Observing All Saints Day

SaintsANGELICO1430In the Protestant tradition in which I was raised, we did not pay much attention to All Saints Day.  In fact, I don’t think I had heard of All Saints Day until I was a teenager and learned that “Halloween” – which, ironically, we did celebrate every year with costumes, jack-o-lanterns, and trick-or-treating – was a contraction of “All Hallows Eve”, celebrated on the “eve” of All Hallows (or All Saints) Day.

I suspect that All Saints Day, which has been observed on November 1st since the 8th century, is largely ignored by many Protestant churches for seeming “too Catholic” and in fear of making idols of saints, an accusation that is often directed at Roman Catholic believers.  However, in recent years, I have found myself drawn spiritually to this observance.

One reason for my new-found appreciation for All Saints Day is that I draw strength from the witness of those who have gone before me.  Hebrews chapter 11 is widely recognized as the “Faith Hall of Fame”.  In this chapter, the writer of Hebrews gives us a brief summary of what faith is, then recounts examples of men and women who achieved righteousness by faith – Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Rahab, Gideon, Samson, David, and Samuel and the prophets. Then, in light of those great examples of faith, the writer gives us that great exhortation in the first two verses of chapter 12:  “Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

The writer to the Hebrews tells us that we can draw strength from the faith of those who have gone before – so that we too can run with endurance the race set before us.  The testimonies of those who have remained faithful through trials and tribulations help give us courage to face our own circumstances.

Another reason to remember the saints who have gone before us is that the faith we observe and practice today has been handed down to us by those godly men and women who lived by faith in their own time – sort of our own “faith family tree”.  Dennis Kinlaw has said that no one’s salvation begins in his or her self, but everyone’s salvation begins in someone else.  Though we must lay hold of our faith for ourselves, it is always built upon the faithfulness of others.  Someone shared that faith with us, and through their testimony and the conviction of the Holy Spirit we were led to belief.  The day we trusted Jesus as Savior can be traced through generations of faithful believers, all the way back to the Great Commission itself, when Jesus called His followers to go and make disciples of all nations.

On All Saints Day I think with fondness of the many, living and dead, who make up my own “Faith Hall of Fame”: my godly grandparents, those under whose preaching ministry I have sat, the teachers who invested in my life, the great writers and theologians who have helped guide my spiritual growth and understanding, the mentors who have had such an impact on my life.  As I remember that great “cloud of witnesses”, I am overwhelmed with gratitude and sing with the hymnwriter: “For all the saints, who from their labors rest, who Thee by faith before the world confessed, Thy Name, O Jesus, be forever blest! Alleluia! Alleluia!”

How about you?  Who is in your “Faith Hall of Fame”?

~ Matt Kinnell
NHIM Board Chair

Two Pumpkins: A Harvest Parable

two pumpkinsThere were two pumpkins in the field that were harvested and taken to the house. Both were washed, carried inside and placed on the kitchen table. The cap of both was removed and all the ‘gunky’ stuff, seeds and all, were scooped out. One was carved with an interesting face and a candle placed inside. The other one was cut into pieces and cooked. The first one was placed on the porch for a decoration. At night the candle was lit, and it gave out an eerie glow. As the days passed, it gradually deteriorated into a mushy mass. It was of no further use and thrown in the trash. The second one was cooked and used as food for the family. Some of it was used to make pumpkin soup. Some was used to make pumpkin bread and of course some used to make a delicious pumpkin pie.

In my parable, the pumpkins represent believers. Created by God to serve a useful purpose, they both became a part of the church. They were cleaned up and all the gunky stuff on the inside was removed. However, both did not serve the same purpose. Jesus’ words in Matthew 22:14 may prove helpful: “For many are called, but few are chosen.” God calls all who will listen to be a useful part of His Kingdom, but not all fulfill God intended use.

This parable aligns with a form often used in scripture. Things are presented in contrasting pairs to highlight the truth. For example in Luke 18:10, Jesus told of two men who went up to the temple to pray. Genesis 2:9 tells of two trees in the Garden of Eden. In Mark 15:25, Jesus was crucified between two thieves. 2 Timothy 2:20 speaks of two kinds of vessels, “some to honor and some to dishonor.” While the dishonorable are of no use, verse 21 gives the contrast: “If a man therefore purge himself from these, he shall be a vessel unto honor, sanctified, and meet for the master’s use, and prepared unto every good work.” 

