Archive for the ‘Bible’ Category

Be still and know God is in control

June 3, 2020

Last night as I went to bed, I was beginning to feel overwhelmed by the television broadcasts of the pressing issues and seemingly endless turmoil engulfing our nation and the world. This morning, I woke up with gratitude in my heart for seeing the light of a new day. As the day unfolded, I remembered words on a silver-framed plaque given to me: “God is in control!” These comforting words remind us to “de-stress” and hold to His unchanging hand that protects and provides for us. Other scriptures also came to mind, beginning with Isaiah 43:10, 13 (Amplified Bible):

‘Do not fear [anything], for I am with you;
Do not be afraid, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you, be assured I will help you;
I will certainly take hold of you with My righteous right hand [a hand of justice, of power, of victory, of salvation].’

13
“For I the LORD your God keep hold of your right hand; [I am the Lord],
Who says to you, ‘Do not fear, I will help you.’

Another verse providing comfort and strength particularly at this time comes from Psalm 46:10 (New Living Translation):

Be still and know that I am God! I will be honored by every nation. I will be honored throughout the world.

The verse begins with a quiet command to be still, literally to take no action and enter a state of tranquility. We recognize, however, following such a simple command is sometime easier said than done. Note the circumstances surrounding one of the first references to the expression found in Exodus 14:14. Here Moses is leading the Children of Israel out of the bondage of Egypt moving toward the Promised Land. Shortly after departing, they encounter a crisis that screamed “No Way!” Straight ahead is the Red Sea, and behind are the armies of Pharaoh in hot pursuit. Moses speaks words of assurance:

Exodus 14:14 (Revised Standard Version):

The LORD will fight for you, and you have only to be still.”

Psalm 37:7 also provides this exhortation [Amplified Bible]:

Be still before the LORD; wait patiently for Him and entrust yourself to Him; Do not fret (whine, agonize) because of him who prospers in his way, Because of the man who carries out wicked schemes.

When believers recognize the magnitude of God’s power and His love toward us, there is never a need to fear even though we may encounter tempestuous times that attempt to shake our very foundations. The Psalmist offers thanks to God for His deliverance out of many troubles:

Psalm 107:28-30

Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble,
and he delivered them from their distress;
29 he made the storm be still,
and the waves of the sea were hushed.
30 Then they were glad because they had quiet,
and he brought them to their desired haven.

As we encounter the storms of life, we can anchor our souls in the Lord, knowing that He is in control as we recall Psalm 46:10, the inspiration for this response:

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.

As we pause and calmly think about that—as we “Selah” this message, we also give heed to these words—

We Will be Still

We will be still and know that God is with us.
We will be still and anchor our souls in peace.
As we trust in the Lord, every storm will cease.

In closing, listen to Covenant Worship who offer this reminder: God is in Control:

Pentecost 2020: Prelude to the Revival of Revivals

May 31, 2020

The Day of Pentecost, as recorded in Acts 2, was an unprecedented move of God of global proportions:

Acts 2:1-8 New Living Translation (NLT)

On the day of Pentecost all the believers were meeting together in one place. 2 Suddenly, there was a sound from heaven like the roaring of a mighty windstorm, and it filled the house where they were sitting. 3 Then, what looked like flames or tongues of fire appeared and settled on each of them. 4 And everyone present was filled with the Holy Spirit and began speaking in other languages, as the Holy Spirit gave them this ability.

5 At that time there were devout Jews from every nation living in Jerusalem. 6 When they heard the loud noise, everyone came running, and they were bewildered to hear their own languages being spoken by the believers.
7 They were completely amazed. “How can this be?” they exclaimed. “These people are all from Galilee, 8 and yet we hear them speaking in our own native languages!

The fire of Pentecost fell and ultimately transformed the lives of those present, and they in turn transformed the world with their witness of the saving grace and power of the Holy Spirit. Since that time, revival fires have burned brilliantly for a season and then subsided and lay smoldering in the frigid dark nights of those who have lost their way.

