If I have not love

February 10, 2018

1 Corinthians 13--1-3 New

Following closely on the heels of yesterday’s Verse of the Day focusing on “Increasing Faith” and “Abounding Love,” the passage that we will examine on February 10, 2018 directs our attention toward love, a concept we will hear repeatedly in the coming days. Take a look at 1 Corinthians 13:1-3 (NIV):

If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

Moving into the second week in February, our thoughts turn toward February 14, Valentine’s Day, a time that is set apart to celebrate love. We must recognize, however, the various forms of love, including the love of God or agape, the highest form of love. It differs from eros or passion or sensuous love of the flesh and is even beyond philos­ or love of friends or family. The root of philos is found in the designation of Philadelphia, which is known as the “City of Brotherly Love.” There is a love which is “more intimate than friend, or kin or wife;” this close-knit love is known as agape. This particular term used exclusively in the New Testament, reveals the uniqueness of God’s love

The passage offers a series of conditional phrases beginning with “If I. . .” If I performed a number of actions, followed by the results if “I” performed them outside of love, then “I” would be only so much noise or “I” would be nothing or “I” would have gained nothing. Love would not be impacted by those actions, but the individual who performed them would not fully benefit or profit from those acts if that individual chose “not to love others.”

I Corinthians 13:1-3 is also the ultimate illustration of going from articulation to manifestation. Verses 1 and 2 clearly relate to speaking or using words to express oneself, but agape or “the love of God in the renewed mind in manifestation” must be present. In other words, there must be a corresponding demonstration or tangible expression of the words that are articulated. Verse 3 provides actions demonstrating the expression of love; however, the underlying motive must generated by love or else the actions are not profitable to the individual who, in reality, “gains nothing” outside of God’s love.

During this week we will have ample opportunity to think about the love of God, as we approach Valentine’s Day, but as we follow the Scripture’s encouragement, we are to walk in love every day, not just on February 14.

I Corinthians 13 is often recited at weddings, as we see so beautifully presented in 1 Corinthians 13 – The Wedding Song – Love Never Fails by Bernie Armstrong.

Increasing faith and abounding love

February 9, 2018

2 thessalonians 1-3

The Verse of the Day for February 9, 2018 comes from 2 Thessalonians 1:3 in the New International Version:

[Thanksgiving and Prayer] We ought always to thank God for you, brothers and sisters, and rightly so, because your faith is growing more and more, and the love all of you have for one another is increasing.

The Amplified Bible puts it this way:

 We ought and indeed are obligated [as those in debt] to give thanks always to God for you, brethren, as is fitting, because your faith is growing exceedingly and the love of every one of you each toward the others is increasing and abounds.

The Verse of the Day notes two areas of growth in Christian believers, as faith and love are mentioned throughout 1 and 2 Thessalonians, the Church Epistles whose focus is the hope of Christ’s return.

Faith

Faith is not static but God’s desire is that our faith grow, increase and abound. When the apostles said unto the Lord, “Increase our faith,” he responded:

 And the Lord answered, If you had faith (trust and confidence in God) even [so small] like a grain of mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, be pulled up by the roots, and be planted in the sea, and it would obey you. (Luke 17:6 Amplified Bible)

The plant mentioned by Jesus Christ to illustrate faith is the very small seed of the mustard tree, a pod-bearing, shrub-like plant, growing wild, which is also cultivated in gardens. The little round seeds were an emblem of any small insignificant object. Faith is described in this way:

“It is like a grain of mustard seed, which, when it is sown in the earth, is less than all the seeds that be in the earth.” Jesus goes on to say, “It [faith] is like a grain of mustard seed, which a man took, and cast into his garden; and it grew, and waxed a great tree; and the fowls of the air lodged in the branches of it.”

