Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Total solar eclipse: Prelude to the Great Sign

August 21, 2017

Solar Eclipse

Today, August 21, 2017, the nation, indeed, the whole world is directing its attention toward the solar eclipse of the sun, described as “the sight of a lifetime.” This rare astronomical event occurs when the New Moon moves between the Sun and Earth, blocking out the sun and casting a shadow on parts of Earth for a limited amount of time. This path of the eclipse will cover 14 states, stretching from Lincoln Beach, Oregon to Columbia, South Carolina. Observers outside this path will still see a partial eclipse where the moon covers part of the sun’s disk. Because of modern technology, this event will be the widely viewed total eclipse ever.

Many observers are trying to decipher the meaning of this astronomical phenomenon.  Dr. Dale Sides points out what he describes as the Christological significance of the event said to be a prelude to “The Great Sign” spoken of in Revelation 12:1-2.

Now a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a garland of twelve stars. Then being with child, she cried out in labor and in pain to give birth.

On September 23, thirty-three days after today’s total eclipse, Rosh Shoshana, the Jewish New Year, will occur,  announcing the 120th Jubilee Year in the Hebrew calendar. According to Sides, this astronomical phenomenon is designed to display Jesus Christ and the glory of his second coming.

Christians, in particular, view the increasing frequency of current cosmic phenomena as “signs of the times and the end of the age,” referring to “signs and wonders” said to occur before the return of Jesus Christ spoken of in Luke 21:25-28:

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

26 Men’s hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth: for the powers of heaven shall be shaken.

27 And then shall they see the Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.

28 And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draws near.

With such signs and wonders appearing in the sun, moon, and stars, observers of  times and seasons are more certain than ever that Christ’s return is at hand; indeed, for countless Christians, their redemption appears to be drawing closer and closer, closer than it has ever been, as this poem reveals:

Signs and Wonders Still

The heavens declare the glory of God;

And the firmament shows His handiwork.

Day unto day utters speech,

And night unto night reveals knowledge.

Psalm 19:1-2

 

Signs and wonders still abound in the daytime skies;

Principalities and powers assault and strive.

This solar eclipse witnessed with protected eyes:

A bold prelude before the Daystar shall arrive.

By looking above, we determine where we are.

The heavens declare the wonders of God’s glory;

Maker of sun and moon, calling by name each star,

Unfolds this tapestry for those with eyes to see.

The mystery of His will is now clearly revealed,

For we have an even more sure prophetic word.

On display by night and day, no longer concealed,

Such signs and wonders confirm the Word of the Lord.

Behold! The beloved bridegroom stands at the door:

Our redemption is nearer than ever before.

 

The song “Redemption Draweth Nigh” further reinforces this message:

Great deliverance

August 17, 2017

 

Genesis 45--7

Today’s blog entry examines the Quote of the Day for August 17, 2017, from David Wilkerson:

“How quickly we forget God’s great deliverances in our lives. How easily we take for granted the miracles he performed in our past.”

In the midst overwhelming circumstances that challenge our faith, we can become so quickly embroiled in the present that we sometimes forget that we have been entangled in seemingly impossible situations in the past but God came through and rescued us by a great deliverance.

The expression “great deliverance” is used in Genesis 45 where Joseph reveals his identity to his brothers who have come to Egypt during the time of famine, as he explains the circumstances that led to their arrival:

Genesis 45:7

So God sent me ahead of you to assure your survival in the land, and to keep you alive for a great deliverance.

Joseph assures his brothers that the plans of the Enemy were designed to destroy him, but God’s plans unfolded to bless him that Joseph might be a blessing. Indeed, all things work together for the good, for those who are called according to His purpose.” We can learn from this account, in that so often our current circumstances appear to be an absolute catastrophe, but if we patiently endure these trying circumstances, we will survive and we will reach:

The Other Side of Deliverance

 

We know the Spirit of the Lord God has set us free,

That we might manifest all God desires us to be.

