Adversity is good

December 22, 2018

Instead of the usual Verse of the Day, the blog entry for December 22, 2018 takes a close look at the benefits of the adverse situations we face each day with an original Quote of the Day:

“Adversity is good. It may not seem to be good to us at the moment, but ultimately it will be good for us if we wait and see what God had in mind.”

In thinking about the topic, James 1:2-4 came to mind, rendered this way in The Voice translation:

Don’t run from tests and hardships, brothers and sisters. As difficult as they are, you will ultimately find joy in them; if you embrace them, your faith will blossom under pressure and teach you true patience as you endure. And true patience brought on by endurance will equip you to complete the long journey and cross the finish line—mature, complete, and wanting nothing.

I also recall a previous post discussing this same passage where Bishop Charles Mellette of Christian Provision Ministries in Sanford, NC explained that as we face trials on every hand, we are “Coming through Stronger.” He reminded us that we will encounter various trials; however, “The problem is not the problem but our perception of the problem.”

He went on to explain what he meant by trials: the “trying, testing, the putting to the proof of something.” They are experimental actions applied in order to obtain results. Trials involve being subjected to intense and challenging times that test our motives and values. In the same way that God sent the Children of Israel through the wilderness for an extended period of time in order to test or to prove what was in their hearts, the trials we face prepare us for the next level of service to God. He went on to say, “You will shorten your season of testing or trials if you will only allow your trials to make you stronger.”

The message concluded with a reminder of the blessings and benefits of trials which are a way of life for every believer. Trials forge humility and give birth to perseverance. Indeed, we have the capacity to persevere to see God’s promises come to pass in our lives.
Hebrews 10:36 also offers this reminder in the New Living Translation:

Patient endurance is what you need now, so that you will continue to do God’s will. Then you will receive all that he has promised.

Knowing this, we can count it all joy when we encounter various fiery trials that test our faith and build patient endurance.

Reflecting on the Quote of the Day and the related verses inspired this response:

Advancing in Adversity

Many are the afflictions of the righteous,
But the LORD delivers him out of them all.
Psalm 34:19

Advancing in adversity is not easy.
As we fight the good fight and patiently endure,
We learn to discern the source of adversity.

We face the common foe of all of humanity.
Like Abraham, we walk by faith, strengthened and secure.
Advancing in adversity is not easy.

No longer in bondage, for we have been set free
And stand in His presence with a heart that is pure.
We learn to discern the kind of adversity.

Judge the source, whether of God or the enemy;
Recall we live in a fallen world—that’s for sure.
Advancing in adversity is not easy.

Does a predicament or problem confront us?
In every test and trial God reveals His purpose.
We learn to discern the kind of adversity.

Each day we design and refine our strategy,
Following in the steps of Christ as we mature.
Advancing in adversity is not easy.
We learn to discern the kind of adversity.

We close with this scripture memory song based on James 1:2-4:

Winter Solstice 2018: Full moons and more

December 21, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

Winter Solstice

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

Luke 21:25

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

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

Divine do-over: Another chance

December 19, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Divine Do-Over for 2019:

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

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

Isaiah 43:18-19 (Amplified Bible)

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

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

“When your battle is fiercest, your victory is nearest.”

December 8, 2018

From time to time, the blog entry for the day will focus on the Quote of the Day rather than the usual Verse of the Day. Such is the case for the Quote of the Day taken from Kary Oberbrunner’s comments about the need for encouragement while facing the struggles not merely to survive but to thrive despite the resistance we face each day.

He reminded us:

“When your battle is fiercest, your victory is nearest.”

The quote also brought to mind the encouraging words of this classic anonymous poem:

Don’t Quit

When things go wrong as they sometimes will,:
When the road you’re trudging seems all uphill,
When the funds are low and the debts are high
And you want to smile, but you have to sigh.
When care is pressing you down a bit –
Rest, if you must, but don’t quit.

Life is queer with its twists and turns,
As every one of us sometimes learns,
And many a fellow turns about
When he might have won had he stuck it out.
Don’t give up though the pace seems slow –
You may succeed with another blow.

Often the goal is nearer than
It seems to a faint and faltering man;
Often the struggler has given up
When he might have captured the victor’s cup;
And he learned too late when the night came down
How close he was to the golden crown.

Success is failure turned inside out—
The silver tint of the clouds of doubt,
And you never can tell how close you are,
It may be near when it seems afar;
So stick to the fight when you’re hardest hit –
It’s when things seem worst that you must not quit.

In Chapter 3 of my newly released book Embracing Your Life Sentence: How to Turn Life’s Greatest Tragedies into Your Greatest Triumphs. I recognized that life is a battlefield, and the battlefield is the mind. In actuality, I really came to grips with the intensity of a battle to fight when I was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2000. I described my encounter as “the fight of my life” as well as “the fight for my life.” In sharing my battle plan for combating cancer, I examined many scriptural references to the verb fight.

In 1 Timothy 6:12 (NKJV), Paul speaks about fighting:

Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, to which you were also called and have confessed a good confession in the presence of many witnesses.

I thought of other scriptures related to fighting in those instances where the Lord fights for His people. Think about this seemingly impossible situation where the words “no way” echo through the mind. Take a look at the account in Exodus where the Children of Israel in their escape from bondage in Egypt run right into the Red Sea with the armies of Pharaoh in hot pursuit behind them. You can imagine the concern they expressed to Moses, their leader and spokesman for God, who offered these word of assurance:

Exodus 14:13-14 (NKJV):

13 And Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand still, and see the salvation of the LORD, which He will accomplish for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall see again no more forever. 14 The LORD will fight for you, and you shall hold your peace.”

We find a similar exhortation in Deuteronomy 20:4 (NKJV):

For the LORD your God is He who goes with you, to fight for you against your enemies, to save you.

Here is another reminder of the same truth in Joshua 23:10:

Each one of you will put to flight a thousand of the enemy, for the LORD your God fights for you, just as he has promised.

We also find wonderful words of encouragement from David in Psalm 144:1–2:

Blessed be the LORD my Rock,
Who trains my hands for war,
And my fingers for battle—
My lovingkindness and my fortress, My high tower and my deliverer,
My shield, and the One in whom I take refuge,
Who subdues my people under me.

Throughout the Old Testament and beyond we see instances where the people of God are grossly outnumbered by forces that appear overwhelming, but God reminds His people of who He is and what He will do. In an encounter with “a great multitude,” “a vast number” of the enemy, Zechariah offers these strong words of encouragement to Jehoshaphat, the King and to the people:

2 Chronicles 20:15 (Amplified Bible):

He said, “Listen carefully, all [you people of] Judah, and you inhabitants of Jerusalem, and King Jehoshaphat. The LORD says this to you: ‘Be not afraid or dismayed at this great multitude, for the battle is not yours, but God’s.

Yolanda Adams offers a musical reminder of this truth:

 

We close with a related quote from Les Brown to end on a victorious note:

“The harder the battle, the sweeter the victory.”

As believers we are on the winning team and must remember this:

1 Corinthians 2:14:

Now thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and through us diffuses the fragrance of His knowledge in every place.

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

Thanks again for your prayers and support that made this possible.

Yes and amen: powerful combination

December 4, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

Psalm 79:19

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

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

Revelation 22:20-21(Amplified Bible):

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

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

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

Without faith it is impossible

November 30, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hebrews 11: 1, 6:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The following poem describes this kind of faith:

Such Great Faith—Crazy Faith

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

Matthew 8:10 (KJV)

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

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

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

Still abounding and overflowing with thanksgiving

November 24, 2018

The Verse of the Day for November 24, 2018 reminds believers that as we have received Christ Jesus, the Lord, we are to walk in him.

Colossians 2:6-7 AMP

As you have therefore received Christ, [even] Jesus the Lord, [so] walk (regulate your lives and conduct yourselves) in union with and conformity to Him. Have the roots [of your being] firmly and deeply planted [in Him, fixed and founded in Him], being continually built up in Him, becoming increasingly more confirmed and established in the faith, just as you were taught, and abounding and overflowing in it with thanksgiving.

We find a similar expression of God’s desire for His people in Ephesians 3:16-18

16 So that Christ may dwell in your hearts through your faith. And may you, having been [deeply] rooted and [securely] grounded in love, 18 be fully capable of comprehending with all the saints (God’s people) the width and length and height and depth of His love [fully experiencing that amazing, endless love];

As we grow in our walk with the Lord, our lives are to abound and overflow with thanksgiving. Even though today is two days after Thanksgiving Day, every day we are to give thanks to God. No matter the circumstances we face, we should always be thankful:

At All Times

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.

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 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 my soul, we will worship God.

Despite raging seas, stormy winds and blinding rain,
When protracted pain strikes like a knife and numbs our brain
So that we can scarcely scream Your 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.”

The closing stanza of the poem matches the ending of the Verse of the Day with reminders to be always “abounding and overflowing with thanksgiving,” as the lyrics of a song appropriate of this season and every season also come to mind: “Give Thanks with a grateful heart.” Don Moen offers expressions of gratitude to God in song:

 

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

November 21, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

Colossians 3:17—

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

Ephesians 5:20—

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

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

Philippians 4:6—

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

Hebrews 13:15—

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

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

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

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

In Everything Give Thanks:

In everything give thanks,

In everything give thanks,

For this is the will of God

In Christ Jesus concerning you.

Repeat

When things in life don’t seem to turn out

Just as we think they should,

We know that God still has a grand plan

And works all things together—

He works all things together for our good.

 

In everything give thanks,

In everything give thanks,

For this is the will of God

In Christ Jesus concerning you.

 

The sun shines bright or the darkest night,

No matter what the mood,

We still give thanks always for all things.

In the name of Jesus Christ,

We keep an attitude of gratitude.

 

In everything give thanks,

In everything give thanks,

For this is the will of God

In Christ Jesus concerning you.

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

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

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

Thanksliving

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

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

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

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Nine times two and so much more

November 17, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Search Me Again

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

Try me, and know my anxieties;

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

And lead me in the way everlasting.

Psalm 139:23-24

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

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

Veterans Day Reflections

November 13, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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