I’d like to ask your help this week as we’ll be out of range of a computer to use. Could you mention to a friend or neighbor or co-worker or relative about this Reflections blog? Would love to share more about the Lord with even more people. In the past year and a half it’s been amazing how many have signed up as following the blog. Very encouraging with people from many different countries and continents. But room for more! Please help. Thanks and we’ll talk more in a week! Blessings, John
Monthly Archives: September 2015
AH, SOME PEACE AND QUIET!…Psalm 76: 8
We were the fourth house constructed in ‘Campus Peak’. There will be 90 homes when completed. It will take a couple of years before the sounds of construction are heard no more. As I look out my office/study window, I can see golfers whizzing around on their carts, hearing the ping of their Ping golf balls hitting evergreen trees right and left!
Weekends are particularly lovely here as all construction ceases. No hammering, no digging post holes for the wooden fences. No trucks delivering trusses or foundation forms. No nailers, roofers or painters. Peace and quiet!
Like what it says in Psalm 76: 8. Not talking about new home communities, but of coming judgement. And we wonder when? God knows… and that’s all we need to know. Forget the speculating. Rest in His plan. He knows all about it. That should be enough for us. This verse reassures us that whenever God judges the earth and this world, we’ll know it. No doubt about it. All the political chatter will cease. Money-grubbing will be useless. The sinner’s plight unveiled for what it is, rebellion against holy God. No more arguing. No more bargaining. No more shading of the truth. No more ‘spin doctors’. Hallelujah!
Psalm 76:8– ‘…the land feared and was quiet.’ Everyone who had turned their backs on the Lord knew that they had made a terrible mistake. They ‘feared and were quiet’. Stopped in their own tracks
. There will come a day when God will give to all believers His quiet and peace. In Hebrew it’s ‘Shalom’. The Hebrew word for ‘quiet’ is ‘shawkat’. It means to rest and be settled, still and undisturbed with an inner confidence and peace. Certainly not for those who willfully and knowingly reject God, but rather only for those who bow the knee to the Lord of Lords.
I’m looking forward to better days ahead. Much better ones! We may see dreadful days coming, but only be for a brief period. A season whose limits are determined by the Creator Himself. Then will come the best… His best! ‘Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!'(Rev. 22: 20).
Prayer: Lord, we claim your promises of better days ahead through your Son Jesus. In His name. Amen.
I CAN’T STAND IT WHEN THEY LOSE!…Zechariah 11:7-14
I can’t stand it when they lose. Depressed and despondent. Who wouldn’t be? After all, the Yankees lost yesterday! I can’t remember not rooting for them. I started collecting baseball cards when I was 7 years old. Still have only Yankees’ cards. Do they make others? Why? Such wasted ink and cardboard!
Really matters not for my beloved Yankees what my emotions happen to be at the moment. Nothing I can say or do will effect their outcome in any way, shape or form. There’s something to learn here– it’s about knowing our limits. Boundaries. Step back, trust the Lord…and pray.
Our last church blessed me with the honorary title of Pastor Emeritus, the only one ever given in the history of our church. What that entitled me to was a ministry of encouragement and prayer. Involvement?… very little! Suggestions?…keep them to yourself! Criticism?…forget it! Some pastors have a hard time letting go. Why is that? Because we know best? That no one can do it like we can?
Pray for discretion to know our limits and boundaries. To keep them where they should be. You must be wondering what any of this has to do with Zechariah 11. I’m looking at verse 9. Zechariah has been talking about a run-in with some leadership of ‘the flock’. He says that this flock is ‘doomed to be slaughtered by the sheep traders'(verse 7). He gets rid of three particularly wretched ‘shepherds’.
“So I said, ‘I will not be your shepherd. What is to die, let it die. What is to be destroyed, let it be destroyed…'” Zechariah has stepped back. If sin is to run rampant and unchecked in their lives, by their own wretched freewill, then the Lord will judge. Zechariah dare not and must not interfere. This is so hard. Why?
I don’t know. My own discretion is sometimes questionable. I do know that the Holy Spirit wants to give us discernment– when to be involved and when to let go. Let’s pray for each other, because I think many of us carry around a lot of excess baggage that really doesn’t belong to us. We wind up carrying it, allowing it to weigh us down, when really we should be letting go and letting God handle it. I’m not good at this. I’d like to be much better. This little verse has triggered something that needs attention in my life. To know my limits. You too?. It’s helped to talk it through with you today. Now I’m going to talk to the Lord about it. The same for you?
