Talk to the Animals

As a child, I was fascinated by animals. The account of Noah’s Ark captured my attention at an early age. I never outgrew that attraction. Fifty plus years have passed by since I became aware of God’s call on my life to ministry, and I am still intrigued by God’s fauna. Across those years, I have prepared more than fifty sermons and devotionals that have a connection to the Lord’s animal kingdom.

Long before Dr. Doolittle ‘talked to the animals’, God’s word spoke of lessons to be learned from His creatures.  It is as if the words recorded in Job 12:7-10 were spoken to me as well as Job: “But ask the animals, and they will teach you, or the birds in the sky, and they will tell you; or speak to the earth, and it will teach you, or let the fish in the sea inform you.  Which of all these does not know that the hand of the Lord has done this?  In his hand is the life of every creature and the breath of all mankind.”

Even a cursory overview of the animal kingdom convinces me of the heavenly Father’s creative design. There is common thread running throughout all of the creatures with whom we share the earth. What a blessed assurance for the children of God to know that “in his hand is the life of every creature and the breath of all mankind.”  The breath of life that animates us also enlivens all of His creation. Jesus Himself taught many lessons utilizing examples from the animal kingdom. It is difficult for me to think of a bird, an ant, a fox, or sheep without recalling the masterful analogies of the Savior.

If you are ever looking for a theme for Bible study, you might get a good commentary or, in this day, do a Google search of scripture focused on God’s care of His creatures. Refresh your mind of His tender care of the sheep. Remember how He feeds the sparrows. Also, heed the warnings He gives by evoking thoughts of certain fierce animals. In one verse Jesus draws on our awareness of four different animals to teach a lesson: “Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves. Therefore, be wise as serpents and harmless doves” (Matthew 10:16). 

Prayer: Lord speak to us through your incredible creatures. All of creation declares Your glory.

~ Brother Roy

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Avoiding Storms

jonah-and-the-whale-carlo-antonio-tavella
“Jonah and the Whale”, by Carlo Antonio Tavella (1668-1738)

Traveling by ship can be a pleasant experience. However, on a recent voyage, we sailed into a storm. The ship was in the experienced and able hands of the ship captain, but it was still alarming as the wind howled and waves crashed against the bow. My mind harkened back to the Biblical account of Jonah.

“Now the Word of the Lord Came to Jonah” (Jonah 1:1). I believe, sooner or later, God’s call comes to every person. We serve a ‘speaking’ God. He may speak to us in a sermon, a song, advice from a Christian friend, a verse of scripture, etc. The Lord said to Jonah, “Arise and go to Nineveh that Great City and cry out against it.” What a phrase comes next: “But Jonah…”  In defiance of God’s word, he didn’t listen. Jonah clearly understood God’s word and what His will was. But Jonah set his will against God’s will. Know this, as free moral agents, we don’t have to listen to the Lord. Jonah exercised his free will and refused God’s call, to his own ruin.

Some thoughts about the account of Jonah:

  • He boarded a ship to flee from God’s presence. He chose to go the opposite direction. Ah, Jonah, and anyone else who is running from the Lord, you need to be aware of Psalm 139:7-10: “Whither shall I go from thy spirit? Or whither shall I flee from thy presence? If I ascend up into heaven thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there. If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the utter parts of the sea, even there thy hand shall lead me. Thy right hand shall hold me”.
  • God will not compel us to obey. God honored Jonah’s free will.
  • Verse 3: “He went down to Joppa”. We always go ‘down’ when we run from God. “He paid the fare”. We always pay dearly when we run from God.
  • Verse 5“But the Lord sent out a great wind on the sea, and there was a mighty tempest on the sea”. End result – Jonah was thrown overboard by the ship’s crew and swallowed by a great fish.
  • Where was the storm? It was on the Sea! If Jonah had stayed on dry land and started for Nineveh like God asked him to do, he would not have been caught in this terrible storm at sea.

Those who choose to run from God are destined to find themselves caught in a storm. The storms of life, in which we find ourselves engulfed, can often be avoided by listening to the Lord.

Prayer: Lord, when you speak to us, let our answer be, “Yes, Lord, Yes”. By doing Your will, we can avoid many of life’s storms.

~ Brother Roy

Shoes of Iron

AHB2017q129605Across time and cultures, people have made shoes from a variety of materials. The wooden shoes of the Dutch, deer skin moccasins of Native Americans, and sandals from old automobiles tires among the Maasi, are a few that come to mind. Traditionally, the material used has been dictated by the type of terrain where the shoes would be worn and the availability of suitable material to produce them. Possibly the most common material used has been leather. However, many synthetic materials have become increasingly popular in the modern era.

One of the most unusual materials for footwear is mentioned is the Bible, “Your sandals shall be iron and bronze” (Deuteronomy 33:25). Asher was one of Jacob’s sons. His family inheritance, it seems, was rugged ground with an abundance of sharp, flinty rocks. Asher’s portions would require more than simple sandals suitable for soft sand and smooth paths. God does not promise sunshine without rain or joy without pain, but His promise to Asher, as it is to you and me, was “As your days, so shall your strength be” (Deuteronomy 35:25).

The Lord, in His divine wisdom, has not placed all people on the same type of landscape. Some reside in arid, rough places like Asher, others on well-watered plains. “But each one has his own gift from God, one in this manner and another in that” (1 Corinthians 7:7). God’s promise is that whatever our portion, He will provide us with suitable ‘shoes’ according to our needs.

  • “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; For you are with me; Your rod and your staff, they comfort me” (Psalm 23:4).
  • “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned, nor shall the flame scorch you” (Isaiah 43:2).

When the Apostle Paul had to walk through a particular hard place, the Lord said, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my strength is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9). Paul concluded that what seemed to be a bad ‘lot in life’ was not an occasion to complain. It was rather a blessing to be embraced so that “the power of Christ may rest upon me” (2 Corinthians 12:9b). The Lord will provide us with shoes appropriate for our particular journey. God reminded the Hebrew’s that during their forty years in the wilderness, “your sandals have not worn out on your feet” (Deuteronomy 29:5).

Prayer: May you journey through life “having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace” (Ephesians 6:15).

~ Brother Roy

The Opportunist

seagull opportunistAcross the years my wife and I have often chosen a cruise for our vacation venue. Once on board, you don’t have to think – all your meals are provided, your room is cleaned, your bed is made every day, a variety of activities and entertainment is available, and the ship moves you from location to location.

On our first cruise, I was up early to enjoy our initial port of call. I was excited to collect my breakfast and sit at a table on the open deck just outside the dining room. I thought this was a nearly perfect place for a great breakfast. It had the warm morning sun, beautiful scenery, and the graceful gulls circling just a few feet away. All of a sudden my idyllic breakfast repast was shattered. As quick as lightening, one of the gulls swooped down and snatched my bacon. Before I could react, another thieving gull had grabbed my toast. I had to beat a hasty retreat inside in the midst of a bunch of shrieking, winged opportunists.

There is an intriguing account in the Book of Genesis about a flock of feathered fowl that threatened to steal something much more important than a breakfast. In Genesis 15, Abram (Abraham) had prepared a sacrifice according to God’s directions. The sacrifice was to set a seal on a covenant between Abram and God concerning a promised son and a land of inheritance. Like the gulls mentioned above, opportunistic vultures swooped down to steal the sacrifice. “And when the vultures came down on the carcasses, Abram drove them away” (v.11).

There have been times in my life that I’ve placed things on the altar of my heart and promised faithfulness to God in those things. But, it seems the enemy of my soul, the Great Opportunist, comes to steal. We must not let the business of life distract us from our commitments to God. Satan will quickly move in to snatch those things away. Like Abram, we must take action to “drive them away”.

Conclusion: Allow me to paraphrase 1 Peter 5:8: “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil is an opportunist. He circles about seeking to steal those things we have committed to God.

“Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.” (James 4:7)

~ Brother Roy

Life Boat Drill

life boat drillI was in a state of semi-consciousness on the deck of a cruise ship. The warmth of the sun and the gentle rocking of the ship had lulled me into a state of near oblivion. Then, the blaring and slightly obnoxious voice of the ship’s captain interrupted my peaceful repose. “There will be a mandatory Life Boat Drill in fifteen minutes!”

At first I was mildly irritated, then reason slowly prevailed. The drill was for my own safety and protection. Being unprepared could be disastrous. The same thing may be said of the Lord’s counsel in the spiritual realm. We need to be prepared if an ‘all-out’ emergency besets us; however, it is not mandatory for us to be ready for the eventualities of life. Although a preparedness check is not compulsory, a loving Lord does admonish us to use our free will to check our readiness.

From the Old Testament, I would call your attention to two verses;

  • First, the words from the Book of Lamentations (3:40) expresses God’s urging, “Let us search out and examine our way, and turn back to the Lord.” If we have forgotten His directions, we need to turn back to them.
  • Secondly, “Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them fade from your heart…” (Deuteronomy 4:9, NIV). Survival instructions are too important to be left to chance.

 Words from the New Testament likewise echo God’s concern that we be prepared for possible future emergencies;

  • 2 Corinthians 13:5 implores us to, “Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves”.
  • Again in Galatians 6:4, God’s gives these words of caution, “But let each one examine his own work, and then he will have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another”.

The wisdom of Solomon is reflected in the following proverb; “A prudent person foresees danger and takes precautions. The simpleton goes blindly on and suffers the consequences” (Proverbs 27:3, NLT).

Conclusion: From time to time it is a good idea to have a spiritual Life Boat Drill.  Our eternal life could be a stake.

~ Brother Roy

A Broken Clock

broken clockOur discussions over morning coffee at Fitch’s Store cover a host of subjects. The name of a person known to most everybody at the store came up one morning in conversation. One of the fellows said, “You have to hunt for the good in him, but it is there. Remember, even a broken clock is right twice a day.” It reminded me that it is so important for us to look for the good in people, not just the bad.

In our modern world the divide between ‘liberal’ and ‘conservative’, between the ‘left’ and the ‘right’ stirs deep emotions – so deep that much of the rhetoric becomes myopic and irrational. Campaigns often resort to ‘digging up dirt’ on the other side. People are demonized and portrayed as all bad – evil in intent and action. How sad!

From the political arena, that mindset has infiltrated other areas of our lives. Negativity around us abounds, lowering the moral climate of our culture. I have often heard this truism expressed, ‘There is so much good in the worst of us and so much bad in the best of us that it behooves us all not to talk about the rest of us.’ An internet search proved inconclusive as to the origin of the quote; nevertheless, it purveys great wisdom. Oh, that we might apply that truth today.

That morning at the store, I was reminded of my personal situation when Jesus Christ found me. I was sin-stained and unworthy, yet He looked beyond my faults and saw my needs. God’s word says, “For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.  For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die.  But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:6-8, NKJV). That reminder was truly humbling.

May I ask, “What do you think the Lord sees when He looks at you?” It is likely far different than what you see in yourself. Go to Him. Ask Him to show you what He sees as He looks at you. “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 16:7, NKJV). When Christ comes into your life, you see yourself and others differently.

Prayer: Lord, help me to look for the good in people. Even as you looked beyond my flaws and failures, may I look for virtue and worth in others. May I see others as You see them.

~ Brother Roy

Worth Your Salt

salt_of_the_earthSalt has been a valuable commodity across the ages and across cultures. The word salary comes from an ancient word meaning “salt-money”. Part of a Roman soldier’s pay was an allowance for the purchase of salt. I have heard people say about someone who is lethargic and doesn’t earn their pay, “They are not worth their salt.”

To the people of Jesus’ day, salt was an important and precious commodity. So, when Jesus told His disciples that they were “the salt of the earth” (Matthew 5:13), He meant that believers have great value in this world and are to have a preserving and enhancing influence.

In light of the value of salt, the words our Lord recorded in Mark 9:50 become most significant: “Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace one with another.” The words speak primarily of the inward grace, of which the salt is the symbol, that alone makes people what they ought to be – “the salt of the earth”.

The words of Jesus, noted in the second half Matthew 5:13, should claim our attention: “You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men.”

Do you have good salt within yourself? Are you living as the salt of the earth? It is not optional, if we are to be followers of Christ.

Prayer: Lord, may we truly be “the salt of the earth”. Our desire is to possess that grace that preserves and enhances the life of those around us.

~ Brother Roy