The Sin of Indifference

apathySome time ago, I heard a person, ‘tongue-in-cheek’, say, “The whole world is apathetic, but then who cares.” The phrase is a sad commentary about where many of us are in relationship to our fellowman. I can’t help but ask, “Have we become so self-centered that we are indifferent to the needs of those around us?”  If so, it is an eternally fatal flaw.

It has been said that when we realize our time is short, our last words are often the most important things we say. Jesus gave us a compelling teaching in the final days of His earthly ministry. While everything Jesus said was of utmost importance, these words take on a special importance because they were among His last.  “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’ Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life” (Matthew 25:41-46, ESV).

Let me share stirring quote by George Bernard Shaw: “The worst sin toward our fellow creatures is not to hate them, but to be indifferent to them: that’s the essence of inhumanity.” This quote underscores the deadly nature of the sin of indifference that Jesus pointed out in Matthew 25.  The Book of James adds more weight to our understanding about the sin of indifference: “So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin” (James 4:17, ESV). We are all aware of the wages of sin. Failure to love our neighbors and not reach out those in need is not a suggestion from Jesus – it is a commandment.

When asked what was the greatest commandment, Jesus responded, “Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. And the second, like it, is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these” (Matthew 12:29-31). Indifference toward the Lord or our neighbors is not an option!

We must not allow ourselves to become calloused and indifferent to the needs of those who are often overlooked or ignored. Jesus says, “That is Me.” When we fail to reach out to the ‘least of these’, we withhold our helping hand from Jesus.

‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me”

~ Brother Roy

Christmas Bells

Church bellsA recent knee replacement accompanied with unexpected complications has greatly restricted my movements. Hours of elevating and icing my knee have left me with abundant time for daytime TV viewing. Much of that time has been spent watching cable news. For me, the Christmas Season has been ushered in by reports of terrorist attacks internationally and here at home. News of beheadings and the slaughter of innocents crackle across the airwaves. There are wars raging in the Middle East, Ukraine, and Afghanistan. There have been three hundred fifty-seven mass shootings (4 or more killed) in U.S. this year.

My heart became deeply distressed. A dark shroud hung over the beautiful message of Christmas. The news each day seemed to mitigate against the joy that should accompany the birth of “The Peace of Peace”. Perhaps you have had similar feelings?

May I share a Christmas carol that has helped me regain a right prospective? Henry Wadsworth Longfellow penned the words to the poem “I Heard The Bells On Christmas Day” on Dec. 25, 1864. The poem gave birth to the carol bearing the same name:

“I heard the bells on Christmas Day
Their old, familiar carols play,
and wild and sweet, the words repeat
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

And thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom
Had rolled along the unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

And in despair I bowed my head;
“There is no peace on earth,” I said;
“For hate is strong and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!”

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
The Wrong shall fail, the Right prevail,
With peace on earth, good-will to men.”

Till ringing, singing on its way,
The world revolved from night to day,
A voice, a chime, a chant sublime of
Peace on Earth, Good-will To Men!”

~ Brother Roy

Solving Life’s Puzzle: A Christmas Season Devotional

missing pieceFrom the time my daughter was old enough to participate, our family has enjoyed working jigsaw puzzles. This has been especially true during the Christmas Season. We spread the pieces out on a puzzle board and work in fits and starts. Sometimes we might all work around the board at the same time.  At other times, one of us will stop for a minute or two and find a piece as we pass by. It seems that there is always a ‘key’ piece that needs to be found that allows the rest of the puzzle to fit together. On one occasion, we all searched for the ‘missing’ piece, but to no avail. Finally, we found it.  It had been knocked off the table and was face down on the floor. Once retrieved, we were able to move ahead with putting the puzzle together.

There is a life lesson in the scenario above for troubled people, especially during the Holidays. If you’re having trouble solving the puzzle of life, look for the missing piece. So often in the ‘puzzle of life’ there is a key piece missing. If that missing piece is located, the rest of the puzzle will begin to fit together.

When you can’t get the pieces of life to fit together, look for the missing “peace”.  An old adage says it succinctly: “No Jesus – No Peace; Know Jesus – Know Peace.” One of the best-known scripture of the Christmas season is found in Isaiah:  “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace(Isaiah 9:6).

When a person receives the Savior into their lives, He can bring true peace to them. Jesus said, “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world(John 16:33, NKJV).  He still desires speak to people who have trouble getting life’s pieces to fit: Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid” (John 14:27).  The Peace of Christ is the right place to start in helping a person get life’s pieces to fit together.

Oh, how our troubled world needs to hear the message the angels brought so long ago. Let us receive the angel’s song, fresh and new: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill to men” (Luke 2:14).

The prayer of all of us at New Hope International Ministries is that the Peace of Christ fills your heart this Christmas Season. We want to thank everyone who helps NHIM take the Gospel, the Good news of Christmas, to a lost and broken world.

JESUS IS THE PRINCE OF PEACE

~ Brother Roy

Men’s Retreat at Cliffview

Twenty-one men gathered in a cabin in the mountains of Eastern Kentucky on December 4th-5th, 2015.  Although the world took no note and society at large was not aware, the Holy Spirit was surely in attendance at the gathering.  The men were coming together for a retreat to focus on a ‘Deeper Life in Christ’. The men were from several of the churches involved in our Eastern Kentucky Church Planting Ministry.

Everyone in attendance could sense the presence of the Holy Spirit teaching, loving, and speaking to the hearts of those gathered there. Hymns, prayers, preaching, and teaching sessions were the avenues the Lord used to help the men better understand His will. Great food and times of informal fellowship added greatly to the impact the retreat had on all who attended.

When the retreat ended, attendees had been encouraged in the faith. A renewed commitment to witnessing and church planting had settled on most everyone. For some, the person of the Holy Spirit moved from mental assent to a heart felt reality. Individually, participants grew in knowledge of the spirit filled life and the overall ministry has a fresh promise of help and support.

~ Brother Roy

A Pink Guitar and Blue “Frozen” Boots

more blessed to giveA few weeks before last Christmas, I was meeting with David Spencer, my partner in the Church Planting Ministry in Eastern Kentucky. He brought along one of the young men who has joined our work in Eastern Kentucky. The area where we work has been designated as one of the poorest and hardest places in the United States to live. This young man left a successful contracting business to come to the hills to answer God’s call on his life. He moved to the area with his wife and two young daughters, ages nine and four. Courageously, this couple was willing to face an uncertain financial future and accompanying hardships to serve the people of Eastern Kentucky. Times had been hard for the family. Remodeling an old farmhouse around his part time work was time-consuming. Trying to provide a warm, comfortable home for the family was also costly and stressful.

As the three of us were discussing the ministry, this young man received a phone call from his wife. She was at Wal-Mart in a near by-town. Although I didn’t want to eavesdrop, I could hear one side of the conversation and I sort of filled in the other side. Because it was near Christmas, his wife was looking at some of the things the girls wanted.  She had located a pink guitar the nine-year old daughter really wanted and blue “Frozen” snow boots for the younger girl. I surmised she wanted to know if they could afford the guitar and boots. He dropped his head and, softly and sadly, said, “No.”

At home later in the day, I shared the situation with my wife and daughter Lori. She was visiting us for Christmas from her South Africa home. Lori is a retired school principal. For many years, she had led our family in spending Christmas money on needy families in her school rather than buying things we really didn’t need. She was moved as I shared and she decreed that the girls would have a merry Christmas. A contact with the family yielded a ‘want’ list for the girls. We also found out a few things that the young parents could use.

With joy, my daughter and our family went Christmas shopping. It had been a while since we have had the delight of shopping for young children. Lori was on a ‘mission’. She searched, bought, and wrapped gifts in a quantity that was “exceedingly abundantly above” the list. I am sure we were more excited for Christmas morning to come than the unsuspecting children. While we were celebrating the Lord’s birthday, once again we heard “the words of the Lord Jesus, that He said, ‘It is more blessed to give than receiveActs 20:35 (NKJV). The Gospel Mark shares other heart stirring words of Jesus in Mark 10:13-14 (NKJV):  “Then they brought little children to Him, that He might touch them, but the disciples rebuked those who brought them. But when He saw it, He was greatly displeased and said to them, “Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for such is the kingdom of God.”

I realize that we must keep in mind the vast difference between wants and needs. I do know that God’s word promises that He will supply our needs not our wants. But I also believe He is pleased from time to time to do something above and beyond needs. For example, He surely must have smiled knowing that two little girls in Eastern Kentucky received “a pink guitar and a pair of blue snow boots” for Christmas.

“No good thing will He withhold from those who walk uprightly.” (Psalm 84:11b, NKJV)

~ Brother Roy