Having dinner with friends is usually a treat.  Food’s tasty and abundant with humorous banter back and forth, front and center, on the menu.  One time we have a meal that defies description, stretches credulity, and barely met minimum caloric requirements.  In other words, we didn’t get much to eat!  And before the casserole can be gotten to for seconds, it’s whisked off the table, and hidden away in the refrigerator.

Then we’re ushered into their living room to view some movie that’s their favorite while asking us if we’d like the heat on.  Turn on the heat?  It’s bitter cold outside, the dead of winter, and not much toastier inside.  We didn’t know what to say, so out came their blankets and afghans to keep in body heat, the only warmth in their house.  I knew Allen Funt and his ‘Candid Camera’ must be lurking somewhere behind the living room curtains.  Alas, not!  Too bad we had to leave early for some unknown reason.

What about the things of the Lord?  Is He a cosmic cheapskate?  Doling out only a smidgeon or two of His goodies?  A tiny dollop of ice cream when a triple scoop of Gelato on a waffle cone would be nice?  Counting out each grain of rice before cooking?  Generosity not being His middle name?

Fear not!  For the Lord lathers it on with blessings.  Slathers them like melted butter oozing over steamed lobster.  When He serves a plate, it’s full to overflowing.  Oodles and oodles.  Seconds or thirds are always available at His table.  Well, you get the point.  But don’t get me wrong.  I’m not referring to material things necessarily.  Sorry about that.  Somewhat disappointing isn’t it, but not unexpected!

Psalm 5:7–‘But I, through the abundance of your steadfast love, will enter your house.  I will bow down toward your holy temple…’  No doubt the best gift God could give us is His love.  Not the lovey-dovey, easier-said-than-felt type.  Mere words which lack follow-through.  No.  But the steadfast type.  Dependable.  Reliable.  Constant and committed.  Promises made; promises kept.  That’s His love.

We know this because the Father sent His only Son Jesus to save us from our sins.  To make the lost ones found.  Outcasts become His own.  Those standing outside His door welcomed in, in royal fashion, with God’s hands held wide open.

When I look in the mirror, I know how far from His ways I’ve lived my life.  Only me?  Don’t you wish!  I also know how much love He must have to care for me.  That takes a lot of love, and He has tons more, never running out.

Count on His love.  Not just a smidgeon of it.  More like limitless and inexhaustible.  That thought alone should make your day… and year as 2023 arrives.  Happy New Year!

Thank you, Jesus, for giving us your love forever.  Amen.

IT’S GREEK TO ME! Romans 6:23

I’ve never admitted this in public or in private.  Of course, God knows and thankfully keeps it to Himself.  Am I ashamed?  Not really.  I didn’t rob a bank or cheat my way through college or father multiple families all over the world.  None of the juicy stuff.  Sorry to disappoint you!  Yet, having my undergraduate college degree in biblical Greek language makes me squirm when I admit that I fail the elementary Greek entrance exam at Princeton Seminary.  Failed, with a capital ‘F’, their basic test that clears the way to enter high-level Greek language studies, which is exactly where I should be.

Instead, I’m forced into remedial Greek for a semester.  How boring as I truly know the biblical Greek ins and outs backward and forward.  It’s as if I’d known diddly-squat about the New Testament language.  Somehow, I forget to mention to seminary classmates or professors about my college major.  Mums the word.  Anyway, none of their beeswax.

Time to own up now?  Seems safe being almost five decades ago.  Unfortunately, on a more serious note, what’s up to date is our sinful nature.  Its pervasiveness.  Can’t get away from it.  That’s my story.  Just me?  Once again, I fail the test.  Haven’t mastered perfection, needing massive remedial work and not only for one semester.

Pervasive sin is but one part of the story.  The other centers on Jesus, who forgives us and gets us back on track with Him.  Lifts us up off the ground.  Scrapes off the dirt and mud.  Cleans us up, turning us in the right direction while giving us many more chances in life.  Romans 6:23–‘For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.’  That’s the rest of the story.  Thankfully.

Wait a minute.  Let’s unpack that verse.  Our sin pays wages.  We’ve earned them.  So, stop blaming everyone else.  Exercise ownership.  And praise God that the verse doesn’t end there.  For we’re offered a free gift from Jesus Christ–life forever the likes of which we can hardly imagine.  Nothing you have to earn.  Nothing having to do with being good enough.  Then what?  Only to accept Jesus into your life, knowing that He’s done it all; and then, naturally, wanting to follow Him.  Again, faultless and flawless?  Hardly.  But more and more like Him.  Three steps forward, one back.  Make the trend your friend by following Jesus in His direction.

Okay, I failed my entrance exam.  I’ve said it now and feel much better.  However, for a long time now, I’ve been hitting both my Greek and Hebrew textbooks to keep current.  Even adding Aramaic for good measure or as punishment for my failure!  No more remedial biblical languages for me.  And best of all–no more tests!

Here’s a Christmas gift to enjoy–leaving the past behind.  Moving forward more and more.  Looking over your shoulder less and less.  Enjoying the new life given to you by Jesus.

Merry Christmas!

Thank you, Jesus, for new beginnings.  Amen.


Just before Christmas, the hospital where I had surgery reaches out to me to sign up for the Covid vaccine.  This is when making an appointment to get poked and jabbed seems impossible.  All open slots are grabbed long before I power up the internet.  But not so for my good Catholic hospital.  They send me an e-mail where I can sign up with them as quick as greased lightning.  Yeah!

That kind of service seems foreign in this day and age.  Yes, advertisements rush into our faces from almost everywhere.  Ads pop up on the computer screen to the point that I cease noticing them.  Makes me wonder about how responsive God will be to my prayers.  My cries for help.  How about His service?

Or are all His lines jammed?  Are my prayers too much like pop-up ads flooding the Almighty’s computer screen?  Snow falling to the ground on a warm day, evaporating before hitting terra firma?

Ever wonder?  Of course, you have.  Prayer is an act of faith.  Does God even exist?   If so, does He hear us?  Or does He care?  Is He powerful enough?  Even willing to act on our behalf?  All the while, we’re trusting in Him whom we’ve never seen or audibly heard from.  That sounds like faith to me.

Foolish?  A colossal waste of time?  Not in my book.  I stake my life, and my eternal destiny, on what’s written in His Book, God’s Word, the Bible.  What specifically?  To begin with, God tells us how much He loves us.  John 3:16–‘For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him (Jesus) should not perish but have eternal life.’  That’s but one example.  Comb through your Bible for more.  There’s a ton.

Also, the Bible tells me that the Lord cares for us.  Jesus tells us to come to Him with whatever weighs us down.   Matthew 11:28–‘Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.’  Give nail-biting fears to Him.  Leave them on His doorstep.  And then step away.  Far away.  Easy-peasy?  Not for me.  But I’m giving it the old college try.  C+ is still a passing grade!

And here in Isaiah 65, we’re reassured that the Lord has His ear to the railroad tracks with whatever barrels toward us.  He hears us; and, best of all, He responds–‘Before they call I will answer; while they are yet speaking I will hear’ (Is. 65:24).  He’s working for us BEFORE we utter even one word in prayer.  How about that for a promise?  Believe it or not?  I believe and trust what God says more than what anyone else says.  Including me.  My hat is in His ring where it will stay put.

So, this week when something raises your anxiety level, when it seems there’s no way out and you’re trapped, then pray.  Keep at it.  Keep asking.  Keep seeking.  Keep knocking.  Keep coming to your Lord Jesus in prayer.

And then there’s that uphill battle about waiting for Him.  This Advent season reminds us that Jesus, the Messiah, is coming.  We know He’s come.  Still, we must wait on Him.  Even get out of the way.  That’s my challenge.  To move aside.  For Him who comes to help and answer our prayers.

Hang in there.  And cool your heels.

Lord Jesus, for always answering my prayers, I thank you.  Amen.  


Our grandsons laugh uproariously as I open my Christmas present.  Why?  What is it?  Well, it’s a collection of about 50 gift boxes, each separately wrapped in a different decorative paper, each a tad smaller than the previous one, fitting neatly and tightly one within another.  Like Russian nesting dolls.  Takes more than a half hour to rip through all those boxes.  Gift wrap flies everywhere.  And the contents?   All empty.  All as in all.  Nothing.  Nada.  Zilch.  But such a great gift, hearing them laugh and laugh and then laugh even more.

Hebrews 7 is like those endlessly wrapped boxes, except it’s filled to overflowing with Jesus as God’s wonderful gift for all of us at Christmas.  Want to start unwrapping your gift?  For He’s more than we can imagine.  Lots more.  Like unwrapping His incalculable and interminable glory and majesty.  Taking off one layer as another emerges before an additional one shows up.  Inexhaustible and complete.  But, unlike my grandson’s gift, Jesus stuffs each one crammed full of meaning.

Hebrews 7 unwraps Jesus as One like Melchizedek (v.15).  Who’s that?  He’s a priestly king found in Genesis 14.   He’s without known genealogy as if having no beginning or ending, like the Babe of Bethlehem, having a history long before His earthly birth to the Virgin Mary and Joseph, her betrothed husband.  Jesus is boundless and timeless, having no dawn or dusk.  Eternal.

Here’s another Christmas gift box to be opened–‘…by the power of an indestructible life’ (Heb. 7: 16).  Jesus’ life is heavy-duty, industrial-strength shatterproof.  Tough.  Unbreakable.  He digs His heels in, standing with us through thick and thin.  Good times and bad.  Ups and downs.  When you’re His; well, you know, don’t you?  Nothing and no one can destroy Jesus or our relationship with Him.  Indestructible.

Opening the next Christmas gift box, we note that Jesus calls us to draw close to God the Father–‘…a better hope is introduced, through which we draw near to God’ (Heb. 7: 19).  A welcome entre to the Almighty Himself.  An open door unlocked by Jesus.  A green light to travel the paths of eternal life never, ever separated from God.  Safe and secure.  Happy as a lark.  Praise and thanks sing out like never before.  Intimate.

An additional Christmas gift box reveals that Jesus saves those who believe in Him all the way into the gates of heaven, where He’s acting on our behalf with the Father long before we arrive–‘Consequently, he (Jesus) is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him (Jesus), since he (Jesus) always lives to make intercession for them’ (Heb. 7: 25).  The word ‘intercession’ means to meet with someone else for a specific purpose.  An attorney representing us, who argues our case.  An advocate with our best interests in mind.  As in Jesus speaking on our behalf with God the Father about whatever we’re facing until we’re ‘save(d) to the uttermost.’  How I love that word ‘always’ found in that verse.  A promise.  Made and ‘always’ kept.  Friend.

Eternal.  Indestructible.  Intimate.  Our true Forever Friend.  How do you like what you got for Christmas?

Lord Jesus, thank you for always being there for me.  I love you.  Amen.

A FISH OUT OF WATER 2 Corinthians 6: 14-18

I read about a Chinese student who enrolled decades ago at New York City’s Union Theological Seminary.  This poor fellow gets expelled after having a conversion experience with Jesus while enrolled as a seminary student.  Out he goes along with having him committed to an asylum as a madman!  At least that’s what the article says.  Can you imagine?

In the mid-1970s, I’m accepted into a doctor of theology program at that same august institution.  Now, who’s mad?!  Costs a bundle, but I want to stretch my mind, challenging my little grey cells.  This particular seminary is noted for its liberal theology.  An invitation to accept the Lord Jesus for salvation can probably be heard only outside its walls, ivy-covered or not. So, what am I doing inside there?

Fair question.  Doesn’t add up, does it?  What gives for this evangelical Christian, me?   To be honest, this seminary is conveniently located as I’m the senior pastor of a church on the New Jersey side of the Big Apple’s George Washington Bridge.  A  hop, skip, and a jump from the church’s manse to New York City.  But really, do I want to immerse myself in theological banter of such a high intellectual order?  Do I?  And why?  Who knows?  I’m not sure…then or now.

But 2 Corinthians 6 pushes itself into my stubborn, degree-hungry face.  With what?  Listen–‘Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers…What agreement has the temple of God with idols?  For we are the temple of the living God…(2 Cor. 6:14,16).  Can you feel the rub as  my nose gets shoved against the wall?  Putting my conscience on edge?  Have you felt the same with some compromise in your life?  Be honest now.  I won’t hear you.  What comes to mind?  Something does.

Takes me all of three weekly classes to realize that I’m a fish out of that seminary’s water. Totally, irrevocably unequally yoked.  After all, I want to share Jesus with others.  Not dissect Him or His Word by using modern intellectual guesstimates and know-it-all speculations, hunting for error among tidbits of supposed myth and legend, when the whole ball of wax, God’s infallible truth, sits right there in front of us in the Bible.  After less than one handful of classes, I know what to do.

I don’t fit.  Others may but not me.  They don’t toss me out onto Broadway at 121st Street or call for the blokes in white jackets.  No.  I leave of my own accord and get most of my money back.  Most anyway.  Needs some guts to cut bait and sail away…with Jesus.

I’m praying that I’ll know, much sooner than later, where I shouldn’t be.  But doing this makes me feel uncomfortable.  Maybe someone will criticize me or not like me, which hinders my walking behind and standing up for Jesus.  Sometimes I’ve pushed Him to the side, even out of the way, wanting to take the lead.  Mr. Nice-Guy.  The Country Club Manager-type who makes everyone happy with extra peanuts and pretzels.  Me.

Don’t you also want to be a better follower of the One who came at Christmas?  To come close to and bow down before the Babe of Bethlehem?  Joining shepherds and wise men and an old man and woman in Jerusalem’s Temple?  Standing alongside them?  Humble seekers and believers?  Unflinchingly His?  No matter what or where?

Lord Jesus, help me to follow you faithfully.  Amen.