We are empowered to perform miracles and more,

Being anointed to preach glad tidings to the poor.

The brokenhearted will be healed and captives set free.

We shall release from bondage all those bound in prison.

A new day of deliverance waits on the horizon.

To comfort and console all those who mourn in Zion,

We shall give them beauty for ashes, even from the dead.

We shall receive the oil of joy for mourning instead,

The garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness,

To be transformed into flourishing trees of righteousness.

For all who risk being called foolish and who take a chance,

Endless joy awaits on the other side of deliverance.

Despite overwhelming circumstances that so often appear to be plummeting to a total disaster, our situation is being transformed into conditions suitable for a great deliverance.

In closing, Matt Maher reminds us that God is our “Deliverer”:

Reflecting on ordination and more

August 11, 2017

Ephesians 4--1

I begin this day, August 11, 2017, reflecting on an event of supreme significance occurring forty-three years ago, when I was ordained to the Christian ministry. Biblical scholar, E.W. Bullinger discusses the symbolic significance of the number 43, which is a combination of forty and three:

The number 40 is the product of 5 and 8, and points to the action of grace (5), leading to and ending in revival and renewal (8).This is certainly the case where forty relates to a period of evident probation. . . . A period of testing.

Now the number three stands for that which is solid, real, substantial, complete, and entire. . . All things that are specially complete are stamped with this number three, representing divine completeness or perfection.

Many times periods of reflection result in a poetic output, as Wordsworth observes, “Poetry is the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings: it takes its origin from emotion recollected in tranquility.” Today’s occasion brought to mind three poems written related to my calling to the ministry:

Although my ordination was the public recognition of my individual response to the call of God to serve, this recognition of my inner prompting to be of greater service transpired long before my actual ordination ceremony on August 11, 1974. I recall as a child being aware of the presence of God, and as I grew older and was introduced to the Bible, I remember reading the passage in Isaiah 6 where the glory of God overwhelms the Prophet, who responds to the question: “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Isaiah answers saying, “Here am I, send me.” This simple response resonated within me for years, and I continue to respond to God whereby I first heard His voice and answered:

The Call

I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord,

beseech you to walk worthy of the calling

with which you were called,

Ephesians 4:1

 

The call resounds like a repeated name

From the lips of a dear friend who knows you.

I clearly hear my name and see the flame

That lights the path of those whom God foreknew

Would hear and heed a higher destiny.

This calling only God can verify.

My ear cannot hear; my eye cannot see;

Yet within my heart I cannot deny

That I have heard and seen what few will know.

I must arise and strive to reach the place

Where the rivers of understanding flow1

And never doubt God’s purpose and His grace.

I stand in the unbroken line of all

Those who, having heard, rise to heed the call.

Another related poem is “This Year of My Jubilee.”  To understand some of the references in this poem, one must first be familiar with the Old Testament concept of the Sabbath Year observed every seven years. Also known as the “Year of Release,” during this period no farming nor manual labor was to take place. In addition, all debt payments were remitted. At the end of every seven Sabbath Years, a special Sabbatical Year, The Year of Jubilee, was observed, during which time bond-slaves were released from their obligation of servitude, and they were free to leave their masters and go out on their own. These servants, however, could by their freedom of will choose to serve their masters for the rest of their lives in light of the close relationship they had established.

As it turns out, some have calculated 2017 will be another Jubilee Year in the Hebrew calendar, so that this poem is even more significant in that light.

This Year of My Jubilee

Exodus 21:1-6

Leviticus 25:1-17

 

I stand alone clothed only with the wind

At the end of another seventh Sabbath year.

Gathering of blessings now flow through my mind

As the shofar’s call resounds in my ear

To proclaim this year of my jubilee.

I reflect upon the wonders of this grace

Wherein I stand, a bond-slave now made free.

In this golden moment as I embrace

The truth and pledge to love as You command,

Pierce my ear, place Your brand upon my soul;

Enlighten me so that I may understand

That to run to serve is life’s highest goal.

