Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Remember: God is faithful

January 18, 2019

This morning as I began my day, I thought of the faithfulness of God, as this familiar passage from Lamentations 3:22-23 came to mind:

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

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

Great is Thy faithfulness
O God my Father
There is no shadow of turning with Thee
Thou changest not
Thy compassions they fail not
As Thou hast been
Thou forever will be
Great is Thy faithfulness
Great is Thy faithfulness
Morning by morning new mercies I see
And all I have needed Thy hand hath provided
Great is Thy faithfulness
Lord unto me

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1 Thessalonians 5:23-24 (AMP):

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

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

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

The New Living Translation puts it this way:

Hebrews 6:10

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

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

A Reminder: God Is Faithful

For God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labor of love,
which you have shown toward his name, in that you have ministered
to the saints, and do minister.
Hebrews 6:10

All the good deeds you have done may not be extolled
When the fervor of God’s love has long since grown cold.
Some so quickly forget all the good you have done,
And they fail to recall you were the only one
To answer the call, seek the Lord and intercede.
Time after time you were the one to meet the need.
When others were busy and chose to walk away,
You were there and remained in the thick of the fray.
In dark times when words of thanks are distant memories,
Recall our God knows all things, for He alone sees
Your labor and saves every tear you have shed.
Our Father is ever mindful of how you serve,
And He shall reward you beyond all you deserve.
As you strive to finish your course, have no regret:
Our God is faithful–He will never forget.

In reflecting upon God’s faithfulness as expressed in Philippians 1:6 and elsewhere in the Bible, I thought of this song which has come to mean so much to me: “Great Work” offered by Brian Courtney Wilson:

You will prosper but the weapons won’t

January 12, 2019

 

As the spiritual battle rages before us day by day, I recall a recent blog post which encouraged believers to “hold their peace,” even in the midst of the most intense and stressful situations, knowing that the Lord is fighting for us. We closed with a musical reminder that “The battle is not yours: It’s the Lord’s.” Today I recall similar words of encouragement regarding the spiritual attack that intensifies before our eyes. Isaiah 54:17 offers words to strengthen and fortify our faith:

No weapon formed against you shall prosper,
And every tongue which rises against you in judgment
You shall condemn.
This is the heritage of the servants of the LORD,
And their righteousness is from Me,” says the LORD.

This verse was the inspiration for the following:

You Will Prosper, but All the Weapons Will Not

 Isaiah 54:17

According to God’s promises, you will prosper:
All your days overflow in goodness and mercy.
Indeed, you will prosper, but the weapons will not.

In every trial, you rise as more than conqueror.
Though the weapons of your warfare you cannot see.
According to God’s promises, you will prosper.

You press toward the new level, as you now enter
And leave a legacy to touch eternity.
Indeed, you will prosper, but the weapons will not.

You set yourself to remain fixed in the center
Of the will of God, striving toward your destiny.
According to God’s promises, you will prosper.

No weapon formed against you can ever alter
Your purpose or change all God has called you to be.
Indeed, you will prosper, but the weapons will not.

You rest in knowing that God’s grace is far greater than sin, for He said, “Their righteousness is of me.”
According to God’s promises, you will prosper:
Indeed, all the weapons formed against you will not.

While meditating on the verse from Isaiah, I also thought of my recently published book Embracing Your Life Sentence: How to Turn Life’s Greatest Tragedies into Your Greatest Triumphs. Chapter Four focuses on the power of prayer which I came to understand and appreciate as a prayer warrior engaged in spiritual warfare after being diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2000. Here is an excerpt sharing some of the lessons I learned:

In his book Crafted Prayer: The Joy of Always Getting Your Prayers Answered, Bible teacher Graham Cooke, shows how to use the Scriptures to construct specific, targeted prayers, addressed to God offered individually as well as corporately. Cook maintains that crafted prayer is designed that those who pray will know “the joy of always getting your prayers answered.” The Bible offers this assurance to those who “pray the Word of God”:

Isaiah 55:11

So shall my word be that goes forth from my mouth; it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish what I please, and it shall prosper in the thing to which I sent it.

I John 5:14-15 also reminds us:

And this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us: 15And if we know that he hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of him.

Crafted prayers are like handcrafted arrows, works of art within themselves, designed to be on target consistently. Jeremiah described the nations who attacked Babylon in this way: “Their arrows shall be like those of an expert warrior; none shall return in vain” (Jeremiah 50:9). Similarly, crafted prayers are exquisitely designed and accurately dispatched to specific targets, and they always hit the mark.

