Getting People Lost

all have sinnedAt age 19, I was already the pastor a small rural church. I called a former pastor, Rev. Cain, and invited him to preach a revival for our church. Several of the congregation had kept in touch with him across the years. The Lord had greatly blessed his ministry with a harvest of souls. He had shepherded two churches through exceptional growth and building programs. He was also in demand as a revival speaker.

I so wanted to impress Bro. Cain, and I must confess I felt pretty important being a pastor at 19 years old. In an ill-fated and inappropriate attempt to make an impression, I said, “ Bro. Cain, in my experience I’m finding it more and more difficult to get men saved. Have you had similar experience?” He paused for a moment, and I expectantly waited for a reply that I was sure would stroke my youthful ego. His response shook me to the core and forever shaped my ministry. He replied, “No. No, I haven’t found that to be true at all. I’ve spent my ministry trying to get people lost. You see, young man, if you can convince unbelievers that they are lost, if you can help them see the fires of hell and eternal separation from God and all that’s good, they will gladly flee into the arms of the Savior.”

“Getting people lost” is still a phrase that comes to mind whenever I have the opportunity to preach. Of course, the objective of preaching should be to bring people to the Savior. The difficult part, it seems, is to convince most unbelievers that they are lost and must be born again. The Apostle Paul often refers to the unsaved as “dead in trespasses and sin” (Ephesians 2:1, 5; Colossians 2:3).It is good to re-read the account of Nicodemus from time to time and know that Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God”  (John 3:1-21).

~ Brother Roy

Fishin’

fishI love to fish! But, the pathway of life that I’ve followed has left little time for this beloved activity. I’m not very good at “fishin’”. I blame the lack of fishing time as the reason I’m so inept at the undertaking. Recently, on a visit to Dauphin Island, my friend Wayne invited me to go fishing with him and a group of his friends. It was the last day of Red Snapper season, and I was really excited to get to go.

We went a few miles off shore and dropped our lines, but with limited success. The water was rough and choppy. I thought our fishing trip was about over when Wayne said, “I know a spot about 25 miles out. I don’t want to go in on the last day of snapper season without our limit. Roll up your lines and let’s go!”  Not being accustom to fishing off shore, I was alarmed at the prospects of going so far out in rough seas. However, Wayne grew up on these waters, and I trusted him completely, so I sat back and let the sea spray and waves come on in. An hour or so later, we arrived at ‘the place’ and dropped our lines in 100 feet of water. Almost immediately the fish started hitting. We caught our limit in a short amount of time. Several of the snapper weighted close to 20 pounds, others less.  We had approximately 300 pounds of fish!

On the trip back in, I thought about another fishing trip some 2,000 years ago (Luke 5: 1-7).  Simon Peter and some of his friends had fished all night and caught nothing. Jesus said to Simon, “Launch out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.”   And when they had done this, they caught a great number of fish.”   In the Sea of Galilee, the fish came to the shallows at night to feed; in the daytime they went down to cooler waters deep in the lake. Though Peter’s experience made him quite sure that they would catch nothing, he was willing to listen to Jesus and try. They caught so many fish that friends had to be called to help. They brought in two boatloads of fish.

How many times as His witnesses have we stayed in the shallows and caught nothing. Jesus is calling us to have faith in Him and to follow His directives. We need to trust Him and when beckoned to do so, we need  “to launch out into the deep.”  Our natural inclination is to stay in the shallows where it is safe. Our soul winning efforts are all too often futile because we are afraid of the deep water and fearful of failure. We need to hear again the words of Jesus in Matthew 28: 18-20: “And Jesus came and spake unto them saying, All power is given unto Me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost; Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.” 

If He asks us to launch out into deep waters like the mission field or an unseemly part of town, to go to a grumpy neighbor or a lost family member, we need to obey. Are we not called to be ‘fishers of men’? He will go with us and help us. He promised.

~ Brother Roy

The Cut

Katrina Cut

Satellite Image of the “Katrina Cut”

In 2005, Hurricane Katrina roared into the gulf of Mobile Bay. She slammed into Dauphin Island with a ferocity that left a gaping wound across the island. The violent winds and storm surge severed the west end of the island from the main body of land. The “Katrina Cut”, as it came to be known, had been formed. The destruction did not end with the passing of the storm. The Cut allowed gulf water to pour directly into Mobile Bay. The saltier water coursing through the Cut changed the salinity of the water in the bay. This allowed a type of conch called an oyster drill to come in and thrive. The oyster drill’s primary food is the oyster. They began destroying the oyster beds in the bay. It was a devastating blow to the oyster fishermen in the area.

A powerful analogy may be drawn from this event. The vicissitudes of life often cut into the inner man. These cuts at times seem to reach to the very soul. It might be the breakup of the family, betrayal by a loved one, or the loss of a beloved family member or a close friend that cuts deeply. The “salinity of the soul” often begins to change.  Bitterness, resentment, sullenness, anger, and depression can pour in. It comes the ‘drills’ of sin. The soul within begins to die. Many of us have been cut deeply by events in our lives. If we are not careful, our relationship with God is at peril.

On Dauphin Island, a bold plan was developed. The decision was made to try to close the Cut. That meant rebuilding over a mile of the island across open water to reconnect the two parts. Wayne Eldridge, a local marine contractor, accepted the challenge. The laborious task of bringing in tens of thousands of tons of a dense grade of rock began. Little by little large boulders were positioned, and the Cut began to close. In what seemed at times an endless task, barge after barge was emptied. With track hoes and other heavy equipment, plus the expenditure of immense human effort, they finally breached the cut. Aided by the natural action of gulf currents, the sand began to cover the rocks, and healing took place. The island was once more whole.

Our heavenly Father has a bold plan to heal the cuts inflicted on His children. He sent His only son into the world to execute His plan. In Luke 4:18, Jesus said, “The spirit of the Lord is upon me to preach the gospel to the poor; He hath sent me to heal the broken-hearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised.”  By the grace of God, wounded souls can be healed. The passing of time may soften the hurt, but only Jesus can truly heal.

Have you been hurt? Have you been cut so deeply that it is affecting all areas of your life?  Jesus came to heal the broken hearted and the bruised. Hear the beautiful words of the Prophet Malachi: “But to you who fear My name the Son of Righteousness shall arise with healing in His wings” (Malachi 4:2).  We are invited to go to the Lord for healing of the deepest cuts.

~ Brother Roy

Driftwood on the Beach of Eternity

driftwoodI love to walk along the seashore and feel the sea breeze in my face. The cry of the gulls riding the air currents above the water, waves breaking a short distance out and racing onto shore – it all brings me great pleasure. Recently, I was walking on the beach on Dauphin Island.  There were several pieces of driftwood scattered along the sand. They were cast there by some passing storm. They lay gnarled and battered as they bleached in the sun.

My mind moved quickly to a verse of scripture in the Book of Exodus. “And Israel saw the Egyptians dead on the sea shore” (Exodus 14:30b, KJV).  The Message Translation renders this passage as, “And Israel looked at the Egyptian dead, washed up on the shore of the sea, and realized the tremendous power that God brought against the Egyptians.”  The great Pharaoh was dead, as dead as the lowest-ranking soldiers in his army. Death had proven to be the great equalizer. John writes in Revelation 20:12, “And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God …and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books…”  The powerful Egyptian potentate had become just another piece of driftwood on the beach of eternity.

He was not in this watery grave by accident, but by the mighty hand of God. He will remain forever a monument to God’s power. This time, Pharaoh is not a monument to God’s power to save, but His power to thwart, to frustrate, to utterly destroy. God will stop a renegade soul from disrupting His divine plan.  He will rise up to meet the challenge of a defiant and disobedient soul.

I believe God loved Moses, but I believe He also loved Pharaoh no less. Hear the heart of God in Ezekiel 33:11:Say to them: ‘As I live,’ says the Lord God, ‘I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his ways and live.” 2 Peter 3:9 echoes the same sentiment: “The Lord is not slack concerning His promises, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.”   Whatever wreck people make of their lives, it is done by the choices they make, not by a vindictive God.

Pharaoh’s body lay on an ancient beach. It was cast there by a grieving Heavenly Father who witnessed this man spurn His every effort to keep him from this tragic end. Pharaoh was not there because God had pre-determined to drown him in the Red Sea, and that without choice. I do not believe that God destined one to be forever revered as a savior of his people (Moses) and the other (Pharaoh) to be an object of His wrath. We must surely know that we cannot reject God’s love and fight against Him and expect to win. God will be forced finally to stop a rebellious soul. Pharaoh had victimized himself by his own choices.

Prayer: Dear Lord please help me to respond to your love. May I never chose my own willful way and reject your plan for my salvation. I never want to be a piece of “driftwood on the beach of eternity.”

~ Brother Roy

What Is the Wind?

( Thoughts partly drawn from these sources: a devotional by Allen Weenink, Doran’s Minister’s Manuel, and the wise men at Fitch’s IGA)

ITALY - Tuscany - Mediterranean - Tyrrenian sea - Argentario Sailing Week“The wind blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going; so is everyone who is born of the Spirit.” (John 3:8)

“What is the wind?” a little boy asked his grandfather, a wise and hardy sailor. “I don’t know, my boy, answered the old man of the sea, “but I can hoist a sail.”  On the Day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit descended like the sound of a ‘mighty rushing wind.’ The 120 people gathered in Jerusalem were there in obedience to Christ’s directive in Acts 1:1- “He commanded them not to depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father”Acts 2:1-2 tells us, “They were all with one accord,” in prayer, waiting for something to happen. “And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting”.  They did not question the the miracle of the coming of that tremendous life-surge.

Although their understanding of the phenomena was incomplete, those 120 faithful hoisted a sail, gave God their lives, responded to God’s inspiration, and went out to transform the world. The church was born out of a group of bewildered individuals grieving the loss of their leader. The promise of the Father came. The power was given. Then, because they could not help it, they became leaders – charismatic individuals with the same dynamic that had first drawn them to Christ.

A miracle took place in the upper room where they had gathered to wait as instructed. Something new ‘breathed’ into their lives, and they were never quite the same again. A miraculous event occurred and continues to take place wherever men and women have enough faith to hoist a sail!  A powerful symbol we might use for the Church is that of a ship plowing through the sea of life, sails unfurled, driven on by the mighty force of God Himself.

The Holy Spirit has been called “the truth of the invisible God in action.” That is an apt description of the incredible surging energy unleashed that day, setting in motion far-reaching forces still undiminished to this very day.

How can I know that this power is real? one might ask. By what happens, I respond. You can hear it rustling through the leaves. “What is the wind?” the boy asked his grandfather, who replied, “I don’t know, but I can hoist a sail.” What happens is evidence of the unprovable fact. For the seaman, it is the wind in the sails. For the Christian, it is the life of the soul. To the sailor, it means lifting a canvas sail to catch the power of the unseen force. To the Christian it is the set of the soul, the waiting expectancy, the openheartedness that says, “Come, Holy Spirit.”

Every one of us has been inspired: some spoken word, a soft refrain, some thunderous majesty of nature, a crisis we felt we couldn’t conquer but did, the silent thought that gripped us throughly, an act of adoration, some confrontation in which all conviction was called on to respond.  And in that situation something out of nowhere, it seemed, possessed us, fired us, lifted us, pushed us, calmed us, helped us, healed us, restrained us, restored us, until we were not only ourselves, but inspired by the Holy Spirit we found that what we couldn’t do on our own, God helped us do.

The ‘Wind of the Holy Spirit’ was the force that created the Church. It is the force which creates new lives. It is the strength that makes saints. It is the same power that created the world out of nothing and created man out of the dust of the earth. It is that force that created the living church out of mourning disciples.   No less divine than the miracle of physical birth is the miracle of rebirth – the new life in Christ.

The supreme work of the Holy Spirit is to convince people and convict them, to cleanse and renew them, and make them over in the likeness of Christ.  Paul lists the “fruit of the spirit”: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23). The apostle would have us know that we do not make fruitful Christians of ourselves, cultivating the Christian graces, manicuring our souls, and pulling ourselves up by our moral bootstraps. Rather, we open our lives in faith to the cleansing, renewing breath of God.  We enable the spirit to produces these graces within us as naturally as a tree produces fruit.

Is this concept so very difficult to understand? Perhaps it sounds too mystical and unreal, so we shy away. We raise our credibility guard against what we do not understand spiritually. But we don’t with the physical. “What is the wind, grandfather?” “I don’t know my boy, but I can hoist a sail.”

The understanding of a personal Pentecost for us today is a time of implicit challenge and crisis just as it was for the disciples during the weeks following the execution of Jesus.  We live in a revolutionary age, full of unrest among students, races, ethnic groups, and economic classes. These are days of turmoil, demonstration, polarization, fragmentation, and frustration. The account of Pentecost in Acts 2 serves to remind us that a handful of people utterly transformed a sick society and gave it new life. What they did then is equally possible today. The Church has not failed, nor has God. We are the Church as individuals, and God makes Himself known to us as individuals. We are invited by the Father to be fellow laborers with Him as He works to reconcile the world to Himself.

Knowing God and doing His will, we become part of the leavening influence of which our Lord spoke (Luke 13:20-21).  To pray earnestly, to serve despite the cost, to worship as an act of faith, to give as an expression of loyalty, to study the Word as discipline for the soul, to become actively involved in carrying out the Great Commission – these are ways to hoist the sail, leaving the rest to the providence of Almighty God.

The Set of the Sail

One ship drives east, and another west
With the self-same winds that blow;
‘Tis the set of the sails
And not the gales,
Which decides the way to go.

Like the winds of the sea are the ways of fate;
As the voyage along through life;
‘Tis the will of the soul
That decides its goal,
And not the calm or the strife.

~ Brother Roy

Revival on Shoemaker Ridge (Or, How New Hope Became the Proud Owner of a Horse Trough)

The little church that NHIM helped to plant on Shoemaker Ridge in Lee County, Kentucky, has experienced its ups and downs since it was dedicated on Easter Sunday two years ago.  The ridge is a tough place to minister – poverty, alcoholism, and drugs have plagued the community for years.  A revival meeting was scheduled for September 17-21, and the Holy Spirit moved in a special way in the little church on the ridge.  After more than 90 people crammed into the tiny sanctuary on Sunday night, the revival meetings were extended for another night, then extended again to Tuesday and Wednesday.  Many spiritual victories were won at the altar.  On Wednesday night, the last night of the revival, three believers were baptized in a horse-watering trough purchased by New Hope to serve as a baptistry.  We thank God for the moving of His Spirit on Shoemaker Ridge and ask that you would join us in prayer for the ministry of Ridge Chapel and for the believers, some young and some old, who have begun a new walk with the Lord.

Here are some pictures and videos from Wednesday night’s closing service:

A simple purchase with a profound purpose

A simple purchase with a profound purpose

Pastor David leads the congregation in singing

matt

NHIM Board Chairman Matt Kinnell sings during the service

More congregational singing

One of the baptisms that took place on Wednesday evening

One of the baptisms that took place on Wednesday evening

Still Waters

still waters“He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul.” (Psalm 23:2b-3a)

Noise, jangled nerves, family pressures, and a hectic pace, are all part of the daily life most of us live. Cell phones, Internet, Facebook, and Twitter, add to the chaotic nature of modern life. If you are like me, at times we long for a place beside the “still waters.” We need a quiet place where the Lord can restore our soul.

Thanks to our wonderful Christian friends, Wayne and Pam, we are invited to stay at their beach house on Dauphin Island, Alabama, whenever we can. Three or four times a year, we avail ourselves to their invitation. There are times when the water is so still the bay looks like a mirror. It quietens a stressed heart. A soft, gentle breeze refreshes our weary souls. While there is a need for our bodies to rest and relax physically, there is an even greater need for spiritual calm and rest for the soul.

Jesus said, “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and My burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30).  The Book of Jeremiah echoes the theme of rest for the soul in chapter 6:16“Thus says the Lord; Stand in the ways and see, And ask for the old paths, where the good way is, and walk in it; Then you shall find rest for your souls.” 

We may not always be able to go a physical place ‘beside the still waters’, but praise the Lord we can all come to Jesus for rest wherever we are. His Spirit is closer than our hands and feet.  Acts 17: 27 assures us that “He is not far from each one of us.” Are you stressed, harried, anxious? Come to Him! He will lead you to the spiritual still waters and restore your soul. He promised!

~ Brother Roy