Sunrise

DSC_0443As an early riser, I love to see the sunrise. I’ve seen and photographed beautiful sunrises in Africa, across most of the Caribbean Islands, Hawaii, the South Pacific, Peru and a many other venues. One of my favorites places to watch the sun come up is Dauphin Island, Alabama. Precious Christian friends, Wayne and Pam Eldridge, have a lovely beach house on the island. They have graciously invited us to come whenever we can to rest from our labor and enjoy the beauty of Dauphin Island.

As the sun pushes toward the horizon, it seems the darkness tries, if only momentarily, to retain its grip on the dark skies. My heart always quickens a beat in anticipation of the burst of golden light that inevitably overcomes the night. Soon the shadows flee and before my admiring eyes the sunrise paints the scene with golden hues. Words from a contemporary chorus well up inside: “He clothes Himself in light, the darkness tries to hide, and trembles at His sight and trembles at His sight – How great is our God!”

DSC_0296For a brief moment, in my mind’s eye, I can stand as an observer of Genesis 1: 1-3:  In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. Then God said, ‘Let there be light’; and there was light.”

Often special memories come to me of a dark night, long ago in eastern Kentucky. I was 15 years old and becoming increasingly aware of my sin-dark soul. I was attending a revival in a little Free Will Baptist Church that sat beside the railroad tracks. The massive coal trains would rumble by and literally shake the church. As they passed by, the powerful locomotives belched out smoke, cinders, and soot. A dark cloud covered everything. My soul was shaken with conviction. My dark, sin-ladened heart trembled in fear. It was there I heard Jesus say… “I have come as a light into the world, that whoever believes in Me should not abide in darkness” (John 12:46). 

DSC_0603That dark night, the light of Christ came to me. Since then, I have been privileged to witness many marvelous sunrises. But none can compare to the explosion of light that flooded my soul that night. The reality of John 8:12 was mine: “Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, ‘I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life’.” For 56 years, Jesus has been the light of my life.

I LOVE SUNRISES

~ Brother Roy

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They’re Out There

Daniel_Boone_National_Forest_Tater_KnobOur church planting ministry in eastern Kentucky is experiencing amazing success. A frequently asked question keeps coming up, “Where are you going to find pastors for all the new churches?” I respond with a story David Spencer shared with me about a missionary who was working with an unreached people group:  An old missionary was serving in an area that had never heard the Gospel. The Lord was richly blessing and new congregations were popping up everywhere. In this region with an unreached population, friends started asking, “Where do you think you are going to find preachers for all these new churches?” The old missionary simply replied, “Oh, they are out there! They’ve just not been saved yet.”

The wisdom in that little story seems to be coming true for us. We now have several young men and women who have been ‘called’ to join us in this ministry. We are providing mentoring, teaching sessions, and reading material for them. Training sessions have been occurring over recent months. Early morning prayer meetings are held on a weekly basis with members of our new ministry team. David is overseeing sermon and devotional preparation. Initially, they all have had an opportunity to preach trial sermons before the group and be evaluated. Now, many of them are regularly filling pulpits where needed. We are also working with Kentucky Mountain Bible College to develop strong practical programs that will be tailored to the needs of working people. In-service and on-the-job training is essential. It will be necessary for our start-up churches to have bi-vocational pastors. We are thankful for the enthusiasm and commitment of these men and women. Without them we would not be able to continue expanding our ministry.

Let me share two specific examples of the Lord’s provisions for this ministry:

  1. After Malaga Community Church joined our ministry, Mark England, a student and part time employee of Kentucky Mountain Bible College, expressed interest in participating of our ministry. As Mark preached a few Sundays for us at Malaga, a strong bond developed between Mark’s family and the community. Mark is now the pastor of the church and doing very well.
  2. When Faith Community Church in Baxter, Kentucky, became a part of our ministry, we mainly filled the pulpit with our new preachers in training. After a few months, Freddie Finley, an elementary teacher at Mt. Carmel Elementary School, felt the call to pastoral ministry and preached several times for us at Faith Community Church. Within a few weeks, the congregation had adopted Freddie and his family. Freddie is now the pastor at Faith Community Church and will be moving into the community when this school year is finished.

