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R.C. Sproul: The pursuit of God

December 16, 2017

Psalm 63--8

This morning as I began my day, I learned that R.C. Sproul, beloved theologian, author, pastor, and founder of Ligonier Ministries, passed away earlier this week. Christianity Today commented concerning his influence: “He is responsible for introducing a generation to the authority of Scripture, the sovereignty of God, and the glory of the Gospel of justification by faith, salvation by grace, in Christ alone.”

In a tribute in memory of R.C. Sproul, Daniel Motley listed 20 of his quotes on the Glory of God. One in particular caught my attention and will serve as the Quote of the Day for the blog entry for December 16, 2017:

“The pursuit of God is not a part-time, weekend exercise. If it is, chances are you will experience a part-time, weekend freedom. Abiding requires a kind of staying power. The pursuit is relentless. It hungers and thirsts. It pants as the deer after the mountain brook. It takes the kingdom by storm…The pursuit of God is a pursuit of passion. Indifference will not do. To abide in the Word is to hang on tenaciously. A weak grip will soon slip away. Discipleship requires staying power. We sign up for duration. We do not graduate until heaven.”

In reflecting on the quote, I thought of an experience occurring more than 60 years ago. I recall going on a field trip to the Indiana Dunes State Park, outside of Gary, Indiana, when I was in middle school, what we called “junior high school,” back in the day. Somehow I came across a small stream running through a wooded area. As I followed the creek through the winding woods, I was determined to find the area where the stream began, but as I progressed, the size of the stream remained the same and continued to flow on seemingly endlessly. After about a half an hour, I realized that I needed to get back to area where we supposed to meet before departing on the bus and returning to “the Steel City.” When I arrived at the place where we were to meet, I learned that I was quite late, and that I had delayed their departure.

Although that experience occurred sometime ago, I am still earnestly pursuing God with a passion, with determination to find what I am seeking. R.C. Sproul’s comments also brought to mind this poem:

The Proof of Desire

 My whole being follows hard after You and clings closely to You

Psalm 63:8a (AMP)

 

The proof of desire is pursuit.

Mike Murdock

 

In each new season may our lives abound with fruit,

As we follow after God and seek His favor,

To show that the proof of desire is pursuit.

 

This passion to please is our relentless pursuit,

As we seek to taste His goodness as we savor.

In each new season may our lives abound with fruit.

 

As a seasoned tree is strengthened from leaf to root,

We flow with fullness of joy as we labor,

To show that the proof of desire is pursuit.

 

Though we may seek as silver God’s wisdom and truth,

This life swiftly passes, fleeting as a vapor.

In each new season may our lives abound with fruit.

 

We have yearned for God’s presence, even as a youth.

We now forsake all to scale the heights of Mount Tabor,

To show that the proof of desire is pursuit.

 

We ever seek to know God’s will and to do it,

To follow in the steps of Jesus, our Savior.

In each new season may our lives abound with fruit,

To show that the proof of desire is pursuit.

The quotation and commentary also make reference to Psalm 63:8 (KJV):

My soul followeth hard after thee: thy right hand upholdeth me.

The Amplified Bible puts it this way:

My whole being follows hard after You and clinPgs closely to You; Your right hand upholds me.

This verse is the inspiration for “My Soul Follows Hard after Thee” performed as a medley with “I’m Gonna Love You,” two classic praise and worship compositions of Don Moen of Hosanna! Music.

Biblical illiteracy: What to do?

December 13, 2017

Biblical illiteracy

December is Spiritual Literacy Month, focusing on what has been defined as “the ability to read the signs written in the texts of our own experiences.” As a committed believer with a passion to study and teach the Word of God, one of my foremost concerns is “Biblical Literacy” in the face of rampant “Biblical Illiteracy” which is has escalated to epidemic proportions in the Christian community.

