There’s a Wideness in God’s Mercy

sea from air

The big Boeing 777 lumbered down the runway and was soon airborne.  My wife, my son-in-law’s father, and I were on our way to Johannesburg, South Africa. The direct flight from Atlanta to Jo’burg takes approximately sixteen hours. There is a lot of time for thought and reflection during this forced inactivity.  A couple of hours into flight, I turned on the flight tracker and noted that our altitude was something above 35,000 feet and we traveling at a speed of 620 mph. I also noted that we had left the east coast of the USA behind and now had thousands of miles and many hours ahead of us before we would approach the west cost of Africa.

I tilted my seat back, closed my eyes and thought of how immense the ocean beneath us really was. The old, beloved hymn by F. Faber, “There’s a Wideness in God’s Mercy”, came to mind.

But, before relating some of that great work to you, I have something to say about the newer praise and worship music. I have spent the last 45 years at Asbury University working with Christian students. I worship with them and truly appreciate most of the contemporary Christian music they enjoy. I’ve learned a lot from the passion, emotion, and joy these young people find in this style of music.  That said, I often find myself wanting to introduce them to some of the older hymns that have sustained me across 55 years of ministry. The old hymns have been my theology teachers, my guides, my comforters and so much more.

Now, as an example, here is the hymn I referenced earlier. I will share parts of it without further comment:

There’s wideness in God’s mercy, like the wideness of the sea;
There’s a kindness in His justice, which is more than liberty.

There is welcome for the sinner, and more graces for the good;
There is mercy with the Savior; there is healing in His blood.

For the love of God is broader than the measure of our mind;
And the heart of the Eternal is most wonderfully kind.

There is plentiful redemption in the blood that has been shed;
There is joy for all the members in the sorrows of the Head.

If our love were but more simple, we should take Him at His word;
And our lives would be all sunshine in the sweetness of our Lord.

Souls of men! Why will ye scatter like a crowd of frightened sheep?
Foolish hearts! Why will ye wander from a love so true and deep?

It is God: His love looks mighty, but is mightier than it seems;
’Tis our Father: and His fondness goes far out beyond our dreams.

But we make His love too narrow by false limits of our own;
And we magnify His strictness with a zeal He will not own.

Was there ever kinder shepherd half so gentle, half so sweet,
As the Savior who would have us Come and gather at His feet?

Amen.

~ Brother Roy

Homing Call

homing pigeonWhat do Queen Elizabeth, Elvis, Mike Tyson, and Leon of Fitch’s Grocery fame have in common? They’ve each stroked the feathers of a pigeon, lofted it in the air and set it free. They’ve all spent time of waiting, watching, and hoping for the bird’s return.

No one knows for sure how a homing pigeon manages to find the way back to its loft. Some credit the bird’s ability to read the magnetic fields of the earth, others say it can hear at a very low frequency and pick up sound waves that bounce off the landscape. Still others credit a mysterious ability of the birds to visually read landmarks and geographical features. This is all speculation. There is no definitive answer as to how the tiny pigeon brain can keep the bird on course for great distances and take it ‘home’.

Across the centuries people have enjoyed these amazing birds. Some enjoy the sport of competitive pigeon racing and others simply find pleasure in raising and keeping the birds. Leon is one who just enjoys the birds and likes to release them and watch them fly out and then return home.

A few months ago, I was preaching the farewell message at the Wilmore Camp Meeting. After decades, the camp meeting was closing and would forever be just a memory of glorious days of the past. To send the ‘grand ole lady’ out in a triumphant way, I invited Leon to bring seven white pigeons to release. After the service, a crowd gathered on the grounds. I lifted my shofar and gave seven blasts, and then Leon released the birds. They circled the campgrounds three times. They were radiant as they banked in unison; their wings resplendent in the golden glow of the evening sun. Then they were  gone – answering the homing call, they returned to their loft.

God has placed within each of us a desire to be at home with Him in heaven, our eternal home. The Homing Call of God is never fully erased, even by the most grievous of sins. In Psalm 116:7, a pilgrim on his way back from captivity in Babylon sings, “Return unto rest, O my soul.”  But there is no rest for the soul except in God. St. Augustine said, “We came forth from Him, and we are homesick until we return.”

Legend tells that Jesus, on his visit to Jerusalem at 12 years old, was found discussing with the rabbis the question, “Where shall rest be found?” One said, “In the abundance of the world.” Another said, “In the good opinion of our fellowman.” A third answered, “ In being content with present conditions.” A fourth responded, “In enjoying the simple pleasures of life.” A fifth concluded, “In self-respect founded in virtue.” Jesus remarked, “None ever rests until he finds God.”

Our souls are stirred to heavenward flight by the homing device God has built within each of us. In the words of the country gospel song, “Some glad morning when this life is o’er, I’ll fly away; to a home on God’s celestial shore, I’ll fly away”. Do you sense that homing call? I trust your answer is, Yes!  If not, turn from you sin, repent, and believe in Jesus.

He Is Calling You Home

~ Brother Roy

The Good Samaritan: A New Look at an Old Story

the-good-samaritan

“The Good Samaritan” by Vincent Van Gogh

I was in Newcastle, Northern Ireland, to speak at a pastor’s conference. In an opening session, the Rev. Colin Woods, a veteran Christian leader from Northern Ireland, shared a brief devotional. For me personally, it was one of the highlights of my time there.

Like so many, I’ve heard numerous devotionals and sermons on the Parable of the Good Samaritan as recorded in Luke 10. This one was distinctly different. Although many years have passed, I still clearly recall the main points Colin presented. In the parable, Jesus told the story of a traveler and the different types of people he met on his journey. As the Jewish traveler was going up to Jerusalem, he encountered three types of people:

  • First, robbers met him. The traveler “fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead” (v30). This type of person says, “What’s yours is mine – I’m going to take it.”
  • Secondly, two religious men came by.Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side” (v31-32). This type says, “What’s mine is mine – I’m going to keep it.”
  • The third type that came by was a Samaritan. Samaritans were an ethnic group who were hated and despised by Jews. “But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him. And the next day he took out two denari and gave to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back” (v33-35). This type of person says, “What’s mine is yours – I’m going to share it.”

Jesus spoke the parable in response to a lawyer who was seeking to trap and embarrass Him in public. The lawyer had apparently asked in derision, “And who is my neighbor?”  Jesus turned the tables by sharing the parable and then asking the lawyer, “Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” The lawyer now had little choice but to respond, “The one who showed mercy.” Jesus said to him, “You go, and do likewise.” 

As we journey through life, we encounter many people in need of our compassion. May I ask you which of these three are you? Your answer, in large measure, will determine if you inherit eternal life.

Prayer: Lord, may I be like the Good Samaritan. May I have compassion and show mercy even as you showed compassion and mercy to me.

~ Brother Roy

“Soon Come” / “Just Now”

watching the clockI love the two expressions, ‘Soon Come’ and ‘Just Now’. They come from two different parts of the world where I have ministered, but convey the same meaning.

Life moves at a slower and more random pace in many places outside of the USA. In both Jamaica and South Africa, the opening time of a business, the time of an appointment, or the beginning time of a church service is often little more than a loose approximation. Impatience or irritation means little when you call to someone’s attention that a scheduled time has come and gone. You generally get a smile and hear ‘soon come’ in Jamaica or ‘just now’ in South Africa. These expressions simply mean, “Calm down. Things will happen sooner or later” (generally later).

When Jesus spoke of the end of time and His second coming, His friends and foes alike questioned Him about when these events would take place. Succeeding generations have continued to question when these things would come to pass. Today, prophetic teachers and religious leaders are still trying to set the date. Hundreds have made predictions they claimed were based on scripture and research only to see those fail-proof dates come and go to the dismay and disappointment of their followers. People persist even today on trying to set a date in spite of the fact that Jesus Himself said, “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, but My Father only” (Matthew 24:36).

Is Jesus coming back? To this I answer a resounding, Yes! How can I be sure? I am sure because of what God’s word teaches. I am sure because of what Godly men and women have taught across the centuries. I am sure because of the witness of faithful people whose spiritual lives I have personally observed. I am sure because as a true believer “… we (I) have the mind of Christ” (2 Corinthians 2:16, NKJ). I am sure because of the witness of His spirit within me. I am sure because my personal experience of walking, talking and communing with the Lord has affirmed it.

Yes, I believe He is coming again! Ask me when, and I will respond ‘soon come’ or ‘just now’. And that’s just the way it is. I believe the fact that the events will take place is more important than exactly when. “Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect” (Luke 12:40, NKJ).

He Will ‘Soon Come’ – He Is Coming ‘Just Now’

~ Brother Roy

A New Thing

new thingIn Isaiah 43:19, the Lord says, “Behold, I will do a new thing.” One of the greatest joys in my Christian life has been the ‘new things’ that He shows me almost daily. Words from the wonderful hymn “Great Is Thy Faithfulness” by Thomas O. Chisholm echoes in my heart. How often I sing, “morning by morning new mercies I see.” I love the scripture on which the hymn is based: “It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness” (Lamentations 3:22-23, KJV).

A few days ago, while doing morning devotions, a new thing came to me. The writer of the devotional page mentioned a song with which I was not acquainted. It was Gordon Jensen’s beautiful song, “He’s As Close As the Mention Of His Name”. The song title has become one of those lines or phrases that plays again and again in my mind. Some things that stick in our minds can become irritating, but not this one. How wonderful to think that each time during the day that I mention or think of His name, He is right there! While I have been aware across time that His presence was with me, now it has a new expression.

Most things in life to which we devote time and attention have a tendency to grow routine and lose their luster. They may even become boring and cause our interest to fade. Not so when walking with Jesus. The relationship is meant to get richer, fuller, and deeper with the passing of time. After 50 plus years, I testify that another ‘new mercy’ just came my way. The expression, “He’s as close as the mention of His name” has brought newness and freshness to my spirit.

Are you walking in newness of life? Are you eager to greet the coming days knowing that new mercies await? If so, let us praise the Lord together. If not, please know that He is as close as the mention of His name. He will hear and answer your prayers for His presence in your life.

“Even so we also should walk in newness of life.” (Romans 6:4)

~ Brother Roy