Curves

curvesMy ministry in the mountains of Eastern Kentucky necessitates regular travel on crooked roads. One of the most frequent and necessary road signs is the familiar yellow sign that lets drivers know there are curves in the road ahead. They are reminders to slow down. The reflective signs can be seen day or night and indicate the road curves to the right or left.

Scripture can serve as the bright yellow signs to alert the spiritual driver of curves ahead. The hectic pace of life often sends us hurrying down highways with many twists and turns. We need to let God’s word and the presence of the Holy Spirit draw our attention to dangerous situations that may lie ahead.

When we rush into the day without taking time to pray and seek the Lord’s direction, we are prone to miss the warning signs. Here are some scriptures that are wise to consider:

  • In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths” (Proverbs 3:6, ESV).
  • “Lead me, Lord, in your righteousness because of my enemies (the curves); make your way straight before me” (Psalm 5:8, NIV).
  • “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…” (Deutertonomy 4:9, NIV).
  • So be on your guard; I have told you everything ahead of time” (Mark 13:23).
  • “Keep a cool head. Stay alert. The Devil is poised to pounce, and would like nothing better than to catch you napping. Keep your guard up” (1 Peter 5:8, MSG).

Be very careful, then, how you live (drive)—not as unwise but as wise.”
~ Ephesians 5:15 (NIV) ~

~ Brother Roy

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Relationship Status

relstatEvery person has some type of relation with the Lord. There are a number of descriptors that could be used to describe these relationships. There are six that quickly come to my mind:

  1. Unbelief
  2. Indifference
  3. Passive rejection
  4. Aggressive rejection
  5. Mental acknowledgement
  6. Heartfelt devotion

Which type do you think best describes you?  Most people fall into one of the first five categories. Only a few are found in category six, ‘heartfelt devotion’. Being a devoted follower of Jesus represents the ‘narrow way’ in scripture. Jesus said, “Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it” (Matthew 7:13-14, NKJV).

The ranks of those who are indifferent or those who to varying degrees reject the Lord are immense. Those numbers seem to be growing with each passing day. The concept of ‘majority rules’ or determining what’s right by popular vote does not apply in the spiritual realm. As a matter of fact, it is quite the contrary.

I remember a saying from my boyhood days in Eastern Kentucky. “Any old dead fish can drift downstream, but it takes a live one to swim upstream against the current”. Are you drifting along with the crowd of unbelievers and the indifferent? If so, it will not end well for you when your days on this earth are over. But the cowardly, unbelieving… shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death” (Revelation 21:8, NKJV). 

“For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words, of him the Son of Man will be ashamed when He comes in His own glory, and in His Father’s, and of the holy angels.”
(Luke 9:26)

~ Brother Roy

The Toad and the Snake

toad window wellI have always been a story teller. Across years of ministry, I have often attempted to develop ‘parables’ to help illustrate spiritual truths. Following Jesus’ lead, I’ve attempted to use familiar situations or recognizable character types to illuminate my point. This is my latest effort.

My father-in-law, Gale Bowyer, had a house in the country. It had window wells that served as retaining barriers to hold the surrounding earth back about eighteen inches from the basement windows. This arrangement let light into the basement, but allowed the yard level to be maintained. One day we were standing near one of the window wells when Gale reached down into the well and lifted out a toad. It had apparently fallen in and was unable to get out. A couple of days later, we looked into the window well and the toad was in there again. Once more the toad was lifted out and sent on his way. Over the next several days, we checked, and the toad was usually in the window well, unable to get out.

We finally figured out the situation. After dark, a night-light in the basement shined through the window. Bugs and flying insects would gather around the window where the light shined through. The toad would see the abundant food supply and hop in to help himself. As the toad grew fatter, any possibility of jumping out became more of an impossibility.

One day, I looked in the window well planning to once again rescue the toad.  I recoiled at what I saw. A large black snake with a bulge in its middle was lying in the bottom of the window well. The overindulgent toad had sacrificed his freedom for the easy life. Despite numerous rescues, the toad was drawn to the window well like the proverbial “moth to the flame”. He was tempted by something that would lead to his downfall.

