A Watch, But No Time

Big Watch Time Check

A national, working with a mission group said, “Missionaries all have watches but nobody has time.” I personally have observed a number of missionaries who work themselves to the point of exhaustion. They are so busy they scarcely have time to eat or rest. Yet, I wonder if some the people they’ve set out to serve feel like the national just mentioned. Kenyans often refer to white people as ‘mzungu’ – people who run in circles. They seem to have so many things to do that they don’t have time for the very people to whom they came to minister.

The problem touches a far wider group of people than just missionaries. It seems to be a sign of the times in which we live. Parents work so hard to provide things for their families, they don’t have time to be with them. Church staffs get so busy doing religious things, they don’t have time to minister to members of their congregations.  As a university professor, I was often so busy grading papers, doing lesson plans, working with student government, etc., than I didn’t have time to spend with very kind of the students that drew me to Asbury University in the first place.

At the height of His popularity, large crowds of people often surrounded Jesus. Everyone wanted something from Him. One woman even tried to tug off His coat. The scripture says at times there were so many people coming and going that He didn’t even have time to eat. Yet, somehow He always seemed to have time to deal with the ones who needed Him the most. The account of the meeting between Jesus and Bartimaeus serves to illustrate His willingness to take time with an individual when it seemed He had no time.

Jesus was passing through Jericho for the very last time. He was on His way to Jerusalem where He would be crucified. Intense thoughts of the agony and suffering just ahead must have been on His mind. He was surely concerned about unfinished business as he moved along with “a great number of people” (Mark 10:46). Somehow above the din and press of the crowd, He heard the cry of a blind beggar sitting by the roadside and calling His name.

Even with the weight of the world on His shoulders and the roar of the crowd surrounding Him, Jesus stopped. Mark says, “Jesus stood still” (Mark 10:49). He called for Bartimaeus to come to Him. Think of it! The beginner of all motion stood still and ministered to a blind beggar while on His way to die. Where did He find the strength in the midst of His own trials, to reach out to one who needed Him? I do not believe it was a power surge from His divine side. Rather, I believe He accessed the power of the Holy Spirit that was within. That same Holy Spirit that is available to all true believers today. He promised (Acts 1:4,8).

Jesus will take time for you. He will ‘stand still’ to hear your heart’s cry. Again let me say, He promised (John 6:37). And there is an amazing side benefit of a right relationship with the Savior. He can help you prioritize your time. When you seek first the kingdom of God, other things that need your time and attention can be put in proper order. The Holy Spirit can help you invest your time in the people and things that are the most important.

Do You Have A Watch – But No Time?

~ Brother Roy

Redeem / Restore / Reclaim

madikweIn the Northwest corner of South Africa is a vast sector of land called Madikwe that backs up to the Kalahari Desert and Botswana border. The poor soil type was not suited to farming.  Farming efforts soon depleted the soils and the tired land was then of little use. After extensive research, the South African Government found that this land would best be utilized as a national park. The study showed that wildlife-based tourism was the most beneficial option for this remote and economically depressed area.

In 1991, the government of the time initiated Operation Phoenix – the largest wildlife translocation to ever take place in the world. The demarcated area was fenced off, and by 1997 more than 8,000 animals of 28 species had been released into the reserve. Even before it had been officially proclaimed, work had begun to clear the many derelict farm buildings and structures, and the hundreds of kilometers of old fencing. Many alien plants were also removed. Like the mythical bird, the Phoenix, once thought dead, yet arose from its ashes to glorious new heights, Madikwe too has risen.

May I share a life lesson drawn from the Madikwe project? In over a half century of ministry, I have met many people who have depleted the landscape of their lives.  Bad decisions and misuse have left the soil of the soul tired and unproductive. But, a cursory review of scripture will indicate that the Lord is in the restoration business. He delights in reclaiming a life that is brought to Him, no matter how abused and misused it has been. Like Madikwe, a person can ‘be born again’. The Lord has a plan to bring a weary soul back into productivity.

The Madikwe area that was not much more than a wasteland now teems with wildlife. It has not only returned to productivity, it is now better than ever. The success story for this land can be the same kind of success story for every soul that brings their tired exhausted life to Jesus. He is called the “Redeemer” because He came to buy us back, to reclaim us, to restore us. Hallelujah! His desire is that our souls be replenished (Genesis 1:28) so we can multiply His grace to others around us.

Create in me a clean heart – Renew a right spirit in me
Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation – Uphold me with thy free spirit.
(
Psalm 51)

~ Brother Roy

Identity Theft

identity-theftThe month of January brought a tempest into our lives. A month later, we are still trying to recover. We experienced a major computer hack/identity theft. The experience has left us with a deep sense of being violated and our lives invaded. As we moved to repair the damage and protect ourselves, the hours stretched into days and the days into weeks. We had to cancel bank accounts, credit cards and other financial accounts. Visits in person were necessary to Social Security Office, Internal Revenue Service, Teacher Retirement, State Revenue Cabinet, and more. Our computers and iPhones had to be shut down and ‘cleaned’.

As we trudged through a nearly endless maze of complications, a thought came to me. Although the problem of identity theft seems relatively new, it is as old as man’s first days on earth. Genesis 3 recounts the story of the day that Satan stole Adam and Eve’s true identify. Before the incursion, they were without sin and children of God. Afterwards, they were left violated, disillusioned, and the image of God in them had been defaced. The Father’s likeness was blurred. They were no longer unstained children of God, but their identity was changed to children of disobedience. They were sinners.

From that day to this, God has been working to restore His image in humankind. His desire is to return people to His likeness and image. He wants to give back to us our true identity, that of being ‘children of God’. He sent His son to take on the sins of our fallen race in order that we might have our true identity restored.

  • But to all who did receive Him, to those who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God” (John 1:12)
  • “So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith(Galatians 3:26)

Matthew Henry, in his classic commentary, speaks of believers when he states, “Having accepted Christ Jesus as their Lord and Savior, and relying on him alone for justification and salvation, they become the sons of God”.

Are you a victim of Identity Theft? Has God’s image in you been defiled? Do you desire to recover your true identity through Jesus Christ? Confess your sins, believe in His name, receive Him into your heart and your true Identity will be restored.

~ Brother Roy

The Final Cost (It’s Almost Like Free!)

swipe-card-hereIn a recent devotional, I shared my thoughts while I was on a gift cruise aboard the NCL Escape. On the cruise, I noted several diversions that people tried to use to ‘escape’ from their lives’ troubles. When my daughter read the devotional, she said, “Daddy, you need to extend your reflections to included our experience on an earlier cruise.” A momentary prod from her and my memory recaptured the event.

We were standing in a line at the Guest Services counter just hours before the ship returned to our port of departure. The cruise was ending, and there was a line containing many irate passengers. They had received their ship card bill. To their surprise and dismay, it was much larger than they had expected.

Let me offer a probable cause for their ‘sticker shock’. You cannot spend cash on cruise ships. Boarding passengers are given a ship card. Everything from merchandise to soft drinks, from the casinos to alcoholic beverages, is purchased with a simple swipe of the card. For example, a couple may each easily consume six to eight drinks a day. It’s hard to keep track over seven days, especially when you have had a little too much to drink. Averaging $12.95 per drink x 2 for 7 days, the bill comes to over $1080.00 for drinks alone. Add the casino bill and specialty food charges, and the on-board costs soar. It may rival or exceed the initial cost of the cruise. ‘Swipe the card – it’s almost like it’s free’ is the modus operandi. But then comes the bill for the final cost!

There is a powerful analogy to be found in the spiritual realm. Self -pleasing and self-serving people move through the days of their lives using an almost-like-free swipe-it mantra.  As free moral agents, they spend their currency of time and resources as they see fit. Ignoring Biblical principles for Christian living, they waste their substance on temporal things.

Then the final accounting comes. God’s word says, “It is appointed to men once to die and after that the judgment.”  At judgment, the bill for careless and sinful living is death and final separation from God forever. Many people fail to count the cost if their souls should be lost.

Like the people in line on the cruise ship, they will be shocked at the cost. Judas may serve as an example for us. Matthew 27 recounts Judas’ final hours. When he saw what he had done, he was stunned and tried to undo the damage, but to no avail. One translation reads, “When Judas, His betrayer, saw that Jesus was condemned, he changed his mind and brought back the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders, saying, ‘I have sinned by betraying innocent blood’” (Matthew 27:3-4, ESV). Satan had blinded him to the final consequences of his actions until the last minute. Then it was too late! He threw down the silver with great remorse and stepped into the endless night of a Godless eternity. Forever his soul will dwell where the “fire is not quenched and the worm does not die”. He had let himself to be blinded to the final cost!

DO NOT BE DECEIVED; GOD IS NOT MOCKED, FOR WHATEVER ONE SOWS, THAT WILL HE ALSO REAP
(Galatians 6:7, ESV)

~ Brother Roy

His Holiness

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One morning I was watching a beautiful sunrise in South Africa. As the first rays of golden light touched the Father’s creation, my humbled heart began to sing with Isaiah, “Holy, Holy, Holy, is the Lord of hosts: the whole earth  is full of His glory” (Isaiah 6:3). In those moments of astonished consciousness, adoration and praise came like waves of the ocean upon my soul.

Three thoughts overwhelmed me that morning. They will forever remain a part of my spiritually reality. As never before, I was:

  • Awed by His Holiness. I think I’ve always had a basic understanding of His holiness. But that morning, my understanding reached a whole new level. I will call on Isaiah’s account to put into words what my feeble vocabulary will not allow: “I saw also the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and His train filled the temple.  Above it stood the seraphims…” (Isaiah 6:1-2).
  • Aware of My Sinfulness. In the resplendent radiance of God’s presence, I suddenly felt dirty, like a leper covered with filthy rags. Relying again on words from Isaiah: “Then said I, Woe is me! For I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts.” (Isaiah 6:5).
  • Amazed at His Grace. I had never felt so vile and depraved as in those moments. But then, I was amazed at a grace that could bridge the gap between my wretched ungodliness and His perfect holiness. As when one of the seraphim took a live coal from off the altar of God and touched Isaiah’s lips, I sensed Jesus’ touch on my lips and my soul. In my spirit, I heard Him say, “Lo, this hath touched thy lips; and thine iniquity is taken away, and thy sin taken away” (Isaiah 6:7). What amazing grace! It is a grace greater than our sin.

Let All The Inhabitants Of The World Stand In Awe Of Him (Psalm 33:8)

~ Brother Roy

No Escape

escapeWe recently sailed out of Miami on the NCL Escape. Our trip was a beautiful gift from our daughter and son-in-law. Away from the pressures of ministry and a hectic schedule, there was time to reflect on my advancing years and issues of life. There were over 4,000 passengers on board the ship. When the crew and entertainers are added to that number, the count soars to over 6,000. Many of the guests sailing out on the Escape seemed to be seeking to do just that – ‘escape’.

Wanting to leave behind such things as dysfunctional relationships, job and career disappointments, family crises, and a host of other troubles, they appeared to be making a vain attempt to distance themselves from their problems.

By the hundreds, people descended on the buffet lines and restaurants, seemingly intent on gorging in an almost endless feeding frenzy in an attempt to forget things left behind. Alcoholic beverages were consumed to a startling degree – many seemed to have a glass in their hand from morning until they collapsed at night.  The ringing bells, horns, and other noise of the casinos drew people like a moth to a flame; disillusioned, they hoped to win something there to numb their inner pain from life’s losses.  Raucous entertainment, thumping drum beats, blaring musical instruments coursed through speakers turned to the maximum volume; with the rhythmic vibrations, they sought to anesthetize the mind.

The common theme for so many is: Escape – Escape – Escape – Escape – Escape!

Hear a great eternal truth from God’s word. If we reject God, we shall not escape. “How shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation” (Hebrews 2:3, ESV). The cruise ship Escape will soon return to our port of departure. The troubles that were left behind will be there waiting. If anything, they will have increased in intensity. Until we make peace with God, there is no escape. “Where shall I go from your Spirit, or where shall I flee from your presence? If I ascend to heaven you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol (hell), you are there! If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me” (Psalm 139:8-10, ESV).

But, there is a true path of escape from the cares of this life. Jesus provided words of direction for those who are troubled, bruised by the world, or burdened down with guilt. He said, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of 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).

~ Brother Roy

Beauty and the Beast

beauty and the beastIt was about 8:00 a.m. when Lebo, our tracker, gave a hand signal to our ranger. He had picked up the tracks of two lions. Dwayne, our ranger, was well familiar with this area and these lions. He is a veteran game ranger in Madikwe, South Africa. After a few hundred yards farther down the dirt road, Lebo gave another hand signal, and Dwayne turned off road. A short distance later, the land cruiser slowed to a stop as Lebo pointed out the lions. The two were stretched out and sleeping. They scarcely roused as we approached. Dwayne explained that we were a party to something extraordinary. These older lions had been ejected from their territory in a terrific fight with two younger male lions. In an unheard of occurrence, these two old timers had recouped and returned. In another furious battle, they reclaimed the territory. Bruised and battered, still licking their wounds, they were resting from the grueling combat.

We spent considerable time watching the lions and listening to Dwayne as he recounted the exploits of the ‘old guys’.  It was then that I noticed the black tip of one of the lion’s tail a few inches from a beautiful flower. I immediately thought of the Beauty and the Beast. As is often the case, some seemingly unconnected events start my mind down the path of a life lesson.

Villeneuve’s traditional fairy tale, The Beauty and the Beast, carries a fascinating story line. A handsome prince falls under the spell of a wicked fairy that turns him into a hideous beast. Only by finding true love, despite his ugliness, could the curse be broken. Now, let me attempt to relate this fairy tale to the message of God’s love.

In the Garden of Eden, man fell into disobedience and sin under the awful influence of the wicked one, Satan himself. The distorting and defacing impact of sin turned man into a fallen and ugly beast inside. Scarcely had the curse gripped the heart of man, when jealousy and murder reared their repulsive heads. Adam and Eve’s son Cain killed his brother Abel. From that time to this, the curse of sin has passed on to all men. Once infected by sin, beastly men have left their bloody footprints across the pages of the scripture and across history. Tyrants like Hitler, Stalin, and even today’s ISIS exemplify the ugly beast within as they behead, rape, and torture the innocents.

As in the fairy tale, only unconditional love, despite man’s ugliness, can break the curse. God’s word informs us of an amazing transformation that can take place because of Christ’s love.

  • But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)
  • This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” (1 John 4:10)
  • Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us.” (Galatians 3:13)
  • Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” (2 Corinthians 5:17, KJV)

By the grace of God, the beast can become beautiful. Do you want to become a new creature? Is the desire of your heart to see ugliness within pass away? Accept Christ’s love and He will make you into a new person.

We Can Turn From Beast To Beauty By Christ’s Love

~ Brother Roy