Another word for the weary

July 15, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Genesis 12:10 (AMP)

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

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

Remain and abide in His love

July 14, 2017

The Verse of the Day for July 14, 2017 brings to mind the expression “Follow the leader,” as Jesus Christ speaks to his followers:

John 15:10:

If you keep My commandments and obey My teaching, you will remain in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and remain in His love.

This particular verse is part of a familiar passage that unfolds a striking metaphor used by Jesus Christ to help his followers understand more fully who he is and how he relates to God, his Father, using this comparison:
His Father is the “vine-dresser” (grape farmer), or “husbandman”, as some translations have it, and that he, Jesus, is “the true vine”, and those apostles are “branches” who are attached to Jesus, the Vine. In order to be fruitful the branches must “abide” in the vine. When the branches remain intact with the vine, God is glorified as the branches bear much fruit, producing a spiritual harvest for God. Jesus Christ ends the comparison on a “love note” in verses 9-12:

9 I have loved you just as the Father has loved Me; remain in My love [and do not doubt My love for you].

10 If you keep My commandments and obey My teaching, you will remain in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and remain in His love.

11 I have told you these things so that My joy and delight may be in you, and that your joy may be made full and complete and overflowing.

12 “This is My commandment, that you love and unselfishly seek the best for one another, just as I have loved you.

The following photo shows a fruitful vine from a vineyard that illustrates the parable where Jesus describes himself as “the true vine.” Just as the Lord remains or abides in the love of God, so we who follow his example should demonstrate our love to one another and continually abide in His love.

The photo shows a fruitful vine from a vineyard that illustrates the parable where Jesus describes himself as “the true vine.”

Esther Mui has composed a tender musical rendering of John 15:4-5 “Abide in Me” (Esther Mui) Christian Scripture Praise Worship w Lyrics:

The way down is the way up

July 13, 2017

Revised and re-posted is The Verse of the Day for July 13, 2017 found in Philippians 2:9-11 in the Message Bible:

Because of that obedience, God lifted him high and honored him far beyond anyone or anything, ever, so that all created beings in heaven and on earth—even those long ago dead and buried—will bow in worship before this Jesus Christ, and call out in praise that he is the Master of all, to the glorious honor of God the Father.

To fully appreciate what God is saying about the name of Jesus Christ, the name above all names, let us take a look at the entire passage found Philippians 2:5-11 in the Amplified Bible:

5 Let this same attitude and purpose and [humble] mind be in you which was in Christ Jesus: [Let Him be your example in humility:]
6 Who, although being essentially one with God and in the form of God [possessing the fullness of the attributes which make God], did not think this equality with God was a thing to be eagerly grasped or retained,
7 But stripped Himself [of all privileges and [rightful dignity], so as to assume the guise of a servant (slave), in that He became like men and was born a human being.
8 And after He had appeared in human form, He abased and humbled Himself [still further] and carried His obedience to the extreme of death, even the death of the cross!

For this reason also [because He obeyed and so completely humbled Himself], God has highly exalted Him and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee shall bow [in submission], of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and that every tongue will confess and openly acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord (sovereign God), to the glory of God the Father.

The extended passage from Philippians 2 reveals the heart of God where we find a place of exchange. Here we find that God exchanges something of lesser value for something of far greater value. God offers beauty for ashes, joy for sorrow, comfort for despair, honor for humility, etc. In the eyes of God, you must first go down that you might go up; as you go before the Lord in humility, He raises you up in honor. As you abase yourself, He exalts you. God puts down those who exalt themselves, but He raises up those who humble themselves.

Jesus Christ is the consummate example of God’s desire, the stunning illustration of the paradox of being abased in humility in order to be exalted or promoted in the eyes of God. God’s intent is expressed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who humbled himself and made himself of no reputation, taking on the form of a servant and becoming obedient, obedient even to the death on the cross. Because of that God has highly exalted Christ and has given Him a name that is above every name. Without question, in terms of promotion with God, humility is the key. Indeed, the way down is the way up.

Jesus Christ points to the duality of humility and promotion when he says in Luke 14:11 (AMP):

11 For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled [before others], and he who habitually humbles himself (keeps a realistic self-view) will be exalted.”

Jesus Christ associates being humble with a child in Matthew 18:4 (Amplified Bible)

Whoever will humble himself therefore and become like this little child [trusting, lowly, loving, forgiving] is greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

The same point is made in a different way in Matthew 23:13 in the Amplified Bible:

Whoever exalts himself [with haughtiness and empty pride] shall be humbled (brought low), and whoever humbles himself [whoever has a modest opinion of himself and behaves accordingly] shall be raised to honor.

The essence of this discussion of the paradox of humility and promotion is so clearly expressed in the title prayer from a collection edited by Arthur Bennett: The Valley of Vision: A Collection of Puritan Prayers and Devotions.

The Valley of Vision

Lord, high and holy, meek and lowly,
Thou hast brought me to the valley of vision,
where I live in the depths but see Thee in the heights;
hemmed in by mountains of sin I behold Thy glory.
Let me learn by paradox that the way down is the way up
that to be low is to be high,
that the broken heart is the healed heart,
that the contrite spirit is the rejoicing spirit,
that the repenting soul is the victorious soul,
that to have nothing is to possess all,
that to bear the cross is to wear the crown,
that to give is to receive, that the valley is the place of vision.
Lord, in the daytime stars can be seen from deepest wells,
and the deeper the wells the brighter Thy stars shine;
let me find Thy light in my darkness,
Thy life in my death,
Thy joy in my sorrow,
Thy grace in my sin, Thy riches in my poverty, Thy glory in my valley.

We conclude with a Scripture Song based on Philippians 2:3-15: “Let This Mind Be in You.”

Not by bread alone

July 12, 2017

The Verse of the Day for July 12, 2017 is found in Matthew 4:4 in the Message Bible:

Jesus answered by quoting Deuteronomy: “It takes more than bread to stay alive. It takes a steady stream of words from God’s mouth.”

The King James Version renders the verse in this way:

But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.

The verse is also rendered in a similar way in Luke 4:4

And Jesus answered him, saying, It is written, That man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God.

The Verse of the Day brings to mind two experiences that occurred about eight years ago when I participated in a clinical trial involving men with prostate cancer and two types of special bread: Soy and Almond. Participants were to eat two slices of bread each day for a period of time as blood samples were examined and other tests performed.

While simultaneously teaching a writing course, I developed an analogy for composing sentences in an essay. To help students understand how sentences were put together, I commented that sentences are like “sandwiches.” As a basic unit of written communication, a complete sentence must have three elements: a subject, a verb, and a complete thought. One slice of bread could be the subject, another slice the verb, and the complete thought would represent what goes in between.

Teaching the writing class while participating in the clinical trial and daily eating two slices of bread inspired a poem that captured the application of the Word of God in a unique way:

A New Bread, a New Class, a New Analogy

Daily: Eat the entire two slices. Both slices can be eaten at the same meal as a sandwich.
Nutrition-40 Soy Bread Study—OSU Medical Center

And Jesus answered him, saying, It is written, That man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God.
Luke 4:4

Halfway between the study I eat a new bread:
No longer soy-almond but pure soy bread instead.
As I am teaching a new class, I find a way
To help students understand what I’m trying to say
When I share that “Man shall not live by bread alone,”
As Jesus said when asked to make bread from a stone.
To construct a good sentence, this I admonish:
You must build a sentence as you would a sandwich:
A subject and verb must express a complete thought.
This analogy helps students see what is taught:
One slice of bread is the subject, one slice the verb,
But “more” takes you from mediocre to superb.
Much more than two slices but what goes in between
Can be a work of art to convey what you mean.

“Seek Ye First the Kingdom of God” from the Gospel of Matthew includes lyrics from Matthew 4:4

Watch your mouth

July 11, 2017

Instead of the usual Verse of the Day, today we are going to examine the “Phrase of the Day” for July 11, 2017: “Watch your mouth!” This idiomatic expression means to take into consideration what you say before you speak. It is sometimes used as a warning to become aware of the words that one is about to speak.This expression also brings to mind the often-quoted statement attributed to Frank Outlaw, former President of Bi-Lo Food Stores:

“Watch your thoughts, they become words;
watch your words, they become actions;
watch your actions, they become habits;
watch your habits, they become character;
watch your character, for it becomes your destiny.”

What Mr. Outlaw encourages individuals to watch could be seen as part of an acrostic in that we are to “Watch our. . . Words-Actions-Thoughts-Character-Habits.”

Regarding watching your mouth, out of which come the words you speak, Ephesians 4:29 in the Amplified Bible states:

Let no foul or polluting language, nor evil word nor unwholesome or worthless talk [ever] come out of your mouth, but only such [speech] as is good and beneficial to the spiritual progress of others, as is fitting to the need and the occasion, that it may be a blessing and give grace (God’s favor) to those who hear it

The Message Bible puts it this way:

Watch the way you talk. Let nothing foul or dirty come out of your mouth. Say only what helps, each word a gift.

A previous blog entry on Ephesians 4:29 offers these comments:

Throughout the Scriptures believers are exhorted to be mindful of the words they speak. For the words that we speak are expressions of what is in our hearts. “Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks,” says Solomon. With this in mind, John Bunyan recognizes that individuals must become guardians of “every gate that opens in our heart.” Howard Morgan speaks of “gates” in this way: “They are the places that we have to monitor diligently so that we allow only that which is positive and healthy into our lives.” Three such gates are the “ear gate,” “eye gate,” and “mouth gate.” The picture of the three wise monkeys comes to mind to remind us that we must consciously seek to “hear no evil, see no evil, and speak no evil.”

We are encouraged not only to watch what goes into the mouth but watch what comes out of the mouth. Paul further reminds us: “Let your words always be seasoned with salt that they may minister grace to the hearers.”

James 1:19 (AMP) has this to say about the matter:

19 Understand this, my beloved brothers and sisters. Let everyone be quick to hear [be a careful, thoughtful listener], slow to speak [a speaker of carefully chosen words and], slow to anger [patient, reflective, forgiving];

We must be very concerned about the words that we speak since the “power of life and death” is in the tongue. This message is reinforced with this reminder:

The Power of the Tongue

But the tongue can no man tame;
It is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison
James 3:8

We know the tongue has power to generate life,
To produce seeds that will eventually take root
And will bring forth two very different kinds of fruit:
Love, joy and peace or envy, confusion and strife
Can build or destroy a brother, a friend, a wife.
With his hand, the helmsman easily turns great ships,
So we covenant to guard the gates of our lips,
For words can heal or pierce the heart as a sharp knife.
We desire life and long to see good all our days,
So we speak the truth and refrain from speaking lies.
Like Jesus, we want our tongue to speak what God says.
We seek to be wise but never in our own eyes.
Pressing toward the finish, the coming of God’s kingdom,
We seek not just a word but the spirit of wisdom.

As born-again believers, we are encouraged to make positive confessions and to speak words of positive affirmation regarding ourselves and others. The Phrase of the Day and other related scriptures remind believers that we should be concerned about the words we speak, as we are encouraged to let our words always be seasoned with salt, that they may minister grace to the hearers.

TobyMac expresses our desire that the words that come from our mouths will build up and not tear down, as we “Speak Life”:

God is faithful to complete the good work

July 10, 2017

The Verse of the Day for July 10, 2017 is found in Philippians 1:6 in the Message Bible:

[A Love That Will Grow] Every time you cross my mind, I break out in exclamations of thanks to God. Each exclamation is a trigger to prayer. I find myself praying for you with a glad heart. I am so pleased that you have continued on in this with us, believing and proclaiming God’s Message, from the day you heard it right up to the present. There has never been the slightest doubt in my mind that the God who started this great work in you would keep at it and bring it to a flourishing finish on the very day Christ Jesus appears.

Here us Philippians 1:6  in the New Living Translation:

And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.

The Amplified Bible renders the verse this way:

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.

God completes the good work begun in us so that as believers we will be complete in every good work to do His will, as Hebrews 13:20-21 offers this benediction:

20 Now may the God of peace who brought up our Lord Jesus from the dead, that great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, 21 make you complete in every good work to do His will, working in you what is well pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen

Throughout the Scriptures we find that “. . . God is faithful and means what He says.” 1 Corinthians 1:9 (AMP) makes know this truth:

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.

The blessing and benediction also remind believers of God’s faithfulness:

1 Thessalonians 5:23-24 (AMP)

23 Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 24 He who calls you is faithful, who also will do it.

In Hebrews 6:10 (AMP) we find a reminder that God is faithful and that He is not unjust:

For God is not unjust so as to forget your work and the love which you have shown for His name in ministering to [the needs of] the saints (God’s people), as you do.

The New Living Translation puts it this way:

Hebrews 6:10

For God is not unjust. He will not forget how hard you have worked for him and how you have shown your love to him by caring for other believers, as you still do.

As believers we endeavor to serve God and minister to one another. Our efforts may not always be recognized nor appreciated. Those whom we serve in love may not always remember what we say and do, but we are assured that God never forgets. Not only is God, our Father, faithful and just, but He is also a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him (Hebrews 11:6), as the following poetic comments illustrate:

A Reminder: God Is Faithful

For God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labor of love,

which you have shown toward his name, in that you have ministered

to the saints, and do minister.

Hebrews 6:10

 

The good deeds that you have done may not be extolled

when the fervor of God’s love has long since grown cold.

Some quickly forget all the good that you have done

And fail to recall that you were the only one

To answer the call, seek the Lord and intercede.

Time after time you were the one to meet the need.

When others were busy and chose to walk away,

You were there and remained in the thick of the fray.

In dark times when words of thanks are distant memories,

Recall that God knows all things, for He alone sees

Your labor and saves all the tears that you have shed.

Our Father is ever mindful of how you serve,

And He shall reward you beyond all you deserve.

As you strive to finish your course, have no regret:

Our God is faithful–He will never forget.

In reflecting upon Philippians 1:6, a song comes to mind: “He Who Began a Good Work in You” performed in this medley:

To him who is able

July 9, 2017

Revised and re-posted, the Verse of the Day for July 9, 201 actually comes from the benediction of the prayer found in the culminating verses of Ephesians chapter 3:

Ephesians 3:20-21 (NKJV)

Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us,
Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.

The Amplified Bible offer this rendering:

20 Now to Him who is able to [carry out His purpose and] do superabundantly more than all that we dare ask or think [infinitely beyond our greatest prayers, hopes, or dreams], according to His power that is at work within us, 21 to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations forever and ever. Amen.

The closing lines reveal our Heavenly Father’s intent toward believers that they demonstrate the exceeding greatness of His power or ability recorded by Paul in those two verses which shine as crowning jewels in that exquisite revelation of God’s ability. The opening phrase of verse 20 brought to mind the expression that “God is able,” which in turn caused me to think of the lyrics to this song which originally was taught to children:

He’s able, He’s able, I know He’s able,
I know my Lord is able to carry me through.
He’s able, He’s able, I know He’s able,
I know my Lord is able to carry me through.
He healed the brokenhearted and set the captive free,
He made the lame to walk again and caused the blind to see;
He’s able, He’s able, I know He’s able,
I know my Lord is able to carry me through.

Sometimes in the midst of very trying circumstances that seem to overwhelm us with their magnitude, we must be been strengthened and encouraged by the Word of God and by examples of those like Daniel and others who exercised astounding faith, reaping the benefits of their strong convictions. Without question, Daniel came to recognize that, indeed, “God is able.” Many times when we think about Daniel and the Hebrew children, we fail to realize that they were real people who faced real dangers. Just as we do also, they faced stressful situations that could overwhelm them and cause them to doubt God’s ability to come to their rescue. A teaching on Daniel and his companions inspired the following poem which also uses Ephesians 3:20, as part of its introduction:

God is Able

If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us

from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us

out of your hand, O king.

Daniel 3:17

 

Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us,

Ephesians 3:20

God is able to do far above all we ask or think.
Life’s greatest challenges will not prevail, but they will shrink.
Although threatened on every hand, we refuse to back down.
In the midst of what seems to be defeat, we will still rebound.
If we have to, we will walk on water and will not sink.

Surrounded by disaster, even at the very brink
Of total defeat, so the enemy would have us to think.
Though confronted and intimidated, we stand our ground:
God is able.

We have learned that God’s Word and God’s will are always in sync,
That His Word nourishes and sustains us more than food or drink.
Our confident trust in God is nothing less than profound,
As we rise untouched, not singed, even from a fiery showdown.
Renewed in the spirit of our minds, we can now rethink:
God is able.

Like Daniel in the den of lions, we sometimes find ourselves in desperate, seemingly impossible situations from which we cannot extract ourselves on our own. When we think of such situations like that of Daniel, we must remember the King’s response when God delivered Daniel:

Daniel 6:27

He [the God of Daniel] delivers and rescues, and he works signs and wonders in heaven and in earth, who has delivered Daniel from the power of the lions.

As we close this blog entry, another magnificent benediction from Jude comes to mind, a further reminder that God is able:

24Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy,

25To the only wise God our Saviour, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, now and ever. Amen.

Shannon Linville offers A Scripture Song based on Ephesians 3:14-21, the prayer from which the Verse of the Day is taken:

The Word will stand forever

July 6, 2017

 

The Verse of the Day for July 6, 2017 reminds us of the brevity of life in light of our current times spoken of in the Word of God found in Matthew 24:35 in the Message Bible:

“Take a lesson from the fig tree. From the moment you notice its buds form, the merest hint of green, you know summer’s just around the corner. So it is with you: When you see all these things, you’ll know he’s at the door. Don’t take this lightly. I’m not just saying this for some future generation, but for all of you. This age continues until all these things take place. Sky and earth will wear out; my words won’t wear out.

The King James Version says this:

Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away.

The Psalmist also proclaims the same truth: “Forever, O LORD, Your word is settled in heaven” (Psalm 119:89). Indeed, the Holy Bible, the Book of Life, the Word of God, the word of the Lord endures forever.

Psalm 119:160 (AMP) also makes known this:

The sum of Your word is truth [the full meaning of all Your precepts], And every one of Your righteous ordinances endures forever.

1 Peter 1:22-25 (NKJV) echoes the same sentiments regarding “The Enduring Word”:

22 Since you have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit in sincere love of the brethren, love one another fervently with a pure heart, 23 having been born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, through the word of God which lives and abides forever,24 because
“All flesh is as grass,
And all the glory of man as the flower of the grass.
The grass withers,
And its flower falls away,
25 But the word of the LORD endures forever.”
Now this is the word which by the gospel was preached to you.

Verses 24-25 of this passage also contain a verbatim quote found in Isaiah 40:6-8, a passage used as part of the epigraph or introduction to a poem inspired after standing on the stump of a massive oak tree that had gradually died over a period of time, eventually having to be cut down. Although the tree had been around for centuries, its demise brought to mind how fleeting life is in the light of eternity.

The Old Oak Stump

The grass withers, the flower fades,
because the breath of the LORD blows upon it:
surely the people are grass.
The grass withers, the flower fades,
but the word of our God stands for ever.
Isaiah 40:7-8

I stand dead center on the old oak stump,
The ruin of a woodland monument,
My feet encircled by the woody rings
That number far beyond remembered years.
I read between the lines of annual
Reports a history of all you have seen:
You saw the Shawnee dance around his fires;
You knew the name of each German who came
To farm, to build, and to beget his sons
Under the shaded beauty of your boughs;
You spread your arms and offered shelter as
A dwelling place for bird and beast and boy.
Yet time’s swift stroke condemned the tenement
As progress served its eviction notice.
Men leveled the tree whose lease had expired,
Legend of a people, long since cut off,
Like meadow grass overgrowing the land
Where I stand and read man’s life history:
Fleeting as baby’s breath, man’s day sprinkles
Grasslands for a season, then blows away.
All life evaporates like dew, except
The Word of God, which ever shall inspire.

Ken Whitson offers an original song “The Word Will Stand Forever” to seal the words of today’s blog post.

Looking forward to “that day”

July 5, 2017

From Isaiah 12:4 in the Message Bible comes the Verse of the Day for July 5, 2017:

Joyfully you’ll pull up buckets of water from the wells of salvation. And as you do it, you’ll say, “Give thanks to God. Call out his name. Ask him anything! Shout to the nations, tell them what he’s done, spread the news of his great reputation!

The New Living Translation says this:

In that wonderful day you will sing: “Thank the Lord! Praise his name! Tell the nations what he has done. Let them know how mighty he is!

The passage of Scripture from which this celebratory verse is taken is labeled “Songs of Praise for Salvation”:

Isaiah 12:1-5 (NLT):

In that day you will sing:
“I will praise you, O LORD!
You were angry with me, but not anymore.
Now you comfort me.
2 See, God has come to save me.
I will trust in him and not be afraid.
The LORD GOD is my strength and my song;
he has given me victory.”
3 With joy you will drink deeply
from the fountain of salvation
4 In that wonderful day you will sing:
“Thank the LORD! Praise his name!
Tell the nations what he has done.
Let them know how mighty he is!

The phrase “that day” is used throughout the Old and New Testaments” to refer to a day in the future, a new day of salvation and judgment:

Malachi 3:17 makes such a reference

And they shall be mine, says the Lord of hosts, in that day when I make up my jewels; and I will spare them, as a man spares his own son that serves him.

Jesus Christ speaks of that day as a time of rejoicing for some:

Luke 6:23

Rejoice ye in that day, and leap for joy: for, behold, your reward is great in heaven: for in the like manner did their fathers unto the prophets.

In the New Testament we find references to “that day” as the day of the Return of Jesus Christ:

2 Thessalonians 1:10

When he shall come to be glorified in his saints, and to be admired in all them that believe (because our testimony among you was believed) in that day.

2 Thessalonians 2:3 (NKJV) reiterates with this word of exhortation:

Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition,

In 2 Timothy 1:12 (NLT) Paul again speaks of “that day”:

For this reason I also suffer these things; nevertheless I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day.

The lyrics to the hymn “I Know Whom I Have Believed” offer a series of statements that the hymn writer does not know:

I know not why God’s wondrous grace
To me He hath made known,
Nor why, unworthy, Christ in love
Redeemed me for His own.

The last verse culminates the series, bringing to mind something that neither the song writer nor anyone else knows:

I know not when my Lord may come,
At night or noon-day fair,
Nor if I’ll walk the vale with Him,
Or “meet Him in the air.”

The chorus of the familiar hymn resounds with this assurance found in 2 Timothy 1:12:

But “I know Whom I have believed
And am persuaded that He is able
To keep that which I’ve committed
Unto Him against that day.”

Paul closes his letter to his beloved son in the faith, Timothy, with these stirring words:

2 Timothy 4:7-9 (NKJV)

7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 8 Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing

Indeed, believers today are looking upward with outstretched necks, looking forward with eager anticipation to the dawning of a new day when the Lord Jesus Christ shall return. “That day” is now nearer than when we first believed.

We close with a moving, acapella rendering of the classic hymn of the Christian Church: “I Know Whom I Have Believed”:

July 4, 2017: Celebrating America’s independence and our dependence on God

July 4, 2017

On July 4, 2017, the Verse of the Day makes known the position of the Lord God Almighty toward the nations of the world:

Psalm 33:10-12 (Message Bible):

God takes the wind out of Babel pretense, he shoots down the world’s power-schemes. God’s plan for the world stands up, all his designs are made to last. Blessed is the country with God for God; blessed are the people he’s put in his will.

The Amplified Bible offers this rendering:

The LORD nullifies the counsel of the nations;
He makes the thoughts and plans of the people ineffective.
11
The counsel of the LORD stands forever,
The thoughts and plans of His heart through all generations.
12
Blessed [fortunate, prosperous, and favored by God] is the nation whose God is the LORD,
The people whom He has chosen as His own inheritance.

On this Fourth of July, when so much that plagues our nation appears beyond our control, we not only celebrate our independence as a nation, but we also recognize more than ever our dependence upon God as well. During these presently turbulent times, never has there been a greater need for divine guidance and direction for the nation though prayer. The words of the spiritual continue to ring true, declaring, “There is trouble all over this world.” During such times of desperation and deepest need, our nation cries out to God.

O God our help in ages past,
Our hope for years to come.
Our shelter from the stormy blast
And our eternal home.

In “History Reflection for 4th of July: How Prayer Underpinned American Independence” Fr. Stephen Lynch, states, “Prayer played an important role in the American struggle for independence.” He goes on to relate a request that the meetings of the Continental Congress be opened with prayer. After considerable disagreement, the Congress agreed to have the Rev. Mr. Duche read a prayer. John Adams describes what transpired:

Accordingly, next morning the Rev. Duche appeared with his Episcopal vestments and read the 85th Psalm. I never saw a greater effect produced upon an audience. It seemed as if heaven had ordained that psalm to be read on that morning.

George Washington was kneeling there, alongside him Patrick Henry, James Madison, and John Hancock. By their side there stood, bowed in reverence, the Puritan patriots of New England, who at that moment had reason to believe that an armed soldiery was wasting their humble households. They prayed fervently for America, for Congress, for the Province of Massachusetts Bay, and especially for the town of Boston [whose port had been closed and in which British troops were being quartered.

Lynch concludes by saying, “The First Continental Congress proved to be an inspiring example of the fraternal unity that can come through devout prayer.” Without question, the need to pray for our nation continues, being mindful of the words of Jesus Christ, who told his disciples “. . . it was necessary for them to pray consistently and never quit.”

Our reflections on the 4th of July conclude, as Michael Card offers this song as a heartfelt prayer for the nation: “Heal our Land”: