God is perfect in all His ways

July 7, 2018

 Psalm 18--30

The Verse of the Day for July 7, 2018 clearly reveals one of the unique characteristics of who God is and all He does. God Almighty, the creator of the heavens and the Earth, is the epitome of perfection, as the Psalmist declares:

Psalm 18:30:

As for God, His way is perfect;
The word of the Lord is proven;
He is a shield to all who trust in Him.

Amplified Bible states this truth this way:

As for God, His way is blameless. The word of the Lord is tested [it is perfect, it is faultless]; He is a shield to all who take refuge in Him.

Likewise the New Living Translation offer this statement:

God’s way is perfect. All the Lord’s promises prove true.

Deuteronomy 32:4 makes the almost identical statement in the New Living Translation:

He is the Rock; his deeds are perfect. Everything he does is just and fair. He is a faithful God who does no wrong; how just and upright he is!

In the Gospels, Jesus Christ commands his followers to be perfect, in the same way God is perfect:

Matthew 5:48 (NKJV)

Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.

The Amplified Bible puts it this way:

You, therefore, will be perfect [growing into spiritual maturity both in mind and character, actively integrating godly values into your daily life], as your heavenly Father is perfect.

At first glance, to “be perfect” seems to be an impossible task, but certainly, God, our gracious, patient, heavenly Father, would never ask us to do anything that would be impossible to accomplish.

Ligonier Teaching Ministries, founded by the late RC Sproul, comments on the concept of being perfect:

In the first place, the word that is translated “perfect” literally means “be complete.” So often, the New Testament and the Old Testament will describe people as being upright and righteous—not in the sense that they have achieved total moral perfection, but rather that they have reached a singular level of maturity in their growth in terms of spiritual integrity. However, in this statement, it’s certainly legitimate to translate it using the English word perfect. For example, “Be ye complete as your heavenly Father is complete.”

Colossians 2:10 reminds us this reality:

And you are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power.

So in the sense that we are complete, lacking nothing, we are perfect, just as God desires us to be. We are what God says we are: “Perfect!” The source of our becoming perfect as we mature is the Word of God, given that we might be “perfected”–that is to be whole, complete, fully equipped, lacking nothing needed to complete the work set before us. Note what 2 Timothy has to say:

All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.

The Amplified Bible broadens our understanding of this passage:

16 All Scripture is God-breathed [given by divine inspiration] and is profitable for instruction, for conviction [of sin], for correction [of error and restoration to obedience], for training in righteousness [learning to live in conformity to God’s will, both publicly and privately—behaving honorably with personal integrity and moral courage]; 17 so that the man of God may be complete and proficient, outfitted and thoroughly equipped for every good work.

Psalm 19:10 also reminds us:

The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple;

When believers look in the mirror of the matchless Word of God, they behold their true identity, perfected in the precepts of Almighty God’s changeless law. We now behold:

Our True Identity

But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord,

are changed into the same image from glory to glory,

even as by the Spirit of the Lord.

II Corinthians 3:18

 

We look in the mirror of God’s Word, and we see,

Not only who we are but who we shall become,

Reflected in our eyes, our true identity.

 

Released from shackles of a slave mentality,

The bondage of Egypt we have now overcome.

We look in the mirror of God’s Word, and we see.

 

Perfected to reveal all we were designed to be,

In our hearts we have prepared for God a new home,

Reflected in our eyes, our true identity.

 

“Perfect and complete”: our new reality:

As born-again models of the Father’s Kingdom.

We look in the mirror of God’s Word, and we see.

 

God’s blessings in double measure abundantly,

Flowing by the spirit in knowledge and wisdom,

Reflected in our eyes, our true identity.

 

We live to fulfill our prophetic destiny,

As joys unfold with even greater joys to come.

We look in the mirror of God’s Word and we see

Reflected in our eyes, our true identity.

As Christian believers we study the Scriptures to show ourselves approved to God, and in doing so we learn more about God and His expectations for His people. Just as God is perfect in all His ways, He desires the followers of Lord Jesus Christ to be perfect, as God our Father is perfect. We close with Chris Tomlin, singing of God as a “Good, Good Father”, as the chorus resounds to remind us “You are perfect in all your ways.”

