READY OR NOT!…2 Timothy 4:1-5

I’m taken with what the Apostle Paul says to young pastor Timothy– ‘be ready’.  To not be ready is not an option in the Christian life.  Too important–to be ready.  And willing.  Leave ‘not’ out of it!  Commitment is called for.  A nod of ‘yes’.  No fence-straddling. No wishy-washy hemming and hawing.   No ‘fair-weather’ believers need show up at the recruiting office of God’s forces.

The apostle says to ‘be ready’.  I wonder what comes to mind?  ‘Be ready’! I think of when I was a brand-new financial planner with American Express Financial Advisors.  I had the best manager I could ever hope for.  A delight to be with.  Honest, caring, and understanding.  Rare to find anywhere.  He wanted to know how much money I wanted to make my first year.  Really?  It’s that easy?  Is this a trick question?   Pick a number out of thin air?  Name it and it’s yours?

Well, no.  Not really.  Of course not.  Based on the dollar number that I came up with as a goal, he could show me the activity required to generate that kind of income.  How many phone calls I had to make each week.  The number of appointments made,  followed by the number of analyses of prospect’s needs and goals I had to make.  Then, how many new clients I needed each week and how many investment dollars I would bring in to reach my own goals.  In other words, I had to work hard and smart and, above all, honest.

Couldn’t get to the end result without lots of preparation and getting ready, i.e. work…work…work!  The Apostle Paul says to be ready.  Get going.  Stop making excuses for yourself.  Get into your Bible.  Let God’s Word get into you.  Bathe yourself in prayer.  Not only ’emergency’ prayers, but praise and intercession and whatever comes to mind.

Visiting a Roman villa in England reminded us of all the time the Romans spent in bathing.  Frigidarium, tepidarium, and caldarium were so well constructed and well used…at great effort and expense.  As believers in Jesus Christ, bathe in Him.  Bathe in His Word, the Bible.  Time alone with your Lord and time with other believers.   Sharing Him with those who need Jesus Christ more than they could ever imagine.  Be prepared–whatever it takes, whatever the cost.  ‘Be ready…’

 

 

Prayer:  Dear Lord, make me ready for all you have in store for me today.  I’m yours, Lord.  Thank you for all the excitement of the days ahead…with You!  In Jesus’ precious name, Amen.

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WHAT DO THE SIMPLE FOLK DO?… 1 Timothy 6: 17-19

When in Cornwall, England, we toured the castle where King Arthur supposedly was born.  Quite the hike in and out, but well worth it as there were wonderful views of land and sea from those ruins.  In my head I was humming the song sung by King Arthur in Lerner and Lowe’s musical ‘Camelot’– ‘What Do the Simple Folk Do?’.  Simple folk…like you and me.  Not simpletons; hopefully, but common folk.  The bread and butter people of life.  Not royalty or the hoi-poloi.

The simple life…that we all yearn for.  But do we?  Then why do we allow such messes to rear their ugly heads in our lives.  Taking on other’s worries.  Butting our heads in where they don’t belong.  Fretting over the same old stuff.  So, do we really want the simple life?

If so,  the Apostle Paul has such good advice found in 1 Timothy 6: 17-19.    You say that these words are for rich folk–‘as for the rich in this present age’.    Isn’t that us?   We have so much.  We are spoiled.  Just me.  Not you?  You’ll have to decide for yourself.  Rich in this present age, Paul says, is best lived with humility,  knowing the blessings of God are not due to what I deserve or even have earned.

He says to be humble and grateful, knowing that what we brought into this world is what we’ll take out of it!  So, thank the Lord for all His many blessings.  But on the other hand, if we have very little– could it be that the less we have, the more we lean on God and learn of Him?  Could be.

Paul says to enjoy what we have.  We will, if we do so with open hands.  Willing to share, eager to give when truly needed.  What we have from God is a blessing.  Still more blessed to give, as our Lord said!  Doesn’t just feel good, but it also builds a foundation for us in heaven.

To cap it all off,  Paul says that living this way is ‘taking hold of that which is truly life'(1 Timothy 6: 19).  Truly living…the real deal…the simple life.  It is simple.  Not really complicated.  Sound good?  We should try it…!

 

Prayer:  Dear Lord, you have given us so much.  And we are grateful people.  Thankful for all your blessings.  Help us to share more, enjoy more and really live the life you intended  for us.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

AND A LITTLE CHILD SHALL LEAD THEM…Revelation 21: 16; 1 Kings 6: 20; and Ezekiel 41:4

Why can’t I get it right?  It boggles my imagination.  When I was pastor of my last church, I made a commitment to share the Gospel to every child who came through the door.  As many as possible.   If they stayed for the fellowship hour after worship, I’d grab my handy-dandy ‘Evangecube’ from the front pew.    I’d ask whoever brought the child if I could share this puzzle-cube with them.  All said ‘yes’.

This cube told the Gospel story in such a fun way.  The children loved it.  Only problem was that I could never figure it out, never get the order straight.  Jesus was upside-down, died before He was born,  was resurrected while guarded by Romans still 3 days in the tomb!   You could see our regular kids laughing away at their goofy pastor could never get the cube to work!  Fear not!  I  had a plan!

I’d yell, ‘help’.  And one of the children would save the day for Pastor John!  Who would tell about Jesus?  They would!   All I’d have to do is ask the question–‘would you like to ask Jesus into your heart today? He loves you so much’. I never tired of the Evangecube.  Still use it now with our grandchildren who also show me how to work it!

Have you read today’s Bible verses?  They make reference to the shape of a cube.  Equal dimensions of width, length,  and height.  1 Kings tells us that Solomon’s Temple would have an inner sanctuary, the Holy of Holies, that was a perfect cube.  God would be present in that Holy Place.  Not just anyone could enter that cubic holy space.  Only once a year, on Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, could the High Priest enter, praying for the sins of his people.

Ezekiel 41 looks to the end time, with that Holy of Holies in a restored Temple as a perfect cube.  In Revelation, we hear that the New Jerusalem, the Holy City,  will itself have the  dimensions of a cube (21:15-17).  But no Temple there.   No need for one.  The Lord our God  will be the Temple.  Won’t be hard to figure out that cube!  Not at all.  We’ll be with Him.  He’ll be with us.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if every child in all our churches could hear and respond to that message?   Could you do something about that?

 

Prayer:  Lord, thank you for opportunities to tell children about your Son Jesus.  Such is the Kingdom, we are told.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

AIN’T LIFE GRAND!… Revelation 22:4-5

I can still hear my Nana Gibson saying, ‘Ain’t life grand!’  She’s been gone many years now.   In the Lord, our life certainly is grand!

But just you wait, and that’s not for Henry Higgins either…just you wait!  The Apostle John writes in the book of Revelation that ‘they will see His face, and His name will be on their foreheads’ (22:4).  Go ahead and read that whole last chapter of Revelation, and be utterly amazed at the wonders that await.   We’ll see Jesus, the Father and the Holy Spirit. Face-to-face.  We’ll be with them forever with no more tears, good-byes, failed hearing or eyesight.  None of that anymore.

‘They will see His face…’  Really?  What Moses had hoped and prayed for way back in Exodus 33:12-23?  “Moses said, ‘Please show me your glory.  And God said, ‘I will  make all  my goodness pass before you…I will be gracious…and will show mercy…but you cannot see my face, for man shall not see me and live.'”   The Lord God showed Moses His character of love and mercy, compassion and forgiveness, but…’you shall see my back…my face shall not be seen.’  Not His face, not His being, but He will show His character.