Prayer: Lord, we want to help but only when we can and should. Mainly we look to you for your help and healing. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
IT DOESN’T ADD UP…. Zechariah 10
A lot of things in life don’t add up. It was at Fairleigh Dickinson University that I took advanced accounting classes. Actually, they were intro courses, but seemed more like post-doctoral to me! In those days it was double-entry something or other, and I had the hardest time posting debits and credits. I hated it. Sweated every time the professor walked by my desk. That old professor was such a nosey busybody!
How happy I was when the Lord called me into the ministry! That ‘added’ up for me! And all to His ‘credit’! Zechariah 10 contrasts the true God with false ones. Verse 2 rails against false gods and those who proclaim them– ‘…household gods utter nonsense, and the diviners see lies; they tell false dreams and give empty consolation.’ Sounds like what I just today’s news!
A world without God is ludicrous. Any word of comfort without Jesus is nothing but ’empty consolation’. Like at an unbeliever’s funeral where some good-hearted person mentions that the deceased is now on the bowling team in the clouds, or fishing on some distant lake in the sweet-by-and-by. Who came up with that stuff? And they believe it! Fairy tales and make-believe from those who should know better but don’t. That’s what we get with false gods, anything less than what the Bible teaches. Without Him, it doesn’t add up. To unbelievers it does, but without any real certainty, any real moorings in something or Someone beyond themselves.
Here’s something that adds up! Zechariah 10: 5–‘because the Lord is with them…’ Not off in outer space somewhere, not hiding behind the clouds. Right here with us. Verses 5 and 6 say that, because He’s with us, we are victors– strengthened, saved, redeemed and restored. Verse 6 says that God is compassionate. Answers our prayers. Has feelings for us. Nothing touches us that doesn’t first touch Him.
He enjoys blessing us over and over again. ‘Count your many blessings, see what God has done’. You know me and math–I can’t count that high! Blessings upon blessings. In addition(see I can add!), He brings us home to be with Him(vs. 8, 10). Home from strange places. He grows His family. Watches over our safety(v. 11)as we walk in His Name(v. 12). This type of walking is not simply one foot in front of the other, but being in relationship with God. Knowing Him. Wanting to follow Him. Does this not makes sense? He debits our credits. He paid the price. The balance we owe is now zero! It’s promised to us by God Himself. He gives us His Word. His Word is the Bible. You can count on it…on Him! Now, that really adds up!
Prayer: Lord, we do want a close relationship with you. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
THAT SPECIAL AROMA!… Zechariah 8: 18-19
I can still smell those pungent aromas of Indian food in our church gymnasium! Not just there. All throughout the large facility of the West Side Presbyterian Church, Englewood, New Jersey, where I served as Senior Pastor. I was a young pastor of an older, well-established congregation that had grown rather small, which was housed in a large, multi-purpose facility. Gorgeous sanctuary with elegantly carved wood from the choir loft to the elevated pulpit. A large fellowship hall with a full stage. Three floors of Sunday School rooms and nursery. Huge kitchen adjacent to a full gymnasium, that also had a bowling alley! I had an upstairs office with a separate entrance. Parsonage was next door. Behind was a paved parking lot probably for a hundred cars or more. Sadly, when I arrived, there were about 75 members.
One event I remember vividly was at Christmastime. One church family was from India. They had a large ‘family’ of Christian friends who lived mainly in New York City. They asked to use the church gymnasium for their group Christmas dinner. And, of course, we said ‘yes’.
Only one condition was added–that the pastor could be there to enjoy the fellowship while having a preeminent place at the very front of the line for the potluck dinner, which we called the ‘covered-dish supper’! Who could be such a brash, bold and boorish clergyman? ‘It’s me, it’s me, O Lord…standing in the need of chicken Korma!’
What great people they were. Women dressed so beautifully in saris. But the food! The aromas, the Indian spices and pickles! I’m salivating as I write! Truly the whole church edifice had that certain fragrance for all the Christmas season right up to and through the new year! I loved it.
