(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’!
(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?
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).
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!
(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.
(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 in ‘lock, 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 unwanted ‘squatter’ thoughts 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…”!
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…”!