GOD’S TATTOO…Isaiah 49: 8-16

These are warm and familiar verses from the prophet Isaiah.   Like an old pair of slippers, I’ve worn them and cherished them for many years.   Verse 16– ‘Behold, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands’.   What does that mean?  Here’s some background.  When a child left home in ancient Israel, moving to some far off place, there’s the strong possibility that the parent would never see that child again.  The mother, therefore, would tattoo onto the palm of her hand the name of that child.  Every time she would gaze at her palm, there would be the reminder of that beloved child.  No longer seen, but never forgotten.  The name, permanently before her eyes.

Thinking back to the 19th century and earlier, this verse would have rung true in people’s experience.  I was looking through some old family photos.  Have one of my paternal great-grandparents, Johann Adam and Christiana Fischer.  They appear quite elderly.  An outdoor photo, probably near the blacksmith shop he worked at or the home they lived in.   She’s quite tall compared to him.  They appear unpretentious and hard-working.  I have many old family photos.  But this is the only one to remember them by.  Their son, my grandfather Adam Fischer, left Germany when he was 14 to avoid the Kaiser’s 20-year military draft.  So the story goes.  He never returned home.  Never called them on the phone.  Only one old photo of them in his possession.  They never saw their son ever again.  Or he, them.

I feel very sad writing this.  I imagine how I would feel if I never saw even one of our children ever again.  Devastated.  Heartbroken.  Bereft.  But this was not uncommon for immigrants not that many years ago.  Isaiah, in today’s passage, wants to reassure us that no matter where we are, no matter how difficult life becomes, no matter how dark and lonely our days, the Lord is always with us.  Always concerned for us.  Like having a tattoo with our names on the palms of His hands.  Always before Him.  Close to His heart.  That’s where we are…at this very moment.  Even if it feels quite the contrary.  Isaiah 50: 10–‘Let him who walks in darkness and has no light trust in the name of the Lord and rely on his God.’

He has our names engraved on His hands.  We can rely on Him when life turns awfully unhandy.

Prayer:  Thank you, Lord, that we can always lean on you.   In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

BLEACHED WHITE AND BRIGHT!…Mark 9: 2-13

My maternal great-grandmother was Eliza Jane Moore.  She emigrated from Derryhale, Portadown, County Armagh, Ireland to the United States in 1888.  She was my mother’s favorite relative.  Such a lovely name–Eliza Jane.  In 1891 she marries another expatriate Irishman, James Gibson.  They have five children but only two live to adulthood.   One son dies of rheumatic fever at 14 months.  Another succumbs to smallpox at age four, while yet another with some kind of tumor at age 15.  After celebrating 10 years of marriage, James also dies of smallpox.

Life floods with challenges for Eliza Jane.  In a matter of twenty short years, she has left her Irish family and homeland forever.  Endures an unrelenting string of deaths, accompanied by persistent grief and loss.   Maybe all the heartache led to her own death at age 55.

Her eldest child was Margaret, my great aunt, who never married, had no children and lived weeks shy of her 103rd birthday.  She spoke proudly of her mother, Eliza Jane, who made ends meet by taking in laundry from wealthy homeowners in Jersey City, New Jersey.  She was said to wash and bleach their linens whiter and brighter than anyone else had ever done.  So bright you could only glance at them but for a moment for the intensity of light!

I think of Eliza Jane when I read Mark chapter 9.  The story of Jesus’ transfiguration.  He’s changed in appearance, talks with Moses and Elijah, and hears the voice of God the Father affirming His love for His only Son, this same Jesus.  Mark records that Jesus’ ‘…clothes became dazzling white, whiter than anyone in the world could bleach them’ (v.3).  Whiter and brighter!

Jesus, the Light of the World, lights our lives and our pathways.  Lightens our load of guilt and shame.  We live in a dark and soiled world, one made not a bit brighter by our own sin.  Jesus, through our faith in Him, will bring state-of-the-art light into our lives.  We’ll see ourselves as we are.  That same light will cleanse, disinfect and illumine …our hearts and minds for Him.  In Jesus, we’ve never looked so good!  In His hardworking hands, we’ll be clean and bright and shine forever!

Prayer:  Thank you, Jesus, for working light and life eternal into our hearts.  All because you love us.  In your name.  Amen.

I’VE ORDERED BOTOX!…Psalm 90

Yes, I’ve ordered botox!!  Why not?  After what I’ve been through?  Almost too embarrassing to mention.  Almost!  My wife and I were driving into the ticket area of dazzling Butchart Gardens in Victoria, British Columbia.  Hinting for a discount, I asked the young gal if they offered either a senior or AAA reduction.  Very nicely she said that they offered neither, but would I prefer a ‘close to park’ pass so we could hobble into the gardens without having to stretch our legs the extra 15 feet!

Then I get an invitation to my high school class ‘Our 70th Birthday Party’ bash in Florida next April.  70th?  Are we really that old?  To top it off, I’ve sent my photo, as requested, to the Moody Bible Institute’s Alumni Department where they will announce the publication of my daily devotional book.  Sue took a number of pictures of me.  Some from this angle, some from that.  She wanted to know which one I liked best.  How about none!  Any photo from the back of my head?  Who is that old man she snapped a photo of?  The one with wrinkles on top of wrinkles wrapped in more…well, you get the picture!

Now you know why I’ve ordered Botox.  Not!  Is this why people have always said I don’t look my age?  Maybe they meant older… and none wiser!  Enough whining for today, Fischer.  Get to the Bible already.  Psalm 90: 10–‘The length of our days is seventy years–or eighty, if we have the strength; yet their span is but trouble and sorrow, for they quickly pass, and we fly away’.  Now I feel worse…until I look further in this psalm.

Moses, the author, says: ‘… to number our days’ (v.12).  Cherish each one.  Make them count for more than a mere 24 hours, 1440 minutes.  Determine to get closer to God, and we’ll find wisdom placing a firmer hold on our soul and heart.

Pray to be satisfied and content with all the blessings the Lord has given us.  Not focusing on what we don’t have or what could have been.  That will waste more time than we imagine.  Forget about rehearsing all those sins we’ve confessed to God but still carry around on our shoulders like He’s still considering whether to forgive us or not.  When He forgives, He forgives.  I need to believe Him more and more.  Is that you, also?  Wisdom, even if a bit late, is well worth having.

I’m cancelling that order for botox.  Like Popeye, I’ll say:  ‘I yam what I yam’!   I’m also throwing myself at the Lord’s feet, knowing He’ll lift me up in due time.  His time.  What a time that will be.  Won’t even need special, close-to-heaven’s-gate parking!

Prayer:  For all your blessings, Lord, we humbly thank you.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

 

MULTIPLE BOOK SITES

Blessings!  I’m happy to announce that as of today, on Amazon.com alone, 14 book sellers now offer ‘Reflections Out of Time’ 365 Daily Devotional.  If you have a copy and would like to add a brief review on the Amazon.com site, please do so.  Soon the publisher, Gideon House Books, will begin their marketing plan, and reviews do help in the process.  If you could take but a moment, I would appreciate it very much.

Remember, Christmas is coming the ‘Reflections’ book might be a nice gift to give!  No might about it!  Blessings galore, John

CAN’T SEE THE FOR US FOR THE TREES!… Isaiah 53

You think my proofreading failed big time, don’t you?  Should be ‘forest’, not ‘for us’.   Fear not!  Let me explain.  Isaiah 53 is one of the premier chapters in the Bible.  Speaks of the coming Messiah and all He’ll do…for us.  Get it?  For us!

Verses 1-3 are sad.   Despised and rejected, this ‘man of sorrows’,  ‘acquainted with grief’.  How could they?  His people– ungrateful and selfish.  How could they be that way?  Present company excluded?  Yeah, right!

Verse 6 says that ‘All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned–every one–to his own way’.  ‘All’ and ‘everyone’ kind of sounds like what it says, doesn’t it?  Sure does!  Verse 4 pictures the Messiah carrying our griefs and sorrows.  For us.  Only to be placed on a cross, for sins that crushed Him to death (v.5).  For us.  He was wounded.  For us.  He was oppressed and afflicted.  For us.  Never said a word.  No complaints.  No objections.  No excuses.   ‘…cut off out of the land of the living, stricken for the transgression of my people’ (v.8).  For us.

Look at verse 10 as there’s more–‘…it was the will of the Lord to crush Him; He has put Him to grief…’  For us.  ‘…He poured out His soul to death…yet He bore the sin of many…’ (v.12).  For us.  When you look at the tree that made the cross of Jesus, don’t miss seeing that it was all… for us.  He was thinking of us, since He knew us from before the foundation of the world (Jeremiah 1:5).

Some thoughts cross my mind.  One is the huge debt I owe Him.  However, my debt He paid.  Paid in full.   Now, it’s not so much what I owe Him, but how much I want to serve Him out of gratitude for all He’s done.  For me…and you.  For us.

Another thought is that I should be free of guilt and shame for my burdens are lifted and all debts paid.  Must I still do my part to earn forgiveness?  Perish the thought.  Move forward by His grace and mercy, propelling you along, not looking back as Lot’s wife did, that salty soul!  More like what the Apostle Paul encourages–  ‘…forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus…’ (Philippians 3:13-14).  For us…forward!

Prayer:  Thank you, Lord, for giving your all for us.  Nothing more is needed than what has already been given.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

A NOSE BY ANY OTHER NAME!…Exodus 34: 1-7

My father had a rather good-sized nose!  This by his own admission.  He would often kid about it saying that when he had a cold, he got his money’s worth!  That was our Dad!  Loved to kid, loved to laugh and was loved by many people.  Can’t think of anyone who didn’t like my Dad.  A great guy.  Someone you enjoyed being with.  Even with his large nose!  A person who can laugh at themselves is a joy to be found.  Our Dad.

Maybe you’re wondering where I’m going with this.  Fair enough!  Exodus 34 is one of the most amazing chapters in all the Bible.  You’ll agree as you read it.  The Lord is passing in front of Moses on Mount Sinai, proclaiming who He is.  His being and character.  How compassionate He is, how gracious and giving.  Slow to anger, forgiving not only slight matters but also ‘…wickedness, rebellion and sin’ (v. 7).

We could go on-and-on, all day and night, praising God for who and what He is!  Hey, let’s do it!  Stop griping…start glorifying God!  Today, spend lots of time lifting up the grandeur of our God.  He loves to hear that from our hearts and lips.

What about my father’s nose?  None of your business!  Well, I guess it is, since I mentioned it!  One of the attributes of God is His being ‘slow to anger’.  Literally, in Hebrew language,  ‘long of nose’!  My father would have a good laugh over that!  The Lord is patient and long-suffering, slow to anger with ‘long of nose’.

What does that mean?  Hebrew people pictured the blood in the body travelling from the tip of your toes to the end of your nose.  Quite the long journey.  Apt picture of someone not hot-headed or having a short fuse, but with patience and a long-fuse.  If God were otherwise, we’d all be toast in a matter of seconds.  Me first!  But God hangs in there with you and me… and this crazy world.  He waits like the patient father in the Prodigal Son story.  Waits for us to come to our senses, turn around and run to Him for salvation only found in His Son Jesus.

I’m glad I had a father with a large nose.  I’m really glad I have a Heavenly Father with a ‘long nose’ of patience, compassion and understanding.  Aren’t you glad you have the same Father?

Prayer:  Thank you, Father, for patience with us your children.  You love us, knowing that we are made of clay and dust.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

LIKE CORNSTARCH!… Colossians 3: 9-14

Cornstarch?  It was Christmas 1972 that I received a Chinese wok, cookbook, along with an instant desire to put both to work.  After graduating from Princeton Seminary, I was ordained in my first church.  After a few months, a mailer arrived advertising that town’s adult school with lots of different evening classes such as gardening, beginner guitar, auto maintainence, French language and Chinese cooking.  Hold it!  Chinese cooking?  I immediately signed up.  Loved it and took 2 more classes.  That wok of mine was really put to work!

Chinese stir-frying is much like cooking stew.  Has an aromatic, smooth sauce that binds the meat and veggies together.  What creates that binder is cornstarch dissolved in water.  That slurry of cornstarch will connect all the flavors and spices neatly together without bring attention to itself.

Okay, what in the world does this have to do with the Bible?  Good question!  The Apostle Paul says that we believers in Jesus are ‘…being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator'(Colossians 3: 10).  This ‘renewal’ involves lots of changes– all for the better, all for Him, all to look more like Jesus.  Then Paul says in verse 14 that ‘…love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony’.   Love is the great binder.  The cornstarch of our Christian life.

We’re all different.  Some reading today have lots and lots of money.  Some barely scraping by.  Some of one political persuasion, some another.  Hobbies vary from craft design to glass art to organ playing in church to…well, you name it.  We’re all different.

Too bad you can’t all be like me!  Wouldn’t that be a boring world?  Just a rhetorical question.  You didn’t have to yell:  ‘you bet it would, Fischer’!  God has gifted each of us.  For this world.  For His glory.  It’s great to learn from someone else.  Always with the idea that eventually, we will emerge more and more as God’s unique creation.

It must not stop there.  That sounds too much like our self-centered generation.   You remember that horrid bumper sticker–‘It’s all about Me!’  Now, that’s boring!  To the nth degree.  As I said– it must not stop there.  Needs some cornstarch…of love.  Of caring and kindness, compassion and putting yourself in someone else’s moccasins.  Love will bind all together.  I sound like I know what I’m talking about.  I don’t.   Need to work on this as much as anyone else.  To be more loving and forgiving.  Gracious and kind.  Big words that I want to be even bigger in my heart.  Join me?

Prayer:  Lord, help us to be bound together in your love.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

PHANTOM FEELING!…1 Corinthians 5: 6-8

My cousin Arthur, who lived in England, was a great cyclist as a young man.  He rode all over southern England with his mates.  One day he barely missed being hit by a car causing him to veer off the road, throwing him off his bike, landing on the ground on a pointy rock which lodged severely in the base of his spine.  He never rode again.  Never walked on his own without the help of calipers and crutches.  I remember him telling me that when he looked down at his legs on the ground that day, that they felt like they were still up in the air.  Something didn’t compute.

Many amputees and paraplegics have a similar experience.  Called ‘phantom feeling’.  They can still feel their damaged limbs in positions contrary to what their eyes see.

That phenomenon came to mind as I was reading what the Apostle Paul wrote:  ‘Get rid of the old yeast that you may be a new batch without yeast–as you really are.  For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed'(v. 7).  He says that sin can take off like wildfire in us, the church, and certainly the world.  Like rapid-rising yeast.  He says to get rid of it.  Find the sin, name and confess it, and move on as God’s forgiven children.

Now, we ourselves can’t get rid of our sins.  Only God can do that, as He did by sending Jesus to die on the cross for us.  That act of sacrifice brings salvation and healing to our weary souls.  We are forgiven!  The old yeast has been tossed out and a new batch made.

The apostle says ‘…as you really are’.  Did you hear him?  I did… but so many times I don’t feel it.  Like a phantom feeling.  Forgiven yet still carrying around that load of guilt and shame as if God had done nothing for me.  Nothing at all.  My feet on the ground yet feeling like they’re still up in the air.  Still toting my sins on my shoulders even though they have been lifted off of mine and onto His.  Phantom feeling.

Shouldn’t we start to believe the Lord?  Discount those phantom feelings and live like He means it!  Get rid of the old yeast.  Be the new…’as you really are’.

Prayer:  Lord, help our unbelief.  We want to trust you with more faith than we now possess.  We need your help.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

THOSE SECRET THINGS…Deuteronomy 29:29

 

When doors have closed in my life, God has opened new ones.  When old windows come crashing down, He puts in a brand new Thermo Pane storm window.  But sometimes it feels like He’s far away, as if on vacation or holiday, having wound tight the ‘clock’ of creation only to walk away, letting it wind down all on its own.

One of the names for God in the Old Testament is ‘Immanuel’, ‘God with us’.  Literally, ‘with us…God!’  He’s with us, this God of ours.  Lots of things are with us in life.  Illness, disappointment, failed or failing marriages.  Lost jobs, financial mistakes, church denominations turning their backs on the Bible.  Bad breaks, kids who could care less about anyone else, good intentions run amok.

When one or more of the above apply, we need to keep reminding ourselves that God is with us.  Keep repeating ‘with us…God!’  He’s with me.  ‘Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so.’

The Bible.  That’s exactly where we find out about Jesus.  Not by hearsay or rumor or certainly from the news media…but from His trustworthy and authoritative Word.

I love today’s verse, which is from Deuteronomy–‘The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may follow all the words of this law.'(29:29).  Much of life we’ll never figure out.  Questions will remain unanswered.  He’s not going to tell us everything.

What we do have, what He’s given us, is His Word.  Everything we need in life is right there between those precious pages.  When I had lemons, I had no idea when, or even if, lemonade would be on God’s menu for me.  But what I did know is that I could trust Him.  ‘…for the Bible tells me so.’  Maybe you need to reach out and hold on…to Him, who is with us.  And to His Word, the Bible.  Keep repeating ‘with us…God!’  ‘With us…God!’  Get ready to enjoy some lemon–aide that’s out-of-this-world!

Prayer:  Lord, we trust you even though we don’t have all the answers.  We know that you are with us.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

ALL WE NEED TO KNOW…1 Kings 17 and 1 Corinthians 4:1

Reading 1 Corinthians 4:1, I was struck by the phrase ‘the secret things of God’.  It reminded me of Deuteronomy 29:29, where Moses makes reference to God’s ‘secret things’.  The Bible provides us with all we need to know in life.  However, there is much we are not meant to know.  Secrets known only to God.  We have all we need to lead a godly life.  The rest is His.  We can trust Him with those ‘secret things’.  Agreed?

I love the story of the prophet Elijah and that widow from the town of Zarephath, located in a coastal region of Phoenicia,  northwest of Jerusalem.  Elijah has been cared for by God, fed by ravens bringing food to him by the Kerith Ravine, until its river runs dry.  God tells him to head up to ungodly Phoenicia, where He has commanded a widow to provide food and beverage for him.  Situated in the center of Baal worship, a false god if there ever was one.  Known for exporting oil and flour.  Both big cash crops.  Also, the home of Queen Jezebel, who despised anyone or anything having to do with the One True God, Yahweh.  Great place to hang out,  Elijah!

Even in Zarephath, food and water run out.  Baal must be angry or too lazy to provide for his worshippers!  Death is stalking at the city gates.  This poor widow has a few sticks and a bit of flour and oil for one last meal for her son and herself.  That’s it.  Soon the grim reaper will make his appearance.

At the city gate is where Elijah sees this widow and asks her for some food and drink.  Seems a bit nervy!  To feed him first of all, before even her own son?  He’s fortunate she’s too weak to give him a good punch in the face!  But Elijah tells her that the God of Israel will provide for them during the famine and drought.  He tells her not to be afraid.

This widow has a big choice to make.  To believe in God’s care… or not.  Take a chance on faith…or not.  How about you?  Something you need to trust the Lord about?  Of course, it’s scary stuff.  I’m still learning,  probably getting only a C minus for my grade.  But don’t drop out of His class!  He’ll take whatever tiny seed of faith we plant in Him, and yield what’s needed in His timing.

He loves us.  He will provide.  Don’t be a dunce!  Come to the head of His class!  Trust…

Prayer:  Lord, we choose to believe you.  And know that in your hands, we will be provided for.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.