Posts Tagged ‘Romans 8:28’

Reflecting on the goodness of God on a special day

August 11, 2021
Here is quotation that I use as the motto for every writing class I teach and a statement I apply each day of my life.

As an adjunct professor of English currently starting a new semester at St. Augustine’s University in Raleigh, NC, I share a weekly email devotional with my students. A new semester started today, August 11, 2021, which turns out to be an especially significant day for me. Not only is today, the first day of classes where I teach, but it is also the 47th anniversary of my ordination to the Christian ministry and the 5th birthday of my grandson, Kingston Edward Simkins. All these events intersect in a glorious display of the Providence of God. I am posting this email devotional that represents my life and my ministry.

The devotional opens with a quotation attributed to Saint Jerome:

Good, better, best
Never let it rest
Until your good is better
And your better is best

Professional athletes, such as Tim Duncan and others, use this motto in an athletic context, but we can apply the statement in an academic context as well.

In discussing this inspirational quote, let us look for a moment at the adjective “good” which is derived from “God” who alone is good. Indeed, Jesus Christ said, “There is none good but the Father.” Good is an adjective, and an adjective has a comparative form and a superlative form. When you compare two objects, one is said to be better than the other. If you compare three or more items, one is selected as the best of the group. With God, however, there is no comparative or superlative. No, God has not seen “better” days, and God does not have the “best” day He’s had in a long time in comparison to others. With God every day is a “Good News Day” because “God is good.” Period! Because God is good, “. . . all things work together for the good, to them that love God, to them that are the called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28—my favorite verse in the whole Bible) So no matter how bad the situation may appear to be, it will work together for the good.

“O, taste and see that the Lord is good. Blessed is the man that puts his trust in Him.”
“For the Lord is good, and His mercy endures forever.”

To further illustrate the truths of the opening quote, take a look at the video excerpt from “Facing the Giants.” Here we have a coach asking one of his players to “him his best.” That’s really all that anyone can ask of another person. Even so, as the facilitator of this class, that’s all I’m asking of you.


As we strive to apply this inspirational quote to every aspect of our lives, there should be an underlying motivation: that we want to express to God our gratitude for all that He has done for us through Christ Jesus, His Son, the least that we can do is give him our best. Like the coach in “Facing the Giants” that’s all that God is asking of us. This should be our response: “Giving My Best to You, Lord.” as offered by the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir:

Disappointment: a deadly emotion we cannot ignore

March 14, 2021

As the devastating effects of the Coronavirus Pandemic and other events continue to unfold, I recall a conversation I had some years ago with a fellow-believer where we commented on the word “disappointment” and how it can impact our lives. I posted a blog entry discussing the subject, and I am revising and re-posting it here:

Disappointment is a deadly emotion that we cannot ignore. If unchecked or not countered, it precipitates a most destructive downward spiral that can sabotage the destiny of a believer. We must continually look to God and to what He has promised in His Word when we encounter this potentially devastating emotion. As we do this, we recognize that God does not disappoint nor fail to fulfill the hopes or expectations of His children. No, He does not prevent hopes or expectations from being realized, which is how many define the verb to “disappoint.” One is said to feel “disappointed” or sad or displeased when one’s hopes or expectations have not been fulfilled. However, there is never any disappointment with God who does everything on purpose: As for God, His way is perfect.

As believers, we cannot hold onto any feelings of being disappointed! In reality, feelings of disappointment consist of our hopes and expectations. Disappointments come when God does not come through at the time that we “expect” nor in the way we “expect.” Disappointment is the result of “failed expectations” on our part.

The late Kim Clement spoke of the “power of presuppositions.” The term relates to assumptions or preconceived ideas as we speculate on a situation and how we think it should unfold. He went on to say that “Presupposition” is an enemy to destiny. . . .” We may sense that God has failed us when our lives fail to unfold according to our prescribed patterns and plans, as expressed in this poem inspired by the statement from Clement:

Presupposition: Enemy to Destiny

“Known to God from eternity are all His works.”

