Is That an Ox Goad in Your Hand?

ox goadA few years ago, I was able to secure a ‘Black Thorn Cattle Prod’ while in Northern Ireland. Farmers across the ages have used such an instrument to nudge and direct cattle in the right direction. I have no thought of herding livestock with my small cattle prod, rather, it now serves me as one of my favorite canes.

Another name for a cattle prod is an ox goad. The ox goad makes an appearance in scripture in the hand of a Judge named Shamgar.  In the Book of Judges, God pulls back the curtain of time to allow us a brief glimpse of Shamgar and his ox goad.  “After him was Shamgar the son of Anath, who killed six hundred of the Philistines with an ox goad, and he also delivered Israel” (Judges 3:31).

The backdrop against which this account occurs is fascinating. The Philistines had overrun Israel. The people had been reduced to utter want. Their crops and cattle had been seized or destroyed. Their weapons were confiscated and those who could make weapons had been put to death. The people had abandoned their villages and were afraid to walk the roadways. All seemed lost and they felt powerless to resist.

One man, about whom we know almost nothing, flashes across the Biblical record. Shamgar has no weapons of war. There is no mention of a royal bloodline, military training, or any other exceptional attributes. He was a common man in whom the Lord evidently saw qualities that He could use. “For the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7). While scripture does not record Shamgar’s qualities, I would like to suggest four possibilities. I base these on observations of the kind of people God used throughout scripture.  I think Shamgar possessed:

  • A Noble Discontent: Discontent with present conditions, he was no longer willing to be a ‘spiritual pigmy’, a ‘moral dwarf’. He aspired to be all that the Lord intended him to be.
  • A Glimmer of Faith: Maybe not the faith of an Abraham or a Moses, but a little faith about the size of a ‘mustard seed’. He was aware God had used common men in the past.
  • Courage To Make A Beginning: Shamgar must have said, “Right here and now, I’m going to stake everything on my belief that God can use a man like me to bring deliverance to me and my people. He brought us out of Egypt, parted the Red Sea, and brought down walls of Jericho, and gave us this land as our inheritance.
  • Willingness To Use What He Had In His Hand: Shamgar decided to stand and fight. A battered ox goad may seem a poor weapon, but it is not so much the weapon in person’s hand as it is the Lord in their heart that brings victory.

We live in a dangerous world. Car jacking, home invasions, rape, and murder plague our communities. International terrorists threaten us at home and abroad. In the midst of a troubled world, the organized church is in decline in numbers and influence. What can one believer do?

A few questions seem in order in this regard. Isn’t the Lord calling us to stand up for our faith? Do we have qualities like Shamgar that God could use if we would make them available?; What does His call mean to you today? Is it to wait for a better weapon? Is it to wait for a better place? Is it to wait for a better time?

What Is That In Your Hand?

~ Brother Roy

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Recalculating

recalculatingRecently, I saw a cartoon in the newspaper. It depicted a car at the edge of a cliff surrounded by fierce looking bears. The caption emanating from the car read, “Recalculating, recalculating – You seem to have reached your final destination”.

In a previous NHIM devotion post, I shared my belief that we have a spiritual ‘GPS’ system placed within each of us by God. He nestled within man’s being a tracking device that is called the soul.  God’s ever-watchful eye knows our location. Scripture tells us that the heavenly father “compassest my path and my lying down, and is acquainted with all my ways” (Psalm 139:3). The Message Translation says it beautifully: “I’m never out of your (God’s) sight.”

This humorous cartoon reminded me of the previous devotional. It also sent a flood of new ideas and scriptures through my mind concerning God’s guidance provisions.

  • God Has Pre-programmed Us To Go The Right Way. “For when Gentiles who do not have the Law do instinctively the things of the Law, these, not having the Law, are a law to themselves, in that they show the work of the Law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness and their thoughts alternately accusing or else defending them” (Romans 2:14-15). This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, saith the Lord, I will put my laws into their hearts, and in their minds will I write them” (Hebrews 10:16).
  • We Have Clear Directions. Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life” (John 14:5-6). We need to take advice from Solomon, reputed to be the wisest man who ever lived: “In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your path” (Proverbs 3:6).
  • God’s Directions Can Be Ignored. “…keeping faith and a good conscience, which some have rejected and suffered shipwreck in regard to their faith” (1 Timothy 1:19).
  • There Is a Final Destination. “And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment” (Hebrews 9:27).
  • There Is A Point Where Recalculating Is No Longer Possible. “How shall we escape, if we neglect so great a salvation” (Hebrews 2:3). “No man has power to retain the spirit, or power over the day of death” (Ecclesiastes 8:8). 

Where are you in your journey through life? Is the Lord directing your path? If not, please ‘recalculate’ now while you have an opportunity. Please don’t wait to follow God’s way until you come your final destination.

Recalculate – Recalculate

~ Brother Roy

Don’t You See Me?

cussingIn the mid-80’s, our ministry (NHIM) began working in Jamaica. Partnering with Christian Service International, we made our first visit to Swift-Purcell Boys’ Home in Highgate, Jamaica. Among the 60-70 boys living there, one has become like a member of the Lauter Family. Anthony McDonald was 14 years old when we met him.  He had been abandoned as an infant. Anthony had a leg missing at the knee. His mobility was restricted to hopping on one foot or using a crudely fashioned crutch.

The years have flown by since that first meeting. Anthony has made numerous trips to the United States. Thanks to caring Christian friends, prosthetic experts, and the support of many people who know and love Anthony, he has been fitted several times with a new prosthesis, and this past Fall, he stayed in our home for a few weeks as he tested out a new, state of the art prosthetic knee and leg.

Anthony works for Christian Service International in Jamaica. He is the father of a wonderful 4-year-old son, Roy Nick.  Shortly before coming to the States this time, Anthony and Roy Nick were taking a walk. They had stopped to rest and were sitting on a bamboo bench. An acquaintance of Anthony came by. During the conversation, the man used several “bad words”. Roy Nick leaned forward and said to the man, “Don’t you see me? You are not supposed to use words like that around a little boy.”

The words, “Don’t you see me?”, have had a real impact on me. First, scripture in  Jeremiah came to mind: “‘Hear this now, O foolish people, without understanding, who have eyes and see not, and who have ears and hear not” (5:21). Then, I remembered the words of Jesus: “Having eyes do you not see? And having ears, do you not hear?” (Mark 8:18).  What a powerful reminder from a little boy! People observe the way we live and speak. We need to hear these words of Jesus loud and clear:  “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to sin, it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were drown in the depth of the sea” (Matthew 18:6).

We may offend by bad example, by teaching sinful actions, by sneers at piety, by giving soft names to gross offences. Whether child or adult, a pure, simple soul who has a certain faith not strong enough to resist such assaults is a ‘little one’. To willfully lead such a little one astray is a deadly sin, which the Lord denounces in solemn terms.

Oh friends, we must be aware that people observe our behavior. Our influence is more far-reaching than we think. May our daily lives reflect that which is good and noble and true, and not negative or disparaging. Let us heed the Apostle Paul’s words: “but be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity” (1 Timothy 4:12). Someone may be observing and ask –

DON’T YOU SEE ME ?

~ Brother Roy

The Contender

contenderA good friend has a beautiful waterfront home on Dauphin Island, Alabama. He has a fine boat for fishing and recreational use.  The craft is docked at the foot of the steps leading from the deck to the water. The model of the boat is named ‘The Contender’. Two 350-horsepower outboard engines power the boat. It is equipped with state of the art navigational aids and technology. Its sleek design enables it to cut easily through the waves, and it is capable of remarkable speed on the water. The boat is, as the name implies, able to ‘contend’ with whatever the waters around the island may have to offer.

I find a life lesson here. We live in troubled times. From recent Supreme Court decisions to growing hostility toward believers, we navigate troubled water. There is mounting criticism of Biblical standards, and often there is open defiance of Christian principles for living. The words of Jude 3 (NKJ) are as relevant to us today as they were to believers to whom they were directed long ago: “Beloved, while I was diligent to write to you concerning our common salvation, I found it necessary to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints.” Jude’s phrase ‘common salvation’ refers to the unity of all believers in Christ Jesus. In this epistle, however, Jude does not dwell on this subject. Because of a rising wave of challenges and opposition to the gospel, he is writing to Christians urging them to contend earnestly for the faith. They must not offer passive service, but must actively engage the hostile forces. Our faith is worth fighting for. “Watch, stand fast in the faith, be brave, be strong” (1 Corinthians 16:13, NKJ).

contender2The Lord has prepared us to stand against the forces of evil. Just as the ‘Contender’ is equipped with powerful engines, navigational aids, and sound design, we are able, in Jesus, to contend with the troubled waters of our day. Let us face into the wind and waves, and with the Lord’s help we can power through. There are calm waters ahead for those who contend for the faith now. Psalm 107:28-29 says, “Then they cry unto the Lord in their trouble, and He bringeth them out of their distress. He maketh the storm a calm, so the waves thereof are still.”  

Let Us Contend For Our Faith – There Is A Haven Of Rest Ahead.

~ Brother Roy

The Model

model carI listened with interest as our church’s Minister of Children shared at children’s time. Her lesson captivated more than the children – the lesson made an impression on me. May I share her lesson with you?

She showed the children a box containing a model car kit. After talking briefly about model building, she said, “There are three things you need to know about building a model”. Showing the children the box, she pointed to the picture of the model car. She told them that first you need a picture of the model – you need to know what the finished model is supposed to look like. Secondly, she said you need the instructions sheet, and you must follow the instructions step by step. Finally, she told the children, you need the right kind of glue – the glue will hold it all together so it doesn’t fall apart.

With the three steps clearly stated, she then made the spiritual application. The four gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) give a picture of Jesus, our spiritual model. The instruction sheet is the Bible with directions of how to live the right way, like Jesus. Prayer is the glue that holds it all together.

The lesson was simple and clear. I was reminded of a verse of scripture that has figured prominently in my own Christian life. The Apostle Paul writes to believers in Corinth (1 Corinthians 11:3, NKJ), But I fear, lest somehow, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, so your minds may be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.” The phrase “the simplicity that is in Christ” stays in the forefront of my mind. Modeling our lives after Jesus need not be nuclear physics:

  • Look at the example.  Read the words of the gospels to get a picture of Jesus when He walked upon the earth. Follow His example. John 13:15 (ESV):  “For I have given you an example (model), that you also should do just as I have done to you.”
  • Read the instructions.  The scriptures provide us with instructions. They not only help us know the overall goals for a life well-lived, but also supply step-by-step lessons for successful daily living.
  • Use the right glue.  Just as our Children’s Minister emphasized prayer as the glue, veterans of the faith testify to the necessity of a regular prayer life. Jesus pointed to the necessity of prayer: “And He told them a parable to the effect that they ought always pray and not lose heart” (Luke 18:1, ESV).

“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