Shackles on Our Ankles

ankleshacklesAs the years have continued to pass by, my memory has become less reliable when recalling details. Such is the case with a quote that surfaced in my mind recently. While discussing with friends the moral climate of our day, this line came to mind: “In our headlong pursuit of freedom to do as we please, we are dressing our souls in chains.”  I cannot remember who made the statement or where I heard it, but its impact on me has lingered.

We seem to be onlookers as the moral fabric of our society degenerates to the place where each person is a ‘law unto themselves’. Respect for authority is on a downward spiral. Our situation seems reminiscent of days in the Old Testament referred to in book of Judges: “In those days there was no king in Israel: every man did that which was right in his own eye” (Judges 25:21, KJV). Even in our religious communities, we seem to have thrown off the restraint of scripture and church ordinance in order to do as we please. A line from an Isley Brothers’ song captures the ethos of the day: “It’s your thing, do what you wanna do”. 

A phrase from “You Light Up My Life”, Debbie Boone’s Grammy-winning song, captures the spirit of our day, “It can’t be wrong when it feels so right.” A person with the slightest bit of self-awareness can recognize that the claim is utterly false. Lots of things feel really, really right at the time but are really, really wrong. A life of self-pleasing, lived outside the parameters of God’s word , has a curse on it. Noted theologian Emil Brunner said, “We have forged the shackles of sin that fasten our ankles, with the hammer called ‘freedom’.”

Let us hear the spiritual wisdom of Solomon concerning those who use their freedom to depart from following God’s way: “There’s a way of life that looks harmless enough; look again—it leads straight to hell. Sure, those people appear to be having a good time, but all that laughter will end in heartbreak” (Proverbs 14:13-14, MSG).

Do not be fooled: You cannot cheat God. People harvest only what they plant. If they plant to satisfy their sinful selves, their sinful selves will bring them ruin.
(Galatians 6:7-8, NCV)

~ Brother Roy

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Exposed

trunksMy Sunday School teacher made an interesting observation recently. He was commenting on the fact that things are not always as they seem on the surface. He said, “You are never really sure who has their swim suits on until the tide goes out.” After some laughter, you could see heads nodding in affirmation as the truth of the colloquial saying sunk in.

The sobering reality that we all need to be aware of is this, “For there is nothing covered that will not be revealed, nor hidden that will not be known(Luke 12:2, NKJV). Scripture says, “All things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give an account,” (Hebrews 4:13, NKJV). The Old Testament Prophet Jeremiah says of the Lord, You are great in counsel and mighty in work, for Your eyes are open to all the ways of the sons of men, to give everyone according to his ways and according to the fruit of his doings” (Jeremiah 32:19). 

If we have unsavory things hidden beneath the surface of our lives, we need to bring them to the Lord while there is time for confession and forgiveness. We know that “it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment” (Hebrews 9:27). We also know that if sins are hidden, and not confessed and forgiven, while we are alive, they will be exposed at judgment.

The tide will go out. Don’t be exposed! Today the Lord would say to us, “Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation” (2 Corinthians 6:2). He pleads with all who have covered their sins to repent. “Tell them, ‘As sure as I am the living God, I take no pleasure from the death of the wicked. I want the wicked to change their ways and live. Turn your life around! Reverse your evil ways! Why die, Israel?’ (Ezekiel 33:11, MSG).

Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord. (Acts 3:19)

~ Brother Roy

Abiding Hope Food Pantry

 

Abiding Hope Pantry

The Abiding Hope Food Pantry has been an important part of our ministry in Eastern Kentucky since the beginning of our partnership there. Eugene Spencer, the pastor of Bear Pen Community Worship Center, oversees this vital ministry. Lewis Roberts manages the day-to-day activities of the pantry and, with other volunteers, provides invaluable service managing the acquisition and distribution of food to needy families. The pantry is located at Bear Pen and currently serves approximately 350 families a month.

ahfp 1The pantry started as an outreach to the community when David Spencer, now director of the church planting ministry, was pastor at the Bear Pen Church. On Sundays after service, the pews in the small church were moved to the platform so the floor of the sanctuary could be used to stack the food. The food was sorted and boxed for distribution by volunteers from the congregation.

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Later, a rough shed was constructed on the property.

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As time passed and funding became available, a concrete floor was added and other improvements were made.

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The building was finally brought to its current condition and shelving was added.

truckThere are other improvements that should be made, and the pantry also needs ongoing financial support. Fuel and upkeep on the box truck as it makes the roundtrip journeys from Bear Pen to God’s Pantry in Lexington necessitate a regular flow of money. Utilities costs for the building also provide a recurring challenge. If you would like to help support this outreach in the name of Jesus, you can make your checks payable to NHIM and mark in the memo line – ‘Abiding Hope Food Pantry’.