Acts 15:18

“Presupposition is an enemy to destiny. . . .”

Kim Clement

Prophetic words that God desires to bring to pass
Wither as un-ripened fruit that fails to mature,
As our lives seem to diminish from gold to brass
In the midst of changing times, of this we must be sure:
“Presupposition is an enemy to destiny.”
Our failed expectations shipwreck us and distort
Our view of the place where we thought that we would be,
As we accept what appears to be the last resort.
Though this downward spiral plummets to depths of despair,
We trust our all-wise Father who makes no mistakes,
For God heals broken lives that seem beyond repair
With exquisite beauty that fills all that He makes.
Known to God are all His works from eternity:
His perfect will unfolds to those with eyes to see.

When we think about it, however, there is no failure in God, for God is good, and because God is good, the Verse of the Day for March 13, 2021, a verse for every day of the year, reminds us of this truth:

Romans 8:28 (AMP):

We are assured and know that [God being a partner in their labor] all things work together and are [fitting into a plan] for good to and for those who love God and are called according to [His] design and purpose.

We “silently submit to God”—not with wailing and bemoaning, not criticizing, not condemning nor complaining. We submit ourselves under the mighty hand of God and resist the Devil, who tries to convince us that God disappoints us and never fulfills His promises.

To counter the corrosive nature of being “disappointed” let’s take a look at the Word of God where we find that those who trust in God will not be disappointed.

Throughout the Psalms, we find this reality reinforced:

Psalm 22:5 (AMP)

They cried to you and were delivered; they trusted in, leaned on, and confidently relied on You, and were not ashamed or confounded or disappointed.

Psalm 25:20 (AMP):

O keep me, Lord, and deliver me; let me not be ashamed or disappointed, for my trust and my refuge are in You.

Paul reiterates the point those who trust in God will not be disappointed in their expectations:

Romans 10:11 (AMP):

The Scripture says, No man who believes in Him [who adheres to, relies on, and trusts in Him] will [ever] be put to shame or be disappointed.

When it comes to disappointment, we must counter this negative emotion with expectations according to the Word of God. We need to look to Our Great God with “Great Expectations” which is much more than a novel by Dickens.

First of all, we must remember this:

Numbers 23:19

God is not a man, that he should lie; neither the son of man, that he should repent: hath he said, and shall he not do it? or hath he spoken, and shall he not make it good? KJV

Proverbs 23:18 (AMP) reminds us:

For surely there is a latter end [a future and a reward], and your hope and expectation shall not be cut off.

The Psalmist reminds us that our hope and expectations are in God, not in our circumstances, not in what we have or do not have:

Psalm 39:7 (AMP):

And now, Lord, what do I wait for and expect? My hope and expectation are in You.

So no matter how bad the situation may appear to be, it will work together for the good. When facing what appears to be disappointing aspects in life, the lyrics to “Trust His Heart” sung by Babbie Mason provide great strength and comfort:

What do you know? Three responses

January 16, 2021

Recently I thought of the expression “What do you know?” as I began my day in a reflective way. That phrase was also the title of a quiz show heard on BBC radio in the 1950s and 1960s. Generally used as a rhetorical question,  the expression also brings to mind a previous blog post entitled “These three things I Know,” revised and re-posted here:

  1. Some things I know
  2. Some things I don’t know
  3. Some things only God knows

Some things I know. . .

One thing I know for sure is that that God loves me.  I know that I love God and that’s really all that matters.  Not only do I know that God loves me and that I love God, but these lyrics express what I really know:

I know that I know that I know that I know.

I know that I know You still love me.

I know that I know that I know that I know.

I know that I know You still love me.

No matter how many times I go astray

And leave your side and choose to disobey. 

When I’m overwhelmed and can’t even pray,

No matter what I do or do not say.

I know that I know that I know that I know.

I know that I know You still love me.

I know that I know that I know that I know.

I know that I know You still love me.

No one else knows my heart: You are the one

To call me home when I have no place to run.