Since 2011 the American Bible Society has released in-depth findings in its annual The State of the Bible Survey, which details Americans’ beliefs about the Bible, number of Bibles per household, the Bible’s role in society, its presence in U.S. homes and more. Some of the highlights from the survey for 2017 are included below:

  • The vast majority of households own at least one Bible, a proportion that has stayed relatively consistent since 2011. Nearly nine out of 10 U.S. adults (87%) say their household owns a Bible, with a median of 3.4 Bibles per household
  • Nearly one-third of adults surveyed say they never read, listen to or pray with the Bible (32%), a five-percentage point increase over 2016 (27%).
  • More than half of all adults surveyed wish they read the Bible more often (58%). This is down slightly from 2016 (61%). Each segment of the survey expresses a desire for more Bible reading, but despite this, two-thirds (67%) say their level of Bible-reading is about the same as it was one year ago.
  • Most Bible users (91%) still prefer to use a print version of the Bible when engaging with scripture; however, an equal number (92%) report using another Bible format than print in the past year. Using technology-related formats is also on the rise.

Although most Americans own a Bible, their actual reading and understanding of the Bible reveals something else.  George Gallup Jr. and Jim Castelli said in widely quoted survey results, “Americans revere the Bible but, by and large, they don’t read it.” According to Gallup, “Despite the impressive statistics concerning Bible reading and study, it is apparent that ignorance about its contents is widespread.”

Woodrow Kroll, president of Back to the Bible, made this comment: “When we speak of creeping Bible illiteracy in America, we are not talking about the inability to read but the choice not to read…This failure to read the Bible consistently, or to hear its truth consistently, is the major factor in Bible illiteracy in America. It is an epidemic in …America.”

In the midst of pervasive Bible illiteracy, what can one individual do to combat this devastating situation? The Scriptures indicate that God’s people are destroyed for lack of knowledge, knowledge of the Word of God (Hosea 4:6). Unfortunately Christians are woefully ignorant of the principles of the Bible and their practical application in daily living. The consequence of such ignorance is destruction. Throughout the New Testament, the phrase “I would not have you to be ignorant” is used. If we are not to be ignorant, then expectations are that we are to become enlightened as we read and apply the Word of God which is “a light unto our path and a lamp unto our feet.”

The best way to counter “Biblical illiteracy” is to support “Biblical literacy.” An old adage states, “If you don’t know, learn. Once you know, then teach.” We can teach by precept and by example, as we pursue the wisdom, knowledge and understanding that come from reading and studying the Scriptures.

In the coming year each believer can become a “Committee of One” to work to combat Biblical ignorance and help stamp out Biblical Illiteracy. Each of us can develop a strategy to read the Bible more in the coming year than previously. We can maintain a schedule to become consistent in our reading and studying of the Word of God. If you’ve never read the Bible all the way through, consider setting that as a goal this year. Various online resources provide Bible reading schedules to assist. If you are not involved in a Bible Study group, explore that possibility as a means of becoming more involved in “studying to show yourself approved as a workman of the Word.”

 As each of us becomes more enlightened, we can share what we have learned with others and apply the principles to our own lives as well. Just as light dispels darkness, so the Psalmist reminds us that “The entrance to Your word gives light. It gives understanding to the simple.” Jesus Christ also spoke these words “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Let your light so shine that men might see your good works and glorify your father which is in heaven.”

The lyrics to an old Perry Como song “Just One Little Candle” express a great truth:

It is better to light just one little candle,
Than to stumble in the dark!
Better far that you light just one little candle,
All you need’s a tiny spark!

If we’d all say a prayer that the world would be free,
The wonderful dawn of a new day we’ll see!
And, if everyone lit just one little candle,
What a bright world this would be!

This song also brings to mind “Thy Word is a Lamp unto My Feet” with the Maranatha Singers:

As we conclude this year and move into 2018, may the New Year be a year in which the eyes of our understanding are flooded with light, as we read and teach the Word of God as never before.

What are some of the ways to address the issue of biblical illiteracy? Share your thoughts.

Pray for the peace of Jerusalem

December 8, 2017
Jerusalem Western_wall_jerusalem_night 2

Photo shows men praying at the Western Wall in Jerusalem

The recent recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel by the United States once again brings attention to “The Holy City,” said to be the focal point of the world. In reflecting on this occurrence, Psalm 122 in the Amplified Bible comes to mind:

Prayer for the Peace of Jerusalem.

A Song of Ascents. Of David.