2 Chronicles 16:9 says, “For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show Himself strong on behalf of those whose heart is loyal to Him” (NKJ).    Are you one of those on whose behalf the Lord wants to show Himself strong? Our Church Planting Ministry needs people who are committed to helping fulfill the “Great Commission”. Will you pray for us and support us as the Lord may direct? Contact us at New Hope International for ways you can be involved.

~ Brother Roy

We Have a Dropout Problem

Hand written "I Quit" on a greenboardFor thirty-three years, I served on the faculty of Asbury University. Each fall at Freshman Orientation a new set of bright, expectant faces gathered for the opening of the school year. Realistically, I knew many of them would not make it until the end of the year, let alone four years until graduation. For various reasons, they would drop out. Our educational systems seem plagued with dropouts. The problem of high school dropouts is staggering. Thousands of young men and women prematurely leave school, unprepared for the future.

Even more alarming to me as a minister, as well as a teacher, is the dropout rate from the Church. I’m sad to say that a majority of the people who join a church will become inactive and eventually drop out. This is not a new problem for the Church. John’s Gospel records a day when Jesus gave the people who were following Him  “a hard saying”  (John 6:66 NKJ), and, “From that time many of His disciples went back and walked with Him no more.”

Though many more problems could be cited, may I share with you four ways why so many people in our day drop out of church?

  • Those who act mainly on emotion and impulse often become dropouts. They give a semblance of conversion, but as time passes their commitment wanes. In Matthew 13:3-9 (NKJ), Jesus shares the parable of the sower. Then, Jesus explains the parable in verses 18 to 23. Notice verses 20 & 21: But he who received the seed on stony places, this is he who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy, yet he has no root in himself, but endures only for a while. For when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately he stumbles.”  Ephesians 3:17 admonishes believers to be “rooted and grounded” in faith, lest they fall away.
  • Those who do not participate regularly in corporate worship are candidates for becoming dropouts.  Hebrews 10:22-25: “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful. And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much more as you see the Day approaching.”  Ignatius, one of the revered early Church Fathers, says, “When ye frequently, and in numbers meet together, the powers of Satan are overthrown, and his mischief is neutralized by your like-mindedness in the faith.” I will concede that there are circumstances that may prevent worshiping with other believers.  However, when we are able, it is not wise to forsake the assembling of ourselves together.
  • Those who seek to follow Christ amid other pursuits often become numbered with the dropouts. College students who put social life, athletics, etc., as their priority may not keep Christ supreme in their lives. People who want to follow Christ as one among many interests are often destined to drop out. In Matthew 13:22, Jesus says, “Now he who received seed among the thorns is he who hears the word, and the cares of this world and the deceitful of riches choke the word, and he becomes unfruitful.” To follow Christ means an exclusive commitment to Him. Jesus will tolerate no rivals. In Matthew 6:24, Jesus says, “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other; or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.”
  • Those who want to make Jesus fit into their own plans and schemes are in danger of becoming dropouts.  Today we want a moral code that will let us do what we want to do. People will soon discover they cannot manipulate Jesus into their religious mold. They drop out. Romans 12:2 gives the following instructions: “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.”

“The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but he who heeds counsel is wise.”  Proverbs 12:15

~ Brother Roy

Exceedingly – Abundantly

Green Mountain

Green Hill Community Church

“Now unto Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us,”  Ephesians 3:20 NKJ.  That scripture came to mind on March 14, 2014, as David Spencer and I stood in the County Court Clerk’s Office in Harlan, Kentucky. We were there to record the deed for the Green Hill Community Church. In a rapidly moving sequence of events, our Church Planting Ministry in Eastern Kentucky had added another church. Through contacts that David had established earlier, a request came to us to assume responsibility and spiritual leadership for the Green Hill Church at the foot of Pine Mountain in Harlan County.

It is amazing that in an area where many, if not most, have preached the funeral of Church Planting, Church Growth, and Revival in Eastern Kentucky, the Lord is breathing life into a sleeping giant. Malaga Community Church in Wolfe County, Faith Community Church in Harlan County, and now Green Hill Community Church have all become part of our church planting and revival vision. New Hope International is partnering with the Kentucky Mountain Holiness Association in the belief that ‘together we can’! We can see revival sweep through the mountains of Eastern Kentucky. We also believe that the fire of God-sent revival in the mountains can move across borders and boundaries like it did in the early days of the New Testament Church.

Green Mountain - inside

Inside the Green Hill church

A recent survey has revealed that approximately 670, 000 precious souls in the mountains of Eastern Kentucky are ‘unchurched’. We are on the move to remedy that situation. Ridge Chapel in Lee County opened a little less than two years ago, and now in a matter of seven or eight months three other churches have been activated in the cause of winning the lost and building Christ’s church. Each time a new church has opened with us, God has provided for ministry. New people have felt the ‘call’ and joined in to help us fill the pulpits. We are mentoring and teaching and these new folks are growing rapidly and assuming responsibility.

Rejoice with us! On April 6, we will have our ‘official’ Opening Day at Green Hill Community Church. Join with us in person if possible. If not, please pray and any financial help you could provide would be greatly appreciated.

~ Brother Roy

When Jesus Hides

hide and seekJohn relates an event in his gospel with a hint of the miraculous and mysterious (John 8:59). Jesus made a bold declaration in the temple: “…before Abraham was, I AM.”  It incensed the Jews. John reports, “Then they took up stones to throw at Him; but Jesus hid Himself and went out of the temple, going through the midst of them, and so passed by.” An obvious explanation might be, they were ‘blinded’ by their anger. While it is often true that people can be blinded by anger, I want to explore what I think is a deeper meaning.

It is not unusual for people who call themselves believers to look around and find themselves alone. Jesus is nowhere to be found. This “hiding”, it seems to me, is not by His design, but by the distance people willfully allow between themselves and Him. Whenever a life takes to groping around, dazed and uncertain, as though Jesus had hidden Himself, you can be sure that person has deliberately or absent-mindedly moved away. They have closed their eyes to His presence.

He may be hidden from our view if we move back into yesterday. He stands forever beckoning us forward and upward. If we move back into sin, we lose contact with Him. Years ago when I was a pastor, a man was saved through the ministry of our church. He became a regular in attendance. He was one of those “every time the church doors were open” type of person. Something happened in his life, and he dropped out of church. He turned to alcohol. He became as faithful to the tavern as he had been to church. One of my deacons met the man coming out of the tavern. The former church member said to him, “I thought you were my friend. I rarely ever see you. You don’t come around any more.” The deacon replied, “We just don’t go to the same places or hang out with the same people these days. I am still in church with God’s people who love you. Won’t you come back? We really miss you.”

Jesus may be hidden to some who appear to be on the right road, but are going the wrong direction. Like the Jews in Jesus’ day, they attempt to reduce faith in God to a legalistic set of rules. Adding to the Gospel or taking away, they specifically prescribe a particular mode or method of things like baptism or communion. They may choose to accept only one translation of scripture (their preference), or allow only one type of music. Rather than abounding in grace, they narrow the perspective to include only those who see things ‘their way’. The circle gets smaller and smaller until even the Lord is left out.

He appears to be hiding to those who get caught up in signs and wonders. Except they see physical manifestations of His presence, they lose confidence in Him and His promises. Like Thomas, unless they can see nail prints with their own eyes (John 20:25), they drift away. And similar to Thomas, they may miss Him when He comes.  “But Thomas, one of the twelve, called Didymus, was not with them when Jesus came” (John 20:24).  Jesus had a disdain for a signs approach to Him.  Matthew 12:38: “Then certain of the Pharisees answered, saying, ‘Master, we would see a sign from thee.’”  Multiple times during His ministry, Jesus refused such requests. To demand observable signs as an evidence of His presence leads to a ‘sight walk’, not a ‘faith walk.’ He rebuked those in His day saying, “An evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign, and no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah.”  The sign He was referring, of course, was His death and resurrection after three days. 

If it seems at times that Jesus is hidden from your view, rest assured He has not moved away from you. The Apostle Paul declared in Acts 17:27 “…He is not far from each one of us.”  He is nearer than our hands and feet. He is closer than a brother. He has not moved away, it is our choice to allow distance to exist between Him and us.

Psalm 145:18, “The Lord is near to all who call upon Him, to all who call upon Him in truth.”

~ Brother Roy

Four Deadly Delusions

rich-man-builds-barnsLuke 12:18-21 provides us with a captivating parable. Jesus was speaking to what Luke called ‘an innumerable multitude’. A question arose from one of the men in that great gathering. It prompted a lesson so important that no one desiring to make heaven his or her home can afford to miss it. Jesus tells the gathering, “The ground of a certain rich man brought forth plentifully: And he thought within himself, saying, What shall I do, because I have no room where to bestow my fruits? And he said, This will I do: I will pull down my barns, and build greater; and there will I bestow all my fruits and my goods. And I will say to my soul, Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry. But God said to him, Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be require of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided?”

In this brief parable, Jesus exposes four deadly delusions. They are as fatal today as they were then.

  • The rich man mistook himself for God. Take a pencil and underline words like my, I , and myself. How many do you find? The parable is also peppered with phrases like “he thought within himself”, “This will I do”, “all my fruits”, “I will say to my soul, Soul thou hast much” and “take thine ease.” He believed that he was the Captain of his ship, the Master of his own soul. God was nowhere to be found in the rich man’s thinking. “ He that trusteth in his own heart is a fool” (Proverbs 28:26).
  • He mistook his body for his soul. His concern was for provisions for his physical body. His ultimate goal for the future was to be able to eat, drink, and be merry. He wanted to take it easy and indulge himself.
  • He mistook temporal possessions for eternal treasures. His thoughts centered on “my fruits”, “my goods”, and “my barns”.  He was concerned about material assets and made no provision for his eternal soul or for everlasting life. Creature comforts were more important to this man than the Creator’s plans for him.
  • He mistook time for eternity. He thought that if he had all of his physical needs taken care of for the foreseeable future then everything would be all right. He presumed upon unchanging conditions. He acted as if things would always be as they were as he was building bigger barns. “But God said to him, Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided?” (v.20) 

Will you hear Jesus’ concluding words on the matter? “So is he that layeth up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God” (v.21) Finally, may I add the words of Jesus just a few verses later? “For where your treasure is there will your heart be also” (v.34).

 “ The prosperity of fools shall destroy them.” (Proverbs 1:32)

~ Brother Roy

I’m Guilty!

guiltyLet me share a story. It was covered up in my mind with so much stuff that only recently did I unearth it. Perhaps those of you reading this devotional who are ‘seniors’ can understand. It is possible than even some of the younger readers can also relate to such a re-discovery. Here is the story:

A king in another time and place decided to visit a prison in his realm. He took hours listening to the stories the prisoners told. The king heard tales of mistreatment, unfair judges, false accusations, and misunderstandings. Finally, tiring of the pathos being related to him, he decided to leave. As he was leaving the long rows of cells, the king noticed a cell that he had missed. He summoned the guard to open the cell. He went in and asked the same question he had asked of all the others: “What are you doing here?” The prisoner replied that he was guilty of robbery. In a moment of weakness, he had broken into a house and had stolen some things. He was guilty of the crime. The king upon hearing the man’s story, called the guards and told them to release the prisoner. When asked why he released the man, the king replied that he did not want the prison full of innocent people to be corrupted by this guilty man.

This parable illustrates the Biblical principle taught in Proverbs 28:13 (NKJ): “He who covers his sins will not prosper, but whoever confesses and forsakes them will have mercy.” Two verses in Psalm 103 tell us of the nature of our heavenly Father: v. 8, “The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in mercy,” and v. 14, “For He knows our frame, He remembers that we are dust.” 

The Apostle John, writing to believers, gives us a great truth in 1 John 2:1: “My little children, these things I write to you, so that you may not sin. And(but) if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.”  Dear friends, if we become aware of sin in our lives we must quickly go to the Lord and confess and forsake the sin. In doing so we will find mercy and forgiveness. But if we tolerate sin and let it stay around, we need to hear 2 Peter 2:20: “ For if, after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the latter end is worse for them than the beginning.” 

“Blessed Are The Pure In Heart For They Shall See God”

~ Brother Roy