When I look all around at all that I’ve done,

Despite all my failures, You still call me Son.

I know that I know that I know that I know.

I know that I know You still love me.

I know that I know that I know that I know.

I know that I know You still love me.

Romans 8:28 is my favorite verse in the Bible, and it offers this reminder that because God is good, “We know that  all things work together for the good, to them that love God, to them that are the called according to His purpose.” So no matter how bad any situation may appear to be,  I know that it will work together for the good.

Some things I don’t know. . .

I recall the lyrics to one of my all-time favorite Gospel songs “I Don’t Know about Tomorrow.” This song was especially meaningful because it was a song that my late sister-in-law, Phyllis Warren Murdock sang. Listen to this recording of the song that she sang so beautifully.

Without question, I don’t know the answers to many of life’s enigmas that seem to defy the mind of man. Quite honestly, I don’t know the answers to the questions that God asked Job. Some things are not mine to know. . . if God doesn’t tell me in the Word or by revelation, then I just don’t know

Romans 11:33-34 reminds us of this truth:

33 O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out!

34 For who hath known the mind of the Lord? or who hath been his counsellor?

I recall the lyrics to the hymn “I Know Whom I Have Believed” which states a series of things 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 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.”

The last verse brings to mind something that neither I 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.”

Some things only God knows . . .

When asked about his return to the earth, Jesus Christ responded in Matthew 24:36:

But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only.

Although we are assured that the Lord Jesus Christ will return, no one is privy of the exact day and hour, but “of the times and seasons we have no need,”  as I Thessalonians 5:1-3 remind us that the Lord’s return will happen suddenly, at the precise time that no one knows, only God.

When confronted with staggering vision of the dry bones, the prophet Ezekiel is asked a question in Ezekiel 37:3:

“Son of Man, can these bones live?” He responds, “O Lord God, You know!” As the New Living Testament puts it, “O Sovereign Lord,” I replied, “you alone know the answer to that.”

In thinking about things that only God knows, I recall this original poem written to express that very idea:

“Lord, You Know!”

Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities:

For we know not what we should pray for

 as we ought: but the Spirit itself makes

intercession for us with groanings

which cannot be uttered.

Romans 8:16

Many times we journey and don’t know which way to go.

When the right words won’t come, and we can’t even pray.    

Sometimes the only thing to say is “Lord, you know!”

We set our sights above but our thoughts fall below.

Though we walk by faith, we stumble along the way.

Many times we journey and don’t know which way to go.

We triumph in Christ and rise to defeat each foe.

Even though we wage spiritual warfare night and day,

Sometimes the only thing to say is “Lord, you know!”

God puts us in a place for us to prove what we know;

He tests us to see whether we rebel or obey.

Many times we journey and don’t know which way to go.

God leads the way and only asks that we follow.

We start in strength but often seem to go astray.

Sometimes the only thing to say is “Lord, you know!”

We long to serve the Lord, the one who loves us so,

But doubts and fears arise and somehow still dismay.

Many times we journey and don’t know which way to go.

Sometimes the only thing to say is “Lord, you know!”

Despite what we may think that we know and what we may think that we don’t know, we are comforted and assured with the words of I John 3:20:

For if our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and knows all things.

We conclude our discussion with the classic hymn, “I Know Whom I Have Believed” which actually responds to what I know as well as what I do not know:

Veterans Day Tribute 2020

November 12, 2020

Each year on November 11, I pause to reflect upon Veterans Day, a national holiday of special significance to me. First of all, I am a veteran, having served two years in the US Army, from 1967 to the end of 1968 during the Vietnam era. Most providentially that experience relates to my being back in the Washington, DC area where I lived from 1969 to 1971. Upon being discharged, I found a job as an information analyst working for the Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association in the Nation’s Capital. Most providentially, this is where I met my wife, Brenda. We were married in 1973 and returned to live in Arlington, VA, near the area where we currently live, right up the road from our older daughter, Melissa, and her husband, William, and our first grandson, Kingston.

Each Veterans Day, I reflect with the deepest gratitude upon my military experience, which first appeared to be a disaster but turned out to be a remarkable blessing and a time of great spiritual growth. When I graduated from high school in 1960, I enrolled at Purdue University and graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Pharmacy in 1965, subsequently becoming a registered pharmacist, working as a staff pharmacist at Methodist Hospital in Gary, IN. While enjoying the “good life,” I received my “Greetings from Uncle Sam” in 1967 was drafted into the US Army. Back then I thought this was the worst thing that could have happened to me. Being drafted into the Army in the late 60s was not an ideal situation for a young African American male in light of the disproportionate number of black men sent to Viet Nam, many of whom did not return and others who were forever changed by that experience.

In January of 1967 after a tearful farewell with my parents, I boarded the bus that took me to Fort Campbell, Kentucky. Upon completing my basic training, I was sent to Fort Sam Houston, in San Antonio, Texas, where I was given the option of working in a dispensary filling prescriptions, as I had done previously, or I could choose to become a pharmacy instructor and teach pharmacy technicians.

The second option sounded intriguing since I had not done that before, and so I chose to become a pharmacy instructor, which turned out to be ideally suited to me and opened up a new world of classroom teaching which ignited a passion to teach. This passion eventually motivated me to pursue a master’s degree in English from Emporia State University in Kansas and a Ph.D. in English from Indiana University. This passion continues to burn, even as I am teaching classes online at Carolina College of Biblical Studies and St. Augustine’s University.

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

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

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

Romans 8:28
And we know that all things work together for the good, to them that love God, to them that are the called according to His purpose.

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

We conclude with this Veterans Day Tribute:

What are the desires of your heart?

July 20, 2018

As I began my day in quiet reflection, a question came to mind. I guess you might say this is the “Question of the Day” for July 20, 2018:

“What are the desires of your heart? What is the innermost yearning that fuels the passion of your soul?”

In response Psalm 37:3-5 in the Amplified Bible came to mind:

3Trust [rely on and have confidence] in the LORD and do good;
Dwell in the land and feed [securely] on His faithfulness.

4 Delight yourself in the LORD,
And He will give you the desires and petitions of your heart.

5 Commit your way to the LORD;
Trust in Him also and He will do it.

A previous blog entry recognizes this particular passage as a double entendre or as having two meanings. If we delight ourselves in the Lord, He will give us the deepest yearnings of our heart. In addition, we could state that as we find pleasure in the Lord, He will place those heart’s desires within each of us, so that our innermost longings become our insatiable hunger to please Him.

Again, Psalm 40:8 reveals this truth:

I delight to do Your will, O my God; yes, Your law is within my heart.

The passage from Psalm 34 and related verses also bring to mind the first poem that I wrote. The situation seemed to be rather accidental (providential), taking, place during my freshman year in college in my composition class. I was asked to write a response to this prompt: “May I Tell You What Delights Me?” I made a list of things that brought me pleasure, and when I read what I had written to the class, my professor described it as poetry. That incident occurred years before I fully recognized and embraced my calling as poet. Years later in graduate school, I realized I had written a free-verse, catalogue poem. Near the top of the list of sources of delight for me was the Book of Psalms, which not only speaks of what God takes pleasure in but also relates what the Psalmist delights in or takes pleasure in.

From time to time, we may lose our focus and become anxious regarding our ever-fluctuating circumstances. During times of uncertainty when trouble and anguish attempt to derail us from our destiny, when our feet seem to slip, and we are about to lose our grip, we can turn our thoughts toward the promises of God, assured that just as He has been with us through the stormy trials of the past, so He will be with us now. Along with the Psalmist, we take comfort in this knowledge which delights our souls so much.

Each day we are learning to answer yes to God’s call to service, knowing this, according to the Amplified Bible:

“We are assured and know that [God being a partner in their labor] all things work together and are [fitting into a plan] for good to and for those who love God and are called according to [His] design and purpose.”

That’s Romans 8:28, my all-time favorite verse in the entire Bible.

Paul reminds us, “Faithful is He who calls you, who will also do it.” Once again, the Psalmist also clearly offers a similar reminder in Psalm 112:1(AMP):

1 Praise the Lord! (Hallelujah!) Blessed (happy, fortunate, to be envied) is the man who fears (reveres and worships) the Lord, who delights greatly in His commandments.

Our heart’s desire is to please God and that desire He has placed there. This poetic response expresses our heart’s desire toward God:

The Passion of Our Heart

The passion of our heart is to fulfill the call,
To walk worthy of the vocation, to stand tall
Yet humbly in His presence, to ever succeed
And abound in God’s grace and to sow righteous seed
That bears fruit each season, wherever it may fall.

To serve God with a pure heart, untainted with gall,
May we never forget His goodness but recall
The Word of God spoken to give life and to feed
The passion of my heart.

May we walk in peace and live to tear down each wall;
May we know the touch that will quicken and enthrall.
Touched by God’s hand, our lives now reveal such deep need.
We must do more than merely hear but must give heed
To the desire to please the Father with all
The passion of our heart.

1 Peter 5:10 in the Amplified Bible (AMP) offers this benediction:

10 And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace [Who imparts all blessing and favor], Who has called you to His [own] eternal glory in Christ Jesus, will Himself complete and make you what you ought to be, establish and ground you securely, and strengthen, and settle you.

Listen to this delightful version of Psalm 37:4 by Junko Nishiguchi Cheng from Saddleback Church in Southern California:

All things work together for good

March 13, 2018

The Verse of the Day for March 13, 2018, has become especially meaningful for me over the years, and I have designated this scripture as my “Life Verse.” According to the Middletown Christian Church, “Life Verses are those words from Scripture that anchor our faith and become touchstones that illuminate, assure, uplift and energize us to live out our faith.” Here are three of my favorite translations of my favorite verse:

Romans 8:28

And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. [KJV]

We are assured and know that [God being a partner in their labor] all things work together and are [fitting into a plan] for good to and for those who love God and are called according to [His] design and purpose. [Amplified Bible]

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. [NIV]

Romans 8:28, my favorite verse in the Bible, offers this reminder that because God is good, “We know that all things work together for the good, to them that love God, to them that are the called according to His purpose.” So no matter how bad any situation may appear to be, we know that it will work together for our good.

The Verse of the Day also brings to mind another passage of scripture that has become especially meaningful to me at this time in my life:

Jeremiah 29:11-13 (NIV):

11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. 12 Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.

The Amplified Bible puts it this way:

For I know the thoughts and plans that I have for you, says the Lord, thoughts and plans for welfare and peace and not for evil, to give you hope in your final outcome.
12 Then you will call upon Me, and you will come and pray to Me, and I will hear and heed you.
13 Then you will seek Me, inquire for, and require Me [as a vital necessity] and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.

Although the words of Jeremiah were specifically addressed to Israel concerning their release from Babylonian captivity after seventy years, we recognize the truth expressed in

Romans 15:4:

Whatsoever things were written aforetime, were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures, might have hope.

The prophetic word from Jeremiah can certainly have personal application, in that the plans that God has for each of His children are no less grand than those He has for the Children of Israel.

As we ask God for guidance and direction, He will lead us and teach us all along the path that unfolds as a shining light that shines more and more unto the perfect day (Proverbs 4:18). Romans 8:28 and Jeremiah 29:11-13 also intersect to inform us of God’s concern for our future or “final outcome”, so that we need have no fear for our future because God is good.

Romans 8:28, one of the most often quoted verses, at least for me, is the inspiration for this Don Moen’s classic song of praise: “All things Work Together”:

God does everything on purpose

December 9, 2017

Romans 8--28

From time to time, instead of the Verse of the Day, our blog entry will feature the Quote of the Day. In this case, we are going to look at this statement from A.W. Tozer, renowned pastor and author.

