HEAVEN’S BREAD Psalm 105

Christmas carols can be heard in stores ever since the ‘dog days’ of summer or so it seems!  When I owned a 1972 VW Super Beetle, which had a cassette tape player, I’d listen each December (not a month earlier!) to recordings of Christmas carol organ improvisations by John Detroy, the organist at my first church, who also played the ‘Mighty Wurlitzer’ at New York’s Radio City Music Hall.  Such a talented and gentle man.

One Detroy gem was a take on ‘O Little Town of Bethlehem’.  My wife and I have been to Bethlehem in Israel.  Not so ‘little’ anymore.  Bible scholars posit that ‘Bethlehem’ means ‘house of bread’.  A name which celebrates one of the basics of life.

Now take a gander at Psalm 105, focusing on verses 37-41.  The psalmist recollects Israel’s exodus from Egypt, and how God cares for His own, even in terrible places during turbulent times.  God’s people, freed from slavery, now roam desert sands.  They’re given promises though little else.

They’re tired, hot, hungry and thirsty– ‘They asked, and he (God) brought them quail and satisfied them with the bread of heaven.  He opened the rock, and water gushed out; like a river it flowed in the desert’ (Ps. 105:40-41).  Meat…bread…water.  The basics.

This Christmas I’m challenged to thank God for all those basics in my life.  The blessings He gives that rarely show up on my appreciation radar screen.  Those mostly taken for granted.  Now, we pause to thank the Lord.

For our dear Australian friends, Jack and Maggie, who always encourage me, saying how much these weekly devotions mean to them.  For our newspaper delivery guy John, who often puts ours right next to our front door, especially on frosty mornings.  For neighbor’s smiles and waves.  For grandkids, who love coming to our home, even tolerating Silly Papa!  And a wife who has so many wonderful qualities, including choosing to share life with the likes of me.

Now think of your own.  Shouldn’t be too difficult.  Take your time and enjoy remembering the Lord’s many basics, whatever and whoever.  Being grateful feels pretty good, huh?  Tastes like bread from heaven!

 

Thank you, Lord, for all your blessings this season and always.  For Jesus most of all.  Amen.

 

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FULL Galatians 4: 1-7

Galatians 4 contains the Apostle Paul’s Christmas story, where he speaks of time in its fullness when Jesus is born of Mary, born under Moses’ Law, to buy us out of sin’s slavery through His death on the Cross.  Time was full, filled with meaning.  Bringing redemption to believing mankind.

Tomorrow begins the Advent season.  The last church Sue and I served had a fullness to that time.  Today, I’d like to celebrate what that meant to us and who made it special.  Precious church members, friends all, who fashioned this month full of love and joy, light and worship.  You may not know any of these people, but hopefully you have your own who form life full and good.

It all begins with Ruth and Tinker dragging out the large artificial Christmas tree (we always ask to help; and sometimes, though not often, they’d accept!), assembling it in the chancel area.  Multiple ornaments, inscribed with the names of past church family, are hung on the tree.  Good to remember those saints we loved, now with our Lord Jesus.  Like Etta Good, John Barnes, Cathy Brown, Cecil Herrington to name but a few.

Byron and Gloria would come a few days later, hanging two large wreathes on the back walls of the sanctuary.  Then they’d string and twist strands of multi-colored lights on the choir railing in addition to the pulpit.

Christmas banners, created by my wife Sue, are hung on side walls, telling the story of Jesus, the holy couple and the Magi.  A large stand can be found near the organ for lighting candles each Advent Sunday, and then all of them on Christmas Eve.  Every week a different church family would light the appropriate candles and read a portion of the Christmas story from the Bible.

Roberta rehearses the choir for our annual Christmas cantata.  We log in at about 18 singers of varied skill and enthusiasm.  Not bad considering our church attendance is usually around 50.  We joke that there won’t be enough out there to hear us!  Maybe that’s not a so bad after all!

Lights…candles…singing…Scripture…God’s precious people.  All achieve a full season.  And then comes the finale on Christmas Eve.  Some years my wife places luminaries on the walkway up to the church’s front door.  Paper bags filled with stabilizing sand and a lit candle lighting the way.