Paul R. Dienstberger describes the circumstances out of which revivals have been birthed. “…[T]here appeared to be cycles like the book of Judges. First a period of spiritual fervor and blessing, then a falling away, then a revival of spiritual activity, then religious regression, and the cycles continued to repeat the pattern.” In their desperation, while at what the Psalmist declares is “their wit’s end,” the people cry out to God. Such heartfelt cries have gone out at various times for God to “send another Pentecost.” As fervent prayers arise God responds and sends forth times of revival or refreshing.

Elmer L Towns and Douglas Porter in their well-researched work, The Ten Greatest Revivals Ever, offer this definition of the term: “. . . God pouring Himself out on His people.” Revivals are characterized as a “visitations from God,” breaking out in many places around the world, not just in one place. The authors explain these powerful phenomena are not just isolated events but “moves of God” or “times of refreshing from the presence of the Lord.”

Towns and Porter cite the late Dr. J. Edwin Orr, who believes history’s greatest revival took place in the early years of the Twentieth Century, including the Welsh Revival, affecting Great Britain and Europe; the Asuza Street Revival, with its earth-shaking change upon America’s religious landscape, and the Korean Pentecost, the Manchurian Revival, and the Mizo Outpouring, impacting nations of the Far East.

This outpouring occurred in the first part of the Twentieth Century, leading up to what Towns and Porter describe as The Baby Boomer Revival—1965-1975. Also known as the Jesus Movement, this revival started primarily among young people in California and along the East Coast. This period also included the Asbury College Revival, sparking similar revivals in colleges across America and in other parts of the globe. Since that time, believers have been seeking to catch the wave of the next approaching revival movement. As the Twentieth Century drew to a close, various prophetic voices spoke of another move of God, a coming “spiritual tsunami” that would dwarf all preceding movements.

“There has never been a spiritual awakening in any country or locality that did not begin in united prayer,” A.T. Pierson

The present conditions with the COVID-19 global pandemic serve as sparks to ignite a mammoth revival fire of unprecedented magnitude. In light of Pierson’s statement, not only America, but the entire world has been calling out for strength and wisdom to deal with the devastating consequences of the current viral outbreak. One of the global prayer initiatives, UNITE714, focuses on calling out to God and praying 2 Chronicles 7:14 at 7:14 a.m. and 7:14 p.m. daily:

If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.

The prayer movement which brought together churches, pastors, leaders, and individuals across the globe to pray for a miraculous healing of our lands from the coronavirus and a spiritual awakening among the nations, culminated on Pentecost Sunday 2020.

Reflecting on the Day on the Pentecost and its significance to the world inspired this original psalm of praise.

The Song of Pentecost
Acts 2:1-4

Those with ears to hear seek your song of grace.
With no song to soothe the soul, all is lost.
Your melody makes life a quiet place
When the heart sings the song of Pentecost.

There in Eden’s garden fell the first frost
Where stillborn silence chilled the human race.
The purest harmony with God was lost.
Those with ears to hear seek your song of grace.

Voices of patriarchs could not replace
The inner melody from God. At most
Their sound was an echo, only a trace.
With no song to soothe the soul, all is lost.

With the sign of blood upon the doorpost
Moses led Israel toward the promised place.
The lyrics of the Law were their guidepost.
Your melody makes life a quiet place.

Man hears life’s sublime music in the grace
By Jesus Christ, who died and rose to post
A higher law that death cannot erase
When the heart sings the song of Pentecost.

Sound of rushing mighty wind: the signpost,
The prelude to the promised song of grace.
With the outpouring of the Holy Ghost,
The song of Pentecost can now embrace
Those with ears to hear.

One of the songs by Elevation Worship heard during the UNITE714 prayer event reminds us of the transforming power of God: Graves into Gardens:





Protection, Provision, & Perception: Three prayer points

May 25, 2020
Psalm 91:1 expresses the deepest yearning of our hearts at this time.

Recently, Pastor Jim Critcher, one of the ministers at Grace Covenant Church, Chantilly, VA, offered words of exhortation and prayer points as we press into God during the current COVID-19 pandemic. He encouraged us to apply these focal points: Protection, Provision, Perspective and Perception.

Protection

We are to pray Psalm 91 over ourselves, our families and our friends. This Psalm of David provides great comfort and strength in the midst of the chaotic times in which we presently live.

Psalm 91 (NKJV):

Safety of Abiding in the Presence of God

1 He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High
shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.
2 I will say of the LORD, “He is my refuge and my fortress;
My God, in Him I will trust.”
3 Surely He shall deliver you from the snare of the fowler[a]
And from the perilous pestilence.
4 He shall cover you with His feathers,
And under His wings you shall take refuge;
His truth shall be your shield and buckler.
5 You shall not be afraid of the terror by night,
Nor of the arrow that flies by day,
6 Nor of the pestilence that walks in darkness,
Nor of the destruction that lays waste at noonday.
7 A thousand may fall at your side,
And ten thousand at your right hand;
But it shall not come near you.
8 Only with your eyes shall you look,
And see the reward of the wicked.
9 Because you have made the LORD, who is my refuge,
Even the Most High, your dwelling place,
10 No evil shall befall you,
Nor shall any plague come near your dwelling;
11 For He shall give His angels charge over you,
To keep you in all your ways.
12 In their hands they shall bear you up,
Lest you dash your foot against a stone.
13 You shall tread upon the lion and the cobra,
The young lion and the serpent you shall trample underfoot.
14 “Because he has set his love upon Me, therefore I will deliver him;
I will set him on high, because he has known My name.
15 He shall call upon Me, and I will answer him;
I will be with him in trouble;
I will deliver him and honor him.
16 With long life I will satisfy him,
And show him My salvation.”

Provision

We are to pray for God’s provision to be made known around the world.

Psalm 23 (NKJV) reinforces this message:

The LORD is my shepherd;
I shall not want.
2 He makes me to lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside the still waters.
3 He restores my soul;
He leads me in the paths of righteousness
For His name’s sake.
4 Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil;
For You are with me;
Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.
5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
You anoint my head with oil;
My cup runs over.
6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
All the days of my life;
And I will dwell in the house of the LORD Forever.

Perspective & Perception

We are to ask God for an understanding of His perspective in this moment and a perception that would be tied to heaven and not to earth, as we ask God for that which He desires for us, expressed in Ephesians 1:15-17 (NKJV):

Therefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints, 16 do not cease to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers: 17 that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him, 18 the eyes of your [c]understanding being enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, 19 and what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power 20 which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places,21 far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come.

The email message from Pastor Jim inspired this response:

Protection-Provision-Perspective:
Three Ps to Ponder in these Stressful Times


When we dwell in the secret place of the Most-High,
We abide in the shade of the Almighty’s wings
In praise for His protection, our joyful heart sings
To Jehovah, the creator and Earth and sky.
In times of famine or fulness, God meets each need
With His generous provision for daily life.
The love of God sustains, His peace dispels all strife.
Despite countless failures, He helps us to succeed.
Once again, we pray: Open the eyes of our heart
That we might view life from a higher perspective
As we look to your Word with hearts more reflective
Of your unfailing promise never to depart.
We know you protect and provide but help us see
Your hand in making us all you designed us to be.

We close with Esther Mui offering a moving rendition of Psalm 91: My God, In Him I Will Trust:

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

March 26, 2020

Psalm 18_1--3

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

Psalm 18:1-2 (NLT)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We conclude our petitions with this declaration:

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

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

More than the crown

March 23, 2020

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

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

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

Incorruptible crown:

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

1 Corinthians 9:24-25

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

Crown of joy

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

1 Thessalonians 2:19 (NKJV):

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

Crown of righteousness

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

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

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

Crown of life

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

James 1:12:

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

Crown of glory

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

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

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

Much More

His lord said to him, “Well done,

good and faithful servant;

you have been faithful over a few things,

I will make you ruler over many things:

enter into the joy of your lord.”

Matthew 25:23

 

More than mere status or the embrace of the crown

Around the head or glory, honor or renown;

More than medals of gold or laurels that fade

With the thundering applause and ceaseless accolade;

More than any crowning achievement or success

Or the rarest prizes eyes could ever witness;

More than the taste of victory every time you try:

Such alluring sweetness can never satisfy.

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

When we finish the course and cross the finish line,

And stand upon the bema where we shall incline

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

We shall bask in ultimate ecstasy of victory

And savor the goodness of God for all eternity.

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

God is in control: Be still and know

July 6, 2019

Despite the pressing issues and seemingly endless turmoil that seem to engulf our world, we must remember words found on a silver-framed plaque on my desk: “God is in control!” As I begin my day, these words also come to mind, a gentle reminder to “de-stress” and hold to His unchanging hand that protects and provides for us:

Psalm 46:10 (New Living Translation):

“Be still and know that I am God! I will be honored by every nation. I will be honored throughout the world.

The verse begins with a quiet command to be still, literally to take no action and enter a state of tranquility. We recognize, however, following such a simple command is sometime easier said than done. Note the circumstances surrounding one of the first references to the expression found in Exodus 14:14. Here Moses is leading the Children of Israel out of the bondage of Egypt moving toward the Promised Land. Shortly after departing, they encounter a crisis that screamed “No Way!” Straight ahead is the Red Sea, and behind are the armies of Pharaoh in hot pursuit. Moses speaks words of assurance:

Exodus 14:14 (Revised Standard Version):

The LORD will fight for you, and you have only to be still.

Psalm 37:7 also provides this exhortation [Amplified Bible]:

Be still before the LORD; wait patiently for Him and entrust yourself to Him; Do not fret (whine, agonize) because of him who prospers in his way, Because of the man who carries out wicked schemes.

When believers recognize the magnitude of God’s power and His love toward us, there is never a need to fear even though we may encounter tempestuous times that attempt to shake our very foundations. The Psalmist offers thanks to God for His deliverance out of many troubles:

Psalm 107:28-30

Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble,
and he delivered them from their distress;
29 he made the storm be still,
and the waves of the sea were hushed.
30 Then they were glad because they had quiet,
and he brought them to their desired haven.

We realize that storms are inevitable. Dr. David Jeremiah and others speak of the cycle of life, whereby, as believers, we are either during a storm or coming out of a storm and preparing to go through another storm. When we encounter stormy circumstances, remember the account of the Lord Jesus Christ when the Disciples became fearful during a severe storm on the Sea of Galilee and aroused him from sleeping:

Mark 4:39 (New Living Translation)

When Jesus woke up, he rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Silence! Be still!” Suddenly the wind stopped, and there was a great calm.

As we encounter the storms of life we can anchor our souls in the Lord as we recall Psalm 46:10 the inspiration for this response:

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.

As we pause and calmly think about that—as we “Selah” this message, we also give heed to these words—

Be Still

Be still and know that I am God.
Be still my soul and be at peace.
Rise above your circumstances and rest in me.

In closing, listen to Steven Curtis Chapman singing “Be Still and Know.”

No fear in love

June 27, 2019

Recently I reactivated my subscription to Logos Bible software and decided to look at the Verse of the Day for June 27, 2019, taken from Isaiah 41:10-13. Here is the New Living Translation:

10 Don’t be afraid, for I am with you.
Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you.
I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.
11 “See, all your angry enemies lie there,
confused and humiliated.
Anyone who opposes you will die
and come to nothing.
12 You will look in vain
for those who tried to conquer you.
Those who attack you
will come to nothing.
13 For I hold you by your right hand—
I, the LORD your God.
And I say to you,
‘Don’t be afraid. I am here to help you.

In previous blog entries, we note that this passage is one of 365 scriptures said to address the issue of fear, providing yet another reminder to believers: “Do not fear.” We could view these verses as one of our daily memos from God to have no fear.

These words of great comfort also provide the lyrics to a Scripture Memory Song:

Do Not Fear

Do not fear, for I am with you; do not be afraid, for I am your God;
I will strengthen you, I will help you,
I will strengthen you, I will help you,
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, “Do not fear; I will help you.”

Recognizably, 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 can run rampant to limit and inhibit.

As with each of the toxic emotions of life, we want to counteract their harmful effects with the proper remedy. When we encounter a negative emotion, we are encouraged “to move in the opposite spirit. In terms of our responding to fear by moving in the opposite spirit,” we find that love is the perfect antidote.

The book of I John 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, lacking 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.

When an individual is “perfected in love” and walks in or demonstrates that love, there is 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.

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;
A true love that we live and not one we just speak of.
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:

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”

Reflections on My 77th Birthday

June 17, 2019

Today, June 17, 2019, marks another doubly lovely “Good News Day” for Dr. J as we celebrate my 77th birthday. E.W. Bullinger in his extensive study Numbers in Scripture: Its Supernatural Design and Spiritual Significance, speaks of “seven” as the great number of “spiritual perfection.” He goes on to note that the number seventy is also another combination of two perfect numbers, seven and ten. We see something of the significance of their sum when Bullinger mentions that “seventeen” stands out very prominently as a noteworthy number which is not a multiple of any other number, and therefore, it has no factors. Hence, it is called one of the prime (or indivisible) numbers. What is more, it is the seventh in the list of the prime numbers. When seven is multiplied by ten, the product reveals the importance of each in an intensified form, emphasizing both spirit and order.

In the past, I would observe my birthday with a time to reflect and celebrate the goodness of God in sparing my life to see another year. I rejoice with an overwhelming sense of gratitude to God. To say that I have been blessed, not just this past year, but over the past 77 years, is quite the understatement. How grateful I am for all that God has done for me. At such a time as this, I recall the opening verses of Psalm 103, one of my all-time favorites:

[A Psalm] of David—Amplified Bible

1 Bless (affectionately, gratefully praise) the Lord, O my soul; and all that is [deepest] within me, bless His holy name!
2 Bless (affectionately, gratefully praise) the Lord, O my soul, and forget not [one of] all His benefits—
3 Who forgives [every one of] all your iniquities, Who heals [each one of] all your diseases,
4 Who redeems your life from the pit and corruption, Who beautifies, dignifies, and crowns you with loving-kindness and tender mercy;
5 Who satisfies your mouth [your necessity and desire at your personal age and situation] with good so that your youth, renewed, is like the eagle’s [strong, overcoming, soaring]!

Most often in my waxing reflective, I also wax poetic and compose a psalm of celebration. This morning I noticed a framed quotation hanging on the wall, and it inspired this response:

Still the Student Teacher

To learn and never be filled is wisdom;
To teach and never be weary is love.
Anonymous

Reflecting with joy unspeakable, my heart overflows
As I read the lines of a plaque given decades ago.
The author of such profound words I do not know,
But I marvel they so mirror the desires of my heart
Given by the Lord as I continue to learn and to grow
In Christ, as I follow in his steps, walking in the light
Along the path of wisdom, while numbering all my days.
Once more, I strive to comprehend my new identity,
Unfolding as a scroll from faith to faith, glory to glory
And victory to victory with each breath-taking sunrise.
I am grateful for the bounty of seventy-seven years
As I enter the threshold of another new season.
Fueled by this passion to learn and to teach and serve even more,
I am still watching, waiting to see what God has in store.

We close as Family Radio Broadcasting offers a musical reminder: “Teach Us to Number our Days.”

Not Just a Survivor on Cancer Suvivors Day

June 2, 2019

The blog entry for June 2, 2019, the first Sunday in June, recognizes National Cancer Survivors Day. This observance has been set aside as a “Celebration of Life” for those who have survived a diagnosis of cancer. In events conducted in communities all over the nation and across the globe, those who celebrate show the world that life, indeed, after a cancer diagnosis can be fruitful and rewarding.

This post focuses on what I call the Word of the Day, in this case, “survivor.” In its most literal sense, the term means “one who survives.” FreeDictionary.com offers this series of definitions of the verb “to survive” as an action verb that has an object to receive its action. In this case, to survive cancer:

1. To live longer than; outlive.
2. To live, persist, or remain usable through any adverse situation.
3. To cope with (a trauma or setback); persevere after.

The verb is derived from Latin: supervivere: combining the prefix super + vīvere, to live.

Having been diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2000, I have come to understand what it means to be a cancer survivor on a profoundly personal level. I recognize a “survivor” as one who, after encountering an extremely adverse situation, is revived to not only survive but to thrive. Jesus Christ, the ultimate example of a “survivor,” endured the cross, despising the shame, and after undergoing unimaginable physical abuse, along with emotional and psychological trauma of the highest degree, arose triumphantly over death itself. Like Christ, I have been revived not only to survive but to thrive, having been transformed from victim to victor.

The true essence of who I am as a believer in Christ is expressed in Romans 8:37, the verse introducing the final section of my newly published book based on my experience with cancer: Embracing Your Life Sentence: How to Turn Life’s Greatest Tragedies into Your Greatest Triumphs:

Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors, through him that loved us.

The Amplified Bible puts it this way:

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].

The expression “more than conquerors” is translated from the Greek verb hupernikao, a compound word with the prefix huper—a form of the same prefix found in “survive”—meaning over, beyond, above exceed, more than. Today, everyday expressions of the preposition would say “over and above” or “above and beyond.” The stem would be nikao, translated “to conquer, prevail, overcome, and overpower.” Although translated as such, being “more than conquerors” or “super conquerors,” is not who we are, but it is what we do, how we live. We entirely and overwhelmingly conqueror in the present tense with continuous action; we prevail mightily every day of our lives.

The book closes with an original poem of celebration with Romans 8:37 as its introduction, expressing my new identity in light of the Word for the Day for Cancer Survivors Day:

Embracing Your Life Sentence–Not Just a Survivor

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–Not just a survivor, 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:
Not just a survivor, 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:
Not just a survivor, more than a conqueror.

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

For more details about how to obtain a copy of Embracing Your Life Sentence, go to lonnelledwardjohnson.com. You can also get more information here on Dr. J’s Apothecary Shoppe. Not just on Cancer Survivors Day, but as believers, we are more than conquerors every day and in every way.

New view of new heaven and new earth

June 1, 2019

Revised and reposted from a year ago is The Verse of the Day for June 1. Here is a familiar passage from the last chapter of the Bible, which provides a view of a new heaven and a new earth wherein dwells righteousness:

Revelation 21:2-4

And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven like a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. I heard a loud shout from the throne, saying, “Look, God’s home is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them. He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.”

Verse 5 goes on to reveal that God makes all things new:

And the one sitting on the throne said, “Look, I am making everything new!” And then he said to me, “Write this down, for what I tell you is trustworthy and true.”

I recall reciting this particular passage in remarks that I shared during my father’s funeral, as I concluded by looking ahead and projecting toward the future with hope. At the time, my wife was involved in planning a family reunion for her mother’s family that would take place the next month. Such an occasion reminded me of the ultimate family reunion, the marriage supper of the Lamb described in Revelation 21:1-4:

The passage from the last chapter in the Bible relates to hope not in the broad, general sense as defined as “an expectation of a future good,” but it alludes to “the Hope,” defined as the return of Jesus Christ, an event that precedes the marriage supper of the Lamb. Indeed, “the Hope” continues to be a theme that energizes believers despite these perilous times that engulf the world, as Titus 2:13 reveals:

Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ;

I concluded my remarks at my father’s home-going service by reciting I Thessalonians 5:13-18, another familiar passage related to the Hope:

13 But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope.14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus.
15 For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep.
16 For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first.
17 Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord.
18 Therefore comfort one another with these words.

In April of this year, I published an article in Medium.com about being a poet strongly influenced by music, especially jazz. I concluded my discussion about “the new heaven and the new earth,” as I envision this celestial scene when I express my gratitude to God for something that means so much to me:

Thank God for the Music

Music is God’s gift to man, the only art of Heaven
given to earth, the only art of earth we take to Heaven.

Walter Savage Landor

Day by day melodies overflow and flood our soul
With lyrics to touch the heart as God inspires them.
We compose reprises to play until the day
We sing our new song in the New Jerusalem
When all the chords of heaven and earth crescendo
In praise before the glory of the Lamb of God.
We will stand before Him and with our eyes, we will see
The jeweled walls of heaven and the streets of gold
And the Holy City descending as a bride,
Adorned in royal splendor to meet her bridegroom.
We will celebrate God’s grace at the wedding feast
And worship freely in His glorious presence
As we join in chorus with the host of heaven
To thank God for the music and the gift of song.

Inspired by Revelation 21:3-5 Esther Mui Song offers “Behold, I Make All Things New” Christian Praise Worship Lyrics: