Old Paths

tracy trap

Tracy inspects one of his beaver traps

Working along side my partner David Spencer, I’ve watched our church planting ministry in Eastern Kentucky come alive. In places where many denominations and organizations had given up and moved away, the church plants have taken hold and are growing. Success has brought with it some problems. How do we find preachers to serve churches where there may be little, if any, salary? Solution: We are training our own!

Young men and women have answered the call, and the ministry has provided basic training. They are serving under the mentorship of David. One example is Tracy, a quiet hard working married man with two children. He loves the Lord and works with his father who pastors one of the churches. The area is economically depressed. The New York Times recently listed the ten hardest places in the U.S. to live. Four of those areas are where we serve. Tracy lives in one of those areas. He has found a unique way to help support his family as he serves the Lord. He has turned to an old path – he is a beaver trapper!

tracy dam

Tracy clearing out a beaver dam

The energy companies in the mountains must maintain a safe water flow away from strip-mines. Catch basins, lakes, and ponds are built to collect runoff. The water must be properly treated. The EPA carefully monitors the water quality. Beavers have invaded the basins, lakes, and ponds in the area. They dam or clog the overflow channels and pipes. There must be a steady outflow to maintain water quality. Tracy traps the beavers for the energy companies to prevent restricted flow and the emission of dangerous effluents. He is a throw back to early mountain men who made a living as beaver trappers.

Let me share an analogy based on Tracy’s experience. Like Tracy, who has taken up an ‘old path’ physically, we can find strength in the ‘old paths’ spiritually. May I share a passage of scripture that serves as a guide for our ministry?  God’s Message yet again: ‘Go stand at the crossroads and look around. Ask for directions to the old path (road), the tried and true path. Then take it. Discover the right route for your souls’ (Jerermiah 6:16, Message Translation).   For us, the call to the old paths is a call corporately to return to Biblical principles that guided our forefathers in framing our Constitution. It is a call to revisit the moral and ethical standards that guided us as a society and raised America to greatness. It is a call for us as individuals to follow the traditional paths of those who have thrived spiritually. Allow me point you to a few scriptures about old paths and old ways:

  • You (Lord) will show me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy…” (Psalm 16:11)
  • “He guards the paths of justice, and preserves the way of His saints.” (Proverbs 2:8)
  • “Do not enter the path of the wicked, and do not walk in the way of evil. Avoid it, do not travel on it; turn away from it and pass on.” (Proverbs 4:14)
  • “All the paths of the Lord are mercy and justice.” (Psalm 25:10)
  • “In the way of righteousness is life, and in its pathway there is no death.”  (Proverbs 12:28)

As a country and as individuals, we have all too often left the tried and true old paths. We can look back and see how the Lord has blessed those that follow the old paths that He provided. Wouldn’t it be wise to return to His word and His paths.

Let us “be called The Restorer of Paths…”  (Isaiah 58:12)

~ Brother Roy

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Happy Thanksgiving from NHIM

great is thy faithfulness

Great is Thy faithfulness, O God, my Father.
There is no shadow of turning with Thee.
Thou changest not, Thy compassions – they fail not.
As Thou hast been, Thou forever will be.

Summer and winter and springtime and harvest,
Sun, moon, and stars in their courses above,
Join with all nature in manifold witness
To Thy great faithfulness, mercy, and love.

Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth,
Thine own dear presence to cheer and to guide,
Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow –
Blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside.

Great is Thy faithfulness!
Great is Thy faithfulness!
Morning by morning new mercies I see.
All I have needed Thy hands hath provided.
Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord unto me!

Sweeter as the Years Go By

sweeterOn a retired woman’s shirt was written a delightful phrase: ‘I Am Not 65 Years Old, I Am Sweet 16 With 49 Years Experience’. So I thought, “I’m not 73 years old, I’m a 16 year old preacher boy with 57 years of experience.” This summer (2015) was one of the busiest in my ministry. A month on the mission field, three camp meetings, and a revival filled my schedule.  What a joy and blessing to be able to share the gospel and to bear fruit even in old age. While some bemoan the passing years, my heart sings.

Lelia Morris’ hymn, written in 1912, expresses my feeling better than I ever could:

Of Jesus’ love that sought me, when I was lost in sin
Of wondrous grace that brought me back to His fold again;
Of heights and depths of mercy, far deeper than the sea,
And higher than the heavens, my theme shall ever be.

He trod in old Judea life’s pathway long ago;
The people thronged about Him, His saving grace to know;
He healed the brokenhearted, and caused the blind to see;
And still His great heart yearneth in love for even me.

’Twas wondrous love which led Him for us to suffer loss,
To bear without a murmur the anguish of the cross;
With saints redeemed in glory, let us our voices raise,
Till Heav’n and earth re-echo with our Redeemer’s praise.

Refrain:
Sweeter as the years go by,

Sweeter as the years go by,
Richer, fuller, deeper, Jesus’ love is sweeter,
Sweeter as the years go by.

