A Spiritual Thermos

thermosA heard a funny story in the hills sometime back that will assist me in making a spiritual point:

One of a set of twins went to a grand opening of a Wal-Mart in a county seat town in the area. The store was about a two-hour walk through the hills from their cabin. One of the twins, Arze, stayed home while the other, Ezra, made the walk.

Arriving at the Wal-Mart, Ezra was mystified and amazed by what he saw. He had never seen a store so big with so many items for sale.  As he approached the entrance, a sales demonstration for Thermos products caught his attention. After listening to the sales pitch, Ezra expressed serious doubt that such a contraption could really keep hot stuff hot and cold stuff cold. In order to prove that a Thermos could indeed do it, the salesman took one thermos and filled it with piping hot chili. He then took a second thermos and filled it with iced tea.  He told Ezra to shop as long as he wanted and then come back for proof. Ezra walked the aisles for several hours in disbelief. He returned to the Thermos salesman with just enough time left to get home before dark. The salesman opened the one with chili and sure enough it was still steaming hot. The second one was opened with the iced tea and it was icy cold.

Convinced the thermos was a miraculous thing, Ezra bought one to take home to show his brother. He was excited to show Arze his amazing thermos. Arze asked what was so amazing about a jug. Ezra told him how it could keep hot stuff hot and cold stuff cold. Arze lifted the jug and it felt like something was in it.  Arze asked, “What ye got in this here Thermos jug”?

Ezra proudly announced: “Chili and iced tea!”

There are two spiritual lessons I want to illustrate using this story. First, our Savior teaches that life cannot be a mixture of two opposite principles. We cannot serve two masters (Matthew 6:24), we cannot trust in our own works for salvation in Christ, nor can we follow the world and God at the same time. His new way must completely replace our old worldly ways so that we walk in newness of life. In the Thermos story, the mixture of chili and ice tea is a sickening mess. So it is with mixing spiritual principles and worldly principles.

Secondly, iced tea can invigorate and hot chili can warm, but mixed together neither can serve its purpose. Few things refresh more than drinking a glass of iced tea on a hot day. And hot chili is good on a cool or cold day. But when you mix hot and cold, you get lukewarm. It is good for nothing! Lukewarm water is an emetic – it tends to make one vomit. Christ’s complaint against the Laodiceans (Revelation 3:16) is revealed here: The Laodicean ‘believer’ was of little use to Him. They were neither cold nor hot in relation to God, just lukewarm. Beverages are better either cold or hot. The Laodiceans understood the analogy because their city drinking water came from a spring six miles to the south over an aqueduct, and it arrived disgustingly lukewarm. It was not hot like the nearby hot springs that people bathed in, nor was it refreshingly cold as it was at the source. It was lukewarm and not good for bathing or drinking. In fact, it was nauseating, and that was the Lord’s response to the Laodiceans—He would spit them out of his mouth. They were neither cold nor hot in relation to God, just lukewarm.

Let’s keep our love of the Lord hot and our attraction to the world cold !

~ Brother Roy

Superheroes for Jesus

man of steelBut he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Corinthians 12:9-10)

‘The Man of Steel’ was a recent summer blockbuster where the mild-mannered Clark Kent transformed into Superman to swoop in and save the day. Although this version of Superman was not perfect, he was still the super-powered Man of Steel who in the end won out. A great hero, but his Krypton origin does not make him human.

Our world needs different kinds of heroines and heroes who are willing to stand in the gap for others, bringing nothing more than their weak and fallible selves. Henri Nouwen describes this type of servant leadership as “a leadership of powerlessness and humility in which the suffering servant of God, Jesus Christ is made manifest.” These servants don’t need to step into a telephone booth to don the costume of Jesus. Their power is derived from knowing the Father deeply and abiding in His Son.

The Lord is not looking for believers with hidden super powers to join Him on His mission. He’s looking for humble servants who are willing to trust Him fully as they step out to fulfill the mission they’ve been given. The power of God to prevail comes out moment by moment in everyday life.

What is your mission for today, this week and this year?
Who are you trusting in?
Where does your hope come from?

~ John Morley
NHIM Vice President

Turning Wine into Water

wine into waterWhen you first glance at the title of this devotional, ‘wine into water’ you may think I’ve inadvertently reversed words. The fact that I’m dyslectic makes reversing things a strong probability.  That’s not the case here. The words are in the order I intended. Let me explain.

Traveling through my beloved hills in eastern Kentucky, I was listening to country gospel music. I was semi-listening and only vaguely aware of the words. I had to do a second take when I heard the man in the song pleading with the Lord to change the wine into water. Apparently, the man praying was newly saved and had an alcohol addiction. With a bottle of wine in front of him, he had a battle raging inside. So he prays, “Lord, change this wine into water”.  Amusement with the lyrics soon turned into a sobering reality.

There are a number of men that have come to saving faith in our church-planting ministry in eastern Kentucky.  They have been heavy drinkers, alcoholics, for years. When they stop drinking they often get very sick. They get the shakes, awful pain, and other manifestations from alcohol withdrawal. The sickness and suffering is terrible and at times overwhelming. It seems the only thing that can stop the ‘sickness unto death’ is some alcohol. So in the song a new believer pleads for the Lord to take the temptation from him and deliver him this bondage.