Prayer has been described as a powerful offensive weapon in the spiritual arsenal of believers. The illustration and application of crafted prayer as arrows provides a picture of how prayer can be used offensively with precision to a limited degree. In light of how modern warfare has changed as we have moved further into the 21st Century, a more precise revision of the original analogy would take us from arrows to smart-bombs released with pinpoint laser accuracy.

In an article in the LA Times, Peter Pae writes about lasers and their use in modern warfare:

The word ‘laser’ is an acronym that stands for ‘light amplification by stimulated emission of radiation.’ The technology turns atomic particles into light with enough radiation to damage an object it encounters. The range and severity of the damage depend on how much power can be generated and how well the light can be focused on the target.

. . . [L]aser scientists say significant technical challenges recently have been overcome, transforming laser weapons from a laboratory project into a promising part of the U.S. arsenal. With such lasers, a fighter jet could destroy ground targets with pinpoint accuracy, significantly reducing the chance of injuring civilians.

The passage from Ephesians 6:18 also reminds believers of the power of prayer, used as an offensive weapon in the ongoing spiritual battle called life. For the Christian believer putting on the whole armor of God should apply to every situation, but this passage had particular application to my specific situation regarding cancer, especially the last verse of the passage:

Ephesians 6:18:

Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all saints.

Finally, we recognize this truth regarding our spiritual weaponry:

2 Corinthians 10:3-5 (NKJV)

3 For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. 4 For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, 5 casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ,

Without question, prayer can be a powerful offensive and defensive weapon. We recognize that “No weapon formed against me shall prosper” as lyrics from Fred Hammond conclude our discussion:

Embracing Your Life Sentence: How to Turn Life’s Greatest Tragedies into Your Greatest Triumphs is now available wherever books are sold and online. For more details check out https://lonnelledwardjohnson.com.

Thinking about Day Four of Creation on January 4

January 4, 2019

 

 

 

 

 

The number four relates to creation as noted on Day 4 in Genesis.

On the 4th day of the first month in the New Year, I happened to think of a statement a dear friend used to make regarding the Lord God Almighty when it comes to arranging life in all of its beauty: “God is very creative.” I also recall a previous blog entry re-posted today: Thoughts about the 4th Day of Creation on January 4, 2019.
Biblical scholar and prolific writer, E.W. Bullinger, discusses various aspects of the number 4 in his book Number in Scripture: Its Supernatural Design and Spiritual Significance:

FOUR

Now the number four is made up of three and one (3+1=4), and it denotes, therefore, and marks that which follows the revelation of God. . . namely, His creative works. He is known by the things that are seen. Hence the written revelation commences with the words, “In-the-beginning God CREATED.” Creation is, therefore, the next thing—the fourth thing, and the number four always has reference to all that is created. It is emphatically the number of Creation; of man in his relation to the world as created. . . .

The fourth day saw the material creation finished (for on the fifth and sixth days it was only the furnishing and peopling of the earth with living creatures). The sun, moon, and stars completed the work, and they were to give light upon the earth which had been created and to rule over the day and over the night

Genesis 1:14-19.

And God said, “Let there be lights in the expanse of the sky to separate the day from the night, and let them serve as signs to mark seasons and days and years, and let them be lights in the expanse of the sky to give light on the earth.” And it was so. God made two great lights – the greater light to govern the day and the lesser light to govern the night. He also made the stars. God set them in the expanse of the sky to give light on the earth, to govern the day and the night, and to separate light from darkness. And God saw that it was good. And there was evening, and there was morning – the fourth day.

This painting by Aaron Douglas accompanied “The Creation” in James Weldon Johnson’s God’s Trombones: 7 Negro Sermons in Verse.

Renowned African American poet, James Weldon Johnson (1871-1938), offers a vivid description of Genesis in “The Creation” taken from God’s Trombones, 7 Negro Sermons in Verse, one of his most celebrated works. This opening excerpt describes the fourth day:

And God stepped out on space,
And He looked around and said,
“I’m lonely —
I’ll make me a world.”

And far as the eye of God could see
Darkness covered everything,
Blacker than a hundred midnights
Down in a cypress swamp.

Then God smiled,
And the light broke,
And the darkness rolled up on one side,
And the light stood shining on the other,
And God said, “That’s good!”

Then God reached out and took the light in His hands,
And God rolled the light around in His hands
Until He made the sun;
And He set that sun a-blazing in the heavens.
And the light that was left from making the sun
God gathered it up in a shining ball
and flung it against the darkness,
Spangling the night with the moon and stars.
Then down between
The darkness and the light
He hurled the world;
And God said, “That’s good!”

For a powerful rendition of the entire poem recited by Whitley Phipps, click here.