122 I was glad when they said to me,
“Let us go to the house of the Lord.”

Our feet are standing
Within your gates, O Jerusalem,

Jerusalem, that is built
As a city that is firmly joined together;

To which the [twelve] tribes go up, even the tribes of the Lord,
[As was decreed as] an ordinance for Israel,
To give thanks to the name of the Lord.

For there the thrones of judgment were set,
the thrones of the house of David.


Pray for the peace of Jerusalem:
“May they prosper who love you [holy city].

“May peace be within your walls
and prosperity within your palaces.”

For the sake of my brothers and my friends,
I will now say, “May peace be within you.”

For the sake of the house of the Lord our God [which is Jerusalem],
I will seek your (the city’s) good.

This particular psalm is said to be among the Psalms of Degrees or Songs (Psalms) of Ascent. Psalms 120-134 comprise a “hymn book” from which pilgrims sang as they were ascending Mount Zion, the highest point in Jerusalem, the place of celebration of the annual feasts mandated by God for the Children of Israel.  Clift McCann writes in The New Interpreter’s Bible that these psalms are all short enough to be memorized and several contain references to everyday life, implying that these psalms reflect the experiences of everyday people traveling or arriving at Jerusalem.

Logos Bible software notes this Psalm expresses the sacred joy of the pilgrims on entering the Holy City, where praise, as the religious as well as civil metropolis, is celebrated, and for whose prosperity, as representing the Church, prayer is offered. While the entire psalm has been described as a prayer, verse 6 is a specific exhortation to pray and the inspiration for these lyrics:

Pray for the peace of Jerusalem.

Pray for the peace of Jerusalem.

Pray for the peace of Jerusalem.

Pray for the peace of the City of Peace.

 

Watchmen on the wall, do not tarry

But carry the message and tell all the people to pray,

To give the Lord no rest, but call on Him night and day

And pray, pray for the peace of Jerusalem.

 

Pray for the peace of Jerusalem.

Pray for the peace of Jerusalem.

Pray for the peace of Jerusalem.

Pray for the peace of the City of Peace.

 

Watchmen on the wall, do not tarry

But carry the message and tell all the people to pray,

To give the Lord no rest but call on Him night and day

And pray, pray for the peace of Jerusalem.

 

Watchmen on the wall, do not tarry

But carry the message and tell all the people to pray,

To stand in the gap and make up the hedge night and day,

And pray, pray for the peace of Jerusalem.

 

Pray for the peace of Jerusalem.

Pray for the peace of Jerusalem.

Pray for the peace of Jerusalem.

Pray for the peace of the City of Peace.

The peace God desires, not only for Jerusalem but for the whole world, goes beyond the usual definition referring to “the normal non-warring condition of a nation, a group of nations or the world. . . a state of harmony among people or groups; cessation or freedom from strife or dissension.” In contrast, the Biblical definition encompasses a state of untroubled, undisturbed well-being, expressed in the Hebrew expression shalom.

According to Strong’s Concordance, shalom means “completeness, wholeness, health, peace, welfare, safety soundness, tranquility, prosperity, perfectness, fullness, rest, harmony, the absence of agitation or discord.” For the Christian believer, it is an inner reality, revealed as the peace of God that comes from the God of peace obtained through the Prince of Peace.  This peace which passes all understanding is not dependent upon outside conditions.

Now more than ever before, we need to heed the words of the Psalmist and “pray for the peace of Jerusalem.”

Esther Mui offers a lively musical rendering of Psalm 122 Song (KJV) “Pray for the Peace of Jerusalem”:

 

 

On Pearl Harbor Day: A spiritual parallel

December 7, 2017

The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941 stands out as one of the most successful surprise attacks in the history of warfare. More than 2,400 people were killed during the attack, with eighteen American ships suffering damage. The Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor with a force of 423 planes based on three aircraft carriers. The entire fleet of thirty ships went relatively undetected throughout its journey to Hawaii. The entire attack lasted less than four hours, resulting in the sinking of 21 out of 96 of the ships anchored in the harbor. Of the nearly 400 fighter planes sitting at airbases on the island 188 were destroyed and another 159 damaged.

