A Matter of “a Pinion”

ravenMike Henderson is frequently a fellow coffee drinker at Fitch’s Store. Mike wears many hats. He is a mission agency president, writer, and big game hunter, among other things. However, more important to this narrative is the fact that he shares great ‘stories’ with us down at the store.

During one of the gatherings of ‘the Sanhedrin’ at Fitch’s Store, Mike asked if any of us knew the difference between a crow and a raven. Unable to resolve the conundrum, we deferred to Mike’s wisdom. He reported that crows have twelve pinions (the outer part of wing – the flight feathers) and ravens have thirteen. To determining whether the bird is a crow or a raven, it’s a matter of  ‘a pinion’. We realized we had been rooked.

This humorous ‘turn of a phrase’ caused some serious consideration on my part. All of us are occasionally tempted to promote our opinions as if they are fact. A person may repeat and reinforce a strongly held opinion so often that they begin to believe it is a fact. Some opinions in religious circles seems especially prone to conflict. These areas include types of music, modes of baptism, styles of worship, communion issues, various translations of scripture, etc.

While different opinions and preferences may be held within the Christian community, we must not allow these personal views to be presented as “thus sayeth the Lord”. Strongly held preferences should not be permitted to become divisive. Recognize that most of the issues that create tension in the church are not a matter of right or wrong, but just different ‘opinions’.

There are many scriptures that speak to this concern. I will share just a few:

  • How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity.” (Psalm 133:1, NIV)
  • “Keeping away from strife is an honor for a man, but any fool will quarrel.” (Proverbs 20:3)
  • “Make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose. Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves.” (Philippians 2:3)
  • “Do all things without grumbling or disputing.”  (Philippians 2:14)
  • “But avoid foolish controversies and genealogies and strife and disputes about the Law, for they are unprofitable and worthless. Reject a factious man after a first and second warning.” (Titus 3:9-10)
  • “To sum up, all of you be harmonious, sympathetic, brotherly, kindhearted, and humble in spirit.” (1 Peter 3:8)
  • Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful.” (Colossians 3:13-15)

 “He will cover you with His pinions, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness is a shield and buckler.” (Psalm 91:4, ESV)

~ Brother Roy

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A False Face

trick or treatersOctober is one of my favorite times of the year. It brings to mind colorful fall leaves, pumpkin pie, and of course, Halloween. I fondly remember donning getups as a child, knocking on doors, and uttering those hopeful words: ‘trick-or-treat’.  When I was young, there were no costume stores in our area. In addition, we could not have afforded a ‘store bought’ costume, if one could have been found.

My mother was a master at using old clothes, lipstick, and assorted other make-up, paper cutouts, etc., to get us ready for the big night of ‘begging’. I still remember when I was able to buy my first ‘False Face’. Although it was cheap plastic and nothing like the modern versions, I thought it was great.  I was sure no one would recognize me. Of course, all the neighbors did.

Fond memories of that first false face soon fade when I think of the myriad of people I have met since those days. People wearing various types of ‘false faces’. They put on fake smiles and masquerade as being happy when underneath they are in a state of upheaval and confusion. A person’s true identity will always surface and the real person behind disguise will be revealed. The revelation usually comes in this life, but if not, it certainly comes at the Judgment Bar of God.

Scripture says, “And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment” (Hebrews 9:12, NKJV). God’s word further states, “For nothing is secret that will not be revealed, nor anything hidden that will not be known and come to light” (Luke 8:17). We will be seen without a mask, “For the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7b, NKJV). He knows who we really are. 

Are you wearing a ‘false face’? You don’t need to. If a person will take off whatever guise he is hiding behind and come to Jesus, He will love, forgive and save. “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9).

 Prayer: Lord, I do not want to wear a false face. Help me to be genuine and true.

~ Brother Roy

The Harvest

harvest“Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life.” (Galatians 6:7-8, NKJV)

One of the Laws of Harvest guides all who plant seeds and expect to reap – ‘you reap what you sow’. If you plant beans, you get beans. Plant corn, and you get corn, etc. Thank you Lord! What a shock if this principle was not in operation. Imagine planting watermelons and getting zucchini.

We have no problem accepting this truth in the world of farming and gardening, but often choose not to acknowledge it in spiritual world. We want to sow ‘wild oats’ and still reap a crop of peace and blessings. We seem to expect to sow seeds of selfishness and personal pleasure, but reap generosity and support from others.

Recent years have witnessed an explosion of Halloween decorations in our neighborhoods. They rival or exceed Christmas yard decorations. Skeletons, tombstones, ghouls, zombies, fire-eyed demons, and witches abound. The “Babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger” andpeace on earth, good will to men” has paled in comparison to death, skulls and creepy scenes meant to evoke fear. While people may defend these nightmarish displays as ‘all in fun’, I’m not so sure. I might concede that some people are that naïve, but, if so, it still shows a careless disregard for the truth of God’s word.

“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things” (Philippians 4:8, NIV). The Apostle Paul encourages us to, “Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things” (Colossians 3:3, NIV).

Prayer: Lord, help us to sow good seed so we may reap a desirable harvest. Let us not lower the moral climate around us by carelessly sowing worthless and bad seed.

~ Brother Roy

A Shipwreck

shipwreckThe ship on which I was a passenger was negotiating a rather narrow channel into Mahogany Bay, Honduras. I watched in amazement as the Captain skillfully maneuvered the vessel through potentially dangerous obstacles such as rocks, sand bars just under the surface, and a wrecked ship. I share with you some of my reflections that were prompted by this event.

We each pilot our small crafts of life through the ocean of our days on earth. As we journey, there is a fact about our existence that is intriguing. God’s word says we are “wonderfully and fearfully made” Psalm 139:14. The ‘wonderful’ part of God’s creative design is that we have free will. We are creatures of volitional choice. We are free to love or hate, free to accept sound advice or ignore it, free to chose eternal life or reject it.

The ‘fearful’ part of God’s design is also that we have free will. In this respect, the poet William Earnest Henley wrote, “I am the master of my fate: the captain of my soul.” We can use our precious freedom to go where we please. God has said, “I set before you life and death, blessings and cursing; therefore, choose life, that both you and your descendants may live, that you may love the Lord your God, that you may obey His voice and that you may cling to Him…” (Deuteronomy 30:19,20). But, if we should choose to turn away from Him and go our own way, God has said, “I announce to you today that you shall surely perish” (Deuteronomy 30:18). If we chose unwisely to ignore God word, we are free to shipwreck our very souls.

An old hymn forms the words of my prayer:

Jesus, Savior, pilot me over life’s tempestuous seas;
Unknown waves before me roll, hiding rock and treach’rous shoal.
Chart and compass came from thee; Jesus, Savior, pilot me

~ Brother Roy

Don’t Drink the Poison

poisonUniversity of Kentucky’s Hall of Fame basketball coach John Calipari gave his team some interesting advice last Spring. Most of his team were freshmen. It was the youngest team in college basketball. They had won several late-season games. The were positioned to make a run in the NCAA Tournament. When the team arrived in Atlanta to play, they were surrounded by a lot of media hype and fanfare. Coach Cal cautioned his young players by saying, “Don’t drink the poison!” He was, of course, referring to the temptation of his players to begin to think they were better than they really were.

The temptation to believe we are special and perhaps exempt from the rules that apply to others is as old as man’s days on the earth. In the Biblical account of Adam and Eve, Satan asked Eve about the forbidden fruit. Eve responded, “God has said, ‘You shall not eat it, nor shall you touch it, lest you die”. Then the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die.  For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil” (Genesis 3:3-5, NKJV). They ignored God’s words. They ate the fruit. In other words, they drank the poison! The results were tragic, and people even to this day still suffer from the impact of their choice.

The enemy of peoples’ souls still continues to employ the same tactic. God’s word says, “For the wages of sin is death…” (Romans 6:23). And again, God’s word says, “The soul that sinneth, it shall die” (Ezekiel 18:20, KJV). In spite of these and numerous other clear warnings from God’s word, many people don’t believe in sin’s penalty. They listen to the “father of lies(John 8:44), and they drink the poison:

  • You will not surely die. Preachers are just trying to scare you.
  • God is love. He will not send anyone to hell.
  • God understands our weaknesses and He will give us a pass.
  • Everybody sins everyday in thought, word and deed, so sin is not a big deal.
  • You’re only human. God will let you let you slide.

Another dose of poison involves the idea that if you are a good person and sometimes help others, that’s all that is necessary. There’s no need to repent and be ‘saved’. However, Jesus said, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3, NKJV). God’s word also says, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9, NKJV). 

Although many other poison potions could be cited, space will permit me to mention just one more: the poison of believing that there will always be time later to repent and be saved. God’s word says, “Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation” (2 Corinthians 6:2). The scripture asks this searching question: “How shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation?” (Hebrews 2:3, NKJV).

Believe God’s Word –  Don’t Drink The Poison

~ Brother Roy

Too Big for Your Britches

britchesDuring morning coffee at Fitch’s IGA, topics are many and varied. Our conversation is frequently interspersed with colloquial phrases and rural idioms.  A few days ago, yet another such saying surfaced. Someone commented about a person of interest, “He gettin’ too big for his britches”. As we use the phrase, it means conceited, self-important, or unacceptably cocky.

The phrase brought to mind a comment shared by Larry Winkleman, my Sunday school teacher. He related the following conversation:  A man said to his son, “You are getting too big for your britches”. He added, “Remember, I taught you everything you know, but not everything I know!”

Some among us may know more theology and scripture than others, but a lesson from Job needs to be reviewed. “Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind, and said “Who is this who darkens counsel by words without knowledge?  Now prepare yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer Me. “Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth?  Tell Me, if you have understanding” (Job 38:1-4, NKJV).

The scripture leaves little doubt that conceit and self-importance are unacceptable to the Lord. “For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith” (Romans 12:3, NKJV). Solomon offers this word of wisdom: “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall” (Proverbs 6:18, NKJV).

The Apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthian Church: “For who makes you different from anyone else? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not?” (1 Corinthians 4:7, NKJV). Every gift, every talent, every breath we take—all are from God, as is our most precious gift, salvation. “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9). To the Roman Church, Paul wrote,“Where, then, is boasting? It is excluded…by the law of faith” (Romans 3:27, NKJV).

“Do not be wise in your own eyes; Fear the Lord and depart from evil. It will be health to your flesh, And strength to your bones” (Proverbs 3:7, NKJV).

~ Brother Roy

The Rising Tide

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAA number of years ago, my wife and I were leading a ministry team of Asbury University students in Northern Ireland. The venue for our efforts was two sea coast towns on the northeast shore. At times, we would see fishing boats tilted on one side and resting on the bottom of the bay. Passing by at a later hour, we would notice the boats upright and floating well above the floor of the inlet. What had changed the orientation of the fishing boats? It was the tide.

Hailing from the mountains of Eastern Kentucky, that was all new to me. There is not much of a tide on Squabble Creek. There is a wise saying among the people along the Irish shore: “The rising tide lifts all boats”.  That saying epitomized the reason we were there.

Northern Ireland was a troubled land at that time. The Irish Republican Army and the Ulster Unionists were literally at war. The youth to whom we were seeking to minister were deeply divided on either side of the conflict. Bombs, bullets, fights, and fires were an almost daily occurrence. Not only were many combatants dying, but numbers of innocent by-standers were also losing their lives in the fray. A sense of hatred and lawlessness pervaded this beautiful land.

How could a handful of young people have any real impact in such a hostile environment? Then a thought stirred my thinking. Jesus said, “And I, if I be lifted up, will draw all men unto Myself.” That’s why we were there. Our prayer was that by lifting Jesus up among these belligerent factions, He would draw them to Himself and then draw them together. The hearts’ desire of our ministry team was that the Prince of Peace would raise these wonderful young people above the conflict. We wanted the words of scripture to penetrate their troubled hearts:

  • How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity” (Psalm 133:1, NIV).
  • “Keeping away from strife is an honor for a man, but any fool will quarrel” (Proverbs 20:3).
  • “Make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose. Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves” (Philippians 2:3).
  • Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful” (Colossians 3:13-15).

Our team was privileged to witness the Lord lift some of the people above the bitterness and strife. In the intervening years, from then until now, much of the conflict has subsided and a sense of hope has settled. If the Lord is lifted up, He is able to do “exceeding abundantly above what we think or ask”.

“The rising tide lifts all boats.”

~ Brother Roy