A Lookout for the Mob

meerkatMy journey through life has involved a lot of travel in ministry and missions. It has afforded the opportunity to spend many wonderful days in Africa. The work among the beautiful African people has been fulfilling, and the opportunity to view the incredible wildlife there has been an unbelievable bonus.

My wife and I have been able to take time away from the pressures of ministry and retreat to wilderness areas teeming with wildlife. As riveting as the Big 5 (lion, leopard, elephant, cape buffalo, and rhinoceros) are, one of my wife’s favorites is the meerkat. These adorable little creatures, about the size of a squirrel, belong to the mongoose family. They are famed for their upright posture. They often stand on their rear legs and gaze alertly over the southern African plains where they live.

Meerkats forage in a group called a ‘mob’. Because their diet includes lizards, worms and insect larva, bugs and etc., their focus is mainly on the ground. This makes them especially vulnerable to the many predators in the area, particularly hawks and eagles that attack from above. There is always a lookout or sentry on guard watching for predators while the others search for food. The lookout is essential to the survival of mob members. Sentry duty is usually about an hour long and then another will take up the task.

The meerkat lookouts help the mob survive physically. I believe there is a principle here that can apply to us spiritually. We live is a dangerous world. Scripture states, For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places” (Ephesians 6:12). Like the meerkats we need lookouts. We need fellow believers who love us enough to sound a warning cry when our course of action is dangerous. We need to be connected to a body of believers where the pastor, Sunday school teachers, and group leaders all feel a responsibility for the welfare of individuals in the group. Our best interest is served when our friends believe that they are “their brothers’ keepers”.

There is another salient point to be drawn from Meerkat behavior. The lookout’s responsibility is shared by the group. All group members are expected to play an active role in the well being of others in the mob. God’s word says we should “love our neighbors as ourselves(Mark 12:31).

Lord, Help Us To Be A ‘Lookout’ For The Mob

~ Brother Roy

Birds of a Feather

James's Flamingo

I’ve spent many wonderful hours on the veranda at my daughter’s house in Johannesburg, South Africa.  Lori’s backyard fence boarders a large field surrounded by trees. The warm temperatures and a pool of water make an excellent habitat for birds. Her bird feeders are also a magnet for an amazing variety of beautiful birds. I have noticed that they usually come in grouped together in like species.

Recently, while enjoying the large number and variety of birds, I had a flash back to my teenage years in the hills of Eastern Kentucky. I attended a very small elementary school for grades one through eight. Then I had to leave the security of my small community to attend a large central high school several miles away. Like most teenagers, I wanted to be accepted and have friends. For some reason, I gravitated toward some unsavory ‘friends’.

My mother noted the trend and called me into our kitchen for a ‘talk’. She expressed her concern about the company I was keeping. That occasion was the first time I had heard the adage, “birds of a feather flock together”. She talked to me about some bad mannerisms I was picking up and the negative image of the boys I was hanging out with. She was fearful I was developing a bad reputation because of my associations.

Scripture speaks to this issue.  First, allow me to share Biblical advice concerning bad company:

  • “Be not deceived, bad company corrupts good morals” (1 Corinthians 15:33, NKJ)
  • “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the path of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful(Psalm 1:1, KJV)
  • “Do not be envious of evil men, nor desire to be with them” (Proverbs 24:1, NKJ)
  • Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness?” (2 Corinthians 6:14, NKJ)

Scripture also speaks to the wisdom of association with good company:

  • “Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise,but the companion of fools will suffer harm” (Proverbs 13:20, ESV)
  • “I am a companion of all who fear you, of those who keep your precepts(Psalm 119:63, ESV)
  • “That thou mayest walk in the way of good men, and keep the paths of the righteous” (Proverbs 2:20, KJV)
  • “I was glad when they said unto me, let us go into the house of the Lord(Psalm 122:1, KJV)

If we ‘flock’ together with God’s people, we find acceptance by people that really matter. We can know that we are pleasing to God and that heaven will be our home. “Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom” (Luke 12:32, KJV).

To What Flock Do You Belong?

~ Brother Roy

Two Rules

rulesI found myself at the central police station in Bridgetown, Barbados. I was there to take the exam for a Bajan driver’s license. Due to a limited amount of time, the officer informed me that he would orally cover the rules for driving in his country. He would then examine me for eligibility. He was a large man with a hard countenance and I was nervous.

The session began. The imposing officer said, “The speed limit in Barbados is 25 mph in the towns and 35 mph in the country. The second rule – STAY ON THE LEFT! Then with a broad smile the officer said, “Now repeat the traffic laws of Barbados”. It all came down to those two simple laws.

The religious world can be complex and often is complicated with a myriad of rules. God gave the Ten Commandments for the good of mankind. Over time, the Hebrews compounded these ten into hundreds of rules and regulations covering nearly every facet of life. They were so cumbersome that it was impossible to keep them all.

The religious laws had become so unwieldy and burdensome in the days of Jesus that they were a constant point of conflict between the Master and religious lawyers. “Then one of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him, and saying, “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?” Jesus said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment.  And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’  On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 22:35-40). Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, made our relationship with God plain and simple. 

All too often, religious groups and denominations have turned the gospel message into lists of man-made do’s and don’ts. Confusion and disillusionment often occur and the results can ruin simple acts of worship. The Apostle Paul, speaking to the issue, said, But I fear, lest somehow, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, so your minds may be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ” (2 Corinthians 11:3). My friends, walking with the Lord is not ‘rocket science’. It is simple.

Two Rules: Love God and Love Your Neighbors –
EVERY THING ELSE IS JUST DETAILS

~ Brother Roy

The Passport

passportIt had been an unusually hectic Friday morning. My wife Sue and I were finishing the final stages of packing for a month in Johannesburg, South Africa. When the car was finally packed, we left for the funeral home. I had been honored with a request to preach the funeral of a dear friend. After the funeral service and interment, we had to go promptly to the airport to catch the first section of our flight. With but a few minutes to spare, we made the first connection and flew to Atlanta. Wheelchair assist moved us quickly to the departure gate for our South Africa flight. The boarding process began, and Miss Sue was just ahead of me. The agent checked her passport and waved her through. He took my passport and with a troubled look said, “Mr. Lauter, I can’t let you on this plane”. To my shock and dismay, there was a problem with the number of pages in the back of the document.

No amount of my pleading or tears from my wife would avail. I was not allowed to board. The problems continued to mount. The passport office in Atlanta would not open until Monday morning and that by appointment only. Miss Sue would have to go on ahead on this flight because the Monday flight was overbooked. I was stopped at the gate and sadly watched her disappear down the boarding walk.

What a life lesson was impressed on me that day! I assume that all of us want heaven to be our final destination. But we must know, like my flight to South Africa, there is a ‘valid passport’ requirement to gain entry. Our passport is the new birth.

Jesus shared with Nicodemus, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3). The Apostle Paul gives this advice to those seeking entrance into heaven: “Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?-unless indeed you are disqualified” (2 Corinthians 13:5).

As an experienced traveler, I should have checked my passport more carefully. Rest assured that if you are not qualified, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. Pleading and tears will not avail. Matthew 25:30:  And cast the unprofitable servant into the outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

Do not wait until the time of your departure is at hand. Be prepared. “Prepare your hearts unto the Lord, and serve Him only” (1 Samuel 7:3). Be ready to meet the gatekeeper of heaven. Because the spirit of Christ dwells in us, Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness in the day of judgment” (1 John 4:17).

“Enter In Through The Gates Into The City” (Revelation 22:14)

~ Brother Roy

Night Watches

night prayerOver the holidays last Winter, our grandson spent his time away from the university in our home. He was experiencing all of the pressures attendant to his senior status. He was exhausted from late night study sessions, writing term papers, and maintaining a social life. He slept soundly for twelve hours most nights. I was a little envious. The passing of years now makes it unlikely that I can enjoy lengthy periods of uninterrupted sleep.

I now sleep in fits and starts, punctuated by a necessary bathroom trip or two during the night. Conditioned across many years, I also wake just before daylight on most days. These conditions could result in frustration; however, with the Lord’s help this situation can be turned to a positive. I now find strength and ‘rest’ during these night watches. The Psalmist expressed my feelings well: I rise before dawn and cry for help; I wait for Your words. My eyes anticipate the night watches, that I may meditate on Your word. Hear my voice according to Your lovingkindness; Revive me, O LORD, according to Your ordinances.…” (Psalm 119:147-149) 

I now see my sleep situation as filled with potential good. Like Joseph (Genesis 50:19), I can see that what seems meant for evil, the Lord can use for good. Nights when I have trouble sleeping can be special times of communion with the Lord. I anticipate the night watches. In the quietness, I can hear His voice. I have time to take my petitions to the Lord in an unhurried manner. I can experience His lovingkindness. In addition to all of this, He revives and refreshes my soul.

Do you have trouble sleeping? You don’t have to be a senior citizen like me to have trouble sleeping. People who are much younger than I may find themselves robbed of needed slumber. This can be due to job pressures, financial troubles, family woes, or physical problems. These circumstances can deeply trouble you and deprive you of rest. This situation has a strong negative potential. You can however, with the Lord’s help turn this into a real positive. In the night watches, turn to the one who said, “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and… 

“YOU WILL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOULS.”  (Matthew 11:28-29)

~ Brother Roy

Taste and See

taste and see“O taste and see that the LORD is good: blessed is the man that trusteth in him.” (Psalm 34:8)

The words,“O taste and see that the LORD is good”, bring a flood of childhood memories. My mother often tried at mealtime to bring something different to our usually ordinary fare. She would search for new recipes that could be made with ingredients that she had available. When a new dish would appear, we would always ask, “What does it taste like?”. My father, with a twinkle in his eye, would respond, “About like owl.” That nonsensical phrase got the point across. We would laugh and then taste to see for ourselves.

To the unbeliever the words “O taste and see” are an invitation to get to know the Lord firsthand. We are asked to take a trial, an inward experiential trial, of the goodness of God. You cannot see except by tasting for yourself, but if you taste you shall see “that the Lord is good”. You can only know the Lord personally by experience.

“O taste and see” is used here in the sense of examination, or testing by experience. The idea is that by putting trust in God and by testing the comforts of faith, one would thoroughly see or perceive the blessings of it. We would then find so much blessing that we would be led to seek His goodness altogether.

A well-known saying in my circle of acquaintances carries the same sentiment as Psalm 34:8: “The proof of the pudding is in the eating”. A personal relationship with the Lord comes to us when we test Him by experience, when we taste and see that the He is good. Trapp’s Commentary says, “With the mouth of your mind and with the eyes of your faith, perceive and experience the goodness of God”.

In calling us to taste and see, the psalmist indicates that we should seriously, thoroughly, and warmly consider this invitation of the Lord. This is opposed to those slight and vanishing thoughts that men usually have of divine goodness. It is not sufficient that we find Him to be a bountiful benefactor to us, but we must take delight in His goodness. We must be so convinced and persuaded of His goodness that we are encouraged even in the worst of times, to trust in Him, and cast our care upon Him.

How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!”  (Psalm 119:103)

~ Brother Roy