The Japanese had incorrectly assumed that if they could cripple the US Pacific Fleet that the country as a whole would be demoralized and significantly set the country back as they struggled to rebuild. Instead, the attack solidified the emotions of the people and led to the eventual fall of the Japanese Empire. The United States entered the war as a strong fighting force within just sixty days after the Pearl Harbor bombing, a far cry from the six to eighteen months expected by the Japanese. On December 7, the nation recognizes this pivotal event of WWII, known as National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day or Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day or Pearl Harbor Day.

A Spiritual Parallel

Dennis Cramer, internationally recognized for his prophetic ministry, drew a spiritual parallel to the attack on Pearl Harbor. Here is an excerpt from a message to the Body of Christ. Although the message was originally spoken more than 12 years ago, it still has application, particularly today.

I believe this is the word of the Lord for you: It’s December 7, 1941, all over again! You have just been through your spiritual Pearl Harbor experience. You have just been blind-sided. You have just been hit below the belt. You have just been thrust into a spiritual war, a combat zone, a hostile environment, totally against your will.

A strong biblical response is necessary. . . You must fight back. You must defend yourself. You have been the target of a demonic “sneak attack” and you have suffered, nearly becoming another spiritual fatality. You’ve been spiritually bullied around too long. You’ve been spiritually victimized too long. You’ve been spiritually defeated far too long. It’s simply time to win. It’s time to emerge as the victor! And to the victor go the spoils!

I’m convinced that praise is the number one weapon of YOUR warfare. Through praise it’s time for you to execute vengeance, punish your enemy, bind evil forces, and carry out the judgment against all of hell. Also, as you praise God, I want you to do something more. It’s time for YOU to claim the four-fold guarantee of Christ’s atonement. Plus, realize that his atonement was and is a finished work. Jesus didn’t say, “It is over.” He said, “It is finished.” The work of the cross was and is a finished, completed, perfect work for YOU. There’s nothing more you can do except to receive within YOU what Christ did for YOU. This includes total forgiveness, healing, deliverance, and prosperity for you, as well as total defeat for your archenemy, the devil.

Receive now His forgiveness for all your sin, past and present. Receive now His total healing for your life: spirit, soul, and body. Receive now any deliverance you may require to be free. And, expect to walk in total prosperity now, both in natural things as well as in spiritual things. Accept the total package Christ has for YOU now. Remember, YOU are the one who must do the receiving. This is your right and your responsibility.

Reflecting on the significance of Pearl Harbor Day and the words of Dennis Cramer, this poetic expression came to mind:

Our Total Package

Our lives reveal our deepest thoughts as scrolls unfold.
Grace, mercy, peace, and God’s favor still overflow,
Flooding our hearts, as blessings abound one hundred fold.
Passion consumes us; we pursue that we might know
Fullness of joy as we seek to follow His ways,
As we stand with pure hearts in total forgiveness,
As we reckon our accounts: sum of all our days.
Washed and cleansed in the beauty of His holiness,
Touched by His power we receive total healing,
Far beyond the tokens of our inheritance.
With faces uncovered and His glory revealing,
We seize our destiny of total deliverance:
Foretaste of the sweetness of the final victory,
As we savor rewards of total prosperity.

Kevin Levar offers a song related to forgiveness, one of the components of the “Total Package”: “A Heart that Forgives”

Remembering my father on his birthday

December 2, 2017

Lonnie Johnson

As I progressed through the day, my thoughts flowed in streams that seem to converge into this blog post, a revision and expansion of an entry posted a year. Within the past hour I also read inspiring and thought-provoking comments posted on ponderosapapa’s blog, focusing on the Word for the Day, which in this case was “Posterity.” The remarks were especially meaningful, as I have been thinking about my father. I also thought of my 16-month old grandson who has enriched my life in so many ways. In light of all that has recently transpired, I decided to revise and re-post the following:

This morning as I began my morning reflections and time of meditation, I recall December 2 is the birthday of my father, Lonnie Johnson, who would have been 95. Born in rural Arkansas in 1922, my father migrated as a youngster with his mother to Gary, Indiana where I was born and reared. Recently my father had been very much in my thoughts, as my wife and I visited our daughter and son-in-law and our new grandson who live in Reston, Virginia. During the Thanksgiving holiday, as I held my grandson, I thought of my parents with a comforting assurance that they would have been so proud of their great grandson.