The Biblical application is obvious. The easiest way is often not the the best way. The easy way may have ‘hidden’ costs like it did for the toad. Since we have free will, we may decide, as so many do, to follow our own basic instincts and our own self interests. However, scripture warns: “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death” (Proverbs 14:12, NKJV). God’s word also informs us that, “The way of a fool is right in his own eyes…” (Proverbs 12:15a). Beware of what seems to be effortless gain. If it seems too good to be true, it usually is.

Because of my affinity for stories that teach a moral lesson, I am fond of Aesop’s Fables. A statement from one of the fables is appropriate here. “Affairs are easier of entrance than exit; and it is but common prudence to see our way out before we venture in”. Jesus spoke to the ‘easy way’ when He said, “for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it” (Matthew 7:13). The Message translation of Amos 6:1 gives an interesting look at the easy way: Woe to you who think you live on easy street in Zion, who think Mount Samaria is the good life. You assume you’re at the top of the heap, voted the number-one best place to live.” When tempted to take the easiest way, remember the toad!

Prayer: Lord help me to enter by the narrow gate.
“Although
the gate is narrow and difficult, it is the way which leads to life.”
(Matthew 7:13-14)  

~ Brother Roy

The Mountain Parkway

mountain parkwayIn January 1963, a momentous event changed the lives of those of us who lived in eastern Kentucky: the Mountain Parkway opened. The Parkway was a limited access highway similar to an Interstate highway. It provided a way for mountain people, who had been effectively isolated because of inadequate roads, to avail themselves to the benefits of hospitals, educational institutions, shopping centers, etc.

Thinking of the Mountain Parkway in my eastern Kentucky hills reminds me of a highway spoken of in scripture. God’s word says, “A highway shall be there, and a road, and it shall be called the Highway of Holiness. The unclean shall not pass over it, but it shall be for others. Whoever walks the road, although a fool, shall not go astray” (Isaiah 35:8). 

Much like the Mountain Parkway eases access to the isolated communities of eastern Kentucky, the Highway of Holiness provides a way into the presence of God. In His presence sins are forgiven and a right relationship with Him is restored. The benefits of this restoration are peace of heart and mind and His abiding presence. Sin and disobedience have isolated man from God, but God has made a way to reconcile man to Himself through Jesus Christ.

Like the Mountain Parkway, this Highway of Holiness is a limited access highway – Isaiah says, “The unclean shall not pass over it.”  An on-ramp is needed, and one is provided for us in 1 John 1:9: “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”  Only Jesus Christ can give access: “Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12, NKJV).

Psalm 24:3-5 provides a valuable road map of the way into God’s presence: Who may ascend into the hill of the Lord? Or who may stand in His holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who has not lifted up his soul to an idol, nor sworn deceitfully. He shall receive blessing from the Lord, and righteousness from the God of his salvation.” 

As I journey in and out of the hills of eastern Kentucky that I love, I am so thankful for the Mountain Parkway. As I make my journey through the days of my life, I thank God for the Highway of Holiness that takes me into His presence. 

But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.
(Ephesians 2:13)

~ Brother Roy

The Old Lamplighter

old lamplighterTraveling on an Interstate highway recently, I was listening to music from the ‘50s. The song, “The Old Lamplighter” by the Browns, stirred feelings of nostalgia in me. I kept replaying one particular phrase over and over in my mind, “He made the night a little brighter wherever he would go.”

Gradually, moments of reminiscence were replaced with the words of Jesus. He said, “You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden.  Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house.  Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:14-16). The true children of God are to be light in a world that’s grown dark because of sin.

After a time of introspection, I asked myself, “Am I honoring the clear and unambiguous words of Jesus”? I thought of times when I have not been the light I should have been. I reflected on the times when I put my light under a bushel. Scripture in Book of James came to mind, “Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin” (James 4:17).

There is only one thing a person should do when they become aware they are out of harmony with God’s word. It is to confess failure and repent. The Spirit of Christ spoke to the Church of Ephesus in the second chapter of Revelation. He commended the Church on a number of things they were doing well. But, He also said, “Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place—unless you repent” (Revelation 2:4-5, NKJV). 

Prayer: Father, I remember the words of Jesus instructing me to be the ‘light’ of the world. I am sorry for my short comings and failures. I repent. I recommit myself to being the light you desire. It’s my first love. Please help me to let my light shine before men so they may glorify You.

I want to make the night a little brighter wherever I may go.

~ Brother Roy

 

Poison Mushrooms

mushroomsI noticed some mushrooms growing under a bush by a sidewalk where I was walking. My first thought was, “I wonder if they are poisonous?” My second thought was the recollection of a saying from my eastern Kentucky youth: “You don’t send a city boy to pick your mushrooms.”

With this saying in mind, I am going to attempt to deal with an important problem in our churches today.  Our churches are often pressed to find willing workers. We have all heard preachers say, “God is more interested in availability than ability.” I suppose I’ve made the statement 100 times or more. There is a truth there, but let me sound a warning:  the statement, if not fully understood, is dangerous. It is a half-truth, which can be more dangerous than a lie. The truth is that sincerity of purpose and good intentions are no guarantee of harmless actions, especially in the spiritual realm. You must be more than available. You must have some knowledge and be willing to prepare yourself.

An account in 2 Kings 4:38-41 illustrates this point. An apparently fine young man, studying to be a preacher, set out with the desire to help, but poisoned his friends. With the best of intentions, he responded to the prophet Elisha’s request and went out to gather herbs from the the countryside for a stew. After gathering a lap full of wild fruit, the Living Bible says, “He shredded them and put them into the kettle without realizing that they were poisonous” (2 Kings 4:38). Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown’s Commentary (p. 233) notes that there was wild fruit in Bible lands that was very poisonous. “They cause derangement of stomach and bowels leading to violent diarrhea to be followed by death.”

The young man in 2 Kings may have been qualified to go get the cooking pot. He may have been qualified to gather the wood for the fire.  But he was not qualified to undertake a task about which he knew so little. We often have people in our churches teaching our impressionable young people, counseling new converts, etc., who are using the wild fruit of personal opinion. They are not well-schooled in scripture and doctrine, so they may teach things that are distorted or not true.

A layperson with the desire to serve either jumps in or is pushed in to teaching a Sunday School class, a small group, or a youth group, without preparation. Someone is elected or appointed to leadership in the church who is not spiritually qualified – not “known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom” (Acts 6:3). A zealous person goes on a mission trip, but they make little or no effort to prepare themselves to handle the sacred truth. A well-intended person gives bad counsel at an altar that deflects real conviction. Another employs ‘pop’ religious psychology that is not Bible-based. Such people take on tasks without heeding the Biblical admonition, Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15).

Our Lord never taught that good intentions and sincerity of purpose were sufficient grounds upon which to minister and serve. Hear Jesus’ response to Peter: “But He turned and said to Peter, ‘Get behind Me, Satan! You are an offense to Me, for you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men’” (Matthew 16:23). Jesus also said, “And if the blind leads the blind, both will fall into a ditch” (Matthew 15:14). Paul speaks of those that “have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge” (Romans 10:2).

Lord help us to study, pray, and prepare ourselves if we want to be your witnesses.

~ Brother Roy

Mile Markers

mile markerAs an evangelist, I drive thousands of miles each year. Mile after mile passes by on unfamiliar highways. Once in a while, I take notice of the little green signs with numbers on them. They are mile markers and you can find them along all sorts of highways. Some are local or state highways, while others may be large interstate highways. These unassuming little markers are exceedingly valuable and can prove to be real life savers.

For example, if you are driving a lonely highway at night and your car breaks down or you come across a terrible accident, what would you do? You would want to call someone for help. But how would you tell them where you are? The markers can help you pinpoint your location for emergency assistance.

In our spiritual journey, we also need to be aware of where we are in Christ. There are times when we may need to call for assistance. Paul encourages Christians to be mindful of their progress:Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves” (2 Corinthians 13:5, NKJV). If our journey takes us on roads we have not previously traveled, we need know where we are. We also ought to know if the markers are indicating progress toward our destination.

Peter provides some markers that can help us know if we are travelling the right direction and the distance we need to go. “But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, 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. For he who lacks these things is shortsighted, even to blindness, and has forgotten that he was cleansed from his old sins” (2 Peter 1:5-9, NKJV).

Where are you in your journey toward heaven and home? Can you identify your position in Christ? Are you using the scriptures as a map to Christian maturity? Are you watching for spiritual mile markers to help you determine your progress?

“Let us search out and examine our ways.”
(Lamentations 3:40)

~ Brother Roy