Teach Us to Number Our Days

number our daysThe years fly quickly from the calendar of our lives. We realize that each day moves us closer to the end of our earthly pilgrimage. Shakespeare give us the poignant words: “ We live in deeds, not years; in thoughts, not breaths; in feeling not figures on a dial.” Life is meant to be something more than “a tale told by an idiot full of sound and fury, and signifying nothing.” 

Time is precious.  Time is short.  Time is passing.  Time is uncertain. Time is irrevocable when gone. Time is that for which we are accountable.

A wise man once said, “He lives long that lives well, and time misspent is not lived but lost.” As we see the past rapidly fading in the rear view mirror, we need to recognize a number of things:

  1. The brevity of time
  2. The swiftness with which days fly by
  3. The certainty of death
  4. The importance of Biblical Values

May I ask you to consider these three things:

1.  The Child of God may live with the noble disregard for time if death is no barrier, but only a door opening to our Father’s house.  God did not create us to be only earthlings, but He made us eternal beings. He has given us the Holy Spirit as an indwelling presence and as a guarantee that He will rescue believers from death so they can live with Him for eternity.  *See 1 Corinthians 5:5-7. 

  • “And this is eternal life, that they might know thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent.” John 17:3
  • Beloved, now are we the Sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be; but we know that when He shall appear, we shall be like Him; for we shall see Him as He is.” 1 John 3:2

2. The non-believer should accept God’s offer in Christ with Joy –NOW!

  • We must gently and lovingly and appropriately remind our dear love ones and friends, who are not believers, that the number of their days of opportunity is rapidly decreasing. If a gentle approach doesn’t work, we need to be firm and more direct. * See Jude 23
  • With the assistance of the Holy Spirit, we need to help the unsaved see the days to serve God after being saved are declining with each revolution of the clock. Now Is The Time!

3. We should live every day as if it were our last day on earth.  The ‘Shakers’ had a saying, “Build as if what you build will last forever, live as if this was your last day on earth.”   What would you do if you knew this was your last day on earth? A farmer who had served God faithfully was asked that question. He replied, “I guess I would go plow.” No change was needed.  How is it with you?

  • Begin the day with a prayer of thanksgiving to God for blessing He has given. A familiar song says, “Count you blessing, name them one by one…”
  • Accept the day as an opportunity to help:
    • Help the Lord, as a co-laborer, to do His work in the world today – be His hands, His feet, His voice, etc.
    • Help yourself be a better person today than you were yesterday.
    • Help your family see Jesus in you as the hours unfold. Help them achieve worthy goals and invest their time wisely. Let them know you really care.
    • Help those in your sphere of influence find fulfillment in things that are noble and good.
    • Respond to everyone with love and patience. A consistent, persistent, unbreakable spirit of good challenges all.
  • Plan the day with top values at the head of the list:
    • List things that need to be done (in mind or better yet on paper).
    • Number them in order of their importance.
    • Concentrate on the most important one(s) first.
    • Do ONE thing at a time.
    • Schedule your day to allow for some interruptions. Some interruptions are time killers – others may be divine appointments.

* If these sound like a school teacher’s directions, I spent 10 years as a public school teacher and 33 years in Higher Ed., training teachers!

The Psalmist prayed that God would help him number his days so that he might get the most out of life and also inherit eternal life. Do not postpone living for God! Procrastination will cause you to kill time, lose time, and waste time.  Time is precious. Time is short. Time is passing. Time is uncertain. Time is irrevocable when gone. Time is that for which we are accountable. Today is the only day you have for sure – live it in God’s will.

~ Brother Roy

Pulled Every Which Way

pulled in all directionsHave you every felt like you were being pulled in so many directions that you were about to come apart? There is the pull of family, the pull of work, the pull of friends, and the pull of our social network to name just a few. Rather than attempt to identify the many forces that tug us this way or that, I want to consider just three that appear to be the headings under which all of life’s forces fall.