Johnson and Johnson

As a practicing poet, I have been notably influenced by James Weldon Johnson, with whom I have much in common. In addition to being poets with the same last name, we have both taught literature at historically Black institutions, and both of us have been involved in careers outside of teaching, but most remarkably we both share the same birthday, June 17. I am not exactly sure what all of this means. That is perhaps the topic of another conversation.

A few years ago I recall having read about newly discovered rings around Saturn and other phenomena in outer space that caused me to see and appreciate the magnitude of the creative power of God in a new way. This information is staggering in light of the demonstrated power of God manifested through the Spoken Word of God recorded in Genesis where the account of the fourth day indicates, “And God made two great lights; the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night. . .” Then almost as a modest aside, we learn that “He made the stars also”: All the starry hosts with its millions upon millions of stars God made, each of which He numbered and called by name. That particular passage from Genesis inspired the following poem:

“. . . He Made the Stars Also”
Genesis 1:16

Seventy thousand million million million stars
Ten times more than grains of sand that cover the earth;
Galaxies that span far beyond Saturn and Mars:
Each star formed and fashioned and called by name at birth.

Ten times more than grains of sand that cover the earth;
Sparkling the night with lights, God made the stars also.
Each star formed and fashioned and called by name at birth.
The heavens declare God’s glory that men might know.

Sparkling the night with lights, God made the stars also:
Witness to Abraham of what was yet to be.
The heavens declare God’s glory that men might know.
As the stars and grains of sand, so shall your seed be.

All creation unified by a single bond.
Galaxies that span far beyond Saturn and Mars
Express the breadth of God’s love, reaching far beyond
Seventy thousand million million million stars.

On the fourth day of the New Year, we close with Karen Clark Sheard offering a musical interpretation of Psalm 19:1: “The Heavens Are Telling”

Winter Solstice 2018: Full moons and more

December 21, 2018

Sunrise on the Winter Solstice, the shortest day of the year and the longest night of the year.

In the United States and the rest of the northern hemisphere, the first day of the winter season is the day of the year when the Sun is farthest south (on December 21st or 22nd). This day is known as the Winter Solstice. The term solstice means “sun stands still.” As the Earth rotates on its tilted axis and circles the sun each year, the sun appears to change its position very little during this time of the year.

This astronomical event officially arrives this Friday, December 21, 2018 at 5:23 p.m. EST. At this time of year, each day is about 24 hours, 30 seconds long. The winter solstice, also known as midwinter, is the shortest day of the year and the longest night of the year. It occurs when the sun appears at its most southerly position.

This year’s winter solstice is unique since a full moon will appear full both Friday and Saturday nights. According to Michelle Ganney, the names of the moon originate from the Native Americans, who marked December’s full moon as the beginning of the coldest part of the year. The Long Night Moon is named after the longest night of the year on the winter solstice.

In addition, a meteor shower will be on display in the nighttime sky. The American Meteor Society points out that the Ursid meteor shower should be visible in the mid-Northern Hemisphere. At the peak there should be about 11 sporadic meteors per hour just before dawn. The shower gets its name because its meteors appear to emanate from Ursa Minor, also known as the Little Dipper. Unfortunately, the full moon makes the meteors hard to spot.

A few years ago an observation on the winter solstice inspired this response which has implications for today.

Winter Solstice

And there will be signs in the sun; and in the moon,
and in the stars; and on the earth distress of nations,
with perplexity, the sea and the waves roaring;

Luke 21:25

In the clear azure of the Eastern sky
Arises the winter solstice with its signs,
Marking out the shortest day of the year:
A full moonstone pin sets off Dawn’s velvet dress;
Like diamond clusters set in the ear,
Brilliant meteors linger to impress.
Wonders appear to those with eyes to see.
Out of darkness has emerged a great light,
Revealing a more sure word of prophecy.
Until the day star shall arise in our hearts,
Let us fix our eyes toward the Eastern sky.
And look up, for our redemption draws nigh.
Let us not just see signs each season brings
But understand the meaning of these things.

Third Day offers this reminders of the God we serve: “God of Wonders”

Divine do-over: Another chance

December 19, 2018

As this year is winding down, I am beginning to think about the coming year and preparing to develop my game plan for 2019. Recently I came across a prophetic Word of the Lord from Apostle Gabriel Cross posted on Pure Glory, website of Crown of Glory International Ministries. The message is re-posted here:

As I rose this morning, I heard the word or phrase (DO-OVER).
“To the one who didn’t do everything right. To the one who became discouraged in their efforts. To the one who became depressed and then procrastinated. Also, the one who just didn’t do what God told them to do.”

The Father says, “I AM going to do a “DO-OVER, WITH YOU.” So quiet yourself before the Lord, and prepare for your DIVINE DO-OVER. A do-over, meaning, a new attempt or opportunity, to do something, after an earlier attempt has been unsuccessful or unsatisfactory.

Unlike life, something inhibits do-overs. However, with God, you can always get things right with a pure heart, craft, and persistence. The Lord says, “Get Up! You can do it! Rise and Shine!”

“ARISE [from the depression and prostration in which circumstances have kept you–rise to a new life]! Shine (be radiant with the glory of the Lord), for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you! (Zechariah 8:23.) For behold, darkness shall cover the earth, and dense darkness [all] peoples, but the Lord shall arise upon you [O Jerusalem], and His glory shall be seen on you. (Isaiah 60:19-22; Malachi 4:2; Revelation 21:2, 3.) And nations shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising.” (Isaiah 2:2, 3; Jeremiah 3:17. Isaiah‬ ‭60:1-3‬).

“The Double-Door opportunities I have opened for you, no one can close what I am opening for you. So go forth, come forth, in the name of the Lord. There is no need to worry about how, for I have already prepared the way for you. There is no need to fear anything, for I have already covered you and secured your future. Provision, is not your problem. Providence, is not your problem. Prosperity, is not your problem. Because you have My Divine Provision, Providence, and Prosperity!”

In My Do-Over, I don’t just give back what you have lost, but I give that back, and MORE THAN YOU ASKED FOR.
Behold, the Spirit of the Lord says, “DIVINE DO-OVERS FOR YOU!” 2019 will be the year of Divine Do-Overs, Double-Door Opportunities, and the Best of the Best, being released to you Nowww!”

The message inspired this response which I am planning to incorporate into my personal vision casting for 2019:

A Divine Do-Over for 2019:

“Do not remember the former things,
Or ponder the things of the past.

“Listen carefully, I am about to do a new thing,
Now it will spring forth;
Will you not be aware of it?
I will even put a road in the wilderness,
Rivers in the desert.

Isaiah 43:18-19 (Amplified Bible)

The old ends–the new begins, as we uncover
The riches of God’s perfect will and discover
Our gracious Father provides one more “do-over,”
A fresh attempt to succeed and thrive moreover.
As living letters we embody the vision
Assured God will also supply the provision.
The hand of the Lord perfects each new revision,
Thus we arise, shine, and act on our decision.
God prepares the way to display His Providence,
As we walk by faith, having not seen evidence,
We access a new reality—no pretense:
We have won the battle, no matter how intense.
God’s divine design fashioned for prosperity
Goes beyond all we may have seen previously:
The fullness of all God intends for us to be
As we act on the Word in its simplicity.
Promotion awaits us as each day our lives advance:
God provides not just a second but another chance.

We “seal the deal” with music from Lisa Page Brooks: “Another Chance.”

Yes and amen: powerful combination

December 4, 2018

Each word in the Word of Life is an expression of power. Luke 1:37 in the King James Version says, “For with God nothing shall be impossible.” The American Standard Version offers this translation: “For no word from God shall be void of power.” Indeed, there is life-changing power in a single word from the Word, as the Poet notes:

. . . the power
of the printed word,
the power of a single light,
like a cloven tongue of fire,
to shatter the darkest night.

One of the most powerful words in the English language, in my estimation, is “yes.” With regard to Jesus Christ, Paul makes known this profound truth in 2 Corinthians 1:19-21 (New Living Translation)

19 For Jesus Christ, the Son of God, does not waver between “Yes” and “No.” He is the one whom Silas, Timothy, and I preached to you, and as God’s ultimate “Yes,” he always does what he says.
20 For all of God’s promises have been fulfilled in Christ with a resounding “Yes!” And through Christ, our ““amen”” (which means “Yes”) ascends to God for his glory.
21 It is God who enables us, along with you, to stand firm for Christ. He has commissioned us,

Used to express affirmation or assent, “yes” is often indicates as an affirmative reply. Certainly we are aware of that the word as a strong expression of joy, pleasure, or approval. When a player scores the winning shot in an overtime game, often excited fans respond with a vigorous “Yes! Way to go!”

Another expression of affirmation is the word “amen”, a term appearing hundreds of times in Bible. Transliterated from the Hebrew word “amen” and pronounced “ay-men” or “ah-men,” it serves as a verb throughout the Old Testament, meaning to take care, to be faithful, reliable or established, or to believe someone or something, according to Baker’s Evangelical Dictionary. We note Israel used the word ““amen”” as part of the expression of praise to God in the Psalms of David.

Psalm 79:19

Blessed be his glorious name for ever; may his glory fill the whole earth! Amen and Amen!

“Amen” is commonly used following a prayer or formal statement of belief, expressing ratification or agreement and means “it is so” or “so it be.” The term also means “certainty,” “truth,” and “verily.” As used in the last two verses of the Bible, “amen” reveals God has “the last say-so.”

