I Heard God’s Voice

treesIt was early Sunday morning. I was thirty minutes from Bear Pen Community Church in Wolfe County, Kentucky, where I was scheduled to preach. It was still a couple of hours before the service. I pulled off at a Rest Park near Natural Bridge to rest a while and collect my thoughts.

A gentle rain was falling, and mist was hanging on the hills and in the valleys. The Lord in His artistry had painted a blush on the cheeks of the hills as the redbuds were in full flower. Here and there the snow white blooms of the first dogwoods of the season could be seen. The fresh, glistening green of new foliage provided the backdrop for a scene only the God of Creation could paint.  I slid my seat back and for a few precious minutes reveled in the beauty of hills. Eastern Kentucky had been my boyhood home before I left for Asbury College. Although the passing years have taken me around the world, the hills have never left my heart or mind.

I had been ‘heavy laden’ for several months. Ms. Sue, my beautiful bride of 57 years, had survived a devastating heart attack. By God’s grace, she was finally able to exit the Cardiac Intensive Care Unit and jettison the picc-lines, I.V. hook-ups, feeding tubes, catheter, etc., and come home. But, the sobering reality that we needed to sell our home, divest ourselves of many family treasures, and dramatically downsize, loomed large in our minds. Memories of the home we had built with our own hands 45 years ago had to yield to present circumstances.

But, here in my beloved hills, God heard my heart’s cry, and I felt His calming presence. I heard God’s voice that morning. Skeptics would likely say it was just the wind whispering through the nearby pines trees. They would probably discount the melodious sounds of the Heavenly Father’s Choir as nothing more than song birds celebrating the return of spring. To some, His gentle footsteps would easily have been mistaken for the soft patter of the rain.

I believe God is a speaking God. Sometimes He speaks through a preacher, in a hymn, and often through His written word. I heard Him speak through His creation that day! As I relaxed in His presence, His word came alive in me, “I will lift up my eyes to the hills—From whence comes my help? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth… The Lord shall preserve you from all evil; He shall preserve your soul. The Lord shall preserve your going out and your coming in from this time forth, and even forevermore” (Psalm 121:1-2, 7-8, NKJV).

In my spirit, I was walking in God’s garden here in these beautiful hills. My heart began to sing:

I come to the garden alone, while the dew is still on the roses,
And the voice I hear, falling on my ear, the Son of God discloses.
And He walks with me, and He talks with me, and He tells me I am His own,
And the joy we share as we tarry there, none other has ever known.

He speaks and the sound of His voice is so sweet the birds hush their singing,
And the melody that He gave to me within my heart is ringing. (Anne Murray)

Conclusion: Life is so much better when the Lord “walks with us, and talks to us and tells us we are His own”.

~ Brother Roy

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How Much Is It Worth?

price tag questionMy wife recently survived a damaging heart attack. The ancient words of Psalm 90:10 became our present reality: “The days of our years are threescore years and ten; and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years, yet is their strength labour and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away.” In our mid-seventies and past our “threescore and ten”, decisions had to be made right away. As the understanding of our life position settled in, we were faced with selling our home and moving into smaller quarters in a senior living community.

My mother and I were in the antique business for years. Unsold inventories and collections of more than two thousand square feet remained when the shop was closed. In addition, our home was crowded with antiques. Many pieces had been handed down through our families and held great sentimental attachments. Fortunately, our daughter, an only child, wanted to keep many of the family pieces. Unfortunately, that didn’t make a dent in all our belongings.

Declining prices and a limited amount of time to dispose of everything we could not take with us presented many challenges. I had to try to determine how much all my ‘stuff’ was worth. The truth of the matter was ‘not much’ in relation to our health. I had to ask, “How much is a day of quality health care and a secure environment worth?” My answer: “Whatever it costs.”

I certainly would not have chosen the particular events that brought us to where we were. But, we were not overwhelmed and were able to make decisions we needed to make. A long time ago, we decided to make Proverbs 3:5-6 the foundation of our lives. “Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.  In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths”. We had learned to trust the Lord’s plans for our future. 

While we certainly enjoyed the things that have surrounded us and were thankful for the Lord’s provisions, we tried to remember that material possessions are just ‘stuff’. We have lived with this Biblical truth, “For it is clear that wise men die, and the foolish and the senseless both perish and leave their wealth to others” (Psalm 49:10). When we die, Scripture asks, “Now who will get what you’ve accumulated?” (Luke 12:20).

We have tried to follow the words of Jesus: “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.  But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.  For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matt.6:19,21).

May I ask, “How much are the things you have accumulated really worth?”

~ Brother Roy

Be Still and Know

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On a recent morning, I was privileged to sit on a cottage porch looking out over Mobile Bay. The first rays of sunlight illuminated the gentle movement of the waves. It was quiet and calm. The old oyster fishermen who live on the bay often call this a ‘slick cam’ morning. Slick cam is a time-worn corruption of the phrase ‘slick and calm’. This morning it was ‘slick cam’ on the bay.

Quiet calm is a rarity in the days in which we live. For most of us, our daily lives move at a torrid pace. We seldom have time to settle down and enjoy a few minutes of solitude in the presence of the Lord. Cell phones calls and texts are constant. E-mails and social media posts crowd in on us at every waking moment.

At the same time that we are experiencing the noisy, hectic tempo of life, we see across our culture disturbing symptoms of trouble. Alcohol consumption and drug addiction touch nearly every family. Anger issues, child abuse, and the crumbling family unit seem to be signs of the time. Suicide rates are staggering. Mental health concerns are at an all-time high. Instances of sexual exploitation and molestation are reported on almost every newscast.

Let’s assume the role of ‘Captain Obvious’ for a moment and ask, “Could these situations be connected?”  There is little doubt in my mind. When a person or culture leaves God out of the equation in a headlong pursuit of self-centered happiness, chaos follows. When life gets chaotic, we need to find the time and place to be still in the Lord’s presence. If we do not ‘come apart’ to be with the Lord, we will ‘come apart at the seams’ as a person or as a culture.

That morning the quiet calm on the bay spoke peace to my heart. The Lord had led “me beside the still waters. He restored my soul” (Psalm 23:2-3).

God’s word says: “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!” (Psalm 46:10, NKJV). The Voice Translation of this verse adds insight: “Be still, be calm, see, and understand I am the True God” (Psalm 46:10, VOICE).

Prayer: May this be a ‘slick cam’ day for my soul and your soul. Let us be still, be calm and see. Lord, we need to understand anew that you are the True God, the Author of Peace.

~ Brother Roy

Perseverance

postage-stampDr. Custer Reynolds, former Vice President and Academic Dean of Asbury University, was my spiritual mentor as well as a dear friend. Custer grew up on Squabble Creek, deep in the hills of Eastern Kentucky. He was one of the wisest men that I ever knew. Like Jesus, he taught many life lessons by telling stories and using parables. On day, he was sharing with me the necessity of sticking to a job until it was completed. He told me the following story.

A poor mountain boy was given a homework assignment by his teacher. He was asked to define the word ‘perseverance’ and to use it in a sentence. He returned the next day without completing the assignment. In tears, the little boy told the teacher that they didn’t have a dictionary in his home and his parents didn’t know the word. The compassionate teacher consoled the boy. She asked him to sit down by her and she would help him.

She took an envelope and addressed it to a person in California. She then explained to the boy that to send the letter to that address you had to put a stamp on the envelope and put in the mailbox. The stamp would then stick to the envelope until it went all the way across the country and arrived at the California address. The teacher told the boy that the stamp’s sticking to the envelope was an example of ‘perseverance’.

Scripture speaks often about the necessity of spiritual perseverance / endurance:

  • “Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.” (James 1:12, NIV)
  • “As you know, we count as blessed those who have persevered. You have heard of Job’s perseverance and have seen what the Lord finally brought about. The Lord is full of compassion and mercy.” (James 5:11, NIV)
  • “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” (Hebrews 12:1, NIV)
  • “But the one who perseveres to the end will be saved.” (Matthew 24:13, BSB)

Prayer: Lord, help us to be like a postage stamp. May we stick to our spiritual responsibilities until we arrive at our final destination.

~ Brother Roy

Crucified Between Two Thieves

Silhouettes of Three CrossesI was reading devotional material as I was preparing my heart for the Easter Season. A quote by Fulton Oursler slowed my progress as I considered its truth. “We crucify ourselves between two thieves: regret for yesterday and fear of tomorrow.”

After due deliberation, I breathed a sigh of relief. While there are things from the past that I should have done differently, Jesus has lifted the guilt. Trusting in God’s word, I live without deep regret. “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9, NKJV). Scripture declares “as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us” (Psalm 103:12). How wonderful to experience the incredible message of Easter knowing I have been forgiven and redeemed by the Lord’s sacrifice for me.

I am also free to move into the future without fear. The Lord’s word blesses me with this assurance, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future(Jeremiah 29:11, NIV). I likewise rejoice in the knowledge that Jesus loves me, and, “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment” (1 John 4:18, NIV). Because of God’s amazing grace, the torturous thieves of regret and fear have no hold on me.

Dread of the past and trepidation about tomorrow are needless pains we bear. The Christ of Calvary laid down His life for us. “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends” (John 15:13, NKJV). What a friend we have in Jesus! I love the words of Joseph M. Scriven’s great hymn:

What a friend we have in Jesus, all our sins and grief’s to bear!
What a privilege to carry everything to God in prayer!
Oh, what peace we often forfeit, oh, what needless pain we bear,
All because we do not carry everything to God in prayer!

~ Brother Roy

Nirvana

641-08010423For me, the day was another beautiful day in Paradise. I was sitting on Rose’s Cottage porch looking out over Mobile Bay. It was very still as the sun pushed its way above the horizon. I was nearly comatose in the cool, quiet morning air. There wasn’t much action in my ‘brain’. No thoughts of great and noble things I needed to do, no pressing issues of life, no wheels were turning in my head.

I roused to consciousness at the sweet melody of a mockingbird in a nearby magnolia tree. A considerable amount of time had passed since I had lapsed into a kind of nirvana. I know ‘nirvana’ is a concept from Buddhism, but I believe all truth is God’s truth so I don’t mind using it since its origins are in the Lord. A general definition of Nirvana: a place of perfect peace and happiness, like heaven; a transcendent state in which there is neither suffering, desire, nor sense of self.

My own definition is much simpler and mainly arises from Winnie the Pooh in one of his philosophical moments. All was a peace in the Hundred Acre Wood. Pooh said reflectively, “Some times I sit and think, and sometime I just sit.”  On the morning mentioned above, I was just sittin’ in a kind of nirvana when the mockingbirds called me back. I am glad we can go to such a beautiful place with the help of Lord. There are many words of scripture that invite us to that place.

  • “You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You” (Isaiah 26:3, NKJV).
  • “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid” (John 14:27).
  • “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us 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 God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:35-39, NKJV).

Prayer: Lord, thank you for times when we can ‘just sit’ in your presence free from trouble and worry. What a blessing to hear you say, “Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”        

~ Brother Roy

Double Yellow Lines

double yellowI was driving on a winding rural road with my wife when a pickup truck roared up behind us. It was ‘jacked up’ and had loud mufflers. The noisy machine rode my bumper for some distance, darting out and back in anxiously wanting to pass. Finally, the driver could restrain himself no longer and passed on double yellow lines. He charged blindly up a hill unable to see if someone was coming over the hill from the opposite direction. Am I ever glad he made it, or I might not be writing this devotional.

As you are aware, double yellow lines indicate a no-passing restriction where crossing the lines is prohibited. It is dangerous, if not deadly, to disregard this clear highway warning. In the spiritual world, God has graciously provided us with a set of double yellow lines to guide our behavior. They are the ten commandments found in Exodus 20:1-19. If we chose to ignore them, we do so to our peril. “A prudent person foresees danger and takes precautions. The simpleton goes blindly on and suffers the consequences” (Proverbs 22:3). The willful violation of these commandments is sin. God’s word informs us, “The soul who sins shall die” (Ezekiel 18:4, NKJV).

While driving on a physical high, it behooves us to observe traffic laws. Over 40,000 people in the U.S. die in traffic accidents each year. Some of the rules, if broken, have less serious consequences than others. They may only result in a warning, a ticket, or a fine. But, recklessly disregarding double yellow lines is just plain foolish and could prove fatal.

Like traffic laws, some Biblical instructions, when disregarded, may not be ‘sins unto death’ (1 John 5:7). But, crossing God’s double yellow lines – the ten commandments – invites disaster. In many respects, it is more reckless to ignore God’s double yellow lines than it is to disregard those on physical highways. To do so on this earth’s roadways may prove devastating, but to do so in the spiritual realm can be eternally fatal.

Watch for the Double Yellow Lines!

~ Brother Roy