This Is My Story, This Is My Song

this is my songMy modest retirement account has taken a hit in recent days with the major stock market drop. Economic stability appears allusive at best. Worldwide financial crisis, international and domestic terrorism, global climate change, deteriorating religious and moral standards, and rising crime rates are but a few of the indicators of universal instability. It seems in almost every area, our lives are filled with uncertainty.

However, as a believer I rejoice that life in Christ Jesus can set us free from the fears of a changing world. Jesus said, “If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free” (John 8:31-32, NKJV). What a blessed freedom it is to walk through the days of our lives with the Savior!

Next to the Bible, my favorite book is the hymnal. As I was thinking about the freedom I experience in the face of uncertain circumstances, lines of favorite hymns flooded my mind. Limited space prohibits quoting the full lyrics of these songs, but feel free to review the whole hymns, if you desire. They will bless your heart.

  • Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine! Oh, what a foretaste of glory divine! Heir of salvation, purchase of God, born of His Spirit, washed in His blood. This is my story, this is my song, praising my Savior all the day long;
  • Shadows around me, shadows above me, never conceal my Savior and Guide; He is the Light, in Him is no darkness; Ever I’m walking close to His side.
  • So let the storm clouds rage high, the dark clouds rise, they don’t bother me; for I’m sheltered in the arms of God. He walks with me, and naught of earth shall harm me, for I’m sheltered in the arms of God.
  • So, amid the conflict whether great or small, do not be disheartened, God is over all. Count your many blessings, angels will attend, help and comfort give you to your journey’s end.
  • Are there shadows of deep disappointment, and trusts that have proven untrue? Has the darkness of night settled round you, has your hope and your faith wavered too? Standing somewhere in the shadows you’ll find Jesus, He’s the Friend who always cares and understands.
  • Standing on the promises that cannot fail, when the howling storms of doubt and fear assail, by the living Word of God I shall prevail, standing on the promises of God.
  • When darkness seems to hide His face, I rest on His unchanging grace. In every high and stormy gale, my anchor holds within the veil. On Christ the solid Rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand.

The Next Time You Get Fretful, Try Humming Through The Hymnal. It Will Calm Your Heart.

~ Brother Roy

Here Be Dragons

here be dragons

In medieval times, areas known to be dangerous or unexplored were often labeled on maps with the warning: “Beware, Here Be Dragons.” It was a common practice among ancient mariners to put images of dragons, sea serpents, and other mythological creatures on the uncharted areas of their maps along with such warnings.

As a youth, pictures of such maps always fascinated me. Pictures of ancient maps in my school History books always captured my attention. Recently, one of those old images flashed across my mind. I was sitting on the veranda at my daughter’s house in Johannesburg, South Africa. She lives in a nice residential area. Her backyard fence borders a large field. This green space is replete with a wooded area, acacia bushes, and several thickets. Parts of the field are occasionally mowed and other areas left covered with tall grass. I was half asleep in the warm sun when I casually looked out across one of the mowed areas. I jolted to attention! I scarcely could believe my eyes. There was a large dragon moving through the grass only a few yards away. Well, it looked like a dragon to an American who was half asleep. Actually, it was a very large African Monitor Lizard. Before I could get my camera, it ambled off and disappeared and the images of the dragons from my mind faded.

There is a spiritual application to be made here about dragons and the warning, “Beware, Here Be Dragons.” Man is wonderfully and fearfully made (Psalm 139:14). We are wonderfully made, because we are created with free will. We can choose our own way. We are also fearfully made because we can choose our way. God has a wonderful plan for our lives, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future” (Jeremiah 29:11, NIV). But, we are free to reject His will and wisdom and go our own way.

If we choose to ignore God’s way and move into uncharted areas, we need to heed the post, “Beware, Here Be Dragons”. The Book of Revelation reveals who the dragon really is, He laid hold of the dragon, that serpent of old, who is the Devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years; and he cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal on him, so that he should deceive the nations no more” (Revelation 20:2-3). The scriptures tell us of the fate of those who refuse God’s way and strike out on their own to areas where dragons are found:

  • “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death” (Proverbs 14:12, NKJV).
  • And you shall grope at noonday, as a blind man gropes in darkness; you shall not prosper in your ways; you shall be only oppressed and plundered continually, and no one shall save you”  (Deuteronomy 28:29, NKJV).
  • “They do not know, nor do they understand; they walk about in darkness; All the foundations of the earth are unstable” (Psalm 82:5, NKJV).
  • “Therefore their way shall be to them like slippery ways; In the darkness they shall be driven on and fall in them; For I will bring disaster on them…” says the Lord(Jeremiah 23:12 NKJV).

In light of scriptures like these, it just makes good sense to exercise your free will and choose God’s way for your life.

In All Thy Ways Acknowledge Him, And He Shall Direct Thy Paths  (Proverbs 3:6)

~ Brother Roy

Where Are You Going?

where are you goingAcross my 55 years of ministry, I’ve encountered a multitude of directionless people. Usually unhappy and disillusioned, they wander, more or less aimlessly, through the days of their lives. What a tragedy! God has such a wonderful plan for each life; yet so many never seek His plan. From scripture we learn, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future(Jeremiah 29:11, NLT).

There are some humorous sayings that reflect ‘folk wisdom’ on this subject.

  • If you don’t know where you’re going, how will you know when you get there?
  • To be sure of hitting the target, shoot first, and call whatever you hit the target.
  • I may not know where I’m going, but I’m making good time.

When a person has no worthy goal or no laudable objective in life, materialism crowds out commendable direction. Entertainment and pleasure-seeking often become ends in themselves. The Old Testament account of Esau serves as a warning to those who hold God’s plan for their lives in light regard. Esau traded his precious birthright away to satiate his immediate appetite. Then Jacob gave Esau some bread and some lentil stew. He ate and drank, and then got up and left. So Esau despised his birthright” (Genesis 25:34, NKJ). How tragically Esau’s life seems to have ended: For you know that afterward, when he wanted to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no place for repentance, though he sought it diligently with tears” (Hebrews 12:17, NKJV). Like Esau, we can ignore God’s plan and forfeit our birthright. We are free to trade away that which is of eternal value for that which is temporal.

How wonderful it is to know where you’re going, to follow a God’s plan. My heart resonates with the Apostle Paul: Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:13-14, NKJV).

Prayer: Lord Give Me The Wisdom To Follow The Plans You Have For Me, Plans That Give Me A Hope And A Future.

~ Brother Roy

Run for Your Life

lionI was leading a mission team to South Africa, when a team member asked about plans for the next day. My response was, “We’ve got to hit the ground running if we are to accomplish our tasks tomorrow.”

There is an African proverb that expressed my thoughts very well:  “Every morning the impala awakes knowing that it must outrun the fastest lion if it wants to stay alive.  Every morning the lion awakes knowing it must outrun the slowest impala or it will starve.  It makes no difference if you are a lion or an impala, when the sun comes up in Africa you must wake up running.”

The Apostle Paul compares the Christian life to a race. Here are four principles Paul uses in his analogy of the Christian life and a foot race:

  • Striving for the Prize: “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.” (1 Corinthians 9:24, NIV)
  • Stripping for the Contest: “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” (Hebrews 12:1, NIV)
  • Hindrances to the Runner: “You were running a good race. Who cut in on you to keep you from obeying the truth?” (Galatians 5:7, NIV)
  • Pressing toward the Goal: “I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.” (Philippians 3:14 NIV)

In Paul’s farewell address, he once again evoked the image of his race for eternal life: “I have fought a good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith:  Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness” (2 Timothy 4:7-8, NIV). Like the African proverb, we need to wake up running. Then we need keep on running: “But the one who endures to the end will be saved” (Matthew 24:13, ESV). Scripture puts us on notice: “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8, NIV).

How are you doing in your race for eternal life? Are you strong because of feeding on God’s word? Are you exercising your faith? Are you keeping fit in your prayer life? Have you stripped away the earthly weights and your sin? The enemy of man’s soul will catch the spiritually weak and slow. Are you lagging behind? If so, go quickly to the Lord to confess, repent, and receive grace. He will enable you to run strong.

In Him, You Can Out Run The Fastest Lion

“But the one who endures to the end will be saved”.

~ Brother Roy

A Lookout for the Mob

meerkatMy journey through life has involved a lot of travel in ministry and missions. It has afforded the opportunity to spend many wonderful days in Africa. The work among the beautiful African people has been fulfilling, and the opportunity to view the incredible wildlife there has been an unbelievable bonus.

My wife and I have been able to take time away from the pressures of ministry and retreat to wilderness areas teeming with wildlife. As riveting as the Big 5 (lion, leopard, elephant, cape buffalo, and rhinoceros) are, one of my wife’s favorites is the meerkat. These adorable little creatures, about the size of a squirrel, belong to the mongoose family. They are famed for their upright posture. They often stand on their rear legs and gaze alertly over the southern African plains where they live.

Meerkats forage in a group called a ‘mob’. Because their diet includes lizards, worms and insect larva, bugs and etc., their focus is mainly on the ground. This makes them especially vulnerable to the many predators in the area, particularly hawks and eagles that attack from above. There is always a lookout or sentry on guard watching for predators while the others search for food. The lookout is essential to the survival of mob members. Sentry duty is usually about an hour long and then another will take up the task.

The meerkat lookouts help the mob survive physically. I believe there is a principle here that can apply to us spiritually. We live is a dangerous world. Scripture states, For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places” (Ephesians 6:12). Like the meerkats we need lookouts. We need fellow believers who love us enough to sound a warning cry when our course of action is dangerous. We need to be connected to a body of believers where the pastor, Sunday school teachers, and group leaders all feel a responsibility for the welfare of individuals in the group. Our best interest is served when our friends believe that they are “their brothers’ keepers”.

There is another salient point to be drawn from Meerkat behavior. The lookout’s responsibility is shared by the group. All group members are expected to play an active role in the well being of others in the mob. God’s word says we should “love our neighbors as ourselves(Mark 12:31).

Lord, Help Us To Be A ‘Lookout’ For The Mob

~ Brother Roy

Birds of a Feather

James's Flamingo

I’ve spent many wonderful hours on the veranda at my daughter’s house in Johannesburg, South Africa.  Lori’s backyard fence boarders a large field surrounded by trees. The warm temperatures and a pool of water make an excellent habitat for birds. Her bird feeders are also a magnet for an amazing variety of beautiful birds. I have noticed that they usually come in grouped together in like species.

Recently, while enjoying the large number and variety of birds, I had a flash back to my teenage years in the hills of Eastern Kentucky. I attended a very small elementary school for grades one through eight. Then I had to leave the security of my small community to attend a large central high school several miles away. Like most teenagers, I wanted to be accepted and have friends. For some reason, I gravitated toward some unsavory ‘friends’.

My mother noted the trend and called me into our kitchen for a ‘talk’. She expressed her concern about the company I was keeping. That occasion was the first time I had heard the adage, “birds of a feather flock together”. She talked to me about some bad mannerisms I was picking up and the negative image of the boys I was hanging out with. She was fearful I was developing a bad reputation because of my associations.

Scripture speaks to this issue.  First, allow me to share Biblical advice concerning bad company:

  • “Be not deceived, bad company corrupts good morals” (1 Corinthians 15:33, NKJ)
  • “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the path of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful(Psalm 1:1, KJV)
  • “Do not be envious of evil men, nor desire to be with them” (Proverbs 24:1, NKJ)
  • Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness?” (2 Corinthians 6:14, NKJ)

Scripture also speaks to the wisdom of association with good company:

  • “Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise,but the companion of fools will suffer harm” (Proverbs 13:20, ESV)
  • “I am a companion of all who fear you, of those who keep your precepts(Psalm 119:63, ESV)
  • “That thou mayest walk in the way of good men, and keep the paths of the righteous” (Proverbs 2:20, KJV)
  • “I was glad when they said unto me, let us go into the house of the Lord(Psalm 122:1, KJV)

If we ‘flock’ together with God’s people, we find acceptance by people that really matter. We can know that we are pleasing to God and that heaven will be our home. “Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom” (Luke 12:32, KJV).

To What Flock Do You Belong?

~ Brother Roy

Two Rules

rulesI found myself at the central police station in Bridgetown, Barbados. I was there to take the exam for a Bajan driver’s license. Due to a limited amount of time, the officer informed me that he would orally cover the rules for driving in his country. He would then examine me for eligibility. He was a large man with a hard countenance and I was nervous.

The session began. The imposing officer said, “The speed limit in Barbados is 25 mph in the towns and 35 mph in the country. The second rule – STAY ON THE LEFT! Then with a broad smile the officer said, “Now repeat the traffic laws of Barbados”. It all came down to those two simple laws.

The religious world can be complex and often is complicated with a myriad of rules. God gave the Ten Commandments for the good of mankind. Over time, the Hebrews compounded these ten into hundreds of rules and regulations covering nearly every facet of life. They were so cumbersome that it was impossible to keep them all.

The religious laws had become so unwieldy and burdensome in the days of Jesus that they were a constant point of conflict between the Master and religious lawyers. “Then one of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him, and saying, “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?” Jesus said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment.  And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’  On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 22:35-40). Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, made our relationship with God plain and simple. 

All too often, religious groups and denominations have turned the gospel message into lists of man-made do’s and don’ts. Confusion and disillusionment often occur and the results can ruin simple acts of worship. The Apostle Paul, speaking to the issue, said, But I fear, lest somehow, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, so your minds may be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ” (2 Corinthians 11:3). My friends, walking with the Lord is not ‘rocket science’. It is simple.

Two Rules: Love God and Love Your Neighbors –
EVERY THING ELSE IS JUST DETAILS

~ Brother Roy