In another account, we encountered a situation where a man brought his demon-possessed son to the disciples, but they could not deliver the son, but Jesus healed him. Later when the Disciples asked why they could not cast out the demons, Matthew 17:20 explains:

“You don’t have enough faith,” Jesus told them. “I tell you the truth, if you had faith even as small as a mustard seed, you could say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it would move. Nothing would be impossible.” This verse is graphically illustrated in this video clip:

The passage also brings to mind the power inherent in “mustard seed faith”  alluded to in this poem:

Just have a little faith

Just have a little faith—it is all that you ever need.
All God asks for is a grain, the size of mustard seed.
Faith will move the highest of mountains make no mistakes.
Wholehearted believing, no doubt, is all that it takes.
Faith abounds in God’s Word for all those who read and heed.

Follow in the steps of Christ wherever they may lead.
Those who walk by faith and not by sight are rare indeed.
Inspired by people of great faith, a hero awakes:
Just have a little faith.

Passion to serve grows each day, a fire you must feed,
Striving for more–energized by love and never greed.
Faithful is our loving Father who never forsakes
But fulfills to the ultimate each promise He makes.
Walk forth in victory–live by faith and you will succeed.
Just have a little faith.

A mustard seed once planted and nurtured grows into a mighty tree, just as our faith should grow and abound.

Love

Not only are believers to grow in faith, but they are also exhorted to abound in love, as is mentioned in 2 Corinthians 8:7 (AMP):

But just as you excel in everything, [and lead the way] in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in genuine concern, and in your love for us, see that you excel in this gracious work [of giving] also.

Philippians 1:9 (AMP) also reinforces the message:

And this I pray, that your love may abound more and more [displaying itself in greater depth] in real knowledge and in practical insight,

1 Thessalonians 3:12 (KJV):

And the Lord make you to increase and abound in love one toward another, and toward all men, even as we do toward you:

A classic metaphors to describe love is a rose. Indeed, love is a rose that grows—

The budding rose never stays the same but unfolds in lovelier ways.

The Verse of the Day and related scriptures remind us our faith and love are to increase and abound.

We conclude with the musical group “Two or More” offering a lively song “Faith of a Mustard Seed” in English and Spanish.

 

He delivers them

February 7, 2018

The Verse of the Day for February 7, 2018 offers another word of encouragement from the Book of Psalms:

Psalm 97:10 (NIV):

Let those who love the Lord hate evil, for he guards the lives of his faithful ones and delivers them from the hand of the wicked.

The Amplified Bible renders the verse this way:

O you who love the Lord, hate evil; He preserves the lives of His saints (the children of God), He delivers them out of the hand of the wicked.

The closing phrase also brings to mind Isaiah 46:4, rendered in the New King James version:

Even to your old age, I am He,
And even to gray hairs I will carry you!
I have made, and I will bear;
Even I will carry, and will deliver you.

In reflecting on the promise that God will deliver us, this poem also came to mind as we recognize this timeless message that echoes in our lives today:

Just How God Will Deliver Us

But we had the sentence of death in ourselves,
that we should not trust in ourselves,
but in God which raises the dead:
Who delivered us from so great a death, and does deliver:
in whom we trust that he will still deliver us;

1 Corinthians 1:8-9

Just how God will deliver us this we do not know,
But of His unfailing love and power we are sure:
He can send ravens or simply command a widow
To sustain Elijah and all those who will endure.
Although He may not be early, our God is never late.
We rest in knowing that God, our Father, is faithful,
As we trust in Him, learning to labor and to wait.
For each promise fulfilled we are ever so grateful,
And we express our gratitude in word and in deed.
Despite the challenge, God has been there time after time.
Each day we will walk by faith wherever Christ may lead,
Knowing grand mountain vistas await all those who climb.
The hand of God has brought us thus far along the way,
And we will finish our course is all we have to say.

In thinking about God as a deliverer, we also recall lyrics to another original song:

I Will Deliver You

I will deliver you from the snare of the fowler.
As a bird escapes from the cage, so I will release you from captivity.
I will lift you up, out of the hand of your fiercest enemy.
I will draw you to myself and hide you under the safety of my wing.

I will deliver you from the raging deep waters.
The sea shall not overwhelm you, but I will bring you through the storms in peace.
I will lift you up, and bear you up on the wings of an eagle.
I will provide for you and hide you in my secret dwelling place.

The Verse of the Day is set to music in this Scripture Memory Song – Hate Evil (Psalm 97:10; Proverbs 3:23, 26 – NKJV)

Valley of weeping into refreshing springs

February 6, 2018

 

psalm 84

We have all been there in a dry place, a place of weeping, a place of unspeakable grief and anguish, a place of pain, and a place of barrenness.  We pass as pilgrims through this barren land, mindful of the admonition from Dr. Martin Luther King, “Let us not wallow in the valley of despair.”

A recent blog post spoke of mountains and valleys, making reference to “the valley of the shadow of death” with these lyrics:

You have to walk this lonesome valley.
You have to walk it by yourself;
O, nobody else can walk it for you                                                                                      
    You have to walk it by yourself.  

David speaks of “The Valley of Baca” as a place of weeping:

.Psalm 84:5-6 (New Living Translation)

5What joy for those whose strength comes from the Lord,
who have set their minds on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem.

When they walk through the Valley of Weeping,
it will become a place of refreshing springs.
The autumn rains will clothe it with blessings

There is no place where the presence of God does not dwell. As we offer praise to God wherever we are, we can transform the Valley of Baca into the Valley of Baraka, the Hebrew word meaning “blessing and praise.” I recall this statement by praise and worship artist Martha Munizzi:

“God can send His worshippers through the valley of despair, knowing that they will turn a valley place into a resort.”

Her words became the opening lines of this poem written after a concert with Martha and Israel Houghton:

Through the Valley of Despair 

5What joy for those whose strength comes from the Lord,
who have set their minds on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem.

When they walk through the Valley of Weeping,
it will become a place of refreshing springs.
The autumn rains will clothe it with blessings.

Psalm 84:5-6 (New Living Translation)

 

God can send His worshipers through the valley of despair,

Knowing that they will turn a valley place into a resort.

As long as Jesus goes with us, we will go anywhere.

We will go where He sends us and bring back a good report.

We do what we have to do, for the Lord will bring us through.

He makes a way in the wilderness, where there seems to be no way,

Even rivers in the desert where He makes all things new.

Some said we wouldn’t make it, but we don’t care what they say.

The daily pressure mounts, asking how much more can we take.

True worshippers rise and boldly proclaim, “Don’t count me out!”

We know God’s sovereign plan for our lives is not a mistake.

Praise God! We shout with a voice of triumph on the way out.

Weeping endures for a night, but joy comes in the morning,

Transforming the Valley of Weeping into refreshing springs.

Esther Mui offers Psalm 84 Song “How Lovely is Your Tabernacle” (Christian Scripture Praise Worship with Lyrics)

He is faithful in all He does

February 5, 2018

Verse of the Day for February 5, 2018 once again highlights who the everlasting God is and what He does, as so brilliantly displayed in Psalm 33:4-5 (NIV):

For the word of the Lord is right and true; he is faithful in all he does. The Lord loves righteousness and justice; the earth is full of his unfailing love.

“For the word of the Lord is right and true,” and we note a similar expression regarding the Word of God in Psalm 19:9 (AMP):

The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever; the judgments of the Lord are true, they are righteous altogether.

The Psalmist echoes the same in Psalm 119:142 in the Holman Christian Standard Bible:

Your righteousness is an everlasting righteousness, and Your instruction is true.

Verse 5 goes on to state “He is faithful in all He does.” Throughout the Scriptures we find references to the faithfulness of God Almighty:

Once again, David makes these powerful declarations:

Psalm 145:13 (Holman Christian Standard Bible):

Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom; Your rule is for all generations. The Lord is faithful in all His words and gracious in all His actions.

Psalm 146:5-6 (AMP):

How blessed and graciously favored is he whose help is the God of Jacob (Israel),
Whose hope is in the LORD his God,

Who made heaven and earth,
The sea, and all that is in them,
Who keeps truth and is faithful forever,

Beyond the beauty of the Psalms, the words of the New Testament also make known God’s faithfulness:

1 Corinthians 1:9 (AMP):

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

1 Thessalonians 5:24 (AMP) further attests to His faithfulness:

Faithful and absolutely trustworthy is He who is calling you [to Himself for your salvation], and He will do it [He will fulfill His call by making you holy, guarding you, watching over you, and protecting you as His own].Faithful is He who calls you who will also do it.

2 Thessalonians 3:3

But the Lord is faithful, and He will strengthen you [setting you on a firm foundation] and will protect and guard you from the evil one

Hebrews 10:23 (NKJV) offers these words of encouragement:

Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful

In addition to declaring the glorious attribute of God, the passage proclaims “The earth is full of his unfailing love.”

Exodus 15:13 (NIV) also makes known this truth:

In your unfailing love you will lead the people you have redeemed. In your strength you will guide them to your holy dwelling.

The Psalmist makes the following declarations:

Psalm 13:5(NIV):

But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation.

Psalm 32:10 (NIV):

Many are the woes of the wicked, but the Lord’s unfailing love surrounds the one who trusts in him

Psalm 33:18 (NIV):

But the eyes of the Lord are on those who fear him, on those whose hope is in his unfailing love,

Psalm 33:22 (NIV):

May your unfailing love be with us, Lord, even as we put our hope in you.

At the heart of who God is and what He does is recognition that “God is faithful,” as this song by the Brooklyn Tabernacle so magnificently reminds us”: “He’s Been Faithful”:

My rock, my fortress, my deliverer

February 4, 2018

 

Psalm 18_1--3

The Verse of the Day for February 4, 2018 is found in Psalm 18:1-2 (NIV):

[Psalm 18] [For the director of music. Of David the servant of the Lord. He sang to the Lord the words of this song when the Lord delivered him from the hand of all his enemies and from the hand of Saul. He said:] I love you, Lord, my strength. The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. [Psalm 18]

This passage presents a series of metaphors personalized with the pronoun, my, meaning each of the attributes described belongs to the Psalmist, who composes his own song of praise for God’s deliverance:

My strength:

This expression echoes throughout the Psalms, especially in Psalm 27:1-2

The Lord is my light and my salvation, whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life. Of whom shall I be afraid?

Verse 32 of Psalm 18 also makes known this truth:

It is God who arms me with strength, and makes my way perfect.

Psalm 19:14 also makes reference to the source of strength for David:

Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, my strength and my Redeemer.

My rock:

Psalm 18:46 offers a similar expression:

The Lord lives, blessed be my rock, and may the God of my salvation be exalted,

Psalm 31:2-3 offer this petition:

Bow down Your ear to me,
Deliver me speedily;
Be my rock of refuge,
A fortress  of defense to save me.

For You are my rock and my fortress;
Therefore, for Your name’s sake,
Lead me and guide me.

Psalm 61:2 also elaborates on “the rock”:

From the end of the earth I call to You, when my heart is overwhelmed and weak; Lead me to the rock that is higher than I [a rock that is too high to reach without Your help]

Psalm 62:2 makes this bold declaration:

He alone is my rock and my salvation, My defense and my strong tower; I will not be shaken or disheartened

My fortress

A similar expression is found in 2 Samuel 22:2:

And he said: “The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer;

Verse 33 elaborates:

“God is my strong fortress; He sets the blameless in His way.

Psalm 59:16-17 use a similar phrase

But I will sing of your strength, in the morning I will sing of your love; for you are my fortress, my refuge in times of trouble.

You are my strength, I sing praise to you; you, God, are my fortress, my God on whom I can rely.

We find references to the Lord, “My savior” throughout the Psalms and elsewhere:

Psalm 18:46 (NIV):

The Lord lives! Praise be to my Rock! Exalted be God my Savior!

Psalm 25:5 (NIV) states:

Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long.

Psalm 89:26 (NIV) also speaks:

He will call out to me, ‘You are my Father, my God, the Rock my Savior.’

Psalm 118:21(AMP):

I will give thanks to You, for You have heard and answered me; And You have become my salvation [my Rescuer, my Savior

My shield

Here we find another strong metaphor, appears in the Psalms and elsewhere:

In 2 Samuel 22:3 (NIV) we find this reference:

My God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation. He is my stronghold, my refuge and my savior— from violent people you save me.

2 Samuel 22:36 makes this bold statement:

You make your saving help my shield; your help has made me great.

Psalm 3:3 (AMP) declares:

But You, O Lord, are a shield for me, my glory [and my honor], and the One who lifts my head.

Psalm 119:114 (NIV) puts it this way:

You are my refuge and my shield; I have put my hope in your word.

One of favorite verses using “shield” is Psalm 84:11 (AMP):

11 For the Lord God is a Sun and Shield; the Lord bestows [present] grace and favor and [future] glory (honor, splendor, and heavenly bliss)! No good thing will He withhold from those who walk uprightly.

My stronghold:

The series of metaphors closes with the phrase “my stronghold,” used in various places:

Psalm 31:4 (AMP)

You will draw me out of the net that they have secretly laid for me, for You are my strength and my stronghold.

Psalm 31:49 (AMP):

You will draw me out of the net that they have secretly laid for me, for You are my strength and my stronghold.

Psalm 59:9 (AMP) has this to say:

O [God] my strength, I will watch for You; For God is my stronghold [my refuge, my protector, my high tower].

Verses 16-17 express the same:

But as for me, I will sing of Your mighty strength and power; Yes, I will sing joyfully of Your lovingkindness in the morning; For You have been my stronghold And a refuge in the day of my distress.

To You, O [God] my strength, I will sing praises; For God is my stronghold [my refuge, my protector, my high tower], the God who shows me [steadfast] lovingkindness.

After reading this barrage of personal references the Lord and all that He is and what He  does for us, all we can offer is this expression of absolute delight and pleasure: “My, my, my…what a Savior!.”

The essence of the message of the Verse of the Day is embodied in the song “Jesus, My Savior”:Jesus My Savior:

Mountain to valley

February 3, 2018
the-valley-of-the-shadow-of-death

The painting “The Valley of the Shadow of Death” by George Inness graphically depicts how overwhelming this valley appears to be.

We begin the day with a Quote of the Day for February 3, 2018 from the ministry of Shattered Men, where the author speaks of both mountain top experiences as well as those taking place in the valleys:

We often call those times when we feel great, “mountain top experiences.”  We love those times. Most of us never want to come down from the mountain.  We would stay up there forever if we could.  Well my friend, please realize it is the valleys we go through that make the mountain top so wonderful.  For if it were not for these valleys, we would not appreciate the mountain tops.   

In reflecting on the Quote of the Day, I recall lyrics to “We Shall Walk through the Valley in Peace,” a moving musical composition often sung as a hymn or spiritual inspired by a verse from the 23rd Psalm. I recall singing these lyrics as a member of the Junior Choir, back in the day.

We shall walk through the valley of the shadow of death,

For Jesus, himself, shall be our leader

We shall walk through the Valley in Peace

The lyrics also bring to mind another poem inspired, in part, by one the teachings from a series of messages on the gates mentioned in the Book of Nehemiah, specifically the “Valley Gate”

This Lonesome Valley

Jesus walked this lonesome valley.
He had to walk it by Himself;
O, nobody else could walk it for Him,
He had to walk it by Himself.

You have to walk this lonesome valley.
You have to walk it by yourself;
O, nobody else can walk it for you,
You have to walk it by yourself. 

Traditional hymn

 

Valley places are always places of testing. . .                                                              

It’s in the valley places that your character is tested.

Apostle Eric L. Warren

 

Though there is no place where God’s presence does not dwell,

There is this lonesome valley we all must cross alone.

The Spirit drove Jesus into the wilderness,

And as a pilgrim, I too go through this barren land.

Propelled by goodness and mercy as my rearguards,

I am led by the hand of God into a wasteland,

Where I must stand on my own and confront my fears,

As I pass through the valley of the shadow of death,

The dark place where no companion can go with me.

Unsure of all that lies ahead, I hesitate,

But I must follow the Spirit’s call into the unknown:

The narrow way–to walk by faith and not by sight.

Though my path may be unclear, this I know for sure:

If God brought me to it, He will bring me through it.

We conclude with “Mountain to Valley,” from the musical group “House Fires,” assured that since Jesus Christ, our Lord, leads us from faith to faith, glory to glory, and victory to victory, we shall walk through every valley in peace:

Ultimate reseacher

February 1, 2018

A previous blog 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,” Psalm 139 also comes to mind. The Psalmist opens with recognition 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.”

A patient undergoing a cystoscopy provides an example of deep internal examination of parts of the urinary tract. This surgical procedure allows a 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:

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.

Esther Mui offers a Christian Scripture Praise Worship Song: Psalm 139:23-24 “Lead Me in the Way Everlasting”:

True servant: first and the last

January 29, 2018

The Verse of the Day for January 29, 2018 speaks of the oxymoronic nature of true servanthood: the last shall be first and the first shall be last. If you want to be in the premier position as number one, then put yourself in the last position by putting others first, and you will be great.

Mark 9:35 (NLT)

He sat down, called the twelve disciples over to him, and said, “Whoever wants to be first must take last place and be the servant of everyone else.”

Jesus Christ illustrates the same point that those who desire to be first should put themselves last and serve others first. Other places in the Scriptures also reveal this striking portrait of a true servant of the Lord:

Luke 22:26 (NLT)

But among you it will be different among you it will be different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant,t. Those who are the greatest among you should take the lowest rank, and the leader should be like a servant.

A particularly noteworthy verse is found in Matthew 20:27 (NLT):

And whoever wants to be first among you must become your slave.

In following in the steps of Jesus Christ, one of the most noble character traits that a person can demonstrate is that of serving others. Throughout the life and ministry of Christ, he takes upon himself the form of a servant, thus modeling the behavior that he desires to see his followers emulate.
Nowhere is this portrait of a true servant of the Lord more vividly revealed than in the account where Jesus washes the feet of the disciples in John 13:12-15:

12 After washing their feet, he put on his robe again and sat down and asked, “Do you understand what I was doing? 13 You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and you are right, because that’s what I am. 14 And since I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash each other’s feet. 15 I have given you an example to follow. Do as I have done to you.

A number of years ago, my wife and I received a special Christmas gift: a statue of Christ washing one of his disciples’ feet with the inscription John chapter 13 embossed on the base. I was deeply moved when I opened the package and discovered such a priceless gift inside. In reflecting on this sculpture and the related verses, this poem comes to mind:

         Let Me Wash Your Feet

As Jesus put off his garments and wrapped a towel
around himself,
So I lay aside my pride with nothing to hide and
expose myself.
As a humble servant I long to wash your feet.
You could yourself
Perform this deed of loving service, but let me
Serve you myself.
To allow me to wash your feet is to bless me,
as Christ himself
Blessed the Twelve before he departed from this earth.
You have yourself
The key to the door of blessing for you and me:

As Jesus took
Upon himself
The servant’s form
That I myself
Might freely give
To you yourself,
So I ask you
As Christ himself
Still asks of me,
So I ask you to

Let me to wash your feet.

“The Basin and the Towel,” musical composition by Michael Card, also portrays this moving account of John 13 in this video:

The Verse of the Day and subsequent verses remind us once again that those who would be great must first serve others.

Thanksliving: Universal Antidote for Toxic Emotions

January 28, 2018

1 Thessalonians-5 18 New

Exactly one week ago, I was honored to share the Word of God at Operation More Compassion, a local suicide prevention ministry, founded by Pastor James Simmons, a student at Carolina College of Biblical Studies where I teach.  As I reflect back on the events that unfolded during a week of physical, emotional, and spiritual challenges of immense magnitude, I recognize that the entire service was not just an opportunity to share the Word of God, but everything was custom-crafted to prepare me for the grueling week that began that very Sunday.  Invariably, I have learned that whatever God inspires you to teach others, He is first of all teaching and ministering to you. Today’s post summarizes the teaching shared a week ago: Thanksliving: Universal Antidote for Toxic Emotions (“Stinkin’ Thinkin’”)

In critical situations where a person may have accidentally ingested a poisonous substance, the Poison Control Center, if contacted, can suggest a specific antidote to counteract that poison. In some cases a “universal antidote” is recommended. Activated Charcoal has the well-earned reputation of being a key ingredient in a “universal antidote” that can facilitate the removal countless poisonous substances before they can cause harm. In terms of counteracting the potentially crippling negative effects of fear, anger, disappointment, discouragement, despair, all of which can culminate in unbelief that stifles our confidence and trust in God’s promises, I recommend another “universal antidote” to counteract any and all of these negative issues of life. A heavy dose of “thanksgiving” will counter the potentially crippling negative effects of any toxic emotions of life.

When most people hear the term “thanksgiving,” there is an almost automatic association with the fourth Thursday in November and all the food and festivities associated with that national holiday. For believers, “Thanksgiving” is always appropriate. “Thanksgiving” is the reason, not only for the current season as we embark upon a New Year, but “thanksgiving” should be the reason for every season.

In its most basic sense, “thanksgiving” applies an essential principle of life: giving and receiving. When one gives, one receives, and always in greater proportion than one gives. Although many people think of giving and receiving in terms of tithes and offerings or of giving of material abundance within a church or religious context, the universal principle works in all aspects of life—particularly in “thanksgiving.” In its most literal sense, the term means “to give thanks” or “to show oneself grateful.”  It is an expression of gratitude, a form of prayer specified in I Timothy 2:1 “. . . requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving. . . .”

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

God desires that we show ourselves grateful at all times. The Word of God reminds us of this truth in a number of places:

Colossians 3:17

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

A similar reminder is found in Ephesians 5:20:

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

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

Philippians 4:6-8 (NLT):

Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.

And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.         

Perhaps the most dramatic reminder to live in continuous thanksgiving is found in I Thessalonians 5:18:

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

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

Feeling disappointed, discouraged, and in despair or having other negative feelings is sometimes described as “stinkin’ thinkin’” which can directly affect how we act. One of the critical factors in our physical and emotional well-being is attitude. The discussion of attitude comes full circle with this reminder that “attitude begins with gratitude.” J. Rufus Moseley speaks of “an attitude of gratitude and boundless good will.” For believers thanksgiving is a magnificent and joyful “response-ability”; that is, our ability to respond to God’s love and grace. We endeavor to demonstrate our gratitude to God from the fullness of our hearts, overflowing with thanks. More than merely occasionally expressing how grateful we are, we desire to maintain a continual “attitude of gratitude,” a lifestyle that some have called thanksliving.

More than merely saying “thank you” to God, more than simply tithing or sharing of our abundance or giving of our time or material goods, thanksliving is a way of life, expressing gratitude to God in everything we say and do. It is more than the arrival of Friday (TGIF), for which the workaday world thanks God. For believers, every day should be a day of living in thanks. We show with all our being, “Thank God it’s Sunday through Saturday.” As we do so, we counteract the negative effects of fear, disappointment, discouragement, despair and any other toxic emotions or “stinkin thinkin” that keeps us from being all that God designed us to be.

We close with these encouraging words:

At All Times                      

I will bless the Lord at all times,

His praise shall continually be in my mouth.  

Psalm 34:1

 

When we see God’s goodness and mercy flow freely,

As we savor the ecstasy of victory,

When joy overflows and floods our soul, we must 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 must seek God.

 

When we long to abide within a tranquil mood

And linger in moments of sweetest quietude,

From the depths of our soul, we must worship God.

 

Despite raging seas, stormy winds and blinding rain,

When protracted pain strikes like a knife and numbs your brain

So that we can scarcely scream His name, we must 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 must 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.”

Finally, the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir offers this musical reminder: “In Everything Give Him Thanks”: