HAVE I BROKEN MY WORD?…Psalm 93

You may be wondering–have I broken my word?  About what?  Let me ‘fess up.  I’m wading into the political muck and mire of this foul season!  No, not that!   Thought I said I wouldn’t do that.  Well, do broken promises and distortions of the truth also extend to little old me?

Actually, fear not!  No endorsements.  No hints even.  Nothing.  Parties I enjoy have more fun than the two duking it out as usual.  Their parties are partisan and predictable.  Nasty and boring…to the nth degree.  At least that’s my take!

No matter who prevails in this upcoming US election, there is one certainty you can hang your hat on.  It’s found, as you can guess, in your Bible.  Mine as well!  I was reading Psalm 93 today, cheering all the way through.  You will too.  Read it and then read it again after the big blow-out on November 8th.  The psalm begins with a resounding chorus of ‘The Lord reigns…’  The English language doesn’t quite capture the decisiveness of the Hebrew.  The Hebrew would need an exclamation point or two after ‘reigns’.  ‘The Lord reigns!!’…unmistakably,  indisputably, unequivocally.  All right, I’ve put my thesaurus to the side!  But you get the point.  It’s as plain as the nose on your face.  Mine too.

Psalm 93 goes on to use Hebrew poetic parallelisms to describe how great our God is.  Seas rise up.  ‘Seas’ mentioned three times to drive home the point of who is in charge.  Thunder and great floods repeatedly written of, speak of our mighty God.  Two, three times over and it becomes crystal clear who is Lord of All and God Almighty.  Who towers above feeble man and woman.  No contest.  No polling and voting.  No ‘spin’ or platforms.  None of that.

Psalm 93:5–‘Your statutes stand firm; holiness adorns your house for endless days, O Lord’.  The Bible is our firm foundation.  His holiness, our challenge and call in life.  His house bears no scandal or shading of the truth.  And with Him we’ll find peace and love… forever.  No promises left unfulfilled.  Not with our Lord.  Remember who’s in charge.  After all is said and done–‘The Lord reigns!!’

Prayer:  Father, we pray for those in authority that they would always look to you and your Son for guidance.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

 

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AN UNEXPECTED TWIST…2 Kings 5

I know some of you think the God of the Old Testament is vengeful, while the God of the New is loving and forgiving.  Any truth to this?  None whatsoever!  Merely look in your concordance to find how many times the word ‘love’ appears in both Testaments of your Bible.  You will discover, as I did, that ‘love’ can be found in many more verses in the Old than the New.  Check it out!  Not two but one God consistently loving, just, holy and compassionate.

In 2 Kings 5 we have a fine example of God’s mercy and love.  In the Old Testament, no less!  Naaman, commander of the military forces of the nation of Aram, contracts a dreaded skin disease.  His Israelite servant-girl urges him to see the prophet Elisha, who would pray to Yahweh God for healing

Aram rarely gets along with Israel.  They worship Baal, a false god here named Rimmon.  Naaman comes for healing and Elisha prays for him, dipping him seven times into the River Jordan.  He’s healed!  He says, ‘Now I know that there is no god in all the world except in Israel (v.15).  He becomes a believer in Yahweh God…in Him alone.

I’m floored by verses 17-19–by the sensitivity and understanding of our God, especially knowing the difficulties of following Him in a hostile world.  Naaman faces a huge problem which he can’t shake.  One of his responsibilities as commander of the King’s army is to escort the King into the temple of Baal with him leaning on Naaman’s shoulder as they bow in reverence and worship to Baal.  To this false god?

Poor Naaman.  Such an unexpected twist.  He only wants to worship and follow the true God, but what can he do?  ‘Please Elisha– pray to Yahweh God explaining my dilemma.’  Does God understand when we get into similar binds?  Places we don’t want to be?  Stuck between the Rock and a hard place?  The plight of the persecuted church today.

Not them alone.  What can we do?  Pour our hearts out to God.  He understands more than we realize.  He knows all about it.  No surprises for Him.   Yes, stand your ground, but when in an impossible place, run to God.  He will cover you with His grace, mercy and peace.  What did Elisha say to Naaman?  ‘Go in peace’ (v.19).  God knows.  He understands.  Let God comfort you with His peace… and especially His love.

Prayer:  Thank you, Lord, for understanding us.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

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.