Revelation 22:20-21(Amplified Bible):

He who testifies and affirms these things says, “Yes, I am coming quickly.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.

The grace of the Lord Jesus (the Christ, the Messiah) be with all [the saints—all believers, those set apart for God]. Amen.

We close with a musical rendering of Habakkuk 2:2-3 with a chorus of confirmation: “It is so!” . . . And all the people said. . . Amen.

Without faith it is impossible

November 30, 2018

The celebration continues as we move from “faith to faith, glory to glory, and victory to victory,” with the release of Embracing Your Life Sentence: How to Turn Life Greatest Tragedies into Your Greatest Triumphs. When diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2000, I didn’t see it as a “death sentence” but as a “life sentence” that transformed my thinking. This book reveals the battle plan God inspired me to use to emerge from my encounter, not just as a survivor but more than a conqueror.

An essential component of my encounter with prostate cancer was faith in that this diagnosis challenged me to go to God and seek His guidance and direction as never before. Here is an excerpt from Chapter Six–The Faith Factor: Without faith it is impossible. . .

To build a magnificent mansion that will last a lifetime, the builders must beginning with a solid foundation. Similarly to build a purposeful life of success and fulfillment, we must establish a firm foundation upon which we build. For me, faith is the bedrock of life.

I define faith as confident assurance, trust and conviction in God that I will prevail. Faith–“the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen”– operates beyond what we see, for we walk by faith, not by sight.

Faith is a Sine qua non—that without which there is nothing. Faith is the indispensable ingredient in a successful Christian life. The Scriptures remind us that “Without faith it is impossible . . . but with faith, the impossible becomes possible.  Indeed, as Christian believers, faith is our solid foundation.

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

Whenever I think of faith as a biblical concept, my mind goes back to a Wednesday Youth Night at Camp Gray, a Presbyterian camp in Saugatuck, MI when I was a sophomore in high school, back in the day. When the request came forth for a young person to deliver a short inspirational message, I volunteered, and I put together my first Bible teaching, choosing the topic of faith. Using the Bible and study material of one of the camp counselors who was a seminary student, I focused on Hebrews 11:1, 6—two verses that have contributed to the foundation upon which I have built my life as a teacher and minister of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Since that time over 65 years ago, I have discovered the Amplified Bible, and I especially appreciate how these verses are rendered:

Hebrews 11: 1, 6:

1NOW FAITH is the assurance (the confirmation, the title deed) of the things [we] hope for, being the proof of things [we] do not see and the conviction of their reality [faith perceiving as real fact what is not revealed to the senses].

6But without faith it is impossible to please and be satisfactory to Him. For whoever would come near to God must [necessarily] believe that God exists and that He is the rewarder of those who earnestly and diligently seek Him [out].

In 2004, four years after my cancer diagnosis, quite providentially I was asked to teach during a mid-week Bible study at our church at the time. We had begun a series on the gifts or manifestations of the spirit from I Corinthians 12, and I was asked to teach on faith.

I opened the teaching by reminiscing with our congregation, as we examined the Word of God and pointed out significant illustrations of faith in the Scriptures and in my life. I endeavored to relate the simplicity of faith, being that of hearing from God by way of the written Word or the Bible or by revelation from God. By acting upon what you have heard, you receive the corresponding results of your actions. Romans 10:17 reminds us of the source of faith: “So then faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God.”

In that particular teaching on faith I examined an accounts in the Gospel of Matthew where Jesus Christ mentions faith. One of the most notable examples occurs in the encounter with the centurion who comes to Jesus Christ with a request that he heal his servant. In this instance, Jesus Christ responds, describing the man as having “great faith.” A contemporary term used to describe such a level of confident assurance would be “crazy faith.”

As believers, we sometimes encounter circumstances that seem impossible, and our response is that we know the situation will turn out favorably, despite what appears to be a hopeless case. The world might respond to our positive expectations with, “That’s crazy!” We know, however, that we walk by faith and not by sight, and we counter with “That’s not crazy. . . That just means we have ‘crazy faith.’”

Dennis Marquardt, states, “Crazy faith is the kind of faith that will respond to God in obedience no matter how crazy it may seem at the moment! It is the kind of faith that CAN remove mountains, and even more amazingly, it can move man!”

When asked what he means by “crazy faith,” writer Larry King, offers this definition: “Crazy faith is when you simply refuse to let what you perceive –that is, your circumstances, your situations, your trials, tests and obstacles – interfere with what you believe.”

Bishop Charles Mellette states that walking by faith in such conditions, “. . . doesn’t make sense, but it does make great faith.” “Crazy faith,” I might add.

