Life’s Three Greatest Questions

Cloud-Question-MarkRecent months have brought many new questions to my mind. Will Medicare pay for my cancer treatment?  Do I have enough in my retirement account to care for Miss Sue if something happens to me? Will I be forced to depend on family members because of failing health? People in middle age have questions about job security, economic collapse, terrorist attacks here at home, etc,. Youth have questions about popularity, dating, college, jobs, and an uncertain future. But may I suggest life’s three greatest questions cut across age groups, economic situations, and ethnic groups. In the Book of Job these questions come to clear expression:

  1. The first question we will consider is found in Job 14:14, “If a man dies, shall he live again?”  Jesus, the Lord of Life, provides the answer.  His words are recorded in John 5:24, 28-29, “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life.  (28) Do not marvel at this, for the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice and come forth – those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation.”  The Book of Daniel (12:2) reinforces this truth, “…those that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life and some to everlasting contempt.”  In Acts 24:15, these words appear “…there will be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and the unjust.”
  2. The second question we will consider is Job 14:10, “Man dies… and where is he?” Again, turning to Jesus, He relates the answer in Luke 16:19-31. Whether the teaching is a parable, as most believe, or an actual situation known to Jesus (it is the only parable where  a proper name is used) does not diminish this powerful truth taught by Jesus. Here the Master definitely states that the person who dies outside God’s redemptive grace: Is in hell (v.23), Can see (v.23), Can speak (v.24), Pleads for mercy (v.24),  Cries for water (v.24) Is tormented in flames (v.24), Can remember (v.25), Can never have anyone come to his aid (v.26), Can never get out (v.26), and Is concerned about his loved ones but is beyond reaching them (v. 28).  Jesus also definitely states that a person who dies under God’s redemptive grace: Is carried by angels to the place of the righteous (v.22), Is comforted (v.25), Is with the saints (v.23) – and Jesus (John 14:3).
  3. If a man lives after death and if heaven or hell awaits as his eternal abode, the third question naturally arises.  Job 25:4: “How then can man be righteous (justified) before God?”  The single greatest verse in scripture immediately leaps to mind John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believed in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” In Romans 3:23, the Apostle Paul speaks of “being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus…”  Romans 5:9 assures us that, “Much more then, having now been justified by His (Jesus)blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him.”  One final glorious thought from Rom.5:1, “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Do you have the right answers to life’s three greatest questions?

~ Brother Roy

Report from Spring Women’s Retreat at Bear Pen

Back in the Spring, New Hope sponsored a women’s retreat at Bear Pen Community Church near Campton, Kentucky.  The retreat was led by Sue Lauter and Pastor David Spencer’s wife Nora and daughter Paula Smith.  The following is a report by Miss Sue of how the Lord moved in that time of fellowship:

The theme for the retreat was certainly appropriate: “Coming Apart Before Coming Apart: Finding A Calm in the Midst of the Storm”.  Nora Spencer opened the meeting with prayer and introductions of those attending the retreat.  One of the main purposes for coming together was to be separated from the worries and concerns in the women’s lives.  It is easier to listen to the Lord and seek His Will and purpose in our lives by being still. (Psalm 46:10,Be still and know that I am God:…”)  The thesis of  the weekend was to encourage women to have quiet time with Him, read His Word, and pray. 

We began the retreat with singing  Jesus Loves Me.  This song has an ageless truth, Jesus does loves us. We are His children regardless of our age. His greatest desire is for us to love Him as our personal Savior. The concerns and worries of life began to dissipate as His Presence settled among us. It became a calm, comfortable shelter from responsibilities at home. Fears of what others might think about the problems and difficulties being shared soon evaporated.

The weekend had been set aside for time to be with the Lord, talk to Him, and most of all, listen to Him.  In the Scripture, the Lord “spoke in a still small voice”(1 Kings 19:12) .  Listening is one of the most difficult issues for Christians.  We don’t want to be still and listen to what He wants to tell us. We often find time to talk to others, but not set aside private time for Him.  Whenever we do find time, it often consists of  a “grocery list” of requests.

As sharing time began, some of the women told of the storms they had endured: abortions, beatings, drug and alcohol use, and other types of abuse. Somehow these  ladies had survived.  While living in these conditions, they had found Christ as their Savior. He had been with them in the midst of the storms. Christ was their rock of shelter at those times.  Psalm 61:3 “For thou hast been a shelter for me…”  Psalm 27:5 (ESV) For He will hide me in His shelter in the day of trouble.”

At the close of the evening’s session, the ladies began to yawn and hunger pangs settled on the group. We ended with prayer, praising the Lord for His presence, and then thanked Him for the food. One of the participants, a local restaurant owner, provided delicious pizza. Others had brought snacks and desserts for our group to enjoy.  Then…the youthfulness of everyone came out.  Food, fun, and laughter filled the premises.  For some of the ladies, it was a new experience to enjoy fun in a wholesome Christian fellowship.

~ Sue Lauter

How to Have a Nervous Breakdown

frazzled2Sometime back I heard a man sarcastically say, “I’m going to have a nervous breakdown. I’ve worked hard for it. I deserve it. I’m going to have it!” After 50 plus years in ministry, I have witnessed many mental and emotional meltdowns. If you are like the man just mentioned and are set on having a breakdown, I have some tips to help you on your way:

  1. Worry about trying to find the answer before the problem arises. Worry about tomorrow. Our imagined fears are likely to be larger than the real thing. Most imagined problems never occur. It’s worry that wears us out. So, worry about the future.
  2. Wish things had been different. A poet once said, “Of all the words of tongue or pen, the saddest of these is – it might have been.” Worry about the past you cannot change. Fret and feel guilty about yesterday; or, you may go the opposite direction and exalt the past. Make it so much better than it really was that you don’t want to live in the present. So, worry about the past.
  3. Delay decisions that need to be made, at least for today. Put off decisions, especially spiritual ones, as long as possible. Put off making up your mind until things are so confused that the best decision is no longer possible. So, be indecisive.
  4. Demand more of yourself than you can possibly produce. Be a perfectionist. To do less than your best is to do nothing at all, but to impose on yourself demands beyond your ability will hasten self-destruction. Unrealistic demands will help your self-esteem to crumble. So, make demands on  yourself you cannot meet.
  5. Always believe the worst. Any time there are several possibilities, believe the worst. Look for the most distasteful and hurtful choice. Believe the worst you hear about others. Question the motives of friends and family. Let your imagination run free. So, believe the worst.

If you follow the tips above, you are well on your way to a nervous and spiritual breakdown. If, on the other hand, you would rather have peace of mind both mental and spiritual, and are willing to follow God’s word, I have a few tips to help.  (All scriptures used in this devotional are from the New Century Version.)

  1. What should you do regarding worry about tomorrow?  Jesus said (Matthew 6:25-27), Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you put on. Is not life more than the food and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?” A few verses later, Jesus gave the following advice, “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things will be added to you. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow…”
  2. What can you do about wishing that things had been different?  The Apostle Paul had the answer (Philippians 3:13) : “..but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”
  3. What can you do about delays in making necessary decisions?  Joel 3:14 gives these words, “Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision! For the day of the Lord is near in the valley of decision.” This statement refers to the option before people to continue toward a certain fearful judgment or to turn to God in repentance. The advice of Joshua is powerful: “Choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve… But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:15).
  4. How can you deal with the problem of demanding more of yourself than you can produce? Romans 12:3, advises a person “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.”  The prophet Micah provides wonderful insight into God’s expectations of us, “He has shown you, O man, what is good; And what does the Lord require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8).
  5. What to do when you tend to always believe the worst?  The Apostle Paul has advice for you in Philippians 4:8: “Finally, brethren, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is anything praiseworthy – meditate (think) on these things.” Paul’s instruction continues for us in verse 9: “The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you.”

A final word from scripture (Philippians 4:6-7), “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”

~ Brother Roy

The Veil

veil is tornIt had hung there across the years. It looked as if it might hang there forever. Gorgeously embroidered with cherubim, the massive blue, purple, and scarlet curtain hung before the inner most chamber of the Temple. Behind this dense and formidable drape was the dark and silent Holy of Holies where God was said to dwell. The very name of the veil in Hebrew (poreketh) is foreboding in its meaning –  “a separation”. Diligently it kept its shrouded secret. Then suddenly one day, one unbelievable day, it was torn top to bottom by invisible hands.  The dreadful separation was over.

Whatever we believe about this mysterious event, one thing is clear: to Matthew, Mark, and Luke who recorded the event, it was alive with symbolism.  They declared the rending of the temple veil had happened at precisely the moment when Jesus had breathed His last breath on Mount Calvary. They knew that it was not coincidence, but was steeped in significance. It symbolism was clear to the disciples of old and it should be clear us today. The rent veil before the ‘mercy seat’ teaches many things, and in each of them the death of Christ is fundamental.

The veil was seen as a type of Christ’s human body. Accordingly, it was supernaturally torn in two when Christ died, granting instant access to God to everyone who approaches on the ground of faith in Christ. The obstructed way to God was now open.

The rending of the veil reveals the innermost heart of God. Questions about God have always plagued man. What is God like? Is He an indifferent creator? Does He see our suffering? Does He care? Does He know about my little corner of the world? These questions and a thousand more swirl around us. No matter the degree of our education or the extent of our sophistication, we find no answers. Groping and searching, we find only an impenetrable veil. There is no answer, except in the death of our Lord on Calvary. His death rends the veil. It provides answers our questions. It goes beyond words. It is a living deed plowed into history, a once and for all fact towering over time.

Words alone cannot prove love, not finally, not completely. God said, “Come let us reason together …”; but even the most eloquent speech, the most divine dialog could not prove love. The Father made His prophets a herald voice to men.  But even the words of God, burning and flaming on the lips of the prophets could not do it. He sent Jesus to preach the Sermon on the Mount appealing to men to trust God. Even the beautiful, powerful, persuasive words of Jesus couldn’t do it. When it seemed that God Himself could do no more, He did. He sent His only Son. Matthew 21:37: “But last of all he sent his son.” In a moment, the heights and depths of God’s love were revealed. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16) Look at the cross and know God loves you that much. The veil of separation is torn asunder.

Another wonderful lesson can be learned from the rent veil. It represents the opening of a way of access to God. Before the veil was torn, only one man in Israel, the High Priest, on one day a year was allowed behind that great curtain of separation into the Holy of Holies. What strange irony that the only one in Jesus’ day that had the privilege was Caiaphas, the very one who had plotted the death of Jesus. All others, even sincere, seeking souls, crying out for the living God, were shut out by the VEIL! There was no access to the ‘mercy seat’ and no chance to come into the presence of the eternal. The veil seemed to shout, “Keep Out!” But now by the death of Jesus, a right of way was opened. There was now a new testament. “So, brothers and sisters, we are completely free to enter the Most Holy Place without fear because of the blood of Jesus’ death. We can enter through a new and living way that Jesus opened for us. It leads through the curtain(veil) – Christ’s body.” (Hebrews 10:19-20, NCV) His body was torn so that every barrier to God might be torn asunder. Hear the Father say, “Let whosoever will come!”

Although many other lessons could be presented, let me conclude with this final one.  The rent veil stands for a confirming (validating) Hope! It is a beautiful life-changing Hope. Listen to the magnificent words recorded in Hebrews 6:19-20 (NCV): “We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, sure and strong. It enters behind the curtain (veil) in the Most Holy Place in heaven, where Jesus has gone ahead of us and for us.

We may follow Christ’s footsteps through the rent veil into the sunburst of eternity. The sting and fear of separation and death are rent in two! Praise His Name. Receive Christ as your personal Savior, and the veil of sin that separates you from God will be rent in two.

~ Brother Roy

What’s Happening NOW in Eastern Kentucky?

View from Princess ArchAs many of you know, I am in a battle with cancer. Recent weeks have been filled with exams, scans, blood work and more. I recently was in Houston, Texas, at the M.D. Anderson Cancer Research and Treatment Center for evaluation. I am thankful they agreed to take me as a patient. I returned for a couple of weeks in Kentucky, I am on my way back to Houston for almost three months of treatment. Thanks to my fellow laborers in NHIM  (John Morley, Matt Kinnell, and David Spencer) the ministry is not just surviving, but is thriving. Time to keep you updated has been small, but don’t think that things have slowed down. If anything an already hectic pace has accelerated. At this point, I will simply give a brief overview of what is going on and then hope to provide a more detailed report later.

  1. Several more furniture trips have been made with our box truck from Eastern Kentucky to Asbury University in Wilmore, Kentucky. Asbury has given us enough good dorm furniture to provide greatly needed furniture for Kentucky Mountain Bible College. In addition, Asbury has given us gas ranges, beds, and other furniture for needy families that we serve.
  2. The Abiding Hope Food Pantry is serving the needs of the local community. We are in the process of installing a heating/air conditioning unit. The funds are in hand to complete this project. The old box truck that transports some of our food from God’s Pantry in Lexington recently broke down in Lexington. David was able to limp home, but there it sits. It is fixable. If you would like to help with the cost of repair and/or future fuel needs, please send donations to NHIM designated for Abiding Hope Food Pantry.
  3. The Pavilion Project that our friends from First Methodist Church in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, started in the spring is now complete. Thank you friends in Tuscaloosa for your help and funding. The pavilion is a valuable asset for our ministry.
  4. The much-needed Storage Facility at Bear Pen is within a couple of workdays from completion. It will provide a place to store furniture for needy families, donated church furniture for future church plants, donated building materials, a library of material for our local preachers in training, and an office for Lead Pastor David Spencer.  * A special note of thanks is due to the Kentucky Mountain Holiness Association for their generous gift and support.
  5. The local preachers training sessions have gone extremely well. Pastor David has been providing training every Sunday night for several months. Matt Kinnell, NHIM Board Chair, has recently started a monthly teaching series. These men and women have already provided help by covering prayer meetings and preaching when David or I are not available. I have heard four of these folks preach, and they all did very well. Before too long they will be able to assume greater responsibility and possibly become assistant pastors in our group of churches.
  6. Two new congregations have joined our church-planting ministry. First, the members of the former Evangelical Church in the Baxter community, near Harlan, Kentucky, have invited us to assume ministerial responsibilities for their church. The Evangelical Church denomination discontinued their connection with the local congregation, and they have been without a pastor for some time.  I had the privilege of preaching there August 25th before heading for Houston. David and his son, Eugene, have also been preaching there for the past several weeks.  The second church to join us is the Malaga Community Church in Wolf County.  David and I met with the deacons on Saturday, August 24. On Sunday the 25th, the congregation unanimously voted to join our ministry. They have been without a regular pastor for approximately two years.

Please continue to be in prayer for the many ministries in which NHIM is involved in Eastern Kentucky.  If you would like to be a part of this ministry, please consider starting or joining an Eastern Kentucky Prayer Band.  We covet your prayers and invite you to join us in this important mission.

~ Brother Roy

Wheat and Weeds

wheatRead Matthew 13:24-30 and 37-43.  In these verses, Jesus teaches his followers with a powerful parable. Using a word picture familiar to his listeners, He teaches valuable life lessons:

The Two Sowers:

  1. The first is the Master himself. He sows the good seed of the gospel. The good seed, like wheat, sprung up and brought forth fruit, the children of the kingdom.
  2. The second sower is the enemy (the devil). He came under the cover of darkness and sowed tares, evil seed. The tares, children of the wicked one, also sprung up among the wheat. The tares were likely darnel, a type of rye grass. Early on the darnel closely resembled the wheat and was not easily distinguishable. It is obvious that in the mind of Jesus, the devil is real and is active. He sows tares that look like wheat, but in the end produce no acceptable fruit.

The Field:

  1. The field is the world, the whole world of men and women of all nations, people, and languages.
  2. It is a field of ‘probation’ where people are candidates for immorality.
  3. It is a field of ‘choice’ as each person chooses their eternal destiny.
  4. It is a field of ‘peril’ full of temptations and tares that threaten to choke out the good seed.
  5. It is also a field of ‘opportunity’ to bear fruit.

The Fruit:

  1. The field was soon seen to be productive. Both wheat and tares, good and evil, grew together. Cain and Able, the first children born to mankind, illustrate this principle.
  2. Often a cursory view would lead one to believe that the tares prosper.  They seem to do well often at the expense of the wheat.

Recommendations:

  1. The servants of the Master came and said unto him, “Do you want us to go and gather up the tares?” They were looking for a quick fix, a surface solution.
  2. He said, “No, because when you pull them up, you might also pull up the wheat.”
  3. It is exceedingly difficult for us to discriminate between good men and bad men. We are at best frail in our judgments and prone to err. Perhaps thousands that God has accepted, men would have rejected. It is also probable that many unconverted men that have amiable and good characteristics would be pronounced righteous.
  4. God has His own purposes in allowing the unjust to live. His purposes are to show clemency, longsuffering, patience, and mercy. His purposes will give the ungodly chances to repent and be saved. But we must also know that His graciousness, if ignored, will render the unrighteousness excuse-less!

The Harvest:

  1. The Harvest is the end of the world, and the reapers are the angels of the Lord. The harvest is predicted, certain, and awful for the lost. (II Peter 3:7)
  2. It will spell doom for the wicked. They will be gathered from among the righteous and cast into the furnace of fire. There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth.
  3. The righteous will shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father.

Jesus said, “HE WHO HAS EARS TO HEAR, LET HIM HEAR!” (Matthew 13:43)

~ Brother Roy