Upon returning home to Fayetteville, NC, I recall something that my father said a number of times, but I remember one specific occasion when he told me, “Son, I’m proud of you.” We were living in Arlington, Virginia in the first year of our marriage, and most remarkably I had returned to that general area a week or so ago.

Every man since Adam has sensed a deep yearning to hear these words or some variation thereof from his father. I also recall another specific occasion occurring around Father’s Day, when I asked my dad what he wanted for Father’s Day, and he made a similar comment, “Son, just keep me proud of you.” I have since endeavored to live up to that admonition.

During the past Thanksgiving week, my wife and I rode the Metro to meet with friends and visit the newly opened Museum of the Bible located in the heart of Washington, DC, the place where we first met and later returned to live after we were married. I recall another unforgettable incident that occurred when my parents visited me for the first time when I lived in DC from 1969-71. During that visit I learned something about my father who inspired this poem:

Quiet as it’s kept

Quiet as it’s kept, Daddy loved the blues.

I remember the time back in the day when Dad could still drive,

and drive he did most of the way, not the whole way, but divided in half,

stopping to spend the night in a motel in Pennsylvania

somewhere about halfway between Gary, Indiana and DC

“Madear and Daddy” drove down to visit me one weekend over the 4th

and we went down to festivities off Constitution Avenue

in that “grassy as if it wanted wear” area near the Smithsonian.

Strolling like nomads in and out of blue and white striped tents,

seeking relief from the relentless blazing summer sun,

we sampled the chicken and rib tips and fresh squeezed lemonade

and finished off the feasting with a taste of the blues:

a folk festival of sorts, featuring local blues singers

and a quartet from Dad’s home state of Arkansas.

We followed the crowd into this one wide tan canvas expanse,

flaps raised and rolled up, wrapped all around the sides,

like a revival tent without the sawdust.

On the plywood stage covered with carpet remnants

in a rickety wooden folding chair sat old Flora.

She wasn’t blind but thick wire-rimmed glasses

magnified her dark orbs that closed like doll’s eyes

when she reared back her head and hollered.

Flora was good, but she wasn’t quite like Robert,

old Blind Robert that sang down in front of the Riggs Bank.

He was blind for sure (think he was born that way),

strumming and humming, and sliding that metal bar up and down the guitar strings

to lure folk into the tent to taste that thick authentic down home sound.

Blind Robert show could sing. . . .

 

Wonder why so many good blues singers be blind?

Brother Ray and Stevie. . . Blind Lemon Jefferson, Blind Willie McTell,

Blind Willie Johnson, Blind Blake n’nem;

All the Blind Boys, from Mississippi and Alabama,

All yall, I know yall see what it takes to show nuff sing the blues.

Of course, my Daddy got the same name as a famous blues singer,

Lonnie Johnson. I wonder what all that means, if anything.

 

While the brothers from Arkansas was playing and singing,

I’d glance over and catch Daddy nodding his head in agreement

or see him smiling or simply breathing a sigh,

like a tacit Amen or inner response that seemed to say,

“You got that right.”

We stood and watched and listened a good while

before we left and continued to stroll from tent to tent.

After a while, Daddy wanted to go back just one more time.

My Daddy show did love him some blues that time in DC.

 

Some say the blues is an acquired taste that you appreciate as you age.

As I have mellowed in the autumn of the years, I have come to enjoy the blues too.

I just wish I could have shared this newfound fondness for blueness

with my father back in the day, in my younger boppin doowop days,

but I just couldn’t get into them down in the alley sad songs back then.

I just didn’t know why the blues always be so sad.

What did I know? What did I know?

 

Now I know it takes a whole lot of living and

a lot more loving and losing to appreciate the blues.

Like the Lady say,

You don’t know what love is
Until you’ve learned the meaning of the blues
Until you’ve loved a love you’ve had to lose
You don’t know what love is

Now I know just what Daddy meant when he nodded his head

and sighed and wanted to go back just one more time.

