Thank God for Bologna

BolognaWhen our daughter, Lori, was small, we were trying to impress on her the importance of being thankful. One Sunday her Sunday School teacher asked the class what they were thankful for. Lori responded, “ I thank God for bologna.” The  teacher chuckled as she related the event to my wife. Sue was horrified and said, “People will think that’s all we feed the child!” But it was obvious to me that we were getting the point across.

1 Thessalonians 5:18 says, “In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.”  This exhortation from the Apostle Paul has a flavor of the impossible about it. The height to which it calls seems far too rugged and steep for our feeble feet. So much so that many never take it seriously. Others confess it to be true with their mouths but never put it into practice. Paul is perfectly serious about it, and not just on Thanksgiving Day either. Paul held it as a life principle. Paul’s life was one long trial. As his days were, even so was his end. He lay in a prison cell in a foreign country without parchment or pen with which to write, no cloak to brace against the chill and dampness, and abandoned by his companions.  Even in these conditions, he was not without thanksgiving on his lips and a song in his heart.

Paul’s directive to believers was born in the crucible of adversity and has an air of authority. This is a high standard. But God never calls us to do that which, through His grace, we cannot do. Gratitude is not a child of circumstance. The most grateful people I have known are often those who appear to have the least for which to be grateful. Paul’s letters explode with exultant thanksgiving. They ring with grateful praise. He was shipwrecked, stoned, hounded, whipped, and imprisoned. He was finally executed, but never did he stop his praise.

True gratitude is a child of faith. It is anchored firmly in the belief that “all things work together for good to them that love God, to them that are called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28)  As gratitude is a child of faith, it must be nurtured, developed, and trained. We must begin by noting the daily blessings of life. A man suffered a dreadful disease but recovered. Someone said, “I’d be thankful too if I was like him.” Yet that person was in excellent health and never sick. He simply took his health for granted. A gospel song from my Eastern Kentucky home says, “I want to thank you, Lord, for all the things I’ve never thanked you for. It’s not that I’m ungrateful, just forgetful, Lord. So I want to thank you for all the things I’ve never thanked you for.”

If we are to be truly grateful, we must throw away pride, self-sufficiency, and conceit. We must realize the ground upon which we walk, the air we breath, and life itself are all gifts from God. What would happen if God took away all but what is due to us as individuals? The sun and stars would vanish. Our bodies would dissolve into dust, and our immortal souls would be annihilated. Every thing would be lost and nothing would remain.

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Lord, help us in every thing to give thanks: for this is Your will through Jesus.

~ Brother Roy

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Such As I Have

beautiful gate

Some events are so beautiful they need to be shared again and again. The account in Acts 3:1-10 is a powerful example of such an event. This wonderful account is especially amazing, because it takes place in the shadow of the cross and the death of Jesus. His enemies were still walking the streets. The hatred they harbored for Jesus had not diminished, but had increased and was being directed toward His followers.

Something drastic happened to the disciples shortly after Jesus’ death. An infusion of power transformed them. The panic that sent Peter and John and the other disciples cowering in fear and seeking the shadows was gone. The fearful had now become bold. The timid were now brave. Oh, how we in this day need the infilling of the Holy Spirit that so dramatically changed the disciples. We also need to ‘tarry’ in our Jerusalem until we are endued with that power from on high (Luke 24:4).

Peter and John were going up to the temple at the hour of prayer. They encountered a lame man who was carried and laid at the gate of the temple that is called the Beautiful Gate.  He was there to ask alms of those entering the temple. Peter directed his gaze at the lame man and said, “Silver and gold have I none; but such as I have give I thee: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and walk. (Acts 3:6) 

Consider with me what Peter and John gave:

  • They gave their Presence. We need to come out of the shadows into the open with our witness. We must not be secret disciples. Peter and John came to the temple at the hour of prayer, the busiest time of day. They were in a place where they could be seen by people, especially those who were in need. Lord, get us out in the open with our faith where our presence can be seen and felt. Put us on the spot for Jesus’ sake.
  • They gave their Time. They took time out of their religious routine to reach out to the lame man. They stopped and looked and listened rather than hurry on by. It was not so much a look of pity or sadness, but of love and compassion. We could win the world to Christ if we first gave time to prepare ourselves in His presence – they were going to the temple to pray. After the right preparation, we must then give of our time to those in need.
  • They gave a Strong Hand to Lift. We need to give a strong hand to lift others up. “And he(Peter) took him by the right hand and raised him up.” (Acts 3:7) We need to use our strength in Jesus’ name to lift up people that need help. We have all heard the truism, ‘people don’t need a hand out – they need a hand up.’ The hand of friendship is good, but people’s greatest need is to be lifted up out of sin.
  • They gave Jesus. They ministered to the lame man in the name of Jesus Christ. The man then rightly used his newfound strength: “And he, leaping up, stood and walked, and entered with them into the temple, walking and leaping and praising God.” (Acts 3:8)

Such As You Have, Give… 

~ Brother Roy

The Perfect Pastor

perfect-pastorYears ago, someone handed me piece of paper on which was written the following words, “The perfect pastor preaches exactly ten minutes. He condemns sin, but never hurts anybody’s feelings. He works from eight in the morning until midnight and is also the church janitor. He is twenty-nine years old and has forty years of experience. He makes fifteen house calls a day and is always in the office.”

I have been involved in ministry for over half a century. I have also been privileged to preach in a variety of denominations, across cultures, in the United States and in many foreign countries. I’ve heard comments from “I didn’t come so far for such a short message” to “ you preach too long.” People have said, “I love the mountain humor you use,” and, “ I don’t think you should use funny stories in the pulpit.” Some seem to think the narrative paradigm, which I often employ in my preaching, is a strong tool for me, while others think it is too simplistic. I have been criticized for not using the King James Version exclusively and criticized for using it. The list could go on.

I want to share with you some thoughts on what makes an effective pastor. They are based on scripture, observation, and decades of personal experience:

  1. My first qualification seems so obvious as not to be mentioned; yet in recent years I’m not sure it’s obvious. God must call a true pastor. Many approach the role of pastor as a vocational choice. Good training can help a person be an effective church manager. They can be skilled at programming, finance, counseling, and public speaking, but unless they are called they will not be what God desires or what the congregation needs. In John 15:16 Jesus said, “You have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that you should go and bring forth fruit, and that fruit should remain…
  2. Secondly, and closely related to the first, the person must have a genuine salvation experience and the witness of the Spirit. Jesus said to a religious leader in His day,  “You must be born again.” (John 3:7) Jesus also said, “And if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall in the ditch.” (Matthew 15:14)
  3. A true pastor must have a passion for souls. Jesus said, “For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.” (Luke 19:10)  It stands to reason a pastor will want to follow Jesus’ example. A fire burning in their heart for a lost and dying world is the mark of a Christ like pastor.
  4. I think the role of true pastor requires a strong commitment to hard work, long hours, and at times sleepless nights. Preparing Biblically sound, doctrinally accurate, and challenging messages is time-consuming.  Paul’s advice to the young preacher, Timothy, was “Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.”(ll Tim. 2:15) Preaching, mentoring, and disciplining believers is at the core of the Great Commission. (Matt. 28:19,20)
  5. A pastor must be a compassionate person. They must move beyond sympathy for people’s hurts and needs. They must be willing to enter into the situation and help. Compassion means being a listening ear, a helping hand, a burden bearer, and providing Biblical counsel. The scripture teaches this about Jesus, “But when He saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion on them, because they fainted, and were scattered abroad, as sheep having no shepherd.” (Matt. 9:36)

Even when the pastor possesses the quantities described above, the formula for a successful church is not complete. The individuals in the congregation must pray for and support God’s person in the pulpit. They must respond to the message with willing hands and feet. One of the chief roles of the pastor is to train and equip those to whom the Lord has spoken. The church members must then assume the responsibility to take the Gospel to family, friends, neighbors, and to the work place. Pastors and church members are to be co-laborers for Christ.

~ Brother Roy

You Can’t Get There from Here

Houston HighwayFor the last several weeks I have been treated at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas. The greater Houston area has a population of about five million and a bewildering maze of highways. I was lost from the beginning. I believe I have at least as good a sense of direction as most people, but after the first few days of confusion I was losing confidence. I chanced to read the AAA Guide Book on Houston and things became clearer. The book reads as follows: “Before tackling the freeway system, it is wise to study a city map. Freeways encircle and crisscross the city; names often change with the direction. The major city access routes spiral out from central downtown, not adhering to a north-south or east-west format.”  Say what?

I was feeling a little like Thomas must have felt as Jesus shared with the disciples about His pending death on the cross (John 14:2-6).  Jesus told the group, “I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also. And where I go you know, and the way you know.” As I faced the bewildering labyrinth of Houston’s highways, I sensed a little of Thomas’ concern: “Thomas said to Him, ‘Lord, we do not know where you are going, and how can we know the way?’ Jesus said to him, “ I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

The Scriptures give us the ‘Blessed Assurance’ that Jesus is the way home to the place He has prepared for us. What a comfort to know that in the midst of a confusing world directing us to go this way or that way, we have a reliable and trust-worthy way, through Jesus, to our heavenly home. He is the Way!

One of my favorite passages of scripture is Isa. 35:1-10. Verses eight and nine are especially relevant to this devotional:  “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 on the road, although a fool, shall not go astray. No lion shall be there, nor shall any ravenous beast go upon it; it shall not be found there. But the redeemed shall walk there” (NKJ).  Redeemed people will walk on the highway of holiness, from which all moral filthiness will be excluded, as well as “ravenous lions of Satanic malignancy” (Wycliff-p.633). On that roadway even the simple and unwary traveler, once redeemed and born again, may travel without becoming lost.

You can get from where you are to heaven by the new birth and following Jesus. He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.

~ Brother Roy