The following poem describes this kind of faith:

Such Great Faith—Crazy Faith

When Jesus heard it, He marveled, and said to those who followed,
Assuredly, I say to you, I have not found such great faith,
not even in Israel!

Matthew 8:10 (KJV)

As servants of a king assess his vast treasure,
When the Lord returns, will he find faith on the earth?
When He appraises our faith, what will it be worth?
When all is said and done, may we add our measure,
Though small as the grain of a tiny mustard seed.
Should the Lord come during the Age of the Gentiles,
May our faith be found so pure that nothing defiles.
May we be living by faith in word and in deed,
For God is ever faithful and His Word is true.
May such great faith descend from the centurion
To the faithful ones who bear this criterion:
Whatever God shall speak, this shall He also do.
We will still be walking by faith, not by what we see,
While pressing toward the mark, reaching toward our destiny.

John Waller offers a musical expression of “Crazy Faith”:

Embracing Your Life Sentence: How to Turn Life Greatest Tragedies into Your Greatest Triumphs is now available wherever books are sold and on line. Go to https://lonnelledwardjohnson.com for more details. Thanks for your prayers and your support.

Thanksliving: Giving thanks for my new book and so much more

November 21, 2018

On the eve of the nation’s traditional Thanksgiving celebration, I pause to give thanks to God for countless blessings, including the publication of my long awaited book: Embracing Your Life Sentence: How to Turn Life Greatest Tragedies into Your Greatest Triumphs, where I share my holistic strategy to overcome a diagnosis of prostate cancer given in 2000. One of the vital aspects of my cancer journey focused on thanksgiving. Here is an excerpt from the book. I invite readers to read, rejoice, and celebrate the goodness of God with me.

When most people hear the term thanksgiving, there is an almost automatic association with turkey, dressing, cranberries, and pumpkin pie (or sweet potato pie, depending upon your ethnic tastes). Many associate the word with pageants of Pilgrims and Native Americans, with parades and football games—the prelude to the final holiday season of the year. For many people around the world, however, thanksgiving is more than a holiday observed the fourth Thursday in November. Actually, thanksgiving is always appropriate. Thanksgiving should be the reason for every season.

Let me first of all explain exactly what I mean by thanksgiving. In its most basic sense, thanksgiving is the application of an essential principle of life: giving and receiving. When one gives, one receives, and always in higher proportion than one gives. Although many people think of giving and receiving in terms of tithes and offerings or of giving of material abundance within a church or religious context, the universal principle works in all aspects of life—particularly in thanksgiving, most literally to give thanks or to show oneself grateful.

As Christian believers, giving thanks to God for His grace and goodness reverses the negative thinking pattern generated by toxic emotions. I learned I cannot honestly be thankful and feel fearful or disappointed at the same time, nor can I be angry nor discouraged when I see all God has done for me and express gratitude to Him at the same time. Indeed, I cannot simultaneously sink to the depths of despair when I recognize how blessed I have been thus far, as I anticipate even greater blessings on the horizon, for the best is always yet to come with God, my beneficent Father.

God wants us to show ourselves grateful at all times. The Word of God reminds us of this truth in several places:

Colossians 3:17—

And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Ephesians 5:20—

Always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

The Word of God reveals that the giving of thanks is to be more than an occasional act of gratitude; it is to be an ongoing part of our lives.

Philippians 4:6—

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.

Hebrews 13:15—

By him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name.

Perhaps the most dramatic reminder to live in continuous thanksgiving is found in I Thessalonians 5:18.The King James Version renders the verse this way—

In everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.

To facilitate memorizing this particular verse, I composed a scripture Memory Song,

In Everything Give Thanks:

In everything give thanks,

In everything give thanks,

For this is the will of God

In Christ Jesus concerning you.

Repeat

When things in life don’t seem to turn out

Just as we think they should,

We know that God still has a grand plan

And works all things together—

He works all things together for our good.

 

In everything give thanks,

In everything give thanks,

For this is the will of God

In Christ Jesus concerning you.

 

The sun shines bright or the darkest night,

No matter what the mood,

We still give thanks always for all things.

In the name of Jesus Christ,

We keep an attitude of gratitude.

 

In everything give thanks,

In everything give thanks,

For this is the will of God

In Christ Jesus concerning you.

Every situation offers an opportunity to be thankful, no matter how bright or bleak life may be. If I think about it, I can always find something to be thankful for, if for nothing more than that I am alive or that my situation could be worse. I can begin with thanking God that I am alive and then adding to the long list of blessings I am enjoying at that moment. Each time I set my mind to be thankful, I am doing the will of God, which is the innermost desire of every believer. To give thanks is to do the will of God.

