Barnacles

barnaclesMany of the waterfront houses on Dauphin Island, Bayou La Batre, and other places along shorelines, have their own boat docks. Fishing and recreational boats are then available for use just a few yards away. You cannot help but notice that the boats are on boatlifts that raise them well above the water level.  The boats are not left for extended periods of time at rest in the water. Shallow waters are a prime location for small marine creatures called ‘barnacles‘.  These creatures will attach themselves to the hulls of boats below the water line. They can soon cover the bottom of a boat. The buildup of these ‘biofoulers’ leads to increased drag of up to 60% when the boat moves through the water. They dramatically reduce the efficiency of the boat in both speed and fuel. The barnacles cement themselves to the hull of vessels with one of the strongest adhesives occurring in nature. It is a very labor-intensive and costly process to have them removed.

We can learn a life lesson from the barnacle problem. As believers, we are expected to be vigorously involved as witnesses and workers in the kingdom of God. We should not let ourselves lay at rest for long periods of time. The waters of this world are filled with ‘barnacles of the soul’. On more than one occasion in scripture, we are instructed not to grow weary in doing good. We need to stay actively involved in kingdom work. The ‘cares of this world’ attach themselves to us quickly during periods of inactivity. They create a drag on our spiritual lives and destroy the efficiency of our work for Christ. The writer of Hebrews offers this advice: “We should remove from our lives anything that would get in the way (barnacles of the soul) and the sin that so easily holds us back (Hebrews 12:1b, NCV).

When we are not actively engaged in building the kingdom, we must be aware of the dangers of just floating at rest in the waters of this world. As we are able, we need to be, physically as well as spiritually, at work for Christ.  When we are not able to work physically, the power of prayer is open to us. We can also avail ourselves to our phones and write notes of encouragement and witness. There is work for every one of us to do. ‘Spiritual barnacles’ will quickly cement themselves to the souls of those who lay at rest. The bond is exceedingly difficult to break. They cost us dearly in lost productivity, time, and effectiveness.

I like these words of the old hymn, “Higher Ground”:

My heart has no desire to stay
Where doubts arise and fears dismay;
Though some may dwell where these abound,
My prayer, my aim is higher ground.

I want to live above the world,
Though Satan’s darts at me are hurled;
For faith has caught the joyful sound,
The song of saints on higher ground.

I thank the Lord that like the boatlifts along the shoreline, Jesus can lift us out of troubled water. In love, He can elevate us above the ‘biofouled’ waters of a fallen world.

Lord, Lift Me Up

~ Brother Roy

Read the Book

bible“Today this scripture is fulfilled as you listen.” (Luke 4:21)

Sometimes we forget that the scripture is not merely old black words on white pages. It is the living and breathing Word of God that contains all that we need to live life – not just any ordinary life, a Christ-filled life – a zeal-filled life set apart by the One who created us. It is our guide book, game plan, and power source for our journey with Him. Scripture is informational and formational.

Want to know how to follow Him more deeply? Read the book. (The Be-attitudes are a good start).

Want to know what it looks like to unconditionally serve others? Read the book. (Jesus was a better man than me, imagine that!)

Want to know God’s will for your life? Read the book. (Could this grand question be resolved in one simple verse? Matthew 6:33.)

Need inspiration to make it through the day? Read the book. Check out God’s unrelenting love story for His people.

Think you’re the only one hurting or going through tough times? Read the book. Job would beg to differ.

Ask the Father to open your eyes, try to intentionally turn off your filters as much as possible, read the Word, and let it be fulfilled in you today as you listen to Jesus’ voice for you.

~ John Morley
NHIM Vice President

Fortune Cookie: What Are You Doing?

fortune cookieAt the end of a meal at an Asian Buffet, I cracked open the customary fortune cookie. The phrases inside these cookies often provide a bit of good humor. The strip of paper in my cookie this time was thought-provoking, not humorous. It read, “Rather than asking, ‘Am I doing things right?’ maybe you should be asking, ‘Am I doing the right things?’”

We can commit ourselves to doing things the right way. We can work with exacting detail. We may do a particular task so successfully that we win the accolades and recognition of people around us. However, if we are not doing the things we are called to do, it is of no avail to do things right. Jesus said, “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul?  Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Mark 8:36-37, NKJ).

It is only commendable to do things right if the things we are doing are the right things. These should be noble things, things that benefit our fellow man and advance God’s kingdom. If a person is the best drug dealer in the land, it does not make it a commendable thing. Even if we are doing religious things the right way, that may not be good enough.  Jesus said in Matthew 7:21-23 (NKJ), “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord’, shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord’, have we not prophesized in Your Name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’  And I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from you who practice lawlessness!”

We should be asking, “Am I doing the right things?”  The right things are to do the will of our Father. Scripture admonishes us to, “examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith” (2 Corinthians 13:5, NKJ). Are you in the faith? Are you doing the will of God?  “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” (Romans 12:2, ESV). May I ask, “What in the world are you doing”?

Prayer: Lord, help me to do ‘the right things’. I want the mind of Christ to dwell in me, so that I can discern God’s good, acceptable, and perfect will.

~ Brother Roy

Renewal

renewalAcross an inlet from where we stay on Dauphin Island, there is a lovely house facing the bay. Recently, we watched as a barge loaded with lumber, pilings, and other equipment pulled up near the sea wall. The barge also had a track-hoe with a boom and pile driver on board. The owner of the house had contracted with a construction company to replace and/or repair his boat dock and lift. Wind, waves, and the passing of time had taken its toll. Old deteriorating pilings were pulled up and new treated pilings were driven deep into the bay floor. New boat lifts, larger than the old ones, were installed. Old planking was replaced and the deck enlarged. The finished project was a strong, attractive, and serviceable new boat dock.

The vicissitudes of life, like the wind and waves striking the boat dock, have a way of wearing on the believer. Left untended for a period of time, our spiritual lives can deteriorate and fall into disrepair much like the dock. Revivals, camp meetings, retreats, and spiritual renewal conferences can be a means to provide revitalization in relationship with the Lord. Proper routine maintenance can forestall major restoration projects. Daily devotional time for scripture reading, prayer, and meditation can help us maintain our faith. But sooner or later, we need to consider if a serious renovation project is in order. We need to deal with the elements of our spiritual lives that are deteriorating.

An individual should set aside time for personal examination of their spiritual condition. Scripture encourages believers to, “examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith” (2 Corinthians 13:5, NKJ). I like the Message Translation here: “Test yourselves to make sure you are solid in the faith. Don’t drift along taking everything for granted. Give yourselves regular checkups. You need firsthand evidence, not mere hearsay, that Jesus Christ is in you. Test it out. If you fail the test, do something about it” (2 Corinthians 13:5-9). Friends, we have ‘too much to gain to lose’. We must not let our relationship with the Lord deteriorate. There may also be areas that could be enlarged to improve our effectiveness for the Lord.

My Prayer: Holy Spirit come by my side. Restore, renew, and expand this spiritual life of mine.

~ Brother Roy

A Cloudy Sunrise

cloudy sunriseOne of my favorite places on earth is Dauphin Island. It had been nearly a year since I had been able to spend any time on the island. As we pulled in late in the afternoon, I soaked up the sights, smells, and sounds of the island with joy. I must admit that with all the delight I experienced upon arrival, I was already looking forward to the morning. I love to watch the sunrise especially over the water (see NHIM.org archives – ‘Sunrise’).

I was up early the next day and walked out onto the deck to face the east. To my dismay, the sky was dark with a heavy cloud cover. There would be no visible sunrise. I sat down and gazed toward where the sun would have risen if not obscured by the gray clouds. A few minutes of reflection caused a shift in perspective. I knew that above the heaviest cloud cover, the sun is always shining. I have taken off in an airplane on cloudy rainy days. Within minutes you climb above the clouds and the sun is brightly shining. I took comfort in knowing the sun was shining, even if hidden from my sight.

The days of our lives can be like that. At times, circumstances can obscure our view of the Lord. Disappointment and discouragement can settle in. If we are in a right relationship with the Lord, we will realize that the Lord is there with us although obscured from vision. James’ epistle gives insight, “My brothers and sisters, when you have many kinds of troubles (clouds), you should be full of joy, because you know that these troubles test your faith, and this will give you patience. Let your patience show itself perfectly in what you do” (James 1:2-4, NCV).

A great Old Testament account provides us with a remarkable record of God’s presence, even if we don’t see Him. An enemy king was seeking to destroy the Prophet Elisha. The enemy king had sent a great army against the prophet.  “And when the servant of the man of God arose early and went out, there was an army surrounding the city with horses and chariots. And his servant said to him, ‘Alas, my master! What shall we do?’ So he answered, ‘Do not fear, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.’  And Elisha prayed, and said, ‘Lord, I pray, open his eyes that he may see.’ Then the Lord opened the eyes of the young man, and he saw. And behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha” (2 Kings 6:15-17, NKJ).

Elisha knew that God’s unseen army was far more powerful than any visible army. May we likewise be reassured by the Lord’s promise, “And, lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the world” (Matthew 28:20). When clouds of adversity obstruct our view, we need to ask the Lord to open our eyes and let us see that “He who is in you (us) is greater than he that is in the world” (1 John 4:4, NKJ). 

cloudy sunrise 2

Above The Clouds, The Son is Shining

~ Brother Roy

One Life to Live

one life to live“Engage in business until I come.” (Luke 19:13)

Stewardship is a practical way to live out holiness. In the Parable of the Minas each individual was given the same amount of money, but rewarded differently as to how they used it.

“Engage in business until I come” was the Master’s admonition. What is Jesus’ call to us today? Stewardship is more than recycling cans, caring for the earth God created, and giving generously to the church. Though these are all things we all should do.

Stewardship is a whole-life thing!! We are all given this amazing gift of life to be used for His glory and restoring His Kingdom. Each of us has been blessed in a unique way. We are blessed to be a blessing.

I remember hearing this quote as a college student, and it continues to challenge me today: “I have but one candle of life to burn, and I would rather burn it in a land filled with darkness than in a land flooded with light.” What has God entrusted to you that you need to employ to help the poor? To whom do you need to give the precious gift of your time? How has the Lord gifted you that can help reduce the suffering of the oppressed? What is Christ’s business of love that He needs you to be about?

There has never been a more blessed generation on earth, but we still only have one life to live.

~ John Morley
NHIM Vice President

The Window

windowIf you have read many of my devotionals, you are aware of how much I treasure my Eastern Kentucky heritage and culture. The other day down at Fitch’s store, my friend Bobby Thompson came in for morning coffee. He used a phrase that reminded me of a Squabble Creek Story:

An old widower lived alone up on Squabble Creek. His little cabin had few of this day’s modern conveniences. His small cabin didn’t have a single window in the front of the house. His children decided to install a large window in the front room. It would enable their dad to sit in his rocker and look out over the hollow. A week after they installed the window, they went back up the ‘holler’ to see how the old man liked the window. When they asked him about the window, he replied, “I reckon it’s alright, but when the sun goes down it sure lets in a lot of dark”.

We are all familiar with the phrase, “The eyes are the windows of the soul.” Scripture speaks to this concept. Jesus said, The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light. But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness!” (Matthew 6:22-23, KJV). A passage in Luke is very similar: “The light of the body is the eye: therefore when thine eye is single, thy whole body also is full of light; but when thine eye is evil, thy body also is full of darkness. Take heed therefore that the light which is in thee be not darkness. If thy whole body therefore be full of light, having no part dark, the whole shall be full of light, as when the bright shining of a candle doth give thee light” (Luke 11:34-36). Jesus says we should have singleness of vision and purpose to give light to our soul. We should set our eyes on Him, the ‘Light of the World’, and keep them there. 

If you were driving a treacherous road in the mountains at night and your headlights suddenly started shining several different directions- left, right, up, down, straight, etc., you would be confused and in grave danger. Your headlights would be a hazard.  In the scripture, Jesus contrasts having our eyes single, focused only on Him, versus having our eyes focused on evil. The bad headlights kept shining all over the place and were not good for the purpose for which they were intended. The Lord considers anything that takes our focus off the kingdom of God as evil.

Allowing ourselves to become distracted from the very purpose for which He called us is destructive. Having double vision—the kingdom of God and something else—is to be full of darkness. This is contrary to what we might naturally think. We might think that it is okay as long as the kingdom of God is one of our goals. The light might be a little dimmed, but it would still be light. But this is not what Jesus said. He said such a mixed light is really darkness: “If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness!”  Light in this verse is from the Greek ‘phōs’, which literally means ‘light’ and can metaphorically mean truth, knowledge, or reason. Mixed light, aligning other goals equally to the goal of the kingdom of God in your life, is really darkness; in fact, it is great darkness or a lack of true knowledge. This is an eternally fatal condition, if not corrected.

Life Without The ‘Son’ Lets A Lot Of Dark Into The Soul

~ Brother Roy