“Everything God does has purpose and intention behind that design. It is a master design, and every little thing has its proper place and function.”

In reflecting on these comments a number of scriptures come to mind related to the purposes of God.  We are reminded that God is intentional and that He does everything “on purpose.” Solomon declares “To everything there is a season and a time for every purpose under the heavens.”

Solomon, in his wisdom, goes on to speak about the purposes of God planted in the heart of humanity who yearn to know and fulfill that purpose. There is a universal yearning to know why am I here and what role do I play in the grand scheme of life.

“The purposes of a person’s heart are deep waters, but one who has insight draws them out” (Proverbs 20:5)

God has a purpose for everyone, and nothing can stop that purpose from being fulfilled:

“Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails” (Proverbs 19:21).

Job made this discovery: “I know that you can do all things; no purpose of yours can be thwarted” (Job 42:2).

As Christian believers we must recognize that God has saved us and called us to a higher calling:

He has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace (2 Timothy 1:9).

As believers,

We must arise and strive to reach the place

Where the rivers of understanding flow

And never doubt God’s purpose and His grace.

In thinking about the Quote of the Day, Romans 8:28 also immediately comes to mind:

And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. [KJV]

Here is the Amplified Bible rendering:

We are assured and know that [God being a partner in their labor] all things work together and are [fitting into a plan] for good to and for those who love God and are called according to [His] design and purpose.

Romans 8:28, my favorite verse in the Bible, offers this reminder that because God is good, “We know that all things work together for the good, to them that love God, to them that are the called according to His purpose.” So no matter how bad any situation may appear to be, we know that it will work together for the good.

These lyrics also reinforce the message:

When things in life don’t seem to turn out

Just as we think they should,

We know that God still has a grand plan

And works all things together—

He works all things together for our good.

The comments on the Quote of the Day and the related scriptures are summarized in the song: “Intentional” by Travis Greene.

Veterans Day 2017

November 10, 2017

veterans-day-2016

Veterans Day 2017 will be celebrated today on Friday, November 10 since November 11 occurs on Saturday this year. The underlying purpose of the Federal holiday is to honor and thank all military personnel who served the United States in all wars, particularly living veterans. Originally known as Armistice Day or Remembrance Day, the anniversary of the signing of the Armistice that ended World War I at 11 a.m. on the 11th Day of 11th Month of 1918, the present designation of Veterans Day occurred in 1954 when President Dwight Eisenhower signed into law the recognition of November 11 as Veterans Day. Most appropriately, today’s blog post focuses on Veteran’s Day, a day of special significance to me in a number of ways.

It is a memorable occasion because it is my sister Cheryl’s birthday—she was born November 11, 1946—at that time it was called Armistice Day, as I well remember. Also November 11, 2000 was the day that her husband, Elliott Thompson, who was also a Veteran, was buried.  She has since remarried, and her husband, Thomas, is also a veteran.

Veterans Day is also special to me for another reason. I am a Veteran, having served two years in the US Army, from 1967 to the end of 1968 during the Vietnam era. Most providentially that experience which occurred 50 years ago is directly related to my present position as an adjunct professor at Carolina College of Biblical Studies in Fayetteville, NC.

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

Today, I recognize more clearly than ever that what Satan meant for evil, God in His providence, transforms into something great and glorious. While I was in the Army, I rode the crest of the Jesus Movement and experienced a powerful conversion that introduced me to the transforming power of God through receiving the Holy Spirit and studying the Bible.

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

Prior to coming back to North Carolina, I taught at a number of institutions in the Midwest, including Indiana Wesleyan University in Ohio and Kentucky. At that time I recognized a special Blue Grass connection that I would like mention as I pay tribute to one particular veteran from Kentucky whom I knew briefly while serving as a pharmacy instructor at Fort Sam Houston. He and I had a number of things in common: we were both drafted as pharmacists who opted to become pharmacy instructors so we went through the training at the Medical Field Service School together. There was one notable difference, however. I had not signed up for an additional year of service, despite the Army’s indication that I might not get a pharmacy position if I didn’t. My fellow serviceman, had signed up for the additional year, but we both received pharmacy positions. The additional year increased the likelihood that you might have to go to Vietnam if there were a pharmacy position that needed to be filled.

About nine months after we completed our training as instructors, my fellow instructor received orders for Vietnam, and by the end of the year, he was shipped overseas. In the early part of the next year, we received the news that he had been killed. The impact of that experience did not fully resonate with me until a few years ago when on Memorial Day I again looked up the name of this individual on the website for the Vietnam Memorial and recognized that he was from a small town in Kentucky. I was teaching a class at the IWU Louisville Center, and we had no classes on that holiday when I saw my colleague’s sacrifice in a totally different light. In literature there is term called a Christological figure or Christ Figure. The term refers to an object, person, or figure that represents Christ allegorically or symbolically, or any similar object, person, or figure with qualities generally reminiscent of Christ; one of the most notable qualities is “self sacrifice.”

I was overwhelmed by recognizing that my fellow instructor could be seen as “going in my place.” What transpired while I was in the Army culminated in an awareness of ultimate sacrifice of Jesus Christ who took my place and gave his life that I might live.

My whole experience in the military brings to mind my favorite verse in my favorite chapter of the Bible: Romans 8:28

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

We close our Veterans Day reflection with a moving tribute to veterans “Remember Me” compiled by Lizzie Palmer:

What I know, do not know, and only God knows

September 4, 2017

2 Timothy 1--13-14

Taken from 2 Timothy 1:13-14, the Verse of the Day for September 4, 2017 offers words of encouragement. This message is reinforced when we add verse 12:

Here is the passage in the New King James Version:

2 Timothy 1:12-14

12 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.

13 Hold fast the pattern of sound words which you have heard from me, in faith and love which are in Christ Jesus. 14 That good thing which was committed to you, keep by the Holy Spirit who dwells in us.

This passage also brings to mind a previous blog entry “These three things I Know”:

  • Some things I know
  • Some things I don’t know
  • Some things only God knows

Some things I know. . .

One thing I know for sure is that that God loves me.  I know that I love God and that’s really all that matters.  Not only do I know that God loves me and that I love God, but these lyrics express what I really know:

I know that I know that I know that I know.

I know that I know You still love me.

I know that I know that I know that I know.

I know that I know You still love me.

 

No matter how many times I go astray

And leave your side and choose to disobey.

When I’m overwhelmed and can’t even pray,

No matter what I do or do not say.

 

I know that I know that I know that I know.

I know that I know You still love me.

I know that I know that I know that I know.

I know that I know You still love me.

 

No one else knows my heart: You are the one

To call me home when I have no place to run.

When I look all around at all that I’ve done,

Despite all my failures, You still call me Son.

 

I know that I know that I know that I know.

I know that I know You still love me.

 

I know that I know that I know that I know.

I know that I know You still love me.

Romans 8:28, my favorite verse in the Bible, offers this reminder that because God is good, “We know that all things work together for the good, to them that love God, to them that are the called according to His purpose.” So no matter how bad any situation may appear to be, I know that it will work together for the good.

Some things I don’t know. . .

I recall the lyrics to one of my all-time favorite Gospel songs “I don’t know about tomorrow.” Without question, I don’t know the answers to countless questions that defy the human mind. Quite honestly, I don’t know the answers to the questions that God asked Job. Some things are not mine to know: if God does not reveal them in the Word or by personal revelation, then I just don’t know

Romans 11:33-34 reiterate this:

33 O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out!

34 For who hath known the mind of the Lord? or who hath been his counsellor?

Some things only God knows . . .

When asked about his return to the earth, Jesus Christ responded in Matthew 24:36 (NLT):

“However, no one knows the day or hour when these things will happen, not even the angels in heaven or the Son himself. Only the Father knows,

Although we are assured that the Lord Jesus Christ will return, no one is privy of the exact day and hour, but “of the times and seasons we have no need”;  as I Thessalonians 5:1-3 remind us, the Lord’s return will happen suddenly, at the precise time that no one knows, only God.

