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

Just Passing Through

airport terminalRecently, we were hurriedly moving through the Atlanta airport. The concourses were crowded as usual. Thousands of travelers were scurrying in every direction. We passed by an advertising sign that caught my attention. The sign had large letters at the top with this question- Just Passing Through? In smaller letters farther down, a second question appeared – Aren’t we all? 

A sobering thought gripped my mind. Thousands of people were going every which way. Some were on business trips, some traveling on vacations, others going home. We were all just passing through Atlanta. I thought, transients – all of us are just transients. We move quickly, not only through airports, but also through this world. The words of an old gospel song came to mind;

This world is not my home, I’m just passing through,
My treasures are laid up somewhere beyond the blue.

All of us are travelers through this world and also through the days of our lives. We’re on a rapidly passing probationary journey that will determine our eternal destination.  Words in the Book of James ring clear, “Now listen, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.’  Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? Your are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes away” (James 4:13-14, NIV).  

As we pass through, the things we gather around us are mostly temporary. However, Jesus said, “Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son-of-Man will give you. On Him God has placed His seal of approval” (John 6:27, NIV).  Jesus also said, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6: 19-21, NIV).

 “For we are strangers before thee, and sojourners, as were all our fathers: our days on the earth are as a shadow, and there is none abiding (1 Chronicles 29:15, KJV)

JUST PASSING THROUGH?
AREN’T WE ALL?

~ Brother Roy

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