Feeling disappointed, discouraged, and in despair or having other negative feelings is sometimes described as stinkin’ thinkin’, which directly affects how I act. One of the critical factors in my physical and emotional well-being is my attitude. The discussion of attitude comes full circle with a reminder that attitude begins with gratitude. J. Rufus Moseley speaks of “an attitude of gratitude and boundless goodwill.” Thanksgiving is a magnificent and joyful response-ability, that is, my ability to respond to God’s love and grace. As a believer, I continually endeavor to demonstrate my gratitude to God from the fullness of my heart, overflowing with thanks.

More than merely occasionally expressing how grateful I am, I desire to maintain a continual attitude of gratitude, a lifestyle that some have called thanksliving. The essence of my attitude of endless gratitude is expressed through poetry:

Thanksliving

What shall I render to the Lord for all
His grace? What can I say to offer praise
Worthy of His glory? How can I call
With all my being upon His name and raise
A new song from the depths of my heart?
I must do more than mouth a platitude—
To express the soul in words is an art;
Yet words cannot express my gratitude.
Mere words seem empty and without merit.
“Thank you” too soon becomes a hollow phrase.
So I must worship God with my spirit
And must give thanks well for all of my days.
To live is give thanks with tongue and limb;
With each breath, each move, I must live thanks to Him.

More than merely saying “thank you” to God, more than simply tithing or sharing of our abundance or giving of our time or material goods, thanksliving is a way of life, expressing gratitude to God in everything we say and do. It is more than the arrival of Friday (TGIF), for which the workaday world thanks God. I found out that I must show how grateful I am with all of my being—“Thank God it’s Sunday through Saturday.” As I do so, I counteract the negative effects of disappointment, discouragement, despair, and any other toxic emotions that keep me from being all that God designed me to be.

We conclude with one of the most beautiful thanksgiving songs ever composed:

Embracing Your Life Sentence: How to Turn Life Greatest Tragedies into Your Greatest Triumphs is now available wherever books are sold and online. Check out https://lonnelledwardjohnson.com for more details.

Nine times two and so much more

November 17, 2018

As we continue to move toward the end of 2018, the thought occurred to me that 18 is the number nine times two. I also recall the spiritual significance of nine in light of E.W. Bullinger’s Number in Scripture: Its Supernatural Design and Spiritual Significance from which this excerpt comes:

Nine–denotes finality of judgment. It is 3 x 3. The number nine or its factors or multiples is seen in all cases where judgment is the subject. In mathematical science it possesses properties and powers which are found in no other number. Among others may be mentioned (1) that the sum of the digits which form its multiples are themselves always a multiple of nine; e.g., 2 x 9 = 18 (and 1+8=9); 3 x 9 = 27 (and 2+7=9); 4 x 9 = 36 (and 3+6=9); 5 x 9 = 45 (and 4+5=9), etc. It is a factor of 666, which is 9 times 74.

But nine is the square of three, and three is the number of Divine perfection, as well as the number peculiar to the Holy Spirit. It is not surprising, therefore, to find that this number denotes finality in divine things (as in the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22-23 and in the manifestation of the Spirit in I Corinthians 12).

As individuals seek to number their days and apply their hearts unto wisdom, we recognize all we do will examined by God, our gracious heavenly Father, the Righteous Judge. Romans 8:26 reminds us that God “searches the depths of each soul and probes each heart.” We recognize this searching of the hearts is ongoing, for God does not look on the hearts of humanity simply one time, but the probe continues in that He searches again and again.

While thinking about these ideas, I also thought about the concept of “research” (literally to search again and again) and recall a discussion regarding God, our Father, as the ultimate “Researcher” who conducts this grand “research project” whose primary purpose is for the advancement of human knowledge about God, that we might “fear God and keep His commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.” In the process we discover, interpret and develop knowledge, which we apply as we grow in our understanding of the Creator and His vast universe.

I also recall that a number of poems I have written centering on “searching” or “trying,” as in examining closely and scrutinizing in detail in order to render some kind of assessment or evaluation. This morning I came across one such poem written when I was participating in a clinical trial related to prostate cancer at the Ohio State University. During this time I wrote a poem reflecting on that experience, as I thought about one of the reasons I chose to participate in the clinical trial which caused me to think of lyrics to the song “If I Can Help Somebody”:

Then my living shall not be in vain!
If I can help somebody as I pass along,
Then my living shall not be in vain!

All of this information is flowing together in a most remarkable way as “I . . . arise and strive to reach the place /where the rivers of understanding flow.” That experience culminated in this poem written nine years ago:

Search Me Again

23 Search me, O God, and know my heart; 

Try me, and know my anxieties;

24 And see if there is any wicked way in me,

And lead me in the way everlasting.

