspiration behind this poetic portrayal of God, the Almighty One:

Mighty Warrior

The LORD will march out like a mighty man

like a warrior he will stir up his zeal;

with a shout he will raise the battle cry and

will triumph over his enemies. Isaiah 42:13 (NIV)

Mighty Warrior leads the charge into victory.

When we face each foe, Adonai begins to laugh.

As the Man of War, He destroys each enemy,     

For the Lord of Hosts arises on our behalf.

In the midst of battle, He bears His arm and rides

Upon all the fiery chariots of the wind.

He surrounds with power and protects on all sides,

As the ungodly fall and the righteous ascend.

The Almighty Judge rises to discern each heart.

He shakes the heavens and loosens all strongholds

And then probes the depths of truth in the inner part,

As the panoply of total victory unfolds.

Undefeated Super-conqueror—none, superior: 

The Master of Breakthrough is our Mighty Warrior.

 

A previous blog post also commented on Zephaniah 3:17, with this original psalm that also provides words of comfort and assurance:

Song of the Lord

The Lord your God in your midst;
The Mighty One, will save;
He will rejoice over you with gladness;
He will quiet you with His love;
He will rejoice over you with singing.

Zephaniah 3:17 (NKJV)

Be well assured that the Lord, your God, in your midst is mighty;

He has always been there, even in times when you could not see.

His strength never fails—His love prevails through all eternity.

Have no fear, only persevere. Rest in Him, for He will save.

To know the fullness of His great love, look at all that He gave.

Now, you are free, released you from every snare that seeks to enslave.

Know your triumphant end; He will rejoice over you with joy.

Your gracious Father has given all things richly to enjoy.

Recall the Word planted deep in your heart nothing can destroy.

He will complete what He began, and He will rest in His love.

Cast off all your cares and set your affection on things above,

He is able to do above all that you can ask or think of.

Weep no more, but know that He will joy over you with singing.

Celebrate a bountiful harvest with sheaves you are bringing.

Drink from the fountain where unspeakable joy is springing.

Listen to the Song of the Lord. . .

We close with a song inspired by Zephaniah 3:17 “The Lord, Thy God” sung by the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir:

I choose to have a heart that forgives

May 11, 2021

The Verse of the Day for May 11, 2021 encourages believers to forgive one another:                    

Ephesians 4:32 in the Amplified Bible:

Be kind and helpful to one another, tender-hearted [compassionate, understanding], forgiving one another [readily and freely], just as God in Christ also forgave you.

Forgiveness is also a topic discussed in detail in my Embracing Your Life Sentence: How to Turn Life’s Greatest Tragedies into Your Greatest Triumphs. Chapter 7 examines “Forgiveness: A Forgotten Factor” in the healing process related to my diagnosis with prostate cancer. Here is an excerpt from that chapter which includes comments on Ephesians 4:32 and other related Scriptures:

Forgiveness is not only a vitally important concept in Christianity, but it has universal application as well. Described as a two-way street, this virtue is eloquently expressed in the Lord’s Prayer: “Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. . . .” The subject is connected to some of the last words that Jesus Christ, who was also brutally slain, as he spoke before his death on the cross: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

In addition, Paul also exhorts believers to “be kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake has forgiven you.” Dr. Arch Hart, Christian psychologist, offers a definition of forgiveness that seems to be particularly applicable in the situations with where one individual has hurt another in some way: “Forgiveness is giving up my right to hurt you for hurting me.”

What does it mean to forgive?

To forgive means: to send away, dismiss, set free; to acquit by a verdict; to give no punishment to the guilty person and to view the guilty person as if he is innocent. Another definition means to let loose or set at liberty (a debtor).

Literally to forgive means to “give for.” You give to those who choose not to give. This poem by John Oxenham expresses a profound truth about love and giving:

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.

You actually could keep adding “and give” to last line ad infinitum. For such love expresses endless giving.

Some of the lyrics to the song “Please Forgive Me” reinforce this truth.

God first gave to us so that we might live.

We give to others when we learn to forgive.

Jesus, our example so perfect and true,

Said, “Father, forgive them; they know not what they do.”

I forgive you. I forgive you.

I forgive you. I forgive you.

I forgive you this time. I forgive you each time.

I forgive you.

When we practice forgiving, we apply the principle of “giving and receiving.”

Luke 6:38 relates this principle:

Give, and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom. For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you.”

When we forgive, we also recall another expression of truth by Jesus who said, “It more blessed to give than to receive.” In a situation where one person offers forgiveness and another receives forgiveness. Who is most blessed? I often say, “When you choose to give, you cannot lose, but when you choose not to give you cannot win.” In his book Total Forgiveness, R. T. Kendall states,

“Forgiveness is not total forgiveness until we bless our enemies—and pray for them to be blessed. Forgiving them is a major step; totally forgiving them has fully been achieved when we set God free to bless them. But in this, we are the first to be blessed, and those who totally forgive are blessed the most.”

Dr. Sidney Simon offers this definition of this critical concept:

“Forgiveness is freeing up and putting to better use the energy once consumed by holding grudges, harboring resentments, and nursing unhealed wounds. It is rediscovering the strengths we always had and relocating our limitless capacity to understand and accept other people and ourselves.”

Dr. Robert D. Enright, founder of the International Forgiveness Institute and pioneer researcher with the first scientifically proven forgiveness program in the country, has developed Forgiveness Is a Choice: A Step-by-Step Process for Resolving Anger and Restoring Hope. This study guide demonstrates how forgiveness, when approached in the correct manner, benefits the forgiver far more than the forgiven, indicating that forgiveness can reduce anxiety and depression while increasing self-esteem and hopefulness toward one’s future. The title of Dr. Enright’s workbook also brings to mind this poem:

I Choose to Forgive

 And be kind to one another, tenderhearted,

forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.

Ephesians 4:32 (NKJV)

I choose to forgive and to release from payment,

To clear the account and forego the debt once more.

Though rightfully owed to me, I choose to forgive,

To be gracious, in spite of the ingratitude.

My desire is to be kind and tenderhearted;

Even as God for Christ’s sake has forgiven me,

I rise to the occasion of the Word of God.

Not keeping a record of any wrongs suffered,

I seek to walk in the footsteps of the Savior.

As Joseph, in compassion, assured his brothers

What Satan meant for evil, God fashions for good,

Widen my vision to see from your perspective::

May I also see all things working together

For the good, even in perilous times as these.

We close with Kevin Levar singing “A Heart that Forgives”

Want to do God’s will? Give thanks!

May 7, 2021

The Verse of the Day for May 7, 2021 provides great encouragement for believers to be continually in prayer today and every day. These three inter-related, verses form a three-fold cord that will intertwine with our lives, as we seek to do God’s will. The Amplified Bible’s renders the passage this way:

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18:

16 Rejoice always and delight in your faith; 17 be unceasing and persistent in prayer; 18 in every situation [no matter what the circumstances] be thankful and continually give thanks to God; for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus.

Thanksliving

A recent blog entry talks about the importance of attitude and offers this reminder:

“. . .  attitude begins with gratitude.” J. Rufus Moseley speaks of “an attitude of gratitude and boundless good will.” Thanksgiving is a magnificent and joyful “response-ability”, that is, my ability to respond to God’s love and grace. As believers, we constantly endeavor to demonstrate our gratitude to God from the fullness of our heart, overflowing with thanks. More than merely occasionally expressing how grateful we are, we desire to maintain a continual “attitude of gratitude,” a lifestyle that some have called “thanksliving.

Much than merely saying “thank you” to God, more than simply tithing or sharing of our abundance or giving of our time or material goods, thanksliving is a way of life, expressing gratitude to God in everything we say and do. It is more than the arrival of Friday (TGIF), for which the workaday world thanks God. We must show how grateful we are with all of our being, “Thank God it’s Sunday through Saturday.”

This all-encompassing “attitude of gratitude” involves everything we do and say, just as 1 Thessalonians 5:18 proclaims: “In everything give thanks, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.”

Jesus Christ also tells us that “Men ought always to pray and not to faint,” another reminder “to pray without ceasing.” We combine these two scriptural references to praying in the following scripture memory song:

We ought always to pray and not to faint.

We ought always to pray and not to faint.

We ought always to pray and not to faint.

To pray, pray, pray, pray, pray without ceasing.

As the circumstances of our lives unfold in the midst of the perilous times in which we live, unquestionably, “There is always something to pray about,” as the Word of God encourages us always to be thankful to God,

As We Pray

We give thanks to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,

as we pray always for you,

Colossians 1:3

During these dark times, we focus on the Kingdom,

Established and grounded on a sure foundation.

As we diligently pursue Godly wisdom,

New paths of this Apostolic Reformation

Unfold as the sun rises on the horizon.

Even in turbulent times, we must stay the course.

Aware of consequences of each decision,

We look to God our Father, bountiful resource.

As we renew our minds, we are transformed and change:

With a “kingdom mindset” we now see with new eyes.

Beyond past narrow limits our view is long-range.

We number our days with each sunset and sunrise,

As the Word commands: pray without ceasing, night and day,

Knowing that God always fulfills his will, as we pray.        

We close with one more reminder to “Be joyful always” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18):

Faith: The bedrock of my life

May 1, 2021

The Verse of the Day for May 1, 2021 reminds us of God’s response to those who earnestly seek Him, found in Hebrews 11:6 in the Amplified Bible:

But without faith it is impossible to [walk with God and] please Him, for whoever comes [near] to God must [necessarily] believe that God exists and that He rewards those who [earnestly and diligently] seek Him.

The verse also brings to mind the importance of faith in my life, as I recall the first Bible teaching that  I ever shared as a sophomore in high school, 64 years ago when I was inspired to use Hebrews 11:1 and verse 6 as starting points. Now, I recognize full-well the importance of faith in an even more life-transforming way. In Embracing Your Life Sentence: How to Turn Life’s Greatest Tragedies into Your Greatest Triumphs, I share my holistic strategy to overcome a diagnosis of prostate cancer more than 20 years ago. Chapter 6, “The Faith Factor: Without Faith, It Is Impossible,” discusses faith as a critical component of my response to the diagnosis. Here is an excerpt:

Faith—the Bedrock of My Life

To build a magnificent mansion that will last a lifetime, the builders must begin with a solid foundation. Similarly, to build a purposeful life of success and fulfillment, we must establish a firm foundation upon which we build. For me, faith is the bedrock of life. I define faith as confident assurance, trust, and conviction in God that I will prevail. Faith—“the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen”— operates beyond what we see, for we walk by faith, not by sight.

Faith is a Sine qua non—that without which there is nothing. Faith is the indispensable ingredient in a successful Christian’s life. The scriptures remind us that “Without faith it is impossible to please Him. For he that comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.”

In the midst of thundering echoes of “No!” faith says “Yes!” Voices shout “You can’t!” but faith proclaims, “I can, and I will!” At the point of total exhaustion, faith says, “Take one more step.” After more failed attempts than you can number, faith gives you the courage to try one more time. Faith is tenacious; you hold on and never give up. Although the diagnosis, bank statement or other evidence says, “no way!” faith responds with “God will make a way.”

We can find excellent examples of illustrations of faith in the Bible. We begin with Abraham, the father of faith, who did not stagger at the promise of God that he should become the father of many nations, with descendants without number. Despite the circumstances of this hundred-year-old man with a­ barren wife of comparable age, Abraham grew strong and was empowered by faith. Hebrews 11 recounts the triumphs of men and women of faith in what has become known as the Hall of Faith.

Aside from the Bible, we can glean from the lives of great men and women who achieved impossible dreams. Despite a barrage of reasons why they would fail, they transformed failure into success. Notable examples are the Wright Brothers and countless others, who persevered in faith to accomplish the impossible. We are also surrounded by heroic men and women who live by faith each day to make a difference.

Without faith it is impossible . . . but with faith, the impossible becomes possible. Indeed, as Christian believers, faith is our solid foundation. Like the wise man who built his house on the rock, when the storms of life approach, if we have laid a firm foundation, the house that we build will stand, for faith is our sure foundation.

We close with this musical reminder by Kutless: “What Faith Can Do”

To learn more about faith and my life’s journey, checkout Embracing Your Life Sentence

Available on Amazon.com and wherever books are sold.