We celebrate Jesus, the Light of the World.  Often Christmas Eve overflows with family and friends.  Special music groups from other churches, which have no Christmas Eve service, come and bless us all.  No monetary offering this night.  Just joy in the Lord.  To thank Him for the gift of His Son Jesus.

These are some of my reflections out of my time.  What are yours?  Thank the Lord for all who make your life as full as it is.  By the way, I’m grateful for you!

 

Thank you for Jesus in all His fullness.  Amen.

OBED-EDOM 1 Chronicles 13, 15, 25, 26

Who in the world is Obed-Edom?  An obscure Old Testament character?  Someone referenced in a pub quiz or crossword puzzle?

No.  Actually, he deserves top billing.  Check out those chapters in 1 Chronicles to discover where and why he’s mentioned.  Agree with me?  Maybe not!

First of all, the Hebrew word ‘obed’ means ‘servant’.  Since ancient names mean something, here we have someone who loves to serve others.  A rare bird in any day-and-age.

Obed-Edom first shows up when King David gets ticked-off at God for allowing the deaths of those who improperly move the Ark of the Covenant (1 Chron. 13).  David’s concerned about what might happen if this dangerous Ark transfers to his Jerusalem home turf.  So, he orders it carried off to Obed-Edom’s home.  He’ll take care of what David fears.  And if death lurks in Obed’s backyard, so be it.  Too bad, so sad!

What happens?  Lo-and-behold, God blesses Obed-Edom beyond anyone’s fondest dreams.  David’s next move?  Right!  After noticing all that good stuff coming Obed-Edom’s way, David wants the Ark in his own backyard.  He yearns for you-know-what to overflow from God…to himself.

I wonder about Obed-Edom’s reaction?  Does he feel used?  I would have.  After all, the Ark remains in his care when dangerous uncertainty lurks.  But when ‘everything comes up roses’, off goes God’s blessed cornucopia to the high-and-mighty.  Phooey!  But that’s me!

God’s take on Obed-Edom?  1 Chronicles 26:5–‘For God had blessed Obed-Edom.’  God remembers the one who serves.  For Obed-Edom exemplifies a life for others.  One who doesn’t mind taking a back seat when called for.  He’s humble enough to let others gain the acclaim.   Unlike many, so eager to get all success’ credit, while shunning blame when the bottom falls out, Obed-Edom stays true to his name, who he’s called to be…a servant.

Sure could use a few more like Obed-Edom.  In politics.  In business.  In church.  In our homes.  And in our own hearts and minds.  As in me…and you!

Servants…for the Lord Jesus.  And for others.  Obed-Edom.  Not so obscure after all!

 

Lord Jesus, may we be faithful servants… for others and for you.  Amen.

 

HE KNOWS Daniel 2: 17-21

Now that one political season has ended (sort of!), another is just around the corner.  Never fails–losers touted as winners.  Winners berated as losers.  Back-and-forth the nasty pendulum swings ad nauseum.  Are you as tired of it all as I am?

But really we have little to gripe about.  I know I’m spoiled.  Have so much when others have so little.  Fat and sassy while some barely able to feed their children let alone themselves.  Most of us have no idea what it’s like to go without.  We’re clueless.  Is that a good thing?  Probably not.

Reading Daniel 2 we see what’s happening to God’s people in his day.  Tough times blast with gale force winds.  Their nation decimated.  Their holy Temple razed.  Their best and brightest young people whisked off to brainwashing camps, exiles for the foreseeable future.  Death stares them down.  And we complain.  We have no idea how horrible life becomes for God’s people.  I don’t.

So what do they have to be thankful for anyway?  Daniel knows.  Where?  Of course, with God.  Daniel 2: 19-23 sings lofty praise and thanksgiving to his Sovereign Lord.  He knows.  Read those verses for yourself and you will too.

This Thanksgiving let’s focus on the Lord Himself.  Yes, we’re grateful for all His blessings.  Family, country, friends, food, jobs, homes and so much more.   We’re grateful.

But in giving thanks, I usually get stuck down here in this world.  For what I can see, touch and taste.  How about looking up to the source?  To the Father of All.  To Jesus His only Son, our Savior.  To all the comforts of the Holy Spirit.  All the character traits of our triune God.  Like faithful love, kindness, gentleness, patience…  Add your own.

