Chest-Deep on a Duck

water over roadWhile I take the responsibility of posting devotionals on the NHIM website seriously, nevertheless, a funny story from my mountain background serves as the impetus for this devotional. Here’s the story:

A stranger (from the flat ground) was traveling in the mountains on Squabble Creek Road. There had been a couple of days of hard spring rains. He came over a rise, and the road disappeared in a pool of water that had covered the road. He stopped his fine car and walked to the water’s edge in an effort to determine the depth of the water. He couldn’t see through the murky water, so he took off his shoes, rolled up his pant legs, and waded out a short distance. Unable to ascertain if he could drive through the water, he found a long stick and tried again. After several more failed attempts, he looked up and saw an old mountaineer leaning on a fence post on the bank above him. “Do you live around here?” the stranger inquired. “Might nigh all my life”, was the reply. “Can I drive through this water without drowning out my car?” The old man answered, “Yep, I’d reckon ye can. It hain’t vary deep.”  The stranger drove into the water. Within moments, his car disappeared beneath the muddy water. Wet and angry, the stranger struggled back up to road by the old man. He shouted, “You stupid old hillbilly! I thought you said the water wasn’t very deep.” The old man responded, “I didn’t figger it were. T’was only chest-deep on my ducks.”

From the beginning, Satan has tried to lure us into sin by lying about the eternal consequences of disobedience. His deceitful nature can be seen in mankind’s first encounter with him in the Garden of Eden. “Then the serpent said to the woman, ‘ You will not surely die’” Genesis 3:4 (NKJ).  Eve saw that the forbidden tree was good for food and that it was pleasant to the eye. She took the fruit and ate. Oh, what a price she paid! What a price all people have paid ever since that day. Satan is still using his devious ways. He tells unwary people that the waters of sin aren’t that deep and they can make it through with little difficulty. Then, when it is too late, they are in over their head and overwhelmed.

The cunning lies of Satan can be heard in the words of many secular songs. The lustful lyrics that one proclaims, “ It can’t be wrong, if it feels so right”. You can hear the hiss of the Serpent in the words of another, “Heaven’s just a sin away.”  Paul speaks to the issue in Titus 3:3 (NKJ): “For we ourselves were once also foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving various lusts and pleasures…” There is a phrase in an old gospel song of several years ago, which makes the truth about sin very clear. “Sin will take you farther than you ever planned to go, sin will keep you longer than you ever wanted to stay, and sin will cost you more than you ever expected to pay.”

Hear the final word on the matter. Galatians 6:7-8 (NKJ)“Do not be deceived; God is not mocked: for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life.”

~ Brother Roy

Slapped with the Truth

slapRecently, while traveling in South Africa, I saw a hand-painted placard with what was apparently an African proverb on it. The message read, “It is better to be slapped with the truth than to be kissed with a lie.” As the words sunk in, I was captivated by its profound message. I work from the premise that all truth is God’s truth, whether it is found on a hand-painted sign or in scripture. As I reflected on this truism, I thought it sounded much like one of Solomon’s proverbs. I went to Scripture and this is what I found:

Proverbs 27:6: “Faithful are the wounds of a friend; but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful.” (NKJV)

Proverbs 28:23: “Whoever rebukes a man will afterward find more favor than he who flatters with his tongue.”  (ESV)

Ecclesiastes 7:5: “It is better to be criticized by a wise person than to be praised by a fool.”  (NCV)

Proverbs 26:28: “A lying tongue hates its victims, and a flattering mouth works ruin.”  (KJV)

Proverbs 12:19: “ The lip of truth shall be established forever: but a lying tongue is but for a moment.”  (KJV)

Proverbs 12:22: “ Lying lips are an abomination to the Lord: but they that deal truly are His delight.”  (KJV) 

The gem of truth in the proverb raised a question or two in my mind. How do we react when someone confronts us with a truth that is not very flattering? Would we rather be flattered and sweet-talked, to our detriment, than to be reprimanded in love? Do we really want fellow believers to “speak the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15) to us? I have challenged myself, and I challenge you to be conscious of this proverb.

Let me share a final thought that relates to the proverb. The Gospel of Mark records a moving account of Judas’ betrayal of Jesus.  Mark 14:45 says, “And as soon as he (Judas) was come, he goeth straightway to Him, and saith, Master, Master; and kissed Him” (KJV).  Jesus was betrayed by a kiss from one whom He then called “friend” (Matthew 26:50). We need to understand that when we live in such a way as to dishonor Him and still try to maintain the appearance of being His friend, we kiss Him with a lie.

Prayer: Lord, please let me be open to correction and reproof.  Whether it comes from Scripture, the inner stirring of the Holy Spirit, or a family member or friend, let me receive it graciously. “Create in me a clean heart, O God ; and renew a right spirit within me” (Psalm 51:10)

~ Brother Roy

The High Tide of the Spirit

Boat beached on sandbar in river estuary; Camel Estuary, Padstow, Cornwall, UK (GBR)In my early years of evangelistic preaching, I often heard the old timers -veteran evangelists – speak of the ‘high tide of the spirit’. I only had a vague idea of that to which they were referring. Now, after more than a half century of preaching, I have a much clearer understanding of that phrase. Preaching experience has certainly been a great teacher, but I also wish to highlight two additional things that have illuminated my understanding of this crucial phenomenon of spiritual life.

First, let me share a lesson from nature. Across 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. When there, I read the reports of tidal phases with as much interest as I read the weather forecast. There is a small sandbar island across from the back deck. At high tide, it is completely under water. At low tide it is clearly visible. It is a resting place for shore birds, but also a hazard to boaters who do not know the tides in these waters. At high tide, fishermen can easily move through the passage into open water. At low tide, you can get stuck on the sand bar. If you drive through the bayou country surrounding Dauphin Island, you can witness oyster boats and many other types of vessels stranded high and dry at low tide. You must be aware of the tides, or you will be marooned.

The second thing that has heightened my understanding of the phrase ‘high tide of the spirit’ comes from Shakespeare’s writing. In Julius Caesar Act 4, scene 3, 218-224, Brutus and Cassius are at a point of disagreement about how to conduct the final phase of their civil war with Octavian and Marcus Antonius. Cassius believes they should secure their position and rest for a final push. Brutus, however, is convinced they have an advantage and should press the issue.  Brutus speaks, There is a tide in the affairs of men, which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune; Omitted, all the voyages of their life 
is bound in shallows and in miseries. On such a full sea are we now afloat, and we must take the current when it serves, or lose our ventures.” Brutus insists that there is a force that ebbs and flows in time, and one must “go with the flow.” Waiting around only allows your opportunity to pass its crest and begin to ebb. If the opportunity is “omitted” (missed), you’ll find yourself stranded in miserable shallows. Since all ‘truth’ is God’s truth, it shows up in a myriad of places. It may be in nature, it may in secular writing, and always in scripture. When God’s spirit stirs in our hearts, it must be ‘taken at the flood’.

2 Corinthians 6:2b (KJV) “Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.”

Hebrews 2:3 (KJV) “How shall we escape, if we neglect so great a salvation;”

Psalm 95:7b (NIV) “Today, if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts…”

I cannot number the times I’ve witnessed the ‘high tide of the spirit’ in a service. Some have heeded the Lord’s invitation, stepped out in response to His voice, and found victory. Others have resisted the spirit and have been left floundering in the shallows. Opportunities were missed, and the grieved Holy Spirit moved on.

PRAYER: Lord, when the ‘high tide of the spirit’ comes, may we follow the advice of the Psalmist (Psalm 95:6, NIV)“Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the Lord our Maker.”  May we respond like the young Samuel in the Old Testament (1 Samuel 3:10b, NIV): “Then Samuel said, Speak, for your servant is listening.”

~ Brother Roy

Casting

castingThere are many times in the scripture where the word ‘cast’ is used. Webster’s New Dictionary defines ‘cast’ as an action verb meaning “to throw or fling, to hurl, to toss”. Usually the word ‘cast’ is used in the New Testament in connection with throwing or tossing a net to catch fish. “And as He walked by the Sea of Galilee, He saw Simon and his brother casting a net into the sea” (Mark 1:16).  “And He said unto them, ‘Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some.’ So they cast, and now they were not able to draw it in because of the multitude of fish” (John 21:6).  Most of us, when we hear the word ‘cast’, have a mental picture of a fisherman throwing a net out to encircle fish.

I want to consider a slightly different picture related to the word ‘cast’.  The one I want to focus on is found in 1 Peter 5:7: “Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.”  Recently, my daughter pointed this verse out to me. Our conversation centered on the fact that we are invited to ‘cast’ our cares on God.  We discussed the fact that we often take things to the Lord and then carry them away with us again.

There is a refrain in an old gospel song that says, “take your burden to the Lord and leave it there.”  That’s sound advice. We must have enough faith to believe that once we have given a burden to the Lord, He is going to take care of it. But, what particularly struck me about 1 Peter 5:7 is the phrase “casting all your cares upon Him, for He cares for you.”  Casting is not a passive verb. It is an action verb. We are to throw burdens and cares onto the strong shoulders of the Lord.

When we cast our cares on Him, we must truly believe that He cares and that He will carry what we cast on Him. God’s word tells us in Isaiah 41:10: “Fear thou not; for I am with thee; be not dismayed; for I am thy God; I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of My righteousness.”

When the cares of life seem more than we can bear, we must not shrink intodepression and inactivity. It is time to take action. It is time to “cast all of our cares upon Him”.  Across 54 years of ministry, I have proven His care over and over again.

As I face tomorrow, I take great comfort in knowing the Lord’s promise, “And even to your old age I am He; and even to hoar hairs will I carry you: I have made, and I will bear; even I will carry, and will deliver you” (Isa. 46:4).

~ Brother Roy

Smoke and Mirrors

smoke and mirrorsThe world that surrounds us is often more illusion than it is reality. Advertising is less about what a product can do and more about selling people an image. Photographs are airbrushed to hide blemishes. Claims about effectiveness are exaggerated and deceptive. Truth about politicians or merchandise is often relegated to the shadows, and a false impression created in its place. An idiomatic phrase is frequently employed to describe these deceptive practices. We say it’s all ‘smoke and mirrors’.

The ‘world’ that tries to sell us stuff would have us believe the way to happiness is alcohol consumption, flashy cars, and seductive clothing. The outer image is portrayed as reality, and the inner person is dismissed. Scripture gives a different picture. “…for the Lord seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7b). 

Solomon, purported to be the wisest man who has ever lived, tried following the world’s illusions of the good life.  In his pursuit of happiness, he submerged himself in parties and laughter. He tried cheering himself with wine and consumed the finest food. He built palatial homes surrounded by gardens and flowers. He had multitudes of servants and amassed great quantities of silver, gold, and rare jewels. He pandered to his sexual appetites and indulged in all kinds of foolish behavior.  A person would be well-served to know how it all worked out for him. Solomon, in his own words said, “I denied myself nothing my eyes desired; I refused my heart no pleasure.”  His conclusion was, “ Everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind” (Ecclesiastes 2). 

Who knows better what will satisfy the longings people have than the One who created us? Accord me the privilege of sharing a few of God’s words from scripture:

Proverbs 27:20b –“the eyes of man are never satisfied.”

Matthew 13:22“… the deceitfulness of riches, choke the word, and he (man) becometh unfruitful.”

Ephesians 4:14 – “That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried  about with every wind of doctrine, by the slight of men, and cunning craftiness whereby they lie in weight to deceive.”

Proverbs 11:22 – “As a jewel of gold in a swine’s snout, so is a fair women without discretion.”

1 Peter 3:3,4 (NIV)Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. Instead, it should be that of your inner self, unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.”

It has been my observation across my lifetime that peace of heart and mind are far more important than all the “stuff” the world offers. What the world offers is mostly ‘smoke and mirrors’. Our eternal soul is the greatest possession we have.  Jesus said, “For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Matt 16:26).

~ Brother Roy

Morning Glories

morning gloryI am an early riser. If you ask my family they will surely testify to that fact. I love so many things about the first light of day. I love to watch the golden light of dawn chase the darkness away. The first song of the birds in the morning seems sweeter. One of my favorite flowers is the ‘Morning Glory’. This beautiful flower opens it’s delicate blossom to the early rays of the sun. It greets the dawn and gloriously displays God’s design and artistry. It closes as the heat of noonday approaches. If you want to see this intricate part of God’s creation, you need get up early.

There is a humorous saying describing how people approach the morning. Some joyfully say, “Good morning, Lord”, while others begrudgingly say, “Good Lord, it’s morning !”  I greet the Lord and the morning with delight. I revel in the following ‘Morning Glories’:

Glory of Morning Light – At the dawn of creation, “darkness was on the face of the deep. And God said, Let there be light and there was light. And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness” (Genesis 1:2-4).The words of a contemporary song resonate with me each morning: “He wraps Himself in light, and darkness tries to hide and trembles at His voice, trembles at His voice. How great is our God!”

Glory of Creation – “The heavens declare the glory of God; the firmament sheweth His handiwork” (Psalm 19:1).

Glory of His Presence – I rejoice each morning in knowing He is with me. “… for He hath said, ‘I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee’” (Hebrews 13:5). He also said, “…and lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world” (Matthew 28:20b).

Glory of Redemption“In whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace;” (Ephesians 1:7).

Glory of a Fresh New Day – “It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness” (Lamentations 3:23,24).

My heart sings in the morning to the glory of God:

Joyful, joyful, we adore Thee, God of glory, Lord of love.
Hearts unfold like flowers before Thee, opening to the sun above.
Melt the clouds of sin and sadness; drive the dark of doubt away.
Giver of immortal gladness, fill us with the light of day!

All Thy works with joy surround Thee, earth and heaven reflect Thy rays,
Stars and angels sing around Thee, center of unbroken praise.
Field and forest, vale and mountain, flowery meadow, flashing sea,
Chanting bird and flowing fountain, call us to rejoice in Thee.

~ Brother Roy

Just for Today…

todayJust for today, let us live our best as Christ enables us. Just for today, let us live as we know we ought to live, as in our hearts we really want to live. Surely, a person can do anything for just one day. Jesus gives us advice on how to do this in Matthew 6:34: “Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things comes up when the time comes” (Message Translation).

  • Just for today, let us live without fear of either life or death. Let us enjoy the moments of time we have right now.
  • Just for today, let us live this one day only. Let us forget problems from yesterday and not worry about problems that might arise tomorrow.
  • Just for today, let us count our blessing and focus on what we have and not on what we wish we had.
  • Just for today, let us be agreeable, cheerful, charitable, gracious; let us walk softly, praise people for what they do, not criticize them for what they cannot do, and if we find fault, forgive it and forget it.
  • Just for today, let us abandon all the grudges we have against people and life because we did not get what we think we ought to have.
  • Just for today, let us study something useful, which requires focus and concentration, and let us do a bit of real thinking. (The Bible is a good place to start.)
  • Just for today, let us find or make a little quiet time – to relax, to be still and know that God ‘is’ and that He loves us.
  • Just for today, let us walk in ‘the beauty of Holiness’, and in the words of an old hymn, let us “live above the world and sin, with hearts made pure and garments white and Christ enthroned within.”

The burden of mistakes in the past and the worry about things to come can overwhelm us. If we try to solve all of life’s problems at once, they will crush us. But, just for today, this one day, let us live victoriously.  And then when we do, we will know we can live one more day and one more day and one more day, until we realize we “can do all things through Christ who strengthens us” (Phil. 4:13).

~ Brother Roy