Unfold before me pleasures of Your ways

And renew my vows to serve You all my days.

A year ago, I posted a blog entry entitled “Reflections on a convergence of events,” as my heart overflowed with gratitude to God for being alive to celebrate not only my ordination, but most providentially my wife, Brenda, and I were present to share in the birth of our first grandchild, Kingston Edward Simkins, who made his grand entrance at 5:45 p.m. on August 11, 2016, weighing in at 6 pounds 14 ounces with a 20 and three-quarter inch frame. Later in the day while trying to take in the magnitude of the moment, I recognized that these two events had occurred during August which has been designated as “What will be your legacy month?”

The closing piece in this series of celebratory poems makes reference to the importance of the legacy that one leaves behind:

To Serve and To Sow

Those who sow in tears shall reap in joy.

He who continually goes forth weeping,

Bearing seed for sowing, shall doubtless come again

with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him.

Psalm 126:5, 6

 

I learn to serve and to sow with a joyful heart,

To pour from the fountain of my soul and to give

All my strength to the Lord’s work and to do my part

To complete each task, to build that the Word might live,

For only deeds done for the sake of Christ remain.

The legacy to fulfill God’s will lives beyond

The brief journey of our days filled with joy and pain,

This precious token of our covenant, the bond

Of devotion to the Master, perfected love

Shed abroad in our hearts, enfolded in His peace

That passes understanding, flowing from above.

As I plant and water, our God gives the increase.

Freely I have received that I might come to know

The love of Christ, as I learn to serve and to sow.

I closed my blog post last year with these comments and a music video which still apply today:

Overall, my desire is to leave a legacy of a man called to serve and to minister to the people of God, a legacy that will touch eternity. Indeed, the example that we leave for others to follow is part of our legacy, which should be of concern to everyone, not just during August but every day of our lives. We close with “Find Us Faithful” which reminds Christian believers of the importance of the legacies that they leave:

Serving at the King’s good pleasure

August 9, 2017

Psalm 149--4

Instead of the traditional Verse of the Day, we are going to examine the Phrase of the Day for August 9, 2017: “At the pleasure of the King.” The phrase is sometimes expressed as “at His Majesty’s pleasure” or “the King’s pleasure.” This legal term refers to the indeterminate length of service of certain appointed officials or the indeterminate sentences of some prisoners. The expression is used to say that something is done or can be done because someone wants it to be done.

In the Book of Psalms we not only notice what God takes pleasure in, but we also find an expression of “God’s good pleasure”:

Psalm 149:4 (AMP) makes known that the people of God are a source of pleasure or delight for the Lord.

For the Lord takes pleasure in His people; He will beautify the humble with salvation and adorn the wretched with victory.

Psalm 51:18 (NKJV) offers this request to God:

Do good in Your good pleasure to Zion;
Build the walls of Jerusalem.

The expression of God’s “good pleasure” is also found in the Gospels in Luke 12:32:

Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.

The phrase is twice used in Ephesians and once in 2 Thessalonians:

Ephesians 1:5

Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will,

Ephesians 1:9

Having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself:

2 Thessalonians 1:11:

Wherefore also we pray always for you, that our God would count you worthy of this calling, and fulfill all the good pleasure of his goodness, and the work of faith with power:

Bible teacher John Piper discusses the phrase “good pleasure” and notes that it is a verb in Greek, meaning “to be a pleasure” or “to be pleased by.” You could translate it: “it pleased God,” or, “God chose it gladly.” One of the best places to see how the expression is used occurs in Philippians 2:13

The Amplified Bible renders the verse this way:

[Not in your own strength] for it is God Who is all the while effectually at work in you [energizing and creating in you the power and desire], both to will and to work for His good pleasure and satisfaction and delight.

God is both the energy and the energizer—even beyond the Energizer Bunny that keeps on going and going. The verse also expresses God’s desire:  “Both the willing and the working (the energizing).” God does it all, then. Yes, but he puts us to work also, and our part is essential.

Often when we encounter situations whereby we must make a choice, the individual presenting the options will ask: “What’s your pleasure?” What would you like? What would bring you pleasure or what would delight you? Delight can be used as a synonym for pleasure.  As a verb, it means –to take pleasure in, to enjoy, to appreciate, to savor;

As believers we ask, “What delights God? What brings Him pleasure? What is His good pleasure?” Our good pleasure is to do the good pleasure of His will, as the following lyrics ask:

What Is Your Pleasure?

 

What is your pleasure?  What shall we bring?

What do you desire as an offering?

What shall we give you? What will suffice?

What shall we offer as a perfect sacrifice?

 

Tell us your desires: what do you say?

Your only desire is that we learn to obey.

You desire truth in the inward parts:

Our broken spirits with broken and contrite hearts.

Our broken spirits with broken and contrite hearts.

 

 

Teach us to follow you; teach us your way.

Teach us to listen and quickly obey.

Open our ears, Lord, may we know your voice.

May we walk with you by faith and ever rejoice.

May we walk with you by faith and ever rejoice.

 

This is your pleasure. This will we bring.

We give you our lives as an offering.

You have purchased us: You have paid the price.

We are your offering: a living sacrifice.

We are your offering: a living sacrifice.

Esther Mui offers this Christian Scripture Worship Song with lyrics from Psalm 149 which includes a reference to the people of God as source of pleasure for God.

 

Such great faith—Crazy faith

August 5, 2017

Matthew 8--10

A recent blog post focused on Hebrews 11:1 and verse 6 as the Verse of the Day and offered comments regarding faith, some of which are excerpted here:

As followers of the Lord Jesus Christ, we grow and develop, as we discover that faith is the bedrock of our lives. We define faith as confident assurance, trust and conviction that we 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.

In the midst of thundering echoes of “No!” faith says “Yes!”  Voices shout “You can’t” but faith proclaims “We can and we will!” At the point of total exhaustion, faith says, “Take one more step.” After more failed attempts than we can number, faith gives us 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.”

In terms of illustrations of faith, we find excellent examples from the Bible and from the lives of great men and women who achieved impossible dreams. Despite a barrage of reasons why they would fail, they transformed failure into success. Without faith it is impossible . . . but with faith, the impossible becomes possible.  We recognize and rejoice, knowing that “with God all things are possible.”

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,” Faithwriter 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.

For an illustration of such “crazy faith” in the Bible, let us look at an individual who is not listed in the Hall of Faith of Hebrews 11. In fact, this person is an altogether unlikely candidate who is described as having “great faith.” In the context in which the designation was spoken, you might characterize the person as having “crazy faith.” The centurion in Matthew 8 comes to Jesus Christ with a request that he heal the man’s servant. In response, the Lord says that he will come and do as he asks. Matthew 8:7-10 reveals the exchange between the two of them:

 Jesus said to him, “I will come and heal him.” But the centurion replied to Him, “Lord, I am not worthy to have You come under my roof, but only say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I also am a man subject to authority [of a higher rank], with soldiers subject to me; and I say to one, ‘Go!’ and he goes, and to another, ‘Come!’ and he comes, and to my slave, ‘Do this!’ and he does it.” 10 When Jesus heard this, He was amazed and said to those who were following Him, “I tell you truthfully, I have not found such great faith [as this] with anyone in Israel.

With his belief that Jesus Christ had but to speak the word and the results that the officer desired would come to pass, the centurion demonstrated “such great faith” and profoundly impressed the Lord.

The following poem uses Matthew 8:10 as its introductory verse or epigraph and also makes reference to a question asked by Jesus Christ in Luke 8:8b: “. . . Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will He really find faith on the earth?”

Such Great 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.

 

We conclude with John Waller and his rendition of “Crazy Faith.”

Looking unto Jesus

July 27, 2017

Verse of the Day for July 27, 2017 is the perfect follow-up to yesterday’s discussion of Hebrews 11:1, the introductory verse to the entire chapter known as the “Hall of Faith.” This celebrated chapter offers a series of brilliant examples of men and women, champions, who accomplished astounding exploits “by faith.” For a more comprehensive view of the Verse of the Day, take a look at the first three verses of Chapter 12 of Hebrews which focus on the greatest example of faith in action, the Lord Jesus Christ:

Hebrews 12:1-3 (Amplified Bible):

[Jesus, the Example] Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses [who by faith have testified to the truth of God’s absolute faithfulness], stripping off every unnecessary weight and the sin which so easily and cleverly entangles us, let us run with endurance and active persistence the race that is set before us,

2 [looking away from all that will distract us and] focusing our eyes on Jesus, who is the Author and Perfecter of faith [the first incentive for our belief and the One who brings our faith to maturity], who for the joy [of accomplishing the goal] set before Him endured the cross, disregarding the shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God [revealing His deity, His authority, and the completion of His work].

3 Just consider and meditate on Him who endured from sinners such bitter hostility against Himself [consider it all in comparison with your trials], so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

In thinking on this passage, my mind recalls a backpacking experience that occurred at TFI (Total Fitness Institute) in California back in December, 1975. During this outdoor wilderness adventure I was assigned to a platoon of believers, and we portioned out our food supply for the week among the group. I volunteered to carry the food for the last day, which meant that my load stayed the same while the load that everyone else carried got lighter.

On this particular day, we were told that we would hike for a mile and then take a break and rest for a while. After a considerable amount of time, I was certain that we had hiked more than a mile, but we continued. When I realized that I was carrying the food for the last day and that the load of everyone else was lighter than mine, I became agitated and began to complain in my mind that “This is just not fair. . .” During this time of frustration and agitation as I struggled under my heavy load, I thought of the Lord Jesus Christ and all that he gladly bore on my behalf. As I took my mind off myself and turned my thoughts toward the Lord, the distress and exasperation seemed to fade, and we arrive at our destination in a short time. That unforgettable experience inspired this poem:

The Burden Bearer

Glory, Glory, Hallelujah,
When I lay my burden down.

I stumbled up the rugged road;
I almost fell beneath the load
And spurned the pain inside my head,
Recalling words of one who said
“Come unto me, and I will give you rest.”

The yoke I bear cannot compare
With all he took upon Himself:
All sins, disease, and guilt, despair
That I could not forebear myself.
His burden was not made of wood,
His cross beyond all words can name.
Have I resisted unto blood?
Could I for joy endure such shame?

From a glimpse into his face
I’m strengthened by a second wind;
My mind’s renewed to keep the pace
The load is lightened by my friend.

I feel better, so much better
since I laid my burden down.

In reflecting upon that unforgettable experience, two musical compositions come to mind. First of all, “The Burden Bearer” includes lyrics from an old gospel song that I recall my childhood, back in the day, recorded here by “Pops” Staples and the Staple Singers.

A second selection also captures the essence of my experience in light of the Verse of the Day: “Turn Your Eyes upon Jesus” by John Lamacang

When we “turn our eyes upon Jesus,” we see he, indeed, is our “Burden Bearer.”

He endured the shame so I am not ashamed of the gospel

July 17, 2017

In Romans 1:16 in the Amplified Bible we find the Verse of the Day for July 17, 2017:

I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation [from His wrath and punishment] to everyone who believes [in Christ as Savior], to the Jew first and also to the Greek.

The New Living Testament put it this way:

Romans 1:16 (NLT):

For I am not ashamed of this Good News about Christ. It is the power of God at work, saving everyone who believes—the Jew first and also the Gentile

Hebrews 12:1-2 reminds believers that because of the Lord Jesus Christ and all that he endured on our behalf, as believers we are encouraged when we recall the shame that he experienced::

Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us,

Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.

When we turn our eyes upon Jesus Christ, we recognize all that he endured when he was made a curse, as he endured the cross, despising the shame and humiliation associated with such a disgraceful and shameful act, his crucifixion. Although Christ overcame death on the cross by means of his resurrection from the dead, we cannot forget that the cross was a critical component of the Gospel message: a stumbling-block to the Jews and utter foolishness to the Greeks. (1 Corinthians 1:23).

Other places in the New Testament also make reference to “not being ashamed of the Gospel.” Note this exhortation from Paul to Timothy in 2 Timothy 1:8 (NKJV):

[Not Ashamed of the Gospel] Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me His prisoner, but share with me in the sufferings for the gospel according to the power of God,

Paul goes on to say this in 2 Timothy 1:12 in the New Living Translation:

12 That is why I am suffering here in prison. But I am not ashamed of it, for I know the one in whom I trust, and I am sure that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him until the day of his return.

Because the Lord willingly bore our sin and iniquity on the cross, he released us from the bondage of guilt and shame for past failures. Because Jesus Christ was not ashamed of us, we need never be ashamed of the gospel of the good news he declared to the world. Lyrics from the song “I am not ashamed of the Gospel” reinforce the message of the Verse of the Day, recorded here by the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir:

Favor of God

July 16, 2017

As the days of 2017 continue to unfold in rapid succession, we have moved past the halfway point, as we recall the theme discussed in one of the blog entries posted in January:

“2017 will be a year of unlimited goodness and unlimited favor.”

In reflecting further upon these two concepts in light of what has transpired and what lies ahead, we discover that the goodness of God, our Father, still abounds, and the subsequent favor of God continues to flow steadfastly from His goodness. Surely, goodness and mercy shall follow us all the days of our lives, so says the Psalmist, and we recall that the goodness of God leads us to repentance.

In the original blog entry, we noted that the word “favor” has also been translated “grace.” God extends His grace, His undeserved favor toward His people. The lyrics to the following song describe God’s super-abounding favor:

Favor upon Favor

Favor, favor, favor upon favor,
Favor, favor, favor upon favor
Unprecedented favor, unparalleled favor,
Flowing from the fullness of the Father,
Is falling without measure upon the Body of Christ.

Where we work there is favor
Where we live there is favor
Where we meet there is favor
Up and down each street there is favor
Where we pray there is favor
Where we play there is favor
Every day there is favor
In every way there is favor
Where we learn there is favor
Everywhere we turn, there is favor
Here and there and everywhere
There is the overflowing favor
Never-ceasing, ever-increasing favor.

There is favor, favor, favor upon favor,
Favor, favor, favor upon favor.
Let us savor each golden moment of the favor of God.

Favor, favor, favor upon favor,
Favor, favor, favor upon favor
Unprecedented favor, unparalleled favor,
Flowing from the fullness of the Father,
Is falling without measure upon the Body of Christ.

Another recent blog post pointed out that in the midst of our times that have been described as perilous or difficult to deal with, we find a noticeable emptiness in the lives of people across globe. Without question, there is “a famine in the land,” not just in the United States but around the world. According to the United Nations World Food Programs, About 842 million people in the world do not eat enough to be healthy. That mean that one in every eight people on Earth goes to bed hungry each night. Indeed, hunger continues to be a worldwide crisis, both in the natural and in the Spirit as well.

Eight years ago the theme for the New Year at the church I attended was “Favor in the midst of famine.” Certainly that statement has application to our current year’s theme. Note what the following poem has to say:

Favor in the Midst of Famine

Favor in the midst of famine: all eyes can see
That bountiful goodness defies each enemy.
God blesses each step we take and anoints our head,
As we look back to see where paths of life have led,
And continue, knowing the truth has made us free.

We abide in His presence, serving faithfully,
Endeavoring to do, not less, but more instead,
Knowing that those who hunger shall surely be fed:
Favor in the midst of famine.

