Running with the Horses

kentucky horsesI live in central Kentucky. The area is referred as the “Horse Capital of The World”. We are surrounded by beautiful bluegrass pastures, white rail fences, and magnificent thoroughbred horses. It is a great joy in the spring of the year to watch the yearlings run across the sun-drenched bluegrass fields for the shear joy of running.

One of our morning coffee group at Fitch’s IGA is a horseman. Across his lifetime, June Humphrey has worked with a breed of horse that is not as well known to most people as the thoroughbred is.  He has raised and trained draft horses for competitive pulling. These magnificent beasts may weigh 2,700+ pounds. This powerful breed and the teamsters that work with these wonderful animals help keep alive a rural American tradition. These animals were the ‘horsepower’ of farm families in days gone by.

God’s word seems to relate in some way to everything and everybody. For example, Jeremiah uses an analogy that relates horses to the human condition. Jeremiah 12:5 (KJV)“If thou hast run with the footmen, and they have wearied thee, then how canst thou contend with horses? And if in the land of peace, where in thou trusteth , they wearied thee, then how wilt thou do in the swelling of Jordan?”

The application is clear. If smaller trials and adversities weary us, how will we do when major problems confront us? Will we be able to hold on to our faith in the face of adversity? When tragedy strikes, can we hold on to the promises of the Lord?

The scriptures teach us how to contend with trouble. In 2 Peter 1:3-4 (NKJ) Peter tells us that “His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness…” He tell us that there “have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises”. The instructions continues in verses 5-9. “But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, and to knowledge self-control; and to self-control perseverance; and to perseverance godliness; and 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.”  You can contend with the horses!

But then Peter warns, “For he who lacks these things is short sighted, even to blindness, and has forgotten that he was cleansed from his old sins.” Such a person will neither be able to contend with horses nor survive the swelling of the Jordan.

They that wait upon the Lord…shall run and not be weary  (Isaiah 40:31)

~ Brother Roy

No Wake Zone

no wake zonePosted along waterways around Dauphin Island and Bayou La Batre are signs proclaiming – “No Wake Zone”. They are posted when the waterway comes close to shore where boat docks, marinas, beaches, and fishing piers are located. Watercraft traveling at too great a speed create a ‘wake’ or sizable waves that can damage boats and moorings along the shore. The No Wake Zone signs serve as a reminder to be respectful of others.

Like speeding boaters, we sometimes rush into people’s lives to give advice or opinions. The impact of rash intrusions can be very damaging. A quotation from the English poet Alexander Pope’s An Essay on Criticism, seems appropriate here: “Fools rush in where angles fear to tread”. We need to be sure when we invade someone else’s life space it is with the true intention to help or encourage. It should never be to prove our point or to ‘straighten someone out’.  Stephen Covey, noted businessman and author says, “ Most people do not listen with the intent to understand. Most people listen with the intent to reply”. 

Scripture speaks to this issue in several places. Here are just a couple:

  • Proverbs 15:1-2 (ESV): A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. The tongue of the wise commends knowledge, the mouth of fools pour out folly.”
  • James 1:19 (ESV): “Know this, my beloved brothers, let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger.” 

The beautiful prayer of St. Francis of Assisi, when put into practice, will help us respect the No Wake Zone in other people’s lives:

Lord, make me an instrument of Thy peace; 
where there is hatred, let me sow love;
 where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; 
where there is despair, hope;
 where there is darkness, light;
 and where there is sadness, joy.

 O Divine Master, 
grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to   console; 
to be understood, as to understand; 
to be loved, as to love; 
 for it is in giving that we receive, it is in pardoning that we are pardoned, and it is in    dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen.

~  Brother Roy

Scared Money

calipariI’ve learned a new phrase and found a Biblical truth in an unexpected place. A sports commentator recently quoted UK Basketball coach, John Calipari, as saying, “Scared money don’t make no money”. The coach was referring to a talented basketball team that played scared. I thought the phrase was fascinating, so I ‘googled’ it for information. The definition in the Urban Dictionary is – “people who are afraid to take risks”. The phrase is from the song Scared Money by Mike Czyk. I believe all truth is God’s truth no matter where you find it. I think the idea in ‘scared money’ carries a truth worth examining.

The ‘scared money’ theme brought to my mind two compelling scriptures. The first is found in Revelation 21:7-8 (NKJ): “He who overcomes shall inherit all things, and I will be his God and he shall be My son. But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murders, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death”. Leading the list of the lost is the cowardly, ‘scared money’ types.

The second scripture is Matthew 25:14-30 (NKJ). Here, Jesus shares the Parable of the Talents that emphasizes the devastating impact of fear and cowardliness. As you will recall in this passage, a master was going on an extended trip. He called three servants and gave to each bags gold according to his own ability. One received five talents (bags of gold), another two, and finally to the last one he gave one bag. When he returned, each was called to give and account. Both of the first two had gained double the amount the master had entrusted to their care. The master’s response to each was, “Well done, good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord(v.21). 

The Message Translation quotes this critical passage in a down-to-earth and practical way:  “The servant given one thousand (one bag) said, ‘Master, I know you have high standards and hate careless ways, that you demand the best and make no allowances for error, I was afraid I might disappoint you, so I found a good hiding place and secured your money. Here it is, safe and sound down to the last cent.’ The Master was furious. ‘That’s a terrible way to live! It’s criminal to live cautiously like that! If you knew I was after the best, why did you do the least? Take the one thousand and give it to the one who risked the most. And get rid of this “play-it-safe” who won’t go out on a limb. Throw him into the outer darkness.” 

The Great Commission in Matthew 28 was not The Great Suggestion! We are to go in His name and make disciples. Acts 2:8 clearly commits to us the responsibility of being His witnesses. Jesus said in Luke 12:48, “to whom much is committed, of him they will ask the more.” Jesus gives us great assurance that all authority has been given to Him. We go in that authority. He promised power through the Holy Spirit. He promised His presence would be with us. He promised His strength would be made perfect in our weakness. He promised His love would casts out fear. Therefore, will be no excuses accepted.

Scared money don’t make no money!

~ Brother Roy

A Mighty Fortress

ft gains cannonStrategically located at the east end of Dauphin Island is stately old Ft. Gains. The massive wall and bulwarks silently keeps vigil over Mobile Bay. In a distant yesterday, the great cannons were positioned to fire huge cannon balls at enemy ships that dared attempt to enter the bay. The enormous guns have been mute for nearly 150 years. The stamping feet of garrisoned troops are no longer heard scrambling to the ramparts, replaced by the moaning wind and occasionally the footsteps of school children on a fieldtrip.

As I stand and look up at those majestic old walls, the opening line of one of the most powerful hymns ever written comes to mind. My heart sings with Martin Luther, “A mighty fortress is our God, a bulwark never failing.”  He undoubtedly was moved by Psalm 18:2.  David penned a beautiful psalm of thanksgiving for God protective care: “The Lord is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my buckler, and the horn of my salvation, and my high tower.”

The world in which we live is as dangerous and threatening today as it was in the days of David or Martin Luther, ‘For still our ancient foe doth seek to work us woe.’  However, we are not to spend our days intimidated and fearful! Paul tells young Timothy, “For God has not given us the spirit of fear; but of power and of love, and of a sound mind”  (2 Timothy 1:7).  John assures us of this marvelous truth: “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear; because fear hath torment” (1 John 4:18).  We do not in our own strength confide. “For in Him we live, and move, and have our being” (Acts 17:28).      

Visions of the grand old fort serve to stir my awareness that the Lord is my rock and my fortress. I can move through my days, no matter how menacing they may seem, because I have the right man, Jesus Christ, on my side.  He will win the battle. I have His word on it.

A Mighty Fortress Is Our God, A Bulwark Never Failing

~ Brother Roy

Crossing the Bar

channel markerI love South Alabama, especially the area around Bayou La Batre and Dauphin Island. When we visit, we have priceless friends, a wonderful place to stay, a great church family, and of course the beautiful coast line and the Island. I can sit for hours on the deck by water’s edge and watch boats of all sizes pass by. I have observed with interest the barges, shrimp boats, and other watercraft ply the waters in and around Mobile Bay, especially the section between Dauphin Island and the mainland. These waters can be especially dangerous to pilots because of shallow areas and sandbars.

The Marine Authority has placed various navigational aids throughout the area. Channel markers, day markers, cans, and buoys, all help the pilots avoid potentially dangerous spots in the vicinity. If a pilot carelessly misses a marker or chooses to ignore them, it could be disastrous.

The poet William Earnest Henley wrote, “I am the master of my fate: the captain of my soul.” Our Creator  has endowed us with the gift of freewill. We may choose our direction and our destiny. We are captains of our own souls. As we negotiate the waters of life on our probationary journey through our allotted days, our heavenly Father has provided us with navigational aids. 

Our Omnipotent God is willing to guide us through treacherous waters. King David said of God, “Thy way is in the sea, thy path in the great waters…” (Psalm 77:19, KJV). He knows the way. His word provides us with the needed channel markers. “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path” (Psalm 119:105).  However, we must know that we are free to ignore these channel markers to our own peril.

In 1889, three years before his death, Lord Alfred Tennyson wrote his masterpiece – Crossing the Bar. He uses the metaphor of a sandbar to describe the barrier between life and death. He writes, “And may there be no moaning of the bar, when I put out to sea”. He prays that he will not hear the fearful moaning sound of running aground or lapping of the waves in shallow water.

You may choose to live so as not to hear the ‘moaning of the bar’. Follow the Lord’s channel markers.  They will guide you safely to the other side.

“In all thy ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct thy paths.”  (Proverbs 3:6)

~ Brother Roy

Dangerous Undertow

undertowOn the eastern point of Dauphin Island, just past Ft. Gains, there are two bright red warning signs. They caution would-be swimmers of dangerous undertows in that area. Often the water looks harmless and suitable for swimming. But, by disregarding these signs you may put your life at risk.

In popular use the word “undertow” is often applied to rip currents, which are responsible for the great majority of drownings close to beaches. When a swimmer is caught in an undertow (a rip current), it starts to carry the person offshore. They may panic and drown, or they may exhaust themselves by trying unsuccessfully to swim directly against the flow and sink beneath the waves.

There is a life lesson here. There are many things in the world around us that at first glance may seem harmless. There are often no ‘thou shalt nots’ that forbid involvement, yet I would raise a caution flag. There are so many movies, so many T.V. shows, so much of our secular music that lower the moral climate of the soul. Themes of illicit love affairs, violence, rape, and hedonism serve to draw in an audience. There is an old adage, “garbage in – garbage out”.  We must be careful what we allow to come into our minds. Seductive advertising that sells everything from clothing to automobiles can also pull us farther and farther from Biblical standards. They frequently create dangerous undertows for the soul.

There are many scriptures that can help us guard our hearts and minds against these undertows. I point to just a few:

  • Philippians 4:8 (ESV)“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is any thing worthy of praise, think about these things.”
  • Colossians 3:2 (ESV): “Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.”
  • 1 Thessalonians 5:22 (KJV): “Abstain from all appearance of evil.”
  • Romans 12:2 (ESV): “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” 

 “ Lead us not into temptation but deliver up from evil…”  Matthew 6:13

~ Brother Roy

The Widow’s Mites: A Poem

widow mites Jesus sat down near the collection box in the Temple and watched as the crowds dropped in their money. Many rich people put in large amounts. Then a poor widow came and dropped in two small coins. Jesus called his disciples to him and said, “I tell you the truth, this poor widow has given more than all the others who are making contributions. For they gave a tiny part of their surplus, but she, poor as she is, has given everything she had to live on.” (Mark 12:41-44, NLT)

During the last days that Jesus walked upon this earth as a man,
He went up to the temple to see if anyone truly understood God’s plan.

A nameless, faceless widow passed by Jesus as He rested against the temple wall,
But He did not miss her devotion as she offered her whole living – her absolute all.

She passed unnoticed by the stream of visitors in God’s house that ancient day,
But she did not escape the eyes of Savior as he sat unnoticed and out of the way.

The gifts of the richest men in Jerusalem from memory have faded away,
But Jesus intended that the story of the Widow’s mites would be here to stay.

Even though her pockets were empty and her clothing was threadbare,
She withheld not a cent, regretting only that she didn’t have more to share.

The story of her sacrifice and devotion around this old world has spread,
Inspiring others to help the needy and to see that the hungry are fed.

It’s not how much of my money to God I will decide to give
But how much of God’s money can I keep, if for Lord I want to live.

Money is Jesus’ most powerful enemy, a tool of destruction in the devil’s hand.
The love of money is His rival and the root of all kinds of evils in the heart of man.

She moved through the crowd to cast in her two mites and then silently drew apart,
But more than the two mites she left there, for with them she left Him her heart.

I ask you today, what are you going to do in light of this widow’s account?
Will you determine to give of your abundance, a sacrificial gift that will really count?

Will you understand the Master’s message of the widow and then answer His call?
For Jesus said of her small gift, “The poor widow hath cast more in than they all.”

~ Brother Roy