Back to the Bible! For this is what Zechariah is referring to. In the 8th chapter he writes, ‘Thus says the Lord of hosts: The fast of the fourth month and the fast of the fifth and the fast of the seventh and the fast of the tenth shall be to the house of Judah seasons of joy and gladness and cheerful feasts. Therefore love truth and peace'(v. 19). All that fasting will be in the past. No more dieting, either!
In heaven, it’s joy … forever! Feasting on the Lord Himself! All of Him… forever! We’ll never be full. There will always be more to learn and love of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. We’ll always be scratching the surface as we dig deeper, knowing that we’ll never totally plumb the depths of God. Always more.
After all, this is feasting time! The banquet-room doors are about to open! Can you smell the aromas wafting your way of His coming feast? Can you see the lights of heaven sparkling like a splendor we’ve never, ever seen before? Can you? Let the feasting begin!
Prayer: We’re looking forward to knowing you better. We love you. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
DO YOU LIKE THOSE OLD HYMNS? …John 15: 1-11
Some of you are just shaking your heads. Tsk…tsk, you’re saying! Fischer is really showing his age! Harking back to the good old days of the good old hymns that he can’t find in most churches today. Could go round-and-round on church music and wind up back at square one!
But I have my old hymnal! Hasn’t been confiscated yet. No modern music swat-team has surrounded our house. Dare I mention that I love the old hymn ‘Abide With Me’? It was written in the early 19th century by an Anglican priest named Henry Lyte. He had severe bronchial issues most of his adult life. It’s said that he coined the phrase ‘it is better to wear out than to rust out’, and he did just that. Wear out! Died at age 54, literally crawling up into the pulpit to give his last sermon. It was but days after that he wrote this hymn, weeks before his death. Never giving up. Abiding in Jesus. As the Lord Himself says in John 15: 4–‘Abide in me, and I in you…’ That word ‘abide’ in the original Greek is the word ‘meno’. It basically means to remain, be present with, stand and endure, continue.
To remain and be present with Jesus reminds me of His time in the Garden of Gethsemane, asking His closest followers to stay awake with Him– ‘Abide with Me’. Their sleepy eye-lids got the better of them, however. My spiritual ‘sleepiness’ often gets the better of me, as well. And you? To endure is to be immovable in the face of whatever life throws our way. To stand and not be shaken.
To continue means to end well for Him. Not to wind up like so many, even those in the Bible, who seem more like unbelievers at the end of their lives. Or those who succumb to terrible temptations that cast a dark shadow over the name of Jesus and His church. To abide in Him is to end strong, standing on the promises of Christ, having decided to follow Jesus, trusting and obeying Him, still praying to cleanse me, knowing that our King is coming, having victory in Jesus, for He paid it all, at Calvary, and that Jesus loves me, even me! I could go on and on!
Abiding is a two-way street. We for Him and He with us. Even when I stumble and fail Him, yet He abides with me. He stands with us when we fall and helps us get back up on our feet. He’s not fickle, not drawn away by a cuter, richer, newer convert. He will stay right there beside you and never move. The Rock. I know there’s much wonderful new Christian music. But the old ones still speak… and inspire… and help me to abide in Jesus. Whatever it takes, abide with Him!
Prayer: Lord, we love you with words and tunes that lift up your praise now and forever. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
THERE’S A FLYING BILLBOARD IN YOUR HOUSE!… Zechariah 5: 1-4
Imagine seeing a large billboard, pulled by an airplane, advertising some suntan lotion or a local pizza joint. The banner would be flapping in the wind with the plane laboring to drag it along against some rather strong head winds. Not so strange at the beach community we have vacationed at for many, many years now.
Imagine that banner floating in your house with a message that’s not very positive at all! It spells doom and gloom, and not far off. In Zechariah 5 the prophet has a vision of a flying scroll. It is 30 feet by 15 feet with writing on both sides. Reminiscent of the law given to Moses, written on both sides of two clay tablets. Why two? Agreements were spelled out on two tablets, with both sides having the same content. One was given to each of the parties involved. A mutual agreement called a covenant. This flying scroll highlights two of the 10 Commandments.
The Word of God symbolically enters someone’s house. Someone who steals, someone who is a liar. These were secret sins of the homeowner. Kept within their own four walls. Maybe no one knew. But God knew. He always knows. The scroll lets everyone know that this house is under divine quarantine. A plague on this house.
Then something totally unexpected happens. The homeowner never repents. Never turns to the Lord in sorrow. What then? The house is consumed by the flying scroll, ‘both timber and stones’ (Zechariah 5:4). The scroll eats this house and destroys it. Even the stones upon which it is built. The point being? Only that which God builds, lasts.
What builds and what lasts in our lives? God’s Word. The Bible will establish God’s plan for our lives. Turn to the book of Nehemiah. The walls of Jerusalem have been rebuilt. How do God’s people respond? They tell “Ezra the scribe to bring the Book of the Law of Moses that the Lord had commanded Israel…And Ezra opened the book in the sight of all the people…and as he opened it all the people stood. And Ezra blessed the Lord, the great God, and all the people answered, ‘Amen, Amen’…”(Nehemiah 8:1, 5-6).
Their response? They want to hear from God. They don’t scorn God’s Word, they cherish it. They stand in respect to God and His holy Word. It’s powerful, like a two-edged sword. Two sides–like being fed by it or consumed by it. The Lord Jesus will come into your inner ‘house’. Invite Him to open up what needs changing in your life. Open doors to Him. Windows, also. Cupboards and closets, nooks and crannies. And enjoy the fresh air of the Holy Spirit! What a banner day that will be!
Prayer: Lord, we bow before you and your Word. Help us to read it and heed it. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
WHAT A GIFT!… John 10: 22-30
What a surprise! I never expected such a gift. But I was not a ‘happy camper’! One of our sons gave me a 1953 Topps baseball card for my collection. One I had decided not to buy. Why? It was too pricey. This Mickey Mantle card was way too expensive for my frugal tastes! I had no idea I had even mentioned this card to our son. But he took note and found one that ‘fit the bill’. Probably a few bills at that! He told my wife that he couldn’t wait for me to open the gift and ‘see me squirm’. Well, I obliged! ‘No, no, that was way too much money!’ He smiled as I squirmed in my seat at their dining room table. That was one special gift for sure. I guess it’s better to squirm and be uncomfortable with such a gift than to take it for granted. Don’t want to do that, whatever the gift.
In John chapter 10, Jesus talks about giving and receiving gifts. He says that He gives eternal life to all His followers, the ones who know Him and love Him. A gift of life that never ends. Life that goes on and on in heaven free of any sin and its dreaded effects. Unencumbered…unfettered– Jesus’ gift of eternal life. Can you imagine? It boggles my imagination. To be with Him would be enough, but He has more and more for us. Gifts to give.
He lives to give. He loves to give… to His children, to you and me. Not only that, but Jesus says this in verse 29: ‘My father, who has given them to me…’ When I read that, probably for the umpteenth time, I had to sit back in my chair. Did you hear what Jesus said? You and I are the Mickey Mantle 1953 Topps baseball card to Jesus Himself! When He looks at us, He doesn’t see only a name or a number… but a gift. I am God the Father’s gift to His Son Jesus. And so are you.
Should that make us squirm? No way! He prizes us as the very best gift anyone could ever receive. When you realize how much He values us, how much He loves us, then you and I should go through our daily lives, no matter what happens, with a spring in our step and a lightness in our hearts. Shouldn’t we? I’ve got that Mantle card in a special place, safe and protected. Like where Jesus keeps us…near to His heart. Safe and protected… forever!
Prayer: Thank you, Lord, for caring so much for us. For prizing us as special and yours forever. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
HELP US NAME OUR NEW HOME!… 2 Chronicles 3: 15-17
When we were in England, we noticed something we had never seen anywhere else. Almost every house had a name posted outside on a front wall. The 15th-century house we rented was named ‘The Old Manor House’. Next door was ‘The Manor House’. Then up the road was ‘The Abbey’. On the opposite side of the street was ‘The Manse’. You get the picture. Naming homes was a big thing in ‘jolly-old England’!
We loved it, wondering what we would call our new home. Could you help us? How about these names for starters: ‘Home, Sweet Home: Better Than We Thought’. Maybe a tad wordy? What about: ‘Biggest Check We Ever Wrote’?! What bright ideas do you have? We live in the town of Lacey. How about ‘Lazy in Lacey’? That’s not a good house name though somewhat realistic!
Hope you’ve read those three little verses in 2 Chronicles. Solomon is building the Temple. At the entrance were two pillars, tall and strong, topped with ornately decorated capitals. These two massive pillars were named ‘Jachin’ and ‘Boaz’. Named like they name a house in England. ‘Jachin’ means ‘He Establishes’. ‘Boaz’–‘In Him is Strength’. The word ‘named’ here in the text, being the Hebrew verb, has much passion to it. It means to cry out from deep within your soul, proclaiming loudly, as a town crier would do, with news for all to hear!
Special news! The Temple is established… by the Lord! He is our strength! Our all in all. Without Him…nothing. With Him, our slightest effort, though least recognized by man, is a precious and cherished gift that we give to our Lord. ‘Jachin’–He establishes. He creates and organizes. He is the foundation upon which all else is built. ‘Boaz’–In Him we find our strength.
We can do all things through Christ our Lord. When weak, He builds us up. When spent, He fills us with Himself. Don’t meekly say those Hebrew names. Proclaim them! Cry out! As you approach the Temple, look up and thank the Lord for establishing Himself forever in your heart. For being your strength and your determination. Then walk through the portico into the Holy Place, continuing right into the Holy of Holies, where Jesus Himself will take you by the hand and introduce you to the Father, who will love you like you’ve never been loved before. ‘Jachin’– we know for sure that all in our life is from His hand, for He has established it. And ‘Boaz’– He is our strength for everyday living. Pillars in the Temple. ‘Jachin’ and ‘Boaz’. Good names for God’s house! Good names, indeed!
Prayer: Lord, we claim your name as Lord and Savior. Jesus is the name above all names. We live for you as our strength and our foundation. Amen.
THE 3 R’s HIT WITH INFLATION!… Zechariah 3
Sir William Curtis, member of the British Parliament, spoke about the basic skills of a good education. Involved reading, writing and arithmetic. The 3 R’s! St. Augustine, in his book CONFESSIONS, written in 401AD, wrote, ‘For those 1st lessons, reading, writing and arithmetic…’. The 3 R’s go way back.
Reading the prophet Zechariah, you discover that the 3 R’s have inflated to 6! But this is good inflation! Zechariah chapter 3 with those 6 R’s. In verse 1, Joshua the High Priest is standing before the angel of the Lord. His priestly vestments are putrid and filthy. The original Hebrew says that they are covered with human excrement. Yuck! The angel orders the removal of those foul clothes and then to put clean ones on. Re-clothed! The 1st R!
The 2nd is a harsh rebuke to Satan who stands around, as with hands on his hips, ready to ‘rag’ on us, accuse us of whatever comes across his rotten mind. Satan accuses… but the Lord rebukes him to his face. Rebuked. The 2nd R!
Then the angel of the Lord reassures Joshua that if he carefully obeys the Lord, he’ll have significant work to do along with access to God’s holy presence. True of us as we follow Jesus. For the curtain in the Temple was torn in two, from top to bottom, at the time of His crucifixion. We now have direct access to God Almighty! Reassured…invited into God’s house. The 3rd R!
Now the Lord reveals the Messiah to us, called ‘the Branch’. The One cut off from the tree who has emerged a branch as on an olive tree. Jesus is the Promised One. The Branch who will complete God’s work of salvation through the line of King David. Revealed. The 4th R!
Zechariah now sees something marvelous that God’s people have yearned for since the Fall of Adam and Eve–the removal of sin, and that happening in one day. One day! Wonder when that was? Could it have been the day of Jesus’ crucifixion? You can depend upon it! On that very day, Jesus paid the price to forgive our sins–all of them: past, present and future. What a day that was…with results going on and on into eternity! Removed. The 5th R!
Finally, the promise comes of a future hospitality when we invite our neighbors and families to sit with us under our fig trees, eating bread and drinking wine. The promise of restored abundance, sharing all this in a secure home, in a peaceful country because the Lord has once again blessed us. Restored. The 6th R!
Aren’t these the very best? All predicted hundreds of years before Christ, through the Old Testament prophet Zechariah. All fulfilled by Jesus. Our response? Maybe that’s the 7th R?! Response… of praise and thanksgiving to our wonderful God! Why not praise and thank Him right now?
Prayer: Dear God, you give us so much in your Son Jesus. Thank you for all your gifts in Him. Amen.