Going Against the Flow

While shopping, I saw an interesting phrase on a T-shirt. It read, “Go against the flow – Any dead fish can float downstream”. That concept previously drew the attention of at least one major literary figure. Alford Lord Tennyson (1850–1892) is credited with the following line: “Remember, a dead fish can float downstream, but it takes a live one to swim upstream.”

Perhaps you have had occasions where you decided to swim against the current. You felt it necessary to go against a prevailing or popularly held opinion or perspective. I am finding in my spiritual walk that it is increasingly necessary to choose to go against the current in order to maintain my spiritual integrity.

A Christian should not be surprised by this. Jesus said, “For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear” (2 Timothy 4:3, NIV). The Master also advised against moving along with the crowd because “wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it(Matthew 7:13, NIV).

In some old notes on the topic from years ago, I had written the following quote: “If in stemming a current we cease pulling the oar against it, we are carried back.” We are either moving forward in God’s high calling or drifting back. God’s word to us is as it was to Israel, ‘Speak unto the children of Israel that they go forward’ (Exodus 14:15). I affirm the following statement found in Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown’s Commentary: “The Bible is our landmark to show us whether we are progressing or retrograding.” Because we are faced with many situations where it would be easier to go with the flow than go against it, we should heed the following scriptural advice, “Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves” (2 Corinthians 13:5).

The following Scripture provides us withan important guide: “The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul; The testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple; The statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; The commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes; The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever; The judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether” (Psalm 19:7-13, NKJV).

Prayer: Lord, if following your teachings requires that we swim against the current, may we have the determination to do so!

~ Brother Roy

Not My Day to Drink

The Samburu Area of Northern Kenya was gripped by an intense drought. The Samburu region is normally a dry, arid place, but an extended period with no rain had reached a crisis. The Samburu people, who usually eke out a subsistence living as nomadic herdsmen, were desperate. Their camels and goats were dying, leaving them with little or no hope.  

My wife and I were in Samburu working on a mission project to drill deep wells that could reach the water table at 700 to 800 feet deep or more. We loaded our SUV with bottles of water tucked into every possible space. We started out across the bush looking for a possible site to drill a well. Michael, our partner and a Samburu tribesman, was driving. Miles from any village, Michael stopped the vehicle. A short distance away was a slender teenage girl standing in the meager shade of small bush. She was watching her few famished goats searching for food.

Michael called out to the girl, “Do you have any water?” The girl did not understand that Michael was offering her water. She thought Michael was asking her to give him water. Her response still haunts me, “Sir, it is not my day to drink.” Her family was dying of thirst and had to alternate days to drink in order to preserve the small amount of water they had. People can generally only survive about three days without water. It’s a scene I will never forget.

As we worked to help relieve this life-threatening calamity in Samburu land, we were painfully aware of its spiritual corollary. Failure to avail oneself to the ‘Water of Life’ is a threat to a person’s eternal welfare. If we were helping bring physical water to these precious people and not the ‘living water’ of Jesus Christ, it would be a mere band-aid. Our mission, in the name of Jesus, was to not only to give water to quench their physical thirst, but to also introduce them to the One who is the ‘Living Water’ and gives eternal life.

A great blessing in helping bring wells to Samburu was sharing the ‘good news’ that no one had to perish without the Living Water. It was their day to drink! God’s promise is to all people:

  • “Ho! Everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; And you who have no money come, buy and eat. Come, buy wine and milk Without money and without cost”  (Isaiah 55:1).
  • The Spirit and the bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who wishes take the water of life without cost” (Revelation 22:17).

Reliving those days in Samburu still stirs my heart. It prompts me to ask all who read this post, “Have you received this Living Water?” Jesus said, “but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life” (John 4:14, NIV). It’s your day to drink!

Prayer: “O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water” (Psalm 63:1).

~ Brother Roy

Live, Christian, Live

The excuses that many church members give for not being actively involved as witnesses for Jesus Christ are many and varied. They may range from lack of ability to physical infirmity. Some seem to feel their role is unimportant in the church and still others say they are just too busy to get involved. 

The Apostle Paul speaks to this issue: But now indeed there are many members, yet one body. And the eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you”; nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.”  No, much rather, those members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary. And those members of the body which we think to be less honorable, on these we bestow greater honor; and our unpresentable parts have greater modesty, but our presentable parts have no need. But God composed the body, having given greater honor to that part which lacks it, that there should be no schism in the body, but that the members should have the same care for one another. And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; or if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it. Now you are the body of Christ, and members individually” (1 Corinthians 12:20-27, NKJV).

Every believer is an essential part of the body.  The Lord designed the Church so that each person is important and needed for the fulfillment of its calling. The dramatic drop in church attendance and the decline of the church’s influence in our society reflect the unwillingness of increasing numbers of church members to be involved. They renege as witnesses and advocates for Jesus Christ. Scores of church members are choosing the role of spectator rather than participant.

Many years of ministry in the beautiful country of Jamaica etched countless memories in my mind. One recollection relates to this devotional. The following song still rings in my mind:

                        Live, Christian, live
                        Live a life of holiness
                        If you cannot preach, you can live
                        If you cannot sing, you can live
                        You cannot hide from the face of the Lord
                        So you must live, Christian, live
                        Live a life of holiness

If Christians default on their responsibility to be Christ’s witnesses, the message He came to bring to us can disappear in one generation. There are roles every believer must fill if they are to be obedient to the Christ’s directives and if the Church is to thrive.

“Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16, NKJV).

~ Brother Roy

The Transfer Portal

I really enjoy college sports. Watching intercollegiate competition has provided a wholesome and welcome diversion from the rigors of life. My daily activities across the years have often necessitated times of intense human interaction. As a minister and an educator, many of my contacts with people have serious and far-reaching consequences. Sports for me has been both entertaining and therapeutic.

A recent change in the way college scholarship athletes can transfer from one school to another has drastically changed college sports. The ‘Transfer Portal’ empowers student-athletes to make known their desire to consider other programs. It becomes a form of free agency that usually allows student-athletes to change schools without penalty.  

As we move through the days of our lives, we have many choices. The most important of those choices is our relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ. In Deuteronomy 30:19 the Lord declares, “I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live.” Joshua 24:15 admonishes us to “choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve.” As free moral agents, we have a choice about our relationship with the Lord. The choice we make may have eternal consequences.

If we have made bad choices that we regret, we have a chance to change. We have a type of a ‘Transfer Portal’ through Jesus Christ. Like student athletes, we have a period of time when we can “set aside the weight and the sin which so easily ensnares us” (Hebrews 12:1). We may choose to change.

However, there comes a time when the Transfer Portal is no longer available. Jesus relates this account, “The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried. In Hades, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side. So he called to him, ‘Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.’…And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been set in place, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us” (Luke 16:22-26).  If death overtakes a person who has chosen not to follow the Lord, the portal is forever closed!

If you realize you have been making wrong decisions about your relationship with the Lord, enter the portal now. “For He says: “In an acceptable time I have heard you, And in the day of salvation I have helped you.” Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation”  (2 Corinthians 6:2). God’s word is clear, “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name” (John 1:12).

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. (John 3:16)

~ Brother Roy

The Pearl of Great Price

A recent trip through a local Peddler’s Mall brough to mind one of Jesus’ most noted parables: “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking beautiful pearls, who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had and bought it” (Matthew 13:45, NJKV).

I was making a quick walkthrough just before closing time on a Saturday evening. Before moving into a small unit in a retirement community, I operated an antique business. The love of ‘old things’ did not end with the dispersal of my stock. I still enjoy looking at and admiring pieces from the past.

As I hurried through the aisles, I spotted a beautiful art glass compote. Although I was not familiar with that particular type of glass, my instincts seem to say, “This is a really good piece.” I looked at the price. It was only $3.50. A piece marked that cheap was not likely to be valuable, and there was no time for closer examination. I sat it back on the shelf. On my way home, I couldn’t get the compote out of my mind. Later in the evening at home, I went on an internet search. With more luck than skill, I located the piece and found that the compote was of considerable value. My initial instincts were right. I was excited. The Mall was not open on Sunday; however, I was at the door when the business opened on Monday morning. The piece was still there. I was able to make the purchase and take my ‘pearl of great price’ home.

When I was in my teens, I attended a revival service at a local church with some friends. There, for the first time I really listened to the Gospel. I heard the Good News that Jesus loved me and died for my sin. Intuitively, I knew this message was for me. I understood my need of being ‘born again’. I received Jesus as my personal Savior. That night Jesus became and remains to this day my ‘Pearl of Great Price’!  My heart resonates with the Apostle Paul’s words. ”Nothing is as wonderful as knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. I have given up everything else and count it all as garbage. All I want is Christ” (Philippians 3:8, CEV).

I sing with Isaac Watts:

            When I survey the wondrous cross
            On which the Prince of glory died
            My richest gain I count but loss
            And pour contempt on all my pride

            Where every realm of nature mine
            My gift was still be far too small
            Love so amazing, so divine
            Demands my soul, my life, my all

Temporal treasures may be valuable because of their beauty or because they are rare, but they will all pass away. Jesus, the true ‘Pearl of Great Price’, is eternal.

~ Brother Roy

Trifecta/Trilemma

Lexington, Kentucky, my geographic home area, is affectionately referred to as ‘The Horse Capital of the World’. The scenic farms and magnificent thoroughbred horses are common sights. The vernacular in the area is peppered with terms related to horse racing. One such term is ‘trifecta’. A trifecta is a parimutuel bet placed on a horse race in which the bettor must predict which horses will finish first, second, and third, in the exact order. That’s a long shot!

In the theological realm, the arena of my thought life, there is a similar term – ‘trilemma’. The term originates with C. S. Lewis, an intellectual giant of the twentieth century. The trilemma is an apologetic argument traditionally used to argue for the divinity of Jesus by postulating that He was either “Lunatic, Liar, or Lord”.

When confronted with the words of Jesus, a person must decide who they think Jesus really is. Scripture states, “For as he (a person) thinketh in his heart, so is he” (Proverbs 23:7). Deep down in your heart, who do you think Jesus is? Was Jesus telling the truth when He said:

  • I am the bread of life.” (John 6:35, 41, 48, 51) As bread sustains physical life, so Christ offers and sustains spiritual life.
  • I am the light of the world.” (John 8:12) To a world lost in darkness, Christ offers Himself as a guide.
  • I am the door of the sheep.” (John 10:7-9) Jesus protects His followers as shepherds protect their flocks from predators.
  • I am the resurrection and the life.” (John 11:25) Death is not the final word for those in Christ.
  • I am the good shepherd.” (John 10:11-14) Jesus is committed to caring and watching over those who are His.
  • I am the way, the truth, and the life.” (John 14:6) Jesus is the source of all truth and knowledge about God.
  • I am the true vine.” (John 15:1-5) By attached ourselves to Christ, we enable His life to flow in and through us. Then we cannot help but bear fruit that will honor the Father.

We can’t just pay lip service to these incredible claims of Jesus. We are faced with a trilemma. Isaac Watts’ words in the hymn “When I Survey The Wonderous Cross” give expression to what our response should be, “Love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all.” Jesus said, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 7:21, NIV). If we profess Jesus is Lord and then affirm our profession by doing God’s will, we will enter the kingdom of heaven. That’s a sure bet!

That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:10-11)

~ Brother Roy

Auto-tune

We live in an age of automation. Technological applications are often used so that human input is minimized. Auto-start automobiles and auto-open doors are prime examples. I recently became aware of ‘auto-tune’. Recording studios often use computer software that enables the correction of an out-of-tune vocal performance. After hearing a tape of myself singing during a worship service, I could certainly use auto-tune.

Life presents us with many of perplexing problems and situations that merit our prayers. However, some of them seem so complex that we struggle with exactly how we should pray. God’s word that states,  “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:9, NKJV). We don’t want our human weakness to cause us to ask amiss. How grateful we can be that the Lord understands the weaknesses and imperfections in our spiritual life. Although our intensions are to be perfectly in tune with Him, our fallen nature limits us.

Nevertheless, if we approach Him with clean hands and a pure heart, His grace makes provision for us. It is the Lord’s original version of auto-tune. Scripture assures us, Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercessions for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God”  (Romans 8:26-27, NKJV).

Jesus taught us to pray, “Thy will be done.” When we do so, we acknowledge God’s right to rule. We do not pray, “My will be done”; we pray, “Thy will be done.” Asking that God’s will be done is a demonstration of our trust that He knows what is best. It is a statement of submission to God’s ways and His plans. We ask for our will to be conformed to His. The Holy Spirit can take my ‘out-of-tune’ prayers and express the cries of my heart to the Father in an appropriate and acceptable manner.

The Lord has heard my plea; the Lord accepts my prayer.—Psalm 6:9

~ Brother Roy

Ride Share and Save!

I suppose it’s to be expected that after sixty-plus years in ministry unrelated things often remind me of a spiritual principle or a scripture. A recent situation serves as a case in point. As I was driving to a nearby town, I noticed a highway sign that read, “RIDE SHARE AND SAVE”. I was definitely aware of the intended purpose of the message, but certain spiritual principles started coming to mind.

My thought process was something like this:

  • First came the scripture, “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 5:2, NKJV). I thought, “If I share my journey with Christ with others along the way, and if I help carry their burdens, I am fulfilling the law of Christ”.
  • Then a second scripture came to my mind and made a connection, Show mercy to those who doubt. Pull others out of the fire. Save them” (Jude 22-23, NIV). I need to be actively involved in helping win the lost to Jesus.

The spiritual lessons that came to me from that road sign are:

  • As a Christian, I need to be aware of those around me with whom I can ‘Ride Share’. I can bear testimony to the Lord’s desire to be their burden bearer. He has been that for me and He wants to be that for others. “Praise be to the Lord, to God our Savior who daily bears our burdens” (Psalm 68:19, NIV).
  • As a Christian, I also need to be aware of those around me who are going the wrong direction. They are headed for the Judgement that will separate them from God and all that is good. I need to point them to the warning ‘signs’ the Lord has provided.  I need to accept my God-given responsibility of being a ‘watchman’ and forewarn them (see Ezekiel 33). I have a role to play in saving them from destruction, and by doing so, save myself.

I often wonder how many signs (messages) the Lord has placed along my way that I have missed. Jesus said, “Do you have eyes but fail to see, and ears but fail to hear? And don’t you remember?” (Mark 8:18, NIV). The words of a hymn by Clara Scott expresses the prayer of my heart:

                            Open my eyes, that I may see
                            Glimpses of truth Thou hast for me;
                            Place in my hands the wonderful key
                            That shall unclasp and set me free.
                            Silently now I wait for Thee,
                            Ready my God, Thy will to see,
                            Open my eyes, illumine me,
                            Spirit divine!  

A SIGN: RIDE SHARE AND SAVE

~ Brother Roy

Gold Fever

Well over 50 years ago, I made my first trip to Canada. I was with my new wife and her family. My wife’s father loved to fish in a remote river valley in Ontario Province. As a ‘poor’ boy from Eastern Kentucky, I had little travel experience. I was thrilled and amazed by beauty of the rugged, near-wilderness terrain.

One afternoon while the family was taking an afternoon nap, I set out exploring. Some distance into the woods, in an area where I was sure no foot other than Native people had walked, I came across several large timbers and other remnants of a structure. It proved to be the ruins of an old mine. I moved a rotting plank and something bright and shiny caught my eye. I brushed away the debris and there it was – a gold nugget. Tossing aside other rubble, I uncover a couple more nuggets. I headed back to the cabin on a run. I was so excited to show my father-in-law the gold nuggets. He was somewhat less excited about my treasure than I was.

He smiled and said one word – “Pyrite.” Pyrite is a mineral that has a famous nickname, “Fool’s Gold“. The mineral’s gold color, metallic luster, and high specific gravity often cause it to be mistaken for gold by inexperienced prospectors like me. That day, I became acquainted with an aphorism that states, ‘all that glitters is not gold’. That was a life lesson that is as true today as it was the day I found the ‘gold’. I now understand that not everything that is shiny and superficially attractive is valuable.

The words of Jesus in John 7:24 are profound: “Don’t judge by appearances. Judge by what is right” (NIV). Another translation says, “Look beneath the surface so you can judge correctly” (NLT). Yet another reliable translation says, “Be honest in your judgment and do not decide at a glance (superficially and by appearances); but judge fairly and righteously” (AMP).

One of our big issues today is the persistent tendency to judge according to appearance. We often judge a person according to their looks. In his book Hide or Seek, Dr. James Dobson says that “physical beauty is the most highly valued personal attribute in our culture”. We have made it what he calls “the gold coin of human worth”. We judge a used car by its exterior. We judge a book by its cover. No matter how often we are disappointed and disillusioned, it seems we stubbornly refuse to learn that all is not gold that glitters.

Prayer: Lord, help us to see things as You see them. “The LORD does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7, NIV).

~ Brother Roy

Circuit Breaker

A late spring cold snap caused a chill in our patio room, which is mostly windows. I turned the electric baseboard heat up to a comfortable setting. No heat. I called the maintenance office, and soon an electrician was at our front door. Within a couple of minutes, he diagnosed the problem – ‘circuit breaker‘. I should have thought of that! But to my own defense, I’ve never had electric heat before and didn’t think to check the breaker box. He reset the breaker, and all was well.

A circuit breaker is an electrical switch designed to protect an electrical circuit from damage caused by overcurrent/overload or short circuit. At times, I think we need a ‘circuit breaker’ in our personal lives. When burdens and cares threaten to overcome us, we need protection against permanent mental and emotional harm. Jesus can be our circuit breaker.


God’s word says, “Cast all your anxiety on Him because he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7, NIV). Jesus wants to be our burden bearer, our circuit breaker. Isaiah 53:4 offers this prophecy about Jesus: “Surely, He hath borne our griefs and carried our sorrows.” The Psalmist writes, “Praise be to the Lord, to God our Savior who daily bears our burdens” (Psalm 68:19, NIV).

When I feel the pressures of life building toward overload proportions, I stop, take a deep breath, and pray. What beautiful solace I have found  in this wonderful old hymn;

                        Sweet hour of prayer! Sweet hour of prayer 
                        That calls me from a world of care
                        And bids me at my Father’s throne 
                        Make all my wants and wishes known. 
                        In seasons of distress and grief 
                        My soul has often found relief 
                        And oft escaped the tempter’s snare 
                        By Thy return, sweet hour of prayer. (~ W.W. Walford)

The following scripture is often a refuge for my soul when I sense a short circuit about to occur:  Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus(Philippians 4:6-7, NIV).

“Praise be to the Lord, to God our Savior who daily bears our burdens.” (Psalm 68:19, NIV)

~ Brother Roy