An Empty Wagon

empty wagonRecently at the ‘morning gathering’ of coffee drinkers at Fitch’s store, Dwight, a local farmer and friend, offered an interesting observation. Commenting on an empty flower display in front of the store, he said, “It’s hard to sell from an empty wagon.”  In the explanation that followed, he told about a picture that hung in the hallway of an older building where he had done business. The picture was of a forlorn and dejected fellow looking into the empty bed of a peddler’s wagon. Beneath the picture was the caption, “It’s hard to sell from an empty wagon.”  The point being that you can’t sell what you don’t have.

The principle espoused in the caption has broad application across many areas of life. It certainly applies to the retail business, but it also pertains to Christianity. In the Book of Acts (1:8), Jesus charged His followers with the responsibility of being His witnesses. He promised that they would have the ‘power’ to be His witnesses through the infilling of the Holy Spirit. A short time later His promise of the Holy Spirit was fulfilled (Acts 2:4). From that day to this, Spirit-filled believers have been able to effectively share the gospel message.

In the spiritual world, the empty wagon principle is a truism. You cannot share what you do not have. If ministers, who are not Spirit-filled, attempt to influence people to follow Christ and join the church, they will be ineffective at best and may even be detrimental. When church members endeavor to influence family and friends to receive Christ as Savior and are not themselves ‘born again’ believers, they may do more damage than good. You just can’t sell from an empty wagon.

Hear the wisdom of Solomon on the matter, “Whoso boasteth himself of a false gift is like clouds and wind without rain” (Proverbs 25:14). The Apostle Peter says of such people, “These are wells without water…” (2 Peter 2:17).

Prayer: Lord, let us share our faith in Christ from a full heart. “A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of”  (Luke 6:45, NIV).

~ Brother Roy

The Compass

compassMy car has a built-in compass in the instrument panel. Like any functioning compass it will always indicate true north. In early days, the compass was an absolutely indispensable navigational aid for ships and explorers traveling in uncharted areas. If true north was established, the right direction to the desired destination could be determined. Without a compass, travel could easily deteriorate into aimless wandering.

My sense of direction leaves something to be desired. I depend on navigational aids to get me where I want to go. I often think of how lost I would be without directional assistance. Like trying to navigate unfamiliar physical territory without a compass, trying to plot a religious course to heaven and eternal life without a spiritual compass may end in disaster.  How fortunate we are to have a spiritual compass, the Bible. “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path” (Psalm 119:105).

The scriptures provide us a navigational aid to heaven and home. I believe that scriptures of the Old and New Testaments constitute the divinely inspired Word of God, that they are inerrant in their original writings, without error in all they affirm, the final authority for truth and life. They are the only infallible rule for both faith and practice. The compass always indicates true north and the Bible always points to absolute truth. “We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place…”  (2 Peter 1:19).

~ Brother Roy

Afflicted with Schadenfreude

schadenfreudeSometimes a person can find spiritual truth in unexpected places. Recently, I was relaxing and reading the sports page in the local newspaper. The article I was reading was about intense rivalries in college sports. The word ‘schadenfreude’ caught my attention. It was a new word for me.  Webster’s Universal Dictionary yielded this definition: “a feeling of enjoyment that comes from seeing or hearing about the troubles of other people.” That certainly applies to most sports rivalries. A report that a rival is under NCAA investigation is often met with a cheer.

The sad truth is that schadenfreude relates to many other areas of human interaction. People may be happy when a superior fails or a perceived competitor is unsuccessful. Maybe it’s when the “perfect family” down the street runs into trouble. Maybe it’s when a growing church in the area, one that has attracted members from your congregation, experiences a moral failure and bad publicity. A smile may cross our face at the adversity of those we don’t like.

Schadenfreude is a clear reflection of the impact of the ‘fall’ and the influence of sin in the human heart. How unlike the character of God schadenfreude is! When we were in trouble, He came to us. But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8, KJV). Hear God’s word speak about His attitude toward even those who oppose Him:

  • “Do I have any pleasure at all that the wicked should die?” says the Lord God, “and not that he should turn from his ways and live?” (Ezekiel 18:23)  I like The Message paraphrase of this verse:  “Do you think I take any pleasure in the death of wicked men and women? Isn’t it my pleasure that they turn around, no longer living wrong but living right—really living?”
  • “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9)

The Apostle Paul writes to the Church at Corinth about dealing with opposition and rivals. He reminds them of how Christian love conducts itself. “Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous, it does not brag, and it is not proud. Love is not rude, is not selfish, and does not get upset with others. Love does not count up wrongs that have been done” (1 Corinthians 13:4-5). There is no room for schadenfreude in the Christian life.

Let the beauty of Jesus be seen in me,
All His wonderful passion and purity;
O my Savior divine, All my being refine,
Till the beauty of Jesus be seen in me.
(Albert Orsborn)

~ Brother Roy

You Only Live Once

yoloI read a humorous statement recently that after further reflection turned alarmingly serious for me. “You do not need a parachute to skydive. You only need a parachute to skydive twice.” We need to be aware, as we make our probationary journey through our allotted days, that this is a one-time trip. At the end of life, if we haven’t secured our salvation, we will not get a second chance to relive our life.

C.T. Studd, an iconic missionary of the late 1800’s and early 1900’s, wrote the powerful poem, Only One Life To Live. His poem speaks what’s on my heart more clearly than I possibly can. Here I share but three of the verses:

Only one life, yes only one, soon will its fleeting hours be done;
Then, in ‘that day’ my Lord to meet, and stand before His Judgement seat;
Only one life, ’twill soon be past, Only what’s done for Christ will last.

Only one life, the still small voice, gently pleads for a better choice.
Bidding me selfish aims to leave, and to God’s holy will to cleave;
Only one life, ’twill soon be past, Only what’s done for Christ will last.

Only one life, a few brief years, each with its burdens, hopes, and fears;
Each with its clays I must fulfill, living for self or in His will;
Only one life, ’twill soon be past, Only what’s done for Christ will last.

The moving account of Esau is found in the first book of the Bible. His story in Genesis chapters 27 and 36 serves as a compelling example of the truth that is being shared in this devotional. Centuries after Esau died, the New Testament writer of Hebrews provided an authoritative epitaph for Esau’s life:  For you know that afterward, when he (Esau) wanted to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no place for repentance, though he sought it diligently with tears(Hebrews 12: 17, NKJV). The wording of the NIV translation adds an interesting nuance to the verse: he could not change what he had done.” Neither can we!  Are you prepared to stand before God as you are? There will be no second chances.

How shall we escape if we ignore so great a salvation?  (Hebrews 2:3, NIV)

~ Brother Roy

Is the Devil Real?

devilDo you actually believe the devil is real, or is he just a figment of man’s imagination? I’ve been asked that question a number of times across my many years of ministry. Skeptics, critics, and growing numbers of modern theologians ridicule the idea that the devil is a real being. Rejecting clear teaching in God’s word, they choose their own opinions and ideas.  Many feel Satan is nothing more than a creation of man’s mind. They conjecture that the devil is a fabrication of psychologically weak people seeking an excuse for bad behavior and/or events they don’t understand.

There are many things that convince me beyond a shadow of a doubt that the enemy of our souls truly does exist. First, I believe the unmistakable teaching of the Bible. It is the divinely inspired thoughts of the only One who has perfect knowledge and wisdom. Scripture’s unambiguous portrayal of a wicked being in our world is certainly convincing.

Secondly, the orthodox teaching of the Church across more than two thousand years has weighed heavily in my belief about the devil. The greatest religious minds of the ages have held strong convictions as to the reality of the devil. Long after the rumblings of ‘Johnnies-come-lately’ have been forgotten and the worms have eaten the yellowed pages they have written, the great classic writings of time-honored theologians and church fathers will still be relevant. I also rest my confidence in veterans of the faith whose lives I have personally observed. They have demonstrated wisdom and credibility to me.

A third factor in my belief is reasoned and rational thought. I have learned that I can trust my own study and thought processes. Scripture informs me that as a true believer the ‘mind of Christ’ dwells in me. Paul said, “But we have the mind of Christ” (1 Corinthians 2:16). If I am dwelling in Him with clean hands and a pure heart, I can have the mind of Christ on such issues. In addition, the leadership and guidance of the Holy Spirit is promised to help me think my way through these matters. Jesus said, Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth” (John 16:13).

Finally, examples in the life of Jesus provide me with an unshakable conviction that the devil is real. The accounts found in Matthew 4:1, Mark 1:12, and Luke 4:1, give a graphic record of the personal encounter between Jesus and the devil in the wilderness. It was not a brief meeting, but lasted forty days. Parts of the exchange between the Savior and Satan are there for us to read. Other references by the Lord, throughout His ministry provide additional proof texts for the reality of devil.

What is my reaction to the devil? I truly believe that he is real. I respect him, but I do not fear him, “because greater is He that is in me, than he that is in the world” (1 John 4:4). 

Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.
(James 4:7, KJV)

~ Brother Roy

I’m Gonna Live Forever!

woman-on-beachIt started as a typical Traditional Worship service in a small town Methodist Church. But midway through the service, an unscripted event took place. An older lady stepped into the center aisle and walked to the front of the sanctuary with a gait noticeably touched by the passing years. She turned and faced the congregation with a broad smile and began to joyfully sing this chorus:

I’m gonna live forever,
I’m gonna die, no never
Jesus died on a tree for me
And I’m gonna live forever

As she sang, tears of joy ran down her cheeks. She raised her hand and began singing the chorus a second time. At this point, I noticed that most of the congregation was singing with her.

I could not restrain my own tears of joy as praise lifted heavenward from my heart. I was singing with her. A profound sense of worship settled in the sanctuary. There was an awareness that the presence of the Lord was with us. For a precious few minutes, the things of earth grew strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace.

Daily, I reside in an amazing certainty. Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die” (John 11:25-26, ESV).

That morning for many in the congregation, John 3:16 moved from being words on a page to a present reality. The words came alive – “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.”  Jesus concluded this discourse in the third chapter John with a question. He asked Nicodemus, “Do you believe this?” May I ask you the same question? Do you believe this?  If your answer is ‘yes’, then vicariously join me and the lady mentioned above and joyfully sing:

I’m gonna live forever
I’m gonna die, no never
Jesus died on a tree for me
And I’m gonna’ live forever

~ Brother Roy

Easter Sunday

empty tomb

John 20:1-29  1 Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance. So she came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved, and said, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put him!”

So Peter and the other disciple started for the tomb. Both were running, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first.He bent over and looked in at the strips of linen lying there but did not go in. Then Simon Peter came along behind him and went straight into the tomb. He saw the strips of linen lying there, as well as the cloth that had been wrapped around Jesus’ head. The cloth was still lying in its place, separate from the linen. Finally the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went inside. He saw and believed. (They still did not understand from Scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead.) 10 Then the disciples went back to where they were staying.

11 Now Mary stood outside the tomb crying. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb 12 and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus’ body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot.

13 They asked her, “Woman, why are you crying?”

“They have taken my Lord away,” she said, “and I don’t know where they have put him.” 14 At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus.

15 He asked her, “Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?”

Thinking he was the gardener, she said, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.”

16 Jesus said to her, “Mary.”

She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means “Teacher”).

17 Jesus said, “Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’”

18 Mary Magdalene went to the disciples with the news: “I have seen the Lord!” And she told them that he had said these things to her.

19 On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” 20 After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.

21 Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” 22 And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”

24 Now Thomas (also known as Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!”

But he said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”

26 A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”

28 Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!”

29 Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

Job 19:25-26  I know that my redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand on the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh will I see God.