Fortune Cookie: Virtue Is a Precious Treasure

fortune cookieRecently, I was dining with my wife and daughter at a Chinese restaurant. Our daughter was visiting us from her home in Johannesburg, South Africa. We were savoring each hour she could be with us. After a delicious meal, we were relaxing and talking about recent changes in our lives. The waiter brought the bill along with the customary ‘fortune cookies’. The fortunes are usually light and whimsical, but one caught my attention.  It read, “Virtue is a precious treasure.”  I believe all truth is God’s truth, even when it’s found in a fortune cookie.

One of my dictionaries states the term virtue relates to “theological morality”. The Thesaurus gives a synonym as “a desirable quality”.  2 Peter 1:3b-5 (NKJ) provides wonderful words for believers as it relates to virtue: “…His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue, by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust. But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue and to virtue knowledge,” 

That evening in the restaurant I enjoyed a sweet morsel of truth from an unexpected source. In a small way, I sampled a little manna from God, “and the taste of it was like a wafer with honey” (Exodus 16: 21).  Virtue is a precious treasure and a reward in itself.

Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good
Blessed is the man who trusts in Him!
Psalms 34:8

~ Brother Roy

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Go for the Gold

Ship in dock

This big ship was in dry dock on the Gulf of Mexico

The Biblical account of the ancient King Jehoshaphat is fascinating. He came to the throne of Judah when he was 35 years old. “And he walked in the way of his father Asa, and did not turn aside from it, doing what was right in the site of the Lord” (2 Chronicles 20:22, NKJ). Asa had been a good and God-fearing man. Jehoshaphat was one of the best kings in Judah’s history. He initiated a system of religious instruction for the people. He also commanded the judges in the land to be just and honest.

Desiring to return the people to the prosperity and splendor they had experienced under Solomon, Jehoshaphat launched an incredible plan. He dreamed of going to Ophir for gold. Ophir was a famous gold-producing region in what is now Yemen. It was also rich in silver and ivory. Jehoshaphat was more than an idle dreamer. He went to work to fulfill his dream. He set out to build a great fleet of  ‘Tarshish’ class ships. These remarkable ships were built with such strength that no wave or storm could break the broad beams and sturdy timbers. They were constructed to carry heavy loads of gold and silver. These watertight and storm-proof vessels were meant to sail to the ends of the earth to bring home the gold. The ships were built in Ezion-Geber, a shipbuilding port constructed by Phoenician engineers in Solomon’s day.

But, as recorded in 1 Kings, tragedy struck. “Jehoshaphat made merchant ships (or ships of Tarshish) to go to Ophir for gold; but they never sailed, for the ships were wrecked at Ezion-Geber” (1 Kings 22:48, NKJ). At first glance, one might assume that a great storm or hurricane dashed the ships against rocks and sent them to a watery grave. A deeper look reveals something far different.

It was not a hurricane or storm, but the hand of the Lord that sent the ships to the bottom. Through the words of a prophet we learn that, “The Lord has destroyed your (Jehoshaphat’s) works”. The scripture further explains, “Then the ships were wrecked, so that they were not able to go to Tarshish” (2 Chronicles 20:37, NKJ). 

A careful examination of the Biblical account reveals two major reasons – two things that will sink plans and dreams:

Divided loyalties: As mentioned earlier, Jehoshaphat did that which was right in the sight of the Lord (2 Chronicles 20:32). But, verse 33 focuses on a major problem: “Nevertheless the high places were not taken away, for as yet the people had not directed their hearts to the God of their fathers.” The Message adds interesting insight in its paraphrase of this verse: “But he failed to get rid of the neighborhood sex-and-religion shrines; people continued to pray and worship at these idolatrous god shops.” Jehoshaphat allowed abundant evidence of the Canaanite way of life to co-exist with true worship. Jesus declares in Matthew 6:24: “You cannot serve two masters (Gods).”  James 4:8 implores us to, “Cleanse your hands you sinners and purify your hearts you double minded.”  James 1:8 points out, “a double minded man is unstable in all his ways.” Peaceful co-existence with sin is not possible.

Inappropriate friendships: Ill-conceived friendships shatter dreams. The words of 2 Chronicles 20:3 (NKJ ) declares this principle: “Because you have allied yourself with Ahaziah (who acted very wickedly), the Lord has destroyed your works. Then the ships were wrecked, so they were not able to go to Tarshish.” Paul warns believers in Corinth (1 Corinthians 15:33, NIV), “Do not be misled; Bad company corrupts good character.” James emphasizes another dimension to Biblical teaching about friendship: “Do you know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God” ( James 4:4). 

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your path.” (Proverbs 3:5&6)

~ Brother Roy

Lessons Learned While Bird Watching

birdwatchingOver the years, Miss Sue and I have spent many wonderful days looking out across the waters of Mobile Bay. Close friends, the Eldridges, have a lovely beach house at water’s edge on Dauphin Island, Alabama.  They have graciously invited us to come whenever we can and rest from our labor and enjoy the beauty of Dauphin Island.

The view from the back deck is a bird watcher’s paradise. About a hundred yards out is a small marshy island covered with salt grass and surrounded by shallow water. It is like a magnet that draws the birds. Recently, I watched an incredible variety of water birds come and go including: Oystercatchers, Sandpipers, Great Blue Herons, Little Blue Herons, Green Herons, Loons, Pelicans, Skimmers, an Osprey, and an assortment of gulls and terns.

In my ‘former life’, I taught High School Biology. Although it has been nearly 50 years ago, I still remember a few things. Patterns run throughout nature and across species. The great diversity of water birds on Dauphin all feeding in the same area reflects one such pattern. Their body shapes, length of legs, types of beaks, and a myriad of other adaptations make each species uniquely suited for a specific niche in their environment. They feed and forage together, not competing but co-existing by seeking different food sources. Together they are part of a healthy eco-system.

The Apostle Paul speaks of such a pattern in humankind. It seems to me it reflects the common Creator of all forms of life. The Church is the body of Christ. Hear Paul’s explanation of such a pattern in I Corinthians 12:14-20 (NCV):The human body has many parts. The foot might say, ‘Because I am not a hand, I am not part of the body.’ But saying this would not stop the foot from being a part of the body. The ear might say, ‘Because I am not an eye, I am not part of the body’. But saying this would not stop the ear from being a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, it would not be able to hear. If the whole body were an ear, it would not be able to smell. If each part of the body were the same part, there would be no body. But truly God put all the parts, each one of them in the body as He wanted them”. Like the variety of birds all feeding in the same place, but each with its unique niche, so the church has great diversity among its members, yet each fills a distinct place. Each member is necessary to the health of the church.

Another pattern from my biology teaching days comes to mind. If one of the small and less conspicuous birds from the eco-system disappears, the whole community is threatened. Paul reports this same pattern in the church and says, “Those parts of the body that seem to be the weaker are really necessary…God wanted the different parts to care the same for each other. If one part of the body suffers, all the parts suffer with it. Or if one part of our body is honored, all the other parts share the honor”  (I Corinthians 12:22, 25-26).

Could it be that part of the reason why the church of today seems to be struggling so much is due to the fact many of us are not where we are supposed to be? Are you filling your God appointed unique niche in the Body of Christ?

~ Brother Roy

The Spring of Life

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John 4:14 – “But whoever drinks from the water that I will give him will never get thirsty again – ever! In fact, the water I will give him will become a well of water springing up within him for eternal life.”

The above picture was taken during my first semester at Asbury University. My girlfriend and I went on a walk around the campus one Sunday afternoon. We came upon this retention pond, and on the edge of it was a bench, so we sat to take a break. As we were sitting there the Lord began to show me something: first of all I know you’re probably wondering that this is an odd time for the Lord to speak, but we as Christians should always be sensitive to His presence wherever or whatever we may be doing. As I sat there and looked at this small body of water and smelled the refreshing scent of it, I began to see some similarity here to a Christian’s relationship with Lord. To the left of me I noticed a four-inch pipe expanding out over the water with nothing coming out of it. In fact, the few times I have been up there since, I have never seen water flowing into it, but yet the water level stays the same and the fountain keeps flowing. What keeps it sustained?  Shouldn’t this reflect the fountain of water in our lives also?

In John 4, Jesus comes upon a Samaritan woman who daily comes to the well to draw water. As we all know, we continue to get thirsty – especially when it is hot outside, but this kind of water only satisfies our physical bodies for a time, and then we return for more.  It’s a never-ending cycle for us. Jesus in return offers something better to the woman, something that within itself produces a spring that will never cease to flow for eternity. This water He gives saturates the very being of our soul and re-hydrates our bodies spiritually on a day-to-day basis to tackle what the world throws at us. We are physically and spiritually made (1 Corinthians 15:44b “If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body.”). God has given us the water that feeds both aspects. Don’t dehydrate yourself spiritually – drink deep from the water that He freely gives to those who love Him, and live, for He is the source of life.

Revelation 21:6-7, “And He said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End. I will give to the thirsty from the spring of living water as a gift. The victor will inherit these things, and I will be his God, and he will be My son.”

~ Ryan Harrison

Ryan is a young man from Bayou LaBatre, Alabama, who is living with Sue and me this summer. He just finished his first semester at Asbury. He and another Bayou boy were called to preach a couple of years ago in a camp meeting that I was preaching in south Alabama. I am encouraging him to use some of his evening time to do a couple of devotionals for the NHIM website.  (~ Brother Roy)

Accentuate the Positive

positive

The lyrics of a song from a by-gone day have been running through my mind. It’s one of those songs that you can’t stop thinking about. If you’re old enough perhaps you remember, “We’ve got to accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative and don’t mess with Mr. In-between”. The more I’ve thought about those words, the more I find real truth in those catchy lyrics. I believe all ‘truth’ is God’s truth no matter where we find it. Therefore, I share these three truths with you. They are found ensconced in Scripture.

  1. We need to accentuate the positive. A positive mind-set is a major part of successful living. A number of best-selling books have been written on the power of positive thinking. For me, the most credible source for positive thinking is God’s Word.  Philippians 4:8  provides this admonition: “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.” 
  2. We need to eliminate the negative. The Apostle Paul shares in Colossians 3:5 these words of wisdom with us, “So put evil (negative) things out of your life: sexual sinning, doing evil, letting evil thoughts control you, wanting things that are evil, and greed” (NCS).  1 Peter 2:11 also instructs us to avoid negative things and to “live such good lives that people will see the good things you do and give glory to God on the day when Christ comes again.”
  3. We certainly don’t want to mess with Mr. In-between.  In Revelation 3:1516, John sounds a warning: “I know what you do, that you are not hot or cold. I wish that you were hot or cold! But because you are lukewarm – neither hot, nor cold –I am ready to spit you out of my mouth(NCS). The Old Testament Prophet Hosea states (Hosea 10:2 NKJ): “Their hearts are divided; now they shall be found guilty.” My friends, life is so much better when we follow Him with our whole heart. 

Prayer: Lord, today we want to follow the teachings found in Your word. Lead us in the way everlasting.

 Psalm 119:105 – “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet and a light upon my path.”

~ Brother Roy