That’s where my heart will be this Thanksgiving.  On Him and who He is.  Daniel knew where to look in the most trying of times.  So should we.

Happy Thanksgiving!  You know why.

Thank you, Lord, for everything.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

NEW DAILY DEVOTIONAL BOOK NOW READY FOR PURCHASE!

Today my new daily devotional book is ready for purchase!  Gideon House Books has once again been my editor and publisher.  This book is exclusively in the modern e-book format.  The title is ‘Reminders For Daily Devotion’.   I’ve been writing, editing, re-editing, and re-writing this book for more than two years!  Finally, it’s ready to go!

Each daily devotion lifts our eyes to the Lord Jesus for His help, strength and encouragement.  I hope and pray that this ‘Reminders’ book will be a real blessing for all who read it daily.

‘Reminders for Daily Devotion’ can be purchased for $7.99 on Amazon, iTunes, Nook, Google Play and Kobo.  You may also want to purchase a gift copy for someone special.  All but Kobo allow you to do so.

For example, Amazon.  On the page for ‘Reminder’s  for Daily Devotion’ by John Fischer you’ll notice below the ‘Add to Cart’ tab a button called ‘Buy for Others’.  That’s where you can give ‘Reminders’ devotional book as a Christmas/New Year’s/birthday/no special reason! gift.  Just need their e-mail address.  Easy as eating Thanksgiving pumpkin pie!  Do you think I’ve added a tad of humor in ‘Reminders’?  You don’t have to ask.  You’ll find out!

Blessings and a very Happy Thanksgiving, Merry Christmas and Happy 2019!!  All in one greeting!  John

‘ALL’S WELL…’ Psalm 71

For the past few years I’ve been reading Shakespeare’s plays.  Must admit the old Elizabethan English can be tough sledding, even with a mind still attuned to the King James Version of the Bible.  Some plays are easier to understand only because I’m familiar with them.  Like Macbeth or Hamlet.  I’m now finishing one that I have almost no idea what’s going on, except I cheated reading a synopsis on Wikipedia.  Otherwise, forget it.

One Shakespeare title especially grabs my attention.  Makes me think about my life in Jesus.  How I want to get closer to Him in this life as I inch closer to Him for the next.  Focusing more on Him rather than fears and silly stuff like political bickering.  Less anger.  More ‘trust and obey’.   Plain old enjoying being in Jesus… and staying right there.

Immovable.  Close by until the last day or night.  Not being fatalistic, bitter or crotchety.  Loving more.  Being understanding yet firm in biblical values.  Never falling away.  Or compromising, half-baked and double-minded.  Not judgmental yet discerning.  Tall orders for any believer at any age.  Are you with me?

As the psalmist says–‘Even when I am old and gray, do not forsake me, O God, till I declare your power to the next generation, your might to all who are to come’ (Psalm 71: 18).

I imagine you also want your life to be ‘All’s Well That Ends Well’.  Ending well… for Jesus.  Not acting in a play, with script to memorize and mimic.  No.  Being unmasked and truthful to who you really are.  Honest.   Humble.  A grace that laughs at yourself and not at others.  A kindness, needed and well-received, yet rarely found anymore anywhere among anyone.

Ending well.  That’s my prayer.  All will be well if we stay the course, depending more and more on Jesus.  Lean in… for the long haul!

 

Lord, help me to become more like Jesus.  In His strength and with His help.  Amen.

WANDERING IN THE BOONDOCKS! 2 Kings 13

I’m traveling the unpaved roads of the Old Testament, wandering in the boondocks, whose back alleys are rarely explored.  We’d rather gallivant touristy locales like Psalms or Proverbs.  But not today.  No, I’m roaming the backwoods of 2 Kings 13.  Would love to have you join me!

All the kings of the northern kingdom of Israel are plain no good.  Schlemiel nincompoops, every one!  Some, too few really, of the kings of Judah’s southern kingdom are barely worth their salt.  Can count them on the fingers of one hand.