Psalm 139:23-24

As you follow your protocol, search me again;
Probe the depths of my soul, as you once more explore
My life’s work, as you have done many times before.
While you search, take pleasure in all that may remain,
For your thoughtful study of my ways will explain
The lapses, that though I fall short, you will restore,
That I might be renewed to serve you even more
And so prove that my living will not be in vain.
May you find in me admissible evidence.
May your research validate my life and confirm
All that lives in me, as you once more analyze
The thesis of this “research project,” in a sense.
Despite intense scrutiny may all your findings affirm
Pure-hearted devotion and joyful service in your eyes.

We close with Hillsong offering this magnificent song of worship “Search Me O God”:

Veterans Day Reflections

November 13, 2018

Each year as November 11 approaches, I pause to reflect upon Veterans Day, a national holiday of special significance to me. First of all, I am a veteran, having served two years in the US Army, from 1967 to the end of 1968 during the Vietnam era. Most providentially that experience directly relates to my being here in Fayetteville, NC where I lived from 1985 to 1994 when I taught as an associate professor at Fayetteville State University. In 2013 I returned to teach as an adjunct professor at Carolina College of Biblical Studies.

Born and reared in Gary, Indiana, I visited Purdue University, the first college campus I ever set foot on, when I was about 13 or 14. At that time I decided I would attend Purdue and major in Pharmacy. When I graduated from high school in 1960, I enrolled at Purdue and graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Pharmacy in 1965, later becoming a registered pharmacist, working as a staff pharmacist at Methodist Hospital in Gary. While enjoying the “good life,” I received my “greetings from Uncle Sam” in 1967 was drafted into the US Army. Back then I thought this was the worst thing that could have happened to me. Being drafted into the Army in the late 60s was not an ideal situation for a young African American male in light of the disproportionate number of black men sent to Viet Nam, some of whom did not return and others who were forever changed by that experience.

In January 1967 after a tearful farewell with my parents, I boarded the bus that took me to Fort Campbell, Kentucky. Upon completing of my basic training, I went to Fort Sam Houston, in San Antonio, Texas, where I could choose to work in a dispensary filling prescriptions, as I had done before, or I could choose to become a pharmacy instructor and teach pharmacy technicians. The second choice sounded intriguing since I had not done that before, and so I opted to become a pharmacy instructor, which turned out to be ideally suited to me and opened up a new world of classroom teaching which ignited a passion to teach. This passion motivated me to pursue a Master’s degree in English from Emporia State University in Kansas and a Ph.D. in English from Indiana University. This passion continues to burn, even as I am teaching at CCBS where I teach classes on campus and online.

My time of service as pharmacy instructor began with intense training at the Medical Field Service School. During this time, I recall one veteran from Kentucky whom I knew briefly while serving as a pharmacy instructor at Fort Sam Houston. He and I had many things in common: we were both drafted as pharmacists who opted to become pharmacy instructors, but there was one notable difference. I had not signed up for an extra year of service, despite the Army’s indicating I might not get a pharmacy position if I didn’t. My fellow serviceman, had signed up for the extra year, but we both received pharmacy positions. The extra year, however, increased the likelihood of going to Vietnam if a pharmacy position needed to be filled there.

About nine months after we completed our training as instructors, my fellow instructor received orders for Vietnam, and by the end of the year, he was shipped overseas. In the early part of the next year, we received the news that he had been killed. The impact of that experience did not fully resonate with me until years later on Memorial Day when I looked up the name of this individual on the website for the Vietnam Memorial and recognized that he was from a small town in Kentucky. I was teaching a composition and literature class at the time at the Louisville campus of Indiana Wesleyan University when I saw my colleague’s death in a totally different light. In literature we find a term called a Christological figure or Christ Figure. The term refers to an object, person, or figure representing Christ allegorically or symbolically. Such a figure shares qualities generally found in Christ, with one of the most notable qualities being “self-sacrifice.”

I was overwhelmed by the reality that my fellow instructor, in a sense, went in my place. What transpired while I was in the Army culminated in an awareness of the ultimate sacrifice of Jesus Christ, who took my place and gave his life that I might live. My whole experience in the military brings to mind my favorite verse in my favorite chapter of the Bible: Romans 8:28

And we know that all things work together for the good, to them that love God, to them that are the called according to His purpose.

Today I recognize more clearly than ever what Satan meant for evil, God in His providence, transforms into something great and glorious. Each Veterans Day, I reflect with gratitude to God for my time of service in the military, recognizing the contribution that veterans have made and continue to make to secure the blessings of liberty that we enjoy today.

We conclude with a Veterans Day Tribute (November 11, 2018 edition—100-year anniversary).