Quiet as it’s kept, my Daddy loved him some blues.

In all things I seek to find a spiritual application, and I came to the conclusion long ago that in a similar manner, God, my heavenly Father, sometimes affectionately called Abba, Father, my Daddy, also appreciates the blues which attempt to articulate a response to loss. As Ralph Ellison, notes,

“The blues is an impulse to keep the painful details and episodes of a brutal experience alive in one’s aching consciousness, to finger the jagged grain, and to transcend it, not by consolations of philosophy but by squeezing from it a near-tragic, near-comic lyricism.  As a form, the blues is an autobiographical chronicle of personal catastrophe expressed lyrically.”

Recently I came across a magnificent musical illustration of what I am trying to say about Abba, Father’s sense of identification with those who sing the blues. Listen to Kevin Levar along with One Voice singing “Jesus Blues.”

I hope in your words

November 29, 2017

This new day, November 30, 2017, begins words from the Psalmist who proclaims his hope in God:

Psalm 119:147 (New King James Version)

I rise before the dawning of the morning,
And cry for help;
I hope in Your word.

The New Living Translation put it this way:

Psalm 119:147 (NLT)

I rise early, before the sun is up;
I cry out for help and put my hope in your words.

Hope has been defined as “the expectation of a future good.” Jeremiah 29:11, one of the most often referenced verses of our times, speaks of God’s desire for Israel to give them “hope and a future.” As Christian believers, we go to the Word of God and find that God is our hope. We are to be totally grounded in our confidence and expectation of God’s goodness and providential care, even in the face of trouble and anguish.

Throughout the Psalms, especially in Psalm 119, the longest chapter in the Bible, every verse makes reference to the Word of God, the place where our hope abides, as these three verses remind us:

Psalm 119:74:

May all who fear you find in me a cause for joy, for I have put my hope in your word.

Psalm 119:43
Do not snatch your word of truth from me, for your regulations are my only hope.

Psalm 119:114

You are my refuge and my shield; your word is my source of hope.

Elsewhere in the Bible, we are also encouraged to place our hope in the Word of God, as Romans 12:12 (NLT) offers this reminder

Rejoice in our confident hope. Be patient in trouble, and keep on praying.

Hebrews 10:23 (NLT) encourages us:

Let us hold tightly without wavering to the hope we affirm, for God can be trusted to keep his promise.

Psalm 71:5 offers this marvelous reminder:

For you are my hope; O Lord God, You are my trust from my youth and the source of my confidence.

Hope counteracts thoughts of despondency, when we recognize that hope is a joyful and confident expectation. Though we are confronted with challenges on every hand, even in the face of death itself, we still have hope:

2 Corinthians 1:9-10

Yes, we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves but in God who raises the dead, who delivered us from so great a death, and does deliver us; in whom we trust that He will still deliver us,

Jesus Christ is described as our “blessed hope,” and because of Jesus Christ’s victory over sin, sickness and even death itself, we have hope that lives eternally.

As a child I have fond memories of singing in the Junior Choir, where I recall “leading” my first song at the age of eight or nine. Actually I did not “sing,” but I narrated the verses while the choir sang the lyrics to “On Christ, the Solid Rock,” a “vintage hymn,” which resounds with “hope.”

My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness
I dare not trust the sweetest frame
But wholly lean on Jesus’ name

Chorus:

On Christ the solid rock I stand
All other ground is sinking sand
All other ground is sinking sand

In the midst of difficult situations, we reflect upon the goodness of God who has been faithful in past instances, and the Word of God assures us of His steadfast love, as we rejoice in hope, so expressed in this poem:

Rejoice in Hope

Rejoice in our confident hope. Be patient in trouble, and keep on praying.
Romans 12:12 (NLT)

And we now truly know God is able to do
Exceedingly and abundantly above all
That our finite minds can ask or could even think.
He uplifts and strengthens us each time that we fall.
Our paths lead to disaster, to the very brink.
Despite delays and setbacks, His Word is still true:
God is faithful to His promise; He will come through.
When life begins to unravel, we may ask why
The fulfillment of His will seems to be delayed.
All those who call on Him, He will never deny.
We are assured He will reward all who have obeyed.
Our faithful God is not a man that He should lie.
Through every trial, we are covered by the Blood,
We rejoice in hope, knowing that the Lord is good.

