Decisions, Decisions

DecisionsJoel 3:14 offers us a provocative verse: “Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision: for the day of the Lord is near in the valley of decision.” To be human is first of all to be a decision maker. One of the crowning glories of man is that we are not machines. Nor are we merely creatures of instinct. Our Creator has endowed us with the ability to reason and make decisions. We are creatures with free will. We are able to make moral choices. Let me offer three categories of decisions men make:

  • First there are small decisions. Even these small decisions are important. How do we know when a so-called ‘small decision’ may really be very important? A university student makes a small decision to skip a class. What difference will one class make? On the final exam there are several questions from the day he missed. He fails the exam. His grade point average drops below the standard to stay in school. He drops out of school, a profession, and a way of life! Little decisions are often cumulative. They add up. Our whole life may be determined as a result of small decisions.
  • There are big decisions. Little decisions do not always add up to great ones. Sometimes a major decision, once made, can influence all the small ones. A man found a brief case containing a large sum of money. He was poor and could really use the money. Yet, he was not tempted to keep it. He had decided a long time before to be honest. He turned it in. Many people are confused and frustrated by day-to-day decisions. One major decision could have solved the small ones.
  • There are ultimate decisions. I have carried the following poem by James Russell Lowell in my mind since youth:

Once to every man and nation
Comes the moment to decide
In the strife of truth with falsehood
For the good or evil side
Some great cause, God’s new Messiah
Offering each the bloom or blight
And the choice goes by forever
Twixt that darkness and the light

We have something to decide. Shall we say yes or no to God’s will? Multitudes are pushed about, lost, and frustrated. Their lives are moving inevitably toward judgment and doom because they do not make a personal decision as to their relationship with God. Why are so many lives complicated beyond endurance? Why are so many blown about by every wind of circumstance? Why? It is because they have not made the ultimate decision to follow Christ.  Small decisions and big decisions are influenced by the ultimate decision.

Make the ultimate decision to follow Jesus. It  makes all the difference.

~ Brother Roy

Malaga Minute

Malaga Community Church

Malaga Community Church is one of the newest partners in our church planting / revival ministries in Eastern Kentucky. When they affiliated with our ministry in August, they had not had a pastor for approximately two years. We have sent several ministers to fill in until we could secure a regular pastor. Mark England has preached at Malaga for the last few weeks. The congregation loved Mark and his family. Mark fell in love with the Malaga Church and community. David Spencer and I met with the Board of Elders on January 11th to discuss Mark and his possible appointment. Last Sunday, January 12th, the Board unanimously recommended Mark to the congregation. The church wholeheartedly agreed to call Mark as their pastor.

We praise the Lord for answered prayers that have brought Mark and Malaga Community Church together.

Terah: Halfway Home

Artist's conception of ancient Ur

Artist’s conception of ancient Ur

The Biblical account of Terah’s life is found in Genesis 11:27-31. Not long after God had washed the world clean of sinful civilization with the Flood, sin filled the hearts and minds of men again. A new start did little to change the inclinations of mankind. An area identified as Ur of the Chaldeans soon became an epicenter of idolatry. The moon god, Nannar, and his consort, Ningal, were principal objects of worship. The area was famous for its ziggurats – high towers, not the least of which was the Tower of Babel (see recent post “Shadows of Babel”). 

Terah was Abraham’s father, and together with the rest of the family they lived in the demoralizing environment of Ur. At some point, something began to stir in Terah’s heart. Perhaps he could see the detrimental impact this den of iniquity was having on his family. Scripture is clear, God’s laws are imprinted on the hearts of men. Even the Gentile world knows the difference between right and wrong. Romans 2:14b (NCT): “ This is true even though they do not have the law.  They show that in their hearts they know what is right and wrong.”  Terah responded to the urging of the law of God written on his heart.

Abraham's Journey from Ur to Canaan

Abraham’s Journey from Ur to Canaan

Under the burden of great need, Terah gathered his family and left Ur. Genesis 11:31b: “…and they went out with them from Ur of the Chaldeans to go to the land of Canaan, and they came to Haran and dwelt there.” When the family group came to the city of Haran, they stopped. Haran was on a busy caravan route connecting many of the major cities of this ancient world. It provided a natural stopover place for Terah  and his family on their trek to Canaan. Even as we breathed a sigh of relief when Terah made his exit from Ur, we cannot help now but hold our breath as he stops in Haran, halfway home, between Ur and his destination.

Like a new convert, he flees sin and moves out to fashion a new life cradled in the arms of God. He had been lost in an environment saturated by sin, but now he is on his way to the Promised Land.  Here let us learn a great lesson, “and they came unto Haran, and dwelt there.” Haran was a fertile, well-watered plain and provided a comfortable place to stop. But starting is not finishing. Matthew 10:22b alerts us to a great truth: “He that endureth to the end shall be saved.”  Galatians 6:9 reinforces this truth: “ And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.” The Apostle Paul’s personal testimony bears witness to this truth, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (2 Timothy 4:7). 

In light of what we see in Terah’s account, one of the saddest verses in Scripture may be Genesis 11:32: “So the days of Terah were two hundred and five years, and Terah died in Haran.” He died halfway home. The Scripture does not explain why he didn’t continue. Perhaps as time passed the brightness of Canaan began to dim and the foulness of Ur began to fade. Maybe his fallen nature convinced him to stop before he got too far from where he started. Perhaps it was satisfaction with where he was. He was in what he considered to be a good place, so why go on? Terah started, but did not complete his intended journey. He did not finish his course. How many people start with the new birth and intend to make it to heaven, but stop part way and never complete the journey to their heavenly home? They escape the foul habitat of sin only to pull up short of their destination.

Prayer: Lord, help us to finish the journey we have started. May we not stop halfway home. May we follow Jesus all the way to heaven.

~ Brother Roy

Mad Cow Disease

masaai cattleSeveral years ago, I was at a remote mission compound of World Gospel Mission in Kenya.  The compound was at Oldergesi, deep in Maasai Land. It was New Years Eve, and one of our missionaries had asked me to bring the watch night sermon. Like many cultures, the Maasai men are not overly involved in church. I wanted to get the men to come to the service if possible. The Maasai are a nomadic pastoralist people – their cattle are their life, and they are amazing animal husbandmen. I came through London on my way to Kenya. The newspapers were full of alarming reports of Mad Cow Disease. Thousands of cattle had either died of the disease or had to be destroyed for fear they would contaminate healthy animals. The disease was also showing up in the United States and several other countries.

Believe it or not, these remote villagers were well aware of Mad Cow Disease. Some of the men from time to time walked to Narok, the seat of tribal government for the Maasai People. It was approximately 55 miles to the town. Narok had a few places where television was available, and the men loved to see soccer, wrestling, and especially the news. They had heard of the outbreak of Mad Cow Disease and were gravely concerned. I sought to take advantage of their concern. The word circulated through the Oldergesi area that the topic of my watch night message would be “Mad Cow Disease.” I have a fairly strong biology background, so I armed myself with  newspapers I had brought from London along with some general knowledge of the disease and went to work on the sermon. A large group of men came and gathered around the building. Not many came in, but the men jockeyed for position around the open windows and doors.

Following the example of Jesus, I developed a message based on something with which Maasai were familiar.  I will not regale you with the details of the message, but I want to share the spiritual application. I shared with the people how Mad Cow  Disease interfered with the messages from the brain of the cows to muscles and various other organs. The cows would stagger and stumble and fall. Finally, unable to control muscles and other organs, they died terrible deaths. I then used the analogy that what Mad Cow Disease did to the animals, so sin does to humans. Sin interferes with messages from the Head, which is Jesus, to us. I let them know that sin, just like Mad Cow Disease, if not treated will end in death. It is also passed from one ‘infected’ person to another. I told the people about the cure for sin. The blood of Jesus that was shed for them was the answer. The Maasai already believed, as did our ancient Hebrew ancestors, that “life is in the blood” (Leviticus 17:11). I shared with them, “He (Jesus) is the One who loves us, who made us free from our sins with the blood of His death” (Revelation 1:5). 

Thank God the Gospel of Jesus Christ transcends cultures and time. Jesus is able to save from sin, the deadly disease of the soul. Is sin interfering with God’s message to you? Jesus is the remedy.

~ Brother Roy

Jehovah-Nissi: “The Lord Is My Banner”

jehovah nissiAs we move into the New Year, we cannot be sure what events will transpire as the pages fall from the calendar.  Two perspectives can take as we move into the future. We can proceed with fear and trepidation or with confidence and equanimity. I choose to go forward with confidence and faith.

This confidence and faith finds a foundation in the account in Exodus 17:8-15. The familiar unfolding of the events on that ancient day inspires assurance in God’s providential care. When Moses raised the ‘Rod of God’ high enough to be seen on the battlefield, Israel prevailed. When the Rod was lowered, the enemy prevailed. With the Rod of God held high, Israel won the battle. Here, the Lord becomes known as Jehovah Nissi – “The-Lord-Is-My-Banner”.  There are many examples in history of a standard or banner provoking courage and confidence that led to victory.

iwo jimaThe image of American Soldiers raising the flag on Iwo Jima causes goose bumps, tears, and a flood of courage to rise. Our own great National Anthem illustrates the point. “Oh say, can you see, by the dawn’s early light, what so proudly we hailed at the twilight’s last gleaming? Whose broad stripes and bright stars thro’ the perilous fight, O’er the ramparts we watched, were so gallantly streaming? And the rocket’s red glare, the bombs bursting in air, Gave proof thro’ the night that our flag was still there.”  That banner has and still does inspire and give courage to a great nation.

If we can find such motivation in the banner of a country that will someday pass away, how much more ought we to have courage and confidence in the Cross of Christ.  It is the Standard, the Banner under which we can move forward in faith. All of the bombs, bullets, bayonets, and marching battalions of all the armies on earth hurled against us in this new year and all the years to come cannot pull down the Cross. It is our banner, our standard: The Lord Is Our Banner. It was raised on Mount Calvary for all to see.  It may be seen from sickrooms and prisons, from the country and from the city. It may be seen through sunshine and storms. It can be seen from a position of poverty and of wealth. There is no vantage point on earth where Jehovah Nissi, our Banner, cannot seen. Therefore, let us confidently march into tomorrow “looking unto Jesus the Author and Finisher of our faithHebrews 12:2.   

“You (The Lord) have raised the banner to gather those who fear You.  Now they  can stand up against the enemy.”  Psalm 60:4

~ Brother Roy

Seven of Life’s “Sure” Things

7In the last devotional on this website, I shared seven of life’s uncertainties. Perhaps a brief review of the Biblical use of the number ‘7’ is in order here. It may represent a numerical value, such as one, two, etc.  Or in the Biblical sense it may also represent the idea of completeness or maturity. The term seven occurs through scripture. For example, it took seven days to create the world, there were seven spirits of demons, seven trespasses, and so on until the Book of Revelation where the term seven occurs frequently.  Here, I’ll be using the term seven in both ways.  I will share seven actual verses (New King James Version).  Also, there are so many other certainties that space will not permit the listing of them. The seven verses here are representative of life’s certainties:

  1. Sure Promises  “Blessed be the Lord, who hath given rest to His people Israel, according to all that He promised. There has not failed one word of all His good promise, which He promised through His servant Moses.” (1 Kings 8:56)
  2. Sure Foundations  “Behold, I lay in Zion a stone for a foundation, a tried stone, a precious cornerstone, a sure foundation; Whoever believes will not act hastily.” (Isaiah 28:16)
  3. Sure Reward  “And whoever gives one of these little ones only a cup of cold water in the name of a disciple, assuredly, I say to you, he shall by no means lose his reward.”  (Matthew 10:42)
  4. Sure Anchor  “This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which enters the Presence behind the veil, where the “forerunner has entered for us, even Jesus, having become High priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.” (Hebrews 6:19)
  5. Sure Love  “For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus.”  (Romans 8:38-39)
  6. Sure Acceptance   “All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out.”  (John 6:37)
  7. Sure Immortality   For we know that if our earthly house , this tent, is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.”  (2 Corinthians 5:1)

These certainties listed are sure and steadfast. We have it in writing!  “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, and that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God” (John 5:13).

~ Brother Roy