I’ve wondered, if when my time comes, when I’m welcomed by Jesus through heaven’s gates, that there will be some who see me and immediately want to quit heaven’s welcoming committee and start carrying placards protesting my presence!  ‘Fischer’s a Fink.  Keep Heaven Heavenly.  Toss the Sinner Out.’  I think not!

Reading Hebrews 11 comforts me with its last verse–‘And all these, though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised, since God had provided something better for us, that apart from us they not be made perfect’ (Heb. 11:39-40).  Could it be that those Hebrews 11 heroes of the faith, that none will be complete until you and I cross the finish line?  Heaven is not the same without us?  Paradise waits patiently for, well, you know who?  And no placard-plastered protesters in sight.

Such good news.  Heaven yearns, even pines for us until our homecoming.  Complete only when the seating at the Lord’s banquet table is full.  None empty.  None whatsoever.

I cuddle up next to the idea of the waiting Father, whose patience seems limitless.  Never giving up on His own.  With hands wide open.  Expectant and hopeful.  On the other hand, I’m dying to see Jesus return and wipe out His enemies once and for all.  To rid the world of nasty buggers.  Evil dictators and sin-loving godless folk.  All of them, vamoose!

Thank God I’m not God with my appalling attitude.  Imagine all who would be left out if I were in charge.  Including me?  Maybe you?  Fear not.  Our patient Lord Jesus puts up with the likes of even me.

So we live in an in-between time, a pause that allows God’s people to repent and become one of His family.  This becomes our opportunity to promote His Kingdom.  To share Jesus with others.  To dig deeper into our treasure trove of shekels sharing with others.  To be purposeful.  Committed to what we believe in.  Where our faith’s rubber meets the road.

Since I first heard about Jesus’ love while listening to the radio, guess what type of ministry I’m eager to support?  Right.  Go to the head of the class!  Then I do what’s natural as a believer–give so that someone else can hear about the Lord, as they listen to Christian radio programs, as I did many years ago.

Any ideas about how you can help others to hear about your Lord?  It’s still early in the year, with time to get busy.  For Him.  For a change.

Father, help me to share Jesus with others. More than ever.  Amen.


Can I find anything new in Psalm 23?  After all, it’s so familiar.  Over my twenty-three-year pastoral career, I performed hundreds of funerals, probably with none omitting the familiar and comforting words of the 23rd Psalm.

Today it’s my time to read this well-known psalm in my daily Bible reading schedule.  Skip over it?  Or scan it, using my Evelyn Wood Speed Reading Dynamics techniques?  Better not.  But will I find anything new here?  I would love to be grabbed by the collar, making me sit up and listen to God’s Word with something that I hadn’t noticed before.

Wait a minute.  I do feel a tug.  Where?  It’s in the last verse–‘Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.’  Nothing new there.  Same old, same old.  Until I dig into my Old Testament Hebrew language.  The word ‘goodness’ is the simple word ‘good’ as in fine and dandy.  But the next word ‘mercy’, is a word that is packed with Hebrew meanings.

It’s the word ‘chesed’, often translated as ‘loving kindness’, which is fine as it is, but there’s much more going on here.  Though difficult to translate, let’s give it the old college try.  ‘Chesed’  boils down to synonyms such as loyalty, generosity, trustworthiness, and commitment.  Getting a bit of its drift?  Like deserving nothing, yet receiving everything.  In other words, the Lord is crazy about you and me.  We give Him many reasons not to be, but He does anyway.  That’s ‘chesed’.

But I see even more in this familiar psalm.  It’s in that last verse, about dwelling in God’s house–‘…and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever’ (Ps. 23:.6).  When you’re God’s child, as in when you accept Jesus into your life, then He does all in His power to make sure that nothing and no one ever gets in the way of your being with Him forever.  He makes sure we’re not hell-bent or -bound.  Quite the opposite.  That’s His promise but one we should never take for granted.

You know you’re His own, don’t you?  If not, ask Him.  Open your heart to Jesus.  Trust Him.  Believe what He says for He means what He says.  Keep a forward focus on Jesus who forgives our sins, rarely looking back.  Then dwell obediently in His house as His worthy and respectful resident never to be evicted.

Dwell.  Planted.  Safe and secure from all alarms.

Lo and behold, I found a couple of goodies to chew on this week.  Makes me a happy camper!  How about you?

Oh, Lord!  For your promises, we thank you and love you.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.


For our 25th wedding anniversary, Sue and I enjoyed a river cruise in France.  Before traversing the Rhone River, they put us up in the Ritz Carlton Hotel in Cannes, on the French Riviera, on the shores of the Mediterranean Sea.  So nice to be pampered!

Two weeks later we culminate our silver celebration in Paris, having seen and enjoyed so much of France.  One particular stop is at the medieval town of Bayeux.  It’s there that we encounter something we hadn’t heard of before that hasn’t left our minds since.

It’s the Bayeux Tapestry.  The what?  It’s a thousand-year-old woven piece; actually, an embroidered cloth, depicting the events and people surrounding the Battle of Hastings in 1066 AD.  Remember that date from your history studies?  Whether you do or not, it’s when France and Normandy conquer Britain installing the French Duke of Normandy as ruler of both England and France.  That monarch’s name?  William the Conqueror.  Whom I’ve discovered, through genealogical research, to be my 25th great-grandfather, along with 88+ million others as my wife loves to remind me!  Such a close-blood relative.

This tapestry is over 250 feet long. Takes quite a while to walk around it marveling at the detailed work of this masterpiece.  The hands that embroidered it were those of superb and brilliant craftsmen and women.  Their tapestry is breathtaking and astounding.  Only wished we could have gawked at it for much longer than allowed.

But such delicate work pales in comparison to the handiwork of our Creator God.  His work.  The fineness.  Its details.  The symmetry and precision.  And how God’s creation all holds together through His mastery and genius, which boggles my pea brain and little grey cells.  Makes anything of man’s design seem like child’s play.

Psalm 8:3–‘When I look at 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, and the son of man that you care for him?’  It’s that phrase ‘the work of your fingers’ which gives me pause.  Every bit of creation has been minutely crafted by the Lord.  Down to the tiniest sub-particle and below.  Up to the highest mountain, to what’s above the earth in the skies.  To infinity and beyond!

This week spend some time marveling at God’s creation.  Any part of it.  A sliver here, a slice there.  Delicately and finely tuned. Then gawk, with a panoramic view, at nature’s expanse.   For all this is  ‘the work of your fingers’.

Thank you, Lord, for your marvelous creation.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

WHICH IS IT? Luke 1 and Ecclesiastes 12

Angels reassure Mary, Joseph, and the shepherds to ‘fear not’.  Earlier one of God’s angelic messengers tells Zechariah, John the Baptist’s father, much the same–‘…Do not be afraid…’ (Luke 1: 13).  Stop worrying.  No nail biting or pulling out your hair.  Yet elsewhere in the Bible, we’re told to fear the Lord.  Ecclesiastes 12: 13– ‘Fear God and keep his commandments…’  Deuteronomy 6:13–‘It is the Lord your God you shall fear.’  So, which is it?  Fear not or fear?  A confusing kettle of fish?

On the one hand, fear of the Lord has to do with our relationship with Him.  That He’s God and we’re not.  He’s all-powerful, all-knowing, all-everything.  We’re not even close.  Okay, you’re smart, many of you.  After all, God created you in His image.  But being created as such is not the same as being God.  Not by a long shot.

To fear the Lord is to bow down before Him.  To respect and obey Him.  To love and honor Him, showing reverence.  To know our place at His feet, which honors Him and humbles us.  Should take the starch out of our self-absorption.  Knocks us down a peg or two.  Seats us at God’s table with Jesus at the head, the place of honor.  Don’t try to nudge Him aside.  Be satisfied to have a chair at His banquet.  I’m fortunate to get in through the back door finding any spot to park myself.  No grumbling from the likes of me.

On the other hand, when you know Him, and have that closeness which you can feel in your spiritual bones, believing His promises, with peace settling in, as His protection fends off anxious fears and worries, at least some of them for some of the time for some of us here on fractured planet earth.  For the closer we get to Jesus, the more those pesky jitters fly away.  Good riddance!

So, choose to believe Him.  To claim Jesus as your Lord and Savior.  To take His name as your own.  Christian.  A little Christ, enjoying a large piece of humble pie.  With nothing to fear really.  Accept the paradox–when I fear, love, and respect the Lord, I have nothing to fear in this life.  Makes sense?  Think so?  Hope so.  I’m still working on it.

Lord Jesus, I love and worship you, wanting to be your faithful follower.  Amen.


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.


Why does free food taste so good?  Scarfing down those yummy tidbit samples roaming the aisles of Costco.  After a hospital visit, I’m offered complimentary chow for a week by our insurance provider.  Really?  Freebies?  That’s for me!  After patiently (no pun intended) waiting a few days, a big box, filled with pre-packaged frozen meals, lands on our front doorstep.  Carefully tossing out the dry ice, I pop all 10 meals into our refrigerator for daily consumption.  Fortunately or not, my wife wants no part of these tasty morsels.

I scarf down one a day for a week and a half.  Until all are consumed, down to the last crumb.  How are they?  Portions are for someone without an appetite, while the taste is truly forgettable, I hope.  But still, they’re free.  And what else counts?  No comment.

Reading Isaiah 55, you’ll discover that God offers free food and drink.  Isaiah 55: 1–‘Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat!  Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.’  See?  Told you so.

Water, bread (v.2), milk, and wine are all precious commodities in parched desert lands.  Would tear a huge chunk out of your meager income to provide these basics, which often are not available due to drought, war, or countless other dangers.  But now for free?  Without rationing?  What?  Must be some snake oil salesman standing in the wings.  A magician performing tricks to get money out of us with nothing to show except our emptied wallets.

But no.  Not with the Lord.  His salvation, His love is not for sale.  He graciously offers them to us for free, even though it costs Him everything when His only Son Jesus dies on the cross.  He pays it all.  All we need to do is believe and accept His gift thankfully and wholeheartedly.  All in.  No turning back.  To be His and His alone.  Good deal, huh?  Nothing better.

But have you taken Jesus into your heart?  Again, you can’t earn a relationship with God.  Can’t do enough good deeds to balance off what you’re ashamed to admit you’ve done or said.  No leveling sin’s scales, hoping beyond hope that our good outweighs the bad.  None needed.  He does it all.  He has.  Still does.  And will… for you and me.

Time to trust Him.  While there’s still time.  So grab hold of Jesus’ hand which He’s extending to you.  Good.  Then, enjoy all the blessings He wants you to have.  All of them.  Mainly He gives Himself.  Why not ponder that this week as tomorrow we begin the Advent season.

Thank you, Lord Jesus, for giving yourself for me.   Amen.