The Maranatha Singers offer a moving rendition of the timeless hymn that has come to mean even more to me over the years.

Thanksliving:  Every day is Thanksgiving Day

November 23, 2017

(more…)

Knowledge of His will

November 12, 2017

Colossians 1--9

The Verse of the Day for November 12, 2017 is found in Colossians 1:9:

[Preeminence of Christ] For this reason we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding;

A recent blog post examined “the mystery of God’s will,” just as the phrase “the knowledge of His will” is also highlighted in today’s focus.  The intent and purpose of God, the Will of God, is revealed in Scripture. His will for His creation and His people is set out in the Law and the Prophets, which find their fulfilment in Jesus Christ. Central to the will of God is the desire that people of God might be faithful and obey His will once they know it. 2 Timothy 3:16 in the New Living Translation reveals:

All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right.

This discussion of the Will of God also brings to mind two poems, one original and one anonymous, touching on this vitally important subject for all believers:

The Will of God

To find the will of God is the greatest discovery. 

To know the will of God is the greatest knowledge. 

To do the will of God is the greatest achievement.

 Albert Schweitzer

 

My food is to do the will of Him who sent me, 

 and to finish His work.

John 4:34 [NKJV]

                                                 

To unearth at last the world’s most priceless treasure

And gaze upon the splendor of God’s sovereignty

Is to savor joy unspeakable beyond measure:

To find the will of God is the greatest discovery.

To know intimacy beyond the highest degree,

A confident assurance when we acknowledge

And embrace the path prepared for us: our destiny.

To know the will of God is the greatest knowledge.

To live life, knowing we are covered by the Blood

Is to walk with no regret, never to lament,

For all decisions work together for the good:

To do the will of God is the greatest achievement.

Guided and protected by the Shepherd’s staff and rod,

We rejoice to find, to know, and do the will of God.

The following could be described as “the second verse to the same song:

The Will of God

Author: Unknown
The will of God will never take you
Where the grace of God cannot keep you.
Where the arms of God cannot support you,
Where the riches of God cannot supply your needs,
Where the power of God cannot endow you.

The will of God will never take you
Where the spirit of God cannot work through you,
Where the wisdom of God cannot teach you,
Where the army of God cannot protect you,
Where the hands of God cannot mold you.

The will of God will never take you

Where the love of God cannot enfold you,
Where the mercies of God cannot sustain you,
Where the peace of God cannot calm your fears,
Where the authority of God cannot overrule for you.

The will of God will never take you
Where the comfort of God cannot dry your tears,
Where the Word of God cannot feed you,
Where the miracles of God cannot be done for you,
Where the omnipresence of God cannot find you.

Among the numerous songs related to “the will of God” is this composition by Deb Zemke; “His Will,” played and sung by Robert Jason.

Veterans Day Prayer

November 11, 2017

veterans-day-thank-you-quotesOn November 11, 2017, Veterans Day, we offer this prayer for our veterans:

Almighty God, our Father, with grateful hearts we offer thanks for the lives of all veterans who have served and who continue to serve in the military in our nation. We are especially grateful for those who have given the last full measure of devotion and sacrificed their lives that we might enjoy the fruits of freedom. We continue pray for those who serve in the military today, especially for those who place themselves in harm’s way around the world.  May those who presently serve in the military dwell in the secret place of the most high and abide under the shadow of the Almighty, for You are the Lord, our refuge, our fortress, our God in whom we place our trust. We offer thanks and praise that in the time of trouble, You shall hide us–in Your secret place shall You hide us.

You have said that You go before us as our battle axe and our weapons of war; indeed, the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds. As You lead us into battle, the glory of the Lord shall be our rear guard, as You carry us from faith to faith and victory to victory. We declare that we will not be terrified by our enemies nor be distressed by the challenges that confront us, for the battle is not ours, but it is Yours, and You shall bear Your mighty arm that the nations of the world might know that the Lord, our God, is mighty to save.

We thank and praise You for the victory. Now thanks be unto God who always causes us to triumph in Christ and makes manifest the sweet savor of His knowledge by us in every place. And it is in the mighty name of Jesus Christ, our conquering hero and soon-coming King, the name above all names, we pray. Amen.

We close with a Salute to Veterans–“Amazing Grace” played on bagpipes:

Veterans Day 2017

November 10, 2017

veterans-day-2016

Veterans Day 2017 will be celebrated today on Friday, November 10 since November 11 occurs on Saturday this year. The underlying purpose of the Federal holiday is to honor and thank all military personnel who served the United States in all wars, particularly living veterans. Originally known as Armistice Day or Remembrance Day, the anniversary of the signing of the Armistice that ended World War I at 11 a.m. on the 11th Day of 11th Month of 1918, the present designation of Veterans Day occurred in 1954 when President Dwight Eisenhower signed into law the recognition of November 11 as Veterans Day. Most appropriately, today’s blog post focuses on Veteran’s Day, a day of special significance to me in a number of ways.

It is a memorable occasion because it is my sister Cheryl’s birthday—she was born November 11, 1946—at that time it was called Armistice Day, as I well remember. Also November 11, 2000 was the day that her husband, Elliott Thompson, who was also a Veteran, was buried.  She has since remarried, and her husband, Thomas, is also a veteran.

Veterans Day is also special to me for another reason. 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 which occurred 50 years ago is directly related to my present position as an adjunct professor at Carolina College of Biblical Studies in Fayetteville, NC.

I was born and reared in Gary, Indiana, and when I was about 13 or 14, I visited Purdue University, the first college campus I ever set foot on, and I decided at that time that 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, and subsequently became a registered pharmacist, working as a staff pharmacist at Methodist Hospital in Gary. I was enjoying the “good life” when I received my “greetings from Uncle Sam.” In 1967 I was drafted into the US Army. At the time 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, many of whom did not return and others who were forever changed by that experience.

Today, I recognize more clearly than ever that what Satan meant for evil, God in His providence, transforms into something great and glorious. While I was in the Army, I rode the crest of the Jesus Movement and experienced a powerful conversion that introduced me to the transforming power of God through receiving the Holy Spirit and studying the Bible.

In January of 1967 after a tearful farewell with my parents, I boarded the bus that took me from Gary, Indiana to Fort Campbell, Kentucky, my first time ever setting foot in the State. Upon completing of my basic training, I was sent to Fort Sam Houston, in San Antonio, Texas, where I was given option of working in a dispensary filling prescriptions, as I had done previously, or I could choose to become a pharmacy instructor and teach pharmacy technicians. The second option 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 eventually 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.

Prior to coming back to North Carolina, I taught at a number of institutions in the Midwest, including Indiana Wesleyan University in Ohio and Kentucky. At that time I recognized a special Blue Grass connection that I would like mention as I pay tribute to one particular veteran from Kentucky whom I knew briefly while serving as a pharmacy instructor at Fort Sam Houston. He and I had a number of things in common: we were both drafted as pharmacists who opted to become pharmacy instructors so we went through the training at the Medical Field Service School together. There was one notable difference, however. I had not signed up for an additional year of service, despite the Army’s indication that I might not get a pharmacy position if I didn’t. My fellow serviceman, had signed up for the additional year, but we both received pharmacy positions. The additional year increased the likelihood that you might have to go to Vietnam if there were a pharmacy position that needed to be filled.

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 a few years ago when on Memorial Day I again 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 class at the IWU Louisville Center, and we had no classes on that holiday when I saw my colleague’s sacrifice in a totally different light. In literature there is term called a Christological figure or Christ Figure. The term refers to an object, person, or figure that represents Christ allegorically or symbolically, or any similar object, person, or figure with qualities generally reminiscent of Christ; one of the most notable qualities is “self sacrifice.”

I was overwhelmed by recognizing that my fellow instructor could be seen as “going in my place.” What transpired while I was in the Army culminated in an awareness of 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.

We close our Veterans Day reflection with a moving tribute to veterans “Remember Me” compiled by Lizzie Palmer: