Pressing toward the mark in the homestretch

July 29, 2019

Although the Verse of the Day for yesterday,  July 28, 2019, comes from Philippians 3:14, to understand the context, we need to look at the preceding verse as well:

Philippians 3:13-14

13 Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before,
14 I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.

Our understanding is illuminated as we examine some of the athletic imagery in the passage. Immediately my thoughts turn toward my high school track days when I ran anchor on the mile relay. Once the baton hit my hand, I grabbed it and focused on completing the race. If the other three members of the team had given me a lead, my task was to maintain it or if we were behind when I took the baton, I had to make up the distant and then pull ahead before crossing the finish line. To press toward the mark is to focus intently, to “scope in on” as one does with a telescope which blocks everything out except the object you are seeking to find.

I recall that I had to be “single-minded” and focus all my energy and efforts on finishing my race. I did not look to the right nor to the left, certainly, I did not look behind, but I pressed toward the mark, striving to cross the finish line. I recognized that I had to cross the finish line before I could receive the prize.

Philippians 3:13-14 is used as the introduction to a poem that expresses where we as believers find ourselves as we finish the race that is set before us:

In the Homestretch

Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended:
but this one thing I do, forgetting those things
which are behind, and reaching forth
unto those things which are before,
I press toward the mark for the prize
Of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 3:13-14

We rest in the homestretch, as we press toward the mark,
Secure in the Savior, as all things become new.
Constantly seeking, we know we shall someday find
Our heart’s desire fulfilled, for God’s Word is still true,
Even as these perilous times have never been more dark.
Though at times we faint and grow weary in our mind,
We rest in the homestretch, as we press toward the mark.

Each day we grow in grace, empowered by the Word.
We fix our hearts and set our affections above.
Like David, we encourage ourselves in the Lord.
Nothing can separate us from His boundless love.
We rest in hope, assured that all those who endure
Shall lay hold of the prize that they have sought to win.
We purify our hearts, as the Lord himself is pure.
Strengthened by the presence of Christ who dwells within,
We rest in the homestretch, as we press toward the mark.

We live to give, and we love to serve above all:
Waiting for the Lord, we still say “Yes” to our call.
We rest in the homestretch, as we press toward the mark.

Mac Lynch encourages us to “Press toward the Mark”

As I recall my track and field experiences, I also remember that many times the outcome of the entire track meet was known beforehand, based on the accumulation of points from all the previous track and field events, with the last two races being relays. Drawing a spiritual parallel with the spiritual athletic arena that we find ourselves in today, the believers’ team is so far ahead that we cannot lose; however, the challenge is for individual believers to finish the race, having achieved their P.B. (personal best). Similarly, the Scriptures encourage believers to

Cast aside every weight and the sin that so easily besets,
Forget the past, press toward the mark,
Look straight ahead with no regrets.

Faith is…

July 26, 2019

The Verse of the Day for July 26, 2019, introduces a scripture that has become a keystone of my life.

Hebrews 11:1 (NLT):

Faith shows the reality of what we hope for; it is the evidence of things we cannot see.

Here is the more familiar (at least to me)  King James Version:

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen:

As a sophomore in high school, I memorized this verse along with Hebrews 11:6 as the text for my first Bible teaching. Since that time, faith has become a life-sustaining factor. Last year I published Embracing Your Life Sentence: How to Turn Life’s Greatest Tragedies into Your Greatest Triumphs, where I shared my holistic strategy in response to being diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2000. Chapter 6 offers an extended definition of faith and talks of its importance in my life. Here is an excerpt from “The Faith Factor: Without faith it is impossible. . .”:

Watchman Nee, early 20th Century church leader and teacher in China, describes the life of each believer in this way: “The Christian journey, from start to finish, is a journey of faith.” As we journey through life, we encounter challenges designed to build our faith. As believers, we are on a journey that takes us from faith to faith, glory to glory, and victory to victory as we pursue the will of God for our lives.

Romans 1:17 reminds us of this truth:

For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “The just shall live by faith.”

Throughout my encounter with prostate cancer, I was keenly aware of the importance of faith, in that this diagnosis challenged me to go to God and seek His guidance and direction as never before. In reflecting on the unfolding circumstances since that time, I recall being asked to write an article sharing what faith meant to me. Here is an excerpt:

Faith—the bedrock of my life

To build a magnificent mansion that will last a lifetime, the builders must begin 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 to please Him. For he that comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.”

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 the courage to try one more time.

Faith is tenacious—you hold on and never give up. Although the diagnosis, bank statement or other evidence says, “No way!” faith responds with “God will make a way.”

In terms of illustrations of faith, we find excellent examples from the Bible. We begin with Abraham, “the father of faith,” who did not stagger at the promise of God that he should become the father of many nations, with descendants without number. Despite the circumstances of this hundred-year-old man with a barren wife of comparable age, Abraham grew strong and was empowered by faith. Hebrews 11 recounts the triumphs of men and women of faith in what has become known as the “Hall of Faith.”

Aside from the Bible, we can glean from the lives of great men and women who achieved impossible dreams. Despite a barrage of reasons why they would fail, they transformed failure into success. Notable examples are the Wright Brothers and countless others, who persevered in faith to accomplish the impossible. We are also surrounded by “real heroes” who live by faith each day to make a difference.

Without faith it is impossible . . . but with faith, the impossible becomes possible. Indeed, as Christian believers, faith is our solid foundation. Like the wise man who built his house on the rock, when the storms of life approach, if we have laid a firm foundation, the house that we build will stand, for faith is our sure foundation.

Each chapter concludes with an original poem, and here is the poem featured at the end of the chapter on faith:

By Faith

Look at the proud; his soul is not straight or right within him, but the [rigidly] just and the [uncompromisingly] righteous man shall live by his faith and in his faithfulness.

Habakkuk 2:4 [Amplified Bible]

The practical aspect of faith is a walk, a lifestyle:
Moment by moment, we walk by faith, not by what we see,
Knowing that this kind of faith propels us to victory.
Even though some may misunderstand and seek to revile,
The shield of faith counters fiery darts of the enemy’s thrust.
We trust God, despite all the hinderer might do or say.
Being fully persuaded, we learn to trust and obey.
We persist and obey signs of our perpetual trust,
For faith directly reflects our relationship with the Lord.
Walking from victory to victory will not seem odd,
For true faith comes by hearing and hearing the Word of God.
For whatever we desire according to the Word,
We shall have when we pray and put our trust in the Lord.
We know the Scriptures mean what they say and say what they mean:
Faith—substance of things hoped for, evidence of things not seen.

Keith and Krystin Getty offer “By Faith,” a song of praise to capture the essence of the message:

Fear of the Lord: Beginning of wisdom

July 21, 2019

Throughout the Old Testament, we find numerous references to “the fear of the Lord.” The scripture posted on the homepage of Logos Bible Software on July 21, 2019, comes from Proverbs 1:7

The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline.

Proverbs 9:10 makes a similar declaration:

The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding

Here is a dramatic graphic rendering of Proverbs 9:10:

Psalm 111:10 also mentions the term:

The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; all who follow his precepts have good understanding

The expression thus connects with three primary virtues: “knowledge,” “wisdom,” and “understanding.”

Although many Bible teachers tend to emphasize synonyms, such as “respect,” “reverence,” and “honor,” the term also suggests a deep, serious recognition of someone who “is awesome in power” and who should be looked upon with “fear and trembling” as Psalm 2:11 indicates:

Serve the LORD with fear and rejoice with trembling.

Another reference from Psalm 19:9 teaches us regarding this vital concept:

The fear of the LORD is pure, enduring forever.

Solomon, in his wisdom, settles the whole discussion regarding humanity and God:

Ecclesiastes 12:13

Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.

In Romans, Paul discusses the sinful nature of humanity:

Romans 3:10-12:

As the Scriptures say,
“No one is righteous—
not even one.
11 No one is truly wise;
no one is seeking God.
12 All have turned away;
all have become useless.
No one does good,
not a single one.”

He concludes by saying,

Romans 3:17-18:

17 They don’t know where to find peace.”
18 “They have no fear of God at all.”

Once again, the Psalmist concurs regarding those enemies who fought against him:

Psalm 55:19:

God will hear and humble them,
Even He who sits enthroned from old— Selah.
Because in them there has been no change [of heart],
And they do not fear God [at all].

Both Proverbs 9:10 and Psalm 19:9 form the introduction to this poem:

The Beginning of Wisdom

The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever.

Psalm 19:9

The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom: and the knowledge of the holy is understanding.

Proverbs 9:10

 

We begin and stand in absolute awe of You,

Thoroughly washed in the fountain of holiness.

The old has passed away—Behold, You make all things new:

Redeemed and justified by Christ, our righteousness.

As you search the earth, may we find grace in your sight.

We seek to be wise but never in our own eyes.

We stand perfected offspring destined to walk upright,

Beloved ones, whose heart Your Word purifies.

We are filled with knowledge and wisdom from above

And bound by a covenant no one can sever,

For nothing can separate us from God’s love:

The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever.

We are renewed in strength and upheld by God’s Word,

As we pursue wisdom, growing in the fear of the Lord.

Tommy Walker offers this song of worship: “The Fear of the Lord”

Power of Agreement

July 19, 2019

We can access untapped potential when we recognize the power of agreement and come into agreement with God and His Word.

In a recent post on PureGlory.net, Apostle Gabriel Cross posted the following statement which arrested my attention:

Come out of agreement with the enemy and come into the love agreement, with the Father, concerning the wonderful, who you are, and your destiny.

It’s time to EMBRACE WHO YOU ARE, completely!

So many times, as believers we come into agreement with “the enemy” of our souls” and believe what others say about us, including ourselves, as we embrace negative words and images that portray us in ways that attempt to override God’s revelation of who we really are in light of all He has called us to be.

The stirring comments caused me to think about the “Power of Agreement.” When it comes to all that God has spoken to us there should be no disagreement; however, at times we encounter a differing opinion or as the title of this response describes, an

Argument

to express my point of view
to convince and convert you
I keep an open mind
and try to find
reasons to conclude
and win my case and erase
the trace of doubt
to rescind the scowl
and take the frown
and turn it upside down
into a smile for me

“I see. . . I see. . .
I agree. . . BUT!”

In those instances of disagreement, the insidious culprit can be fear which seeks to undermine and weaken our confidence in God. In those instances, we must remember “God has not given us the spirit of fear but of power and of love and of a sound mind.”

The spirit of fear—is crippling, debilitating, for God says, “I can do all things through Christ,” but the spirit of fear challenges everything God says and argues with Him. God desires that we agree with His word and never respond with “But!”

We must recognize there is no power in fear. Indeed, the spirit of fear renders impotent those who embrace this enemy of faith. Dierdre Curry speaks of the “disempowering impact of disagreement” which nullifies the promises of God, all of which are “yes” and “Amen.” Furthermore, there is no fear in love, for God is love and perfect love casts out all fear. God’s desire is that we be made whole, abounding with a healthy body, a sound mind, and a fruitful spirit.

Our heart’s desire is to abide in the will of God, as we more fully comprehend this vital factor of life:

The Power of Agreement

Again, I say unto you, That if two of you
shall agree on earth as touching any thing
that they shall ask, it shall be done for them
of my Father which is in heaven.

Matthew 18:19

Boundless power lies in the hands of those who agree.
As touching anything that two of them shall ask,
God hastens to perform, to fulfill their decree,
No matter how small or how great the task.
Those who ask shall receive, and those who seek shall find.
To those who knock, it shall be opened unto;
Those who become one in heart and soul and in mind
Scale the mountain of faith to reach the highest view.
They know the transforming power of the spoken word,
Far beyond the bounds that finite minds encompass.
Nothing shall be withheld from those in one accord,
Who decree that their words have already come to pass.
Once agreed upon, the deed is already done
For those whose heart and soul have been fused into one.

The Gaither Vocal Band confirm the message with “Whenever We Agree Together”:

Patient endurance

July 18, 2019

The verse posted on the homepage of Logos Bible Software on July 18, 2019, comes from one of the scriptures discussed in yesterday’s post: Hebrews 12:1(New Living Translation):

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us.

The phrase “run with endurance” caught my attention, as I recall some translations use the word “patience” or “patient endurance.” Since patience or perseverance is a fruit of the spirit that seems to be an important part of my life at this time, I decided to examine one of the expressions used for patience: patient endurance. The term involves remaining under some discipline, subjecting one’s self to something which demands the yielding of the will to something against which one naturally would rebel. It means cheerful (or hopeful) endurance, constancy — enduring, patience, patient continuance (waiting). It is a bearing up in a way that honors and glorifies our heavenly Father, not merely to grin and bear it. As a noun, the term appears throughout the New Testament being translated: endurance, patient enduring, perseverance, and steadfastness.

In 2 Thessalonians 3:5 (NLT), Paul speaks of his desire for believers:

May the Lord lead your hearts into a full understanding and expression of the love of God and the patient endurance that comes from Christ.

Romans 5:3-4 speaks of the end-product of going through various trials and difficult situations we encounter as believers:

3 And not only this but [with joy] let us exult in our sufferings and rejoice in our hardships, knowing that hardship (distress, pressure, trouble) produces patient endurance; 4 and endurance, proven character (spiritual maturity); and proven character, hope and confident assurance [of eternal salvation].

James 5:11 (NLT) provides an excellent example of someone who embodies the character trait of patient endurance: Job.

11 We give great honor to those who endure under suffering. For instance, you know about Job, a man of great endurance. You can see how the Lord was kind to him at the end, for the Lord is full of tenderness and mercy.

Chuck Swindoll described him as a “man of heroic endurance,” a real person who illustrates the spiritual principles that God is “full of compassion and tender mercy” and that he rewards those who demonstrate “patience.”

Hebrews 10:36 (AMP) also reinforces the message patience precedes what one is striving to achieve:

For you have need of patient endurance [to bear up under difficult circumstances without compromising], so that when you have carried out the will of God, you may receive and enjoy to the full what is promised.

Previously, while working on a teaching related to patience, I read about an apple orchard run by “Farmer Johnson” in Washington State, an individual with whom I spiritually identified. Reading about the apples produced by this individual also inspired the following poem which opens with Hebrews 6:12, another reference using “patient endurance” or patience.

Farmer Johnson

That ye be not slothful, but followers of them who
through faith and patience inherit the promises.
Hebrews 6:12

He leadeth me, He leadeth me,
By His own hand He leadeth me;
His faithful follower I would be,
For by His hand He leadeth me.
Lyrics by Joseph H. Gilmore

Farmer Johnson owns orchards in Washington State.
His apples are renowned and said to be the best.
As scriptures remind us to labor and to rest,
This Farmer Johnson is patient and learns to wait
For the bountiful fruit of his harvest season.
Patience now abounds to complete and perfect me,
As I walk by faith, despite all that I may see.
I assess my times and unfold the real reason
For all the trials and seeming setbacks that came.
At times I felt as though being torn asunder
But like Job, I still abide and bear up under.
God yet delivers those who call upon His name.
Committed to go wherever the Lord shall send,
A faithful follower, I endure to the end.

As a youngster I recall singing this hymn “He Leadeth Me” countless times, performed here by the Michael Curb Congregation.

We are not ashamed of the Gospel

July 17, 2019

In Romans 1:16, we find the Verse of the Day for July 17, 2019 in the Good News Translation:

[ The Power of the Gospel] I have complete confidence in the gospel; it is God’s power to save all who believe, first the Jews and also the Gentiles.

Here is the verse in the New Living Translation:

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

Because of the Lord Jesus Christ and all that he endured on our behalf, as believers we rejoice and celebrate the good news (the gospel of Christ). We are not put to shame because of Christ’s obedience. Looking at Hebrews 12:1-2, we can really appreciate what the Lord accomplished on our behalf:
Hebrews 12:1-2:

Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us,
Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.

When we turn our eyes upon Jesus Christ, we recognize all that he endured when he was made a curse, as he endured the cross, despising the shame and humiliation associated with such a disgraceful and shameful act, such as crucifixion.

In reflecting upon the Lord Jesus Christ and overwhelming burden of our sins that he bore, I recall the inspiration for a poem that I wrote in which I understood to a greater degree that the Lord was indeed my “Burden Bearer” In thinking on these two verses, my mind recalls a backpacking experience that occurred at TFI (Total Fitness Institute) in California back in December 1975. During this outdoor wilderness adventure, I was assigned to a platoon of believers, and we portioned out our food supply for the week among the group. I volunteered to carry the food for the last day, which meant that my load stayed the same while the load that everyone else carried got lighter.

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

The Burden Bearer

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

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

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

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

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

Because the Lord willingly bore our sin and iniquity on the cross where he took upon himself all our guilt and shame, he released me from the bondage of guilt and shame for past failures. Lyrics from the contemporary gospel song “I am not ashamed of the Gospel” reinforce the message of the Verse of the Day, recorded here by the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir:

Lord of the breakthrough

July 15, 2019

Although we are well beyond the halfway point of the New Year, 2019, in the minds of many people we are still experiencing a “new beginning.” During this time, we think about the remainder of the year and what it holds in store for us, as we recall who God is and what He alone can do. We can apply these words every day, for our Father graciously provides “a new beginning” or a “fresh start” with the bold declaration found in Isaiah 43:16, 18-19:

I am the LORD, who opened a way through the waters,
making a dry path through the sea.

18 “But forget all that—
it is nothing compared to what I am going to do.
19 For I am about to do something new.
See, I have already begun! Do you not see it?
I will make a pathway through the wilderness.
I will create rivers in the dry wasteland.

The passage from Isaiah inspired this poetic expression:

God is constant, never changing.
Yet God is fluid, ever-changing.
Like the ocean and horizon at sunset and sunrise,
Always the same yet never quite the same,
Infinitely wise, ruler of earth and skies,
We humbly recognize our savior and creator,
Who makes all things new.
Marvelous are His works;
Righteous are His ways.
Worthy of the glory,
We give our highest praise.
Never changing, yet ever-changing,
Who is like unto our God?
There is no one like Him.
Who is like unto our God?

Each day represents a new beginning, as God once again makes

All Things New

Behold, I will do a new thing; now it shall spring forth;
shall ye not know it? I will even make a way in the wilderness,
and rivers in the desert.

Isaiah 43:19

Behold, I am the Lord God who makes all things new.
Trust me and you will see. You will never be the same.
As you look to me, it is no secret what I can do.

I am God–I do not lie, I am faithful and true.
Almighty, God of the impossible is my name.
Behold, I am the Lord God who makes all things new.

Some thought it was over, but I am by no means through.
I cover and restore to remove all guilt and shame.
As you look to me, it is no secret what I can do.

Never forget what I have already brought you through.
You have a divine purpose; your life is not a game.
Behold, I am the Lord God who makes all things new.

In me you overcome—I am Lord of the breakthrough
Who offers boundless promises that you can now claim.
As you look to me, it is no secret what I can do.

Trust me, obey and see what I have in store for you.
With your life you will make known my goodness and proclaim:
Behold, I am the Lord God who makes all things new.
As you look to me, it is no secret what I can do.

The reference to God as “Lord of the breakthrough” caused me to think about the film, Breakthrough, released earlier this year. Based on an actual account of a mother’s unwavering commitment to pray that her son would recover after being rescued from the icy waters of a frozen lake, the film depicts the power of prayer, despite seemingly impossible circumstances.

Pastor Jason Noble, the actual minister portrayed in the film, offered this definition of the term “breakthrough”:

“A military advance all the way and beyond an enemy’s front-line defense. An action or instance of surpassing an obstruction, the overcoming of a stalemate. . . a significant or sudden advance, development, achievement that removes a barrier to progress.”

