Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

The Church: God’s crowning achievement

July 21, 2018

 

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

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

Hebrews 13:20-21:

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

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

James 1:2-4 (NLT):

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

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

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

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

Philippians 1:6

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Finish

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

John 4:34

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

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

Philippians 1:6

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

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

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

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

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

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

What are the desires of your heart?

July 20, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Again, Psalm 40:8 reveals this truth:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Passion of Our Heart

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

July 13, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Psalm 34:5

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

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

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

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

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

Have No Fear: Remember Love

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

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

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

With a most grateful heart

June 17, 2018

Today, June 17, 2018 is a special day of celebration for me. Not only is this my 76th birthday, but it is also Father’s Day, “a doubly lovely day.” Often on such occasions, I recite “Good News Day” as a prophetic declaration to remind us to rejoice and celebrate the goodness of God one more time:

Good News Day

This is the day the LORD has made;
We will rejoice and be glad in it.
Psalm 118:24

It’s a good news day
No blues day
New shoes
No way to lose
What a good news day

It’s a great day
I can’t wait day
Lift your voice
Let’s rejoice
Good God, a good news day

It’s a payday
going my way day
no nay–all yea
what you say
Such a good news day

It’s a live it up day
overflowing cup day
It’s a bright and bubbly
doubly lovely
Show-nuff good news day

For the past several years, I have composed a poem on my birthday, generally a reflective piece written in celebration of God’s goodness over the past year. From time to time, I think of the words of Saint Augustine: “To contemplate the truth and to share the fruits of that contemplation.” Here are some of my thoughts on this very special occasion:

With a Most Grateful Heart

Reflections on my seventy-sixth birthday
June 17, 2018

O give thanks to the Lord, for He is good;
His lovingkindness endures forever
Psalm 118:1 (AMP)

With a most grateful heart still overflowing with love,
I give praise to God for every victory we have won,
To stand upon this mountain, once more to rise above:
A faithful friend, father, husband, a beloved son.
In loving kindness God soothed my soul and cast out fears.
Assured nothing can separate me, not even death,
For each day of these bountiful seventy-six years
I give thanks with all my being with each precious breath.
To share from the wellspring of my soul, I seek to find
The right words to express the depths of my gratitude
For a fruitful spirit, healthy body, and sound mind.
Reflecting on God’s goodness evokes this joyful mood.
As I look into the mirror with new eyes, now I see
A miracle: the mighty man of faith God called me to be.

Smokie Norful with a live performance of “Dear God” provides a perfect benediction to this celebration:

Rejoice with those who rejoice; weep with those who weep

May 28, 2018

The Verse of the Day for May 28, 2018 comes from Romans 12:15 in the New Living Translation:

Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep.

Ecclesiastes 3:1, 4 in the New Living Testament also remind us:

For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven.

A time to cry and a time to laugh. A time to grieve and a time to dance.

Whether we are celebrating the success of an individual and rejoicing with that person who has just been promoted or we are comforting someone who is experiencing a sense of sorrow, having just lost their job or their home, we experience a wide range of emotions in life. We are ever mindful, however, that times and seasons change, and we must change our response to changing circumstances accordingly.

One of the times when we “weep with them that weep” occurs with the death of a family member, a friend, or loved one. During such times we may experience deep sorrow and great loss, as we look to t he Word of God to find the comfort and strength to overcome the sense of anguish that can be overwhelming. Because of the hope of Christ’s return, the Scriptures indicate that believers should not sorrow as others who have no hope, but the Bible does not state that we should not sorrow at all. Indeed, there is a time to weep but there is also a time to rejoice.

The Verse of the Day also brings to mind, a blog post discussing the blessings and benefits of always being thankful. In every situation no matter how upbeat or dark it may appear to be, we can always find something to be thankful for. We desire to maintain a continual “attitude of gratitude,” which some have called “thanksliving.” Each time we set our minds to be thankful, we are doing the will of God, the innermost desire of every believer.

The essence of our attitude of endless gratitude is expressed in this exhortation:

In happy moments, praise God.
In difficult moments, seek God.
In quiet moments, worship God.
In painful moments, trust God.
In every moment, thank God.

At All Times

I will bless the Lord at all times,
His praise shall continually be in my mouth.

Psalm 34:1

When we taste of God’s goodness and His great mercy,
As we savor the ecstasy of victory,
When joy overflows and floods our soul, we will praise God.

When gripped by the devices of this transient life
And caught in the straits of rising conflict and strife,
During these difficult moments, we will seek God.

When we long to abide within a tranquil mood
And linger in moments of sweetest quietude,
From the depths of our heart, we will worship God.

Despite raging seas, stormy winds and blinding rain,
When protracted pain strikes like a knife and numbs the brain
So that we can scarcely scream His name, we will trust God.

All along life’s journey, no matter the season,
Through every why and wherefore, for every reason,
Every moment we draw breath, we will thank God.

We seek the Lord and ask ourselves, “What shall we do?”
“Give thanks: it is God’s will in Christ concerning you.”
“Give thanks: it is God’s will in Christ concerning you.”

Though our hearts may be heavy during times of sorrow and loss, we rejoice, knowing that God will turn our mourning into joy, and will comfort us, causing us rejoice in sorrow. Psalm 126:5-6 (NLT) remind us:

5 Those who plant in tears
will harvest with shouts of joy.

6 They weep as they go to plant their seed,
but they sing as they return with the harvest. They that sow in tears shall reap in joy.

Esther Mui offers Psalm 126 Song “Those Who Sow in Tears Shall Reap in Joy” (Christian Praise Worship w/ Lyrics)

Search me: in the natural and in the spiritual

May 13, 2018

Psalm 139--3-14The Verse of the Day for May 14, 2018 comes from Psalm 139:13-14 in the Amplified Bible:

For You formed my innermost parts; You knit me [together] in my mother’s womb. I will give thanks and praise to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Wonderful are Your works, And my soul knows it very well.

In my forthcoming book Not Just a Survivor—More than a Conqueror, I discuss this passage in a blog entry posted during a time when I was recently hospitalized. This particular post focused on the “Word of the Day” which turned out to be “research,” whose root is “search”, a term related to what God continually does to the human heart.

Research, in its most literal sense, means to “re-search” or to “search again. God, our Father, as the ultimate “Researcher” 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 recall this poem that centers on “searching” or “trying,” as in examining closely and scrutinizing in detail in order to render some kind of assessment or evaluation. Introducing the work is a section of Scripture from Romans 8:27-28 (NKJV):

27 Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God.
28 And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose

God Searches

Romans 8:27-28

God searches the depths of each soul and probes each heart,
To uncover each motive and extract the pure,
Discarding dross, thus perfecting the refiner’s art.
The word of prophecy stands as even more sure,
The touchstone to measure the essence of all life.
All else shall fail, but the Word shall ever inspire.
This two-edged sword, sharper than a finely honed knife–
Living, powerful, piercing each thought and desire,
Penetrating soul and spirit, joints and marrow–
Probing deepest emotions, dispelling the dark.
Life-giving and powerful, swift as an arrow
That finds its target and that always hits its mark
Reaching its own perfection, to its fullest extent,
The Word of God prospers wherever it is sent.

In thinking about God as “the ultimate researcher,” the passage from Psalm 139 also comes to mind. The Psalmist opens with recognizing that God knows all about us. Verses 13-16 reveal the intricate and delicate complexity of His matchless creation:

You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body
and knit me together in my mother’s womb.
Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex!
You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion,
as I was woven together in the dark of the womb.
You saw me before I was born.
Every day of my life was recorded in your book.
Every moment was laid out
before a single day had passed.
Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it.

In some Hebrew texts, the reference to the “inward parts” or “inmost being” in verse 13 has been literally translated “kidneys”, the seat of inner human desires. Indeed, we are “fearfully and wonderfully made.”
Most amazingly, during this time I was also a patient undergoing a cystoscopy, an example of a deep internal examination of parts of the urinary tract. This surgical procedure allows the urologist to examine the lining of the bladder and the urethra by means of a device equipped with a camera and a light inserted into the urethra. Such advances in medical technology make possible the deep probing of our “inward parts” in the natural.

Spiritually speaking, all of Psalm 139 can be viewed as an invitation to deepest, divine inspection, as the celebrated psalm closes with this heartfelt request:

Psalm 139:23-24 (NLT} :

23 Search me, O God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
24 Point out anything in me that offends you,
and lead me along the path of everlasting life.

This passage, in part, also inspired this original psalm, an expression of my innermost heart’s desire during this very trying time:

Search Me: A Song for You

“I know your image of me is what I hope to be
If I’ve treated you unkindly, can’t you see
That there’s no one more important to me.
Oh, won’t you please look through me. . . “
“A Song for You”–Leon Russell

Search me, O God, and know my heart:
try me, and know my thoughts:
And see if there be any wicked way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting.
Psalm 139: 23-24

The whole of my life unfolds as an open book,
Known and read by all with eyes to see, page by page.
As you read each line, take an even closer look,
Probe the depths of each of my thoughts, as you engage
The text, searching my heart for its deepest meaning.
Your searching and knowing is the ultimate scan.
As you discern my essence, my inmost being,
I will align myself according to your plan.
Beyond scans, scopes, devices to diagnose,
You see and assess any abnormality.
In these times of watchful waiting, you draw me close:
Despite what tests reveal, you will heal and deliver me.
At times I’m overwhelmed and don’t know what to do,
“But we’re alone now, and I’m singing this song to you.”

Hillsong offers a moving rendition of “Search Me O God,” an appropriate musical accompaniment to close today’s blog entry:

Happy Mother’s Day to a Special Lady

May 13, 2018

The second Sunday in May is a special day for special women in our lives—our mothers. On today, April 13, 2018, I express my gratitude to God for my wife, Brenda, the mother of our two daughters, Melissa and Angela and the grandmother of our grandson, Kingston. Happy Mother’s Day to a special Lady, affectionately called, Mom, Mommy, Mimi, —Brenda Joyce Johnson.

I love you on Mother’s Day and every day.

Be thankful and continually give thanks to God

May 7, 2018

Taken from Chapter 5 of 1 Thessalonians, an epistle written by Paul to the believers at Thessalonica, the Verse of the Day for May 7, 2018 provides great encouragement to believers to be continually in prayer today and every day.

These three inter-related, verses form a three-fold cord that will intertwine with our lives, as we seek to do God’s will. The Amplified Bible’s renders the passage this way:

16 Rejoice always and delight in your faith; 17 be unceasing and persistent in prayer; 18 in every situation [no matter what the circumstances] be thankful and continually give thanks to God; for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus.

A recent blog entry talks about the importance of attitude and offers this reminder:

Thanksliving

“. . . Attitude begins with gratitude.” J. Rufus Moseley speaks of “an attitude of gratitude and boundless good will.” Thanksgiving is a magnificent and joyful “response-ability”, that is, my ability to respond to God’s love and grace. As a believer, I constantly 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.

Much 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. We must show how grateful we are with all of our being, “Thank God it’s Sunday through Saturday.”

This all-encompassing “attitude of gratitude” involves everything we do and say, just as 1 Thessalonians 5:18 proclaims: “In everything give thanks, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.”

Jesus Christ also tells us “Men ought always to pray and not to faint,” another reminder “to pray without ceasing.” We combine these scriptural references to praying in the following scripture memory song:

We ought always to pray and not to faint.
We ought always to pray and not to faint.
We ought always to pray and not to faint.
To pray, pray, pray, pray, pray without ceasing.

As the circumstances of our lives unfold in the midst of the perilous times in which we live, unquestionably, “There is always something to pray about,” as the Word of God encourages us always to be thankful to God,

As We Pray

We give thanks to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
as we pray always for you,

Colossians 1:3

 

During these dark times, we focus on the Kingdom,

Established and grounded on a sure foundation.

As we diligently pursue Godly wisdom,

New paths of this Apostolic Reformation

Unfold as the sun rises on the horizon.

Even in turbulent times, we must stay the course.

Aware of consequences of each decision,

We look to God our Father, bountiful resource.

As we renew our minds, we are transformed and change:

With a “kingdom mindset” we now see with new eyes.

Beyond past narrow limits our view is long-range.

We number our days with each sunset and sunrise,

As the Word commands: pray without ceasing, night and day,

Knowing that God always fulfills his will, as we pray.

We close with one more reminder to “Be joyful always” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18):

The Lord is on my side

May 4, 2018

 

Psalms_118-6

We begin this new day, May 4, 2018 with the Phrase of the Day:

“The Lord is on my side.”

The expression is used in Psalm 118:5-7 in the Amplified Bible:

Out of my distress I called on the Lord;
The Lord answered me and set me free.

The Lord is on my side; I will not fear.
What can [mere] man do to me?

The Lord is on my side, He is among those who help me;
Therefore I will look [in triumph] on those who hate me.

Micah 7:10 also offers a similar phrase:

Then my enemies will see that the Lord is on my side. They will be ashamed that they taunted me, saying, “So where is the Lord— that God of yours?” With my own eyes I will see their downfall; they will be trampled like mud in the streets

I also thought of Psalm 124 which uses the same phrase, but it is expressed in a different way. The King James Version states, “If it had not been for the Lord who was on my side. . .” I prefer, however, the New Living Translation which raises one of those “What if. . .”questions. Here is the psalm in its entirety:

Psalm 124

A song for pilgrims ascending to Jerusalem. A psalm of David.

What if the Lord had not been on our side?
Let all Israel repeat:
What if the Lord had not been on our side
when people attacked us?
They would have swallowed us alive
in their burning anger.
The waters would have engulfed us;
a torrent would have overwhelmed us.
Yes, the raging waters of their fury
wouuld have overwhelmed our very lives.

Praise the Lord,
who did not let their teeth tear us apart!
We escaped like a bird from a hunter’s trap.
The trap is broken, and we are free!
Our help is from the Lord,
who made heaven and earth.

Verse 1 in the King James Version was the inspiration for this personal poetic expression:

If It Had Not Been for the Lord

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

 Psalm 124:1

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

I would have drowned in the sea from the tears I cried.

I shudder to think just where I would be today.

I would have lost my mind or turned and walked away,

But I learned that God is faithful—this cannot be denied.

He was there to guide when I was tempted and tried,

My shelter from the storm where I could run and hide.

He was my deliverer—that is all I have to say:

If it had not been for the Lord.

 

Enemies rose up like a flood to wash aside,

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

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

Through all my trials I learned to watch, fight and pray.

The Lord is my keeper; in Him I confide:

If it had not been for the Lord.

Helen Baylor shares part of her testimony and sings “If it Had Not Been for the Lord on My Side.”

The Phrase of the Day with its reference to Psalms 118 and other related verse brought to mind Psalm 124 which really caused me to think about what might have been, if it had not been for the Lord on my side.

Grow up in Christ

April 30, 2018

Ephesians_4-15

The Verse of the Day is found in Ephesians 4:15, but to more fully understand the context, we will take a look at the preceding verse as well which relates to our being members of the Body of Christ in Ephesians 4:14-15 in the Amplified Bible:

14 So that we are no longer children [spiritually immature], tossed back and forth [like ships on a stormy sea] and carried about by every wind of [shifting] doctrine, by the cunning and trickery of [unscrupulous] men, by the deceitful scheming of people ready to do anything [for personal profit]. 15 But speaking the truth in love [in all things—both our speech and our lives expressing His truth], let us grow up in all things into Him [following His example] who is the Head—Christ.

Throughout the New Testament believers are exhorted not only to speak the truth in love but to walk in love, to demonstrate or manifest love, to put on love. Love is to be the guiding principle in all that we say or do.

A previous blog entry encouraged us to follow the Scriptures, whereby we “put off, put on, and put away.” Here is an excerpt from that post:

Colossians 3:12-14 in the Amplified Bible speaks of how believers should behave:

12 Clothe yourselves therefore, as God’s own chosen ones (His own picked representatives), [who are] purified and holy and well-beloved [by God Himself, by putting on behavior marked by] tenderhearted pity and mercy, kind feeling, a lowly opinion of yourselves, gentle ways, [and] patience [which is tireless and long-suffering, and has the power to endure whatever comes, with good temper].

13 Be gentle and forbearing with one another and, if one has a difference (a grievance or complaint) against another, readily pardoning each other; even as the Lord has [freely] forgiven you, so must you also [forgive].

14 And above all these [put on] love and enfold yourselves with the bond of perfectness [which binds everything together completely in ideal harmony].

Poetically speaking, we are directed to

Put off the old. Put on the new and leave the past behind.

Follow Christ and be renewed in the spirit of your mind.

As believers, we are encouraged to change of our minds and develop new thinking patterns. We are to put off the old man and to put on the new man, as we put away lying or any other ungodly practices.  Instead of continuing in the direction that habitually takes us away from presence of God, our lives should be moving in this direction:

Toward a Mature Expression of Christ

But speaking the truth in love [in all things—

both our speech and our lives expressing His truth],

let us grow up in all things into Him [following His example] who is the Head—Christ.

Ephesians 4:13

 

With the doctrine established in our younger years,

As we live, maturity should be evident,

For perfected love dispels all our doubts and fears,

Having heard God’s Word and then knowing what it meant.

As we fully mature in Christ, we seek to please

The Lord who watches to see what kind of steward

We have become. As our all-wise Father He sees

Not just the outward appearance but the inward

Thoughts and motives of the hearts of daughters and sons

Who are no longer children looking to be fed

But as new creations in Christ, His chosen ones,

Not as carnal, we choose to speak the truth in love instead.

Toward a mature expression of Christ we must strive

And pursue it with passion until we arrive.

We close with musical reminder to the Body of Christ: “Growing Together in Grace”