Most of us, while not alcoholics, have had to try to exorcize some kind of ‘demon’ in our lives. We may be plagued with old habits that will not loosen their grip. We implore the Lord for intervention. Even Jesus in Gethsemane pleaded with His heavenly father to let the cup of suffering pass from Him (Matthew 26:39). The word’s of the prayer Jesus taught us to pray reflect this reality: “And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil” (Matthew 6:13). The Message Translation provides a fresh look at those words we know so well: “Keep us safe from ourselves and the Devil.” 

The next time I find myself in a particularly painful situation and feel overwhelmed, I may find myself praying, “Lord change this wine into water”.

~ Brother Roy

Peg Leg

Peg Leg

Deteriorating knee joints have forced me to use a cane. The thump, thump, thump as I walk across some surfaces is annoying. Recently, I was preaching Taylor County Camp Meeting in Butler, Georgia. It is a wonderful camp and I am always delighted when invited to serve as one of the evangelists. The wooden platform at the camp seemed to amplify the sound as I walked across to the pulpit.

As I passed the pianist/song leader, I said to her, “I wish the devil had a peg leg! It would make it hard for him to slip up on people”. The thumping sound would alert people of his presence. The next evening the song leader played and sang, to the delight of the congregation, a humorous song titled “I Wish the Devil Had a Peg Leg”.

From the beginning, we have been apprised of the devil’s presence. “Now the serpent was more subtle than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made” (Genesis 3:1).  From man’s first encounter with the devil, he has been man’s arch enemy. From day one, he has delighted in sneaking up on the person not paying attention. His tactics have been lying promises, deceit, slandering the saints, twisting scripture, and disguising himself as an angel of light. 

Since the devil does not have a peg leg, we must heed the great Biblical admonition in 1 Peter 5:8: “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walks about, seeking whom he may devour.”  We have not been left defenseless against our cunning foe. “Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil” (Ephesians 6:11).  Verses 12 through 17 in that Ephesians passage carefully lay out the whole armor of God. The book of James provides additional advice: “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you” (James 4:7).  We also have the powerful example of Jesus when He was tempted in the wilderness (Matthew 4:1-11). He led the way in dealing with the devil. He did not ask us to do what He Himself didn’t do.

Don’t let the devil sneak up on you!

~ Brother Roy

The Tower of Babel – KSV (Kya Sands Version)

miss sue babel

Miss Sue helps a Kya Sands child build his “Tower of Babel”

The Genesis account of the Tower of Babel is one of the best known of the ancient records of God’s early interaction with man. The lessons in this account are many and varied. I’ve often studied the scripture and the interpretations of numerous respected Bible commentators on this complex passage. If some of you, like me, have struggled with this account, you can imagine my interest in what I recently heard in Kya Sands Squatter Camp.  This sprawling slum is on the outskirts of Johannesburg, South Africa.  I had the privilege of leading a NHIM mission team of young adults to Kya.

My daughter lives in South Africa and was the in-country leader of the NHIM team. They worked alongside a group of dedicated women who minister in Kya on a regular basis. Their ministry focuses primarily on small children from about three to six years old. They were following a scriptural model of Jesus:  “Now they were bringing even infants to him that he might touch them. And when the disciples saw it, they rebuked them. But Jesus called them to him, saying, ‘Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God’  (Luke 18:15-17, ESV).

Many of the 11 recognized languages of South Africa (plus languages from several other countries) are spoken by the various groups who reside in Kya. This often leads to confusion. Pearl, one of the ladies on the ministry team, is a black South African who speaks Zulu, English, and several other tribal languages. She communicates with the children and with adult helpers in Zulu, because it is the dominant language. Many of the other languages are derivatives of Zulu.

NHIM team members with Kya Sands children

NHIM team members with Kya Sands children

I was fascinated by the way she approached the challenging account of Babel with the children. Again, following the pattern of Jesus, Pearl began the lesson with a story. (Jesus used stories to tell all these things to the people. He always used stories to teach people,” Matthew 13:34, ICB). Utilizing other time-tested learning principles, she moved from the concrete to the abstract and also utilized hands-on experiences. The children were each given a paper plate which held several marshmallows and thin wafers. Alternately using a wafer and a marshmallow, the children were asked to build a tower as high as they could. The children excitedly began to build. They seemed determined to reach the sky. Some succeeded in getting four or five tiers high before their tower fell.

The children learned lessons from the Biblical account. And I enjoyed a marvelous review:

  • There are no short cuts to heaven. There is only one way to the Father.
  • There is no other foundation than Jesus upon which we can build our lives.
  • The inability to understand others leads to confusion, hostility, and division.
  • God takes a personal interest in what we are doing.
  • It is foolish to leave God out of our plans for the future.
  • When people are motivated by pride and arrogance, when they want to ‘make a name for themselves’, they invite disaster.

“Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.”  (Luke 18:17 ESV)

~ Brother Roy