One Foggy Christmas

rudolph fogI suppose all of us at one time or another have had the words of a song ‘get stuck in our minds’. The day after Thanksgiving a local radio station was playing Christmas music, including “Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer”. I never particularly liked the song, but the words kept replaying in my mind. The words “Then one foggy Christmas Eve” would not go away. So I started thinking about ways to shake the words. I wondered if the Lord was trying to speak to me.  I searched my memory for fog events and one prominent fog event came to mind.

The event is rooted in New Hope’s ministry in Bayou La Batre, Alabama, after Hurricane Katrina (2005). During our ministry there, we stayed nearby on Dauphin Island. Many early mornings on Dauphin Island, I would walk out on the deck to find the entire area engulfed in fog. At times the fog would be so thick that it obscured familiar landmarks.

I am not an expert on fog, but let me share a few things I do know. I know with heavy fog, you can walk through it, talk through it, throw a rock through it, but you can’t see through it. It can conceal things that are right before you. There are events in our personal lives that may obscure our view of things that are eternal. Because of spiritual fog, we can lose sight of Jesus. “We don’t yet see things clearly. We’re squinting in a fog, peering through a mist” (1 Corinthians 13:12a, MSG).

THINGS THAT CAN OBSCURE JESUS FROM OUR VIEW THIS CHRISTMAS SEASON:

  1. Preoccupation with self, personal problems, illness, family problems, broken relationships, financial woes, and “getting older” can crowd our minds. Fog creeps in.
  2. Over commercialization is obscene! Yet, most of us get caught up in it to some degree. We spend ourselves into debt to buy things that are not needed. Fog rolls in.
  3. We are supposed to be a Christian Nation, yet Nativity Scenes are being banned in public places. Businesses are restrained from wishing you a Merry Christmas, etc. Santa is welcome, but not the ONE whose birthday we should to be celebrating! More Fog!
  4. Inside the church world, theologians and critics dismiss the Virgin birth, the Star, and the validity of the Scriptural accounts. Many ministers are too often taught in seminaries that The Bible is not necessarily the inerrant, infallible Word of God. Dense Fog!
  5. There are problems with busyness. “As Thy servant was busy here and there, he was gone” (1 Kings 20:40). This is one of the busiest times of year. Heavy Fog.
  6. Family gatherings, important as they are, may be elevated to a position above the Family of God. True worship is shoved to the sideline. Thick Fog.

As the days progressed on Dauphin, the sun would cause the fog to lift. May the Son of God help the spiritual fog of this Christmas season lift so we can clearly see Him.

 “But it won’t be long before the weather clears and the sun shines bright! We’ll see it all then, see it all as clearly as God sees us, knowing Him directly just as He knows us!
(1 Corinthians 13:12)

~ Brother Roy

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O Come, O Come, Emmanuel

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For centuries they waited.  The children of Israel longed for the Messiah, long prophesied.  Isaiah declared that one day a virgin would conceive and bear a son, and His name would be called Emmanuel – God with us (Isaiah 7:14).

Perhaps nothing has more perfectly captured the longing of God’s chosen people than the 12th century hymn, based on an 8th century poem, “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel”:

O come, O come, Emmanuel,
And ransom captive Israel
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear.
Rejoice!  Rejoice!  Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.

It is difficult for us who live on this side of the incarnation to understand the depth of emotion held in the sentiment expressed in that lyric.  Many of us were raised in Christian homes and were taught from a young age who Jesus is and what His birth meant.  And we indeed rejoice that Emmanuel has come.

But just because we know that Emmanuel has come, it does not diminish our cry for Him.  No matter how we were raised or what we were taught, each of us was born in need of a Savior, and each of us must invite Emmanuel into our own lives to redeem us from hell and death:

O come, Thou Rod of Jesse, free
Thine own from Satan’s tyranny.
From depths of hell Thy people save,
And give them victory o’er the grave.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.

At times, even for the believer, this fallen world is seen for the dark place that it is.  Sometimes our circumstances bring our spirits down, and we struggle to see the light of God.  In those times, we need Emmanuel to minister to our souls:

O come, Thou Dayspring, come and cheer
Thy people by Thine advent here
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night,
And death’s dark shadows put to flight.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.

No matter how long we have walked with Jesus, we know that we need His wisdom day by day as we seek to “walk in the light as He is in the light”.  We ask Emmanuel to come along beside us and show us the way:

O come, Thou Wisdom from on high,
And order all things far and nigh.
To us the path of knowledge show,
And cause us in her ways to go.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.

We see all around us the effects of sin.  Our country is sharply divided, and conflicts rage around the world.  We try our best to address these problems through government and social outreach.  But the truth is that there is no peace without the Prince of Peace:

O come, Desire of Nations, bind
All peoples in one heart and mind;
Bid envy, strife, and quarrels cease;
And be Thyself the King of Peace.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.

In this advent season, as we remember how Jesus came to fulfill the longing of ancient Israel, let us pray that Emmanuel would meet the needs of our world – for salvation, for comfort, for wisdom, and for peace.

Rejoice! Rejoice!  Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.

~ Matt Kinnell, NHIM Board Chairman

My Heart Is Filled with Thankfulness

Thanksgiving Contest - What Are You Thankful For?

For what did you give thanks over the Thanksgiving holiday?  For family?  For friends? For provision of needs?

Did you take the time to thank God for His gift of salvation?  Paul told the Colossians to give “joyful thanks to the Father…For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins” (Colossians 1:12-14).  What a marvelous reason to be thankful!

My heart is filled with thankfulness
To Him who bore my pain;
Who plumbed the depths of my disgrace
And gave me life again;
Who crushed my curse of sinfulness
And clothed me in His light
And wrote His law of righteousness
With pow’r upon my heart.

My heart is filled with thankfulness
To Him who walks beside;
Who floods my weaknesses with strength
And causes fears to fly;
Whose ev’ry promise is enough
For ev’ry step I take,
Sustaining me with arms of love
And crowning me with grace.

My heart is filled with thankfulness
To him who reigns above,
Whose wisdom is my perfect peace,
Whose ev’ry thought is love.
For ev’ry day I have on earth
Is given by the King;
So I will give my life, my all,
To love and follow him.

– Keith Getty & Stuart Townend

Consider the Lilies

stargazer lilyOn a beautiful sunny Sunday morning, I was gazing out the window. Although the day was pleasant, unsettling thoughts like scattered clouds drifted into my mind. I was thinking about needed repairs on our 40-year-old house, prescriptions that needed to be filled, problems our grandchildren were facing, and other things that cause an ‘anxious mind’. Then my focus came to rest on a magnificent Stargazer Lily that my wife had planted at the corner of the house. A sense of peace settled over me as the Lord brought scripture from the 12th chapter of Luke to my anxious mind: 

Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; and yet I say to you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.  If then God so clothes the grass, which today is in the field and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will He clothe you, O you of little faith?  “And do not seek what you should eat or what you should drink, nor have an anxious mind.  For all these things the nations of the world seek after, and your Father knows that you need these things.  But seek the kingdom of God, and all these things shall be added to you” (Luke 12:27-31, NKJV).

How grateful I am for God’s word. Even when I get fretful, it is so often His hand of ‘peace and assurance’ for me. “The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God stands forever” (Isaiah 40:8 NKJV).

Let, I pray, Your merciful kindness be for my comfort,
According to Your word to Your servant.

(Psalm 119:76, NKJV)

~ Brother Roy

Remembering Our Friend, Gary Bailey

Our friend and brother in Christ, Gary Bailey, went to Heaven on Wednesday morning of this week.  In his memory, we are re-posting the following article from our web archives in 2012 about how Gary used his gifts to advance God’s Kingdom.  Thank you, Gary, for your faithfulness.

gary 3A Pen

“ Take a large scroll and write on it with a man’s pen…”  Isaiah 8:1

In this unusual scripture, orders were given to the prophet to write a prophecy to be read by all men. The prophet was to write on a large scroll with a man’s pen. He was to use the pen to make clear, ordinary letters that the humblest could read. The prophet’s words ‘a man’s pen’ serve as a focal point for this article.

gary 1

Gary Bailey is a good friend with whom I often share morning coffee. He has a great heart for ministry.  Although retired, he is very involved in serving the Lord. He participates in a jail ministry, is a Gideon, and is actively involved in his local church.  Gary is also a Kentucky craftsman who creates beautiful writing pens in his workshop. He has turned his skills as a craftsman and his love for time in his workshop into a creative way to financially support mission projects.  Using beautiful native wood and at times exotic wood, he handcrafts writing instruments that are exquisite.

gary 2For the last several years, as I began summer travels preaching camp meetings, revivals, and mission conferences, Gary would give me a display folder of these beautiful pens. In craft stores, these pens would normally sell for $25-$50. Gary gives all of the money donated by people who wish to have one of these beautiful one-of-a-kind writing instruments to our ministry. Many have commented that the pens make wonderful gifts for pastors, business associates, or for someone who ‘has everything’.

I believe the comments of Jesus in Mark 14 have real relevance here. Jesus spoke concerning Mary’s breaking the alabaster box and pouring the contents of very costly oil of spikenard on His head. When some of the indignant disciples criticized her, Jesus responded, “Leave her alone! She has done a beautiful thing for me. She has done what she could.”

Do you want to do something beautiful for the Savior? Like Mary, do what you can.  Ask yourself, What can I do? Do I have talents, skills, or a craft, such as Gary’s, that I could put to use for the Lord’s work? Perhaps you have been overlooking how a hobby, craft, or a resource could be used for ministry.  

Gary has been making pens to help write the Good News on the scrolls of men’s hearts.  Thank you,Gary, for your example as you minister in the Lord’s name.

~ Brother Roy

Life and T.P.

tpSometimes a humorous or light-hearted saying can carry a serious implication. During a recent gathering of our morning coffee group at Fitch’s IGA, one of the sages said, “Life is sorta’ like a roll of T.P.: the closer to the end you get, the faster it goes”. After a chuckle, the sobering reality of that little phrase captured my attention.

Many of us that gather at Fitch’s are in the seventy-plus age range with several in the eighty-or-more group. Once again, I’ve come to realize that the years fly quickly from the calendar of our lives. James 4:14 (NKJV) calls attention to this fact: “For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away.”

I recognized that each day moves us closer to the end of our earthly pilgrimage. Shakespeare gives us these poignant words: We live in deeds, not years; in thoughts, not breaths; in feeling not figures on a dial.” Life is meant to be something more than “a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury and signifying nothing.” 

A wise man once said, “He lives long that lives well, and time misspent is not lived but lost. As we see the past rapidly fading in the rear view mirror, we need to recognize a number of things:

  1. The brevity of time
  2. The swiftness with which days fly by
  3. The certainty of death
  4. The importance of Biblical Values

The Psalmist prayed that God would help him number his days so that he might get the most out of life and also inherit eternal life. Do not postpone living for God! Procrastination will cause you to kill time, lose time, and waste time. Time is irrevocable when gone. Time is that gift of God for which we are accountable.

Today is the only day you have for sure – live it in God’s will.

~ Brother Roy

Distracted Living

distracted driverA recent television commercial shows a lady walking through a mall. She is distracted by texting on her cell phone and falls into a fountain. Another TV clip shows a man, also distracted by his smart phone, walking off the curb into traffic and nearly being hit by a car. The National Safety Council reports that cell phone use while driving leads to 1.6 million crashes each year. Staggering data also indicates eleven teens die every day as a result of texting while driving.

While distracted driving may prove to be fatal, distracted living can prove to be eternally destructive. Things that distract us from following the Lord’s plans can be devastating. We ought to focus on His plans for us. Scripture reveals God’s heart for His children. 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).

The opposite of following God’s plans is to follow our own plans. That idea is usually a really bad plan. “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death” (Proverbs 14:12, NKJV). When we become preoccupied with temporal things and lose our eternal perspective, we are headed for disaster. Paul speaks of those who are inattentive to God’s plans. For many walk …whose end is destruction… who set their mind on earthly things” (Philippians 3:18, NKJV). Scripture instructs us to, “Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth” (Colossians 3:2).

Our focus must stay on Jesus. Paul says, “…but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:13-14, NKJV). Paul concentrated his thoughts and his energies on the one great end of life, the one thing needful. No distracted living for him.

Prayer: Lord keep us from distracted living and distracted driving!

~ Brother Roy