Here in 2 Kings 13 we have two defective Israelite rulers, Jehoahaz and Jehoash.  Both have this said of them–‘He did evil in the eyes of the Lord…’ (vs.2,11).  Not only sin, which is bad enough; but evil, which is far worse.  Takes down whole nations.

The context of Jehoash’s story involves annual ‘spring cleaning’ by nasty, neighboring Moabites.  As in swooping down, stealing whatever fits into their grubby paws.  Then another pummeling by nearby Arameans, who oppress and blackmail Israel.  Times are tough.  We think we have it bad.  We wouldn’t want to live in God’s land in those days.  Not on your life.  For that’s what’s at stake.  Literally.  Your life.

Even still, we discover something that’s out of this world.  Also literally.  God’s character overflows with comfort to the weak and weary.  One verse says it all.  I’ve highlighted it with yellow marker in my Bible so that I won’t overlook it.  2 Kings 13:23–‘But the Lord was gracious to them and had compassion and showed concern for them because of his covenant with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.  To this day he has been unwilling to destroy them or banish them from his presence.’  See?

Our Lord is gracious.  Not trigger-happy, flying off the handle at the drop of a hat.  Oh, sometimes it may seem so.  And often we can’t figure out what’s happening to us, or those we love, or this crazy world.  But if we’re His, anything coming our way passes through His gracious hands.  With His wise permission.  For our benefit.  To bless or to discipline with His purpose of making us more like Jesus.  I need His grace.  I have it, says 2 Kings 13!  You too!  Even as clueless as we can be.

Hold on.  There’s more.  He’s compassionate.  Genuinely cares.  Whenever tears run down our cheeks, He wipes them away, so to speak (Rev. 7:17 and 21:4).  God’s feelings run deeper than anyone’s anywhere.  When you fear you’ve fallen off God’s radar screen, know you haven’t.

No, you haven’t.   He won’t allow it.  All because He makes promises and keeps them–like His covenant with our spiritual forefathers Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.  All the way back to the beginning, God’s promises are as good as gold.  As He is.

This one verse comes in the midst of discouraging leadership in the nation.  If politics depresses you, then consider the character of our Lord.  And especially His Son Jesus.  He will perk you up like no one else ever could or ever will!  He gets my vote!

Lord, we thank you for who you are, now and forever.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

 

 

 

PERHAPS Zephaniah 2: 1-3

Always ruffles my feathers when preachers promise more than they can produce.  Wild assurances way beyond what God’s Word teaches.  Know what I mean?  I try to stick with the Bible, plain and simple.  Keeping within its boundaries.  That should be enough, shouldn’t it?

As a believer in Jesus Christ, I’ve seen the differences He’s made in my life… and for others.  Creating new people.  But let’s not get carried away.  For then I’d have to do a good cover-up job.  Make myself look  better than I am.  Being careful what I disclose, not allowing others to get too close.  The cover-up becomes a snow job.

That’s where Scripture is helpful.  Honest, but never to a fault.  Transparent, even showing scars and welts.  Some may think that being a Christian exempts them from life’s inevitable troubles.  Or overconfident and cocky as if God will only bless us now that we’re on His team.  Receiving special treatment, guaranteeing all His goodies.  Wouldn’t that be nice?  Not going to happen.

Of course, the Lord blesses us.  In more ways than we realize.  But Jesus alerts us– ‘In this world you will have trouble’ (John 16:33).  We will?  St. Paul gives an almost endless list of hardships he endures from following Jesus (1 Cor. 6:3ff).  Not all candy and roses.  What about the persecuted church today?  They know about punishing times.  I haven’t the foggiest.  Not even a clue.

Why reference Zephaniah, this obscure Old Testament prophet?  Well, he’s from God with a word we need to hear.  Zephaniah warns ancient Israel about judgement to come.  The Day of the Lord with accompanying destruction due to unrelenting sin by people who should have known better and acted accordingly.

However, glimmers of hope flicker in Zephaniah 2: 3–‘Seek the Lord, all you humble of the land, you who do what He commands.  Seek righteousness, seek humility; perhaps you will be sheltered on the day of the Lord’s anger’.

Seek the Lord.  Come to Him.  Humble yourself.  Sit at His feet.  Obey Him.  And then what?  ‘…perhaps…’

Perhaps… you’ll be sheltered and survive.  Perhaps.  No money-back guarantees.  No false promises.  No 10-year drivetrain warranties, either.  Life may not always work out as we want it to.  Perhaps… it doesn’t.  Then what?  Here’s where God’s promises overrule any of this perhaps-business.

They may kill the body, but the soul is secure with the Lord!  May lose it here, but never there.  His promise.  Good enough?  Is for me.  All we’ll ever need.  His Word.  Even facing all of life’s uncertainties?  Yes!  Especially there.

Thank you, Lord, for confidence in Jesus, our Lord and Savior.  Amen.

 

 

THOSE EMERGENCY PRAYERS 1 Peter 4:1-7

Prayer too often happens in dire emergencies.  When all else fails.  As if prayer only effective when I’m not.  Hardly what the Bible teaches.  Just look at Peter’s first letter, chapter 4.

This premier apostle of Jesus writes from Rome.  Reminds believers that if Jesus suffered, guess what?  Right!  Verse 3 grabs hold of me, where he mentions their past lives.  None puritans.  Not any of them.  Nor lily-white Sunday School teachers.

They’ve lived like the devil in times past.  They’ve wasted too much time walking earth’s back alleys as pagans–drunks, perverts, worshippers of other gods.  Wasteful and wasted.

I don’t like to remember my own squandered times, when I could have been ministering dependably for my Lord.  Those who rarely heard from my lips an invitation to receive Jesus.  Churches who had a pastor not in best stead with his Master.  Times wasted.  Frittered away.

Only me?  You’re not off the hook.  Used every opening God has given you for witness?  Always did what He asked of you?  Have you?  Honestly?  Scout’s honor!

Peter in no way wants us live in the past.  Time to move on.  The clock keeps ticking.  1 Peter 4: 7–‘The end of all things is near.  Therefore be clear minded and self-controlled so that you can pray’.   We’re edging ever closer to the end.  One day nearer than the last.

So, clear up your mind.  Determine to live a godly lifestyle.  Why?  To unlock the world of prayer.

Opens a window to God’s heart.  A door to Jesus’ will.  A gate wide open, ushering us directly into the Lord’s heavenly palace.  Again, so ‘…that we can pray’.

When Jesus motivates us, we want more and more prayer in our lives.  Not only for dire emergencies.  No.  Always.

Thank you, Lord, for hearing us as we pray.  All for Jesus’ sake.  Amen.

 

HELP! 2 Corinthians 1: 3-11

Sometimes I don’t know how to help others.  Maybe I’ll just make things worse.  Develop a co-dependent relationship (whatever that means).  Bullying,  gaining control, weakening the resolve of whoever I want to help.  Again, will I make a big mess even bigger?

The Corinthian believers must have wondered how in the world they could ever assist a spiritual giant such as the Apostle Paul.  Surely, he needs nothing from them.  And that’s probably what they feel they have to offer–a big, fat zilch!  Not so, Paul says.  Help is on the way.  Even from a puny believer like me.  And you.

For in our hearts we know how much we’d like to help.  To make a difference.  Doing what the Lord wants us to do.  Nothing less and lots more…to help!  But how?  Toss a few dollars at someone’s problems?  Sometimes, yes; most times, no.

What help does the Apostle Paul ask for?  2 Corinthians 1: 10-11–‘On Him we have set our hope that He will continue to deliver us, as you help us by your prayers.  Then many will give thanks on our behalf for the gracious favor granted us in answer to the prayers of many.’

On whom or what does our hope rest?  God, of course.  Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  The same God who delivers us from whatever troubles we find ourselves in.

How can we help?  You know.  Prayer.  From lots of believers.  All without any unexpected, unpleasant, toxic side-effects.  No messing up what should have been left alone.  None of that.  All good.  All free.  All releasing God’s will in His way in His time.

By asking Him.  Through interceding.  Coming to our Lord, sitting at His feet, who’s so ready and able to hear us, sending the right answer at the right time in the right way.

Do I know what or when that is?  Yeah, right!  I only wish!  But we know who does.  So, let’s commit to pray more.  The best help that’s just out of this world.  Do it!  Pray…

Lord, we come to you asking your help for others.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.