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If it had not been for the Lord. . .

September 18, 2018

Despite the stress and the distress in the aftermath of Hurricane Florence with its devastating impact on the Carolinas, we remain overwhelmingly grateful to God. I woke up this morning abiding in the safety of the Lord, thankful for life, health, and strength, being able to express in words my gratitude as I post this entry.

In reflecting on where I have been and where I am now, I often say, “If it had not been for the Lord, I shudder to think where I would be.” I also think of Psalm 124 which opens with a similar statement, “If it had not been for the Lord who was on our side. . . .” Here is the psalm in its entirety in the King James Version:

Psalm 124

“If it had not been the Lord who was on our side,”
Let Israel now say—
“If it had not been the Lord who was on our side,
When men rose up against us,
Then they would have swallowed us alive,
When their wrath was kindled against us;
Then the waters would have overwhelmed us,
The stream would have gone over our soul;
Then the swollen waters
Would have gone over our soul.”

Blessed be the Lord,
Who has not given us as prey to their teeth.
Our soul has escaped as a bird from the snare of the fowlers;
The snare is broken, and we have escaped.
Our help is in the name of the Lord,
Who made heaven and earth.

Verse 1 was the inspiration for this personal poetic expression:

If It Had Not Been for the Lord

“If it had not been the LORD who was on our side,”
Let Israel now say—
Psalm 124:1

If it had not been for the Lord who was on our side,

We would have drowned in the sea from the tears we cried.

We shudder to think just where we would be today.

We would have lost our mind or turned and walked away,

we learned that God is faithful—this cannot be denied.

 

He was there to guide when we were tempted and tried,

Our shelter from the storm where we could run and hide.

He was our deliverer—that is all we have to say:

If it had not been for the Lord.

 

Enemies rose up like a flood to wash aside,

But God came through and rescued us and turned the tide.

Pressing toward the mark, dawning of a brand new day,

Through all our trials we learned to watch, fight and pray.

The Lord is our keeper; in Him we confide:

If it had not been for the Lord.

Esther Mui offers Psalm 124: “Our Help is in the Name of the LORD.”

The reference to Psalm 124 causes us to think about where we all might have been, if it had not been for the Lord who was on our side.

Prostate Cancer Awareness Week

September 17, 2018

Designated Prostate Cancer Awareness Month, September brings focus to prostate cancer, an important health concern among American men. Other than skin cancer, prostate cancer is the most frequently diagnosed cancer in men, especially in African American men. During National Prostate Cancer Awareness Month, we remember those we have lost to prostate cancer and celebrate survivors, as we renew our commitment to preventing, detecting, and treating this .frequently occurring illness.

The Prostate Conditions Education Council (PCEC), a national organization committed to men’s health and a leader in prostate cancer screening, sponsors Prostate Cancer Awareness Week (PCAW) from September 17-21, 2018. During September men are encouraged men to have a health check and talk to their doctor about prostate cancer. In fact, September 18 is also designated Take a Loved One to the Doctor Day. Light blue is the color of the ribbon bringing attention to prostate cancer.

As a prostate cancer survivor, September is an especially significant month for me. Receiving a diagnosis of prostate cancer in 2000 was life-changing. I share my response to the diagnosis in my forthcoming book, Embracing Your Life Sentence: How to Turn Life’s Greatest Tragedies into Your Greatest Triumphs. While some see a cancer diagnosis as a “death sentence,” I see it as a “life sentence” that transformed my thinking. Embracing Your Life Sentence offers lessons learned from this life-changing process. In revealing my holistic strategy to combat prostate cancer, I take you down the road less travelled on a journey that weaves original poetry, Scripture, and my battle plan, to show how I emerged, not just as a survivor but more than a conqueror. Scheduled release is mid-October. Find out more about it at lonnelledwardjohnson.com or keep checking Dr. J’s Apothecary Shoppe.

Hurricane Florence: The eye of the storm

September 12, 2018

The eye of the storm captured on this photo of Hurricane Florence taken on September 11, 2018

Residents of North Carolina and surrounding areas are bracing themselves for Hurricane Florence, described as what could be “an unprecedented disaster for North Carolina.” The powerful Category 4 storm has been down graded to a Category 2 with winds of 110 miles per hour and is expected to bring with it record-breaking amounts of rain and flooding.

In thinking about the approaching storm, I recall commonly repeated comments regarding the storms of life: As believers, we are either in the midst of a storm or coming out of a storm and preparing to go through another storm. Although I recall hearing the statement in 2005, following Hurricane Katrina, one of the most devastating and destructive storms in recent memory, it certainly has application today. The name of the storm may have changed, and the circumstances may be somewhat different, but this impending life-threatening disaster reminds us of

This Ever-present Truth

For He commands and raises the stormy wind,
which lifts up the waves of the sea.
They mount up to the heavens, they go down again to the depths;
Their soul melts because of trouble.
He calms the storm, so that its waves are still.
Then they are glad because they are quiet;
so He guides them to their desired haven.
Psalm 107:25-26, 29-30

As we navigate through the stages of our lives,
Mild breezes that caress our days are soon transformed
Into wild gales and floods, as one more storm arrives.
Despite this ever-present truth, we are alarmed
And unprepared for life’s torrential winds and rain,
As the raging storm center races toward our shore,
Gathering force and mounting into a hurricane.
We find ourselves near the eye of the storm once more.
The whirlwind soon passes over and leaves behind
Rising flood waters that would overwhelm the soul,
But through prayer and strong faith we know that we shall find
Courage to endure, though each storm exacts its toll.
God prepares us to go through howling gusts and rain,
With strength between storms, ready to go through again.

Even when we find ourselves in the midst of the fiercest hurricane on record, Ryan Stevenson reminds us of the place of trust and confidence where we long to abide: “In the eye of the storm”:

Waiting: Perfecting the art of patience

September 8, 2018

Recently, a colleague, Dr. Hopelyn Brown, posted an intriguing statement on her Facebook page:

“Finish this sentence:
The best things in life are ______.”

Here is my response:

“The best things in life are worth waiting for. You have need of patience, after that you have done the will of the Lord, you might receive the promise.”

My comment brought to mind a previous blog entry that talked about learning to wait on the Lord with patience. I have modified the post and added a new poem at the end.

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 one’s self 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 verb and 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. E.W. Bullinger and other scholars believe the first book written was the Book of Job, 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 many believe “Patience is its own reward,” God also rewards patience, as so clearly noted in 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.

The statement that began our discussion also reminds us of that we are currently in a season where patience, a fruit of the Spirit, should be abounding. Not only must we know what season we are in, but we must also know where we are in this season. I recall a teaching series that drew a parallel between our life’s journey as believers and the journey of the Children of Israel into the Promised Land beginning at Gilgal, symbolic place of new beginnings. From there they move on to Jericho onward to Jerusalem, going all the way to Mount Zion, the highest elevation in that beautiful City of God.

As we journey through life, we perfect the art of patience or endurance or perseverance. Associated with this character trait is the idea of “waiting”—steadfastly bearing up under and remaining faithful while waiting. We close with an original poem to capture the essence of where we are and what we are doing in this season.

Waiting in Gilgal

If a man die, shall he live again?
All the days of my appointed time
will I wait, till my change come.

Job 14:14

Waiting in Gilgal. . .

In the midnight harbor, place black as a raven,
Yielded and still in this new place of transition,
Seeking to do God’s will, in ready position,
To be launched from here to our desired haven.

Waiting in Gilgal. . .

Groaning, travailing resounds from this place on earth,
In the birthing room where thoughts rise to the sublime;
Prolonged moments extend toward the fullness of time
Where agony precedes ecstasy in childbirth.

Waiting in Gilgal. . .

To be raised from the tomb, released from the cocoon;
Exhausted, we yearn to escape and touch the sky,
To be freed from these quarters of the butterfly,
Where to be transformed at last can come none too soon.

Waiting in Gilgal. . .

This place demands sacrifice and obedience:
Not like Saul in Gilgal, foolish and immature,
But like Caleb, who with age, had strength to endure,
Fulfilled all God’s will and claimed his inheritance,
Waiting in Gilgal. . .

One of my favorite passages related to waiting on the Lord comes from Isaiah 40:25-31, offered here by Esther Mui:

I thank God for you

August 30, 2018

 

The last day in August is a special day for a number of reasons. It is the prelude to Labor Day and the celebration of the end of the summer marked by family outings, mini-vacations, and other celebrations. It is another “doubly lovely” day for my wife and me since we were married on August 31, as we celebrate another year of God’s blessings upon our marriage. Such occasions often inspire a poetic work, and here is an expression of my thoughts this year:

I Thank God for You

For my beloved Brenda
In celebration of our 45th anniversary
August 31, 2018

I thank God for you.

With gratitude to God, who hears and answers prayer,
We reflect and rejoice, aware of His constant care.
Forty-five years flow: multiples of amazing grace,
Unfailing love so strong, not even time can erase.

I thank God for you.

We look upon the beauty of the precious sapphire,
To remind us of the spark that first kindled desire.
As Christ loved the Church, willing to sacrifice his life,
So I renew my promise to serve my beloved wife.

I thank God for you.

 

Through each valley, plateau, climbing to a grand mountain view

We offer praise to God, our Father, who makes all things new.

God speaks to confirm His promise He will honor us:

All things work together according to His purpose.

 

I thank God for you.

   Photo taken during our first year of marriage.

Brenda and I have a number of songs that mean so much to us. One of our all-time favorite songs dates back to the beginning of our friendship and marriage: “You Make Me Feel Brand New” by the Stylistics:

Brenda and I have been so blessed with a loving family: our daughters Melissa and her husband William and our grandson Kingston; Angela and her husband Shajuan along with an extended family and a host of friends and acquaintances who continue to enrich our lives. We are grateful to God for all who have extended their love and blessings to us during this time of celebration.

Ordained and called: God’s masterpiece

August 11, 2018

Today, August 11, 2018, is a “doubly lovely Good News Day,” meaning I am celebrating two special occasions: my ordination to the Christian ministry, occurring 44 years ago and the second birthday of my grandson, Kingston Edward Simkins. Both of these glorious celebrations occur during August, designated as “What will be your legacy?” Month. A blog entry posted on August 1, discusses the significance of the number 8, representing a new beginning.

Upon further reflection, I realized another aspect of a new beginning for me as a teacher. I taught my first class as an adjunct instructor at a Bible College in Kansas in 1976. Having come full circle, today I serve as an adjunct professor at Carolina College of Biblical Studies in Fayetteville, NC. Oh, the Providence of God.

Even more remarkable, at the beginning of this year, I reconnected with a former student in the second class that I taught at the Bible College in Kansas, Kevin Bell. He recently earned his doctorate and is serving as an online adjunct professor at several Christian colleges. We are now colleagues pursuing some of the same goals as teachers. When we first reconnected, he spoke of the New Testament History class that I taught and made specific reference to my closing illustration of the opening session. I brought a life-size blank canvas and a full-length mirror. I instructed the students to visualize painting a life-size self-portrait which when completed we would display in “The Living Gallery of the New Testament.” I closed the first session of the course with this original poem:

The Living Gallery of the New Testament

In the living gallery of the New Testament is reserved a special space:
An empty canvas awaits each feature of your face.
Each of us paints a self-portrait in minutest detail.
To develop your life’s masterpiece, you can never fail
When you follow Christ’s example, the Master of the Word,
Beholding as in a mirror, the glory of the Lord.
Each day abounds with potential for matchless artistry.
Now is your golden moment—you are making “His Story.”

A recent article posted in Medium.com talks about the life-changing impact a work of art can have on a viewer and asks “Have you ever encountered a work of art that captured your attention and left you speechless?” I go on to describe a personal encounter with a wood carving that moved me to tears. Included in the conversation is a statement from Olafur Eliasson, ‘Icelandic-Danish artist, who explains “Why Art has the Power to change the world”:

“Most of us know the feeling of being moved by a work of art, whether it is a song, a play, a poem, a novel, a painting . . . . When we are touched, we are moved; we are transported to a new place that is, nevertheless, strongly rooted in a physical experience, in our bodies.”

Without question, a work of art has power to touch our lives in unforgettable ways.

These comments serve as a prelude to a poem written today in celebration of my ordination as a teacher. It builds upon the opening poem for the class taught 42 years ago with a similar theme:

Breath-taking Portraits in the Living Gallery

Even every one that is called by my name: for I have created him
for my glory, I have formed him; yea, I have made him.

Isaiah 43:7

Frank, honest, forthright, moving with spiritual insight,
Energized with a desire to serve with all their might.
Called as servants of the Lord, they have been given much;
They extend healing hands with a compassionate touch.
Walking in favor, ever eager, seeking to find
The strength to love God with their whole heart and soul and mind.
They desire to follow the Lord, to walk as the wise,
And just as Noah, they long to find grace in God’s eyes.
In the mirror of the Word we find pictures to paint,
Self-portraits of empowered people who do not faint.
From broad brush strokes, even down to the finest details,
Their whole lives reflect the love of God that never fails.
Masterpieces in the living gallery where we observe
Breath-taking portraits of all those called and ordained to serve.

Sarah Reeves offers “In the Details” to display the masterful skill of the ultimate artisan:

New month: new beginning

August 1, 2018

The number 8 not only represents a new beginning, but it also symbolizes infinity.

On the first day of August, we awake to embrace the first day in a new month. August is the 8th month, with the number eight representing a new beginning. While considering deeply the concept of a new beginning or a fresh start, these lyrics came to mind:

Behold, I make all things new.
Behold, I make all things new.
Behold, I make all things new, brand new.
Things will never be the same.

Behold, I am making you new.
Behold, I am making you new.
Behold, I am making you new, brand new.
You will never be the same.

In reflecting upon the concept of “new beginnings,” I thought of the number 8, symbolic of such a “fresh start.” E.W. Bullinger, in his celebrated work, Numbers in Scripture, and in an Appendix to his Companion Bible, comments that eight denotes resurrection or new beginning or regeneration or commencement. The eighth is a new first. It is the number that has to do with the Lord, who rose on the eighth day or new first day. In Hebrew the number eight is derived from an expression that means “to make fat,” “cover with fat,” “to super-abound.” As a participle it means “one who abounds in strength,” etc. As a noun it is “superabundant fertility,” “oil,” etc. So that as a numeral it is the superabundant number. As seven was so called because the seventh day was the day of completion and rest, so eight, as the eighth day, was over and above this perfect completion, and was indeed the first of a new series, as well as being the eighth. Thus it already represents two numbers in one, the first and eighth.

In light of the significance of the beginning of the 8th month, here is a poetic reminder of who God is and what He does:

All Things New

Behold, I am the Lord God who makes all things new.
Trust me and you will see. You will never be the same.
As you look to me, it is no secret what I can do.

I am God–I do not lie, I am faithful and true.
Almighty, God of the impossible is my name.
Behold, I am the Lord God who makes all things new.

Some thought it was over, but I am by no means through.
I cover and restore to remove all guilt and shame.
As you look to me, it is no secret what I can do.

Never forget what I have already brought you through.
You have a divine purpose; your life is not a game.
Behold, I am the Lord God who makes all things new.

In me you overcome—I am Lord of the breakthrough
Who offers boundless promises that you can now claim.
As you look to me, it is no secret what I can do.

Trust me, obey and see what I have in store for you.
With your life you will make known my goodness and proclaim:
Behold, I am the Lord God who makes all things new.
As you look to me, it is no secret what I can do.

A familiar passage from Jeremiah 29:11-13 in the New Living Translation also came to mind:

11 For I know the plans I have for you,” says the LORD. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.
12 In those days when you pray, I will listen.
13 If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me.

Although the words of Jeremiah were specifically addressed to Israel concerning their release from Babylonian captivity after seventy years, we recognize the truth expressed in Romans 15:4:

Whatsoever things were written aforetime, were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures, might have hope.

The prophetic word from Jeremiah can certainly have personal application, in that the plans that God has for each of His children are no less grand than those He has for the Children of Israel.

As we ask God for guidance and direction, He will lead us and teach us all along the path that unfolds as a shining light that shines more and more unto the perfect day (Proverbs 4:18). Jeremiah 29:11-13 also informs us of God’s concern for our future or “final outcome”, so that we need have no fear for our future.

Damaris Carbaugh shares “I Know the Plans” (Debby’s Song) a musical reminder of Jeremiah 29:11

We rejoice and celebrate the goodness of the Lord in anticipation of the great plans He has for us as the new month unfolds.

The Church: God’s crowning achievement

July 21, 2018

 

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

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

Hebrews 13:20-21:

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

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

James 1:2-4 (NLT):

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

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

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

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

Philippians 1:6

6 And I am convinced and sure of this very thing, that He Who began a good work in you will continue until the day of Jesus Christ [right up to the time of His return], developing [that good work] and perfecting and bringing it to full completion in you.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Finish

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

John 4:34

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

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

Philippians 1:6

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

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

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

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

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

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

What are the desires of your heart?

July 20, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Again, Psalm 40:8 reveals this truth:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Passion of Our Heart

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

July 13, 2018

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

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

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

While not everyone harbors an ungrounded fear of Friday, the 13th, we cannot deny that fear seems to abound during these intense times. We all recognize that fear is a common and natural emotional response to potential danger, but if not properly addressed, it can become a deadly emotion with serious consequences. Excessive fear can become crippling and impact our daily lives in a negative way. Unbridled fear is a toxic emotion that limits and inhibits. Proverbs 29:25 makes this clear:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Psalm 34:5

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

In 1 John 4:18 we find the perfect antidote to fear:

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

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

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

Have No Fear: Remember Love

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

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

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