THAT SUMMER AT L’ABRI!… Psalm 15

The summer of 1969, I was off to Europe.  That fall I would start my senior year at the Moody Bible Institute.  Having worked a few jobs, I saved $500 for that summer in Europe!  Money went a lot farther in those days.  Booked a cheap charter flight.  A boat ride across the English Channel.  Train from Belgium to Geneva.  Then a bus travelling up the mountains to a small village named Huemoz in the Swiss Alps.  To study with Dr. Francis Schaeffer at L’Abri Fellowship.  I was a guest at this Christian commune.  But I got into trouble!

No, didn’t steal money.  No illicit relationships.  Only my big mouth laced with sarcastic humor nailed me as a mischief-maker!  We were studying the fall of Adam and Eve.  At breakfast someone dropped the jar of marmalade.  I immediately labelled it ‘fallen marmalade’ to the fire-storm anger of our chalet host!  Immediately, he confronted me with the option of keeping quiet or getting my hide out of town.  Who me?  The now and forever quiet one?  I became such, watching what I said, at least in front of the staff!

Psalm 15.   The Lord invites us into His tent on His holy hill.  Opens the flap, inviting us to join Him.  Jesus says–‘Come unto me all you who are burdened and heavy laden, and I will give you rest’ (Matthew 11: 28).   The Bible overflows with God’s hospitality.  He loves sharing time with us.

Psalm 15: 3 is for me.  Watch what you say.  The Hebrew for ‘…who does not slander with his tongue…’  literally means ‘does not go about with his tongue’.

The point of this Psalm?  Be a good guest!   Our Host loves being even with me!  Grow up!  Like that summer at L’Abri!

Lord, thank you for welcoming us into your family.  Amen.

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I READ THAT TOTALLY WRONG!… Ezekiel 44: 28-31 and Isaiah 64

I totally misread something.  Isaiah 64 contains one of the few Old Testament references to God being ‘our Father’ (v. 8).   The image of father then changes into one of a potter molding clay.  We are clay in His hands.  Isaiah prays, ‘…we are all the work of your hand’.  Can’t imagine ever being in better hands than His.

Ezekiel 44 is quite another matter.  Read it totally wrong.  What does the rebuilt Temple refer to?  The millennium?  Ezekiel’s day?  Future heavenly kingdom?  Lots of theories.  No matter what, we’ll trust the Lord, the good Potter, to work out the details.  Whether you’re pre- or mid- or post- or even a-millennial,  I’m pro-whatever God’s plan works out to be!

Back to my misunderstanding.  Reading Ezekiel 44:28-31, there’s reference to the Levites having an inheritance.  I thought they had none.  But I didn’t read far enough.  For these verses say that ‘…I am their inheritance…I am their possession’.   Inheritance–not what they get… but who.

God is our inheritance.  We inherit Him!  Better than land, better than anything this world can offer.  Ever receive an inheritance?   When my mother died in 2004, she left some monies to my brother, sister and myself.

What of our inheritance in the Lord?  He gives us all of Himself.  When we become believers, Jesus becomes our all-in-all.  Undivided.  Equal amounts.  100% for each.  We really need nothing more.  We have everything.  God is our inheritance.

What could be better?  I’m totally blown away by my inheritance!  Are you?

Thank you, Lord, for all you give us in Jesus.  Amen.

ONE AGAINST THE CROWD… Psalm 1

When I feel I’m the last Christian, the Lord shows me a crowd gathering.   I’ve become disheartened thinking about our cultural roots in the Bible, now dug up as useless debris.   Can feel somewhat lonely.  One against the crowd.

Until you go to church.   And on Christmas Eve.  I know what you’re thinking.  Who doesn’t go to church then?  Or on Easter?   We attend Christmas Eve service at a new church for us.  Has three services.  Two, Four and Six PM.  We attend the middle one.  Packed would be an understatement.  Arrive a half hour early, and we can hardly find a place to park.  Felt like the Lord was saying,  ‘Fischer, you’re one but I have a crowd also!  Look around’!

A week later, I read Psalm 1. Begins with the person who’s blessed by the Lord.  Who stands out from the crowd.  I remember being in New Orleans with my wife.   A band is walking down Bourbon Street followed by a large group.  I have the impulse to leave the sidelines and join them.  So, we do!  Only to discover that this is a group of mourners!

Psalm 1 warns us to be careful.  Watch out.  Don’t  ‘…walk in the counsel of the wicked…’  Or stand opposed to what God has called sin– ‘…stand in the way of sinners…’  Finally, don’t mock the Bible– ‘…or sit in the seat of  mockers…’

You’re not alone.  God has His thousands and thousands.  The ungodly crowd travels the wide road.  It’s filled with the faithless, failures and fakers…all destined for utter futility and frustration.  A great big ‘F’!

We’ll journey on the narrow one.  Hey, who said we’re all alone?  This narrow way is as broad as the heart of God Almighty!

Jesus, with you we’ll never by alone.  Amen.

WHO?…Micah 7: 18-20

When I was a little boy, an old neighbor used to call me ‘Johnny What’, because I kept asking him ‘what does that mean’, ‘what did you say’, and ‘what about that’.  Inquisitive little guy who probably wore out his welcome!  I liked that old neighbor.

Today’s Bible reading is not only about ‘what’ but also ‘who’.  Micah poses an important question–‘who is a God like you…? (v.18).   Good question?  Any comparisons worth their salt?  Here’s a ‘what’ for my old neighbor–what is God like?

What is God like?  Well, He forgives sin.  If that were all, that’s good enough for me!  But there’s more.  He pardons us.  We’re set free!  Micah says that He ‘…forgives the transgression of the remnant of His inheritance’.  God lets go of our guilt when we’ve crossed over the line.

Did you notice what we are to Him?  His inheritance!  His legacy!  When the last will and testament of Heaven is read, those who believe in Jesus are awarded as inheritance to God Himself!

Micah 7:19 tells us more.  His anger and wrath?  Not for long.  Doesn’t hold a grudge or throw salt on our wounds.  I might.  He doesn’t.  The Bible says that He ‘…delight(s) to show mercy ‘(v.18).

Why is all this so hard to accept?  Too good to be true?  Possibly.  For me, it’s that I know myself, my failures and foibles.  I drag all that weight of sin, which God has let go of.  He’s free of them.  So should we.  Hard to do.  Go for it anyway.  Believe what He says.  Be free as free can be…in Jesus Christ!  Amen?

For forgiveness and mercy, we thank you our God.  Because of Jesus. Amen.

HEARING THE SHEPHERD’S VOICE…John 10: 1-18

A vivid childhood memory is of a trip to the Bronx in New York City to attend a night game at the old Yankee Stadium, the one I thought Babe Ruth had actually built!  My father carefully parked his 1956 Lincoln Capri in one of the huge parking lots.

Then, hand-in-hand, moving through the turnstiles, buying a program, inching our way up those concrete ramps, squeezing through the musty, cavernous tunnels leading right out to the greenest grass I had ever seen.  This was the playing field of the New York Yankees!

I couldn’t believe my eyes.  Stadium lights so brilliant that daylight surely could never be brighter.  Smells of hot dogs, peanuts and cotton candy waft in the air.  Sounds of baseballs cracking off wooden bats, with mitts slapping in response to a ball going so fast.  And then came the voice of the Yankees’ announcer, their only one for over 50 years.

The voice of Bob Sheppard.  I can still hear his euphonious voice saying ‘Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to Yankee Stadium’.  ‘And now batting for the Yankees, number 7, Mickey Mantle, number 7.’  Still gives me shivers.

The 10th chapter of John speaks of the shepherd.  His sheep know his voice and follow him.  It’s the voice of Jesus.  ‘…the sheep listen to His voice, He calls His own sheep by name and leads them…I am the Good Shepherd;  I know my sheep and my sheep know me…they too will listen to my voice…’ (vs. 3,14,16).

As Bob Sheppard called each Yankee player by name, so Jesus knows each one of us, and calls us by name.  We know His voice…from the Bible.  Read it.  Listen to the voice of the Shepherd!  Do you hear Him calling your name?

We hear your voice, our Lord.  And we love you.  Amen.

I THOUGHT IT SAID ‘BROUGHT’…Mark 16:1-8

I thought it said that they ‘brought’ some spices to the tomb.  On second reading, the Gospel of Mark records that the women had ‘bought’ spices for his body after His death.  That interested me.  Not only because I don’t like to waste money!  Some of you are snickering.  You know me well.  My Scots’ DNA unveiled!

These women don’t hunt high-and-low in their pantries for out-of-date spices they could bring to the tomb that day.  After all, who would know if the spices were fresh or not.  Some re-gifting might be in the air!  Clear the shelves.  Waste not…

It’s customary to anoint the cadaver with aromatic oils to mask the odor of a decomposing body.  (If you’re soon to have a meal, bon appetite!)  Here’s an interesting twist to the story.  The women bought and brought spices for Jesus’ body.  Spices were often reserved for royal burials.   2 Chronicles 16:14–‘they laid him (King Asa) on a bier that had been filled with various kinds of spices prepared by the perfumer’s art…’  Spices for a king.  Worthy of the best we can offer.

But King Jesus is not dead.  Not any longer.  He’s risen from the dead!  He’s alive!  So, what can we bring Him?  Certainly not out-dated stuff from the pantry of our lives.

The women ‘bought’ spices, which was quite costly.  They had to dig deep for Him.  We can never buy our salvation, but we can offer Him our best.  What that means for me, may not even come close to what it means for you.  But find out.  Then do it.  It will cost you, but what did our salvation cost Him?

Lord, we want to give you our very best.  For Jesus’ sake.  Amen.

WHAT WOULD YOU DO?… Psalm 23

Psalm 23.   So familiar.  But when new meaning comes my way, I get excited!

Verse 6– where goodness and mercy follow us.  Sounds like a tired old dog.  Or a child, unable to keep up the pace.  ‘…goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life…’ (Psalm 23: 6).

I begin searching the meaning of the Hebrew ‘to follow’, which seeks out… in hot pursuit.  God’s love searches high-and-low, in every nook-and-cranny, behind locked doors, and doesn’t stop until it finds.  As the Apostle John says:  ‘this is love; not that we loved God, but that he loved us (1 John 4: 10).

He takes the first step.  In the dance of life, He takes the lead.  When I was a student at Princeton Seminary, I was accepted into a chaplaincy program called Clinical Pastoral Education at the Medical Center at Princeton.  Only eight of us involved.  We’re learning to listen to others.  In class, we do a number of exercises.  One involves two of us going into each corner of the conference room.  Then we’re told to greet the others.  What would you do?  Sounds rather simple.

I saunter over to the other corners, shaking hands with everyone, as instructed.   What amazes me is that I’m the only one who does.  The others wait for us to come to them.  Our supervisor then informs us that he’s never told us to go across the room, but simply to greet each other.   What I discovered is that my personality takes the first step.  Others will be different.

Know that God goes with us on the rough-and-tumble roads of life.  He doesn’t lag behind.  He’s not lackadaisical.    Such love will come right to us in whatever corner we find ourselves in.

Thank you, Jesus, for taking the first step.  Amen.

NESTLED ON A HILL IN THE SAWTOOTH MOUNTAINS…Psalm 8

Nestled on a hill high up in the Sawtooth Mountains of Idaho, sits an old rustic lodge built in 1930.  Sits solitary outside the tiny town of Stanley, which they say has only thirty days a year without a freeze.  It’s the Old West here at the guest ranch.  Its pool is thermal with temperatures over 100 degrees, even in winter when temperatures drop to 20 below!  We’ve been here in the summer greeted each morning by the icy freeze.

I call this a rustic lodge.  Don’t be fooled.  It’s luxury through and through!  With an accommodating and friendly staff to pamper our every need!

Far from city lights, you can see stars…and more stars.  Light pollution is not heard of at the guest ranch in Stanley.  Only problem is that it doesn’t get dark in the summer ’til after 10pm.  So I drag myself out of bed at 3am, stumble around, finding my sweats, hoping not to stub a toe, keeping quiet as my wife soundly sleeps.  Tip toe out the door, careful not to slip on the frozen grass below my sandals.  I look up!

The Milky Way.  The Big Dipper.  Constellations.  God’s creation.  His handiwork.  Psalm 8: 3-4–‘When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him?’  Looking at the sky that night, I couldn’t help feeling so miniscule.

I wish I could have stayed out all night.  But some fear emerges.  This city boy wonders what animal may be lurking in those shadows.  But still I thank the Lord for the luxury of seeing so much on a cloudless night at the ranch in Stanley, Idaho.

For the beauty of your creation, we thank you Lord.  Amen.

 

 

COVERS IT ALL!…Read Psalm 19

Why do I keep coming back to this psalm?  Read it– you’ll know why!  Covers it all!   As in some really big issues in life.

Let’s look at those first six verses.  Want to know about God?  Check out your surroundings.  Gaze at the night sky.  We live a mile or two from Puget Sound.   Sitting on the beach, watching a state ferry ply the waters, or watching the distant snow-covered Olympic mountains, is magical.  Tall evergreens sway majestically in a gentle breeze.

But I see more than that.  I see creation.   God’s handiwork…magnificent and beautiful.  But there’s more.  Always more.  We see His work, but also His Word, the Bible.

Psalm 19: 7-11.  King David uses so much grammar to describe God’s word.  From these 5 verses, we learn that God’s Word is called the ‘law’, the ‘testimony’ to God’s truth, ‘precepts’ where God speaks with precision, ‘commandments’  and ‘rules’.  Five nouns.

Then David writes about God’s word as ‘perfect’, and ‘sure’, ‘right’, and ‘pure’ and ‘clean’.  Five adjectives.  All together God’s Word results in ‘reviving’, ‘making (us) wise’,  ‘rejoicing the heart’, and ‘enlightening our eyes’.  Four verbs and adverbs.

The Word of God is like nothing else.  Can sit on a shelf gathering dust or be put to use making life better in every way.

Pondering God’s creation and spending time in His creative Word, leads to worship of the Lord.  And wisdom to stay on track with God’s ways.

Spend some time in Psalm 19.  It’s more precious than gold.  Sweeter than honey.  Direction for life avoiding ungodly pitfalls, leading to blessings and great reward (vs. 10-11).   This psalm covers it all!

Lord, for all your glory we worship you.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

THE LOOK ON HIS FACE… Psalm 17

I can picture the look on his face.  Of disappointment and mistrust.  This was a man I respected.  A brother in Christ.  Yet, after completing a Sunday evening Bible study, he approaches me with what feels like a dagger.

Confronts me with this– his son feels I’m a terrible excuse for a pastor.  I’m speechless.  That’s something for me!   The look on his face cuts me.  So, I ask him what in the world he’s talking about.  He says that his son has it in for me ever since he sees me wearing a Rolex watch.  How could any pastor have such a pricey bauble, and still claim to follow Christ?  I feel the blood rising.  Steam comes off the roof of my red-haired head!  I’m about to blow!

But now I wonder what’s happened to my Rolex.  Had someone stolen it?  Should I make an insurance claim?  Looking at my left arm, I clearly see my Rolex.  Wait a second.  Does it say ‘Rolex’?  It ends in ‘ex’.   Upon further examination, my Rolex turns out to be a Timex!  Yes, a cheap-o, under $20 wonder!  What did this ‘friend’ say when I show him my watch?   Not much to his shame.

Psalm 17: 15– ‘And … I will see your face… I will be satisfied with seeing your likeness’.  Seeing God’s face will be ultimate joy.  The look on His face… far different from any who misunderstand us.  His face will shine upon us, not in disgust or false accusation.

When the Lord sees you, He sees His Son Jesus.  And that puts a smile on His face, the likes of which we’ll never, ever forget!  Amen?

For the kind look of your face, Lord, we thank you.  Amen.