Escape Completely

escape completelyOn October 20th, Miss Sue and I walked up the gangway to board the Sapphire Princess cruise ship.  We were celebrating our 50th Anniversary. We were about to begin a 28-day cruise to Hawaii and the South Pacific. It was a dream come true. Thanks to our daughter, son-in-law, and friends in Alabama, we were on our way.

I was excited, but also weary from a hectic summer preaching schedule. I had preached in excess of 100 times at camp meetings, revivals, and mission conferences in recent months. I was also experiencing sadness over a decision I had made. I had felt for some months the Lord was telling me it was time to step down as Chairman of the Board of World Gospel Mission. The day before Miss Sue and I flew to L.A. to begin our great adventure, I shared a message with the WGM staff for the final time as the Board Chair. The next day, I called the WGM Board to order for my final time. WGM has been such a vital part of my life. It is hard to step away from something you love so much!  But I knew it was time.

The day after WGM Board meeting was our travel day to L.A.  As we were loading the van to head for the airport, the airline called. Our flight had been canceled. My heart stopped.  What to do? The great adventure was not starting well. Thanks to my son-in-law, who I think spends more time in the air than on the ground, we were able to reschedule at the last minute and make it to the port before our ship’s departure. Thank you, Lord, and thank you, Rich!

Miss Sue and I kidded each other as we boarded the ship that we had not spent 30  days (including travel to and from L.A.) in a row together in our 50 years of marriage. Across the years, she has been so supportive and patient with my absences from home because of ministry. We couldn’t wait for this special time together. Walking onto the ship, I quipped to Sue, “ Do you think I can handle 28 days ‘on the shelf’ without preaching?” We laughed and found our room and began unpacking. As the ship pulled away from the pier, we both could feel the tension draining and a sense of relaxation setting in. The brand phrase for Princess Cruise Lines is ‘Escape Completely,’ and we were about to do just that.

Our first full day on board was Sunday. As usual, I was up early and tried to exit our room quietly to let Miss Sue sleep. It was about 5:30 a.m. and still dark. I was on a quest… to find coffee! With steaming cup in hand, I found an empty table. It was no big deal at that time of day. I opened my Bible and was drinking in the Word, the sea breeze, the blessed quietness, and of course the coffee. After some time, a gentleman, seeing my open Bible, stopped to ask me if I was a Christian. He then asked if he could join me. We had an enjoyable conversation and agreed to see each other at a ship-wide non-denominational worship service a little later.

The service opened with Stu, the Assistant Cruise Director, handing each person a sheet containing a few formal prayers and a couple of hymns. He shared that he was not a minister and inquired if there was someone who would like to lead the service. The man I had been talking with earlier stood and walked forward. He turned around and pointed at me and said, “ Roy will do it! He’s a pastor.” I slid down in my seat, but the Assistant Cruise Director spotted me. He asked me to come and share the morning message. At that moment, two scriptures leaped to the forefront of my mind. First was Paul’s words to Timothy, “ Preach the word; be instant in season, and out of season…do the work of an evangelist…(II Tim. 4:2-5). Secondly, Peter’s admonition, “But sanctify the Lord in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear.”  (I Pet. 3:15) 

In a minute, I found myself on my feet preaching the Word, doing the work of an evangelist. At the end of the service, a large number of people came forward and shared how the Lord had spoken to them during the service. An impromptu meeting followed and we emerged with a plan.  During the near month that stretched ahead, we would meet everyday we were at sea for Bible study and fellowship. From that first Sunday, I was ‘Pastor Roy’ to a wonderful group of new friends. On the final Sunday of the cruise, once again, I had the privilege of sharing the morning message. When I extended a closing invitation, 167 people responded. What a service! Praise the Lord!

Let me share a final scripture with you. Although I have often quoted this scripture, it now has a special new significance to me. (Psalm 139: 7-10) “ Whither shall I go from thy spirit? or whither shall I flee from thy presence? If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there. If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea; Even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me.”   Escape completely? I don’t think so! Thank you, Lord for your presence wherever we are.

When the ship docked, we said good-bye to many new friends in Christ.  We felt a sense of sadness, but also a awareness that we would meet again someday when we ‘escape completely’ from this fallen world.

~ Brother Roy

Check the NHIM web-site in the future for several devotionals regarding different looks at the theme ‘Escape Completely’.

A Pen

gary 1“ 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’, serves as a focal point for this article.

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.

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

I believe the comments of Jesus in Mark 14 has 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.

gary 3

~ Brother Roy

“The Poor Have Hope” (Job 5:16a)

Abiding Hope PantryIf you are familiar with N.H.I.M., you are likely aware that our scriptural theme is Matt.25:35-40. As a reminder to all of us, those on staff and those of you who support us, allow me to quote the full five verses:

“Then the King will say to those on His right hand, ‘ Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; (36) I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to me. Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? (38) When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and cloth You? (39) Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You? (40) And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say unto you, inasmuch as you did it unto the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’”

With great joy, I am pleased to announce that the Abiding Hope Food Pantry is again open. The rough shed-like structure that was being used did not meet specifications to receive continuing supplies from God’s Pantry and other agencies. About five thousand dollars was needed for a concrete floor, insulation, and exterior siding to bring the structure into compliance.  We are deeply grateful to friends at First United Methodist Church in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, and at the Evangelical Methodist Church in Bayou La Batre, Alabama for their generous gifts. The financial support and voluntary labor brought ‘Abiding Hope’ back to life.

Praise the Lord, the first truck load of food was received in late November. Within days, we hope to receive a supply of used but good beds, chest of drawers, and wardrobes from Asbury University. These will be stored at Abiding Hope until they can be distributed to needy families in the area.

‘Abiding Hope’ is a vital part of our vision to bring a great revival to Eastern Kentucky.  The pictures below are of the renovation of the food pantry.  (Click on an image to see the full-size gallery.)

The Shepherds Had an Angel

shepherdschristmasDuring the Christmas Musical at the church I attend, a few lines in a song by Christina Rosetti captured my attention:  “ The Shepherds had an angel. The Wise Men had a star. But what have I, a little child, to guide me home from afar?”

I think many of us, from time to time, long for some supernatural sign to assure us of the truth of the Christmas message.  An angel, a star, a choir of heavenly host would be the ultimate of signs.  But is that what we really want, what we really need?  The scriptures have something to say about those that seek after ‘signs’ to validate their faith.  Matthew 12: 38 & 39 (New Living Translation) offers a warning in these words, “One day some teachers of religious law and Pharisees came to Jesus and said, ‘Teacher, we want you to show us a miraculous sign to prove that you are from God.(v.39)  But Jesus replied, ‘only an evil, faithless generation would ask for a miraculous sign.” Later, perhaps for added emphasis, Matthew 16: 1-4 reports,  “ One day the Pharisees and Sadducees came testing Jesus’ claims by asking him to show them a miraculous sign from heaven”  He replied, “ You know the saying, ‘ Red sky at night means fair weather tomorrow, red sky in the morning means foul weather all day.’ You are good at reading the weather signs in the sky, but you can’t read the obvious signs of the times!  Only an evil, faithless generation would ask for a miraculous sign…”

Why was Jesus so emphatic in denouncing sign-seeking?  I believe it is the principle of faith. Heb. 11:1 (NLT) “What is faith? It is the confident assurance that what we hope for is going to happen. It is the evidence of things we cannot yet see.”  Seeking signs leads people into the folly of walking by sight and not walking by faith. Heb. 11:6 tells us, “But without faith it is impossible to please Him (God): for he that comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.”

What is the alternative to seeking ‘signs’ that fade and cause misplaced trust? 1 Thess. 1:5 (NLT) “For when we brought you the Good News, it was not only with words but also with power, for the Holy Spirit gave you full assurance that what we said was true.”  The Holy Spirit within is the way we know for sure the message of Christmas is true. Paul assures us in Galatians 4:6 that “God has sent the Spirit of His Son into our hearts.” Rom. 8:16, “ The Spirit itself bears witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God.”

Add to the witness of the Holy Spirit the powerful words of Scripture, and the Christmas Story becomes an absolute reality in our lives. 1 John 5:13, “These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life”  Read again the accounts of Matthew and Luke concerning the birth of Jesus. Keep in mind these words from 2 Tim.3:16, “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.”  Also 2 Pet. 1:21, “For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.”

John 20:29 quotes Jesus as saying, “Blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.”  Angels may go away and stars may fade from view, but the witness of the spirit within and the surety of God’s word will abide. Through good days and bad days these are our anchors. Gifts of prophecy shall be done away with, tongues will cease, and knowledge will vanish away (1 Cor. 13) but faith-based love will never fade or fail.  1 Pet. 1:4 assures us of “an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that fadeth not away.  Peter continues in 1 Pet. 5:4, “ you shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away.”

~ Brother Roy

Repost: “If I Had Not Come”

As we draw closer to Christmas, here is a repost from the NHIM archives:

What if Jesus had not come?  That is a question so chilling that it’s hard to even let our minds go there.  There is a strange old legend noted by Dr. Hallock in the Encyclopedia of Special Days.  In the legend, the world grew colorless overnight.  The clouds became lifeless, spongy vapors. The ocean waves became pale and motionless.  The fire fled from the diamonds. Rubies and sapphires turned grey.  Rainbows faded from the skies, flowers became dull and drab, hues vanished from sunrises and sunsets.  The dewdrops vanished on sunny mornings.  The blue of heaven turned to lead and the cold breath of death blew across the insipid earth.

If He had not come…” crying would replace laughter, fear replace security, hatred replace love, disease replace health, starvation replace nourishment, and greed replace honesty.

If He had not come…” there would be no Virgin Mary, no baby Jesus in the manger, no wise men, no Calvary, no forgiveness from sin, no solution for guilt, no relief from fear, no heaven to anticipate, and no eternal life.

“If He had not come…” the fear of the grave would haunt us, hell would be waiting for us, the devil would torment and destroy us, the demonic would stalk us, peace of heart would escape us, and true love relationships would elude us.

But He did come, and because He came we can have forgiveness from sin, freedom from guilt, peace in our heart and life everlasting.  We can have a friend that sticks closer that a brother, fellowship with other believers, answers to our prayers, and  bright hope for tomorrow.

Has Jesus come into your life? If not, come to Him with this simple prayer, “ Lord Jesus, I know that You died for me, and I place my trust in You.  Forgive my sins and save me from the judgment to come.  Help me turn from my sins and live my life wholly for You, seeking to be obedient to You in everything.”  

~ Brother Roy 

Laymen’s Retreat

Buckhorn Retreat

This past weekend New Hope sponsored a laymen’s retreat in Buckhorn, Kentucky, as a part of our ongoing ministry of church planting and evangelistic outreach in the mountain region of Eastern Kentucky.  Eighteen men attended the retreat, including NHIM President Roy Lauter, and Board Members Matt Kinnell and Joe Hardman.  Half of the men who attended have been believers for less than one year.

Retreat sessions were presenting on sharing a vision for evangelism in Eastern Kentucky, a basic introduction to theology of sin and salvation, and sharing your faith with family and friends.  The Spirit was present throughout the weekend, and several men sought a deeper relationship with the Lord.  Each of the men shared that they felt the weekend was a great encouragement and time of growth.  Please pray with us that the seeds that were planted would continue to grow and that the commitments that were made to the Lord would be kept strong.