Does your heart sing those inspiring words? Those who have a close relationship with the Savior will give a resounding, “Yes!” If you do not have a close relationship, the opportunity is still available. Starting now, you can begin to build a relationship like Lelia Morris wrote about. Open your heart to His redeeming grace and He will put a song in your heart. Today and for the rest of your days on earth you can sing …

Sweeter As The Years Go By

~ Brother Roy

Living Without Fear

granny gunAcross the years, I’ve collected many stories and amusing events from my Eastern Kentucky home. They often serve as a humorous way to make a serious point. Let me share such a story to help me make a point in this devotional thought:

Sheriff Tackett was sitting in his police car beside H.C. Spark’s Store. Miss Maude, an eightysomething-year-old ‘unclaimed blessing’, came out of Squabble Creek and turned onto the main road. She didn’t stop at the stop sign. In addition, she had a broken taillight. The Sheriff caught up to her and pulled her over. Reviewing her violations, he asked to see her driver’s license. As she extracted her license from a large purse, a pistol fell out on the seat. The sheriff exclaimed, “My goodness, is that your pistol?” “Yes”, she responded. “Do you have anymore weapons with you?” he asked. Miss Maude opened the console and laid a 9mm Glock pistol on the seat. After the shock wore off, he asked if she had any other weapons in the car. She promptly opened the glove box and removed an imposing .357 magnum pistol.  A stunned Sheriff Tackett responded, “Oh, my goodness Miss Maude, what are you afraid of?” Her confident reply: “I ain’t afeared of nothin!!!”

This world can often be a threatening and fearful place. We may be fearful for our own personal safety, of home invasions, of credit card fraud, health issues, and a myriad of other menacing situations. We may face the challenges of life with a fear of failure, a fear of rejection, or a fear of personal inadequacy. In light of such intimidating circumstances, is there a way to live without trepidation in this often hostile world? Can we live without worry short of arming ourselves ‘to the teeth’, like Miss Maude?

Yes! Thank the Lord there is a way. We do not have to live in fear. There is an answer. 1 John 4:16-18 (NKJV):  And we have known and believed the love that God has for us. God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him.  Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness in the day of judgment; because as He is, so are we in this world. There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love.”

What comfort the words of Paul can bring – “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 our Lord”  (Romans 8:38-39, NKJV).

If we abide in God’s love, we don’t have to be “afeared of nothin”.

~ Brother Roy

The Call of the Shofar

shofarOn a recent trip to South Africa, I found a real prize. I located a wonderful ‘Shofar’, a trumpet made from an animal horn. I have long wanted to own such an instrument. As a student of the Old Testament, I often preach the soul-stirring accounts of events and people preserved there. Shofars are frequently referenced in these accounts. A Yemenite Shofar, made from a giant kudu horn, is now one of my most cherished possessions.    

There are many symbolic meanings associated with the shofar. Let me share just a few. One has to do with the Akedah, the narrative that is found in Genesis 22:1-24. It chronicles the day when God asked Abraham to sacrifice Isaac. The inspiring account culminates with Abraham raising the knife to slay his son, only to have God stay his hand and bring his attention to a ram caught in a nearby thicket. Abraham sacrificed the ram instead. Because of this story, some Midrashim (ancient commentaries on the Hebrew scriptures) claim that whenever the shofar is blown, God will remember Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son. Also, it is believed that God will forgive the transgressions of those who hear the shofar’s blasts. The shofar blasts can remind us to turn our hearts towards repentance.

The shofar is also associated with the idea of crowning God as King on Rosh Hashanah (Hebrew: רֹאשׁ הַשָּׁנָה‎, literally “head of the year”), the Jewish New Year. The Biblical name for this holiday is Yom Teruah.   The breaths used by the trumpet blower (the Tokea) to make the sounds of the shofar are also associated with the breath of life. “God breathed into Adam’s nostrils the breath of life and man became a living soul” (Genesis 2:7). 

Perhaps the most famous reference to the shofar occurs in the Book of Joshua, where shofarot (plural of shofar) were used as part of a battle plan to capture the city of Jericho: “Then the LORD said to Joshua… March around the city once with all the armed men. Do this for six days. Have seven priests carry trumpets of rams’ horns in front of the ark. On the seventh day, march around the city seven times, with the priests blowing the trumpets. When you hear them sound a long blast on the trumpets, have all the people give a loud shout; then the wall of the city will collapse and the people will go up, every man straight in” (Joshua 6:2-5). According to the narrative, Joshua followed God’s commandments to the letter, and the walls of Jericho fell, allowing them to capture the city.

Our verbal witness as New Testament believers is our shofar sound to a needy world.  It can be used to call people to repentance. It can acknowledge that the Lord is ‘the breath of life’. It can be a testament that by following the Lord’s commandments the walls of opposition can come tumbling down. Let us lift our voices to the praise and glory of the Lord, but understand that the way we live must reflect the words we speak. “For if the trumpet makes an uncertain sound, who will prepare for battle?” (1 Corinthians 14:8, NKJ).

Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O LORD, my strength, and my redeemer.
(Psalm 19:1)

~ Brother Roy