Today’s Scrip-Bit 6 June 2021 Mark 1:11.

Mark 1:11.     And there came a voice from heaven, saying, Thou art my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.

And the heat wave is on this Sunday morning in Southern Ontario! Hope your A/C units are working well, otherwise you are liable to burn up in the heat – a small preview of what hell is like. (smile) And come to think of it, that might just motivate us to turn to Christ! For if we can’t stand this minor earthly heat, then how we going to stand the blazing heat that’s supposed to exist in Hades eh? But since we not going there, we don’t have to concern ourselves about how hot it is, just think about getting through this earthly summer weather in good stead with Christ, our Lord and Saviour. 

And as is our custom when we gather to worship on the Lord’s Day, be it in person in His sanctuary, or through technological means, we open with a song of praise and worship. And today’s hymn titled ‘I Need Thee Every Hour’ is a magnificent anthem to how much we do need Jesus Christ. The song was written by Anne Hawks, an American poet and gospel hymnist, in 1872, with the music annotated by Pastor Robert Lowry. 

The website Godtube claims that Hawks explained the purpose of the hymn thus:”For myself, the hymn was prophetic rather than expressive of my own experiences, for it was wafted out to the world on the wings of love and joy, instead of under the stress of personal sorrow.” And they report Lowry as saying: “I believe it was the expression of her own experience. It came to me in the form of five simple stanzas, to which I added the chorus to make it more serviceable. It inspired me at its first reading. It first appeared in a small collection of original songs prepared for the National Baptist Sunday-school Association, held in Cincinnati, Ohio in November 1872, and was sung on that occasion.”  

Meanwhile the website umcdiscipleship.org claims ‘to have a personal account of the genesis of the song: Hawks writes, “One day as a young wife and mother of 37 years of age, I was busy with my regular household tasks during a bright June morning [in 1872]. Suddenly, I became so filled with the sense of nearness to the Master that, wondering how one could live without Him, either in joy or pain, these words were ushered into my mind, the thought at once taking full possession of me — ‘I Need Thee Every Hour…'” 

However, ‘Following the death of her husband, Hawks reflected on the power of her song: “I did not understand at first why this hymn had touched the great throbbing heart of humanity. It was not until long after, when the shadow fell over my way, the shadow of a great loss, that I understood something of the comforting power in the words which I had been permitted to give out to others in my hour of sweet serenity and peace.”Ah friends, such is the mysterious working of our great God. He causes us to do stuff that doesn’t take on any serious personal importance until much later on, when something happens in our lives, and that same stuff is there to comfort and help us. 

So, having gotten all that info on the hymn, let’s finally sing it nuh, lifting up our hearts and voices to heaven with sincere need.‘I need thee every hour, Most gracious Lord, No tender voice like thine, Can peace afford. (Chorus: I need thee oh I need thee, Every hour I need thee, Oh bless me now my Saviour, I come to thee.) I need thee every hour, Stay thou near by, Temptations lose their power, When thou art nigh (Chorus) 

I need thee every hour, In joy or pain, Come quickly and abide, or life is vain. (Chorus) I need thee every hour; teach me thy will, and thy rich promises in me fulfill. (Chorus) I need thee every hour, Most holy one, Oh make me thine indeed Thou blessed Son. (Chorus: I need thee oh I need thee, Every hour I need thee, Oh bless me now my Saviour, I come to thee. I need thee, Oh I need thee, Oh bless me now my Saviour, I come to thee…I come to thee…’

Oh my people, what heartfelt sentiments, sentiments that are all basically about intimacy with God. And today, we’re just going to look at some scriptures that deal with that intimacy. Now it was a hard choice because there are so many, and I therefore chose those that spoke to my heart. And the first one is obviously these words of Moses to the Israelites, which Jesus hailed as the greatest commandment. ‘And thou shalt LOVE the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.’ (Deut. 6:5) If we’re talking about intimacy with God, we must totally give our all to Him. 

Then there are these magnificent words of intimacy written by Bruh David: ‘As the hart panteth after (deer long for) the water brooks, so panteth my soul after thee, O God. My soul thirsteth for God, for the living God: when shall I come and appear before him?’ (Ps. 42:1-2) And if those words of Bruh David didn’t inspire you to intimacy with God, then try these: ‘O God, thou art my God; early will I seek thee: my soul thirsteth for thee, my flesh longeth for thee in a dry and thirsty land.’ (Ps. 63:1) How much more intimate can we get than by sincerely longing to be with our Maker, our Provider and our God eh? 

Now hear Jesus to the disciples. ‘Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine: no more can ye, except ye abide in me.’ Wow! That’s intimacy personified! One abiding in the other! You couldn’t get any closer than that! 

And we obviously could not leave out this gem from Bruh Paul: ‘But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ…That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death.’ (Phil. 3:7, 10) Yes friends, Bruh Paul wants to experience the stuff that Christ went through so that he could have a real personal experience, suffering His death, as well as His resurrection. Now that’s what you call hungering for real intimacy! 

Now, let’s close with what I believe is the most intimate scripture, that at Christ’s baptism: Mark describes it thus: ‘And it came to pass in those days, that Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee, and was baptized of John in Jordan. And straightway coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens opened (torn open), and the Spirit like a dove descending upon him: And there came a voice from heaven, saying, Thou art my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.’ (Mark 1:9-11) 

Oh my fellow saints, I think that is the greatest picture of intimacy we can ever get; that wonderful interaction between Father, Son and Holy Ghost, our wonderful Triune Godhead! I’m sure it warmed the cockles of Jesus’ heart, that the Father chose to acknowledge Him before the earthly crowd, and have His Spirit empower Him for His upcoming ministry. 

Now, since we are representatives of Christ, we surely need to have intimacy with Him. And the best way to get it is, as He says, abide in Him, and let Him abide in us, for when we do that, both the Father and the Holy Spirit will also come to abide in us. Then we can show intimacy to those around us. It’s all in a day’s walk with Jesus my people! Much LOVE!

…our God created us…above all else…for intimacy with Him…                                                            

Hear our podcast at https://open.spotify.com/show/3aVfqIC1CqwGybISs9dZJ8           

Today’s Scrip-Bit 9 May 2021 Philippians 3:10.

Philippians 3:10.     ​That I may know him (Jesus), and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death.

Gather round friends, gather round, it’s Sunday, which means time for song and dance, praise and worship in honour of our wonderful God! This is His special day; the day He rested after a week’s work of creating the universe, then admired it and said: ‘It is good!’ And so it was my brethren, though down through the ages through our abuse and mismanagement, it has begun falling apart, until now we’re suffering from serious environmental issues. 

But be that as it may, we still need to gather at least once a week, on God’s special day to honour and glorify Him. And in these times of worldwide pandemic, most of us are doing that through technological means, no personal gatherings in our sanctuaries, and we’ll go on doing so for as long as it is necessary. Giving up on worship is not in the cards at all. 

And today is also a special day in the life of mothers, when we celebrate their mammoth contribution to our society, especially the family unit. Without mothers, there would be no offspring since they bear that awesome privilege, although some might beg to differ. (smile) And down through the ages, they are the ones who have literally and figuratively kept the family together, with LOVE and compassion, caring for husbands and children, and working their fingers to the bone with whatever needs doing in the home. Nowadays, they are even going to work outside the home, while still bearing most of the household burdens. 

Without them, mankind would be lost, would have gone under long ago. And yet we still insist on treating them like second class citizens, using and abusing them, behaving like they were less than human. In many areas of the world, they still have no rights or privileges, and female babies are even killed at birth in certain cultures because they are not considered important. But one day though, the tables will turn against those societies, when they suddenly discover there are not enough females to satisfy their insatiable greed and lust. 

And hopefully, women will also begin standing up for themselves in greater numbers to get the rights and benefits to which they are rightfully entitled. Yes ladies, unless as a body, there is a groundswell of emotion, determination and refusal to accept the status quo any longer, mankind will continue taking serious disadvantage of the fairer sex. To a great extent, your fate is in your own hands. So please rise up and claim your rightful heritage. With all of that in mind, I do wish all mothers a very Happy Mother’s Day! Let’s hope the people in your life will treat you right royally today, as so many of you indeed deserve, although the options for real celebrations might be severely limited by the pandemic lockdown. 

And a word to the men; please, please, let’s begin treating the female of our species better nuh, for in the long run, we also suffer from their abuse and disenfranchisement. Now let’s offer up sacrifices of praise through this popular song, created from a woman’s vision, a mother’s concern for her unborn offspring. And are not women the writers of some of the best songs in our society? Certainly! And the mother we’re talking about is Gloria Gaither, and the song of praise is ‘Because He Lives!’ 

So let’s sing it now in a sweet, harmonious and up-tempo riddim, sincerely showing how grateful we are because Jesus lives. And to show how truly joyful we are, let’s begin with the rousing chorus: ‘(Chorus: Because He lives, I can face tomorrow Because He lives, all fear is gone Because I know He holds my future And life is worth the living Just because He lives.) (Repeat) God sent His son they called Him, Jesus He came to LOVE, heal and forgive He lived and died to buy my pardon An empty grave is there to prove my Savior lives. 

(Chorus) How sweet to hold a newborn baby And feel the pride and joy he gives But greater still that calm assurance This child can face uncertain days because He lives And then one day I’ll cross the river I’ll fight life’s final war with pain And then, as death gives way to vict’ry I’ll see the lights of glory and I’ll know He lives Because He lives, I can face tomorrow Because He lives, all fear is gone Because I know He holds my future And life is worth the living Just because He lives And life is worth the living Just because He lives Yes, life is worth the living Just because He lives.’ 

Oh my, my! What beautiful words of praise and worship…and sung so sweetly too! (smile) Don’t you just LOVE those words friends, and greatly rejoice that they are true? Because Christ lives…and He does, for on that long ago Easter morn, He arose from the grave, having unceremoniously destroyed all the trappings of hell and death! That means those who believein Him, will also live when our bodies die. But in the meantime, we can live this earthly life without fear, and face this evil world mano-a-mano…why? Because He Lives! Glory be mih bredrin! 

What a mighty Being is our friend, our Lord and Saviour Jesus! Now life is worth living, for He holds our future in His omnipotent hands. And what about that wonderful assurance that our children can dwell in peace and LOVE, even in uncertain times like these, just because Jesus lives. And then, the crowning glory, the eternal victory, when we see the lights of glory, and we’ll know without a doubt that He lives, because we’ll see Him face to face! Give our great Lord and Saviour some praise and thanks nuh my people, for He truly deserves more than we can ever lavish on Him! 

Now here is a synopsis of how this song reputedly came about. Apparently, in the chaotic times of the 1960’s, this young couple, Bill and Gloria Gaither, had become disenchanted with the way the world was going, becoming more godless, ruthless and lawless. Then, in the winter of 69, when they were having an extremely rough time, with Bill being sick with mononucleosis and Gloria having problems with her church family, she discovered she was pregnant. That apparently lead to thoughts about the wisdom of bringing a baby into that chaotic world. 

However, in the early spring of the following year, as they were walking across the paved parking lot in front of their office with Bill’s father George, he drew their attention to a tiny blade of grass that had pushed its way up through the layers of dirt, rock and concrete ‘to reach the sunshine of the world above. It had such a strong will to live; it had overcome all the odds to fulfill its destiny. That blade of grass became a symbol to the Gaithers of how God works in His creation. And it inspired Gloria to write a song expressing the hope that was shaped by the resurrection of Jesus, as well as that blade of grass and the birth of her son.’ 

Now isn’t that a beautiful, heartwarming story friends, typical of how our great God works in our lives? And though we’re getting on in length (smile) we can’t finish without some refreshing scripture to polish it all off. Hear Bruh Paul to the church at Philippi: ‘That I may know him (Jesus), and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death.’ (Phil. 3:10) What a powerful verse of scripture precious people of God! It means getting to know Christ intimately, personally, and experiencing sufferings like He did, and which Jesus said we would all experience in this world. (John 16:33) 

Oh friends, it’s all about experiencing the righteousness of God in daily living, meeting needs, solving problems and then being conformed to Him in death, not necessarily martyrdom, but ‘to die to the world of sin and temptation,’ like Christ did. That’s our purpose and destiny my fellow believers, to be transformed into the image of Christ, and like that tiny blade of grass in the Gaither’s story, which overcame all the odds to fulfill its destiny, so we must also rise above mediocrity, pushing forward with Jesus, looking to heaven and thus fulfilling our God-given destiny. Much LOVE!

…you can’t conform to the image of Jesus…without living like He did… 

Hear our podcast at https://open.spotify.com/show/3aVfqIC1CqwGybISs9dZJ8            

Today’s Scrip-Bit 6 September 2020 John 14:19b.

John 14:19b.     ​…because I live, ye shall live also.

The last Sunday friends, the last Sunday of purely technological worship! Glory be! Yeh, the Anglican church is finally reopening its doors next week…and about time too. It will certainly be strange and somewhat uncertain entering those portals of the Lord’s sanctuary to worship after such a long time. But as prime believers we’ll handle it very nicely, just as we handled the sudden stop in physical worship some months ago. Now we don’t expect everyone to show up, since many are still timid and uncertain about the Covid-19 scene and don’t trust the arrangements put in place for the resumption of physical worship. But that’s okay because the important thing is for everyone to feel safe and comfortable in what they do. 

So let’s get the show rolling with a magnificent Christian contemporary song nuh. Something titled ‘Because He Lives,’ written by the popular song writing team of Bill and Gloria Gaither. And if you think the Lord doesn’t move in mysterious ways, then think again nuh, for up to Saturday I couldn’t think of a song to sing today. But a couple days ago a friend had shared a version of ‘Because He Lives,’ and later on Saturday I further shared it with some other believers and that was the end of that. I was so touched by it that I knew it was today’s Song. 

Therefore, without further ado, let’s offer up some sacrifice of praise in a soulful, harmonious and passionate manner, meaning truly believing what we sing. ‘(Chorus: Because He lives, I can face tomorrow Because He lives, all fear is gone Because I know He holds my future And life is worth the living Just because He lives.) (Repeat) God sent His Son they called Him, Jesus He came to LOVE, heal and forgive He lived and died to buy my pardon An empty grave is there to prove my Savior lives. (Chorus) 

How sweet to hold a newborn baby And feel the pride and joy he gives But greater still that calm assurance This child can face uncertain days because He lives And then one day I’ll cross the river I’ll fight life’s final war with pain And then, as death gives way to vict’ry I’ll see the lights of glory and I’ll know He lives Because He lives, I can face tomorrow Because He lives, all fear is gone Because I know He holds my future And life is worth the living Just because He lives And life is worth the living Just because He lives And life is worth the living Just because He lives…’ 

And isn’t that the awesome truth my brethren…because Jesus lives, we too will live, and moreover be able to face any and everything that comes against us. As one pastor says, Jesus is alive, and that’s enough! Give Him thanks and praise my people! 

Now most of you don’t know that there’s a rather interesting and touching story behind that song. And here it is, as told by Gloria Gaither to interviewer Lindsay Terry. ‘In the late 1960’s, while expecting their third child, the Gaithers were going through a rather traumatic time in their lives. Bill was recovering from a bout with mononucleosis. It was a special period of anxiety and mental anguish for Gloria. The thought of bringing another child into this world, with all of the “craziness,” was taking its toll on her. 

On New Year’s Eve, she was sitting in their living room, in agony and fear. The educational system was being infiltrated with the God is dead idea, while drug abuse and racial tensions were increasing. Then suddenly, and quite unexpectedly, she was filled with a gentle, calming peace. It was as if her heavenly Father, like an attentive mother bending over her baby, saw his child and came to her rescue. The panic gave way to calmness and an assurance that only the Lord can impart. She was assured that the future would be just fine, left in God’s hands. 

Shortly after the baby was born, both Bill and Gloria remembered that the power of the blessed Holy Spirit seemed to come to their aid. Christ’s resurrection, in all of its power and affirmation in their lives, revitalized their thinking. To Gloria, it was life conquering death in their daily activities. Joy once again dominated the fearful circumstances of the day Those events gave rise to one of the most famous Christian songs of our time, “Because He Lives.” 

In this song, which begins, “God sent His son, they called Him Jesus,” we are reminded that Christ came to this earth. And the purpose for His coming was that we might be able to face tomorrow, with all of the uncertainty that it brings. She also reminds us that God holds the future right in his hands and makes life worth living for all who trust in him.’ 

Ah mih people, what a magnificent, magnanimous and comforting God we serve and worship…and One who moves in such mysterious and unexpected ways His LOVING-kindness to accomplish! So tell me why the world doesn’t gladly and joyfully serve and worship Him eh? Pure pride and stupidity! And that brings us to His simple but yet so important promise: ‘…because I live, ye shall live also.’ (John 14:19b) Glory Hallelujah my faithful friends! 

Oh saints of Christ, His death on the cross of Calvary was important, because there He paid our sin debt in full, but the real crowning glory is His resurrection; His immortal victory over hell, death and grave! Wow! Hades couldn’t hold Him, and because of that it won’t hold those who sincerely believe in Him either! Our faith wouldn’t have been worth anything if Christ had stayed dead, but that miracle of rebirth – for want of a better word –  (smile) makes all the difference. No wonder Bruh Paul’s greatest desire was: ‘That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death.’ (Phil. 3:10) 

What a powerful scripture! And the scholars explain it thus: ‘3:10. This verse may also be paraphrased: “In order that I may personally know Him, that I might both experience His resurrection power and share in His sufferings, and thus I will be more and more conformed to His death.” Paul wants “the righteousness…of God” (vs.9) so that he can obtain a personal relationship with Jesus in actual day to day experience. This knowledge of Christ is obtained by experiencing in daily problems, needs, ministry, and so forth, the same power that raised Jesus from the dead. 

Knowing Christ also entails participating in His sufferings. Paul desires to share in the Lord’s sufferings because they bring him into a deeper and more meaningful relation with Him, companionship in sorrow establishes the most intimate and lasting of ties, as afflicted hearts cling to each other. The result of participating in Christ’s sufferings is that Paul is made like Him in death. This word “death” has a double meaning here, including inward and outward, ethical and physical death. As Jesus died in regard to sin on the cross, so Paul is doing more and more in his daily life. As Jesus was bodily slain, so the apostle, should Caesar’s verdict go against him, is prepared to be slain.’ 

Wow! Now that is the height of discipleship and faith! It’s doubtful though that many of us can attain it, but it’s nonetheless a good standard to aspire to. Let’s see how close we can come to it nuh. (smile) Much LOVE!

…Christ’s death and resurrection…the best news ever… 

Today’s Scrip-Bit 28 December 2016 Philippian 3:13.

Philippians 3:13.   Brethren, I count not my self to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before.

Well mih people, the long Christmas weekend is finally over, and it’s time to get back to some semblance of normalcy, especially where work is concerned. Some of us might even have forgotten how to do our jobs having being off for so long. (smile) 

But not to worry, our great God is still in control of His universe and everything will fall into place as He decrees it. But we still have to get one more holiday out of the way, New Years Eve. 

Hn! And sometimes that can be even more deadly than the Christmas cheer, since it’s an out and out party scene. The coming of a new year changes nothing, for most of our resolutions get thrown by the wayside soon thereafter. But I guess it’s just a way to party hearty and fool ourselves. 

Anyway, enough of throwing my cold water on the New Year’s Eve celebrations, (smile) for the Christmas season is still with us. And please friends, when we go back out to work today, let’s keep that sense of Christmas, that sense of peace and goodwill to all, still burning bright nuh. 

Let’s not be like the radio stations; as soon as Christmas day is past, they stop playing Christmas music, but let’s continue sharing all the good things that Christ’s birth brought. Now before we get into our Bit, let’s check out a couple verses before it, so that we can have some idea of the context in which Bruh Paul is speaking. 

In verse 10, he declares: ‘That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death. (Phil.3:10) Bruh Paul wants to personally know Christ so that he can experience His resurrection power and share in His sufferings, which will make him more conformable to Christ’s death. 

‘If by any means I might attain unto (arrive at) the resurrection of the dead.’ (Phil.3:11) 

And the scholars tell us: ‘3:11. If by any means I might attain means “in order that I may attain” the resurrection from the dead. Like the preceding verse, this one also contains a literal and a non-literal interpretation. 

Paul is eager to become more like Jesus in His death (v.10) so that he can (1) progressively experience more of the believer’s resurrection life to be enjoyed now (“newness of life,” Rom.6:4), and (2) so that he can someday undergo physical resurrection from the grave, thus experiencing God’s power in one of its greatest aspects.’ 

And he continues: ‘Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which I am also apprehended of Christ Jesus.’ (Phil.3:12) 

And the scholars explain that verse thus: ‘3:12. Paul denies that he has already attained his objective of verse 10 and 11. That objective is to know Christ and all that is in included in this knowledge, that is experiencing His power, sharing His sufferings, being made like Jesus in death, and experiencing resurrection from the dead. 

At this point in his life the apostle does know Christ, but not to the full extent possible. He has experienced His power, but not to the degree he desires. He has been made like Jesus in His death, but he can still die more to sin and self. He does “walk in newness of life,” but there is room for improvement. 

Either were already perfect: Unlike the perfectionists who claim to be sinless in this life, Paul admits that he is not. If the chief of the apostles does not feel he has “arrived” spiritually, then neither should we. 

I follow after…Christ Jesus. Christ “laid hold of” Paul on the Damascus road for the very objective mentioned in verses 10 and 11: “to know him.” Paul concedes that he has not yet realized this goal to the full extent possible, but he is in hot pursuit of it.’ 

Ah friends, I hope that we too are in hot pursuit of knowing Jesus, for it’s the only that makes sense in a Christian’s life. 

And finally, we come to our Bit. ‘Brethren, I count not my self to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before.’ 

Oh mih people, Bruh Paul was certainly something else yes. Whatever he pursued, he pursued with lots of zeal. I only hope that we could have half of his zeal as we live our lives for Christ in these modern but evil and ungodly times. 

Now hear what the scholars have to say about that verse. 3:13. Those things which are behind refers both to his religious credentials (vs.5-6), now counted as “loss” (v.7), and to his past Christian achievements and successes. 

In ever pursuing his goal to know Christ (v.10), he refuses to let past guilt pull him down, or to rest on past laurels. Either could spell spiritual disaster. 

Those things which are before refers to his goal of knowing Christ, with all that implies: experiencing His power and participating in His suffering, becoming more like Him in death (v.10), and experiencing the resurrected life.’ 

Oh friends, I know that the Bit is long, somewhat heavy and confusing this morning, (smile) but it is essential that as we grow in faith we also grow in scriptural knowledge. And that can only be done by taking time to read and study and meditate on God’s word. 

The important thing is that we truly want to know God, Bruh Paul style, so please let’s get serious about it and truly delve in to it, stop merely playing around the fringes. Now let’s go home declaring our Wednesday wail with much zest and a strong sense of purpose. 

As one now: ‘Wednesday, Wednesday, Wednesday: I’m so glad to be alive on this Wednesday! Wednesday, Wednesday, Wednesday: Thank God the breath of life is still flowing through me on this Wednesday! 

I am halfway home. My hands are fixed securely on the plough, and I’m not turning back. I’m not looking back at the past, not focusing on what has gone before. But my eyes are fixed straight ahead; straight ahead to a glorious future with Jesus. Glory Hallelujah!’ 

Now please let’s go out and put all that we’ve said today into action, as true believers. Much LOVE my people!

…we can only know Jesus…if we work steadily and steadfastly with Him…forgetting what has gone before and looking to the future with Him…