New day dawning: That day

July 5, 2018

Isaiah 12--4a

The Verse of the Day for July 5, 2018 comes from Isaiah 12:4 to remind us of what is coming on “that day”:

And in that day you will say: “Praise the Lord, call upon His name; declare His deeds among the peoples, Make mention that His name is exalted.

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 (NLT)

Rejoice in that day and leap for joy!
For indeed your reward is great in heaven,
For in like manner their fathers did to 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 open our eyes and l recognize indeed:

A New Day Dawning

We have also a more sure word of prophecy;

whereunto you do well that you take heed,

as unto a light that shines in a dark place,

until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts:                                                     

II Peter 1:19

 

A new day dawning, look up toward the Eastern sky.

New horizons reveal our redemption is nigh.

All darkness departs, as the sun of righteousness

Arises with healing in his wings in fullness

Of joy to share the bounty of endless supply.

 

He shall gather us in the twinkling of an eye

To seize the final victory no one can deny.

His beloved shall savor forever God’s goodness:

A new day dawning.

 

We shall comprehend each wherefore and every why

As we shall know what mortal hearts could not apply

And bask in the fullness of boundless blessedness

Perfected in the presence of His holiness.

All life unfolds as a gift from the Lord on high:

A new day dawning.

We close as Joseph Habedank paints a vocal picture of “that day” with the classic gospel song “What a Day that Will Be”:

Measure of faith

July 1, 2018

The Verse of the Day for July 1, 2018 tells believers what we have been given and how we should think about what we have received:

Romans 12:3 (New King James Version):

[Serve God with Spiritual Gifts] For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith

Here is the New Living Testament:

Because of the privilege and authority God has given me, I give each of you this warning: Don’t think you are better than you really are. Be honest in your evaluation of yourselves, measuring yourselves by the faith God has given us.

The Verse of the Day exhorts us not to think more highly of ourselves than we ought to think. Just how highly ought we to think of ourselves? We should recognize that each believer has been given “the measure of faith.” The reference to “the measure of faith” then raises a couple of questions: How much faith do you have? How much do you need? Exactly what is that measure? It is the faith of Jesus Christ.

Romans 3:22 makes this statement regarding our righteous standing before God:

Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference:

According to Galatians 2:16, we can stand in the presence of God, “Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.”

By the faith of Jesus Christ we have access to the promises of God, as Galatians 3:22 reveals:

But the scripture hath concluded all under sin that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe.

Part of the powerful prayer offered in Ephesians 3 expresses God’s desire that “Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith.” The same faith that raised Jesus Christ was raised from the dead has been implanted in each believer who confesses that Jesus is Lord and believes that God raised him from the dead. That is the measure of faith, and though it is only the size of a grain of mustard seed, it is more than enough. We have

A Faith That Takes

Even the righteousness of God
which is by faith of Jesus Christ
unto all and upon all them that believe:
for there is no difference:

Romans 3:22

Do we have anything that we have not received?
If we have been given great faith then we have it.
God did not withhold but gave when we first believed
To receive this priceless token, our deposit.
We have the faith of Jesus Christ, for so God says:
A faith that takes us where only the brave dare go,
To a place where rivers of understanding flow,
A faith to move mountains and excel all our days.
Here we stand mature, yet with the heart of a child,
Ever striving to become more faithful and true;
Not stained by malice but open, ardently wild
In our passion to please God in all we say and do.
Cleansed by his blood and forgiven of past mistakes,
We are not defeated: we have a faith that takes.

Robert Pierre proclaims “On Faith Alone”:

The kingdom of God and the Kingdom of Heaven

June 30, 2018

The Verse of the Day for June 30, 2018 comes from the New King James  Bible:

Zechariah 14:9

And the Lord shall be King over all the earth. In that day it shall be— “The Lord is one,” And His name one.

The New Living Translations renders the verse this way:

And the Lord will be king over all the earth. On that day there will be one Lord—his name alone will be worshiped.

This verse brings to mind that not only shall the Lord be king over all the earth, but “of his kingdom there shall be no end.” Other scriptures also proclaim that “of his kingdom there shall be no end,” as Revelation 11:15 makes known:

And the seventh angel sounded; and there were great voices in heaven, saying, the kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ; and he shall reign forever and ever.

Throughout the Old Testament we find references to the Kingdom of God which shall stand forever. We find such a declaration in Daniel 7:13-14:

I saw in the night visions, and, behold, one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days, and they brought him near before him.
And there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages, should serve him: his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed.

In 1 Chronicles 17:11-12 we find a similar pronouncement regarding the throne of the everlasting kingdom of the Lord:

And it shall come to pass, when thy days be expired that thou must go to be with thy fathers, that I will raise up thy seed after thee, which shall be of thy sons; and I will establish his kingdom.
He shall build me a house, and I will establish his throne forever.

Kingdom of Heaven and Kingdom of God

The Verse of the Day and related verse refer to the Kingdom of God which is different from the Kingdom of Heaven. The Kingdom of God rules over all. It is eternal in the Heavens, having no beginning and no ending. On the other hand, the Kingdom of Heaven requires the actual presence of a sovereign or king; Israel rejected the King from Heaven(s) and thus the Kingdom of Heaven is in abeyance until the second coming when the Kingdoms of this world are become the Kingdoms of Lord and of Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever.

Two days ago the Verse of the Day focused on repentance, the noun form of the verb to repent, to turn from one path to follow another. Throughout the Gospels, Jesus Christ strongly exhorts Israel to turn away from their sinful ways, and repent. The term means to turn around or turn away from, to change from disobeying to obeying God’s revealed will, placing trust in Him, turning away from all evil and ungodliness.

Throughout Gospels Jesus Christ challenges Israel to repent in light of the coming of the Kingdom of Heaven. In Matthew 3:2, Jesus Christ says, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”

The Amplified Bible puts it this way:

“Repent [change your inner self—your old way of thinking, regret past sins, live your life in a way that proves repentance; seek God’s purpose for your life], for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”

Not only did the Lord speak this strong exhortation to the people but he commanded his followers to do the same. Matthew 10:7 states:

And as you go, preach, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’

I recall hearing a teaching based on Matthew 3:2 and other verses, inspiring this response:

“Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.”

“Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand,” he said.
The Righteous One shall come to judge the living and the dead.
In the midst of perilous times we still watch, fight and pray.

As followers of Christ we are called to trust and obey
These words now sharply addressed to the Church from Christ, the head.

Not by flesh but by the Spirit of God we are led;
Our food is to do God’s will and consume the living bread.
All we do must perfectly align with all that we say:
“Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.”

Released from the bondage of the past, we now look ahead.
We forsake all idols to serve the living God instead
And leave our old dark roads and pursue a bright new pathway.
God gives another chance with the dawning of each new day.
The bridegroom is coming for his bride that they might be wed:
“Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.”

Steve Green offers a personal song of repentance: “I Repent”

The Lord will perfect that which concerns me

June 29, 2018

As we begin to close out the merry month of June, the Verse of the Day for June 29, 2018 makes known something God will do:

Psalm 138:8 (NKJV):
The Lord will perfect that which concerns me; Your mercy, O Lord, endures forever; Do not forsake the works of Your hands.

This verse uses the term “perfect” as a verb and brings to mind a series of blog posts entitled “A Five-fold Prayer.” Pastor Rick Warren described what God is doing in perplexing situations that challenge our faith. In such instances, God specializes in bringing good out of bad, using problems to: “direct us; inspect us; correct us; protect us; perfect us.”

After hearing his comments, I took those five verbs and formed them into a request, a petition, a prayer to God for me. I asked God to become the initiator of the action, and I would become the object of his action. I also examined each of the verbs with scriptural illustrations from the Old Testament and New Testament and composed a prayer/psalm inspired by each verb at the end of each section related to each of the five verbs. In writing out my personal application of the scriptures, I also incorporated music related to the verbs as well. In Part 5 I ask God to “Perfect Me,” in the same way the Psalmist expects God to “perfect that which concerns me.”

Perfect:

In the Old Testament, as a verb the term means “to complete, to make full, perfect or entire; to finish.” Note the following verses:

II Chronicles 16:9

For the eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show himself strong in the behalf of them whose heart is perfect toward him.

Psalm 37:37

Mark the perfect man, and behold the upright: for the end of that man is peace.

II Chronicles 16:9 and Psalm 37:37 comprise the lyrics to this song:

For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro,
For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro,
For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro,
Throughout the whole earth
To show Himself strong, to show Himself strong,
To show Himself strong in behalf of them
Whose heart is perfect toward Him.
The man with a perfect heart is whole and complete:
Mark the perfect man and behold the upright,
For the end of that man is peace.

In the New Testament, “perfect” is translated from the Greek word teleios—[adjective]–describing what has reached its end; complete, perfect, full, fully grown, wanting nothing, with special reference to the end for which it was intended. As a verb teleioo means—to complete, make perfect, so as to be full, wanting nothing, to bring to a full end. See how the term is used in following verses:

Hebrews 13:20-21:

20 Now the God of peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant,

21 Make you perfect in every good work to do his will, working in you that which is well-pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ; to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.

James 1:2-4 (NLT):

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

1 Peter 5:10 (NKJV):

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

2 Corinthians 13:11:

Finally, brethren, farewell. Be perfect, be of good comfort, be of one mind, live in peace; and the God of love and peace shall be with you.

Perfect me

What I lack fulfill, that I may not come up short.
Bring to maturity any deficiency
That I may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.
Make me perfect in every good work to do Your will.
May the inner spaces of my heart catch Your eye.
As you scan the vast landscape of this green planet,
May You see the perfect man You designed me to be.

We close with a musical rendering of Psalm 138:7-8: The Lord will perfect:

Goodness leads to repentance

June 28, 2018

2 Peter 3--9 new

The Verse of the Day for June 28, 2018 reveals aspects of God’s character and His desire for His people:

2 Peter 3:9 (New King James Version):

The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.

The Amplified Bible explains in greater detail:

The Lord does not delay [as though He were unable to act] and is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is [extraordinarily] patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.

Regarding every promise of God, we must remember this:

Throughout the Scriptures God reveals Himself as one who keeps His promises. God Almighty, creator of the heavens and the Earth, is faithful and true, the original “Promise Keeper” who cannot lie. The Word of God declares God has given us exceeding great and precious promises that shall all be fulfilled:

For all the promises of God in Him are Yes, and in Him Amen, to the glory of God through us.

God’s desire for humanity is that they choose to follow the path of life that leads to everlasting joy and fulfillment in Him, as opposed to following the path that leads to death and destruction. Here is another reminder:

Romans 2:4 (NKJV):

Or do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance?

The Amplified Bible puts it this way:

Or do you have no regard for the wealth of His kindness and tolerance and patience [in withholding His wrath]? Are you [actually] unaware or ignorant [of the fact] that God’s kindness leads you to repentance [that is, to change your inner self, your old way of thinking—seek His purpose for your life]?

Repentance is the state of turning from one path to follow another. Throughout the Old Testament, God’s plea toward Israel was that they turn from idols to serve the true and living God. The term refers to turning around or turning away from, a conversion which involves obedience to God’s revealed will, placing trust in Him, turning away from all evil and ungodliness. We could think of it as pursuing a new path, choosing no longer to walk in darkness, but choosing to:

Walk in the Light

Walk in the light, the beautiful light.

Come where the dew drops of mercy shine bright,

Shine all around us by day and by night–

Jesus, the Light of the World.

Traditional Gospel Song

 

Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying,  

I am the light of the world. He who follows Me

shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.”

 John 8:12 (NKJV)

 

We begin when we come to Him who alone is the Light

And repent, following a new path immediately.

We must forsake the world and leave behind the chains of night.

We consecrate ourselves to God, set apart wholly

To worship the Lord freely with clean hands and a pure heart,

Formed for His glory, as we develop a strong prayer life.

The Word of God rooted within us will never depart.

We will study the Word of Truth, the lamp that lights our way:

Once we have been enlightened, we now help others to see.

We will be a voice for God, not just an echo in the crowd.

We are true servants of the Light, despite the endless strife.

We will make a joyful noise and sing His praises out loud.

We forsake unrighteous paths, no longer in ignorance,

Knowing the goodness of God is leading to repentance.

The closing line of the poem refers to Romans 2:4 which again raises these questions:

Don’t you see how wonderfully kind, tolerant, and patient God is with you? Does this mean nothing to you? Can’t you see that his kindness is intended to turn you from your sin?

Kari Jobe closes with a song of worship inspired by Romans 2:4: ”You are Good”

 

Fear is not real

June 27, 2018

Once again, instead of the Verse of the Day, we are going to look at a Quote of the Day for June 27, 2018:

“Fear is not real. The only place that fear can exist is in our thoughts of the future. It is a product of our imagination, causing us to fear things that do not at present and may not ever exist. That is near insanity. Do not misunderstand me danger is very real but fear is a choice.”

–Will Smith

In “After Earth,” the Sci-fi film, starring Will Smith and his son, Jaden Smith, one of the underlying themes is the question of whether fear is real or imagined.

Recently, Bishop Charles Mellette shared an unforgettable illustration that conveyed the truth:”Fear is not real.”

He described an impressive wedding held in a large church that was filled with hundreds of people. After the wedding party had taken their places in the front of the vast cathedral, with the bride and the groom taking center stage, the officiating clergy addressed the congregation:

“If anyone can show just cause, why this couple may not lawfully be joined together, let them now speak, or else forever hold their peace.”

An uneasy hush hovered over the congregation, as they held their breath and prayed the moment would pass quickly. The intensity of the moment rose to an even higher level when from the rear of the church, a young woman with an infant in her arms started walking slowly down the aisle. As she moved closer to the front, the atmosphere thickened even more. The bride was noticeably shaken by the unfolding scene: she began to sweat heavily, as her heart rate increased, and she began to hyperventilate until she passed out, just before the young woman reached the front. The minister asked, “Do you have something you want to say?”

She responded, “We can’t hear you in the back.”

A sigh of relief swept over the congregation,” as they realized that the imagined disaster that the wedding would be terminated was not real; the fear of impending disaster was only imaginary, and things were not as they appeared to be.

Bishop Mellete spoke of the common acronym for fear that embodied this entire situation: “False Evidence Appearing Real.” In discussing 1 Peter 5: 8, he explained how the Adversary uses fear as one of his tactics that attack believers and impede their progress. It is a tool used as a barrier to stifle our confidence in God, as it attempts to limit our access to the Father’s throne of grace. Satan tries to instill fear in believers in the same way that a ferocious lion roars, seeking to instill fear that paralyzes its victim.

I Peter 5:8 (AMP):

Be well balanced (temperate, sober of mind), be vigilant and cautious at all times; for that enemy of yours, the devil, roams around like a lion roaring [in fierce hunger], seeking someone to seize upon and devour.

Pastor Rick Warren describes fear as “. . . a self-imposed prison that will keep you from becoming what God intends for you to be.”

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

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

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

Self-imposed Prison

“Fear is a self-imposed prison that will keep you
from becoming what God intends for you to be.”

– Rick Warren

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

I John 4:18

This self-imposed prison, not made with bars of steel,
Nor formed with bricks, yet each subtly constructed wall
Restricts the mind, scars the soul and cripples the will
And impounds us to a state of constant free fall.
Held captive by past mistakes that seek to instill
Fear: this deadly acronym binds, confines the heart,
So disguised as “false evidence appearing real”
Keeps us from being all God intends us to be.
But Christ, our sovereign Lord, pardoned each life sentence,
Commuted penalties, declaring not guilty.
With his blood, having blotted out every offense,
Displayed undying love: key to set captives free.
Pure freedom to serve awaits those with ears to hear,
For perfected love destroys all walls built by fear.

