We Shall All Be Changed

I love living in Kentucky where each fall the leaves change to their autumn apparel. Every year, the summer season comes to an end, and crisp autumn days come upon us. Temperatures drop, the days get shorter, and vibrant colors quickly spread across the mountains and valleys as trees prepare for long nights and frosty temperatures. The striking colors range from yellow to orange, hot pink to scarlet red, and even purple hues. By God’s design, color pigments found in leaves differ among plant species and vary from year to year. It’s a new extravaganza each fall.

As summer fades into fall, the days start getting shorter and there is less sunlight. This is a signal for the leaves to prepare for winter and to stop making chlorophyll. The process of abscission takes place whereby the leaves naturally begin to separate from trees at a separation layer of specialized cells. The leaves change color and soon fall to the ground.

In the natural order of living things, there is birth, maturation, growing old, and then passing away. We see this progression across God’s creation – including human beings. First, there is the blush of the newly born, followed by the energetic and vibrant days of youth. Next, the warm tones of maturity in the summer of life follow. The autumn of man’s sojourn of life comes bringing the harbinger of the end. If a person chooses to live in harmony with God’s plan, then experience, wisdom, and accomplishments paint that life with beautiful multi-colored hues of God’s blessings.

The final chapter of life for God’s children is full of hope and anticipation. Like the leaves in the fall of the year, we will fall away from this physical life, but that is not the end. God’s word tell us, “And if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit, who lives in you”  (Romans 8:11).

“Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed.”   (1 Corinthians 15:51, NKJV)

~ Brother Roy

Game Day

College Football takes center stage nationwide each fall. Each weekend hundreds of thousands of fans crowd into stadiums across the land. In recent years, ESPN’s Saturday broadcast of College GameDay dominates the airways. The program features analysis and highlights of previous games, then culminates in a panel of ‘experts’ choosing winners and losers.

The unfolding of a person’s time on earth is often referred as the Game of Life. As in a football game, the allotted time of a person’s life will also come to an end. “And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment” (Hebrews 9:27). God’s word further declares, “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive his due for the things done in the body, whether good or bad” (2 Corinthians 5:10).

On football’s GameDay, a group of sport’s aficionados choose who they think will be the winners and who will be the losers. But for us, there will not be a panel, but only one judge – Jesus, the righteous Judge. The Lord’s verdict will be fair and based on unquestionable evidence. Matthew 25 provides the picture of man’s final judgement and the ultimate Game of Life pronouncement. There will be no guesswork, no hearsay, and no speculation:

 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me” (Matthew 25:31-40).

The people who will be turned away into eternal fire will be shocked to find that their neglect of ministering the love of the Lord to the ’least of these’ was evidence they were not one of His. A true child of Christ sees the world through His eyes and instinctively moves to be the hands and heart of the Savior to the lost and hurting. When a person is a disciple of Jesus, they will embrace His cause. Jesus said, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed” (Luke 4:18).

Prayer: Lord, may our response to the needs of other be like that of Jesus. May compassion be our automatic reaction to those who would benefit from our help. May we hear you say at the end of our life, “well done my good and faithful servant”.

~ Brother Roy

A Buckeye and a Sassafras Cane

I was setting in the office of an eminent orthopedic surgeon. Both of my knees were at the ‘bone-on-bone’ stage. The surgeon knew I was in constant pain and politely asked, “What are you doing to deal with the pain”? He was amused by my answer: “I rely on a folk remedy from my Eastern Kentucky home. I carry a buckeye in my pocket and walk with a sassafras wood cane.” He said, “Surely you don’t believe in that superstitious stuff.” I knew the surgeon was a Christian, so I told him I was like the woman with the issue of blood spoken of in Mark 5:26; she “…had suffered many things from many physicians. She had spent all that she had and was no better, but rather grew worse.” Then I added with a smile, “The buckeye and cane didn’t cost me a lot of money, and they aren’t hurting me.”

Eventually, with confidence in the surgeon’s God given ability, I had replacement surgery on both knees. I believe that the Doctor was the instrument, but the Lord was my healer.

There is a great account in the Book of Exodus that reveals the Lord as a healer. Shortly after escaping the Egyptians and leaving the banks of the Red Sea, Moses and the Hebrews are lead into an exceedingly arid wilderness. After a few days, their need for water became critical. The people were weak and near death when they finally found an oasis of water. Rushing to the water’s edge, they started to drink.  The water was bitter and undrinkable. The people raised their voices against Moses. Had he brought them to the wilderness to die?!? They complained that they should have stayed in Egypt. Moses prayed, and the Lord showed him a tree. Moses was to cast the tree (branches) into the water. The bitter water became sweet. The name of God that takes its origins in this account is Jehovah-Ropheka, I am the Lord that healeth thee.

When we experience pain and brokenness, God shows us a tree. When our lives are bitter with sin, He shows us a tree. That tree is the cross of Calvary, that can turn bitter water to sweet. He is our Healer.

I knew that a buckeye and a sassafras cane was not a cure for arthritis and worn-out knees. I knew that my help and healing would come from the Lord. It is sad to say, but many people are trusting in things of this world to cure their spiritual condition. The ‘buckeye and sassafras’ of things like good works, good behavior, and religious practices are not the answer. “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast:” (Ephesians 2:8-9, KJV).

When sin has corrupted our innermost being – our heart – we need replacement surgery. God’s Word speaks to that need: “A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh” (Ezekiel 36:26, KJV). There is only One who is able to do this work. “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12, NIV).

Prayer: Lord, be for me Jehovah-Ropheka. “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me” (Psalm 51:10, NKJV).

What’s in There?

My mother was a great cook and often loved to try new recipes. My first thought when facing a first-time creation was usually, “I wonder what’s in there?”  It is usually difficult to know the contents of something by just looking at the surface.

I have also thought, when meeting a new person, “I wonder what’s in there?” A familiar scripture verse comes to mind, “For the LORD does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart(1 Samuel 16:7, NKJV). Some translations (like the God’s Word Translation and The Message) use the term ‘into’ rather than ‘at’: the LORD looks into the heart”.

I believe when God’s word speaks of the heart, it is talking about the inner spiritual man. The heart is the seat of a person’s thought life, both conscious and sub-conscious. It is  the repository of beliefs, the will, and moral conscience. What’s in the heart is who we truly are.

I am always interested in ‘what’s in there’ when I meet people. However, I am also aware of what the Bible says about this matter. “For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? (Matthew 7:2-3, NIV).

This raises a question of eternal consequence. What does the Lord see when He looks at my heart? I must be aware that God’s word says, “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it” (Proverbs 4:23, NIV). Jesus tells us, “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).

My heart cries out with the Psalmist,  “Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me(Psalm 51:10, NIV). “I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you” (Psalm 119:11, NIV).

God Looks Into the Heart

Salt-Rising Bread

I recently visited the nearby town of Danville, Kentucky. I couldn’t wait to visit an old friend – Burke’s Bakery. The bakery is a wonderful, old fashion, small town bakery. It’s one of the few places that I know that still bake salt-rising bread. Salt-rising bread is a dense white bread that was widely made by early settlers in the Appalachian Mountains. It is made from wheat flour and minor ingredients such as salt and sugar. It is leavened by naturally occurring bacteria rather than by yeast. For me, the term ‘manna’ comes to mind. It makes heavenly toast.

The name ‘salt-rising bread’ started me thinking about two scriptural concepts:

The first concept that came to mind was salt. There are over forty verses in the bible that speak of salt. Salt is a necessity of life, and in ancient times was so valuable it could be used as money. I remembered the teaching of Jesus about salt: “You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men” (Matthew 5:13).

As spiritual salt, followers of Jesus are called to a prophetic work, preserving the world from moral rot and decay. Christians, by their lives and instructions, are to keep the world from complete moral corruption. In addition, salt also renders food pleasant and palatable. By bringing down the blessing of God in answer to their prayers and by their influence and example, believers make the world more pleasing and agreeable.

The second concept that came to mind was bread. Bread is one of the most powerful symbols in our Christian Faith. It is mentioned at least 492 times in the Bible from Genesis through Revelation. Bread has a variety of meanings and symbolic uses. Let me mention just two.

Bread is nourishment for the body. God provided daily manna to sustain the Israelites as they wandered in the wilderness. He did this because of His desire to provide for His children and their physical survival. In the New Testament, the Lord’s prayer contains the petition, “give us this day our daily bread”.

Bread symbolizes nourishment for the soul. Of course, most Christians are familiar with the symbolic use of bread as spiritual food that feeds our spiritual lives. “And Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst.” (John 6:35, NKJV). When we celebrate Holy Communion, we commemorate Jesus’ death on the cross with these words: “…the Lord Jesus on the same night in which He was betrayed took bread; and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, “Take, eat; this is My body which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me” (1 Corinthians 13:23-24).

The wonderful aroma that filled the bakery brought to me many precious memories of by-gone days. More importantly, the salt-rising bread reminded me of the responsibility of every follower of Christ in the two areas highlighted above: (1) Jesus told His followers, “You are the salt of the earth”, and (2) Jesus, the ‘Bread of Life’, also said to His disciples as they faced the hungry multitudes, “You give them something to eat”.

Lord, I thank you for the lessons learned from a loaf of Salt-Rising Bread.

~ Brother Roy

A Collector of Worthless Junk

While pursuing an area of concentration in Anthropology at the University of Kentucky, I studied under a noted anthropologist. Dr. ‘E’ had spent much of his professional career living among and studying the Hopi people in the American Southwest. He was an avowed atheist and was aware that I was a professor at a private Christian college. We had many engaging conversations. One such discussion involved a definition of man. Dr. ‘E’ asserted that one of the major traits distinguishing man from other higher orders of animals was man’s propensity to accumulate things of no real value. 

The good doctor maintained that of all species of advanced animals, man was the only one intent on collecting “worthless junk”. Man, he asserted, will gather stuff not necessary to his survival. These are things that can’t be eaten, provide shelter or protection, or otherwise aid in survival. In other words, these things are ‘worthless junk’ in relationship to man’s continued physical existence.

After years of cogitation on the matter, I have concluded Dr. ‘E’ may have been on to something when applied to fallen man. Scripture speaks of expending resources on worthless junk in the spiritual realm: “Why do you spend money for what is not bread, And your wages for what does not satisfy? Listen carefully to Me, and eat what is good, And let your soul delight itself in abundance. Incline your ear, and come to Me. Hear, and your soul shall live; And I will make an everlasting covenant with you— The sure mercies of David” (Isaiah 55:2-3, NKJV). Here, “bread” is that which sustains the true life of the soul; “wages” are resources that are spent on things nonessential to eternal life.

God’s word indicates that what we need to maintain our spiritual lives is received without spending: “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God” (Ephesians 2:8, NKJV). The worldly life, however, is continual spending without lasting profit or satisfaction. A signal scripture is found in Gospel of Mark: “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul?” (Mark 8:36, NKJV).

Prayer: Lord help me to not focus on the accumulation of ‘worthless junk’, but rather store up treasures in heaven. For where my treasure is, there my heart will be also (Matthew 6:20).

~ Brother Roy

The Unshakable Kingdom

Something that captured my imagination when I was 11 years old was when a scientist predicted that there would be a major seismic event along the New Madrid Fault on December 3, 1990.  (In the winter of 1811-12, the New Madrid Fault along the confluence of Kentucky, Missouri, Illinois, Arkansas, and Tennessee, produced a series of earthquakes that were the strongest ever recorded in the U.S. east of the Rocky Mountains – toppling chimneys over 350 miles away in Cincinnati and ringing church bells in Boston.) All the talk in 1990 was what would happen if the predicted earthquake came to fruition: if it registered so much on the Richter Scale, plaster would fall from the ceiling; so much more, and bookshelves might fall over; a certain magnitude, and buildings could topple.  It was all quite scary for a child.  But December 3rd came and went, and the fault stayed silent.

Major earthquakes take place every year around the globe, bringing destruction, suffering, and death.  The awesome power of these events reminds us that no matter how much of the natural world we seem to master, there is still so much that is out of our control.

The Old Testament tells us in several places that the Lord’s voice and His anger could shake the earth (Exodus 19:18, Psalm 46:6, Isaiah 5:25, Jeremiah 10:10, Joel 3:16).  In Haggai 2:6, the Lord says, “Yet once more I will shake not only the earth, but also the heavens.”  The writer to the Hebrews interprets that prophecy from Haggai as indicating that there is a day coming when everything that can be shaken will pass away, and only that which cannot be shaken will remain (Hebrews 12:26-27).

There is good news in this prophecy of coming destruction: in Hebrews 12:28 the writer testifies that “we receive a kingdom which cannot be shaken”.  This covenant of which we have partaken, this kingdom where we have filed our citizenship – these things cannot be shaken!  In light of that great news, we should not hold on to things that are going to be shaken into oblivion, but rather to those things that will not pass away – the unshakable Kingdom of God.

The writer to the Hebrews goes on to say, “our God is a consuming fire” (12:29).  He is going to consume what is temporal, and all that will remain is that which is eternal.  Each of us has a choice before us: we can align ourselves with that which is temporary, or we can align ourselves with that which is eternal.

There is coming a day when everything that is temporal will be shaken into oblivion, and only that which is unshakable will remain. If we are wise, if we would claim our citizenship in the Unshakable Kingdom, we should hold loosely to those things that are shakable, and prioritize those that are eternal.

~ Matt Kinnell, NHIM Board Chair

Flowers Fade

My wife loves cut flowers. She delights in arranging them and prominently displaying them to add beauty and fragrance to the room. For a short period of time, they brighten our home and cheer our hearts. I think it is impossible to gaze at a beautiful flower and not see God’s handiwork. Martin Luther said, “God writes the gospel not in the Bible alone, but on trees and flowers and clouds and stars.”

Although the splendor of a flower may be limited in its duration, a part of its charm is that for the passing moment it fulfills its created purpose. In many respects, the lives of people we love are like flowers. The Psalmist says, “As for man, his days are like grass; As a flower of the field, so he flourishes. When the wind has passed over it, it is no more, And its place acknowledges it no longer. But the lovingkindness of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear Him, And His righteousness to children’s children, To those who keep His covenant And remember His precepts to do them(Psalm 103:14-18).

Family and friends add beauty and fragrance to our lives. Loved ones brighten our days, warm our hearts, and add purpose to our time on earth. We realize that our days with our loved ones may indeed be temporal, but for believers God’s word promises eternal life. “The grass withers, the flower fades, But the word of our God stands forever.”  (Isaiah 40:8, NKJV).

Peter’s Epistle provides a wonderful affirmation of God’s promise, For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God. For, all people are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of the Lord endures forever.” (1 Peter 1:23-25, NIV). While the physical ‘flower’ of our life may fade, that is not the end. God’s word says, “But let me tell you something wonderful, a mystery I’ll probably never fully understand. We’re not all going to die – but we are all going to be changed” (1 Corinthians 15:51, MSG). The bloom of our earthly existence will surely fall away, but we shall burst forth in full bloom in heaven as God originally intended. “The corpse that’s planted is no beauty, but when it’s raised, it’s glorious” (1 Corinthians 15:43-45, MSG).

Prayer: Lord, thank you for the beautiful flowers that brighten our pilgrimage here. In faith, let us move forward with excitement, “because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God” (Romans 8:2).

~ Brother Roy

Joyful in Hope

Many of us have had periods in our lives that brought major changes. Sometimes these changes were positive and uplifting. At others times, they may have seemed disruptive and negative. The last few years have brought a period of major changes to my wife and me.

Advancing years and declining health both helped precipitate numerous decisions that we had to make about our future. These decisions resulted in extensive life changes. We sold the home we had built with our own hands forty three years earlier. My antique business was put up for auction. More than fifty years of accumulated family heirlooms, pictures, and other assorted treasures that filled our large two-level home had to go. Downsizing to the approximately one thousand square feet in our Patio Home in a retirement community was difficult and traumatic.  

The expression, ‘Accept what is, let go of what was, and have faith in what will be,’ encapsulated our approach to these seismic shifts. I believe that all truth is God’s truth wherever it is found. The three divisions of the aforementioned phrase each have strong scriptural foundations.

  • Accept what is:  “…for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances” (Philippians 4:11, NIV).
  • Let go of what was: “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing!” (Isaiah 43:18-19, NIV).
  • Have faith in what will be: “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).

My wife and I have also found great comfort in the following scriptures:

  • “Even to your old age and gray hairs I am He, I am He who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you” (Isaiah 46:4, NIV).
  • “My people will live in peaceful dwelling places, in secure homes, in undisturbed places of rest” (Isaiah 32:18, NIV).
  • “Be joyful in hope, patient in adversity, and faithful in pray” (Romans 12:12, NIV).

Prayer: Lord, as our days unfold, may we “press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called us heavenward in Christ Jesus”. (Philippians 3:13-14, NIV).

~ Brother Roy

A Toad Strangler

Recently, a severe summer storm dropped five inches of rain in a short time on a small town not far from where we live in Kentucky. The mountain folks where I grew up would call that kind of downpour a ‘toad strangler’ – meaning even a frog would have a hard time surviving such a torrent. Needless to say, houses, personal property, and businesses in low lying areas were flooded. The newspaper headlines read, “Heavy rains that led to flash flooding overnight has left one person dead and a county devastated”.

Because of the hilly terrain in the area, building sites are at a premium. By necessity, many buildings were located on a flood plain. The choice to utilize low lying areas can come at a high price because of possible flooding. Two thoughts come to mind concerning storms and floods in our personal lives.

  • First, we all have choices in life. If we choose to follow the teachings of Jesus and build on higher ground, we can stand when the storms of adversity come. Not so with people who choose to ignore the Lord. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash” (Matthew 7:26-27, NKJV).
  • Second, floods will come into our lives. God’s word doesn’t say if floods come, but when they come. “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; And through the rivers, they shall not overflow you…” (Isaiah 43:2, NKJV). If we walk with the Lord, the storms will not overwhelm us.

We need to be prepared for life’s storms in the physical realm. We need to make wise decisions and follow sound principles for health and well-being. There are things and situations in our daily lives that may be physically damaging. We need to avoid such things. Many of life’s crises can be avoided if we walk with the Lord.

Spiritual preparation for turbulent times is even more important. When we abide in the Holy Spirit and follow scriptural teachings, we can keep our souls safe and not be afraid of storms. God’s word says, Fear not, for I am with you; Be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, Yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand” (Isaiah 41:10, NKJV).

With Jesus you can survive the storms – even ‘toad stranglers’!

~ Brother Roy