Treasures on Earth

shedDownsizing was the order of the day. Health issues and accumulating years necessitated moving into smaller quarters. Reduction of the contents of a spacious home, a two-bedroom apartment, an antique shop, and two outbuildings offered many challenges.

A large dumpster loaded to overflowing, an equal amount of stuff on the ground awaiting the arrival of a second dumpster, an auction, and most of the ‘treasure’ accrued over fifty years would soon be gone. The term ‘bitter-sweet’ described our feelings.

I mean no disrespect to Matthew 6:19, but may I offer a paraphrase? “Do not store up your treasures in outbuildings where mice leave their ‘calling cards’; where raccoons have raised a brood of ‘little bandits’, and a leaky roof destroys the best of furniture and fabric.” How quickly many things once thought to be ‘pearls of great price’ lose their luster. Stains, mold, soils, warped pieces, and moth holes spoke to me on the folly of storing up treasures on earth.

While I think I’ve always believed the words of Jesus, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.  For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:19-21, NIV), the tangible events mentioned above brought this Biblical truth home. The message from scripture moved from my head to my heart.

Wonderful family members and Christian friends helped with the momentous task. It was very obvious that the love and kindness of these folks are true treasures on earth. Unlike the stuff we accumulate, the glorious reality that our relationships with the Lord, family, and fellow believers constitute things that never fade. These riches will continue on into heaven. Serving the Lord, sharing our faith, serving our fellowman are among the treasures we can store in heaven.

Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

~ Brother Roy

Artificial Light

christmas trashThe long, long commercial Christmas season has finally passed. Crass and gaudy light displays on private dwellings and business establishments have been taken down. Our eyes can begin once more to see things as they are. Originally the lights of Christmas were to symbolize the light of Bethlehem’s Star that signaled the birth of the Savior. With the passing years, artificial lights surrounding the Holidays dominate the nights but there is little, if any, connection to the Christ Child. The displays are mainly intended to attract shoppers and to entertain.

As the faux light of Christmas fades, the stark reality of bills, credit card debt, and spiritual darkness come back into focus. The artificial lights may illuminate the surface, but do not penetrate into the inner person. The darkness of a fallen world remains. The long nights for lost souls persists after the imitation light has disappeared. “If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness” (Matthew 6:23). We should not be surprised that so many are distracted and deceived by false light. “And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light” (2 Corinthians 11:14, NIV).

The glorious message of Christ’s birth was this: “The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world.  He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him” (John 1:9-10, NIV). The true light was Jesus. “In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” (John 1:4-5).

Followers of Jesus have been given a charge to keep. Jesus said, “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:14-16, NIV). We, like the Apostle Paul, have a responsibility to the lost, to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins…” (Acts 26:18, NIV).

Prayer: Lord, as the artificial light of the season fades, may we be your true ‘light’ in this dark world.

~ Brother Roy

A Day Without Jesus

in him we liveDr. Andrew Johnson, an evangelist from Eastern Kentucky during a bygone era, used to say, “I’d rather have all the bombs, bullets, and battalions of earth’s armies hurled against me across a lifetime than to live one day without Jesus”.  As a young evangelist, Dr. Johnson’s words were indelibly etched in my mind.

I have come to personally affirm Dr. Johnson’s statement more and more as the years have passed. My recognition of the Lord’s daily sustaining grace seems to grow each day. I recognize that the ground upon which I walk and the very air that I breath are gifts from above. “For in him we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28). In the prayer that Jesus taught us (Matthew 6:11), we pray, “Give us this day our daily bread,” as an acknowledgement of our daily dependence on our heavenly Father.

The reality of Dr. Johnson’s proclamation is reflected in the sad laments of King Saul. On his last day, Saul was surrounded by the ‘battalions’ of his enemy’s armies. His blood and the blood of sons and comrades would soon soak into Mt. Gilboah’s soil. Hear his fear-laden cries: “Indeed I have played the fool and erred exceedingly” (1 Samuel 26:21). “God is departed from me, and answereth me no more” (1 Samuel 28:15).

I never want to spend ‘a day without Jesus’. Lines from the great hymn “Great Is Thy Faithfulness” express my feelings:

Morning by morning new mercies I see
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided
Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord unto me.

Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow
Blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside.
Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord unto me.

Dear friends, are you spending the days of your life without Jesus? Life without Him never ends well. Will you humbly answer His call? Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For My yoke is easy and My burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30).

Prayer: Lord, I want to walk daily close to You.

~ Brother Roy

Where Is He?

wise men starAs Christmas approaches this December, I remember the Sandy Hook School shooting that left 20 children and 6 adults dead in December 2012. The horror shook the nation. Across the media and internet, the question of ‘why’ was everywhere. People asked, “Where was God in the midst of this atrocity?”

That tragedy has since been followed by many other school shootings. The question of ‘why’ arises each time. I wonder if I might suggest a connection. The courts have ruled that it is illegal to read the Bible, pray, or put on a Christmas pageant in our public schools. Jesus is not to be mentioned by chaplains in our military, another arena of mass shootings. Manger scenes have been banned from the public square. It is illegal to post the Ten Commandments in the lobby of a courthouse or in the hallways of our schools. “Happy holidays” is sometimes insisted upon rather than “Merry Christmas” as a common greeting. Santa Claus is seen everywhere, but where is Jesus this Christmas? Is there no room for Jesus in America anymore?

In the wake of the tragic shooting in the Connecticut school, someone posted on Facebook, “God, why would you allow such a tragedy?” In my mind, I heard God answer, “I am not allowed in schools anymore.” There is a scripture that is worth considering, “Because you have forgotten the law of your God, I also will forget your children (Hosea 4:6b, NKJV).

“Where is he?” That was the question the Wise Men asked as they entered Jerusalem. They had seen his star in the East. It was a sign to them that the King of the Jews (the Messiah) had been born. Where would they find Him? They followed the star day after day and month after month until they were in the vicinity of Jerusalem. When they turned to go into the city, they were sure that they had arrived at their destination. The star which they had followed for so long disappeared. As they entered Jerusalem, they began to ask, “Where is he that is born King of the Jews?” They expected everybody to be excited. The birth of a King would be the talk of the whole city, but no one seemed to know. They did not find Him in this seat of government and religion as they supposed. As the Wise Men left the clutter of a fallen world behind, the star reappeared and guided them to the Christ Child. He had been born in an animal stall, in a manger, because there was no room in Bethlehem’s inn.

Jesus may not be welcome in our public schools or government offices today, but I think you can still find Him. Where is He? You will find Him in many good Christian teachers modeling Jesus before their students and teaching things which are not in their textbooks. I think you will find Jesus in a Christian doctor or nurse standing beside the bed of a dying patient, holding their hand, praying with them, offering comfort and hope as they take their last breath. Where is Jesus? I think you will find Him in those toiling in an unfamiliar culture to make Jesus known to someone who has never heard His name. You will find Him in a cell, where a prisoner has been beaten almost to death because they will not deny their faith. You will find Him in a lonely mountain cabin where an elderly couple sits before the glowing embers in their fireplace, reading their devotions and saying their evening prayers. You will find Him in the heart of a single mom, unable to provide gifts for her children, trying to hide her tears while she prays that somehow Jesus will visit their home and leave gifts for her children. You will find Him in a small country church where a simple preacher stands behind his pulpit with tears in his eyes for those who do not know Christ as their Savior and pleads with them to open their hearts to Him and be saved. In folks like these, the guiding light can still be found. Follow this true ‘light’. It will lead you to Him.

Do you have room in your heart for Jesus? Is Jesus standing outside, knocking on your heart’s door, waiting to come in? Let this be our prayer: “O come to my heart, Lord Jesus; There is room in my heart for thee” (Emily E.S. Elliott).

*Thanks to Rev. Billy F. Gerald, now deceased, whose last letter to me prompted this devotional.

~ Brother Roy

People Watching

people watchingPeople watching can be a fascinating pastime. While waiting for my wife at places like the Mall or Wal-Mart, I try to finding an out-of-the-way place and just observe the passersby.

It seems to me that you can infer a lot about people by the way they walk. Some walk with a spring in their step and others move with a heavier, slower walk. You can see some dawdle and appear to lack a specific destination. There are those that move with at a brisk pace as with a specific purpose. You may see some move with a sad demeanor, while others walk with a happy and confident gate. I often wonder if I could get an in-depth look into the different lives, what I would really find.

My heart is especially moved by those who walk with a slow, somber deportment. Their body language seems to denote a troubled spirit. I sense a little of what Jesus must have felt in Mark 6:34, “And Jesus, when He came out, saw a great multitude and was moved with compassion for them, because they were like sheep not having a shepherd.” Often I have felt a prayer rising up in me for people that I don’t know and will likely never meet. Perhaps you have had similar feelings. May those feelings find a prayerful lodging place in our hearts.

Jesus was “moved with compassion”, not sympathy. It was more than just feeling sorry for them. He was moved with compassion for them. This compassion led to action. In Mark’s account, Jesus spent the rest of the day teaching the multitude. Later that afternoon, He fed them. We need to have compassion like Jesus had. We need to be moved to action. It is usually not difficult to find other Christians around us who strive to relieve both spiritual and physical needs of people. We may join with them or move forward on our own. But, do something we must!

In Luke 4:18-19, Jesus said of himself, “The spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He hath anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed; to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.” If we are to be a follower of Jesus, we must be compassionately engaged with Him in reaching out to those who need our help.

Prayer: Lord, let me be a co-laborer with you. I want to be more than just a ‘people watcher’. I want to work with You in ministering to those in need.

Take a Stand

stand up for jesusTeams had gathered for an athletic competition. The person who was to sing the National Anthem was a ‘no-show’. Moments passed as everyone seemed perplexed about what to do. Then a young man who was in the group waiting to compete stepped forward and sang the National Anthem. Someone there captured the moment on video and posted it. It went viral and thousands viewed the the event. Eventually, national television aired the incident of the courageous young man standing up and honoring flag and country.

There is a message in this event for those of us who are Christian believers. The scripture says, “Be ready to speak up and tell anyone who asks why you’re living the way you are, and always with the utmost courtesy” (I Peter 3:15, MSG). In Paul’s instructions to Timothy, he urges Timothy to be “instant in season and out of season” to share the gospel (2 Timothy 4:2, KJV). 

We need to be prepared to stand up and speak up for Jesus. Like the young man mentioned above, we never know when such a moment may present itself. The first lines of the hymn “Stand Up, Stand Up for Jesus” emphasize this point:

Stand up, stand up for Jesus, Ye soldiers of the cross;
Lift high his royal banner, it must not suffer loss.

The banner the young athlete was standing up for was the American Flag. The banner for which Christians need to stand and the banner we must lift is the Cross of Christ. Jesus said, “And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all peoples to Myself” (John 12:32, NKJV). As believers, we ought to be ready at all times to let our witness be seen and heard. Always we should do so with “upmost courtesy”. The NIV translation says, with “gentleness and respect”. But, stand we must if we are to follow the Lord’s plan for helping to redeem a lost and dying world.

Most of us regularly have opportunities to share our faith. May we be up to the challenge of utilizing these openings to tell others the ‘good news’. The eternal destiny of someone may rest in part on our willingness to stand up for the Savior.

Prayer: Lord, today send an opportunity my way to be Your witness. I want to do my part in lifting You up. I will take a stand.

~ Brother Roy