Jesus said, For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat.” (Matthew 25:35)

Storms Happen

stormDuring man’s sojourn on earth, there is one certainty: Storms will happen!

The Old Testament is replete with many accounts of God’s children who went through all manner of storms and by God’s grace survived. Not the least of those was Noah who went through the ‘Great Storm and Flood’ (Genesis 7). The New Testament also records a multitude of storm events. As an example, the Apostle Paul survived ‘The Storm of Euroclydon’ (Acts 27:14, KJV), a hellish hurricane that held the ship on which Paul was traveling for 14 days in its deadly grip.

Jesus also experienced storms while He walked on the earth. And a great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that it was already filling. But He was in the stern, asleep on a pillow. And they awoke Him and said to Him, “Teacher, do You not care that we are perishing?” Then He arose and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Peace, be still!” And the wind ceased and there was a great calm” (Mark 4:37-39, NKJV). 

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). Allow me to substitute the word ‘storms’ for tribulation. In this world, we will all have storms. But, if we are walking with Jesus, we can be of good cheer because He overcame the world. He overcame the greatest of all storms, death and the grave.

When storms inevitably come, Jesus can speak peace into the storm-tossed life. Although the wind and waves may blow across the surface, “The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms” (Deuteronomy 33:27, NKJV).  Scripture declares, “Behold, the Lord God shall come with a strong hand” (Isaiah 40:10, NKJV). When the tempest rages, we may rest assured that He is in control. He is the Master of the Sea and the Master of Life’s Storms.

Jesus said, “Peace, be still!” And the wind ceased and there was a great calm.”
(Mark 4:39, NKJV)

~ Brother Roy

New Hope News

cropped-nhim-logo-bigger.jpgIt has been a while since we have provided an update here on the website on New Hope’s many ministry activities.  Here are a few ways that the Lord is blessing New Hope in these days.

Over Asbury University’s Spring Break, a team of four students traveled through NHIM to Jamaica where they led devotions for preschoolers and built a home for a family in need.

During last month’s NHIM Board meeting, members voted to increase the expense account funds for David Spencer, our Director of Church Planting. David is driving 204 miles round-trip twice a week from his home at Bear Pen in Wolfe County to work with one of our church plants, Green Hill Community Church, in Harlan County. Green Hill is growing in numbers and spiritual knowledge under David’s leadership. Attendance on Easter Sunday was 70. From ground zero, when the church first opened, to 70 on Easter is a testimony to God’s love for those folks and David’s hard work. Within a few days of approving the increase for David, an unexpected check for $2,500 came in that will help cover the increase. Praise the Lord!

truckSeveral months ago the Abiding Hope Food Pantry truck ‘went home to be with Jesus’. The truck was old and tired and threw a rod through the block. Since then it has been a real struggle to get the food from God’s Pantry in Lexington to the food pantry at Bear Pen. Many of you have been praying with us about another truck. In the Lord’s timing, David and his son Eugene located a truck. The price was reasonable, and all we needed was the money. I called the gentleman who had sent us the money we were going to use to help increase David’s expenses account.  I asked him if it was all right to split the money and use half for David and the other half for down payment on the truck.  After a pause, he said to use the full amount he sent to help David. Then he said, “I’ll send you the money for buying the truck shortly.” That was another “Praise the Lord!” moment. As I was sharing this great news with the fellows I drink coffee with, one of the men asked if the truck was road worthy. I told him it was as far as I knew, except the front tires were badly worn. He pulled out his billfold and handed me a $100 bill to help with new tires.

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Green Hill Community Church

Pray for our upcoming Tent Revival in Harlan County. David will be holding an old fashioned tent revival later this spring a few miles from the Green Hill Community Church. The tent and folding chairs have been moved on-site. We are trusting that the Tent Revival will bring souls into the Kingdom and make people aware of the Green Hill Church. Prayer and fasting is helping prepare the way. Join us as we petition the Lord for revival.

I recently joined David in a meeting with a man who has been attending Green Hill Church for about a year. He has been a pastor and has preached extensively in the Harlan County area. This man has expressed interest in working with us in ministry and possibly becoming one of our pastors. Pray for wisdom as we explore partnerships such as these in our efforts to reach Eastern Kentucky with the Gospel.

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Kya Sands

My daughter Lori and my son-in-law Rich are leading a NHIM mission team to South Africa in May. As they were making preparations, Lori asked me if NHIM might be able to help buy some blankets for the small children in Kya Sands, a Squatter’s Camp (a terrible slum) at the edge of Johannesburg. Lori ministered there during the time she lived in Johannesburg. The next day, I ran into Tommy Baker, a dear Christian brother who had worked with NHIM on some previous projects. During our rambling conversation, he asked me if I could ever use some small blankets. I responded with a resounding – YES!  When I inquired about how many he had, he said, “700”. He had secured them from an overstock at Wal-Mart for one dollar apiece.  Can you believe it? The team has all the blankets the need and more.  Again, I want to humbly bow my head and say “Praise the Lord!”

~ Brother Roy

Puffed Up

toadAt a gathering of the local coffee drinkers at Fitch’s Grocery, a group of men were focused on a picture of a near-record-antlered deer bagged in the area. One of the men exclaimed about the hunter, “I bet he’s puffed up like a big toad.” I’ve heard that saying since my youth, but this time I took a minute to consider the meaning.

Of course the Internet was the first source I checked. It’s amazing what you can find on the Internet. I soon found information about toads, not to be confused with plain old frogs. One of the sites yielded the following: “Puffing Up – toads try to look bigger and intimidating (as if a toad could be intimidating) by puffing themselves up” (Toad-ally Cool Facts by Darcy Drayce). Next, I checked with the local men of wisdom. One of the sages, Ron Ray, offered his understanding of being ‘puffed up’. He said it was someone who thought they were bigger than they really were. He also offered a parallel saying: “He’s getting too big for his britches.”

There is a spiritual application to be made about being puffed up. Scripture says, “Do not be puffed up with pride. Tremble rather–for if God did not spare the natural branches, neither will He spare you” (Romans 11:21, WNT). The Apostle Paul offers this additional advice: “For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith” (Romans 12:3, NKJV). Solomon advances this bit of wisdom: “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall” (Proverbs 6:18, NKJV).

In this day of narcissism and ‘look at me’ posturing, we would be well-served to consider the Biblical advice. A humble heart has no room for ego or pride or arrogance, because it recognizes that all we have and all we are comes from God. The Apostle Paul reminded the Corinthians: “For who makes you different from anyone else? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not?” (1 Corinthians 4:7, NKJV). Every gift, every talent, every breath we take—all are from God, as is our most precious gift, salvation. “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9). “Where, then, is boasting? It is excluded…by the law of faith” (Romans 3:27, NKJV).

“And what does the Lord require of you, but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?”
(
Micah 6:8, NKJV)

~ Brother Roy

O Death, Where Is Your Victory?

cross & tombWe are all familiar with Paul’s declaration in his great Resurrection Chapter, “O Death, where is your victory? O Death, where is your sting?” (I Corinthians 15:55, NASB).  Do you know what Old Testament passage Paul was quoting there?

In the book of Hosea, the Lord is speaking through the prophet to condemn Israel for its unfaithfulness, specifically its insistence on worshiping idols instead of God alone.  Hosea’s prophecy accuses: “Ephraim’s guilt has been collected (Ephraim was the largest tribe in Israel), and his sin has been stored up for punishment. Pain has come to the people like the pain of childbirth, but they are like a child who resists being born. The moment of birth has arrived, but they stay in the womb!  Should I ransom them from the grave? Should I redeem them from death? O death, bring on your terrors! O grave, bring on your plagues! For I will not take pity on them” (Hosea 13:13-14, NLT).

The Lord, through Hosea, is abandoning His people to the grave – “Death, bring on your terrors! Grave, bring on your plagues! For I will not take pity on them.”  What a different message this is from Paul’s use of these phrases in his letter to the Corinthians.

The difference in the use of these phrases is clear – Paul tells us that now “Death is swallowed up in victory” (I Corinthians 15:54), and from where does that victory come?  “Thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (15:57).  Paul says this message is “of first importance” – Christ died for our sins, He was buried, and He was raised on the third day (15:3-4).  In fact, Paul says, the message of Christ’s death and resurrection is vital, because if Christ has not been raised, our faith is worthless, and we are still in our sins.  If our only hope is in this life, then we are to be pitied above all others (15:17, 19).

In Hosea, the Lord says, “Bring on death!” because the people deserve destruction.  In Corinthians, Paul says, “Bring on death!” because Jesus Christ has conquered death, and we will share in His victory: “But now Christ has been risen from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep. For since by a man came death, by a man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive” (I Corinthians 15:20-22).

“Behold,” Paul says, “I tell you a mystery; we will not all sleep, but we will all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will all be changed…Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the word of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord” (I Corinthians 15:51-52, 58).

O Death, where is your victory?
O Death, where is your sting?
Death is swallowed up in victory!

~ Matt Kinnell, NHIM Board Chairman