Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Faith of our Fathers and our Legacies

June 18, 2017

Today is the third Sunday in June, June 18, Father’s Day 2017. This is day of commemoration and celebration to honor fathers–whether as Stepfathers, Uncles, Grandfathers, or “Big Brothers” or adult male family friends—we recognize all men who have acted as father figures in our lives.

The actual celebration of Father’s Day in the United States goes back to the early part of the 20th Century, when Sonora Smart Dodd, Mrs. John B. Dodd, of Washington State, first proposed the idea of a “father’s day” in 1909. Mrs. Dodd wanted a special day to honor her father, William Smart, a Civil War veteran, who was widowed when his wife (Mrs. Dodd’s mother) died in childbirth with their sixth child. Mr. Smart was left to raise the newborn and his other five children by himself on a rural farm in eastern Washington State. After Mrs. Dodd became an adult, she realized the strength and selflessness her father had shown in raising his children as a single parent.

The first Father’s Day was observed on June 19, 1910 in Spokane Washington. At about the same time in various towns and cities across America other people were beginning to celebrate a “father’s day.” In 1924 President Calvin Coolidge supported the idea of a national Father’s Day. Finally in 1966 President Lyndon Johnson signed a presidential proclamation declaring the 3rd Sunday of June as Father’s Day, which is also recognized in a number of countries around the world and celebrated at various times throughout the year. Roses are the Father’s Day flowers: red to be worn for a living father and white if the father has died.

I recall the lyrics to one of the stalwart hymns of the Christian Church sung so many times as a child and as an adult, which seems most appropriate in light of recently sharing my personal testimony involving the importance of faith in life.

Faith of Our Fathers

Faith of our fathers, living still,
In spite of dungeon, fire, and sword;
Oh, how our hearts beat high with joy
Whene’er we hear that glorious Word!
Faith of our fathers, holy faith!
We will be true to thee till death.

Faith of our fathers, we will strive
To win all nations unto thee;
And through the truth that comes from God,
We all shall then be truly free.
Faith of our fathers, holy faith!
We will be true to thee till death.

Faith of our fathers, we will love
Both friend and foe in all our strife;
And preach thee, too, as love knows how
By kindly words and virtuous life.
Faith of our fathers, holy faith!
We will be true to thee till death.

As believers we have a remarkable inheritance of faith, the Faith of our Fathers, that has been passed down to us from countless generations, going back to Abraham, the father of faith, passed on to the mighty men of faith of the Old Testament all the way through to Jesus Christ, for we have received the “faith of Jesus Christ.” Moreover we are surrounded by the great cloud of witnesses spoken of in the New Testament and giants of faith who have lived beyond the first Century, as we are still inspired by the lives of great men of faith today. Men of faith inspire faith in others, as this original Father’s Day poem speaks of that priceless inheritance passed on:

Legacies

I

Faithful and true heroes ever remain
And generate legacies we pass on
To each generation, father to son,
Heart to heart. The light of life left behind
Ever shines to brighten the path of truth,
Raised and then passed on from elder to youth.

II

Faithful and true heroes ever remain for all
Who hear the mandate and rise to answer God’s call.
Our lives of service are legacies we pass on
To the next generation, from father to son.
With the love of Christ in us, we tear down each wall.
We rally to support a brother should he fall.
Our ears have been pierced with the sharp tip of an awl:
A covenant of blood ever seals our union.

Faithful and true heroes ever remain.
Spiritual athletes excel beyond glove or ball.
They seek to bring out the best, as iron sharpens iron,
Striving to finish strong and pass on the baton.
On the shoulders of our fathers we now stand tall
to view the future where greater victories are won.
Faithful and true heroes ever remain.

