A Cloudy Sunrise

cloudy sunriseOne of my favorite places on earth is Dauphin Island. It had been nearly a year since I had been able to spend any time on the island. As we pulled in late in the afternoon, I soaked up the sights, smells, and sounds of the island with joy. I must admit that with all the delight I experienced upon arrival, I was already looking forward to the morning. I love to watch the sunrise especially over the water (see NHIM.org archives – ‘Sunrise’).

I was up early the next day and walked out onto the deck to face the east. To my dismay, the sky was dark with a heavy cloud cover. There would be no visible sunrise. I sat down and gazed toward where the sun would have risen if not obscured by the gray clouds. A few minutes of reflection caused a shift in perspective. I knew that above the heaviest cloud cover, the sun is always shining. I have taken off in an airplane on cloudy rainy days. Within minutes you climb above the clouds and the sun is brightly shining. I took comfort in knowing the sun was shining, even if hidden from my sight.

The days of our lives can be like that. At times, circumstances can obscure our view of the Lord. Disappointment and discouragement can settle in. If we are in a right relationship with the Lord, we will realize that the Lord is there with us although obscured from vision. James’ epistle gives insight, “My brothers and sisters, when you have many kinds of troubles (clouds), you should be full of joy, because you know that these troubles test your faith, and this will give you patience. Let your patience show itself perfectly in what you do” (James 1:2-4, NCV).

A great Old Testament account provides us with a remarkable record of God’s presence, even if we don’t see Him. An enemy king was seeking to destroy the Prophet Elisha. The enemy king had sent a great army against the prophet.  “And when the servant of the man of God arose early and went out, there was an army surrounding the city with horses and chariots. And his servant said to him, ‘Alas, my master! What shall we do?’ So he answered, ‘Do not fear, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.’  And Elisha prayed, and said, ‘Lord, I pray, open his eyes that he may see.’ Then the Lord opened the eyes of the young man, and he saw. And behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha” (2 Kings 6:15-17, NKJ).

Elisha knew that God’s unseen army was far more powerful than any visible army. May we likewise be reassured by the Lord’s promise, “And, lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the world” (Matthew 28:20). When clouds of adversity obstruct our view, we need to ask the Lord to open our eyes and let us see that “He who is in you (us) is greater than he that is in the world” (1 John 4:4, NKJ). 

cloudy sunrise 2

Above The Clouds, The Son is Shining

~ Brother Roy

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One Life to Live

one life to live“Engage in business until I come.” (Luke 19:13)

Stewardship is a practical way to live out holiness. In the Parable of the Minas each individual was given the same amount of money, but rewarded differently as to how they used it.

“Engage in business until I come” was the Master’s admonition. What is Jesus’ call to us today? Stewardship is more than recycling cans, caring for the earth God created, and giving generously to the church. Though these are all things we all should do.

Stewardship is a whole-life thing!! We are all given this amazing gift of life to be used for His glory and restoring His Kingdom. Each of us has been blessed in a unique way. We are blessed to be a blessing.

I remember hearing this quote as a college student, and it continues to challenge me today: “I have but one candle of life to burn, and I would rather burn it in a land filled with darkness than in a land flooded with light.” What has God entrusted to you that you need to employ to help the poor? To whom do you need to give the precious gift of your time? How has the Lord gifted you that can help reduce the suffering of the oppressed? What is Christ’s business of love that He needs you to be about?

There has never been a more blessed generation on earth, but we still only have one life to live.

~ John Morley
NHIM Vice President

The Window

windowIf you have read many of my devotionals, you are aware of how much I treasure my Eastern Kentucky heritage and culture. The other day down at Fitch’s store, my friend Bobby Thompson came in for morning coffee. He used a phrase that reminded me of a Squabble Creek Story:

An old widower lived alone up on Squabble Creek. His little cabin had few of this day’s modern conveniences. His small cabin didn’t have a single window in the front of the house. His children decided to install a large window in the front room. It would enable their dad to sit in his rocker and look out over the hollow. A week after they installed the window, they went back up the ‘holler’ to see how the old man liked the window. When they asked him about the window, he replied, “I reckon it’s alright, but when the sun goes down it sure lets in a lot of dark”.

We are all familiar with the phrase, “The eyes are the windows of the soul.” Scripture speaks to this concept. Jesus said, The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light. But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness!” (Matthew 6:22-23, KJV). A passage in Luke is very similar: “The light of the body is the eye: therefore when thine eye is single, thy whole body also is full of light; but when thine eye is evil, thy body also is full of darkness. Take heed therefore that the light which is in thee be not darkness. If thy whole body therefore be full of light, having no part dark, the whole shall be full of light, as when the bright shining of a candle doth give thee light” (Luke 11:34-36). Jesus says we should have singleness of vision and purpose to give light to our soul. We should set our eyes on Him, the ‘Light of the World’, and keep them there. 

If you were driving a treacherous road in the mountains at night and your headlights suddenly started shining several different directions- left, right, up, down, straight, etc., you would be confused and in grave danger. Your headlights would be a hazard.  In the scripture, Jesus contrasts having our eyes single, focused only on Him, versus having our eyes focused on evil. The bad headlights kept shining all over the place and were not good for the purpose for which they were intended. The Lord considers anything that takes our focus off the kingdom of God as evil.

Allowing ourselves to become distracted from the very purpose for which He called us is destructive. Having double vision—the kingdom of God and something else—is to be full of darkness. This is contrary to what we might naturally think. We might think that it is okay as long as the kingdom of God is one of our goals. The light might be a little dimmed, but it would still be light. But this is not what Jesus said. He said such a mixed light is really darkness: “If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness!”  Light in this verse is from the Greek ‘phōs’, which literally means ‘light’ and can metaphorically mean truth, knowledge, or reason. Mixed light, aligning other goals equally to the goal of the kingdom of God in your life, is really darkness; in fact, it is great darkness or a lack of true knowledge. This is an eternally fatal condition, if not corrected.

Life Without The ‘Son’ Lets A Lot Of Dark Into The Soul

~ Brother Roy

Walking Lessons (Part 4): Walk in Wisdom

walking sign

(Ephesians 5:15-21)  “15 See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise,16 redeeming the time, because the days are evil.  17 Therefore do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is. 18 And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit, 19 speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord,20 giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, 21 submitting to one another in the fear of God.

You know it’s not enough to have wisdom; we have to walk in wisdom.  You remember the story of the wise man and the foolish man.  The foolish man built his house upon the sand, the wise man built his house upon the rock.  The rains came down, and the floods came up, and the house on the sand went splat!  But the wise man’s house, built upon the rock, stood firm.

But what if the wise man didn’t stay in his house on the rock?  If he went down partying at his neighbor’s house down on the sand, he would be just as drowned as the foolish man.  It’s one thing to know enough to build your house on the rock, it’s another thing entirely to live there.

Paul says the days are evil, so we need to live “not as fools but as wise”.  He goes on to admonish the Ephesians not to be drunk with wine, but to be filled with the Holy Spirit.  Don’t be full of spirits, but filled with the Spirit.  No matter what your views on taking strong drink, I think we can all agree that being drunk is not a state in which wisdom is at peak function.  I am continually amazed at what people are willing to sacrifice for the excessive enjoyment of alcohol.   Athletes – millionaires – ready to blow it all by impairing their perhaps already questionable judgment with substances both legal and illegal.  Some of these guys have the golden ticket, and they go get a little juiced up at the club and knock their girlfriends around or pop their guns off or slam their hot rod into somebody, and they’re off to the slammer or (God forbid) the morgue – what a waste!

Instead of having our wisdom impaired by drunkenness, Paul says we should have it aided by being filled with the Spirit.  And the influence of the Spirit produces not destruction but fellowship – here we are back to the unity of believers – speaking to one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, making a beautiful melody before the Lord, submitting to one another – looking after the interests of one another – in the fear of God.  And the fear of the Lord is…the beginning of wisdom (Proverbs 9:10).  Walk in wisdom.

Walk in unity.
Walk in love.
Walk in light.
Walk in wisdom.

~ Matt Kinnell
NHIM Board Chairman

Walking Lessons (Part 3): Walk in Light

walking sign

(Ephesians 5:8-13)  “For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of the Spirit[a] is in all goodness, righteousness, and truth), 10 finding out what is acceptable to the Lord.11 And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them. 12 For it is shameful even to speak of those things which are done by them in secret. 13 But all things that are exposed are made manifest by the light, for whatever makes manifest is light.”

Paul liked to describe the life before Christ as darkness and the life in Christ as light.  He wrote about evil deeds done in the darkness and how they are exposed by the light.  He exhorted the Romans to “cast off the works of darkness, and…put on the armor of light” (13:12).

And from where does that light come?  It comes from God.  I Corinthians 4:6:  “For it is the God who commanded light to shine out of darkness, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.”

John wrote about walking in God’s light in his first epistle (1:5-9):  “This is the message which we have heard from Him and declare to you, that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.”

And isn’t it interesting that “walking in the light as He is in the light” causes us to have fellowship with one another? Walk in unity – putting aside our own interests for the good of the fellowship.  Walk in love – selfless concern for the good of others.  Now walk in light – having fellowship, a harmonious relationship, one with another.  See how all these exhortations are leading us in the same direction – not only proper relationship with God, but also proper relationship with one another.

John goes on to write in the next chapter (2:9-11): “He who says he is in the light, and hates his brother, is in darkness until now. 10 He who loves his brother abides in the light, and there is no cause for stumbling in him. 11 But he who hates his brother is in darkness and walks in darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes.”

Walk in light – avoiding the kind of self-serving deeds that hide in the darkness and cause conflict among us.

~ Matt Kinnell
NHIM Board Chairman

Walking Lessons (Part 2): Walk in Love

walking sign

(Ephesians 5: 1-2)  “Therefore be imitators of God as dear children. And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma.” 

I don’t believe that there is any segment of Christianity that would deny the fact that love is a defining element – if not THE defining element – of our faith.  But I’m not sure that all of us are on the same page when it comes to what love is and what it looks like in action.  Our culture at large certainly has a messed up view of what love is.

I once heard someone define love as “selfless concern for the good of another”, and I think that fits well with what Paul says here – we are to “walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us.”  He describes Christ’s love in Romans 5:8: “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”  Selfless concern for the good of another.

You remember when Jesus was reinstating the ministry of the denier Peter on the seashore in John 21, He asked, “Do you love Me?”  When Peter said, “Yes, I do love You,” Jesus replied, “Then take care of my sheep.”  Jesus was telling Peter, if you are going to love Me, then you must give of yourself to others.  Selfless concern for the good of others.

And Paul in his writings over and over affirms that to love is to put the needs of others before our own wants and needs.  In Romans 14, Paul is addressing the controversy that arose in the church about whether or not they must observe certain dietary laws.  Paul says if we do something that is offensive to our brother or sister in Christ, in this case eating things in front of them that they believe to be unclean, then we are “no longer acting in love” (14:15).  Even when something is not forbidden to us, if it causes distress in our brothers and sisters in Christ, Paul says that love compels us to respect them and not tempt them to do something that they believe to be wrong.  Selfless concern for the good of others.

Paul told the Romans that we have a debt that can never be repaid – a debt to love one another (Romans 13:8)“Love does no harm to a neighbor” (13:10), he says. “Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.” (12:10). He told the Galatians, “You were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love” (5:13).

We are to walk in love – a selfless love, like the love Jesus showed, that concerns itself with the good of others.

~ Matt Kinnell
NHIM Board Chairman

Walking Lessons (Part 1): Walk in Unity

walking sign

In Ephesians 4 and 5, Paul gives several instructions on how believers are to “walk”.  Over the next four days, we will be publishing posts on the four ways in which Paul exhorts the Ephesians to walk.

(Ephesians 4:1-7, 11-16)  “I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love,endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all. But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift. 

11 And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, 12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ,13 till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; 14 that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, 15 but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ— 16 from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.” 

Paul is talking here about the unity and the interdependency of believers – one body, many parts.  And this is not the only time that Paul addresses unity in his epistles.  In Romans 15:5-6, Paul writes:  “Now may the God of patience and comfort grant you to be like-minded toward one another, according to Christ Jesus, that you may with one mind and one mouth glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

He writes again in Philippians 2:1-4:  “Therefore if there is any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and mercy, fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.”

Do you see the common theme in those two passages?  Paul says we are to be like-minded.  But it is not just any mind that we are to unite around – being “like-minded” does not always mean being “right-minded”.  He goes on to say, “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.”

Paul says that Jesus had to become nothing, to humble Himself.  So we likewise should set aside our own ambitions and our own pleasure in service to our brothers and sisters in Christ and to a lost and dying world.

Jesus prayed for our unity in His High Priestly Prayer in John 17:21-23:  “21 that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me. 22 And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one: 23 I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one…”

This is the same kind of unity Paul was talking about – being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose.  Jesus prays for that very thing – that as He is in God and God is in Him, that we would be one with Them, one body with many parts all serving the head, which is Christ Jesus.

We can’t have that kind of unity when we are ruled by selfishness and sinful desire.  Look around you at the world in which we live – political bickering, greed, materialism, entitlement, me, me, me.  But when we are like-minded and that mind is the mind of Christ, when we are set apart from that focus on self and refocused on the things of God, when each of us looks to the needs of the other, then we can be one with each other and one with Christ – uniting to serve God and serve others.

Imagine that you are going to a symphony.  This concert features a group of the finest musicians ever assembled – each performer a master of his or her instrument.  But imagine if each of those instrumentalists plays whatever he wants at whatever tempo is pleasing to him.  The dissonance, the clash, the racket would be unbearable.  It would sound like a first grade music class.  But under the direction of the Conductor, the orchestra can produce music so stirring that it moves the listeners in the deepest parts of their souls.  Christ desires that we be one, working together in beautiful symphony under the direction of the Holy Spirit.

Walk in unity – serving one another and serving God together.

~ Matt Kinnell
NHIM Board Chairman