Bible Streakers!

Ephesians 6:10-17

(All Scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated)

Back in the mid-seventies I was asked to preach the baccalaureate service for the high school graduating class. I wanted to catch the attention of the hundred-plus graduates with my presentation, so I called it “Streaking, Spiritually Speaking!” That fad of streaking (running naked in public) was gaining popularity at the time, so I thought it was a catchy title! When I announced the subject of my talk, the audience broke out in laughter! It seems that the night before one of the senior classmates was arrested for streaking down Main Street!

Did you know there are several examples of people being naked in public in the Bible? Here are a few example:

  • Adam and Eve, we are told in Genesis 2:25, “…were both naked…and not ashamed.” Of course, there wasn’t muchpublicwhen they were in such a state!
  • In Exodus 32:25 (King James Version) it describes a riotous and idolatrous celebration into which the Israelites got themselves with the incident involving the golden calf: “…Moses saw that the people were naked; (for Aaron had made them naked unto their shame among their enemies)…

Saul, the first king of Israel, is compromisingly featured in I Samuel 19:24:

     Then the Spirit of God was upon him also, and he went on and 
     prophesied until he came to Naioth in Ramah. And he also strip-
     ped off his clothes and prophesied before Samuel in like manner, 
     and lay down naked all that day and all that night.
  • In Isaiah 20:2, God instructed Isaiah to be a stark illustration of what would happen to the Jews when they were taken captive: “‘Go, and remove the sackcloth from your body, and take the sandals off your feet.’ And he did so, walking naked and barefoot.
  • The prophet Micah, in Micah 1:8, mourned for his people, the Israelites: “Therefore I will wail and howl, I will go stripped and naked; I will make a wailing like the jackals and a mourning like the ostriches.”
  • Jesus is often depicted on the cross wearing a loincloth. But He was crucified totally naked to maximize the shame of it!

But the very term, streaker, implies the act of running naked! And there is only one Biblical example of a true streaker, in Mark 14:51 and 52, most likely John Mark himself, the author of the gospel: “Now a certain young man followed Him, having a linen cloth thrown around his naked body. And the young men laid hold of him, and he left the linen cloth and fled from them naked.

I have never streaked! If I did at my age, someone might say, “I don’t know what he was wearing, but it sure needed ironing!” However, in a spiritual sense, we all streak at times, and some do it constantly! What do I mean? It is a long passage for a Gem, but it is well worth the space – Ephesians 6:10-17:

     Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power 
     of His might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be 
     able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we do not 
     wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, 
     against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this 
     age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly 
     places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you 
     may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, 
     to stand. Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, 
     having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod 
     your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; above 
     all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to 
     quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one. And take the hel-
     met of salvation....

Paul was writing this letter to the Ephesian Christians from a Roman prison. And he was guarded by at least one Roman soldier. He simply glanced at the soldier’s uniform, and in a spiritual sense described what he saw!

In verse 12 of Ephesians 6, the apostle lays out who is the enemy (this is from the Good News Bible): “For we are not fighting against human beings but against the wicked spiritual forces in the heavenly world, the rulers, authorities, and cosmic powers of this dark age.” Also, in II Corinthians 10:2 through 5 (Easy-to-Read Version):

     We live in this world, but we don't fight our battles in the 
     same way the world does. The weapons we use are not human ones. 
     Our weapons have power from God and can destroy the enemy's 
     strong places. We destroy people's arguments, and we tear down 
     every proud idea that raises itself against the knowledge of 
     God. We also capture every thought and make it give up and obey 
     Christ.

Not included in this description of Spiritual armor are the two offensive weapons the Lord has provided named in Ephesians 6:17 and 18: “And take….the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God; praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit….

  • The Word of God, the Bible! Between August 2 and August 16, 2013, I wrote a seven-part series on “What The Word of God Can Do.It is amazing what the Bible, God’s Word will do in your life if you take it in your mind, and get it down into your heart! As Paul wrote in Colossians 3:16, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly…” (see also Deuteronomy 11:18-21).
  • Prayer is also…being watchful…with all perseverance and supplication…” (Ephesians 6:18).
     ...being watchful...” – Jesus told Peter, James, and 
         John to pray with Him in the Garden of Gethsemane just 
         before He was arrested. After He had spent some time in 
         earnest prayer, Jesus came back to the three and found 
         them sleeping. “Then He said to them, ‘What, could you 
         not watch with Me one hour?’ Prayer involves watching 
         and understanding what is going on around you, in your 
         life, the lives of others, and around the world! 

     ...with all prayer....Do you know there are several 
         parts to prayer.....and all are important?ConfessionStart with confessing your sins to 
              the LORD! Here is how King David understood it: 

                 When I kept silent, my bones grew old through 
                 my groaning all the day long....I acknowledged 
                 my sin to You, And my iniquity I have not hid-
                 den. I said, “I will confess my transgressions 
                 to the Lord,” And You forgave the iniquity of 
                 my sin. (Psalm 32:3-5).

         ➔   Praise There are so many examples of people 
              praising God in the Bible! Here again is a sample 
              from David:

                 I will extol You, my God, O King; And I will 
                 bless Your name forever and ever. Every day 
                 I will bless You, And I will praise Your name 
                 forever and ever. Great is the Lord, and great-
                 ly to be praised; And His greatness is unsearch-
                 able. (Psalm 145:1-3).

         ➔   Thanksgiving We have so much to thank Him for! Paul 
              tells us this in I Thessalonians 5:18, “In everything 
              give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ 
              Jesus concerning you.”

         ➔   IntercessionPraying for others! Paul wrote to the 
              Thessalonian Christians:

                 We give thanks to God always for you all, 
                 making mention of you in our prayers, re-
                 membering without ceasing your work of 
                 faith, labor of love, and patience of hope 
                 in our Lord Jesus Christ in the sight of 
                 our God and Father. (I Thessalonians 1:2, 3).

         ➔   Supplication This is praying for our own needs! 
              Didn’t Jesus, in what we call the Lord’s prayer, 
              tell us in Matthew 6:11 to say, “Give us this day 
              our daily bread...? It’s more than just bread! 
              It involves all our needs!

        And do all this...with all perseverance...” (Ephesians 
         6:18). Keep at it!

It is a spiritual battle, and we must armor and arm ourselves for such a battle!

I am not going to fully describe whom and how we are to battle. I wrote 21 Gems, dating from May 6 to June 21, 2013 on the subject of “Know Your Enemy!” – a good starter course to learn about spiritual warfare! Check it out!

But the point of this Gem is: If we are not donning the spiritual armor, which God has provided for us, and directed us how to use that armor and our accompanying weapons, then we are…

…Streaking, Spiritually Speaking!
And we don’t want to run around naked, do we!

Marah!

Exodus 15:22-25

(All Scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated)

The story of Marah is found in Exodus 15:22 through 25:

     So Moses brought Israel from the Red Sea; then they went out 
     into the Wilderness of Shur. And they went three days in the 
     wilderness and found no water. Now when they came to Marah, 
     they could not drink the waters of Marah, for they were bitter. 
     Therefore the name of it was called Marah. And the people com-
     plained against Moses, saying, “What shall we drink?” So he 
     cried out to the Lord, and the Lord showed him a tree. When he 
     cast it into the waters, the waters were made sweet. 

How Moses ever put up with about two million complaining Israelites is beyond me! The incident at Marah is one of the first testings the Hebrews experienced. And they faced it with grumbling and anger! But it sure wasn’t the last bitter time! Exodus 32 records the disastrous choice of God’s people when they turned from Him and worshiped an idol in the form of a golden calf they had made. Moses was up on Mount Sinai receiving the Ten Commandments, and the LORD told him:

     “Go, get down! For your people whom you brought out of the 
     land of Egypt have corrupted themselves....Now therefore, let 
     Me alone, that My wrath may burn hot against them that I may 
     consume them. And I will make of you a great nation.”

By the time of this idolatrous incident, I think I might have said, “Yeah, LORD, kill ‘em all! I’m tired of all their rebellion of unbelief and disobedience! But Moses, the great man of God that he was, would not give up on the people of Israel!

A bit of background to the Marah incident:

  • The Israelites had been in Egypt for centuries, and much of that time they had been enslaved by the Egyptians!
  • When God sent Moses to deliver them, he and his brother Aaron performed great miraculous plagues, directed against the Egyptians and their gods!
  • The tenth plague was the killing of all the firstborn of Egypt, both people and animals!
  • That was the night of Passover, when the angel of death passed over the Hebrew dwellings because their doors were marked with the blood of a slain lamb!
  • The Israelites had to leave in a hurry – the Egyptians drove them out!
  • They thought they were led into a trap at the Red Sea, but God miraculously opened a path through the water, and drowned the Egyptian army who tried to follow them!

According to our featured Scripture,…they went three days in the wilderness and found no water.” (Exodus 15:22). They were tired, thirsty, and discouraged! And …they came to Marah, and they could not drink the waters…for they were bitter.” (Exodus 15:23). The very name Marah in Hebrew means “bitter.

The LORD tells us in Isaiah 55:8 and 9, “‘For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,’ says the LORD. ‘For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts’And how He solved the problem of the bitter waters of Marah was beyond what we could have even thought to do to fix the problem!…the LORD showed…Moses…a tree; and when he cast it into the waters, the waters were made sweet.” (Exodus 15:24, 25).

Now, it says in the Bible:

  • Luke 24:27 – “…beginning at Moses [the first five books of the Bible] and all the prophets, He [Jesus] expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself.
  • I Corinthians 10:11 – “Now all these things [the Old Testament history] happened to them as examples, and they were written for our admonition, on whom the end of the ages have come.

In other words, everything written in the Old Testament, in the whole Bible, points to Jesus Christ – including the treeMoses threw into the bitter waters”! Let’s see how it applies….

Have you ever met a bitter person? Have you ever been in a bitter situation? If you are alive and breathing, the answer is YES!” How does God solve that bitterness? He throws in a tree! What do I mean? We are told in I Peter 2:24, Christ …Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness — by whose stripes you were healed.” The tree refers to the cross upon which Jesus died! Four other times in the New Testament the cross of Christ is referred to as a tree or the tree.

Now let’s apply this: When the cross is introduced to a bitter Marah life, or a bitter Marah situation, that tree of Jesus can make that life or situation sweet! How so?

Take my examples of a bitter life and a bitter situation:

  • I had the bitter experience of my father leaving the family for another woman when I was ten. Several months later my mother had to sell the 208 acre family dairy farm. That farm was my life! All I wanted to do was grow up and take over the family farm!
  • I didn’t know how to handle all the emotional loss. I shoved all the feelings down inside and covered them over with alcohol – starting to drink when I was twelve. By the time I was fifteen, I was an alcoholic!
  • No one expected the three Norton boys, of which I was the youngest, to amount to anything! So I bought into that, and in high school I pretended to be the tough guy and ran with the wrong crowd. I lost my teenage years, desperately wanting to be accepted by thein-crowdbut never feeling good enoughto be accepted!
  • But when I was nineteen, and in the Air Force, enrolled in Radar tech school at Keesler Air Force base in Biloxi, Mississippi, I discovered something that changed my life!
        I was seriously studying to be a Roman Catholic. 
           A fellow airman,a dear friend, had converted some 
           time before. Since I didn’t have much of a Chris-
           tian background, I also decided to convert.

      In the midst of my Catholic studies, and reading 
           the pocket Bible the Air Force issued me, I dis-
           covered three things:Jesus was real!He was alive!And He loved me!

        And I fell head-over-heelsin love with Him!

        That tree” – representing the crucified and risen 
           Lord Jesus Christ – thrown intothe bitter waters of my life began to sweeten and change my loss!

Years later, that tree thrown into my bitter Marah waters resulted in another miracle of sweetness! Remember I wrote earlier, that I lost my teenage years as well as the family farm?

  • In 1982 my dear wife Hope and I bought a cottage at Patterson Grove, an old Methodist camp meeting in the mountains west of the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre area. By God’s intervention, the price for that cottage came down from $5,000 to $2,500, which we could then afford! Being a Baptist minister and living in parsonages, I didn’t have a place I could call my own. But now we had a cottage! After 26 years, we finally owned our own place! I felt I had finally put down some roots!
  • Then in 2001, at the age of 55, I was in my fifth year as youth leader during the fifteen days of camp meeting at Patterson Grove. I was in charge of 56 teenagers….and I loved it!
       I don’t know how it happened, but God gave me back 
           my lost teenage years! I wasn’t trying to be a teen-
           ager. I was their youth leader. But I loved my kidsand they loved me! 

       In Joel 2:25 God said, “...I will restore the years 
           that the...locust has eaten....Somehow the LORD 
           restored my teenage years that had been wasted (eaten)! 
           I named it ‘the magic summer’ because I no longer miss 
           those lost years!

Jesus Christ made the difference! The cross (also called the tree) made the difference!

  • He came from heaven to earth to live the perfect life before God the Father that we could never live (see I Peter 2:22). We are sinners, lost (see Luke 19:10) and condemned before the LORD (see John 3:18)!
  • But He voluntarily went to the cross (see John 10:17, 18), bearing my sins and yours (see I Peter 2:24)!
  • He paid the price for all our sin, and offers us His own righteousness! (see II Corinthians 5:21).
  • When we open our heart and life to Him (see Revelation 3:20), confessing our sins (see I John 1:9), He gives us eternal life! (see John 3:15, 16; I John 5:11).
  • We are accepted before the Father in the beloved Son when we put our faith in Him! (see Ephesians 1:6).

The tree (the cross)
cast into the midst of bitterness
can make life sweet!
(see Galatians 5:22, 23)

A Walk Can Make A Difference Galatians 6:9, 10

(All Scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated)

Thirty-five years ago I decided to leave the ministry of being a pastor. I felt burned out, and I needed a break. Preparing for the transition, I became involved with an insurance and securities company and, after learning ‘the ropes’, I became quite successful in that business! I was in a position to step out of the ministry and into a $50,000 a year business with unlimited growth potential! (Remember, this was 1987).

My denomination, American Baptist Churches USA, was then promoting missions with a program called Alive In Missions. Since my earnings potential was so promising, I was encouraged to make a pledge of $25,000, to be given over four or five years, as I remember.

That summer God began to speak to me about His will for my future! I was not to be pursuing a career selling insurance and securities! He wanted me to continue being a pastor! I struggled, but finally relented. I would do what He planned for me to do!

I was called to be the pastor of Olive Branch Baptist Church in Belle Vernon, Pennsylvania, 25 miles south of Pittsburgh. I had a blessed ministry as the spiritual leader of wonderful Southwest Pennsylvania people for almost twelve years!

But what about my $25,000 pledge to Alive In Mission? I could no longer fulfill that pledge on a pastor’s salary while providing for my wife and two teenage daughters. But I don’t take lightly the promises I make! As I prayed about this dilemma, I asked God, “What can I do? I can’t give that much money now!” I heard the Lord answer, “You can walk!Yes, I can walk!

  • I had been walking and/or jogging for 21 years, ever since I stopped smoking three packs a day! I was in the Air Force, and a pack of cigarettes was only twenty cents. I quit because I could hardly walk up the hill from my barracks to the Maintenance Control office where I worked at the Saratoga Springs Radar Station! So I set out for myself a three-mile course, and I had trouble making the three miles just walking (never mind jogging) the first few times I tried! But I kept at it and before long I was jogging the whole course!
  • Yes, I can walk!” I made a plan: I would walk from my current church, Olive Branch Baptist in Belle Vernon, Pennsylvania to Patterson Grove, an old Methodist camp meeting where we owned one of 110 cottages. It is located in northeastern Pennsylvania, in the Endless mountains west of the cities of Scranton and Wilke-Barre.
     I planned my route, and I would be walking 260 miles 
         in eleven days! 

     I contacted various churches along the way, about 25 
         miles apart, and arranged overnight stays with the 
         pastor and family or a willing church family.

     Part of the planning was raising pledges for my walk. 
  • I didn’t walk alone. My twelve-year-old mixed breed dog Kinky walked the whole way with me! By the way, her name was inspired by her hair, not her personality!
     ✞   She was an amazing dog, especially for an elderly 
         animal! I never had her on a leash the whole eleven 
         days! She would trot along about ten yards ahead of 
         me, and never moved toward oncoming traffic. On main 
         roads like Route 22 over the Laurel Mountains, semi-
         rigs would come barreling down the mountain five feet 
         from my Kinky! It never bothered her! If she ever de-
         parted from her straight course to maybe chase a rab-
         bit, it was always to the left, away from traffic!

     She was very well-behaved as a guest of our hosts. 
         Knowing ahead of time that my old puppy was accompany-
         ing me, our gracious hosts always had food, water, and 
         snacks for Kinky! She won the hearts of a lot of people 
         along the way!
  • Our last day of the walk was from the city of Bloomsburg to the Patterson Grove, about 32 miles! I was used to distance walking by then, but 32 miles was still an exhausting feat!
  • The final count of money raised for Alive In Missions was just over 4,000 dollars! The folks in charge of fundraising forgave me my $25,000 pledge, and thanked me for my alternative efforts.

Why do I share about my fundraising walk? Because when I could not do what I originally planned, I still could do something that counted!

Perhaps you don’t think you can do great things for God. After all, not everyone can be a Billy Graham!

I will now share with you the featured Scripture, two verses from Paul’s letter to the church at Galatia, Galatians 6:9 and 10. This Scripture continues to challenge me! I hope it does the same for you!

     And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due 
     season we shall reap if we do not lose heart. Therefore, 
     as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially 
     to those who are of the household of faith.

Remember, you can do something!
And that ‘something’ can turn out to be ‘great’!

One Man Can Make A Difference! II Timothy 1:1-5

(All Scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated)

It was the apostle’s last letter from his Roman jail cell, written to Timothy, Paul’s…beloved and faithful son in the Lord…” (I Corinthians 4:17), just before Paul was martyred – beheaded in Rome! (see II Timothy 4:6). Here is what he wrote in the first five verses of II Timothy:

     Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, according 
     to the promise of life which is in Christ Jesus, to Timothy, 
     my beloved son: Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father 
     and Christ Jesus our Lord. I thank God, whom I serve with a 
     pure conscience, as my forefathers did, as without ceasing I 
     remember you in my prayers night and day, greatly desiring to 
     see you, being mindful of your tears, that I may be filled 
     with joy, when I call to remembrance the genuine faith that 
     is in you, which dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your 
     mother Eunice, and I am persuaded is in you also.

From the Bible, here are the mentioned instances of Timothy’s life and ministry:

  • We first meet Timothy in Acts 16:1. Paul and Silas (on Paul’s second missionary journey) “…came to Derbe and Lystra…” on the southern coast of Asia Minor. “And, behold, a certain disciple was there, named Timothy, the son of a certain Jewish woman who believed, but his father was a Greek.”
     By the sound of it, Timothy’s father was not a follower 
         of Jesus Christ!

     But, according to our featured Scripture, his mother 
         Eunice and grandmother Lois were strong believers, and 
         passed that faith on to young Timothy!
  • According to Acts 16:2, Timothy…was well spoken of by the brethren who were at Lystra and Iconium.
     We don’t know how old he was, but tradition says he 
         was born in 17 AD. The best date when Paul was in 
         Asia Minor on his second missionary journey is 50 AD. 
         That puts Timothy about 33 years old.

     Some years later, About 64 AD, Paul wrote the first 
         letter to Timothy in our Bible. Timothy was then the  
         bishop of Ephesus at about the age of 47, apparently 
         quite young to be appointed a bishop! So Paul wrote 
         in I Timothy 4:12, “Let no one dispise your youth....
  • Paul was quite impressed with Timothy when he met him, and asked the young man, in Acts 16:3, to accompany him and Silas as they spread the gospel across Asia Minor and into Greece.
     He is next mentioned in Acts 17:14 helping to minis-
         ter with Silas in the Macedonian city of Berea, as 
         the brethren sent Paul away to Athens for his safety.

     In Acts 17:15, Timothy and Silas are then summoned 
         to assist Paul.

     The two of them joined Paul in Thessalonica, accord-
         ing to Acts 18:5.

     On the apostle’s third missionary journey, as he 
         ministered again in Asia Minor, “...he sent into 
         Macedonia [northern Greece]...Timothy and Erastus, 
         but he himself stayed in in Asia [Minor] for a time.” 
         (Acts 19:22).

     The last mention of Timothy in the book of Acts is 
         in Acts 20:4, when he and several others traveled 
         with Paul back to Jerusalem. 
  • Timothy ministered so closely with Paul, he is mentioned as co-author of II Corinthians, Philippians, Colossians, I Thessalonians, II Thessalonians, and Philemon! (see verse 1 of the mentioned books).
  • Apparently, Timothy was jailed for his faith at least once! In Hebrews 13:23, the unknown author writes, “Know that our brother Timothy has been set free, with whom I will see you if he comes shortly.

There are tradions concerning the later life of Timothy:

  • According to the church father Eusebius, in his Ecclesiastical History chapter 3.4.6 wrote, “Timothy, so it is recorded, was the first to receive the episcopate of the parish in Ephesus, Titus of the churches in Crete.
  • The apocryphal Acts of Timothy states that in the year 97 AD, the 80-year-old bishop tried to halt a procession in honor of the goddess Diana by preaching the Gospel. The angry pagans beat him, dragged him through the streets, and stoned him to death!
  • Fox’s Book of Martyrs was published by John Foxe in 1563. He enlarges on the tradition from the Acts of Timothy and Eusebius’ Ecclesiastical History:
       Timothy was the celebrated disciple of St. Paul, and bishop 
       of Ephesus, where he zealously governed the Church until A.D. 
       97. At this period,as the pagans were about to celebrate a 
       feast called Catagogion, Timothy, meeting the procession, 
       severely reproved them for their ridiculous idolatry, which 
       so exasperated the people that they fell upon him with their 
       clubs, and beat him in so dreadful a manner that he expired 
       of the bruises two days later.

All this to say, Timothy was an outstanding Christian, and Paul, as his mentor, made a lasting difference in the life of his disciple!

Let me now tell you of a man who made a substantial Christian difference in my life, my Uncle Stuart Prindle!

As a boy growing up on our dairy farm in northwestern Connecticut, I remember Uncle Stuart as our insurance man, from the Prindle Insurance Agency which he founded in Sharon, Connecticut. He was not blood-related for he had married my mother’s sister. He was always welcome at our house, for his smile and soft-spoken kindness left us all feeling uplifted.

One day I decided to make some money by selling lemonade from a roadside stand. There wasn’t much traffic on East Street, but I sold a couple of 5 cent glasses (Remember, this was about 1954). Uncle Stuart came along and asked for a glass. He then gave me a whole quarter! I was so excited I left the stand and ran up to the house to show my mother!

One incident left him shocked! It was a warm summer day when I was about 14. he had come to discuss insurance matters with my mother. Mom wasn’t feeling well and so was lying down on the livingroom couch. Uncle Stuart sat in a chair near the open door, left open to let in a summer breeze. As they talked, a racoon calmly entered the front door, ambled over to the couch, climbed up on my mother’s shoulder, and stared down looking into her eyes! I heard her scream and ran to the living room, took in the scene of my petrified mother and frozen-in-place Uncle Stuart, and said, Oh, there you are!Sammy, our neighbor’s pet raccoon, had escaped his cage, and had wandered in! Sammy was soon back home at the neighbors’!

In 1962 I took my driver’s license test at the Canaan, Connecticut State Police barracks. The car I had practiced driving, my mother’s 1953 Chevrolet, was down for repairs. Uncle Stuart took me to the Canaan barracks, and I tested for my license in his Volkswagen Beetle – the first time I had ever driven that make of automobile! The man who oversaw my road test must have understood my inexperience with a Volkswagen Beetle, because I struggled to get it into reverse when told to back into a parallel parking space! I was familiar with the ‘H’ pattern of a standard transmission, but with a Beetle, you had to push down on the lever before dropping it into the reverse gear! I passed the road test and was issued my license. Thank you, Uncle Stuart, and thank you road-test inspector!

After receiving my driver’s license, Uncle Stuart arranged to issue my needed auto insurance. He put me on a plan to pay him $25 a week from my wages working on a local farm. I faithfully fulfilled my obligation over that summer, stopping each payday at his office. The last installment was due and I walked in to pay it. He looked at me, smiled, and said, “You have been very good with your payments. This one is on me!

I joined the Air Force, got married upon discharge, and lost connection with my uncle. Then in the early 1990’s we reconnected through the mail – he living in Florida and I pastoring in Taylor, Pennsylvania. He wrote me in early 1994 that he was going to host a trip to the Holy Lands. I surprised him by signing up for that same trip! For ten days we roomed together, I and my 85 year old uncle! It was as if we never had a 26-year separation! He was a dedicated Christian man, and we had great Bible discussions and prayer times!

Hope and I visited him and his wife twice in their Florida home. Both times we were made to feel welcomed and special! I had great love for my Uncle Stuart!

He lived an active life into his mid-90’s, and I had to privilege to conduct his memorial service back in his and my hometown of Sharon. I have wanted to be like my Uncle Stuart for many years now! He made a big difference in my life!

In whose life are you making a difference?

“And It Occurred to God…”

Isaiah 46:8 through 10

(All Scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated)

I find the picture above both humorous and blasphemous! In it, God is considering the world He has created (see Genesis 1:1–2:2), as the human inhabitants (whom He also created – see Genesis 1:26-28) wreak havoc on the earth! I enlarged the theme-associated picture more than usual so you could better see the human hands depicted and the destruction they are causing on the earth!

  • One hand is raking the ocean! This seems to stand for the pollution of waters of the world by man’s negligence, making them unfit for both sea creatures and human beings!
  • Another hand is leaving scars across the land!
     ➔   This could represent the destruction of the earth’s 
          landmass and the life thereon by......war resulting in human displacement, death 
              and injury!...famine and disease! ...destructive environmental practices!...drugs and alcohol abuse and misuse! 

...human trafficing and slavery! ...chemical polution from industrial practices, 
              farming mismanagement, negligent land fills...

…and so much more!

     ➔   But this hand seems to be attached to mechanical gears. 
          So perhaps it depicts the ruination of earth by the in-
          dustrial revolution over the last two hundred plus years!
  • There are three hands pulling down on a rope or cable. This might represent tearing down society in order to build a ‘new and better’ one!
  • Finally, the earth seems to be melting! Is this a representation of ‘global warming’?

And as God watches all this, He seems to be musing,Why did I create all this mess? I think it was a BIG MISTAKE!

This is not a representation of the God of the Bible! The title of this Gem is “And It Occurred to God…”

NOTHING HAS EVER ‘OCCURRED’ TO GOD!

For if something had occurred to God, it would mean that He had just thought of something that He had not known before! Consider what it says in our featured Scripture, Isaiah 46:9 and 10:

     Remember this, and show yourselves men; remember the former 
     things of old, for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, 
     and there is none like Me; declaring the end from the begin-
     ning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, 
     saying, “My counsel shall stand, and I will do all My plea-
     sure.

There are many other Scriptures that give evidence to His omniscience (meaning God is all-knowing)! Here are but a few:

  • I Kings 8:39 – “…give to everyone according to all his ways…for You, only You, know the hearts of all the sons of men.
  • Psalm 139:1 through 4:
       O Lord, You have searched me and known me. You know my 
       sitting down and my rising up; You understand my thought 
       afar off. You comprehend my path and my lying down, and 
       are acquainted with all my ways. For there is not a word 
       on my tongue, But behold, O Lord, You know it altogether.
  • Psalm 147:4 and 5 – “He counts the number of the stars; He calls them all by name. Great is our Lord, and mighty in power; His understanding is infinite.
  • Matthew 10:30 – “…the very hairs of your head are all numbered.
  • John 2:24 and 25 – “…Jesus…knew all men, and had no need that anyone should testify of man, for He knew what was in man.
  • Hebrews 4:13 – “…there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.
  • I John 3:20 – “…God…knows all things.

Now, as they say, “Here’s the kicker…:When we apply the Lord God’s omniscience to our lives, where does that leave us?

  • Concerning the one who has accepted Jesus Christ as their Savior, and have submitted in obedience to Him as their Lord (and I will speak from my own experience)
     ✞   God knows me totally! I quoted Psalm 139:1 through 4 
         above. Now I will share these four verses from the 
         Good News Bible, and add more of what David wrote:

           LORD, You have examined me and you know me. You 
           know everything I do; from far away you under-
           stand all my thoughts. You see me, whether I am 
           working or resting; You know all my actions. 
           Even before I speak, You already know what I 
           will say. You are all around me on every side; 
           You protect me with Your power....You created 
           every part of me; you put me together in my 
           mother's womb. I praise you because you are to 
           be feared; all you do is strange and wonderful. 
           I know it with all my heart. When my bones were 
           being formed, carefully put together in my mo-
           ther's womb, when I was growing there in secret, 
           you knew that I was there — you saw me before I 
           was born. The days allotted to me had all been 
           recorded in your book, before any of them ever 
           began....Examine me, O God, and know my mind; 
           test me, and discover my thoughts. Find out if 
           there is any evil in me and guide me in the ever-
           lasting way.  (Psalm 139:1 through 5, 13 through 
           16, and 23 & 24).


     One of my favorite Scriptures is Ephesians 1:6: 
         “...to the praise of the glory of His grace, by 
         which He [the Father] has made us accepted in the 
         Beloved [the Son].” Accepted in the Beloved! God 
         knows me totally – my love for Him as well as all 
         my sins, faults, and foibles.  He also totally 
         accepts me in and through His Son Jesus, as much 
         as the Father accepts the Son! Praise His holy 
         name!

     Also, according to what... 

         ➔   ...Jesus said in John 6:37 – “All that 
              the Father gives Me will come to Me, and 
              the one who comes to Me I will by no means 
              cast out.”

         ➔   ...Paul wrote in Philippians 1:6 – “...
              being confident of this very thing, that 
              He who has begun a good work in you will 
              complete it until the day of Jesus Christ
              ....”

         ➔   ...is written in Hebrews 7:25 – “...He 
              [Jesus] is also able to save to the utter-
              most those who come to God through Him, 
              since He ever lives to make intercession 
              for them.Jesus often referred to those who followed Him as 
         sheep, and He as the Good Shepherd (see John 10:1-16). 
         In verses 27 through 31 of John chapter 10, Jesus told 
         the unbelieving Jews:

           My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and 
           they follow Me. And I give them eternal life, 
           and they shall never perish; neither shall 
           anyone snatch them out of My hand. My Father, 
           who has given them to Me, is greater than all; 
           and no one is able to snatch them out of My 
           Father’s hand. I and My Father are one.

Christians (true Christians)
are eternally safe in Him!

  • But what of those who have not committed their life to Him? Woe unto them if unto death they remain in their sins!
     ✞   For God knows exactly what is in their hearts and 
         minds – as well as what is lived out in their lives!

     ✡   Isaiah is the Old Testament prophet who uses this 
          ‘Woe’ phrase the most:

         ➔   Isaiah 3:11 and 12 – “Woe to the wicked! It 
              shall be ill with him, for the reward of his 
              hands shall be given him.”

         ➔   Isaiah 5:11 and 12 – “Woe to those who rise 
              early in the morning, that they may follow 
              intoxicating drink....But they do not regard 
              the work of the LORD, not consider the oper-
              ation of His hands.”

         ➔   Isaiah 5:18 – “Woe to those who draw iniquity 
              with cords of vanity, and sin as if with a cart 
              rope....”

         ➔   Isaiah 5:20 – “Woe to those who call evil good, 
              and good evil; who put darkness for light, and 
              light for darkness; who put bitter for sweet, 
              and sweet for bitter!”

         ➔   Isaiah 5:21 – “Woe to those who are wise in their 
              own eyes, and prudent in their own sight!”

         ➔   Isaiah 5:22 and 23 – “Woe to men...who justify 
              the wicked for a bribe, and take away justice 
              from the righteous man!✞   Jesus warned His followers in Matthew 10:28, “...do not 
         fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. 
         But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and 
         body in hell.It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the 
         living God.” (Hebrews 10:31).

Take heed!
God is omniscient! He knows all!

And to add a bit of wonder to the idea:

  • God not only knows what is going on with all things, without and within…
  • He also knows all that happened in the past, and all that will happen in the future!
  • And He knows…
...all the possible outcomes... ...all the possible futures......all the twists and turns that history...

…that could have been or could possibly be!

The LORD is an amazing God,
fearful and awesome,
yet loving, forgiving, and kind!
Give yourself to Him!

The Blessings Of Forgiveness Ephesians 4:31, 32

(All Scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated)

Mr. Dovydenus rented us a sixteen acre farmette north of Scranton, Pennsylvania back in the fall of 1976. I had grown up on a 200 acre dairy farm in the Berkshire Mountains of Connecticut. But we lost the farm when my father left the family – his wife and three boys, ages 13, 12, and 10. I was the youngest. My wife, Hope and I wanted to return to the land and live off our farmette. We planned raising goats, chickens, rabbits, pigs, plus a big garden!

The downpayment was $1,000, a huge sum for us as I was trying to get a business started and we struggled financially! I had told Mr. Dovydenus of our financial struggle, and he assured me that if within a year we were unable to follow through with the purchase, he would give us our $1,000 back!

I had been in the Christian ministry, pastoring my first church in central Pennsylvania for the last four years. But I was very unsure if the career of a pastor was for me! However, a church became interested in me and called me to minister to the small congregation. I started by teaching a Bible study and preaching on Sunday mornings and evenings. After four months, they officially called me as their minister! We had a nice parsonage to live in next to the church, a steady (but somewhat meager) income, and lots of back bills to pay!

I called Mr. Dovydenus and told him our situation, reminding him of his promise to give us back our thousand dollar downpayment. But he declined, claiming his own financial hardship – which proved to be untrue! I was angry! I was hurt! I felt betrayed! And I found myself hating this man!

But the Bible is clear about this matter of hate and unforgiveness! In the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5:43 through 45, Jesus plainly taught:

     “You have heard that is was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor 
     and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, bless 
     those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for 
     those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be 
     sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the 
     evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the 
     unjust.”  

I knew it was wrong for me to have such anger, hate, and unforgiveness. So I asked the Lord to help me, to take away from me the negatives, and help me forgive Mr. Dovydenus! It worked…….for about five minutes! Then the negative feelings once again took control! So I asked God again…..and again……and again! Each time the anger, hate, and unforgiveness took control, I asked the Lord for help!

The days went by, and my pleas for God’s assistance were many those first few days! But I persisted. And within a week the negative feelings surfaced only half a dozen times during each day. By the end of week three, the only emotions I felt for Mr. Dovydenus were sorrow and sadness. I had sorrow in my heart for this man who already had more wealth than he needed! I felt sad that a person in their senior years (he was about seventy) was not prepared to face the Lord Jesus as Judge!

But I was free from anger, hate, and unforgiveness – at least concerning Mr. Dovydenus!

What does it do to us as Christian believers to continue to harbor unforgiveness?

  • Proverbs 14:30 tells us, “A sound heart is life to the body, but envy is rottenness to the bones.” We are not highlighting envy in this Gem, but you could replace that one word with just about any sinful thought, word, or activity! For instance, since we are discussing unforgiveness……“A sound heart is life to the body, but unforgiveness is rottenness to the bones.
     ➔   Science has shown that mental thoughts and attitudes 
          affect the physical body! Norman Vincent Peale author-
          ed a book in 1952 that has sold over five million 
          copies: The Power Of Positive Thinking. Whether or not 
          you subscribe to his philosophy and theology, I think 
          you may have discovered that being around a positive 
          person is much more pleasant than enduring constant 
          negativity from someone who raises your heart rate and 
          blood pressure, and gets a few other bodily functions 
          deviating from normal! If that one does this to you, 
          can you imagine what their negative attitude is doing 
          to him or her?

     ➔   Someone has said, “Unforgiveness is like drinking poi-
          son but expecting someone else to die!” It is also 
          “...serving time in prison for someone else’s crime!
  • Paul wrote in II Corinthians 2:10 and 11, “Now whom you forgive anything, I also forgive…I have forgiven that one for your sakes in the presence of Christ, lest Satan should take advantage of us; for we are not ignorant of His devices.” If we are not willing to forgive another for the wrongs they have done, the devil gains an advantage over us! I find it interesting that Paul ties unforgiveness with Satan getting an advantage over us! We negate the devil’s advantage when we forgive one another!
  • In Matthew 6:9 through 13, Jesus gave us the model prayer we call The Lord’s Prayer. I will focus on three verses, one within the prayer, and two following:
     Matthew 6:12 – “And forgive us our debts, as we forgive 
         our debtors.” The Good News Bible gives it this meaning: 
         “Forgive us the wrongs we have done, as we forgive the 
         wrongs that others have done to us.” This is saying much 
         the same thing as does The Golden Rule in Matthew 7:12: 
         “...whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them.” 
         (see also Luke 6:31). But in The Lord’s Prayer, think of 
         what we are asking God to do – “Forgive us in the same 
         way we forgive others who do us wrong!Be careful what 
         you ask for!

     Matthew 6:14 and 15 – “For if you forgive men their tres-
         passes, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But 
         if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will 
         your Father forgive your trespasses.”

         ➔   “Wait! Our salvation depends on our forgiving 
              others their wrongs toward us?”

         ➔   Let’s put it this way: If we do not forgive 
              others for wronging us, it may mean that we 
              have never received the forgiveness that Jesus 
              Christ offers us! After all, what He has for-
              given us, the multitude of sins in every one 
              of our lives, is far more than what we are 
              called to forgive one another!

     I challenge you to carefully consider The Parable of the 
         Unforgiving Servant in Matthew 18:21 through 35. 

         ➔   It starts with Peter asking Jesus a question 
              in verse 21: “Lord, how often shall my brother 
              sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven 
              times?” Peter thought he was being magnanimous 
              in saying, “Up to seven times?” after all, the 
              Jewish rabbis taught one has to forgive a fel-
              low Jew only three times!

         ➔   But Jesus must have thrown Peter’s mind in tur-
              moil when He said, “I do not say to you, up to 
              seven times, but up to seventy times seven.490 times forgiving a brother or sister for 
              their sins against you! I think Jesus was say-
              ing,Infinite forgiveness!But that is just 
              what Christ has done for us!

I have not yet quoted our featured Scripture, Ephesians 4:31 and 32, but here it is. And I think it summarizes all that we have been saying so far:

     Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be 
     put away from you, with all malice. And be kind to one another, 
     tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God in Christ also 
     forgave you.

“Think On These Things!” Philippians 4:8

(All Scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated)

In Philippians 4:8 Paul wrote these challenging words:

     Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things 
     are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, 
     whatever things are lovely. whatever things are of good report, 
     if there is any virtue, and if there is anything praiseworthy 
     — meditate [think] on these things.

This covers a lot of ground – everything that crosses our minds! We must be careful what we allow to enter our minds…….and take up residence there!

In 2001 my wife Hope and I had a house for sale in Charleroi, Pennsylvania. We put it on the market for $39,000 (Remember, this was over twenty years ago!) We had a couple of people who were interested, but then Tom came along! He and his elderly parents liked the house, and they didn’t try to argue down the price! So we designated a closing date about a month away, and all things were set……….I thought!

Tom told us his parents were especially eager to move in, and asked if we might lend them a key so his mom could start cleaning. Having received a cash down-payment, and I, being a trusting person, agreed to the request. I handed over the front door key. After all, Hope and I remembered that someone had given us that grace a few years before!

The lawyer who was handling the closing was Tom’s selection because at that time we did not have local legal representation. But we received a phone call from the lawyer’s office ten days before closing telling us there was a problem getting all the necessary paperwork from the mortgage company. So I agreed that the closing would be pushed back two weeks. About fifteen days later, a second call came from the lawyer delaying closing for another two weeks. This happened a third time, and I began to be suspicious! I had the name of the lawyer, so I called his office and was told, “We have no information on such a closing!” Apparently, Tom was arranging the calls to sound like they were coming from the lawyer’s office! I then called the mortgage company through which Tom said he was arranging financing. I was told they had never heard of Tom, and no mortgage was in the works!

I told my wife what I found out, and we both showed up unannounced at the Charleroi house. What we found shocked us!

  • Tom and his parents had moved inlock, stock, and barrel!
  • All the utilities had been transferred to the mom’s name!
  • They had even ordered a six month subscription to the local newspaper, to be delivered to the porch of our house each morning!

Hope and I didn’t even knock to announce our arrival! We just walked in! Tom began to make excuses, but I said, “Come on, Hope, let’s go to the police!” Tom protested, and followed us from a distance out to our car. He kept shouting, “Let me explain! We can work this out!” As we pulled away from the curb, he even grabbed the rear fender of the car, as if he was trying to stop us!

We went straight to the Charleroi police department where I knew the chief and some of the officers.

  • When we told the chief Tom’s name, he shook his head and said, “There are several warrants out for his arrest!
  • He immediately sent two officers with us back to the house! But by the time we arrived (about 15 minutes after Hope and I had left), Tom was gone, and his mother said she didn’t know where he was or when he would be back!
  • The officers said to Tom’s mother, “You and your husband have to leave this house.” She answered, “Well, as soon as my son gets home we will leave.” The officer stated, “No, you have to leave now! I will give you fifteen minutes to vacate the premises! Get what you immediately need, and get out!
  • After the parents left, I profusely thanked the officers. They told me, “We don’t usually evict someone like this. But the chief said so, and we made it happen!

We later learned that, according to Pennsylvania law, if that squatter’ family had been allowed to stay even one more night after we found them out, they would be considered our tenants, and it would take a costly legal battle perhaps up to six months duration to evict them! But because of quick action by the local police, that process did not take place!

God bless the Charleroi Police Department!

We changed the locks on the house that evening! And the neighbors said they would keep an eye on the place and warn us if anyone came back!

At a later hearing, the local magistrate of Charleroi awarded everything that was abandoned in the house – furnishings, tools, clothing, personal effects – everything! We returned personal papers and photos, but kept, donated, or sold everything else, trying to recoup some of the financial losses that we incurred! We were also awarded a $25,000 judgment against Tom, but we knew we would never collect it.

What has all this to do with Philippians 4:8, our featured Scripture?

  • Without realizing it, we allowed an unwanted family to move into our property!
  • How often do we allow negative, unclean, and ungodly thoughts to move into our minds?

Philippians 4:8 is an eight-part test to see what should and should not be allowed into our lives!

  • …whatever things are true….” The Greek word is ἀληθής (pronounced al-ay-thace’) meaning “…true (as not concealing).” Strong’s Greek Dictionary.
  • …whatever things are noble….” The King James Version translates noble as honest. The Greek word is σεμνός (pronounced sem-nos’) meaning “…venerable, that is, honorable.Ibid.
  • …whatever things are just….” The Greek word is δίκαιος (pronounced dik’-ah-yos) meaning “…equitable (in character or act); by implication innocent, holy….Ibid.
  • …whatever things are pure….” The Greek word is ‘αγνός (pronounced hag-nos’) meaning “…properly clean….Ibid.
  • …whatever things are lovely….” The Greek word is προσφιλής (pronounced pros-fee-lace’) meaning “…friendly towards, that is, acceptable….Ibid.
  • …whatever things are of good report….” The Greek word is εὔφημος (pronounced yoo’-fay-mos) meaning “…well spoken of, that is, reputable….Ibid.
  • …if there is any virtue….” The Greek word is ἀρέτη (pronounced ar-et’-ay) meaning “…manliness (valor), that is, excellence….Ibid.
  • …if there is anything praiseworthy….” The Greek word is ‘έπαινος (pronounced ep’-ahee-nos) meaning “…laudation; concretely a commendable thing….Ibid.

Why do I take the time to research the Greek words and their meaning? While some reading this Gem may not be interested, others might be! And it helps me in reviewing my Greek studies.

I think you can see from just the eight characteristic words in Philippians 4:8 that…

  • …following the guidelines of this one verse would dramatically change the thinking of those who claim Jesus Christ as their Savior! And if thinking is changed, both words and deeds will be dramatically changed also!
  • …allowing our thinking to be guided by these eight things would make sure we would not allow unwantedsquatterthoughts to come in and take up residence!

You don’t want a ‘Tom and family’ moving uninvited into your house!

So, “…whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely. whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue, and if there is anything praiseworthy…

…think on these things…!

Redemption, Resurrection, and Radiance!

Jesus’ Radiance – II

Revelation 21:22, 23; 22:5

(All Scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated)

It is hard to even imagine what Revelation 21:22, 23; and Revelation 22:5 are telling us:

     And I [the apostle John] saw no temple in it [the New Jer-
     usalem], for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb [the Lord 
     Jesus] are its temple. And the city had no need of the sun 
     or of the moon to shine in it, for the glory of God illumi-
     nated it, and the Lamb is its light....And there shall be no 
     night there: They shall need no lamp nor light of the sun, 
     for the Lord God gives them light. And they shall reign 
     forever and ever....These words are faithful and true.

What a radical departure this will be from what we now experience! It reminds me of what Paul wrote in I Corinthians 2:9: “As it is written: ‘Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the mind of man the things which God has prepared for those who love HIm.

  • We have never seen it!
  • We have never heard about anything like it!
  • We have never even had the capacity to imagine what the Lord Jesus has prepared for us who are born again into the Father’s kingdom! (see John 3:3, 7; I Peter 1:23).

It also reminds me of another applicable verse that Paul wrote, Romans 8:18: “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us

I received a call today from Bruce, a Pennsylvania friend. About four years ago I conducted the funeral of his and his sister’s mother. She suffered terribly for months from mistreatment of doctors and hospital staff! The two siblings have had trouble getting over their mother’s torturous death! I shared with Bruce Romans 8:18, and told him:

     “According to this one verse, no matter what we have been 
     through in this life, when we get to heaven, and share the 
     glorious and eternal bodies our Lord has planned for us – 
     like His, we will look back upon all our earthly troubles 
     and say, ‘Aww, it was nothing! Look what I have now – and 
     it’s forever!’”

And I said, “I can picture your mom dancing on the mountaintops, with energy and vitality she never experienced down here!

Bruce then replied, “I should put that verse up where I can see it every day! I gotta tell my sister about this!

But back to our theme of the eternal light in the golden city of New Jerusalem! In the last Gem we looked at Jesus’ transfiguration on the mountain!

  • To me, the most outstanding feature concerning our Lord was that “…His face shown like the sun…” (Matthew 17:2).
  • This is but a preview of what it will be like in…the holy city, New Jerusalem…” (Revelation 21:2). Jesus will shine so brightly that we will have…no need of the sun or of the moon to shine in it, for the glory of God illuminated it, and the Lamb is its light…” (Revelation 21:23).

But, as God told Moses in Exodus 33:20, “You cannot see My face; for no man [no mortal man] shall see Me, and live.His full glory would just overpower our mortality!

  • However, as it says in I John 3:3, “…we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.
  • Paul wrote in Philippians 3:20 and 21:
     For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also wait 
     for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform 
     our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious 
     body, according to the working by which He is able even to 
     subdue all things to Himself.
  • When we are transformed to be conformed to His glorious body…
     ✞   ...we will be able to comfortably behold our Savior 
         in all His glory! And not only will we behold Jesus... 

     ✞   ...we will also be able to look upon the glory of 
         the Father and the Holy Spirit... 

…the triune God!

     ✞   ...we’ll behold all the glorious angels! 

     ✞   ...we will be at comfortable ease with one another 
         in our eternal glorious state!

Consider this: the New Jerusalem will be in the shape of a cube, for it says in Revelation 21:16 (Contemporary English Version), “The city was shaped like a cube, because it was just as high as it was wide. When the angel measured the city, it was about fifteen hundred miles high and fifteen hundred miles wide.

At a Bible study several years ago, we postulated the number of believers from Old and New Testament times who would be in heaven, residing in the New Jerusalem. Considering Old and New Testament saints, and a human existence of several thousands of years (deduced by a Biblical timeline), there could be billions of people living in this golden city! Steve, one of the Bible studies attendees, remarked, “Won’t we be too crowded if there are that many people in residence?Then I presented some mathematical considerations and other postulations:

  • A cube with 1,500 miles on each side would mean it contained 3,375,000,000 (three billion, 375 million) cubic miles!
     The Bible does not say a lot about the interior of this 
         huge cubic area. 

         ➔   It seems logical that the golden city would 
              be in the middle of the cube!

         ➔   It could also be there are many inhabitable 
              layers surrounding that city in all direc-
              tions!

     ✞   Jesus, in His resurrected body, was no longer confined 
         to the limitations of the mortal human beings!He could enter rooms that were locked up 
              tight! (see John 20:19, 26).

         ➔   He could hide His identity and disappear 
              at will! (see Luke 24:16, 31).

         ➔   Gravity seemed to have no hold on Him, for 
              “...while they [His disciples] watched, He 
              was taken up, and a cloud received Him out 
              of their sight.” (Acts 1:9).

     ✞   Could not we, in our glorious resurrected bodies, 
         comfortably occupy any plane of the New Jerusalem
         bottom, top and all sides?

At the end of the discussion, Steve said, “Gee, I hope we don’t get lonely there with all that space!

Considering all that space, that is a lot of area to illuminate! But Jesus is…the light of the world…” (John 8:12; 9:5)…..and not just in a spiritual sense!

  • When “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth…” (Genesis 1:1), Jesus was vitally involved! For it says in…
     ...John 1:1 and 3 – “...the Word [Jesus – see John 
         1:14] was with God, and the Word was God....All things 
         were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made 
         that was made....Colossians 1:16 – “For by Him [Jesus] all things 
         were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, 
         visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions 
         or principalities or powers. All things were created \
         through Him and for Him....Hebrews 1:2 – It says of Jesus, the Father ...ap-
         pointed [Him] heir of all things, through whom also He 
         made the worlds.
  • So when God said, “‘Let there be light’ and there was light…” (Genesis 1:3), Jesus, being the Word of God (see Revelation 19:13), light appeared when the Son of God spoke it into being!
     ✡   By the way, according the Genesis 1 account, light 
          appeared on the first day of creation, and the sun 
          was not created until the forth day! What was the source of that first-day light? It was the Son of God, Jesus!So what gave light to the world in that first day of 
          creation?The Word of God...The light of the world...

         ➔   Jesus Christ!

If He could speak light into existence in the beginning, if…His face shown like the sun…” (Matthew 17:2), on the Mount of Transfiguration, surely He can light the entire golden city of New Jerusalem!

For Jesus is…the light of life…!

(John 8:12)


Redemption, Resurrection, and Radiance!

Jesus’ Radiance –I

Matthew 17:1-8

(All Scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated)

The picture above is a representation of the transfiguration of Jesus! Here is what Matthew 17:1 through 8 says about it:

     Now after six days Jesus took Peter, James, and John his bro-
     ther, brought them up on a high mountain by themselves, and 
     was transfigured before them. His face shown like the sun, and 
     His clothes became white as the light. And, behold, Moses and 
     Elijah appeared to them, talking with Him. Then Peter answered 
     and said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here; if You 
     wish, let us make three tabernacles; one for You, one for Moses, 
     and one for Elijah.” While he was still speaking, behold, a 
     bright cloud overshadowed them; and suddenly a voice came out 
     of the cloud, saying, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well 
     pleased. Hear Him!” When the disciples heard it, they fell on 
     their faces, and were greatly afraid. But Jesus came and touched 
     them and said, “Arise, and do not be afraid.” And when they had 
     lifted up their eyes, they saw no one but Jesus only.

There are several things we can learn from this account:

  • Jesus didn’t call all His disciples. If He had, those at this prophetic scene would have included Judas Iscariot, who betrayed Him, and who would never see Jesus in His glory!
  • It is only in Christ that we, as mortal human beings, can see God’s glory!
     ✡   Moses, in Exodus 33:18 had asked the LORD, “Please, 
          show me Your glory.” But God told Him, “You cannot 
          see My face; for no man shall see Me, and live. 
          God’s glory is so overpowering that seeing His glory 
          ‘head-on’ would destroy mortal flesh!

     In I Timothy 6:16 Paul writes concerning the Lord God: 
         He...alone has immortality, dwelling in unapproach-
         able light, whom no man has seen, or can see.II Corinthians 4:6 – “...God who commanded light to 
         shine out of darkness...has shown in our hearts to 
         give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God 
         in the face of Jesus Christ.”

         ➔   In our mortal state we cannot look directly 
              upon God’s glory...

…BUT…

...we can look closely upon Jesus by reading 
              and studying what the Bible records concern-
              ing Him. And He said in John 14:9, “He who 
              has seen Me has seen the Father....
  • Moses and Elijah were there talking with Him. In Luke 9:31 we learn they “…spoke of His decease which He was about to accomplish at Jerusalem.
These two men represent the whole Old Testament – what 
          the Jews called, “...the law and the prophets.” 
          (Matthew 7:12 – see Romans 3:21).

     ✞   What He was about to accomplish at Jerusalem was the 
         cross, the resurrection, the ascension, and the giving 
         of the Holy Spirit – the most significant happenings 
         in the history of mankind! And since these two Old 
         Testament persons were conversing with Jesus about 
         these very things, it points to the fact that it was 
         all quite apparent in the law and the prophets! For 
         instance:

         ➔   Genesis 3:15 hints at the only method of death 
              that would bruise the heal – crucifixion, when 
              the feet are nailed to the cross!Psalm 16:10 refers to the resurrection!Psalm 22 describes the cross a thousand years 
              before it happened!Psalm 55:12 through 14 prophesy His betrayal by 
              Judas!Isaiah 9:6 and 7 tell us that...the Son of 
              Man...” (Matthew 8:20 – and 88 other instances 
              in the New Testament) is indeed God!Isaiah 50:5 and 6 mentions Jesus treatment at 
              the hands of the Romans Soldiers!Isaiah 52:13 through 53:12 emphasizes His hu-
              manity, His rejection, His substitutionary 
              sacrifice, His death and burial, and hints of 
              His resurrection!

…and many more!

     ✡   Moses disobeyed God’s orders to “...speak to the rock
          ...and it will yield its water....” (Numbers 20:8). 

         ➔   “...Moses lifted his hand and struck the rock 
              twice with his rod; and water came out abun-
              dantly...” (Numbers 20:11). 

         ➔   He had struck the rock once before to bring 
              out water for the Israelites, but at that 
              time it was what God had commanded! (see 
              Exodus 17:4-6).

         ➔   Because of his disobedience, God told Moses 
              in Numbers 21:12, “Because you did not be-
              lieve Me to hallow Me in the eyes of the 
              children of Israel, therefore you shall not 
              bring this congregation into the land which 
              I have given them.And Moses never set foot 
              in the Promised Land...

     ✞   ...until he appeared with Jesus on the Mount of Trans-
         figuration! What we can’t have in the flesh, we will 
         have when we are perfected in heaven! 

I find it interesting that Peter knew who Moses and 
         Elijah were the moment he saw them! Yet......Moses died 1,400 years before the trans-
              figuration!
...Elijah was taken bodily into heaven 850 
              years before!

     I believe that we will know one another instantly 
         and completely in heaven...... even those we never 
         had the opportunity to know in this life! 

         ➔   For it says in I Corinthians 13:12, “Now 
              I know in part, but then I shall know just 
              as I also am known.” 

         ➔   How am I now known? The Lord knows me com-
              pletely! As it says in John 2:24 and 25, 
              “...Jesus...knew all men, and had no need 
              that anyone should testify of man, for He 
              knew what was in man.

As glorious as this transfiguration scene was to behold, it was just a preview of what was to come! For Jesus is …the light of the world.” (John 8:12; 9:5). We will examine this theme in the next two Gems.