Too Much Stuff

too-much-stuffFrom mid-October on, junk mail and television unleash a constant barrage of advertisements. Marketers want to convince people they ‘need’ the merchandise being promoted. Children and youth are targeted for toys, electronics, expensive shoes, and clothing. On it goes across age groups as retailers hawk appliances, perfume, jewelry, and other items too numerous to mention. Credit card debt piles up and bank accounts dwindle. It’s the season for overindulgence.

We recently had a family meeting to discuss the problem. We agreed that we already have too much stuff. Like Esau of old, each of us concluded, “I have enough, my brother” (Genesis 33:9). We decided this Christmas would be different.  There would be no unrestrained gift buying. Basically, we agreed to purchase only one gift for each person on our list. We also agreed to limit the cost of gifts. As a family, we then decided to provide Christmas for a family trapped in poverty.

Relieved from the pressure of racing from store to store, spending too much money, buying stuff unneeded and unwanted, Christmas could take on renewed meaning. We could focus on faith in Christ, family, and friends. Church and the beautiful music of the season would resume its rightful place. How good it is to be able to truly enjoy this ‘holy day’!

Is Christmas at your house being crowded out by too much stuff? Perhaps your family needs to have a ‘come to Jesus meeting’. Let each one decide, “I have enough stuff”! As a family, resolve that faith, family, and friends will be the stars of the season. Make worship a central activity. Give the gift of yourself to the Lord this special time of year.

~ Brother Roy

More Than a Story

BibleA few years ago, I was serving as an evangelist at Indian Springs Holiness Camp Meeting. This grand ‘ole’ camp traces its roots to the 1890’s and holds an historic place in the Camp Meeting Movement in the United States. The camp has not only survived across the years, but against great odds, it thrives in today’s eroding moral climate and in a society that is being referred to as post-Christian.

After an evening service, a lovely senior lady approached me. She said, “Brother Lauter, I would like to offer a little constructive criticism”. I have heard similar words more than once in my 50-plus years of preaching. Experience had taught me that I would likely need a flack jacket and helmet. I braced for the assault of  ‘a little constructive criticism’, but it never came. This gracious retired schoolteacher had something to say that has profoundly influenced my preaching to this day.

She said she would like for me to consider striking the word ‘story’ from my vocabulary when referencing the Bible. Instead, she suggested using the terms Biblical or factual account.  She continued by saying that when she started teaching school, she could use the phrase Bible Story, and all of the children understood her framework. Participation in church, Vacation Bible Schools, and family devotions helped the children to understand that the Bible was true and the accounts were accurate. Not so anymore, she continued. The last few decades have seen the Bible subjected to strong negative attacks. From atheist to ‘liberal’ theologians, from the unchurched to the halls of academia and beyond, the authority, inerrancy, and infallibility of God’s word have been the object of ridicule and derision.

She felt that today’s children, youth, young adults, and even the middle-aged are confused about the veracity of the Bible. They have often been taught that the Bible is mostly fables and fairy tales and at best a collection of moral stories. Critics and enemies have constantly tried to discredit the Bible. They believe there are contradictions and inaccuracies throughout the Bible. This fine retired teacher believed that when a person uses the phrase, “Let me share a story from the Bible,” what is meant may not be what they hear. She encouraged me to use the words such as  historic or factual account. This approach would inform those who are listening that you are relating an accurate and factual message from the Bible. I count that conversation a great epiphany in my ministry.  It was a valuable lesson learned.

So you may know for sure my personal stance on the Bible, I will share it here:

I believe that scriptures of the Old and New Testaments constitute the divinely inspired Word of God. I believe that they are inerrant in their original writings, without error in all they affirm. I believe they are the final authority for truth and life and the only infallible rule for both faith and practice. 

And That’s A Fact.

~ Brother Roy

Remember, and Forget Not

red-string-tied-around-index-fingerAcross many years of ministry, I have had multiple opportunities to counsel with people in crisis. People whose lives seem to be falling apart are desperate for the Lord’s help. Many of them are in dire circumstances because they have not sought the Lord’s guidance or have chosen to ignore His will. But, in the midst of turmoil, they want counsel and prayers in soliciting the Lord’s intervention on their behalf.

It is remarkable the number of times it seems that the Lord has heard their heart cries and offered divine assistance and relief. For a time, these folks usually express deep gratitude and understand that the Lord has been gracious to them. Promises are made, and they turn over new leaves in their relationship with the Lord. After the crisis has subsided, perspectives may change. The passing of time so often dims the magnitude of trouble and also causes people to minimize God’s help. It is not unusual for people that have been greatly helped to begin to believe that they have worked things out themselves. This is dangerous ground!

