Penny for a Blind Man

blind-beggarDuring my devotional time, I was reading the familiar account of blind Bartimaeus’s encounter with Jesus (Mark 10:46-52). I pictured in my mind’s eye the blind man sitting by the roadside, begging. I could almost hear his cry, “Penny for the blind man. Does anyone have a penny for the blind man?” Knowing the account well, I thought, this is surely going to be a better day than Bartimaeus expects. On that day, the road was filled with travelers going up to Jerusalem to celebrate the Feast of Passover. They would likely be in a charitable mood. Jesus was in the crowd of travelers. As Jesus was leaving Jericho heading for Jerusalem, He passed by the spot where Bartimaeus was begging. Even with the reality of His impending death in Jerusalem weighing on His mind, the Savior took time to minister to and give help to the blind man.

The scene touched my heart once again. I thought, as believers we also travel the roadways of life.  We pass by many lost, hopeless people who have been blinded by sin. Wounded and disillusioned by the “pleasures of sin” and destructive self-pleasing, they long for something better. They look to us as followers of Christ for compassion and help. In their own way, they are crying out like Bartimaeus for assistance!

Jesus said, “He that hath ears, let him hear” (Matthew 13:9 & 43, NKJV). Do we hear the cries of sin-blinded people crying out to us? They are all along the roadways of life that we travel. For their sakes and for Christ’s sake, will we hear and respond as the Holy Spirit directs? Jesus has no hands but our hands to reach out and lift up a broken soul. He has no feet but our feet to walk to where the sightless of our day cry out, “Penny for the blind man.”  May we respond to those who need our help as Peter did: Then Peter said, ‘Silver and gold have I none; but such as I have I give you’” (Acts 3:6).  We have the message that the spiritually blind need to hear.  We can point them to Christ who can heal their blindness.

Lord, help me hear what Philip heard so long ago:
“Sir, we want to see Jesus. Can you help us?” (John 12:21).

~ Brother Roy

 

Do’s and Don’ts

dennis-2Recently, I saw a cartoon of Dennis the Menace. He was setting in a corner with a frown. His mother was telling his father, “He knows his DOs, but he needs to work on his DON’Ts”.  That seems to often be the way with many of us.

The following scripture comes to my mind:

  • Be sincere in your love for others. Hate everything that is evil and hold tight to everything that is good” (Romans 12:9). The King James Version uses particularly strong language: “Let love be without dissimulation. Cleave to that which is good, abhor that which is evil.”

I think most of us would receive an ‘A’ or a ‘B’ for a grade on ‘cleaving to the good’. However, we would likely get a ‘D’ or even an‘F’ on abhorring the evil. We just don’t like confrontation. There are aware of many things around us that are wrong, but we hesitate to stand up against them. The enemy of our soul whispers things to us like:

  • Who are you to judge?
  • It’s not your problem.
  • Don’t get involved.
  • It’s not your job to try to right everything that’s wrong.

An old adage still rings true: “All that’s necessary for evil to triumph is for good people to do nothing.” Today, certainly we should do good to everyone as opportunities arise. But, we must also be determined to resist evil and take an active stand against things that are wrong. It goes without saying that our reference on good and evil is God’s Word.

WE KNOW OUR DO’s, BUT OUR DON’Ts OFTEN NEED WORK

~ Brother Roy

Stairway to Heaven: A Parable

Stairway-to-HeavenLet me share a parable to illustrate my thoughts about the way to heaven. Picture in your mind’s eye a long staircase – at the top is the gate of heaven, at the bottom is the entrance to hell. Then, consider the ‘Fall of Man’ as recorded in Genesis 3. The result:

  • “Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned.” (Romans 5:12)
  • “For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ!” (Romans 5:17)

Because of man’s inherited ‘fallen nature’, we are born on a staircase halfway between heaven and hell. Our bent to sin draws us downward. However, if we are willing to receive God’s provision of grace and righteous, we can change our direction from downward descent to upward ascent. The turn around is referred to as being ‘born again’.

This experience does not move us automatically to the top of the staircase. It turns us around on the step where we stand, but with a new direction. It is then an upward climb of obedience and faith. Since we started a long way down, we have a long climb ahead. Johnson Oatman’s wonderful hymn, “Higher Ground”, expresses my thoughts beautifully:

I’m pressing on the upward way,
New heights I’m gaining every day;
Still praying as I’m onward bound,
Lord, plant my feet on higher ground.

My heart has no desire to stay
Where doubts arise and fears dismay;
Though some may dwell where those abound,
My prayer, my aim, is higher ground.

I want to live above the world,
Though Satan’s darts at me are hurled;
For faith has caught the joyful sound,
The song of saints on higher ground.

I want to scale the utmost height
And catch a gleam of glory bright;
But still I’ll pray till Heav’n I’ve found,
“Lord, plant my feet on higher ground.”

~ Brother Roy

A State of Mind

still-waterThe 23rd Psalm certainly has to be considered one of the most loved passages in the Bible. How many times have you, like me, recited those opening verses: “The Lord is my shepherd I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures. He leadeth me beside the still waters”? I want to direct special attention to the phrase, “He leadeth me beside the still waters”.

When my heart is troubled and I need to calm down, my mind seeks to retreat to a place of ‘the still waters’. When possible, I love to physically go to a quiet place by water’s edge. In an earlier NHIM devotional titled Still Waters, I spoke of such a place on Dauphin Island, Alabama. However, it is not usually possible to withdraw to a physical place. What can we do when our peace is disturbed and we cannot physically escape?

I have found that the solution is in knowing that ‘still waters’ is a state of mind as much as it is a physical place. In John’s Gospel, Jesus said, “I am leaving you with a gift–peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid (John 14:27, NLT). We may not always be able to go to a physical place beside the still waters, but praise the Lord in our spirits we can all come to Jesus and find peace of mind and heart.

Jesus said, “I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33, NIV). Are you stressed, harried, anxious? Are your mind and heart troubled? Come to Him! He will lead you to the spiritual ‘still waters’ and give you His peace. He promised! And, The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us…” (2 Peter 3:9, NKJ).

“The Lord will guide you always …to a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail.” (Isaiah 58:11, NIV)

~ Brother Roy

Fat Potato

kya miss sue

Miss Sue singing “Jesus Loves Me” with 4-year-old Kenny

“Siduhla sa zambane,” the children shout.  It is Zulu for “fat potato”, a ring game the children play at Kya Sands squatter’s camp. Although there are many different languages spoken by the children of Kya, all of them understand ‘siduhla sa zambane’.  

On several occasions, my wife and I have had the privilege of working along side our daughter and her church friends at this squatter’s camp in Johannesburg, South Africa. These dedicated Christian folks, mostly women, work with the children in a field at the edge of the camp (a sprawling slum). In spite of hunger, deprivation of every kind, lack of sanitation and other basic human services, they come to the field. You can hear them coming as they fill the air with laughter and enthusiasm.

Their time in the field seems to bring a blessed relief from their tiny tin shacks and the rubbish that comprises most of their world. The children are led in exercises that contribute to hand-eye coordination essential to learning how to read. They also work with large motor skills and muscle development. The workers help children with basic vocabulary, sharing, teamwork, and so many other survival skills. Developmental goals are woven into activities and games the children enjoy.

One of the games the children love to play is ‘fat potato’. Squeals of laughter echo across the field as the one in the middle of the ring picks someone on the outer circle to come to center of the ring and be the fat potato. Running, jumping, peeping and hiding are the order of the day. I am sure there are many nuances of the game that are understood by the children that escape me. I do know that the joy they express by being able to play in a safe environment, surrounded by adults that care about them is a beautiful thing.

Let me share some thoughts that deeply moved me as I watched the Kya Kids in the field. This was a place where they could come and for a time:

  • Be free from fear
  • Be loved unconditionally
  • Be accepted, valued and be confident enough to be the ‘fat potato’
  • Know there are no ugly people and that all children in the field are equal
  • Know clothes, possessions, and skin color are not things by which they are judged
  • Find hope for tomorrow and the future
  • See Jesus in the people who surround them
  • Get a nutritious snack (perhaps the only food for some that day) 

Observing them, I recalled the words of Jesus, “And He said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 18:13, NIV). How grateful I am that I have a ‘place’ in Jesus. He is my safe place, my field. Do you have such a place? Look the list above. Are you willing to become as one of these small ones in childlike faith and receive Jesus’ unconditional love? He will be your field.

“Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these” (Matthew 19:14).

~ Brother Roy

Develop or Repair

silhouette-1082129_1280A statement on a local newscast caught my attention. A father being interviewed said, “It’s better to develop strong children than to repair broken adults.” The more I reflected on the statement, the more I appreciated the wisdom of this father.

Mirroring the wisdom of Solomon, this father spoke a truth as relevant today as it was in Solomon’s day: “Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it”  (Proverbs 22:6, NIV).  I do not believe this verse is necessarily a promise, but I certainly believe it is an essential principle for parenting.

The great classical Bible commentator Matthew Henry offered the following observation on Proverbs 22:6: “Train children, not in the way they would go, that of their corrupt hearts, but in the way they should go; in which, if you love them, you would have them go. As soon as possible every child should be led to the knowledge of the Saviour.”

How much better it is to invest our time and energy in developing positive and strong moral values in children than it is to try to rescue dysfunctional adults. The phrase, “As the twig is bent, so grows the tree,” was coined in the 18th century by poet Alexander Pope. The meaning is centered on the idea that early influences have a permanent effect. The experiences children go through and lessons they learn can and will shape who they are and how they act later in life.

~ Brother Roy

Just Turn Off the Light

instead of cleaningI recently saw a humorous coffee mug.  It had a picture of a lady standing in a very cluttered house. The following comment was on the mug: “Instead of cleaning the house, I just turn off the lights.”

After a chuckle and a time of reflection, a rather sobering reality settled in. The comment echoes a philosophy of far too many self-described Christians. It seems when people become aware of the clutter of sin, careless living, or half-hearted commitment, they often choose not to deal with these revelations. When conscience and conviction weigh in, the tendency is to ‘turn off the light’ that is exposing the clutter.

Rather than adopting an attitude of repentance and humility, people often move to a default position such as, “I’m only human,” or, “Nobody’s perfect,” or, “I’m doing the best I can.” The conscience becomes “seared”, and the convicting voice of the Holy Spirit becomes muted. The light is turned off.

A powerful Biblical example is found in the account of David and Bathsheba in 2nd. Samuel. The sin begins with David’s longing look at the beautiful woman, Bathsheba, while she is bathing. David began to lust for her, and then he calls for her to be brought to him. This led to adultery, and then David lied to cover the sin. Next, David had Bathsheba’s husband killed in order to conceal his role in her pregnancy. He simply chose to ‘turn out the light’ rather than repent.

In a last ditch effort to redeem David, God moved the prophet Nathan to confront David with his sin. Hearing the words of Nathan, “Thou art the man”, David was humbled, and the light came on, exposing the sin. Psalm 51 is David’s stirring prayer of confession and plea for mercy and forgiveness. He found forgiveness, but the consequences of his action were catastrophic.

If your conscience makes you aware of the clutter of sin, please don’t turn off the light. Let the Lord help you. Cry out with David, Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me” (Psalm 51:10-12).

Don’t Just Turn Off The Light

~ Brother Roy