  1. The Downward Pull: Some people identify the downward pull as an impersonal influence such as ‘fate’. They consider it the ‘inevitable’ force that determines events in human life. In the days since Star Wars, we speak of the ‘Dark Side’ as such a force. Others see the pull as a personal force, one that is seeking our downfall. We use various names for this personal force such as the Devil, Satan, or as a Star Wars-type character like Darth Vader. The Bible teaches that Satan is a real person, a personal force, and he means to destroy us. The Scriptures say, “Your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walks about, seeking whom he may devour(1 Peter 5:8 KJV). 
  1. The Upward Pull:  God is seeking to take hold of us and lift us to higher ground. When we resist His upward pull, we do so to the detriment of our own souls. When we become content with our personal achievements, complacent, smug, possessed with a sense of ‘having arrived’, we are headed for trouble. When we are filled with self-confidence and self-importance, we cease to feel or respond to the Lord’s upward pull. Deterioration quickly sets in and we drift further from the Lord, we backslide. The Apostle Paul presented the proper Christian view of upward pull when he said, “Forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal and for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:13,14 ESV). 
  1. The Outward Pull: Depending on which of the first two pulls we yield to, it will determine the impact of the outward pull. Not only does the pull to which we give-in determine the trajectory of our own life, it impacts the lives of those around us.
    • The Apostle Paul addresses the issue of the influence of the downward pull in his epistle to the Romans 14:15-18. The way we live and conduct ourselves has a major effect on those that surround us. He urges us, for example, “not to risk sending them to hell over an item in their diet. Don’t you dare let a piece of God-blessed food become an occasion of soul-poisoning!” (Message Translation). What a concept ‘soul-poisoning’ is! To think, when we yield ourselves to the downward pull, we have such a detrimental influence on others.
    • Paul’s excellent instruction to Titus concerning positive influence is a model for us all. Likewise, exhort the young men to be sober-minded, in all things showing yourself to be a pattern of good works; in doctrine showing integrity, reverence, incorruptibility, sound speech that cannot be condemned, that one who is an opponent may be ashamed, having nothing evil to say of you” (Titus 2:6 NKJ).

The words of Jesus in Matthew 6:33 are so appropriate in this discussion, “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness (the upward pull), and all these things will be added to you.”  The downward pull will lose it power over you and the outward pull will assume it’s proper place. We will no longer be pulled every which way. We will be going God’s way.  May we hear the Lord say, “This is the way, walk in it” (Isaiah 30:21).

~ Brother Roy

The Invisible Fence

invisible fenceTechnology has had an impact on almost every phase of our lives. A few years ago technology invaded the world of  “man’s best friend”. The invisible fence has changed Rover’s room to roam. The invisible fence utilizes a digital signal to keep the dog within selected boundaries. A thin wire is placed just below the surface of the ground and creates a safety perimeter for the dog. A comfortable collar containing a small receiver is placed around the dog’s neck. The receiver works with a radio signal – which emits an appropriate stimulus level as the dog approaches the barrier. If the dog continues to advance, a second field produces maximum correction to prevent the dog moving beyond the boundary into danger. In a very short time the dog learns the boundaries. He knows that if he ignores the mild correction and continues, he will receive a stronger reminder.

Our heavenly Father has provided man with a spiritual invisible fence, a moral compass. It is called the ‘conscience’. Dictionary.com defines conscience as “the inner sense of what is right or wrong in one’s conduct or motives, impelling one toward right action”. Scriptures such as Romans 2:15 (NCV) speak to this truth: “They (Gentiles) show that in their hearts they know what is right and wrong, just as the law commands. And they show this by their consciences. Sometimes their thoughts tell them that they did wrong, and sometimes their thoughts tell them they did right.” Our spiritual invisible fence, the conscience, reflects God’s desire to keep us safe and away from the destructive power of sin. 

My son-in-law’s father, Jack, installed an invisible fence to provide a safe border in which his little dog, Fenster, could play. Fenster quickly learned his boundaries and was careful not to get to close the edge. One day Jack noticed the dog running down the middle of the street. Fenster had crossed the border into danger. An inspection of the situation revealed that the battery in the receiver was dead. No warning signal had been given and Fenster crossed the line. Our conscience is like that. If we do not seek the power of the Holy Spirit to keep us clear on our boundaries, we can get out of God’s will with disastrous results. We must keep our spiritual batteries charged by being plugged into worship in our church, daily devotions, Bible reading and prayer, and fellowship with believers.

Some dogs are so stubborn that they will ignore the first warning signal and charge on. Maybe it’s neighbor’s cat that presents a temptation too strong to resist. They knowingly rush on and get zapped. Scripture talks of those who ignore their conscience. They make shipwrecks of their faith (1 Timothy 1:19). Paul’s instructions also warn that departing from the faith can leaves our “conscience seared with a hot iron(1 Timothy 4:2). Paul continues,To those who are pure, all things are pure, but to those who are full of sin and do not believe, nothing is pure. Both their minds and their consciences have been ruined” (Titus 1:15). 

Proverbs 22:3 – “The wise see danger ahead and avoid it, but fools keep going and get in trouble.”

~ Brother Roy

The Fortune Cookie

fortune cookieRecently, I was dining with my wife and daughter at a Chinese restaurant. Our daughter was visiting us from her home in Johannesburg, South Africa. We were savoring each hour she could be with us. After a delicious meal, we were relaxing and talking about recent changes in our lives. The waiter brought the bill along with the customary ‘fortune cookies’. The fortunes are usually light and whimsical, but one caught my attention.  It read, “Virtue is a precious treasure.”  I believe all truth is God’s truth, even when it’s found in a fortune cookie.

One of my dictionaries states the term virtue relates to “theological morality”. The Thesaurus gives a synonym as “a desirable quality”.  2 Peter 1:3b-5 (NKJ) provides wonderful words for believers as it relates to virtue: “…His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue, by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust. But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue and to virtue knowledge,” 

That evening in the restaurant I enjoyed a sweet morsel of truth from an unexpected source. In a small way, I sampled a little manna from God, “and the taste of it was like a wafer with honey” (Exodus 16: 21).  Virtue is a precious treasure and a reward in itself.

Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good
Blessed is the man who trusts in Him!
Psalms 34:8

~ Brother Roy

Go for the Gold

Ship in dock

This big ship was in dry dock on the Gulf of Mexico

The Biblical account of the ancient King Jehoshaphat is fascinating. He came to the throne of Judah when he was 35 years old. “And he walked in the way of his father Asa, and did not turn aside from it, doing what was right in the site of the Lord” (2 Chronicles 20:22, NKJ). Asa had been a good and God-fearing man. Jehoshaphat was one of the best kings in Judah’s history. He initiated a system of religious instruction for the people. He also commanded the judges in the land to be just and honest.

Desiring to return the people to the prosperity and splendor they had experienced under Solomon, Jehoshaphat launched an incredible plan. He dreamed of going to Ophir for gold. Ophir was a famous gold-producing region in what is now Yemen. It was also rich in silver and ivory. Jehoshaphat was more than an idle dreamer. He went to work to fulfill his dream. He set out to build a great fleet of  ‘Tarshish’ class ships. These remarkable ships were built with such strength that no wave or storm could break the broad beams and sturdy timbers. They were constructed to carry heavy loads of gold and silver. These watertight and storm-proof vessels were meant to sail to the ends of the earth to bring home the gold. The ships were built in Ezion-Geber, a shipbuilding port constructed by Phoenician engineers in Solomon’s day.

But, as recorded in 1 Kings, tragedy struck. “Jehoshaphat made merchant ships (or ships of Tarshish) to go to Ophir for gold; but they never sailed, for the ships were wrecked at Ezion-Geber” (1 Kings 22:48, NKJ). At first glance, one might assume that a great storm or hurricane dashed the ships against rocks and sent them to a watery grave. A deeper look reveals something far different.

It was not a hurricane or storm, but the hand of the Lord that sent the ships to the bottom. Through the words of a prophet we learn that, “The Lord has destroyed your (Jehoshaphat’s) works”. The scripture further explains, “Then the ships were wrecked, so that they were not able to go to Tarshish” (2 Chronicles 20:37, NKJ). 

A careful examination of the Biblical account reveals two major reasons – two things that will sink plans and dreams:

Divided loyalties: As mentioned earlier, Jehoshaphat did that which was right in the sight of the Lord (2 Chronicles 20:32). But, verse 33 focuses on a major problem: “Nevertheless the high places were not taken away, for as yet the people had not directed their hearts to the God of their fathers.” The Message adds interesting insight in its paraphrase of this verse: “But he failed to get rid of the neighborhood sex-and-religion shrines; people continued to pray and worship at these idolatrous god shops.” Jehoshaphat allowed abundant evidence of the Canaanite way of life to co-exist with true worship. Jesus declares in Matthew 6:24: “You cannot serve two masters (Gods).”  James 4:8 implores us to, “Cleanse your hands you sinners and purify your hearts you double minded.”  James 1:8 points out, “a double minded man is unstable in all his ways.” Peaceful co-existence with sin is not possible.

Inappropriate friendships: Ill-conceived friendships shatter dreams. The words of 2 Chronicles 20:3 (NKJ ) declares this principle: “Because you have allied yourself with Ahaziah (who acted very wickedly), the Lord has destroyed your works. Then the ships were wrecked, so they were not able to go to Tarshish.” Paul warns believers in Corinth (1 Corinthians 15:33, NIV), “Do not be misled; Bad company corrupts good character.” James emphasizes another dimension to Biblical teaching about friendship: “Do you know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God” ( James 4:4). 

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your path.” (Proverbs 3:5&6)

~ Brother Roy

Lessons Learned While Bird Watching

birdwatchingOver the years, Miss Sue and I have spent many wonderful days looking out across the waters of Mobile Bay. Close friends, the Eldridges, have a lovely beach house at water’s edge on Dauphin Island, Alabama.  They have graciously invited us to come whenever we can and rest from our labor and enjoy the beauty of Dauphin Island.

The view from the back deck is a bird watcher’s paradise. About a hundred yards out is a small marshy island covered with salt grass and surrounded by shallow water. It is like a magnet that draws the birds. Recently, I watched an incredible variety of water birds come and go including: Oystercatchers, Sandpipers, Great Blue Herons, Little Blue Herons, Green Herons, Loons, Pelicans, Skimmers, an Osprey, and an assortment of gulls and terns.

In my ‘former life’, I taught High School Biology. Although it has been nearly 50 years ago, I still remember a few things. Patterns run throughout nature and across species. The great diversity of water birds on Dauphin all feeding in the same area reflects one such pattern. Their body shapes, length of legs, types of beaks, and a myriad of other adaptations make each species uniquely suited for a specific niche in their environment. They feed and forage together, not competing but co-existing by seeking different food sources. Together they are part of a healthy eco-system.

The Apostle Paul speaks of such a pattern in humankind. It seems to me it reflects the common Creator of all forms of life. The Church is the body of Christ. Hear Paul’s explanation of such a pattern in I Corinthians 12:14-20 (NCV):The human body has many parts. The foot might say, ‘Because I am not a hand, I am not part of the body.’ But saying this would not stop the foot from being a part of the body. The ear might say, ‘Because I am not an eye, I am not part of the body’. But saying this would not stop the ear from being a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, it would not be able to hear. If the whole body were an ear, it would not be able to smell. If each part of the body were the same part, there would be no body. But truly God put all the parts, each one of them in the body as He wanted them”. Like the variety of birds all feeding in the same place, but each with its unique niche, so the church has great diversity among its members, yet each fills a distinct place. Each member is necessary to the health of the church.

Another pattern from my biology teaching days comes to mind. If one of the small and less conspicuous birds from the eco-system disappears, the whole community is threatened. Paul reports this same pattern in the church and says, “Those parts of the body that seem to be the weaker are really necessary…God wanted the different parts to care the same for each other. If one part of the body suffers, all the parts suffer with it. Or if one part of our body is honored, all the other parts share the honor”  (I Corinthians 12:22, 25-26).

Could it be that part of the reason why the church of today seems to be struggling so much is due to the fact many of us are not where we are supposed to be? Are you filling your God appointed unique niche in the Body of Christ?

~ Brother Roy

The Spring of Life

Picture1

John 4:14 - “But whoever drinks from the water that I will give him will never get thirsty again – ever! In fact, the water I will give him will become a well of water springing up within him for eternal life.”

The above picture was taken during my first semester at Asbury University. My girlfriend and I went on a walk around the campus one Sunday afternoon. We came upon this retention pond, and on the edge of it was a bench, so we sat to take a break. As we were sitting there the Lord began to show me something: first of all I know you’re probably wondering that this is an odd time for the Lord to speak, but we as Christians should always be sensitive to His presence wherever or whatever we may be doing. As I sat there and looked at this small body of water and smelled the refreshing scent of it, I began to see some similarity here to a Christian’s relationship with Lord. To the left of me I noticed a four-inch pipe expanding out over the water with nothing coming out of it. In fact, the few times I have been up there since, I have never seen water flowing into it, but yet the water level stays the same and the fountain keeps flowing. What keeps it sustained?  Shouldn’t this reflect the fountain of water in our lives also?

In John 4, Jesus comes upon a Samaritan woman who daily comes to the well to draw water. As we all know, we continue to get thirsty – especially when it is hot outside, but this kind of water only satisfies our physical bodies for a time, and then we return for more.  It’s a never-ending cycle for us. Jesus in return offers something better to the woman, something that within itself produces a spring that will never cease to flow for eternity. This water He gives saturates the very being of our soul and re-hydrates our bodies spiritually on a day-to-day basis to tackle what the world throws at us. We are physically and spiritually made (1 Corinthians 15:44b - “If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body.”). God has given us the water that feeds both aspects. Don’t dehydrate yourself spiritually – drink deep from the water that He freely gives to those who love Him, and live, for He is the source of life.

Revelation 21:6-7, “And He said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End. I will give to the thirsty from the spring of living water as a gift. The victor will inherit these things, and I will be his God, and he will be My son.”

~ Ryan Harrison

Ryan is a young man from Bayou LaBatre, Alabama, who is living with Sue and me this summer. He just finished his first semester at Asbury. He and another Bayou boy were called to preach a couple of years ago in a camp meeting that I was preaching in south Alabama. I am encouraging him to use some of his evening time to do a couple of devotionals for the NHIM website.  (~ Brother Roy)