Some people come into the church, but soon relegate themselves to ornamental status. They show up for Sunday morning services and church suppers, but are not deeply involved in the ministries of the church. They dress appropriately, smile, and shake hands. They are like the carved pumpkin, mainly ornamental. Others become “meet for the master’s use” and are “prepared unto every good work.”

Can you see yourself in the parable of the pumpkins?  May I paraphrase an Old  Testament  scripture in Joshua 24:15, “ Choose you this day whom you will serve”:

Choose You This Day Which Pumpkin You Will Be.

~ Brother Roy

Which Witch?

1009333_4708c93a5e_mThe month of October is an interesting time. It brings to mind fall leaves, shorter days, and of course, Halloween. Children don costumes, knock on doors, and utter those hopeful words: ‘trick-or-treat’. More and more adults are indulging in the frivolities of Halloween. Costume stores do an unbelievable business. This country spends multiplied millions of dollars on home and yard decorations.

While most of this may seem innocent fun, may I raise a more sinister thought? I’ll even raise a question, “Are you involved in witchcraft?” The expected response is likely, “Of course not!” But consider the Word of the Lord found in 1 Samuel 15:22-23 (NKJ): “Has the Lord as great a delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed than the fat of rams. For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, And stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry.” 

Webster’s World New Thesaurus relates the following terms to ‘rebellion’:  disobedient, resistant, disloyal, individualistic, independent-minded, malcontent, resist lawful authority, insubordinate, deserter. Do any of the terms describe you – or me?  May I supply a few examples from Scriptures (New Century Translation);

  • James 1:19, “ My dear brothers and sisters, always be willing to listen and slow to speak. Do not become angry easily, because anger will not help you live the right kind of life God wants.
  • James 1:26-27, “ If anyone one among you thinks he is religious, and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this one’s religion is useless. Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.
  • James 4:17, “ Anyone who knows the right thing to do, but doesn’t do it, is sinning.
  • Matthew 28:19, “So go and make followers of all people in the world. Baptize them in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Teach them to obey everything that I have taught you, and I will be with you always, even until the end of this age.
  • Malachi 3:8, “Should a man rob God? But you are robbing me. You ask, ‘How have we robbed you?’ ‘You have robbed me in your offerings and the tenth of your crops. So a curse is on you…”
  • James 2:19-20, “You believe there is one God. Good! But the demons believe that, too, and they tremble with fear. You foolish person! Must you be shown that faith that does nothing is worth nothing?”
  • Matthew 7:21.  Jesus said, “Not all of those who say ‘You are our Lord’, will enter the kingdom of heaven. The only people who will enter the kingdom of heaven are those who do what my Father in heaven wants.”

You don’t have to wear black and stir a cauldron of bat wing potion to practice witchcraft. Just be rebellious. When He says go, you don’t go. When He says give, you don’t give. When you know the right thing to do, you don’t do it.

“Disobedience is as bad as the sin of sorcery (witchcraft).” 1 Samuel 15:23

~ Brother Roy

Instinct for Home

geeseThere is nothing like the chirp of a Robin to signal the coming of spring. Something stirs in us at the sight of geese in their familiar ‘>’ and we know that the seasons are changing. The miracle of migration is one of life’s great mysteries. The birds never lose their way. How are they guided? It is not so much by vision – as marvelous as a bird’s sight may be it cannot pierce the darkness nor find markers on the endless expanse of the sea. It is not to accounted for by being shown the way by older birds – many young birds follow exact migration routes without being led. We call this marvelous ability ‘instinct’. Those who deny the existence of God are forced to reduce it to a mere series of chemical reactions. It seems to me that position takes far more faith than to acknowledge the Creator.  God has provided His creatures with a homing device; for some it is instinct, for humans it is the soul.

There are lessons to be learned from the animal kingdom. For example in Proverbs 6:8, we are advised, “Go to the ant, O sluggard, consider her ways and be wise.” Reflect with me on a few of these lessons:

  • We share with animals a common creator. The early chapters of Genesis validate this point. Along with evidences of a common origin, there are also unique characteristics found among the various species. God created man in His own image. Man has an inner consciousness and intelligence that allows him to think about God. We can love Him, obey Him, defy Him, and even reject His offer of mercy and salvation. No other creature has that power. Yet, there is in us, as in the migratory animals mentioned above, an instinct to return to our place of origin.
  • We often find ourselves a long way from home. Sin has alienated us from God. We are in a far country, a cold wasteland of the soul. We are far from the warm ‘Son’-shine of His love. But we can find comfort in knowing that even though sin has marred and distorted the image of God in us, it is still there – it has not been lost altogether. Like looking into a pool of water on a windy day, I can rest assured that my image is still there. Even if the ripples distort it, it’s there. His image may be blurred and obscured, but it is still in us. We may wander far from God, but we will not escape His Spirit (Psalm 139:9). We still sense a homeward pull.
  • The Homing Instinct is never fully erased, even by the most grievous of sins. In Psalm 116:7, a pilgrim on his way back from captivity in Babylon sings, “Return unto rest, O my soul.”  But there is no rest for the soul except in God. St. Augustine said,  “We came forth from Him, and we are homesick until we return.” Legend tells that Jesus on his visit to Jerusalem at 12 years old was found discussing with the rabbis the question “Where shall rest be found?” One said, “In the abundance of the world.” Another said, “In the good opinion of our fellowman.” A third answered, “ In being content with present conditions. A fourth responded, “In enjoying the simple pleasures of life.” A fifth concluded, “In self-respect founded in virtue.” Jesus remarked, “None ever resteth until he findeth God.” Our souls are stirred to heavenward flight by the homing device God built within each of us.
  • As with the animals, man may face fearsome, opposing forces when trying to get home. For the birds, strong winds, violent storms, a hail of gunfire, etc., makes the homeward journey difficult. With man, perhaps free will offers the most formidable obstacle. Nothing in the realm of nature is opposed to the law of its being, except man. Lower orders have instincts. These instincts are bondage to the laws of its being. In man, however, intelligence coupled with free will allows him to oppose the laws of his being. Head winds may offer hindrances to a flight of a returning bird, but by instinct they will soon rise above these to calmer air. With man the law of our being can be over-ridden by our own will. We can refuse to obey that call within us to go home to God.

A robin in a southern field says to itself, “March has come. The sun is shining. I must be off. The snow is melting from my nesting site a thousand miles to the north.” No sooner said than he is off on the wing, obeying his God given instinct. But the voice of God may come to a prodigal in a far country, and he shivers and hesitates and will not go. He refuses, as his free will allows, the call to come home.

In the far north a lonely mallard, in an ice-locked lake, was left behind, while his companions were preening their feathers by a warm southern stream. It strives to rise only to flutter back to the earth because of a broken wing.  Is there someone reading this devotional who has tried again and again to rise and go to God only to fall back? Broken by sin and isolated from God, do you have a desire to go home, but seem unable to do so? In Luke 4:18, Jesus provides the answer: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised.” 

Jesus Is The Way Home 

~ Brother Roy

More of What’s Happening in Eastern Kentucky

Daniel_Boone_National_Forest_Tater_KnobI am approximately half-way through my cancer treatments at M.D. Anderson in Houston, Texas. My scripture verses during these days are Psalm 121:1-2:I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help. My help cometh from the Lord, which made heaven and earth.” The Lord certainly has been my help during these trying days, and I give Him praise. But, oh, how I long to see the hills of Eastern Kentucky. The fall colors must be beautiful about now. As great as autumn in the hills may be, that’s not the beauty my heart longs for. It is the people: David and Nora, the men and women in our lay ministers class, friends at Bear Pen and Shoemaker Churches, the new congregations at Malaga and Baxter that I’ve scarcely met, and a host of others who are part of our ministry. These folks stay in my mind and on my heart. There is so much going on in Eastern Kentucky. Our ministry is growing at such a rapid rate that our Ministry Team is greatly overworked. I am so sad that I am temporarily unable to take my place in this church-planting ministry.

I want to add some recent events to update the last Eastern Kentucky post on the NHIM website. I filed it just before coming to Texas for my cancer treatments:

  • Pastor David Spencer and Kenny Childers, one of our new preachers in training, just made a flying trip to Jackson, Mississippi. David was invited to give the Invocation Prayer at the Installation of Dr. John Neihof as President of Wesley Biblical Seminary. Before moving to Jackson, Dr. Neihof was active in Bear Pen Community Church where David is the pastor. Because of  ministry responsibilities, David and Kenny drove all night to get to Jackson for the Installation Service and then returned home the next morning.
  • The Mississippi trip was made possible thanks to the support of the McFaddin Family. They recently provided funding for a dependable vehicle for David to use in ministry. Their support also allowed us to purchase a used 15 passenger van to transport people to church on Shoemaker Ridge.
  • Several people have been saved in the last few weeks through the ministry. Pastor Mike Spencer reports new converts at Wide Creek Church. There have been new converts at Ridge Chapel on Shoemaker Ridge. Several new believers have been added at the Bear Pen Church. The latest new convert was on October 10th in a home visit by David. With God’s help, there will be more new believers added to our ministry by the time you read this report.
  • A nine day Revival began yesterday with three nights of revival services at each of the following churches: Malaga Community Church, Bear Pen Community Worship Center, and Ridge Chapel. Members from each church will be supporting revival services in the other churches.
  • Members of our New Preachers Team are growing in the nurture and wisdom of the Lord. Several have already stepped up to lead Bible studies and are being counted on to fill pulpits almost every Sunday. A new team member, Mark England, has joined the group. He is an older student at Kentucky Mountain Bible College (KMBC) and has demonstrated strong preaching skills.
  • Paula Smith, David’s daughter, is a member of our New Preachers Team. She worked with my wife Sue in planning and directing our women’s retreat. Paula is doing a Bible study in her home each week. One of the ladies who attends is now leading a Bible study at our new Malaga Church. This lady is so excited about being involved in ministry that she is taking a night class at KMBC.
  • Eugene Spencer, David’s son, is a graduate of KMBC. He is a construction worker and also serves as adult Sunday School teacher and song leader at the Bear Pen Church. Eugene is taking a major role in filling pulpits, especially at our new church in Baxter, Kentucky (a two hour drive from his home). Eugene and his wife recently adopted two little girls from the Congo.
  • Our greatly needed Storage Facility has been completed. We are now looking for industrial shelving for the facility. If you have any leads, please contact me. We are building an office in the corner of the facility to serve as the central office for the many ministries. Any help in this endeavor will be greatly appreciated.
  • We have several new Prayer Band members joining us to pray for our Church Planting Ministry and revival in Eastern Kentucky. Thank you, Elaine Long, for helping this ministry get started in the Milton, Kentucky, area. Thank you, Sue Wells, for your support of our Prayer Band ministry in the Morehead, Kentucky, area.

Miss Sue and I are staying involved in ministry during our stay here in Houston.  We have a chance daily to share with the staff and residents here at the Salvation Army Resident Shelter for Homeless Women, where we are staying.  I will be speaking soon at The Salvation Army’s Homeless Shelter for Men here in Houston.  I am scheduled to share about our ministry with two Methodist Churches in the Houston area.  I am also going to get a chance to share with the CEO of the Living Water Foundation about our Water Well Project in the Samburu desert of Kenya, East Africa.

Thank you all for your continued prayers and support of the ministries of New Hope International.

~ Brother Roy

Urgent Prayer Request

We have an urgent prayer request for our son-in-law, Rich Wright.  (Rich also serves as Treasurer for the NHIM Board.)  Rich is now working out of Johannesburg, South Africa, and has been seriously ill.  He has had a recurrence of previous health problems with his liver.  Fortunately, a coworker from Louisville is with Rich and taking care of him until our daughter, Lori, can get there.  Lori is flying over on Friday.  Rich and Lori need many prayers lifted up on their behalf.

Thank you all for your continued prayer support for me as I continue cancer treatments in Houston, Texas.  We appreciate every one of your prayers.

~ Brother Roy

Come, Let Us Worship

worship-hands-clip-art-pictures-and-praying-192059Recently, I have been impressed with the many different forms of worship. In the last couple of months, I have been privileged to worship in a variety of settings.

  • A few weeks ago, I preached in one of our new church plants deep in the hills of Eastern Kentucky. The building is a 25 ft. x 40 ft. concrete block structure. The music and preliminaries definitely reflected the culture of the area.
  • Two weeks later, I preached at an Evangelical Methodist Church in Bayou La Batre, Alabama.  The building is a beautiful steel structure that is beautifully appointed. The ambiance of the service had the flavor of the Deep South.
  • Recently, I attended a Maronite Catholic Church in Houston, Texas. The cathedral-like structure was huge and radiated classic elegance. The ethos of the service reflected its Lebanese heritage.
  • This past Sunday, I was at Champions Cowboy Church in Waller, Texas. The building was a contemporary metal building with plain, unfinished wood trim and open ceiling trusses that were painted black.  It had a real cowboy feel.
  • A final example in my mind is the Free Methodist Church I attend when I’m at home in Wilmore. The building is a lovely white structure in a traditional style. The services typify its denominational ties.

The services in these churches range from traditional hymns with piano and organ to guitars, fiddles and gospel music. Music varies from well-rehearsed choirs and lofty hymns to praise bands and contemporary music.  The formats reflect an array of approaches from scripted liturgy, to mainstream denominational services, to a free and unstructured style.  The dress standards varied from ministers in clerical robes with the congregation in dressy clothing and suits and ties, to jeans and western shirts without a tie in sight, including the pastor. The preaching styles of the ministers are as different as the choice of appropriate dress and range from manuscript, to computer-assisted outlines, to extemporaneous delivery. 

Psalm 95:6 says, “O come, let us worship and bow down: let us kneel before the Lord our Maker.”  What is worship? I suppose all of us have a general idea of what worship should be, but we might be well served to consider worship in more depth. Jesus insisted that worship was something infinitely more than being physically present in a place dedicated to God. One can be physically present in church and engage in the form and ritual without a true worship experience with God.  John 4:22 (EVS), “ The hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship Him.” ll Timothy 3:2-5 (EVS), “ For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people.”

What does genuine worship look like?

  • Genuine worship is both an attitude and an activity. It is an attitude of reverent awe felt in the presence of the Holy God. Isaiah chapter six reflects this concept. We sense a need to bow low because of who HE IS.
  • Genuine worship is the adoration and profound appreciation of the heavenly Father as we think of His love, mercy, and grace. Too often we explode into His presence with a ‘want list’ and assorted demands. We come, not so much with thanksgiving, but with things we desire from Him.
  • Genuine worship is an experience of communion with the Triune God. It is a time when our soul communes with the Eternal. We, by grace given through Jesus, may enter into experiences Adam and Eve enjoyed before the Fall.
  • Genuine worship is that time in which we make every effort to give ourselves wholly to the Lord. Romans 12:1 (ESV), “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.”

There are too many benefits from true worship to enumerate, but let me share just a few:

  • When true believers worship in spirit and truth, they will discover increasing harmony between God’s will and their will. In turn, this produces peace of heart and mind rather than the discord that follows an insincere time of worship.
  • True worship will bring a sense of security and freedom from fear. Doubts will be dispelled and comfort will come. “What a fellowship, what a joy divine, leaning on the everlasting arms.”
  • True worship can deliver a person from the tyranny of material things. The world outside of true worship gives a never-ending bondage to the desire for ‘things’. The want of more and better occupies time belonging to Him. Through true worship a person is redirected to things that are eternal.
  • It is in times of true worship that answers to prayers are experienced. There is wisdom in following the pattern of Jesus. He intuitively turned to the heavenly Father when faced with trouble and trials.

 O worship the Lord in the beauty of Holiness (Psalm 96:9)

~ Brother Roy