When confronted with staggering vision of the dry bones, the prophet is asked this question in Ezekiel 37:3:

“Son of Man, can these bones live?” He responds, “O Lord God, You know!” As the New Living Testament puts it, “O Sovereign Lord,” I replied, “You alone know the answer to that.”

Thinking about matters that only God knows also brings this poem to mind:

“Lord, You Know!”

Likewise the Spirit also helps our infirmities:

For we know not what we should pray for

 as we ought: but the Spirit itself makes

intercession for us with groanings

which cannot be uttered.

Romans 8:16

 

Many times we journey and don’t know which way to go.

When the right words won’t come, and we can’t even pray.

Sometimes the only thing to say is “Lord, you know!”

 

We set our sights above but our thoughts fall below.

Though we walk by faith, we stumble along the way.

Many times we journey and don’t know which way to go.

 

We triumph in Christ and rise to defeat each foe.

Even though we wage spiritual warfare night and day,

Sometimes the only thing to say is “Lord, you know!”

 

God puts us in a place for us to prove what we know;

He tests us to see whether we rebel or obey.

Many times we journey and don’t know which way to go.

 

God leads the way and only asks that we follow.

We start in strength but often seem to go astray.

Sometimes the only thing to say is “Lord, you know!”

 

We long to serve the Lord, the one who loves us so,

But doubts and fears arise and somehow still dismay.

Many times we journey and don’t know which way to go.

Sometimes the only thing to say is “Lord, you know!”

Despite what we may think that we know and what we may think that we don’t know, we are comforted and assured with the words of I John 3:20:

For if our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and knows all things.

In closing, we note the lyrics to the hymn “I Know Whom I Have Believed” stating matters 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.m

The chorus of the familiar hymn resounds with this assurance found in 2 Timothy 1:12, the verse preceding the Verse of the Day:

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.”

The last verse brings to mind something that neither I 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.”

We conclude with “I Know Whom I Have Believed” which actually responds to what I know as well as what I do not know:

 

All things work together for good

March 13, 2017

The Verse of the Day for March 13, 2017 is especially meaningful, in that it has become my favorite verse in the Bible (if I had to choose only one):

Romans 8:28 (NKJV):

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

Here are two additional translations of my favorite verse:

We are assured and know that [God being a partner in their labor] all things work together and are [fitting into a plan] for good to and for those who love God and are called according to [His] design and purpose. [Amplified Bible]

And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them. [New Living Translation]

Romans 8:28 also brings to mind a statement that explains how we should respond when we find ourselves in perplexing, painful situations where we by no means desire to be. When we encounter debilitating circumstances designed to side rail us and cause us to give up on God and “throw in the towel,” I recall a stern word of encouragement: “Get a life; get a verse; get over it, and get on with it!”

In actuality I have designated this scripture as my “Life Verse.” According to the Middletown Christian Church, “Life Verses are those words from Scripture that anchor our faith and become touchstones that illuminate, assure, uplift and energize us to live out our faith.”

During such trying times, we ask ourselves, “Why am I here? How did I get here? God, what are you doing? What are you trying to teach me?” We must recognize, however, that God is intentional and does everything on purpose. As for God, His way is perfect. We must remember this as we recall the lyrics to the popular Barbra Streisand song:

Why did the right road take the wrong turn
Why did our heart break, why’d we get burned
Just like the seasons there are reasons for the path we take
There are no mistakes
Just lessons to be learned

One of life’s ultimate lessons is that God is good, and because God is good, “We know that all things work together for the good, to them that love God, to them that are the called according to His purpose.” So no matter how bad any situation may appear to be, we are assured of this one thing: that it will work together for the good.

This often quoted verse is the inspiration for one of Don Moen’s classic praise songs: “All things Work Together”:

Listen to a contemporary version of Travis Greene’s “Intentional” also inspired by Romans 8:28: