Tried and True

Edmund Halley & Isaac Newton

Edmund Halley & Isaac Newton

Edmund Halley was an English geophysicist, mathematician, and meteorologist who is best known for computing the orbit of Halley’s comet. On one occasion, he was strongly denouncing Christianity. Upon hearing Halley’s remarks, Sir Isaac Newton said, “Halley, when you speak of astronomy and mathematics I will listen to you, but not when you talk of Christianity. You have never tried it. But I have tried it and know it to be true.”

There are scores of strident voices in our world today denouncing the Christian faith. Many are academics, successful business types, celebrities, and etc.  Because they have had a measure of success in their various endeavors, they believe they can speak with authority on things they know nothing about. I have much the same response as Newton did so long ago. I may listen when they talk of things they have studied and for which they have earned respect in the larger community. But I have no interest in listening to people speak on things they know nothing about.  When it comes to faith in Christ, I have tried it, tested, and proved it over and over.

When people make grand pronouncements about things of which they know little or nothing, Shakespeare’s line in Hamlet seems to me to apply, “It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and furry signifying nothing”. Speaking to the sages of His day, Jesus said, “You see these signs in the sky and know what they mean. In the same way you see the things I am doing now, but you don’t know their meaning” (Matthew 16:3, NCV).

Words in Psalm 34:8 (NCV) call for careful examination before jumping to any conclusion: “Examine and see how good the Lord is.”

The wonderful old hymn “‘Tis So Sweet To Trust In Jesus” expresses my position beautifully:

‘Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus, Just to take Him at His word;
Just to rest upon His promise, Just to know ”Thus saith the Lord”.
Jesus, Jesus, how I trust Him, How I’ve proved Him o’er and o’er!
Jesus, Jesus, precious Jesus! O for grace to trust Him more.

My advice to everyone, those who know Him and those who don’t, is simply this:  “Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good; Blessed is the man who trusts in Him” (Psalm 34:8, KJV).

~ Brother Roy

The Lighthouse

lighthouseWhat picture comes to your mind when you hear the term ‘lighthouse’? For most people, the image of a tower on the coast with a bright warning light on top is likely to be the picture. If you are from Bayou La Battre, Alabama, it may be different than folks from other parts of the country. The Lighthouse Restaurant is a longstanding tradition in that community. It is synonymous with the biggest and best crab claws to be found anywhere.

While those images flash across my mind, the one that lingers is far more meaningful to me. In my mind’s eye, I see the Cross of Jesus Christ.  When I think of His death in my place, my heart rejoices. To think that the Light of the World died in sin’s darkness that His light might illuminate my lost soul is too wonderful to fully comprehend.

A wonderful gospel song by Ronnie Hinson tells my story:

There’s a lighthouse on a hillside that overlooks the sea.
When I’m tossed it sends out light that I might see.
But the light that shines in darkness will safely lead us o’er;
If it wasn’t for the lighthouse my ship would be no more. 

And I thank God for the lighthouse I owe my life to Him.
For Jesus is the lighthouse and from the rocks of sin.
He has shown a light around me that I can clearly see;
If it wasn’t for the lighthouse tell me where would this ship be?

From my childhood, I still remember the little white Mt. Zion Church singing Let The Lower Lights Be Burning:

Brightly beams our Father’s mercy
From His lighthouse evermore;
But to us He gives the keeping
Of the lights along the shore.

Let the lower lights be burning!
Send a gleam across the wave!
Some poor fainting, struggling seaman
You may rescue, you may save.

PRAYER: Lord, dark the night of sin has settled, loud the angry billows roar. Eager eyes are watching longing, for the lights along the shore. May this little light of mine shine and shine and shine!

~ Brother Roy

Unless a Grain of Wheat Falls

wheatWho doesn’t love the spring? The winter in my old Kentucky home has been especially harsh this year. It makes the coming of spring even more exciting than usual. The arrival of the first robins, while the weather is still inhospitable, is a sure harbinger of spring. The Jonquils and Crocus pushing through the cold sod bring joy to the bleak winter landscape.  The buds swelling on trees and the song of birds that stayed around and survived the winter echo the joy.

Chocolate bunnies, marshmallow peeps, colored eggs and Easter baskets fill the aisles of the stores. The children become hyper as they anticipate what’s coming. But, the artificial grass and glitter, the sugary candy, and the Easter Bunny can easily obscure the true message of Easter.

Even as we caution children about missing the true meaning of Easter, we need to be vigilant ourselves. The commercialization blitz can turn adult heads as well. We look for “an Easter bonnet with all the frills upon it”. Display windows, newspapers, and television ads hype new Easter clothing, special meals, bigger and better Easter Baskets for the kids and more. Special music at church, spring flowers in the sanctuary, and perhaps even a special Easter treat at church can draw our attention away from the devastating impact of sin. There is sobering reality of the words of Jesus in John 12:23-24 (NKJ)“But Jesus answered them saying, ‘The hour has come that the Son of Man should be glorified. Most assuredly I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone, but if it dies it produces much grain.”

The analogy Jesus used here is of a physical law.  However, it also referred to the most important law – the spiritual law.  In reality, this is an instance of the great ‘law of life’, which God has given to the physical and the spiritual worlds alike.  A grain of wheat, though containing in itself the germ of life, remains alone, unless it falls into the ground and dies. Then, in its own death, it gives life. The life germ in the seed bursts forth-giving life to blade, stalks, and ear that produces many grains. Its death was necessary for the release of the inner life power, which the husk held captive. Jesus was surely speaking first and foremost of Himself. He is the grain of wheat. He died for our sins in order to release inner spiritual life now and physical resurrection later.

Certainly, we celebrate the resurrection! The bursting forth of new life in the Easter season is phenomenal. But God forbid that we should race to the glory and the beauty of the resurrection and gloss over the horrible suffering and excruciating pain of the crucifixion. Our redemption cost God His only begotten son. Because Jesus bore our sins on the cross, the Father had to turn His back on Jesus as He died and ‘fell into the ground’. In this Easter season, as we celebrate the explosion of new life and the resurrection; let us be ever mindful that our hope of new life came at a great price. Our eternal life must be anchored in Jesus’ humiliation, sacrifice, agonizing death, and burial. All these events must be understood before the Easter celebration begins.

~ Brother Roy

Running with the Horses

kentucky horsesI live in central Kentucky. The area is referred as the “Horse Capital of The World”. We are surrounded by beautiful bluegrass pastures, white rail fences, and magnificent thoroughbred horses. It is a great joy in the spring of the year to watch the yearlings run across the sun-drenched bluegrass fields for the shear joy of running.

One of our morning coffee group at Fitch’s IGA is a horseman. Across his lifetime, June Humphrey has worked with a breed of horse that is not as well known to most people as the thoroughbred is.  He has raised and trained draft horses for competitive pulling. These magnificent beasts may weigh 2,700+ pounds. This powerful breed and the teamsters that work with these wonderful animals help keep alive a rural American tradition. These animals were the ‘horsepower’ of farm families in days gone by.

God’s word seems to relate in some way to everything and everybody. For example, Jeremiah uses an analogy that relates horses to the human condition. Jeremiah 12:5 (KJV)“If thou hast run with the footmen, and they have wearied thee, then how canst thou contend with horses? And if in the land of peace, where in thou trusteth , they wearied thee, then how wilt thou do in the swelling of Jordan?”

The application is clear. If smaller trials and adversities weary us, how will we do when major problems confront us? Will we be able to hold on to our faith in the face of adversity? When tragedy strikes, can we hold on to the promises of the Lord?

The scriptures teach us how to contend with trouble. In 2 Peter 1:3-4 (NKJ) Peter tells us that “His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness…” He tell us that there “have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises”. The instructions continues in verses 5-9. “But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, and to knowledge self-control; and to self-control perseverance; and to perseverance godliness; and to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness love. For if these things are yours and abound, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.”  You can contend with the horses!

But then Peter warns, “For he who lacks these things is short sighted, even to blindness, and has forgotten that he was cleansed from his old sins.” Such a person will neither be able to contend with horses nor survive the swelling of the Jordan.

They that wait upon the Lord…shall run and not be weary  (Isaiah 40:31)

~ Brother Roy

No Wake Zone

no wake zonePosted along waterways around Dauphin Island and Bayou La Batre are signs proclaiming – “No Wake Zone”. They are posted when the waterway comes close to shore where boat docks, marinas, beaches, and fishing piers are located. Watercraft traveling at too great a speed create a ‘wake’ or sizable waves that can damage boats and moorings along the shore. The No Wake Zone signs serve as a reminder to be respectful of others.

Like speeding boaters, we sometimes rush into people’s lives to give advice or opinions. The impact of rash intrusions can be very damaging. A quotation from the English poet Alexander Pope’s An Essay on Criticism, seems appropriate here: “Fools rush in where angles fear to tread”. We need to be sure when we invade someone else’s life space it is with the true intention to help or encourage. It should never be to prove our point or to ‘straighten someone out’.  Stephen Covey, noted businessman and author says, “ Most people do not listen with the intent to understand. Most people listen with the intent to reply”. 

Scripture speaks to this issue in several places. Here are just a couple:

  • Proverbs 15:1-2 (ESV): A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. The tongue of the wise commends knowledge, the mouth of fools pour out folly.”
  • James 1:19 (ESV): “Know this, my beloved brothers, let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger.” 

The beautiful prayer of St. Francis of Assisi, when put into practice, will help us respect the No Wake Zone in other people’s lives:

Lord, make me an instrument of Thy peace; 
where there is hatred, let me sow love;
 where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; 
where there is despair, hope;
 where there is darkness, light;
 and where there is sadness, joy.

 O Divine Master, 
grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to   console; 
to be understood, as to understand; 
to be loved, as to love; 
 for it is in giving that we receive, it is in pardoning that we are pardoned, and it is in    dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen.

~  Brother Roy

Scared Money

calipariI’ve learned a new phrase and found a Biblical truth in an unexpected place. A sports commentator recently quoted UK Basketball coach, John Calipari, as saying, “Scared money don’t make no money”. The coach was referring to a talented basketball team that played scared. I thought the phrase was fascinating, so I ‘googled’ it for information. The definition in the Urban Dictionary is – “people who are afraid to take risks”. The phrase is from the song Scared Money by Mike Czyk. I believe all truth is God’s truth no matter where you find it. I think the idea in ‘scared money’ carries a truth worth examining.

The ‘scared money’ theme brought to my mind two compelling scriptures. The first is found in Revelation 21:7-8 (NKJ): “He who overcomes shall inherit all things, and I will be his God and he shall be My son. But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murders, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death”. Leading the list of the lost is the cowardly, ‘scared money’ types.

The second scripture is Matthew 25:14-30 (NKJ). Here, Jesus shares the Parable of the Talents that emphasizes the devastating impact of fear and cowardliness. As you will recall in this passage, a master was going on an extended trip. He called three servants and gave to each bags gold according to his own ability. One received five talents (bags of gold), another two, and finally to the last one he gave one bag. When he returned, each was called to give and account. Both of the first two had gained double the amount the master had entrusted to their care. The master’s response to each was, “Well done, good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord(v.21). 

The Message Translation quotes this critical passage in a down-to-earth and practical way:  “The servant given one thousand (one bag) said, ‘Master, I know you have high standards and hate careless ways, that you demand the best and make no allowances for error, I was afraid I might disappoint you, so I found a good hiding place and secured your money. Here it is, safe and sound down to the last cent.’ The Master was furious. ‘That’s a terrible way to live! It’s criminal to live cautiously like that! If you knew I was after the best, why did you do the least? Take the one thousand and give it to the one who risked the most. And get rid of this “play-it-safe” who won’t go out on a limb. Throw him into the outer darkness.” 

The Great Commission in Matthew 28 was not The Great Suggestion! We are to go in His name and make disciples. Acts 2:8 clearly commits to us the responsibility of being His witnesses. Jesus said in Luke 12:48, “to whom much is committed, of him they will ask the more.” Jesus gives us great assurance that all authority has been given to Him. We go in that authority. He promised power through the Holy Spirit. He promised His presence would be with us. He promised His strength would be made perfect in our weakness. He promised His love would casts out fear. Therefore, will be no excuses accepted.

Scared money don’t make no money!

~ Brother Roy

A Mighty Fortress

ft gains cannonStrategically located at the east end of Dauphin Island is stately old Ft. Gains. The massive wall and bulwarks silently keeps vigil over Mobile Bay. In a distant yesterday, the great cannons were positioned to fire huge cannon balls at enemy ships that dared attempt to enter the bay. The enormous guns have been mute for nearly 150 years. The stamping feet of garrisoned troops are no longer heard scrambling to the ramparts, replaced by the moaning wind and occasionally the footsteps of school children on a fieldtrip.

As I stand and look up at those majestic old walls, the opening line of one of the most powerful hymns ever written comes to mind. My heart sings with Martin Luther, “A mighty fortress is our God, a bulwark never failing.”  He undoubtedly was moved by Psalm 18:2.  David penned a beautiful psalm of thanksgiving for God protective care: “The Lord is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my buckler, and the horn of my salvation, and my high tower.”

The world in which we live is as dangerous and threatening today as it was in the days of David or Martin Luther, ‘For still our ancient foe doth seek to work us woe.’  However, we are not to spend our days intimidated and fearful! Paul tells young Timothy, “For God has not given us the spirit of fear; but of power and of love, and of a sound mind”  (2 Timothy 1:7).  John assures us of this marvelous truth: “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear; because fear hath torment” (1 John 4:18).  We do not in our own strength confide. “For in Him we live, and move, and have our being” (Acts 17:28).      

Visions of the grand old fort serve to stir my awareness that the Lord is my rock and my fortress. I can move through my days, no matter how menacing they may seem, because I have the right man, Jesus Christ, on my side.  He will win the battle. I have His word on it.

A Mighty Fortress Is Our God, A Bulwark Never Failing

~ Brother Roy