The scripture gives many strong warnings about forgetting God’s help and overestimating the role we play. May I share a few of these Biblical admonitions to illustrate the serious nature of these offenses to the Heavenly Father?

  • “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 as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them” (Deuteronomy 4:9).
  • “Be careful that you do not forget the LORD, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery” (Deuteronomy 6:12).
  • “When you have eaten and are satisfied, you shall bless the LORD your God for the good land which He has given you. Beware that you do not forget the LORD your God by not keeping His commandments and His ordinances and His statutes which I am commanding you today;”… (Deuteronomy 8:10-11).

The result of such forgetfulness?  “Then your heart will become proud and you will forget the LORD your God who brought of Egypt” (Deuteronomy 8:13). To compound the offense the scripture says, “Otherwise, you may say in your heart, ‘my power and the strength of my hand made me this wealth” (Deuteronomy 8:17).

What can a person do to guard against this pervasive and insidious tendency? The Lord instructed Joshua (Joshua 4:4-7) when crossing the Jordan and entering the Promised Land to have men gather stones from the midst of the river and set them up as a memorial of what God had done. The pile of stones would serve as a powerful reminder to Israel and also provide occasion to share with their children of God’s divine help.

I encourage people who have been the recipient of God’s intersession to mark it with a verse(s) of scripture. Mark the verse. Note date, time, and occasion. Refer to it often. Then, rehearse God’s help in their mind and share His loving care with family and friends.

“Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits.”
(Psalm 103:3)

~ Brother Roy

Our Daily Bread

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I find myself often repeating the Lord’s Prayer: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen” (Matthew 6:9-13). 

From time to time, I like to focus on a particular phrase in the prayer. In this instance it is, “Give us this day our daily bread ”. The first and most obvious consideration is a grateful petition for daily substance. The thought that so much of the world does not have enough to eat is a sobering reminder to me of God’s goodness.

I also want to humbly appreciate the fact that my daily bread is not so much earned or deserved as it is a gift from God. Scripture reminds me of this truth, “Otherwise, you may say in your heart, ‘My power and the strength of my hand made me this wealth.’ But remember the LORD your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth, and so confirms his covenant, which he swore to your ancestors, as it is today” (Deuteronomy 8:17, NIV).

Finally, I know that there is physical bread and there is spiritual “bread”. Then Jesus declared, ‘I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty’” (John 6:35). The words of a gospel song by John Kee echo in my heart: “Bread of heaven, bread of heaven, feed me ’til I want no more”. We need both the physical bread and spiritual bread on a daily basis.

GIVE US THIS DAY OUR DAILY BREAD

~ Brother Roy

Buy a Donkey?

donkeyMy wife and I were attending a Gospel community group (Bible Study) in Johannesburg, South Africa. Bruce and Jo, friends of our son-in-law and daughter, host the gathering. As various members arrived, a warm greeting was the order of the evening. Arthur, senior member of the group, greeted a young lady. He commented on her beautiful smile and demeanor.  I was standing close by and heard her say, “buy a donkey”. Buy a donkey! Really? That seemed to me to be such a strange response. One of the group noticed my puzzled look. They explained that her response was in Afrikaans, one of the major languages in South Africa. She actually said “byie-dankie”, pronounced like “buy a donkey”. It means, “Thank you very much”. What a delightful expression!

Later that night, I was praying my wrap-up conversation of the day with Jesus. I was thanking Him for certain events and blessings of the day. The little phrase, byie-dankie, popped into to mind. It seemed like the proper thing to say, so with joy I said, “byie-dankie, Lord”. Prompted by that wonderful little phrase, other thoughts and phrases that could express my appreciation to the Lord came to mind.

One, in particular, took center stage. A wonderful little Christian lady in my home community sings a country gospel song about giving the Lord thanks. The following words from that song kept playing over and over in my mind: “I want to thank you Lord for all the things I’ve never thanked you for. It’s not that I’m ungrateful, just forgetful Lord, so I want to thank you for all of the things I’ve never thanked you for”. The minutes raced by and my routine ‘end of day’ prayer turned into a  celebration of praise and thanksgiving. It was a transcendent spiritual event for me.

How long has it been since you have entered into a period of thanksgiving and grateful worship?  I encourage you to engage in such a time. Maybe the words of the beautiful chorus, “Give Thanks”, could serve as a beginning point:

Give thanks with a grateful heart, give thanks to the Holy One,
Give thanks because He’s given Jesus Christ, His Son.

And now let the weak say, “I am strong.” Let the poor say, “I am rich,
“Because of what the Lord has done for us.”

Give thanks.

 

Now, Don’t You Just Feel Like Saying, “Byie-dankie’, Lord”?

~ Brother Roy

Repost: Observing All Saint’s Day

SaintsANGELICO1430This post is from the NHIM web archives from 2013:

In the Protestant tradition in which I was raised, we did not pay much attention to All Saints Day.  In fact, I don’t think I had heard of All Saints Day until I was a teenager and learned that “Halloween” – which we did celebrate every year with costumes, jack-o-lanterns, and trick-or-treating – was a contraction of “All Hallows Eve”, celebrated on the “eve” of All Hallows (or All Saints) Day.

I suspect that All Saints Day, which has been observed on November 1st since the 8th century, is largely ignored by many Protestant churches for seeming “too Catholic” and in fear of making idols of saints, an accusation that is often directed at Roman Catholic believers.  However, in recent years, I have found myself drawn spiritually to this observance.

One reason for my new-found appreciation for All Saints Day is that I draw strength from the witness of those who have gone before me.  Hebrews chapter 11 is widely recognized as the “Faith Hall of Fame”.  In this chapter, the writer of Hebrews gives us a brief summary of what faith is, then recounts examples of men and women who achieved righteousness by faith – Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Rahab, Gideon, Samson, David, and Samuel and the prophets. Then, in light of those great examples of faith, the writer gives us that great exhortation in the first two verses of chapter 12:  “Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

The writer to the Hebrews tells us that we can draw strength from the faith of those who have gone before – so that we too can run with endurance the race set before us.  The testimonies of those who have remained faithful through trials and tribulations help give us courage to face our own circumstances.

Another reason to remember the saints who have gone before us is that the faith we observe and practice today has been handed down to us by those godly men and women who lived by faith in their own time – sort of our own “faith family tree”.  Dennis Kinlaw has said that no one’s salvation begins in his or her self, but everyone’s salvation begins in someone else.  Though we must lay hold of our faith for ourselves, it is always built upon the faithfulness of others.  Someone shared that faith with us, and through their testimony and the conviction of the Holy Spirit we were led to belief.  The day we trusted Jesus as Savior can be traced through generations of faithful believers, all the way back to the Great Commission itself, when Jesus called His followers to go and make disciples of all nations.

On All Saints Day I think with fondness of the many, living and dead, who make up my own “Faith Hall of Fame”: my godly grandparents, those under whose preaching ministry I have sat, the teachers who invested in my life, the great writers and theologians who have helped guide my spiritual growth and understanding, the mentors who have had such an impact on my life.  As I remember that great “cloud of witnesses”, I am overwhelmed with gratitude and sing with the hymnwriter: “For all the saints, who from their labors rest, who Thee by faith before the world confessed, Thy Name, O Jesus, be forever blest! Alleluia! Alleluia!”

How about you?  Who is in your “Faith Hall of Fame”?

~ Matt Kinnell
NHIM Board Chair

A Graveyard Story

garden_tombIt seems everybody has a favorite cemetery story. They usually involve someone falling in an open grave or ghostly figures and scary sounds in a graveyard. Our pastor related a personal experience of such an occurrence in an Easter sermon.

But what happened in Jerusalem 2000 years ago was not an imaginary story. It is a fact! The resurrection of Jesus and the events that followed is one of the best documented facts in history. Even skeptics realize that there is no other event from 2000 years ago that is as well-documented as the resurrection. Time does not permit me to give an exhaustive list, but I have attempted to provide some illustrative scriptures to substantiate the point.

Numerous resurrection appearances of Jesus are noted in the four gospels. In addition, one of the earliest and most complete single accounts is found in 1 Corinthians 15:4-8, which was authored by the Apostle Paul: “For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He was seen by Cephas, then by the twelve.  After that He was seen by over five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain to the present, but some have fallen asleep.  After that He was seen by James, then by all the apostles.  Then last of all He was seen by me also, as by one born out of due time.”

In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus appears to the disciples and eats with them, demonstrating that he is flesh and bones, not a ghost. His glorious victory over the tomb is a ‘grave’ reality. His resurrection is not a ghost story. The necessity of a believer embracing the reality of Jesus’ resurrection cannot be over emphasized.  The scripture declares, “If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9, NIV). For the Christian Faith, Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection is the cornerstone.

Is Your Faith Anchored In The Reality That God Raised Jesus From The Dead?

~ Brother Roy