Throughout the Bible we find reminders that we are to have no fear. The comforting exhortation to “fear not” or “do not fear” is said to occur 365 times in the Bible, indicating a daily memo from God that we are to have no fear. The closing sentence of the Quote of the Day says “Fear is a choice.” Without question, we are encouraged to choose “not to fear.”

Isaiah 41:10, 13

Don’t be afraid, for I am with you.
Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you.
I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.

13 For I hold you by your right hand—
I, the Lord your God.
And I say to you,
‘Don’t be afraid. I am here to help you\

We conclude as Whitley Phipps offers this musical reminder: “No Need to Fear”

Every day should be Forgiveness Day

June 25, 2018

Daisies are floral symbols of forgiveness.

Forgiveness Day takes place on June 26, a time set aside to forgive and to be forgiven. Often overlooked, this designation spotlights forgiveness, a vitally important concept not only in Christianity but one with universal implications as well. My forthcoming book Not Just a Survivor—More than a Conqueror recognizes forgiveness as an often forgotten spiritual component of the healing process in responding to a life-threatening disease, such as cancer. Chapter 7 discusses both aspects of forgiveness, examining notable examples from the Bible, as well as my personal application of the principles of forgiveness. In addition, the book discusses some of the benefits that come: to those who practice forgiveness, both in terms of improved mental and physical health. Here is an excerpt

What does it mean to forgive?

To forgive means: to send away, dismiss, set free; to acquit by a verdict; to give no punishment to the guilty person and to view the guilty person as if he is innocent. Another definition means to let loose or set at liberty (a debtor). Dr. Arch Hart has said, “I forgive when I give up my right to hurt you because you hurt me.”

Simply put, to forgive is to love, and to love is to forgive. Remember, however, that “You can give without loving, but you cannot love without giving.” I learned this firsthand in a very graphic way when late one night after getting off from work, I was accosted by a man who demanded that I give him my wallet. As I reluctantly complied, do you think I loved giving him my wallet? Nonetheless, I complied with his demand that I “give.” As I recall, when I went to my car, hurt and humiliated, I prayed and asked God to forgive the man who was in such desperate straits that he resorted to robbery.

Literally to forgive means to “give for.” You give to those who choose not to give. John Oxenham expresses a profound truth about love and giving:

Love ever lives, outlives forgives,
And while it stands with open hands it lives,
For this is love’s prerogative:
To give and give and give.

You actually could keep adding “and give” to last line ad infinitum. For such love expresses endless giving.

Jesus Christ, of course, is the quintessential example of forgiveness. As he is dying on the cross, having been brutalized and humiliated beyond any atrocious behavior inflicted upon any mortal, among the last words spoken by the Lord are recorded in Luke 23:34:

“Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

Some of the lyrics to the original song “Please Forgive Me” reinforce this truth.

God first gave to us so that we might live.
We give to others when we learn to forgive.
Jesus, our example so perfect and true,
Said, “Father, forgive them; they know not what they do.”

I forgive you. I forgive you.
I forgive you. I forgive you.
I forgive you this time. I forgive you each time.
I forgive you.

When we practice forgiving, we apply the principle of “giving and receiving.”

Luke 6:38 relates this principle:

Give, and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom. For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you.”

When we forgive, we also recall another expression of truth by Jesus who said, “It more blessed to give than to receive.” In a situation where one person offers forgiveness and another receives forgiveness. Who is more blessed? I often say, “When you choose to give, you cannot lose, but when you choose not to give you cannot win.” In his book Total Forgiveness, R. T. Kendall states,

“Forgiveness is not total forgiveness until we bless our enemies—and pray for them to be blessed. Forgiving them is a major step; totally forgiving them has fully been achieved when we set God free to bless them. But in this, we are the first to be blessed, and those who totally forgive are blessed the most.”

When it comes to abounding in God’s grace and abiding in His will in the area of forgiveness:

I Choose to Forgive

I choose to forgive and to release from payment,
To clear the account and forego the debt once more.
Though rightfully owed to me, I choose to forgive,
To be gracious, in spite of the ingratitude.
My desire is to be kind and tenderhearted;
Even as God for Christ’s sake has forgiven me,
I rise to the occasion of the Word of God.
Not keeping a record of any wrongs suffered,
I seek to walk in the footsteps of the Savior.
As Joseph, in compassion, assured his brothers
What Satan meant for evil, God fashions for good,
Widen my vision to see a much more grand scope:
May I also see all things working together
For the good, even in perilous times as these.

When it comes to “forgiving and being forgiven,” individuals should not have to wait until the 26th of June. Ideally, every day should be Forgiveness Day.

Listen to “Forgiveness,”a powerful song by Matthew West:

Today’s post is another excerpt from a chapter of the forthcoming book. Not Just a Survivor—More than a Conqueror. Go to lonnelledwardjohnson.com and subscribe to get more publication details. You can also get more details here at Dr. J’s Apothecary Shoppe. Stay tuned.

God: our fortress and our deliverer

June 24, 2018

One more time, the Verse of the Day for June 24, 2018 reminds us of who God is and exactly what He will do:

2 Thessalonians 3:3 (NKJV):

But the Lord is faithful, who will establish you and guard you from the evil one.

The Wycliffe Bible puts it this way:

But the Lord is true, that shall confirm you, and shall keep [us] from evil.

Throughout the Bible we see the faithfulness of God who never fails to deliver those who serve him.

In the Old Testament some form of the verb palat, the Hebrew word for “deliver,” is translated “to pluck out of the hands of an oppressor or enemy; to preserve, recover, remove; to deliver from danger, evil, trouble; to be delivered, to escape.” Note how the term is used in Psalm 31:1-5 in the New Living Translation:

O LORD, I have come to you for protection;
don’t let me be disgraced.
Save me, for you do what is right.
2 Turn your ear to listen to me;
rescue me quickly.
Be my rock of protection,
a fortress where I will be safe.
3 You are my rock and my fortress.
For the honor of your name, lead me out of this danger.
4 Pull me from the trap my enemies set for me,
for I find protection in you alone.
5 I entrust my spirit into your hand.
Rescue me, LORD, for you are a faithful God.

Note the introduction to Psalm 18 another psalm of deliverance:

To the Chief Musician. A Psalm of David the servant of the LORD, who spoke to the LORD the words of this song on the day that the LORD delivered him from the hand of all his enemies and from the hand of Saul. And he said:

Psalm 18:1-5 (NKJV):

1 I will love You, O LORD, my strength.
2 The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer;
My God, my strength, in whom I will trust;
My shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.
3 I will call upon the LORD, who is worthy to be praised;
So shall I be saved from my enemies.

In the New Testament the Greek verb ruomai is translated “to draw or snatch to one’s self from danger, to rescue, to deliver.”

In the poem “Why Don’t Somebody Help Me Praise the Lord, “my personal testimony expressed poetically, I make reference being rescued from of a horrible situation:

With loving arms you reached way down
And snatched me from Satan’s outhouse,
Sought me and flat-out rescued me,
Fixed me up in my Father’s house.

The Verse of the Day uses the expression “keep from evil.” We recognize a similar phrase in the prayer that Jesus Christ spoke before his crucifixion:

John 17:15 (New Living Translation)

15 I’m not asking you to take them out of the world, but to keep them safe from the evil one.

We are, of course, familiar with closing words of the Lord’s Prayer in Matthew 6:13 from the King James Version:

And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil:

The New Living Translation renders the verse this way:

And don’t let us yield to temptation, but rescue us from the evil one.

II Timothy 4:18 also reminds us

And the Lord shall deliver me from every evil work, and will preserve me unto his heavenly kingdom: to whom be glory forever and ever.

The poem “Just How God Will Deliver Us,” reinforces the message: God is faithful, and He will deliver us, just as He promised:

Just How God Will Deliver Us

But we had the sentence of death in ourselves,
that we should not trust in ourselves,
but in God which raises the dead:

Who delivered us from so great a death, and does deliver:
in whom we trust that he will still deliver us;

1 Corinthians 1:8-9

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

Clint Brown provides a musical version of Psalm 18, speaking of God as “my fortress and my deliverer.”

Those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength

June 23, 2018

One of my all-time favorite passages from the Old Testament comes from the closing verses of Isaiah 40, where we find the Verse of the Day for June 23, 2018. Not just the Isaiah 40:31, but verses 28-31 offer comfort and assurance:

Isaiah 40:28-31 (NKJV):

Have you not known?
Have you not heard?
The everlasting God, the LORD,
The Creator of the ends of the earth,
Neither faints nor is weary.
His understanding is unsearchable.
29 He gives power to the weak,
And to those who have no might He increases strength.
30 Even the youths shall faint and be weary,
And the young men shall utterly fall,
31 But those who wait on the LORD
Shall renew their strength;
They shall mount up with wings like eagles,
They shall run and not be weary,
They shall walk and not faint.

In Psalm 103:3-5 (NLT) we find another reference to being renewed like the eagle.

He forgives all my sins
and heals all my diseases.
4 He redeems me from death
and crowns me with love and tender mercies.
5 He fills my life with good things.
My youth is renewed like the eagle’s!

Eagles in the Scriptures:

Another celebrated passage connected with eagles speaks of protection and provision in speaking to the Children of Israel when they escaped from the bondage of Egypt:

Exodus 19:4

You have seen what I did unto the Egyptians, and how I bare you on eagles’ wings, and brought you unto myself.

Watching an eagle in flight is also awe-inspiring, as Proverbs 30:18-19 proclaims:

There are three things which are too wonderful for me, yea, four which I know not:
The way of an eagle in the air; the way of a serpent upon a rock; the way of a ship in the midst of the sea; and the way of a man with a maid.

Eagle Renewal:

Bible scholar, KC Pillai, converted Hindu, points out some distinctive features of eagles, as recorded in the Bible. He refers to the birds mentioned in Isaiah 40:31 and elsewhere in the Old Testament as “holy eagles,” described in this way:

The holy eagles are likened to heavenly beings; they are the “king of the birds.” Once every five, ten or fifteen years, (people differ on the time interval) the eagles build a nest high in the coconut tree, and then abandon themselves, like advanced swimmers that dive into the water. So these eagles, from the top of the high palm tree, dive down into a lake, or pond or well, or any still water; they don’t fly, but dive headfirst, with their wings folded intact on their backs. They abandon themselves and we see them dropping into the water, and when they come up they have lost every single feather. They are floating on the water, and the eagles are left stranded in the water, unable to swim or fly.

Somehow, they struggle and manage to reach the shore. Then the people come and feed the eagles, because the Eastern people look upon these holy eagles as representatives of God. Nobody will hurt them because they look upon them as heavenly beings. Then in six or seven weeks’ time, their new feathers have grown out and they fly back to the treetops. Nothing can stop them now. That is why “…they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they all mount up with wings as eagles;”

Psalm 27 and a new psalm:

The Verse of the Day also brings to mind the closing verses of my favorite psalm:

Psalm 27:13-14

New King James Version (NKJV)

13 I would have lost heart, unless I had believed
That I would see the goodness of the LORD
In the land of the living.
14 Wait on the LORD;
Be of good courage,
And He shall strengthen your heart;
Wait, I say, on the LORD!

We close with another original psalm expressed as a prayer:

“. . . And The Spirit of God Moved. . . .”

“Spirit of the living God, fall fresh on me.”
Traditional Gospel Song

As the Spirit of God moved upon the water,
As an eagle ascends on high and stirs her nest,
Attentive to the cries of her starving young ones;
As she satisfies her young and then spreads her wings,
So Holy Spirit with a gentle wavering,
Flutter over, move upon us in a new way.
As a gentle dove would hover over her brood,
Cover our soul and saturate our whole being.
As we wait upon you, spread your wings, bear us up
That we might soar to heights above the fowler’s snare.
Renew our strength and refresh our desire to serve.
As you feed us and sustain us, we shall mount up
On eagle’s wings. We shall run and not be weary.
As we look to you, we shall walk and not faint.

Esther Mui offers a beautiful spiritual song based on Isaiah 40:25-31: “Those Who Wait on the LORD”: