Jonah Paid

jonah paidOn the east end of Dauphin Island, there is a toll ferry. It operates between Ft. Gaines and Ft. Morgan across the bay. If you are willing to pay the fare, you can board the ship and escape many miles of driving and the traffic around the city of Mobile. The toll sign for the ferry reminds me of another ship, an ancient traveler, a paid the fare, and an attempt to escape God’s call. It is the account of Jonah.

Re-reading the account of Jonah, I noticed a fascinating sequence of key phrases in the first few verses of the Book of Jonah. Let me share some insights in a concise outline form with brief commentary on each phrase.

  1. The word of the Lord came to Jonah…” – I believe the Lord wants to communicate His will to every person. It may be in a sermon, a verse of scripture, in a song, a still small voice inside, or in any of a myriad of other ways. The history of man in scripture is a continuous account of God’s attempts to communicate with us and reveal His will to us.
  2. But Jonah arose to flee” – We are free moral agents. We can choose to listen when God speaks or we can disregard His voice. We can choose to run from His will. Jonah’s intention was to go to Tarshish, a place which represented the most distant place known to the Israelites.
  3. He went down to Joppa…” – When we exercise our free will and choose to flee from God’s will, we always go down. The account uses the word ‘down’ in relation to physical geography, but the same is true in the spiritual sense. God’s way is the upper way. It is the best way. All other roads ultimately lead downward.
  4. “So he paid the fare…” – Running from God’s will always costs us dearly. Disobedience takes us farther than we intend to go, keeps us longer than we intend to stay, and will cost us more than we are prepared to pay.
  5. “But the Lord…” – The Lord always has the last word. We can ignore Him and do our own thing for a while, but eventually He will be heard. His will shall be done on earth as it is in heaven.
  6. The Lord sent out a great wind on the sea” – Jonah ran away from God’s will and ran into a violent storm. The storm was “on the sea”. If Jonah had taken the original route that God had called him to take, he would have been on dry land. Running from God runs us into storms. We put ourselves in harms way.

Are you running from God’s will? Jonah was thrown over board and swallowed by a great fish. Disaster follows those who choose to run from God and their own choices swallow them up. But our God is a God of second chances:

  • “Jonah cried out to the Lord from the fish’s belly.” (Jonah 2:1)
  • “The Lord spoke to the fish and it vomited out Jonah on dry land.” (Jonah 2:10)
  • “And the word of the Lord came unto Jonah a second time.” (Jonah 3:1)  

If you are not where you ought to be, cry out to God in repentance. He is a God of second chances. Don’t keep going down deeper and deeper.

~ Brother Roy

The Treasure Trove

treasure troveAt the main intersection on Dauphin Island, Alabama, there is an attractive gift shop called “The Treasure Trove”. It is a delightful place to visit and shop. Inside there is everything from ‘objects de art’ to tee shirts and souvenirs. As I looked at the Treasure Trove sign, my mind moved to the words of Jesus in Matthew 6:19-21 (NKJ). His words there are among some of the most quoted of His teachings: “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” 

In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus shares the parable of a rich farmer (Luke 12:19-21). His land produced such abundant crops that his barns could not hold all of them. He decided to tear down his barns and build bigger ones. He had his own private Treasure Trove. The rich man said, “And I will say to my soul, ‘Soul you have many goods laid up for many years; take your ease; eat, drink, and be merry.’ However, there was a problem. “But God said to him, “Fool”! This night your soul will be required of you; then whose will those things be which you have provided.” I have to ask myself, “Where is my treasure trove?”  Hear the conclusion of the matter from the lips of Jesus for those of us who have Treasure Troves of this world’s goods: “So is he that lays up treasures for himself, and is not rich toward God.”

It seems to me that the problem is not riches, but selfishness.  Self-centered people have no place for God’s will in their life.  It is not how much money you have, but what you do with what you have that matters most. Many of us will never be rich with this world’s goods, but we can be rich in what counts most.  We can all be rich toward God.  Solomon provides us with great wisdom in Proverbs 13:7: “There is one who makes himself rich, yet has nothing; And one who makes himself poor, yet has great riches.” 

Prayer:  Lord, may our Treasure Trove be in heaven.

~ Brother Roy

An Empty House

vacant houseThere is something sad about a vacant house. As a boy, I remember driving by a vacant house with my dad. The house had been empty for quite sometime. My dad commented that an unoccupied house seemed to deteriorate much faster than one that had people living in it. From then on, every time we drove by that house, I remembered his words and witnessed with my own eyes the deterioration. Windows were broken, roof shingles blown off, and even the sidewalks seemed to have cracked.

My dad was not the first to make such an observation. Jesus’ use of an analogy about an empty house is recorded in Matthew 12:43-46 (NKJ). The overtone of the Master’s teaching here is more than sad – it carries a foreboding tone. “When an unclean spirit goes out of a man, he goes through dry places, seeking rest, and finds none. Then he says, ‘I will return to my house from which he came, he finds it empty, swept, and put in order. Then he goes and takes with him seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter and dwell there and the last state of that man is worse than the first.” 

The implication is clear to me. Obviously, the critical first step in spiritual life is the ‘new birth’. However, once the unclean spirit goes out, the job is not finished. Although old things (sins) are gone out, new things must be brought into a believer life. The old adage, ‘Nature abhors a vacuum’, is true in this case. The old life, with its habits and shortcomings, will move back in if the house is left empty.

The words of Peter contained in 2 Peter 1:5-10 (NKJ) gives essential instructions: “But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, 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. For he who lacks these things is shortsighted, even to blindness and has forgotten that he was cleansed from his old sins.” 

Let our lives be filled with the good things of the Lord. Paul’s prayer in Ephesians 3:19 is “that you be filled with all the fullness of God.” 

THERE IS SOMETHING SAD ABOUT AN EMPTY HOUSE

~ Brother Roy

High and Dry

high and dryMany of the houses on Dauphin Island and all along the coastline of South Alabama, are raised high above the ground on strong pilings. Major storms and high winds can push the water up over the shoreline and flood the land. These storm surges can overwhelm houses built too close to the ground. Wisdom dictates digging deep and setting solid pilings that will raise the house above historic surge levels for that area. Wise folks plan for their homes to be ‘high and dry’.

A life lesson may be learned here. Storms come into every life. The question is not if the storms will come, only when and how severe. All of us will face tempests. The wise prepare so they can withstand the blast of the storms. Jesus shared a parable in Luke 6:48-49 (NCV) about two men. One man heard and obeyed the words of Jesus. He built with the understanding that storms would come. The man “dug deep” and built on a sure foundation. “When the floods came, the water tried to wash the house away, but it could not shake it, because the house was well built”. The other man heard the words of Jesus but did not follow them. He “built his house on the ground…When the floods came, the house quickly fell and was completely destroyed.”

As we build spiritually for eternity, we need to send the pilings deep and strong in Jesus. 1 Corinthians 3:11 (NKJ) informs us that “No other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ”.  In Him, our foundation is steadfast and sure and will keep us from being overwhelmed. In Him, we can build above the storm surge.

IN HIM, WE CAN RISE ABOVE THE STORM SURGE.

WE CAN STAY HIGH AND DRY.

~ Brother Roy

A Golden Highway

golden highwaySunsets on coastal waters can be beautiful. I was standing on the west end of Dauphin Island sometime back as the sun was sinking below the horizon. It looked like a golden highway stretching from my feet to setting sun. It was an inspirational sight. As I begin to develop the devotional thought I want to share here, let me recount a humorous Kentucky mountain story. It relates to my devotional thought.

Arze came down to the bank of the north fork of the Kentucky River. He was set to ‘catfish’ all night. Tricky Tom, a cousin who had earned his nickname, was on the other side fixing to do the same. The night grew dark, and strange sounds were coming from the woods around them. Tom had a powerful flashlight and shined a beam across the water to Arze. He said, “Arze, it sure is dark and scary over here. Why don’t you walk across the beam from my flashlight and come over here and fish. There was a long pause as Arze cogitated on the proposition. Finally, Arze said. “You must think I’m pretty stupid. I’d get about half way across and you’d turn off the light”.

Like Tom and Arze in the story, it sometimes gets dark and scary for us in this world. Thankfully, God has made provision for all who are in the darkness of sin; for all who live under the fear of death.

  • Isaiah 9:2 (NKJ), “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them a light has shined.”
  • Psalm 27:1, “The Lord is the light of my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?”
  • John 1:4 (NKJ), “Then spoke Jesus to them again, saying, ’I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.”

Unlike Arze, we don’t have to worry about the light being turned off. Isaiah 60:20 assures us that the ‘light’ will never go out.  The Lord will be our everlasting light. There is a golden highway stretching from our feet to heaven. Isaiah 35: 8:A highway shall be there, and a road. And it shall be called the Highway of Holiness. The unclean shall not pass over it, but it shall be for others. Whoever walks the road, although a fool, Shall not go astray.” 

Lord, let me walk in the Light. Set my feet on the golden ‘Highway of Holiness’. Let me follow it all the way to heaven.

~ Brother Roy

Tried and True

Edmund Halley & Isaac Newton

Edmund Halley & Isaac Newton

Edmund Halley was an English geophysicist, mathematician, and meteorologist who is best known for computing the orbit of Halley’s comet. On one occasion, he was strongly denouncing Christianity. Upon hearing Halley’s remarks, Sir Isaac Newton said, “Halley, when you speak of astronomy and mathematics I will listen to you, but not when you talk of Christianity. You have never tried it. But I have tried it and know it to be true.”

There are scores of strident voices in our world today denouncing the Christian faith. Many are academics, successful business types, celebrities, and etc.  Because they have had a measure of success in their various endeavors, they believe they can speak with authority on things they know nothing about. I have much the same response as Newton did so long ago. I may listen when they talk of things they have studied and for which they have earned respect in the larger community. But I have no interest in listening to people speak on things they know nothing about.  When it comes to faith in Christ, I have tried it, tested, and proved it over and over.

When people make grand pronouncements about things of which they know little or nothing, Shakespeare’s line in Hamlet seems to me to apply, “It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and furry signifying nothing”. Speaking to the sages of His day, Jesus said, “You see these signs in the sky and know what they mean. In the same way you see the things I am doing now, but you don’t know their meaning” (Matthew 16:3, NCV).

Words in Psalm 34:8 (NCV) call for careful examination before jumping to any conclusion: “Examine and see how good the Lord is.”

The wonderful old hymn “‘Tis So Sweet To Trust In Jesus” expresses my position beautifully:

‘Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus, Just to take Him at His word;
Just to rest upon His promise, Just to know ”Thus saith the Lord”.
Jesus, Jesus, how I trust Him, How I’ve proved Him o’er and o’er!
Jesus, Jesus, precious Jesus! O for grace to trust Him more.

My advice to everyone, those who know Him and those who don’t, is simply this:  “Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good; Blessed is the man who trusts in Him” (Psalm 34:8, KJV).

~ Brother Roy

The Lighthouse

lighthouseWhat picture comes to your mind when you hear the term ‘lighthouse’? For most people, the image of a tower on the coast with a bright warning light on top is likely to be the picture. If you are from Bayou La Battre, Alabama, it may be different than folks from other parts of the country. The Lighthouse Restaurant is a longstanding tradition in that community. It is synonymous with the biggest and best crab claws to be found anywhere.

While those images flash across my mind, the one that lingers is far more meaningful to me. In my mind’s eye, I see the Cross of Jesus Christ.  When I think of His death in my place, my heart rejoices. To think that the Light of the World died in sin’s darkness that His light might illuminate my lost soul is too wonderful to fully comprehend.

A wonderful gospel song by Ronnie Hinson tells my story:

There’s a lighthouse on a hillside that overlooks the sea.
When I’m tossed it sends out light that I might see.
But the light that shines in darkness will safely lead us o’er;
If it wasn’t for the lighthouse my ship would be no more. 

And I thank God for the lighthouse I owe my life to Him.
For Jesus is the lighthouse and from the rocks of sin.
He has shown a light around me that I can clearly see;
If it wasn’t for the lighthouse tell me where would this ship be?

From my childhood, I still remember the little white Mt. Zion Church singing Let The Lower Lights Be Burning:

Brightly beams our Father’s mercy
From His lighthouse evermore;
But to us He gives the keeping
Of the lights along the shore.

Let the lower lights be burning!
Send a gleam across the wave!
Some poor fainting, struggling seaman
You may rescue, you may save.

PRAYER: Lord, dark the night of sin has settled, loud the angry billows roar. Eager eyes are watching longing, for the lights along the shore. May this little light of mine shine and shine and shine!

~ Brother Roy