This poem composed on Father’s Day fifteen years ago takes on even more significance this year with the birth of Kingston Edward Simkins, my first grandson, who was born August 11, 2016. This experience has heightened my awareness of “Legacies” and the importance leaving behind a legacy as a faithful man of God. This song by Nicole Nordeman expresses the deepest yearning of my soul: “Legacy”

Birthday Reflections: A new Song

June 17, 2017

Each day I try to begin with a time prayer, offering thanks to God for awakening me to see the dawning of a brand a new day. Today, June 17, 2017, by the grace of God, marks my 75th birthday. I now understand to a much greater degree the words of the elderly from my youthful days of growing up in the Church, as they expressed their gratitude to God for being “clothed in their right mind, with a reasonable portion of health and strength.” Oh, yes, I am truly grateful for being blessed with “a healthy body and a sound mind.”

As is so often the case, when waxing reflective, I also wax poetic. In many instances I have composed a new poetic piece on my birthday. In fact, even before identifying the poet coming alive inside me, the first poem I intentionally wrote was an occasional piece entitled “Upon Turning Twenty-one.” Today that tradition continues as I would like to share a birthday medley of poems of celebration: Something old, something new, and something laced with a taste of the blues:

A few months ago, a dear friend, spiritual daughter, fellow writer with a passion for the written and spoken word, Johari Parnell Mitchell introduced me to a new poetic form called the “Golden Shovel.” I was intrigued by the phrase “Golden Shovel” which I recognized as part of the subtitle of a celebrated poem by Gwendolyn Brooks: “We Real Cool—The Pool Players. Seven at the Golden Shovel.” Johari shared her excitement with having read a collection of “Golden Shovel” poems by Nikki Grimes, One Last Word. She talks about this fascinating book on her Facebook discussion “The Writing Life.” Her infectious enthusiasm stimulated me with a desire to try out this new form. Before the weekend was over, Johari had given me a copy of the book, and I left with a determination to master this new form which I later found had these stipulations:

The poet is to take a short poem in its entirety or selected lines from a poem by a poet whose work the writer admires. Each word in the line or lines is to serve as the end word in the new poem. The words should be kept in the same order. The topic of the new poem does not have be the same as the poem offering the end words.

In my haste to write in this new form, I selected one of my own pieces, not realizing that it should have been the work of another poet; not that I do not admire my own works, I simply did not think about that. As it turned out, the poem I selected was a Miltonic sonnet composed on my 40th birthday. The “Golden Shovel” I completed used the same end words as end words as well as the same beginning words in the same order, resulting in a kind of “book-end sonnet” of sorts. In any case, I had fun, and I share this work, combining “something old and something new”:

I Sing in My Garden

Oh, sing unto the LORD a new song!
Sing to the LORD, all the earth.
Sing to the LORD, bless his name;
Proclaim the good news from day to day.
Psalm 96:1-2

I sing in my garden and reap the good,
The bounty of living these forty years.
Each note seems to evoke a stream of tears
That fall, not because of some somber mood
But flow from a heart filled with gratitude.
The folk song of the farmer thrills my ears
Each time plowing, planting or harvest nears.
I compose my song, having understood
Lyrics I did not know when I was young,
When life was uncertain, my song unsure.
Now from my green garden I garner truth.
A song of conviction flows from my tongue.
I am seasoned and strengthened to endure,
Knowing the best lines are yet to be sung.

June 17, 1982

 

I Sing in My Garden a New Song

He has given me a new song to sing,
A hymn of praise to our God.
Many will see what he has done and be amazed.
They will put their trust in the Lord.
Psalm 40:3

Good, so good, O taste and see the Lord is good.
Years, days of praise in the endless flow of years.
Tears, from joy and pain fill my bottle of tears.
Mood indigo rises to a brand new mood.
Gratitude–Bedrock of life is gratitude.
Ears placed near the lips of God, listening ears.
Nears—Look up for the day of redemption nears.
Understood—understand, then be understood.
Young at heart: while I mature, I am still young.
Unsure—once–Now rooted, no longer unsure.
Truth makes me free. I am free in Christ, the Truth.
Tongue—all my days I praise with more than my tongue.
Endure—victory awaits all who will endure.
Sung–soon and very soon a new song will be sung.

June 17, 2017

The final selection in my birthday medley is a blues sonnet inspired by Psalm 1, the first passage of scripture I ever committed to memory back in the day in the mid-fifties as an adolescent. The first Psalm, which I still know by heart, continues to be a source of encouragement and strength:

Talk about a Man
Psalm 1

Talk about a man that show is blessed—I’m the man.

Talk about a man that show is blessed—I’m the man.

At first I couldn’t, but now I see God’s master plan.

 

To study the Word of Life show is my delight.

To study the Word of Life show is my delight.

I’m all the time thinking about it—day and night.

 

Planted by the rivers of water, my roots reach deep.

Planted by the rivers of water, my roots reach deep.

By the still waters the Good Shepherd leads his sheep.

 

In God all His promises are yes and amen.

In God all His promises are yes and amen.

I have been so blessed since I can remember when.

 

The Word of God soothes my soul like a healing balm.

I’m the man they talking about in that First Psalm.

 

From the depths of my soul, I offer thanks to God for the blessing of knowing Jesus Christ as my savior and having experienced the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge. All that I write on my birthday or any day for that matter, indeed, all that I do is an attempt to express to God, my Father, just how grateful I am for all He has done for me. Recently I discovered this song which expresses in part my thoughts today, as David Huff offers “My Song of Praise”:

Godly parents and their children

June 15, 2017

In anticipation of Father’s Day, which occurs on the third Sunday in June, the Verse of the Day for June 15, 2017 is taken from Proverbs 23:24 in the Message Bible:

[Buy Wisdom, Education, Insight ] [16] Listen with respect to the father who raised you, and when your mother grows old, don’t neglect her. Buy truth—don’t sell it for love or money; buy wisdom, buy education, buy insight. Parents rejoice when their children turn out well; wise children become proud parents. So make your father happy! Make your mother proud!

Here is how the New Living Translation puts it:

Proverbs 23:23-25

23 Get the truth and never sell it;
also get wisdom, discipline, and good judgment.
24 The father of godly children has cause for joy.
What a pleasure to have children who are wise.
25 So give your father and mother joy!
May she who gave you birth be happy.

The relationship between godly parents and their godly offspring is one of mutual joy, deep satisfaction, and utmost pleasure. Children seek to bring a smile to their parents’ faces, as they yearn to hear parents express some variation of these affirming words, “I am so proud of you.” Similarly, Jesus Christ in his relationship with his heavenly Father, seeks to please Him, “. . . to do the will of Him who sent Me and to completely finish His work.” As the Lord is embarking upon the final phase of his ministry on earth, a voice from heaven speaks, saying, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased and delighted!” (Matthew 6:13—Amplified Bible).

This discussion occurring prior to Father’s Day brings to mind a conversation I had with my father a number of years before his passing in 1996. The situation inspired the following poem which captures the essence of what the Verse of the Day is attempting to convey:

The Perfect Father’s Day Gift

There was a time when I would stretch my mind,
Make a list and try to think of the perfect gift,
As we approached Father’s Day, the third Sunday in June.
Now let me see what will it be?
I know. . . a portable radio. . .
What about a shirt—extra-large—to fit?
Pajamas, house shoes, another Dopp kit?
Each year I would really try, as I resolved:
No more cologne—not another tie!
One year I ran out of ideas, and so I asked,
“Dad, what do you want for Father’s Day?”
He thought awhile and in his own quiet way,
He smiled and had this to say:
“Just between me and you,
Here’s what you can do.
Just keep me proud of you.
Son, just keep me proud of you.”

Now when my daughters ask,
What can they get me for Father’s Day,
I fondly remember, and I smile and say,
“The words of your Grandpa are still true.
As he said to me, so I say to you:
‘Just between me and you,
Here’s what you can do.
Just keep me proud of you.
Girls, just keep me proud of you.”

We close with “Just to Please You Father” by Fighting Instinct:

Psalm 90: A Prayer of Moses, the Man of God

June 7, 2017

Found in Psalm 90:2, 4 is the Verse of the Day for June 7, 2017:

Here is the New King James Version:

Before the mountains were brought forth,
Or ever You had formed the earth and the world,

Even from everlasting to everlasting, You are God.
For a thousand years in Your sight
Are like yesterday when it is past,
And like a watch in the night.

Psalm 90, in its entirety, is labeled “A Prayer of Moses, the Man of God.” Described as “the meekest man on the face of the earth,” Moses had this distinction: “The Lord would speak to Moses face to face, as one speaks to a friend.” The Psalmist declares that the Lord made known His “acts” unto the Children of Israel, but He made known His “ways” unto Moses. In a similar way as believers we also aspire to have such an intimate relationship with the Lord, as expressed in this way:

The Way You Speak

So the LORD spoke to Moses face to face,
as a man speaks to his friend. . . .
Exodus 33:11a

Open our ears to do more than just hear
Your voice but also teach us to listen.
Though the flow of tears at times may glisten,
Gently teach us to recognize those clear,
Familiar words you whisper in our ears.
As our teacher, help us not to hasten
Each lesson, even the times you chasten,
While reassuring and holding us near.
In seeking to dwell in your hiding place,
Our deepest yearning is to understand,
As we listen to hear each word you say.
Even as Moses knew you face to face,
So we long to know the way you speak and
Not question nor doubt but only obey.

Take a look at this rendering of Psalm 90 in the New Living Translation:

A prayer of Moses, the man of God.

1 Lord, through all the generations
you have been our home!
2 Before the mountains were born,
before you gave birth to the earth and the world,
from beginning to end, you are God.
3 You turn people back to dust, saying,
“Return to dust, you mortals!”
4 For you, a thousand years are as a passing day,
as brief as a few night hours.
5 You sweep people away like dreams that disappear.
They are like grass that springs up in the morning.
6 In the morning it blooms and flourishes,
but by evening it is dry and withered.
7 We wither beneath your anger;
we are overwhelmed by your fury.
8 You spread out our sins before you—
our secret sins—and you see them all.
9 We live our lives beneath your wrath,
ending our years with a groan.
10 Seventy years are given to us!
Some even live to eighty.
But even the best years are filled with pain and trouble;
soon they disappear, and we fly away.
11 Who can comprehend the power of your anger?
Your wrath is as awesome as the fear you deserve.
12 Teach us to realize the brevity of life,
so that we may grow in wisdom.
13 O LORD, come back to us!
How long will you delay?
Take pity on your servants!
14 Satisfy us each morning with your unfailing love,
so we may sing for joy to the end of our lives.
15 Give us gladness in proportion to our former misery!
Replace the evil years with good.
16 Let us, your servants, see you work again;
let our children see your glory.
17 And may the Lord our God show us his approval
and make our efforts successful.
Yes, make our efforts successful!

We conclude with a powerful musical rendition of Psalm 90 (A Thousand Years} by James Block.

Be still and know that I am God

May 23, 2017

Psalm 46--10a

A new day dawns after the horrific unfolding of events taking place in Manchester, Great Britain on yesterday. As I begin to pray, I look at the bookshelf above my desk and notice a silver-framed plaque with the words “God is in control.” This quotation is a comforting reminder during these stressful, perilous times described as “difficult to deal with.” The quote also brings to mind Psalm 46: 10:

Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth.

Here is the entire psalm taken from the Amplified Bible:

Psalm 46

1GOD IS our Refuge and Strength [mighty and impenetrable to temptation], a very present and well-proved help in trouble.

2Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change and though the mountains be shaken into the midst of the seas,

3Though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling and tumult. Selah [pause, and calmly think of that]!

4There is a river whose streams shall make glad the city of God, the holy place of the tabernacles of the Most High.

5God is in the midst of her, she shall not be moved; God will help her right early [at the dawn of the morning].

6The nations raged, the kingdoms tottered and were moved; He uttered His voice, the earth melted.

7The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our Refuge (our Fortress and High Tower). Selah [pause, and calmly think of that]!

8Come, behold the works of the Lord, Who has wrought desolations and wonders in the earth.

9He makes wars to cease to the end of the earth; He breaks the bow into pieces and snaps the spear in two; He burns the chariots in the fire.

10Let be and be still, and know (recognize and understand) that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations! I will be exalted in the earth!

11The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our Refuge (our High Tower and Stronghold). Selah [pause, and calmly think of that]!

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

Be Still and Know

Be still, and know that I am God;

I will be exalted among the nations,

I will be exalted in the earth!

Psalms 46:10

 

Be still and know that I am God, that I am the eternal one.

Though your cherished dreams seem to have faded and gone

The way of all flesh, my divine plans you shall see,

As I weave the tapestry of eternity.

 

Though you seem forsaken, you are never alone,

Even when the burden of dark sin cannot atone,

And the hearts of men have hardened and turned to stone:

Be still and know that I am God.

 

Though storms may overwhelm and friends may abandon

When enemies surface to assault flesh and bone.

Darkness reveals the lights I have called you to be.

My Word strengthens and comforts and helps you to see

I am your refuge and strength, the Almighty One:

Be still and know that I am God.

As we pause and calmly think about that—as we “selah” this Psalm, 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 circumstance and rest in Me.

We are encouraged by Steven Curtis Chapman singing “Be Still and Know.”

Lose your mind: renew your mind

April 28, 2017

Philippians 2--5

The Verse of the Day for April 28, 2017 comes from Philippians 2:5-8 in the familiar King James Version:

Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.

The opening phrase of the passage offers this exhortation to believers in the Amplified Bible:

Philippians 2:5 (AMP)

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 expression brings to mind similar words of encouragement “to put on the Lord Jesus Christ” and “to be renewed in the spirit of your mind.” Believers must learn to put off their former way of thinking and put on or develop new thinking habits or patterns based on the Word of God.

I recall an experience when I first began studying and applying the Scriptures in my life in a serious and consistent manner. I was in the Army, and one of my buddies noticed how intently I studied the Bible, as I shared my enthusiasm for what I was learning. One day he pulled me to the side and said in a serious manner, “Johnson, if you keep studying that Bible so much, you’re going to lose your mind.” Immediately I was offended and remarked, “I studied harder and for a longer period of time when I was in college, and I didn’t lose my mind. Why do you think it’s going to happen to me now?” I dismissed his remarks and kept on pursuing spiritual principles, applying them to my daily life. After a short period of time, however, his words came true. I did start to lose my mind, but I also recognized that I had replaced my old mindset with a new way of thinking, as I put on the mind of Christ.

This ongoing, lifelong spiritual process is called “renewing the mind.” Christians are instructed not to be conformed to the thinking patterns of the world but to be transformed by the renewing of their minds (Romans 12:2).

This section of scripture is associated with the familiar process of metamorphosis. Translated from the Greek word metamorphoo, the phrase is also used to express that as believers strive to manifest more of Christ in their lives, they are also “changed” into the same image by means of this ongoing process.

Butterflies as they undergo metamorphosis are transformed from egg to larva or caterpillar to chrysalis (cocoon) to butterfly (adult). Christian believers also continually undergo a similar spiritual transformation as they mature in Christ. The essence of this amazing process is expressed this way:

We put off the old, put on the new, and leave the past behind.

As we follow Christ, we are renewed in the spirit of our mind.

As believers, we are encouraged to change of our minds and develop new thinking patterns. We are to put off the old man and to put on the new man, as we put away lying or any other ungodly practices. We personally apply these principles of renewing our minds when we determine that we will change directions in our lives and start following this directive to

Put off, put on, put away

And do not be conformed to this,

but be transformed by the renewing of your mind,

that you may prove what is that good and acceptable

 and perfect will of God.

Romans 12:2 (NKJV)

 

Moving in the opposite spirit, not in hate

But walking in love, being kind, tenderhearted;

Not being anxious but learning to patiently wait;

To quench the fiery tongue before it gets started;

Never spewing venom but with our mouths confess

The truth of the Word of God that we might make known

What God declares we are, to always seek to bless

And reap a great harvest from good seed being sown;

To reverse the curse and counter iniquity,

God orders our steps, and we choose the path of peace:

Not to seeking revenge but forgiving each enemy,

For all giving assures that favor will increase;

Renewed in the spirit of our mind night and day,

Being transformed “to put off, put on, put away.”

Jody McBryer concludes with a powerful rendering of “The Mind of Christ”:

 

 

 

National Poetry Month: Let’s celebrate

April 21, 2017

National poetry month

Inaugurated by the Academy of American Poets in 1996, National Poetry Month is now held every April, when publishers, booksellers, literary organizations, libraries, schools and poets around the country come together to celebrate poetry and its vital place in American culture. Thousands of businesses and non-profit organizations participate through readings, festivals, book displays, workshops, and other events.

As a practicing poet who writes from a decidedly Christian perspective, I recognize a spiritual connection with poetry and would like to share comments from a radio broadcast “Poetry and Praise” which I hosted more than a dozen years ago:

Samuel Taylor Coleridge, the famous English Romantic poet, defined this literary art form as the “best words in their best order.” Poetry is an expression of the heart.  As Longfellow said, “Look into thine heart and write.”  Another poet said, “When you have something special you want to say, poetry helps you say it in a special way.” Certain qualities make this literary expression called poetry “special.” Poetry generally has rhythm or meter, sometimes in a specific recurring metrical pattern but not always, as with free verse.  Poetry can also have rhyme but then again, not always.  As the late Roger Miller once stated:

Roses are red, Violets are blue.

Some poems rhyme and some poems don’t.

Finally poetry has meaning or significance and a remarkable ability to evoke a mood or attitude, using figurative language to paint unforgettable mind pictures. The Roman poet Horace stated that “The purpose of literature is to instruct the mind and delight the spirit.” Robert Frost said, “Poetry begins in delight and ends with wisdom.”  Poetry causes you to think and to remember what you didn’t know you knew.

Most poetry is relatively short: a compact unit of lines that reach deep into the heart. Whether the words of the Psalmist who speaks, “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. . .”  or the line from the classic love sonnet from Shakespeare, “Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?” or the powerful imagery of James Weldon Johnson’s “The Creation” or Dr. Maya Angelou’s “Phenomenal Woman” or the closing lines of “The Road Not Taken” by Robert Frost or lines from your favorite poem, poetry has remarkable power to touch the heart and soul in an unforgettable way, which we celebrate, especially during the month of April.

I encourage each of our readers to join me in the celebration of poetry throughout this month: write a poem, learn a new poem by heart—recite a poem and share it with a friend. Why not check out a book of poetry; make a new friend with a poet whose work you enjoy or someone whom you’ve heard about. Do something poetic that you’ve never done and celebrate God’s goodness in some way involving poetry.

As born-again believers, Christians are also said to be new creations in Christ, and we praise God for having given us all things richly to enjoy. Indeed, 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 the English word poem, which in the minds of many people is always a “masterpiece” or glorious creation. So that the people of God represent the real poetry of life, for which we praise God.  Accordingly, we should not just wait until April to extol the beauty of poetry, but recognize and celebrate this cherished literary form every day. Make every day a

Good News Day

 This is the day the LORD has made;

we will rejoice and be glad in it.

Psalm 118:24

 

It’s a good news day

no blues day

new shoes

no way to lose

What a good news day

 

It’s a great day

I can’t wait day

lift your voice

let’s rejoice

Good God, a good news day

 

It’s a payday

goin my way day

no nay–all yea

what you say

Such a good news day

 

It’s a live it up day

overflowin cup day

It’s a bright and bubbly

doubly lovely

Show-nuff good news day

Take a look at and listen to this video promotion of National Poetry Month from Museum of the Bible, showing the use of Hebrew poetry in the Old Testament:

Enough is enough: More than enough

April 2, 2017

Matthew 20_17-19

From the Gospel of Matthew with its focus on Jesus Christ as the King comes a passage in which the Lord tells the Twelve of events that will transpire in the days ahead:

Matthew 20:17-19 (NLT):

[Jesus Again Predicts His Death] As Jesus was going up to Jerusalem, he took the twelve disciples aside privately and told them what was going to happen to him. “Listen,” he said, “we’re going up to Jerusalem, where the Son of Man will be betrayed to the leading priests and the teachers of religious law. They will sentence him to die. Then they will hand him over to the Romans to be mocked, flogged with a whip, and crucified. But on the third day he will be raised from the dead.”

The Verse of the Day for April 2, 2017 begins with conjunction “and,” the most frequently used word in the King James Version of the Bible, being used 28,364 times.  The figure of speech known as polysyndeton involves using “many ands” where emphasis is placed on each item listed in any series connected by the conjunction. Here “and” is used nine times in the three verses where Jesus prepares his disciples for the forthcoming events which are utterly unthinkable in their minds.

The passage is rendered this way in the Amplified Bible:

17 And as Jesus was going up to Jerusalem, He took the twelve disciples aside along the way and said to them,

18 Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be handed over to the chief priests and scribes; and they will sentence Him to death

19 And deliver Him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and whipped and crucified, and He will be raised [to life] on the third day.

In reflecting upon the horrific circumstances leading up the crucifixion of the Lord Jesus Christ and his subsequent resurrection, we attempt to comprehend to a limited degree the unimaginable anguish and suffering that the Savior took upon himself on our behalf. The scriptures speak of “Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith . . . who for the joy that was set before him, endured the cross, despising the shame. . . .” As we read about or view in a film or some other graphic portrayal of his Passion during this season of the year, we are sometimes tempted to scream, “Enough is enough.” Such sentiments express the intensity of the suffering the Savior willingly endured:

More than Enough

How much is enough?

Can you measure the length of each scar on his back?

Can you trace the depth of each gash and follow each track?

Can you extract and analyze sweat, like drops of blood?

Can you remove water and blood and then weigh the good?

Can you collect the tears and hold them in a vial?

Can you assess the shame and disgrace of trumped up trial?

How much is enough?

One more mocking bow, one more man to spit in his face,

One more taunting gesture, one more mark of disgrace.

One more lash, one more gash, one more blow to the head,

As he endured the cross, despising the shame as he bled.

To smash once more, one blow short of certain death.

He cried, “It is finished” then yielded his last breath.

How much is enough?

Who can assess the worth of his blood and establish a price

For the precious Lamb of God, unblemished, sinless sacrifice?

God’s bounty of mercy is sufficient. His deep love will suffice.

Despite the deficit, God balances each account to set it right.

Where sin once had free reign, now grace has abounded instead.

The Lord himself provided the Lamb, whom He raised from the dead.

In His gracious goodness Jehovah-Jireh reminds us

That He is more than enough, yes, so much more than enough.

Listen to this corresponding musical composition, “More than Enough” by the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir:

Despite the devastating circumstances that will occur, the Lord proclaims a triumphant conclusion with “and the third day he shall rise again.” We take great comfort in knowing that God, our gracious Father, always has the last say so. . . Amen          !

Watching, waiting, seeking

March 27, 2017

The Verse of the Day for March 27, 2017 is taken from Psalm 62:7 in the New International Version:

My salvation and my honor depend on God;
he is my mighty rock, my refuge.

Three other versions of the Bible provide additional insight into the Verse of the Day:
Amplified Bible:

On God my salvation and my glory rest; He is my rock of [unyielding] strength, my refuge is in God.

New Living Translation:

My victory and honor come from God alone. He is my refuge, a rock where no enemy can reach me.

The Message Bible

My help and glory are in God —granite-strength and safe-harbor-God— So trust him absolutely, people; lay your lives on the line for him. God is a safe place to be.

The foundation for the confident expression of strength that believers receive from God who is our refuge is established from the very beginning of Psalm 62 which makes this declaration:

Psalm 62:1-2 (NIV):

Truly my soul finds rest in God;
my salvation comes from him.
2 Truly he is my rock and my salvation;
he is my fortress, I will never be shaken.

These various versions of the Verse of the Day all remind us that we are not just waiting, but we are waiting silently, quietly in a state of rest. In such a tranquil state of assurance we see the power of three verbs: Watching, waiting, seeking. . . All are expressed in the present tense, continuous action, over and over. The intersection of these three verbs also  bring to mind the words of John Milton, 17th Century British statesman and poet, who said, “They also serve who only stand and wait.” His word are incorporated into this poem:

Watching, Waiting, Seeking

You are my strength, I watch for you; you, God, are my fortress,
Psalm 59:9 (NIV)

“And now, Lord, what do I wait for? My hope is in You.
Psalm 39:7 (NKJV)

Seek the Lord and His strength; Seek His face continually [longing to be in His presence].
1 Chronicles 16:11 (AMP)

We are strengthened by the words of the bard gone blind,
Who said, “They also serve who only stand and wait.”
We look into the mirror of God’s word and find
That God has been ever faithful and never late.
We trust in the Lord, as the Word of God extols.
Like Job we wait until at last our change shall come,
Assured that in patience we now anchor our souls.
May we not faint and fall by the wayside as some
But follow in Christ’s steps, as we quickly obey
And bear up under and yield fruit of endurance.
We must walk in God’s love, the more excellent way
And through faith and patience claim our inheritance.
In these perilous times we are yielded and still,
Watching, waiting, seeking to fulfill all God’s will.

Aaron Keyes offers a musical rendering of Psalm 62: Praise Song (My Soul Finds Rest in God Alone)

Meditating on Psalm 62:7 the Verse of the Day, is great way to start the day, as we are watching, waiting, and seeking.

One more reminder: Love one another

February 14, 2017

John 13-34-35

It comes as no surprise that the Verse of the Day for February 14, 2017, Valentine’s Day, should remind us to “love one another”:

John 13:34-35 (NKJV):

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”

This clear exhortation is repeated not only in the Gospel of John but in more than a dozen other places throughout the New Testament where believers are commanded “to love one another.”   Jesus Christ is the model, the standard of love whose demonstration of the love of God we must follow.

The Epistle of 1 John echoes the same sentiments regarding the love of God, exhorting believers, likewise to show their love to one another:

1 John 4:7-11

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.

He who does not love does not know God, for God is love.

In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him.

10 In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.

11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.

The Holman Standard Bible describes the exhortation to love in this way:

Romans 13:8

[ Love, Our Primary Duty ] Do not owe anyone anything, except to love one another, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.

Dr. Martin Luther King has also offered this reminder:

“Life’s most persistent and urgent question is ‘What are you doing for others?’”

Not just on Valentine’s Day, but every day love should be the foundation upon which every relationship is built, as this poetic excerpt reminds us:

To decide, demonstrate, freely give and practice love:

The platform whereby we must build all relationships

And follow Christ’s command that we love one another.

This time Kathy Troccoli and Friends offer yet another reminder to love one another: