Free Will and the Mother Hen

mother henAs boy on the farm, I remember my grandmother raising chickens. She would place a clutch of eggs under a “sittin’ hen” to hatch. Once the chicks had hatched, a vigil started. We kept a watchful eye out for chicken hawks. The hawks seemed to know just when a new brood of chicks had hatched. If the mother hen spotted a hawk, she gave a distinct cluck and all the chicks came running to take shelter under her wings. As the chicks grew and became more independent, once in a while a chick didn’t heed the alarm call. We would find a few feathers, and the chick was gone.

Jesus often used things familiar to the people to whom He spoke, in order to make His point. Luke 13:34 (NKJ) illustrates this principle: “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem…How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, but you were not willing!”  Some people are like the little chick mentioned above or like Jerusalem in Jesus’ day – they simply choose to disregard the alarm call to their own detriment.

God created us as creatures of volitional choice – free moral agents. Joshua said to the Hebrew people, “…choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve…” (Joshua 24:15 NKJ).  The words of the Psalmist acknowledge this belief in Psalm 19:30 (NKJ): I have chosen the way of truth; Your judgments I have laid before me”.  Jesus, speaking of Mary, said, “But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her(Luke 10:42 NKJ).

If we miss salvation and eternal life with Him, it will be by our own choice. He has set before us life or death, but we must chose. The scripture asks the question, “How shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation, which at first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed to us who heard Him” (Heb. 2:3 NKJ). 

The Hawk of the soul has been sighted. A warning call has been given. Will you choose to gather under His wings?

~ Brother Roy

A Vapor

teakettleThe coffee drinkers at Fitch’s IGA (sometimes humorously referred to as “the Sanhedrin”) were discussing the brevity of life. Over the last few months, our group had suffered the loss of three good friends. I brought the words in James 4:14 NKJ into the conversation: “For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away.” I shared memories of my days as a little boy in my grandmother’s kitchen. She always had a teakettle on the stove. I’d watch with amazement as the steam rose from the spout and soon disappeared. Dean Cook, retired Navy Chaplin and Free Methodist Pastor, made an astute observation. He said, “It didn’t really disappear. It simply changed form.”

Recalling my elementary school science, I nodded in affirmation. I remembered that matter could neither be created nor destroyed, but it could change forms – such as a solid becoming a liquid or a gas. Although I have long recognized this principle, I had an epiphany. The same principle in the physical world also applies in the spiritual world. Once our Creator breathes into a person’s nostrils the breath of life, they become an eternal soul.  Death may cause to person to disappear from physical view. But the truth is that they only seem to disappear. Like a vapor, a person may change form, but their soul lives on forever. 

To me, our discussion brought new light to Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 15:50-57 NKJ:Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does corruption inherit incorruption.  Behold, I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed – in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye…For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality…”  

Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die”  (John 11:25-26 NKJ). The Apostle Paul states in Acts 24:15 that there will be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and the unjust. 

We Shall All Be Changed! Are You Ready?

~ Brother Roy

Don’t Be A Turkey

Pastor David Spencer holds one of Owen's turkey calls.

Pastor David Spencer holds one of Owen’s turkey calls.

Owen Tomlin is a mountain craftsman from Breathitt County, Kentucky. In order to supplement his income, like many other folks from the economically depressed areas Eastern Kentucky, Owen has turned to cabin craftwork. Owen has developed an outstanding turkey call. The unique two-chamber design gives this call the best sound I’ve ever heard. Turkeys seem to find it irresistible. The call lures an unexpecting turkey into range and with the crack of a gun, it is all over for bird.

We need to be able to discriminate among the various voices or calls we hear or we could end up like the turkey. Paul alerts the Corinthians to the fact that there are many kinds of voices in the world (1 Corinthians 13:10). We must learn the meaning of the voices that catch our ear. Being able to discern the difference between God’s call and a “siren call” is crucial. In Greek mythology, the Sirens were dangerous yet beautiful creatures that lured sailors with their enchanting music and voices. The end result was shipwreck on the rocky coast of their island.

There are many siren calls in our world today. I want to cite just a few.

  • The Call of Materialsim:  The account of the Rich Young Ruler in Mark 10:22 and the parable of the Rich Famer in Luke 12:16-21 point to the call of materialism.
  • The Call of Pleasure:  2 Timothy 3:4 speaks of people who are lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God. Hebrews 11:24 tells us that Moses resisted the call of pleasure, “Choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season.” The Apostle Paul speaks of the call of pleasure in 1 Timothy 5:6, “But she who lives in pleasure is dead while she lives”.
  • The Call of Cheap Religion: David in 2 Samuel 24:24 refused to offer to the Lord “that which costs me nothing”. Mary would have nothing to do with miserly giving to Jesus (John 12:3). Neither would the Widow in Mark 12:24.
  • The Call of the Self-Centeredness: The call of the “selfie” echoes across the land. The new phenomena of taking self-pictures with your cell phone are a new manifestation of an old problem. Obadiah 4 provides strong advice for the ‘selfie’ person: “Though you ascend as high as an eagle, and though you set your nest among the stars, from there I will bring you down, says the Lord”. We should heed the wise words of Jesus in Matthew 23:12:  “And whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

These and other worldly voices call us to live a lower way than God’s way. They may sound appealing, but they invite shipwreck. Here is how you can know if it’s God’s voice or a sirens call: “Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if anything is praiseworthy – meditate on these things” (Philippians 4:8 NKJ).

Don’t be fooled like the turkey! Learn to know the Lord’s Voice.

~ Brother Roy

South Africa Team: Melanie’s Testimony

melanieWhat do you say after you return from a mission trip? Family and friends want to know how it was, what you saw, what kinds of things you did, and who you worked with. And I LOVE talking about it.

But how do you describe it? How do you talk about how uncomfortable it felt seeing the 8×8 tin shacks that house whole families when I purchased coasters and placemats as souvenirs to bring home to my apartment? How do you describe the heartbreak that comes with seeing beautiful, precious children in rags and mothers struggling to feed them? How do you tell about the prostitute you spent hours talking with on a city curb and how much you love her and wish you could fly across the world to sit on that curb with her again?

Forgive me if I stumble for words when we talk next and you ask me how it was. I will most certainly tell you that it was amazing… That I am blessed beyond measure that I got to experience South Africa and see how God is moving there. That I had no desire to come back. That I felt like I was fulfilling His call for me in real and tangible ways. But forgive me if I haven’t fully grasped how to verbalize such an experience yet.

The truth is that with every person who asks me about my trip, I want to respond, “Come with me next time and see for yourself. See how amazing it is to be in the center of His will, fulfilling His call to take the Gospel to all nations. Come experience this with me.” But I know that offer would be met with a series of varied reasons why each person couldn’t or shouldn’t do that. Work commitments, family, bills, LIFE all get it the way. I get that. But if you’re reading this and find yourself wanting something more than a Sunday morning routine of sitting in a pew, then I’ll extend this offer to you. Don’t just let me tell you about South Africa, or Malawi, or Appalachia, or Panama City, or Louisville, or any other mission field. Come with me and see it, feel it, DO IT yourself. Experience what it’s like to take time out of your life to devote yourself fully and wholeheartedly to the expansion of His kingdom. I promise you will not regret it, and you will be changed in ways you could never imagine.

A famous atheist (forgive me, I cannot for the life of me remember his name at the moment) once said that he loves when Christians share their faith. He pointed out that if you believe in something so fully and claim that it has SAVED YOUR LIFE, the most evil thing you could possibly do is sit back and not tell anyone about it. I completely agree. Love has a name and a face, y’all. Let’s take Him to the nations and love like He does.

~ Melanie Brison
South Africa Team Member

South Africa Team: My Little Children

tyler“My little children” is an endearing phrase found on several occasions in scripture. 1 John 3:18 and Galatians 4:19 serve as two examples. To this very day, my heart takes comfort in the children’s song, ‘Jesus Loves Me’.  How wonderful are the words, ”Little ones to Him belong, They are weak but He is strong.” 

Our NHIM South Africa Team provided me with a picture that I will take into eternity. Tyler, a powerful young man on our team, was carrying a small girl on his shoulder. She was one of the little ones from Kya Sands (a squatter’s camp), where we were working.  He was so big and strong, and she was so small and weak. It was obvious, she felt safe and secure in his arms.

I am so glad the heavenly Father considers us His ‘little children’. I have experienced His strength and care across my lifetime. From my earliest memories even until now in my old age, I have felt secure in His strong arms. The words of Isaiah 46:4 are especially dear to me as the infirmities of old age beset me: “And even to your old age I am He, and even to hoary hairs will I carry you: I have made, and I will bear: even I will carry, and deliver you.” 

My friends, I pray that you are this very moment, like the little girl in the picture, safe in His sheltering arms. Just for a minute, let the burdens and concerns of the day fade away. Take comfort in the words of the beautiful gospel song, “Sheltered In The Arms Of God”: 

I feel the touch of hands so kind and tender.
They’re leading me in the paths that I must trod.
I’ll have no fear for Jesus walks beside me,
For I’m sheltered in the arms of God.

So let the storm clouds rage high,
The dark clouds rise, 
They don’t bother me;
For I’m sheltered safe within the arms of God.
He walks with me, and naught of earth shall harm me,
For I’m sheltered in the arms of God.

Soon I shall hear the call from heaven’s portal,
“Come home my child,
It’s the last mile you must trod.”
I’ll fall asleep and wake in God’s sweet heaven
Sheltered safe within the arms of God.

So let the storm clouds rage high,
The dark clouds rise, 
They don’t bother me;
For I’m sheltered safe within the arms of God.
He walks with me, and naught of earth shall harm me,
For I’m sheltered in the arms of God.

~ Brother Roy

South Africa Team: Ryan’s Heart

ryan

Ryan helps a little girl into new shoes

At the end of May, my wife Sue and I had the privilege of taking a group of Asbury University students to South Africa on a mission trip. (The team is back home in the states now, but Sue and I are staying on for a couple of weeks with our daughter, Lori, who lives in Johannesburg.)  Lori developed a remarkable agenda for us to follow. The schedule provided the team the maximum opportunity to engage the culture, the people, and the challenges of ministry in that context.

Lori is part of a group of women from her church that works in Kya Sands squatter’s camp. This sprawling slum defies description.  The poverty and human deprivation is overwhelming. The women offer compassionate ministry to preschool children and some slightly older children who do not go to school. A new part of the ministry is education for the mothers of the children. The NHIM team was in South Africa at the beginning of their winter season to observe this vital ministry and help as they could. The temperature often drops into the upper 30’s and low 40’s at night. The tiny shacks where the children live offer little, if any, protection against the numbing cold.

kids

Excited children in the Kya Sands camp receive their new clothes

One of the projects the NHIM team assisted with was securing warm clothing for the children. The items were to accompany previously purchased warm blankets. Each child was to receive a long-sleeve shirt, long pants, a sock cap, and a pair of shoes. It was quite an experience for the team to shop in unfamiliar places, compare prices, and try to purchase the ‘best’ on a limited budget (approximately $15 to $18 per child).  As the team set about this difficult task, the sobering reality of systemic poverty and limited resources stirred them. Each team member was given the names and sizes of several children. The information seemed to personalize the task for our team.

Each team member took the responsibility seriously. For them it was a labor of love. Time and space will not permit me to share the experiences of each team member. I have selected one of the young men as representative of all of the team.  Ryan was particularly meticulous. He seemed to examine each stitch. He was very careful to ensure the colors and patterns matched. He took a long time in completing his ‘personal labor of love’. As my daughter and I tried to move the process along, something like “let’s get going” was spoken. Ryan simply and resolutely said, “I don’t want to give a child anything I wouldn’t want to wear myself.”

I was deeply moved. He got ‘it’! Across the years, I had prepared for so many mission trips when well-meaning people brought me things to take to needy people on the ‘field’. Too often these things were worn out or broken. Threadbare and frayed clothing seemed to be the order of the day. Things they would not dress their own children in and that should have been thrown away were somehow deemed good enough for ‘those poor children’.

O, Lord give us Ryan’s heart. Help us to see that “what we have done to the least of the Lord’s children we have done unto Him”  (Matthew 25:40).

~ Brother Roy

There Is No End

there is no endSitting on the deck of a beach house on Dauphin Island, I gazed over the Gulf of Mexico. There stretched before me what seemed an endless expanse of water. I watched gulls fly toward the horizon until they could no longer be seen. The vastness of God’s creation always captivates me.  He created the earth, the heavens, the stars, and the great endless beyond. Psalm 24:1-2:The earth is the Lord’s and all its fullness, the world and those who dwell therein. For He founded it upon the seas, and established it upon the waters.”

The truth of a recent “Pickles” cartoon came to mind. Since I believe all truth is God’s truth, I want to share a real gem from the cartoon. It beautifully aligns with the Word of God. In the cartoon (10/9/14), Brian Crane penned the words, “A fish swims in the ocean, and no matter how far it swims, there is no end to the water. A bird flies in the sky, and no matter how far it flies, there is no end to the air”. The same principles prevail in the spiritual world. There is no end to God’s Mercy. There is no end to God’s Grace. There is no end to God’s Love. Scripture verifies these principles.

GOD’S MERCY:

Psalm 57:10 (NKJV):For Your mercy reaches unto the heaven, and Your truth unto the clouds.”

Psalm 136:1 (KJV): For His mercy endures forever.”  (The phrase is repeated 26 times in this Psalm.)

GOD’S GRACE:

1 Timothy 1:14 (NKJV):And the grace of our Lord was exceedingly abundant, with faith and love which is in Christ Jesus.”

2 Corinthians 9:8 (NKJV): “And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work.” 

GOD’S LOVE:

John 3:16 (NKJV): “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.”

Romans 8:38: “For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” 

The words of an old hymn written by Frederick W. Faber, “There’s a Wideness in God’s Mercy”, echo in my heart:

There’s wideness in God’s mercy, like the wideness of the sea;
There’s a kindness in His justice which is more than liberty.

There is welcome for the sinner, and more graces for the good;
There is mercy with the Savior; There is healing in His blood.

For the love of God is broader, than the measure of man’s mind;
And the heart of the eternal is most wonderfully kind.

A-men

~ Brother Roy