Pastor Jason shared how we can position ourselves for a miracle. He spoke of the human component of every miracle in the Bible. He said, “When God speaks a promise in your life, you must hold on to it. We have to partner with God.” He went on to say there is a place for us, a destination where we can experience a personal breakthrough.

The Bible reminds us of God’s unfailing power and strength to turn a seemingly impossible situation into a glorious triumph in the account of David who inquires of the Lord before going into battle with the Philistines in 1 Chronicles 14:8-16.

1 Chronicles 14:11 in the Good News Translation (GNT) summarizes what occurred:

11 So David attacked them at Baal Perazim and defeated them. He said, “God has used me to break through the enemy army like a flood.” So that place is called Baal Perazim.

(We note that this name in Hebrew means “Lord of the Breakthrough.”)

In a similar way, Isaiah 59:19 reveals that when the enemies of God come upon God’s people seeking to overwhelm us, the spirit of the Lord responds in this way:

Isaiah 59:19

So shall they fear the name of the LORD from the west and his glory from the rising of the sun. When the enemy shall come in like a flood, the Spirit of the LORD shall lift up a standard against him.

As we embark further into another new beginning, we also may encounter challenges and difficult situations that seem impossible to resolve on our own. Obstacles confront us and block our progress toward our destination which seems so close, yet circumstances hinder us everywhere we turn. We desperately seek a breakthrough to catapult us to victory. Like David, we seek to do God’s will, knowing He has already equipped us for victory, having already gone before us triumphantly, for He is “Lord of the Breakthrough.”

Israel and New Breed confirm our declaration with “Lord of the Breakthrough.”

Remember: the way up is the way down

July 13, 2019

The Verse of the Day for July 13, 2019, provides a vivid illustration from Philippians 2:9-11 that “The way up is the way down.” This passage reminds us that humility is the key to promotion with the Lord Jesus Christ, the ultimate example of this paradox:

Philippians 2:9-11 (Amplified Bible):

9 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.

Jesus Christ also 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 (AMP):

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 (AMP):

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 title prayer from a collection edited by Arthur Bennett: The Valley of Vision: A Collection of Puritan Prayers and Devotions embodies the essence of our discussion:

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.

In the same way that Jesus Christ endured the cross, despising the shame, we are to follow in his steps, bearing our individual burdens and all the trials that we must experience in this life. As we humble ourselves, God will exalt us in due season and will be glorified.

We conclude with Vertical Worship offering this reminder that Christ is “Exalted above All” based on Philippians 2:9-11:

Not by bread alone

July 12, 2019


The Verse of the Day for July 12, 2019 comes from Matthew 4:4 in the New International Version:

Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”

Matthew 4:4 NIV

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 phrase “not by bread alone” brings to mind an experience that occurred in 2010 when I participated in a clinical trial involving men with prostate cancer and two types of special bread: soy and almond. This particular study involved men diagnosed with prostate cancer with a slightly rising PSA. Today, I am meeting with an oncologist to learn more about hormone therapy as a treatment modality for prostate cancer with an increasing PSA score.

As I am preparing for my doctor’s appointment, I am smiling as I recall the familiar biblical reference: “. . . not by bread alone.” The Verse of the Day inspired a blog post that I am revising and re-posting as the entry for today.

The context of the reference is part of Jesus Christ’s response to the first prong of the temptation in the wilderness, whereby the Devil attempts to get the Savior to turn stones into bread. With each temptation Jesus responds with “It is written,” as Christ counters with Scripture, in this first instance, from a passage from the Pentateuch, specifically from

Deuteronomy 8:2-3:

2And you shall remember all the way which the LORD your God led you these forty years in the wilderness, to humble you, and to prove you, to know what was in your heart, whether would keep his commandments, or no.
3And he humbled you, and suffered you to hunger, and fed you with manna, which you did not know, neither did thy fathers know; that he might make you know that man does not live by bread only, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of the LORD.

Here God reminds Israel of their 40-year sojourn in the wilderness where He proved them and taught them a valuable lesson, the essence of which Jesus repeats after having been in the wilderness for 40 days and 40 nights without food when he responds, “It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.”

Here is a revision of this original psalm inspired by the phrase found in the Old Testament as well as the Gospels:

Not by Bread Alone

And he humbled you, and suffered you to hunger, and fed you with manna, which you did not, neither did your fathers know; that he might make you know that man does not live by bread only, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of the LORD.
Deuteronomy 8:3

But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.
Matthew 4:4

We find that the Word of the Lord so plainly reveals
This profound truth: that “man shall not live by bread alone.”
When tempted Jesus responded, and thus he made known
How we can triumph in life’s most arduous ordeal,
As we come to know that God alone is good.
Each day we are sustained not only with daily bread
But by every word that proceeds from God’s mouth instead,
For we esteem His Word more than necessary food.
During this new phase as we start hormone therapy,
I am still watching and waiting, looking above,
Ever striving to please the Master, serving in love,
Knowing God’s promise to heal and deliver me.
In yet another instance, I learn what faith reveals:
It is Jehovah Rapha, the Lord, my God, who heals.

We close with this musical reminder of the power of the Word of God revealed in “Ancient Words” with its reference that “Man shall not live by bread alone.”

As we finish the work

July 10, 2019

The Verse of the Day for Biblegate.com reminds us of the faithfulness of God expressed in Philippians 1:6 in the Amplified Bible:

I am convinced and confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will [continue to] perfect and complete it until the day of Christ Jesus [the time of His return].

The New Living Translation says this:

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.

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

The Psalmist also makes this firm declaration:

Psalm 138:8

The LORD will work out his plans for my life— for your faithful love, O LORD, endures forever. Don’t abandon me, for you made me.

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.

This 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.

1 Corinthians 1:8 offers words to comfort and assure us of God’s faithfulness:

He will keep you strong to the end so that you will be free from all blame on the day when our Lord Jesus Christ returns.

Philippians 1:10 also reinforces the message:

For I want you to understand what really matters, so that you may live pure and blameless lives until the day of Christ’s return.

A previous blog post discussed the concept of a “work in progress” or a “work in process” (sometimes abbreviated “WIP”), offering the following statement: “Each believer is a work in progress.”

Fil Anderson of In Touch Ministries acknowledges this truth:

However, I’m no longer embarrassed or afraid to admit I’m unfinished, incomplete, and imperfect—a work in progress. Neither is God surprised or disappointed with my lack of development. God’s work in my life will never be finished until I meet Jesus face to face. Desiring to follow Jesus isn’t about being complete and perfect; it’s about doing my best and trusting God to finish what He began.”

Until the Lord returns, we continue to learn and grow up in Christ, recognizing that maturation is a process that never ends. As adolescents, we envision the day when we will finally grow up and attain our new status as adults. We often think of adulthood as the final stage of the maturation process, but we recognize the process is ongoing, and we must not only accept the process, but we must embrace it:

As We Finish the Work

Jesus said to them, My food (nourishment)
is to do the will (pleasure) of Him Who sent Me
and to accomplish and completely finish His work.
John 4:34 (Amplified Bible)

As we finish the work God has sent us to do
And seek to fulfill all His will and leave our mark,
The Lord blesses, refreshes, and makes all things new.
The fire on the altar enflamed from a small spark
Beckons as we press to reach the top of the mount,
Called by God, destined to be abundantly blessed,
Reaping the good of this life’s bountiful harvest.
We reflect upon God’s favor as we recount
With wisdom our days, so grateful to be alive
To know the fullness of love and grace upon grace,
As we persevere not just to survive but thrive
And triumph with strength and patience to run the race.
According to God’s divine design and framework,
What He began He will complete, as we finish the work.

In reflecting upon God’s faithfulness as expressed in Philippians 1:6 and elsewhere in the Bible, I thought of this song which has come to mean so much to me: “Great Work” offered by Brian Courtney Wilson: