A Shipwreck

shipwreckThe ship on which I was a passenger was negotiating a rather narrow channel into Mahogany Bay, Honduras. I watched in amazement as the Captain skillfully maneuvered the vessel through potentially dangerous obstacles such as rocks, sand bars just under the surface, and a wrecked ship. I share with you some of my reflections that were prompted by this event.

We each pilot our small crafts of life through the ocean of our days on earth. As we journey, there is a fact about our existence that is intriguing. God’s word says we are “wonderfully and fearfully made” Psalm 139:14. The ‘wonderful’ part of God’s creative design is that we have free will. We are creatures of volitional choice. We are free to love or hate, free to accept sound advice or ignore it, free to chose eternal life or reject it.

The ‘fearful’ part of God’s design is also that we have free will. In this respect, the poet William Earnest Henley wrote, “I am the master of my fate: the captain of my soul.” We can use our precious freedom to go where we please. God has said, “I set before you life and death, blessings and cursing; therefore, choose life, that both you and your descendants may live, that you may love the Lord your God, that you may obey His voice and that you may cling to Him…” (Deuteronomy 30:19,20). But, if we should choose to turn away from Him and go our own way, God has said, “I announce to you today that you shall surely perish” (Deuteronomy 30:18). If we chose unwisely to ignore God word, we are free to shipwreck our very souls.

An old hymn forms the words of my prayer:

Jesus, Savior, pilot me over life’s tempestuous seas;
Unknown waves before me roll, hiding rock and treach’rous shoal.
Chart and compass came from thee; Jesus, Savior, pilot me

~ Brother Roy

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Don’t Drink the Poison

poisonUniversity of Kentucky’s Hall of Fame basketball coach John Calipari gave his team some interesting advice last Spring. Most of his team were freshmen. It was the youngest team in college basketball. They had won several late-season games. The were positioned to make a run in the NCAA Tournament. When the team arrived in Atlanta to play, they were surrounded by a lot of media hype and fanfare. Coach Cal cautioned his young players by saying, “Don’t drink the poison!” He was, of course, referring to the temptation of his players to begin to think they were better than they really were.

The temptation to believe we are special and perhaps exempt from the rules that apply to others is as old as man’s days on the earth. In the Biblical account of Adam and Eve, Satan asked Eve about the forbidden fruit. Eve responded, “God has said, ‘You shall not eat it, nor shall you touch it, lest you die”. Then the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die.  For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil” (Genesis 3:3-5, NKJV). They ignored God’s words. They ate the fruit. In other words, they drank the poison! The results were tragic, and people even to this day still suffer from the impact of their choice.

The enemy of peoples’ souls still continues to employ the same tactic. God’s word says, “For the wages of sin is death…” (Romans 6:23). And again, God’s word says, “The soul that sinneth, it shall die” (Ezekiel 18:20, KJV). In spite of these and numerous other clear warnings from God’s word, many people don’t believe in sin’s penalty. They listen to the “father of lies(John 8:44), and they drink the poison:

  • You will not surely die. Preachers are just trying to scare you.
  • God is love. He will not send anyone to hell.
  • God understands our weaknesses and He will give us a pass.
  • Everybody sins everyday in thought, word and deed, so sin is not a big deal.
  • You’re only human. God will let you let you slide.

Another dose of poison involves the idea that if you are a good person and sometimes help others, that’s all that is necessary. There’s no need to repent and be ‘saved’. However, Jesus said, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3, NKJV). God’s word also says, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9, NKJV). 

Although many other poison potions could be cited, space will permit me to mention just one more: the poison of believing that there will always be time later to repent and be saved. God’s word says, “Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation” (2 Corinthians 6:2). The scripture asks this searching question: “How shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation?” (Hebrews 2:3, NKJV).

Believe God’s Word –  Don’t Drink The Poison

~ Brother Roy

Too Big for Your Britches

britchesDuring morning coffee at Fitch’s IGA, topics are many and varied. Our conversation is frequently interspersed with colloquial phrases and rural idioms.  A few days ago, yet another such saying surfaced. Someone commented about a person of interest, “He gettin’ too big for his britches”. As we use the phrase, it means conceited, self-important, or unacceptably cocky.

The phrase brought to mind a comment shared by Larry Winkleman, my Sunday school teacher. He related the following conversation:  A man said to his son, “You are getting too big for your britches”. He added, “Remember, I taught you everything you know, but not everything I know!”

Some among us may know more theology and scripture than others, but a lesson from Job needs to be reviewed. “Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind, and said “Who is this who darkens counsel by words without knowledge?  Now prepare yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer Me. “Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth?  Tell Me, if you have understanding” (Job 38:1-4, NKJV).

The scripture leaves little doubt that conceit and self-importance are unacceptable to the Lord. “For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith” (Romans 12:3, NKJV). Solomon offers this word of wisdom: “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall” (Proverbs 6:18, NKJV).

The Apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthian Church: “For who makes you different from anyone else? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not?” (1 Corinthians 4:7, NKJV). Every gift, every talent, every breath we take—all are from God, as is our most precious gift, salvation. “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9). To the Roman Church, Paul wrote,“Where, then, is boasting? It is excluded…by the law of faith” (Romans 3:27, NKJV).

“Do not be wise in your own eyes; Fear the Lord and depart from evil. It will be health to your flesh, And strength to your bones” (Proverbs 3:7, NKJV).

~ Brother Roy

The Rising Tide

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAA number of years ago, my wife and I were leading a ministry team of Asbury University students in Northern Ireland. The venue for our efforts was two sea coast towns on the northeast shore. At times, we would see fishing boats tilted on one side and resting on the bottom of the bay. Passing by at a later hour, we would notice the boats upright and floating well above the floor of the inlet. What had changed the orientation of the fishing boats? It was the tide.

Hailing from the mountains of Eastern Kentucky, that was all new to me. There is not much of a tide on Squabble Creek. There is a wise saying among the people along the Irish shore: “The rising tide lifts all boats”.  That saying epitomized the reason we were there.

Northern Ireland was a troubled land at that time. The Irish Republican Army and the Ulster Unionists were literally at war. The youth to whom we were seeking to minister were deeply divided on either side of the conflict. Bombs, bullets, fights, and fires were an almost daily occurrence. Not only were many combatants dying, but numbers of innocent by-standers were also losing their lives in the fray. A sense of hatred and lawlessness pervaded this beautiful land.

How could a handful of young people have any real impact in such a hostile environment? Then a thought stirred my thinking. Jesus said, “And I, if I be lifted up, will draw all men unto Myself.” That’s why we were there. Our prayer was that by lifting Jesus up among these belligerent factions, He would draw them to Himself and then draw them together. The hearts’ desire of our ministry team was that the Prince of Peace would raise these wonderful young people above the conflict. We wanted the words of scripture to penetrate their troubled hearts:

  • How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity” (Psalm 133:1, NIV).
  • “Keeping away from strife is an honor for a man, but any fool will quarrel” (Proverbs 20:3).
  • “Make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose. Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves” (Philippians 2:3).
  • Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful” (Colossians 3:13-15).

Our team was privileged to witness the Lord lift some of the people above the bitterness and strife. In the intervening years, from then until now, much of the conflict has subsided and a sense of hope has settled. If the Lord is lifted up, He is able to do “exceeding abundantly above what we think or ask”.

“The rising tide lifts all boats.”

~ Brother Roy  

Change of Status

lauter map 2When I made my first trip to M.D. Anderson Cancer Treatment Center in Houston, Texas, my outlook was bleak. My first diagnosis had given a rather short length of life projection. After a myriad of tests and consultations, Dr. Kuban, the lead doctor, sat down with my wife and me. Her prognosis was more encouraging. She told us that if everything went really well, they had a chance of adding five years to my life expectancy.

We had to make a temporary move to Houston to start treatment. Days stretched into weeks of daily radiation. Finally, I was cleared to return home to continue chemotherapy at a local facility. Over the next four years, numerous trips to Houston were necessary, in addition to regular doctor visits here. This last year had raised my concern as PSA and other indicators had elevated. On Monday Sept. 10, I returned to M.D. Anderson for blood work and case evaluation. Five years had lapsed since Dr. Kuban had given me cautious hope.

I sat nervously waiting for Dr. Kuban. The PA’s and nurses had reviewed my records and tests – now the wait. When Dr. Kuban arrived, we exchanged pleasantries, and I tried to appear calm. Then the shoe dropped. Dr. Kuban said, “Mr. Lauter, I am changing your status today. I’m changing you from Cancer Patient to Cancer Survivor.”  All I could say was, “Praise the Lord.”

I really didn’t need a plane to fly home! On the way back to Wilmore, my heart continued rejoicing at the news. Then, I remembered another occasion of such an overflowing heart. It was the day I was the recipient of a spiritual reclassification. Conviction had made me fully aware of the fact that; “… the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:22, NIV). When I confessed my sins, I was forgiven and saved from my sin. I was reclassified from sinner to ‘born again’ believer.

I have been the subject of several other reclassifications, like student to graduate, renter to home owner, teacher to administrator, etc. But, nothing can compare to my spiritual change in status. That change is now closely followed by, “Mr. Lauter, I’m changing you from Cancer Patient to Cancer Survivor.”

May I ask you, “What is your spiritual status?” If there is a problem, let Jesus reclassify you from sinner to believer. There is no other experience like it.

~Brother Roy

Bite the Coin

bite the coin“My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.” (James 1:2-4, NKJV)

The word translated ‘testing of your faith’ occurs only here and in 1 Peter 1:7. The term, which means “tested” or “approved”, was used for coins that were genuine and not debased (Nelson Commentary). When real gold was used in coinage, biting a coin was a test for authenticity – real gold is relatively soft, and biting it (gently!) will leave a faint tooth mark. Harder metals used to make counterfeit coins will not show tooth marks. James notes the testing of our faith, like testing coins for authenticity, is essential for maturing Christians.

In the article ‘Ways You Must Test Your Faith’ by Rhodes Davis, several test are suggested. Let me share a brief summary:

  • Test 1: Are you obedient to the faith? The first question is simple: are you obeying God? Are you living a changed life? Once you are a child of God, are you daily obeying God’s word? Does your life conform to the standard of teaching to which you committed yourself?
  • Test 2: Are you living in faith? Every day we must live with complete trust in God, casting all of our cares into His hands or accept a weak existence where we do not trust God completely with our life.
  • Test 3: Is your faith growing? Our new birth should result in continual growth, but if we do not tend to our spiritual life, it can stagnate. When it comes to faith, if you are not growing you are dying.
  • Test 4: Is your faith evident to others? Your faith should not be the best kept secret in your life. It should be obvious to others that you are a disciple of Christ. We should be a good example in speech, conduct, love, faith, and purity so that our discipleship would be obvious to all.
  • Test 5: Do you share your faith with others? If you know that the gospel is true and that your faith is transforming, you should not hesitate to share it with others. If you believe the gospel is the only way to salvation, it should urge you to teach others about Jesus.

Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. (2 Cor. 13:5)

~ Brother Roy

South Africa Team Testimony: Guilt vs. Conviction

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I think that the biggest lesson that I have learned from my trip to South Africa was that I should not feel guilty for what I have. One of the topics that we talked about multiple times during our trip was guilt. It is easy for us to go to the townships and walk inside their shacks that house 5 people and are no bigger than my bathroom and feel guilty that our bathrooms are nicer than the entire place that they live. Feeling guilty about what we have is what leads us to giving some money to the homeless person on the street or giving handouts to people who do not have what we do. While this is not bad on its own, the reason that we do it is to ease our guilt. We cannot just give handouts in order to ease our guilty conscience.

Instead of feeling guilty, we should feel convicted. We did not choose to be born in America instead of in South Africa in a township. We do not need to feel guilty about who we are because of genetics or geography, because we had no hand in choosing that. When we feel convicted instead of guilty, we take action that will impact more people than handouts will. And honestly, people do not need more handouts. The best thing that we can do for those who live in poverty is to provide them with resources and skills so that they can make a living themselves. One small example of this is to plant a garden in a township and then task one of the villagers who is willing to tend it. This way, the villager is taking responsibility and now has a way to provide food and/or an income for their family.

This really impacted me and reminded me that guilt and shame are not things that we, as Christians, should hold on to. As is written in Romans 8:1 “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.”

~ Rachel VanLaningham