We press toward the mark, to reach the highest degree
With the fullest measure of each plurality,
Steadfast and unmovable, as the Word has said.
Though seasons change, this remains our reality:
Favor in the midst of famine.

As we look back upon what God has done over the past seven months; as we observe what the Lord is doing daily in abounding His grace and kindness toward us, and as we look to see what lies ahead, we continue to be overwhelmed by God’s “unlimited goodness and unlimited favor.”

True Worshippers offer “Favor” to conclude today’s blog post.

Another word for the weary

July 15, 2017

At the beginning of the New Year, a friend whom I had not corresponded with for decades reconnected and asked if I had a word of encouragement for one who is “weary.” In response to her request, several scriptures came to mind as well as previous blog posts with references to “the weary.” Here is an excerpt from that original post which serves a prelude to a new word of encouragement for the weary in this current season:

A verse that comes to mind as a source of encouragement from the words of the Lord Jesus Christ is found in Matthew 11:28 (Holman Christian Standard Bible):

“Come to Me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.

In thinking about Jesus Christ, remember this exhortation from Hebrews 13:2-3

2 Looking away [from all that will distract] to Jesus, Who is the Leader and the Source of our faith [giving the first incentive for our belief] and is also its Finisher [bringing it to maturity and perfection]. He, for the joy [of obtaining the prize] that was set before Him, endured the cross, despising and ignoring the shame, and is now seated at the right hand of the throne of God.
3 Just think of Him Who endured from sinners such grievous opposition and bitter hostility against Himself [reckon up and consider it all in comparison with your trials], so that you may not grow weary or exhausted, losing heart and relaxing and fainting in your minds.

From Galatians 6:9 (AMP) comes this encouragement:

And let us not lose heart and grow weary and faint in acting nobly and doing right, for in due time and at the appointed season we shall reap, if we do not loosen and relax our courage and faint.

This word is echoed in 2 Thessalonians 3:13 (AMPC)

And as for you, brethren, do not become weary or lose heart in doing right [but continue in well-doing without weakening].

One of my all-time favorite Old Testament passages related to being weary comes from Isaiah 40:28 31 (NLT):

28 Have you never heard?
Have you never understood?
The LORD is the everlasting God,
the Creator of all the earth.
He never grows weak or weary.
No one can measure the depths of his understanding.
29 He gives power to the weak
and strength to the powerless.
30 Even youths will become weak and tired,
and young men will fall in exhaustion.
31 But those who trust in the LORD will find new strength.
They will soar high on wings like eagles.
They will run and not grow weary.
They will walk and not faint.

I thought about these particular verses today, as I “happened upon” a poem that I had written years ago that could be viewed as a fresh word of exhortation for anyone who may have grown weary during the current season, the perilous times that some describe as a severe famine:

“Now there was famine in the land. . .”

Now there was a famine in the land, and Abram went down
into Egypt to live temporarily, for the famine in the land
was oppressive (intense and grievous.

Genesis 12:10 (AMP)

Although there may be many famines in the land,
We shall never want during times of scarcity,
But we survive and thrive, upheld by God’s right hand.
Anchored in the Word of God, as a seasoned tree
Planted by rivers of water with a tap root,
Even in times of drought our leaves still remain green
With bountiful harvests of spiritual fruit.
Each day we walk by faith and not by what is seen.
Though we may falter, we still strive to do our best.
For the faithful and loyal, those called to obey,
Those created in righteousness and set apart,
This time of extreme lack is yet another test.
In famine we will trust and not seek our own way,
Never yearning to return to Egypt in our heart.
As we follow God and pursue His righteous ways,
We will be strong and wise and prosper all our days.

May these words offer strength to those who may feel weary, knowing that God promises to renew our strength, as we wait upon Him. Esther Mui offers this comforting reminder: Isaiah 40:25-31 Song “Those Who Wait on the LORD.”

Faith of our Fathers and our Legacies

June 18, 2017

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

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

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

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

Faith of Our Fathers

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

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

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

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

Legacies

I

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

II

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

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

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