That reminds me of what Jesus said about knowing people by their  fruit(Luke 6:43-45), and His half-brother James saying that ‘faith without works is dead(James 2:17).  Believers and followers, not by the labels on our lapels, but from what comes out of them, from deep within.  The Lord as well.  We know Him by His character and makeup of love, compassion, mercy, joy…

God has always been most generous in showing the whole world the ‘fruit’ of His being.  It’s there for all to see and wonder at.  But His face…now that will be for a special group.  For His children, those who say ‘yes’ to His invitation to know and love Him through the death and resurrection of His only Son Jesus Christ.  Is that you?  Have you asked Him into your life?  If not or you’re not sure, ask Him.  He’d love to love you forever.  I know that.  He even loves me!  And then some day, we’ll see Him…face to face…and that’s something you can’t quite put into words this side of glory…for that’s what it will be.  Glory!

 

Prayer:  Lord, thank you for better days ahead.  Someday we’ll be with you in glory, face-to-face.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

IT’S BEGINNING TO LOOK A LOT LIKE… Ezekiel 3:1-11

Everything is about making your Christmas ‘pub’ dinner reservation now.  Don’t wait a second longer!  But it’s only September!   We gripe back home when we hear Christmas music in stores before Halloween!  Here in England they’ve been playing Christmas music for weeks and weeks.  It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas!

Ezekiel chapter 3–Ezekiel’s call to prophetic ministry with God telling him, ‘all my words that I shall speak to you receive in your heart, and hear with your ears’ ( 3: 10).   Before he can hear God’s Word, Ezekiel needs a receptive heart.

Before we can hear the Lord, our hearts must be open and receptive, eager to hear from Him.  Is that yours?  Excited to get into the Bible each day?  Can’t wait to hear from Him?

Like back home.  Day after Thanksgiving, my father would decorate for Christmas.   He loved doing it, and had his certain routines.  The artificial tree had to be assembled, only to discover that the lights were invariably broken.  Outside, on the overgrown holly tree, he’d set up ladders and poles to string up lights, which were either stolen or shattered in some wind storm.  But every year the lights went up, regardless.   Inside, a smiling Santa was brightly lit on our fake fireplace mantel.  In the dining room on top of the breakfront he had 4 separate letters spelling ‘Noel’.  Someone, I won’t say who(!),  would rearrange the letters every day until they read Nole, Leon, Olne, Elon…  He always laughed, and then just as quickly nodded off for a nap!  That was my Dad.

Christmas morning no one, and I mean no one, ever went downstairs to see what was under the tree until my father slowly, ploddingly, deliberately, edged himself and us down those endless stairs to the living room.  Took hours, so it seemed!  And then, finally, he’d announce, ‘it looks like Santa has been here’!  Only then, could we run to all the packages and toys and fun that awaited us!

Is that the anticipation the Lord is telling Ezekiel to have when it comes to His Holy Word?  Is that your attitude?  If so, great!  If not, pray for it.  Ask the Lord to make you receptive, open and excited…to dive into the Bible regardless of how you feel.  Get a good study Bible.  Attend a Bible study that stretches your heart and mind.  Find the church where you can grow and share in the Lord.  Get with it.  Come on…get all excited!  It’s God’s Word…listen to Him.  What could be better?

 

Prayer: Lord, thank you for the Bible.  I can’t wait for our next time together!    In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

GET UP, ALREADY! …Ezekiel Chapter 2

Ezekiel is such an amazing book.  Reading those first 2 chapters and you’re ushered into a totally different world.  Symbols and visions.  Disconnect from reality as we know it.   Here’s the world as Ezekiel saw it!

The call of Ezekiel to prophetic ministry is like none other.  Eating the scroll of the Word of God?  Strange diet!   At the end of chapter 1, Ezekiel sees ‘the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the Lord.’   Falls on his face (who wouldn’t?), and hears a voice saying to him– ‘stand on your feet…and the Spirit entered into me and set me on my feet, and I heard Him speaking to me’ (Ezekiel 2: 1, 2).

When I read those verses, something clicked within.  When we accept Jesus into our lives, we receive the Holy Spirit– ‘…do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit?'(1 Corinthians 6: 19-20).  God the Holy Spirit comes to dwell within us.  How?  In what way?

Here’s what I think–what does it matter?   He says to stand up, so I recommend you do that!    Don’t sit around and be lazy in the Lord.  That won’t work.  Not with the Holy Spirit providing the energy to live for Him.

Or filled with fears from the past.  I know:  easier said than done.  And I’ve got a long ways to go.  Like you do.  Don’t sit around,  filled with bitterness and regrets, making excuses for yourself.  I know.  Easier said…

When I became a believer in Jesus Christ,  something changed within me.  Like the Spirit said to stand up.  Start studying like you mean it.  Literally overnight, a mediocre student started earning straight ‘A’s.  In Millburn High, if a senior had an ‘A’ in class, you didn’t have to take the final exam.  A way to motivate seniors, tempted to slump at the very end of high school.   I never took one final exam.  Straight A’s!  From me?  Something had changed within.

Now I know that it was the Holy Spirit.  Telling me to get up, already!  Stand up…I’ve set you on your feet to do things for Me!  That’s what it was.  I know it.

How about you?   Look back at your life and remember when you accepted the Lord into your heart?  What happened when He stood you on your feet…to do things for Him, for others?   Maybe, just maybe, He’s extending  His hand to you right now, saying, ‘Get up!   Stand on your feet!  Let’s get going.  No time like the present…to live for Jesus!  Stop putting it off…

 

Prayer:  Holy Spirit within.  Move me to be and do all that You have designed for me for the sake of Jesus Christ, my Lord and Savior!  Amen.

LET ME INTRODUCE MYSELF!… I Timothy 1: 12-17

Could the Apostle Paul have been the worst sinner ever?   He said– ‘…Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost.’  The worst one of all?  Really?  Worse than Judas Iscariot?  Stalin and Hitler?  What about Satan?  Of course not.

The Apostle Paul is looking into a spiritual microscope, one focused on every aspect of his life.  Like gazing at a mirror, seeing every blemish, showing us as we truly are.   He’s looking deeply within,  without pretense or excuse,  noting how far he misses the mark of God’s holiness and perfection. The comparison?  Well, there really is none.

As a believer in Jesus, God has sensitized Paul to every part of his life.  We humans, since Adam and Eve, are far away from God.  As far as far can be.  Truly one of the ironies of the Christian life is the closer we get to God, the more we know that, of sinners ‘I am the foremost’.   When we thought we could hide it, He nails us with the truth.

Times when I wasn’t particularly close to the Lord, even though a believer, I glibly headed out the door doing my own thing.  Sin didn’t seem to bother me very much.  Not really.  Maybe a twinge or two.

Now,  the closer I get to Him, the farther away I feel.  Like Paul’s foremost and chief of sinners.  Let me introduce myself.  I’m an old sinner saved by grace.  That’s me.  My salvation has nothing to do with my goodness. Nothing.  Neither does yours.  It’s all of God’s love and mercy,  forgiveness and grace.  All those words that lead directly to Him alone. ALL OF HIM, OF JESUS CHRIST.

I’m an old sinner…saved by God’s grace.  Let me introduce myself…no, let me introduce the One who gave Himself on the cross for you and me!  Have you met Him?  Welcome Jesus into your life…today!

Prayer:  Thank you, Lord, for making us new in Jesus Christ, your Son and our Savior.  In His name.  Amen.

WASTE NOT… Proverbs 5: 7-14

‘Waste not, want not’.  Good advice!  Don’t waste your life , and you’ll not want for meaning and purpose in the short years we’re given.  Seems like life is on the fast-track in the latter years.  Know what I mean?  Like the ride uphill was not as fast-and-furious as the downhill slope and slide!  Time flies by… but you don’t get any frequent-flier miles!

As I look back, it bothers me about all those opportunities I’ve squandered.  Time wasted, the living for the Lord that was in name only.  With that in mind, I was hooked and dragged to shore by Proverbs 5:9–‘lest you give your honor to others and your years to the merciless’.

I can’t blame others for the wasted times.  I’d like to, but I gave them away.  And  I can’t get them back.  Words said that are forever out there.  Words not said that would have helped and maybe healed.  Who knows?  Too late now.

Things done that can’t be undone.  Things not done forever incomplete.  Given away.  Tossed to the wind of whim and whimsy.  Proverbs warns against giving away our honor and our years.  We have choices to make in life.  The way of wisdom or the way of folly.

I’m not blaming someone else for all the times I’ve given away.  I’d still like to!  Certainly, there have been many times when others have wronged me, causing pain and mess, not of my own making.  For you too?  Not much you can do about that except to let it go, to move forward and let the Lord take care of them and their malicious designs; and,  in some cases,  to walk out of their lives for good.

What the Bible is saying is to get focused,  get on track with the dreams and desires of my life.  A life for Him.   A life for others– not for me alone.    Find out more about who God made us to be. Try,  as best you can,  to follow the star of Jesus to make the most of the best that God has in store for us. And when we fail, we find Him to be merciful and gracious,  loving us like no one has ever loved us before or since.    Amen?  Amen!

Prayer:  Thank you, Lord, for a life worth living.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

I CAN STILL HEAR HIS VOICE………..Read John 10: 7-18

DON’T USE THIS BLOG….A REPEAT!!                                                                                          I can still hear his voice!  Clear as a bell.  I’ll never forget it.  It was in 1957 or ’58 when my Dad and I first went to, what we called  back home in New Jersey, ‘the Stadium’.  Must I spell it out that that is Yankee Stadium, the house that Babe Ruth built.  The Babe was such a giant in the game of baseball that I thought maybe he really did build it!  We drove to the Stadium in my father’s 1956 blue Lincoln Capri, and parked it in just the biggest parking lot I had ever seen.  And all the people streaming toward the multiple gates all around the stadium.  We passed all kinds of vendors selling Yankee hats, daily schedules, buttons and ribbons with players’ pictures on them, you name it.  After we passed through the old-fashioned turnstiles getting back half our ticket from the old ticketvendor, we walked up and up those concrete ramps of inner Yankee Stadium to be greeted with tantalizing smells of hot dogs and sauerkraut, hot-roasted peanuts, and just lots of city sights and sounds.  It was magical to say the least.  And then as we walked through cavernous tunnels, it all opened up. There it was–the infield and the outfield with baseballs being hit all over the place.  Lights were on everywhere with everything bright and  green and loud and heavenly to this little boy holding the calloused hands of his dad.  We were then told where our seats were.  My father wanted a hot dog as badly as I did.   Brought right to us by a hot dog vendor carrying  a large box of steaming franks that took but a few gulps to consume.  And there they were!  My team!  My Yankees!   And my favorite players, ever–Mickey, Yogi, Whitey, Phil, Billy, Moose, Gil, Roger…But then there was that voice.  I can still hear it.  Like it was yesterday.   Bob Sheppard announcing, ‘Good evening, ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to Yankee Stadium’.  His resonance, clarity, respect and just plain majesty of simplicity, I could  never forget.   Decades later when I took my boys to the Stadium, and 10 years ago for Sue and myself, we heard that same voice, the voice of the Yankees for over 56 years.  He was 97 when he retired as the team announcer.    Derek Jeter had Bob Sheppard’s voice recorded to be played as he came to the plate  in Yankee Stadium, so with Jeter’s  retirement from the game, Bob Sheppard’s voice will no longer be heard at the Stadium.  But there’s another voice that I’ll never forget.  And His voice will never be silenced.  Never, ever.  That, of course, is the voice of the Good Shepherd, Jesus Christ.  He tells us in John  chapter 10 that He has other sheep to bring into His fold, that’s you and me who believe in Him.  When we accept Jesus into our hearts we become part of His growing flock and family.  He says, ‘…I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice.’  Can you hear Him calling your name?  Introducing you to the crowd and cloud of heavenly witnesses?  Listening to Him and learning from Him in your Bible, His Word?  Such a joy to hear the voice of the Shepherd.  Jesus, the Good Shepherd…I can still hear His voice!  I’ll never forget it.  Never.