Take a Stand

stand up for jesusTeams had gathered for an athletic competition. The person who was to sing the National Anthem was a ‘no-show’. Moments passed as everyone seemed perplexed about what to do. Then a young man who was in the group waiting to compete stepped forward and sang the National Anthem. Someone there captured the moment on video and posted it. It went viral and thousands viewed the the event. Eventually, national television aired the incident of the courageous young man standing up and honoring flag and country.

There is a message in this event for those of us who are Christian believers. The scripture says, “Be ready to speak up and tell anyone who asks why you’re living the way you are, and always with the utmost courtesy” (I Peter 3:15, MSG). In Paul’s instructions to Timothy, he urges Timothy to be “instant in season and out of season” to share the gospel (2 Timothy 4:2, KJV). 

We need to be prepared to stand up and speak up for Jesus. Like the young man mentioned above, we never know when such a moment may present itself. The first lines of the hymn “Stand Up, Stand Up for Jesus” emphasize this point:

Stand up, stand up for Jesus, Ye soldiers of the cross;
Lift high his royal banner, it must not suffer loss.

The banner the young athlete was standing up for was the American Flag. The banner for which Christians need to stand and the banner we must lift is the Cross of Christ. Jesus said, “And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all peoples to Myself” (John 12:32, NKJV). As believers, we ought to be ready at all times to let our witness be seen and heard. Always we should do so with “upmost courtesy”. The NIV translation says, with “gentleness and respect”. But, stand we must if we are to follow the Lord’s plan for helping to redeem a lost and dying world.

Most of us regularly have opportunities to share our faith. May we be up to the challenge of utilizing these openings to tell others the ‘good news’. The eternal destiny of someone may rest in part on our willingness to stand up for the Savior.

Prayer: Lord, today send an opportunity my way to be Your witness. I want to do my part in lifting You up. I will take a stand.

~ Brother Roy

Parting Words

writeMy father was a child of the great depression. Times were so hard he had to drop out of school in the fifth grade. His father was deceased, and he had to go to work in order to help his family to survive. His early years were spent looking for jobs here and there. A depression-era phrase became a permanent fixture in his vocabulary. Whenever one of us three boys would leave the house for a period of time, with a smile on his face, our father would say, “Write if you find work.” It was my dad’s way of reminding us that if we should find something ‘good’, we needed to share it with friends and family.

Like my dad’s experience of diligently looking for work, there is an account in the Gospel of John of another diligent seeker. A man named Phillip, like so many of his people, was searching for the ultimate ‘Good’. For centuries, the Jews had looked expectantly for the promised Messiah, the Savior. Phillip found Him! He found Jesus. Then, “Phillip found Nathanael and said to him, ‘We have found Him of whom Moses in the law, and also the prophets wrote—Jesus of Nazareth”. After a skeptical remark by Nathanael, “Phillip said, Come and see” (John 1:45-46). He then took Nathanael to meet Jesus. Both of them became disciples of Jesus.

Although my dad was a deeply moral man and a loving Father, he was not a Christian. One evening, I came home from a church service and said to my mother and dad, “I have found Him!! have found Jesus!” I had truly found something so good that I couldn’t help sharing it. My mother and dad both shared my excitement. They soon gave their hearts to Jesus, and we grew up together in a household of faith.

I not only found Jesus, I found ‘work’. For the 60 years since, I have been a co-laborer with Jesus. My job assignment, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15). I have received Paul’s instructions to Timothy as my own, “Be diligent to present yourself approved of God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15).

The work I’m writing to you about is the best job a person could ever have. The Bible says, “The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life. And he who wins souls is wise” (Proverbs 11:30). God’s word also says, “Let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save a soul from death and cover a multitude of sins” (James 5:20).

Parting words: I am writing because I have found work. Will you join me as a co-laborer with Christ? “The harvest truly is plentiful, but the laborers are few” (Matthew 9:37).

~ Brother Roy

Now Thank We All Our God

Nun_danket_alle_Gott_(1653)If not for his hymn “Now Thank We All Our God”, we might never have known the name Martin Rinkart.  Rinkart was a Lutheran pastor who lived in Saxony during the brutal Thirty Years’ War in the first half of the 17th century.

Rinkart lived and ministered in the walled city of Eilenburg, which became a haven for political and religious refugees, leading to overcrowding that brought famine and disease.  A severe plague ravaged the city in 1637, and at its height Rinkart, the only surviving minister in the city, was performing as many as 50 funerals per day.  He is said to have performed over 4,000 funerals that year, including his wife’s.

Under those awful conditions and constant military threats, Rinkart continued to serve God and the people of Eilenburg.  And even in that world dominated by death and disease, he penned the words of one of the most well-known hymns of thanksgiving:

Now thank we all our God with heart and hands and voices,
Who wondrous things has done, in Whom His world rejoices;
Who from our mothers’ arms has blessed us on our way
With countless gifts of love, and still is ours today.

O may this bounteous God through all our life be near us,
With ever joyful hearts and blessed peace to cheer us,
To keep us in His grace, and guide us when perplexed,
And free us from all ills of this world in the next.

All praise and thanks to God the Father now be given,
The Son and Spirit blest, Who reign is highest heaven,
The one eternal God, Whom earth and heaven adore;
For thus it was, is now, and shall be evermore.

Happy Thanksgiving from NHIM!

Walls of Remembrance

There was a long hallway in our home that lead to the back section of the house. My wife, Sue, had made the blank walls into a corridor of cherished mementos. The walls were adorned with things like grandparents’ marriage licenses, diplomas, pictures, newspaper articles, poems and art work from grandchildren, and other family treasures.

It was a joy to see family members stop for a moment and smile before they move on. We often shared family history and events that relate to some of these keepsakes. These shared memories are strands that are woven into the tapestry of our lives and make us strong. They help hold our family together.

The breakdown of family units, members being estranged from each other, and the rising tide of divorce is alarming. This situation is paralleled by domestic violence, child abuse, multiple kinds of addiction, and a dramatic increase in suicide rates. Without solid family ties, our culture is experiencing social disintegration. Without loved ones who know who we are and where we come from, our society is coming apart at the seams.

As important as healthy family ties are, there is another anchor for people that is even more important. It is our relationship with the Lord. When we are a part of God’s family through the new birth, we can weather the storms of life. With God’s grace and mercy, we are able to live successfully through circumstances that so often tear people apart. God’s word assures us of His love. He promises that we stay on His heart and in His mind. “Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you! (16) See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands; your walls are ever before me” (Isaiah 49:15-16, NIV).

Being a part of God’s family helps hold our earthly families together. I am thankful each day for family, Sue’s Memory Walls, and especially for belonging to God’s family. Bill Gaither says it beautifully in the song “Family of God”: “I’m so glad I’m a part of the family of God. I’ve been washed in the fountain, cleansed by His blood! Joint heirs with Jesus as we travel this sod, For I’m part of the family, the family of God.” Are you a part of God’s family? You can be. Just ask Him.

Prayer: May all who read this devotional be on the walls of God’s heart.

~ Brother Roy

Not a Thread Nor a Sandal Strap

abrahamAlthough many instances in scripture can be found that reflect the character and disposition of God’s friend Abram (Abraham), may I share just two examples:

  • First, “Abram was very rich in livestock, in silver, and in gold” (Genesis 13:1). Following God’s calling, Abram had thrived. Lot, his nephew, traveled with Abram and his flocks and herds also prospered. The land was not able to support both of them. Strife developed over water and pasture. They needed to separate. Although Abram was the Patriarch of the family, and seniority rights dictated that he should have first choice of territory, he deferred to Lot.  Abram believed that his security and his future rested with God – not in land or earthly possessions. Then we read, “And Lot lifted up his eyes and saw all the plain of Jordan, that it was well watered everywhere…like the garden of the Lord.  Then Lot chose for himself all the plain of Jordan”. (Genesis 13:10-11). The record reveals much about both men, especially the wisdom of Abram. The arid hills and a close relationship with God proved to be his security.
  • The second illustration follows in the account of Abram’s interaction with the King of Sodom.  In a courageous and daring rescue, Abram and his servants delivered Lot and his family from a marauding army. The invaders had attacked Sodom and “Then they took all the goods of Sodom and Gomorrah, and all their provisions, and went on their way” (Genesis 14:11). They also took Lot’s family and many of the people of Sodom as captives. After the heroic rescue, Abram returned everything that had been taken to the King of Sodom. The king wanted to reward him handsomely. Abram responded with words that are riveting and give great insight into Abram’s character. “…I will take nothing from a thread to a sandal strap” (14:23).

Abram was apparently aware that two of the devil’s most powerful tools are materialism and greed. The pages of scripture are littered with the accounts of lives that yielded to them and were destroyed. Lot’s experiences serve as case in point. How easy it is to focus on the things this world can provide and forget the Provider. Attention is often on our own strength and cunning to get ahead. We may even justify things like cheating a little on income tax or taking advantage of a situation for personal gain to the detriment of someone else. Decisions do not necessarily have to be dishonest or illegal to be damaging to our character and integrity. A wise friend once told me “Men, like rivers, get crooked following the course of least resistance”.

Let me share two verses of scripture that relate to this devotional:

  • “He who loves silver will not be satisfied with silver; nor he who loves abundance, with increase. This also is vanity” (Ecclesiastes 5:10).
  • As a partridge that broods but does not hatch, so is he who gets riches, but not by right; It will leave him in the midst of his days, and at his end he will be a fool” (Jeremiah 17:1).

Prayer: Lord, help us to live in the center of your will. Our future and our security is in You. We want to “take nothing from a thread to a sandal strap” that we should not have.

~  Brother Roy

Under the Gun

WAR & CONFLICT BOOK ERA:  WWI/RECRUITMENT AND TRAINING

As the day approached for us to leave our home of 43 years behind and move to smaller quarters, we felt the pressure. The old phrase ‘under the gun’ came to mind. It is my understanding that the term originated during World War I. A soldier was ‘under the gun during the first part of a charge across no-mans’ land when they were under artillery bombardment. It has now come to mean you are under intense pressure to move forward, to act.

I could relate to the Apostle Paul’s comments in 2 Corinthians, “At that time we were completely overwhelmed, the burden was more than we could bear, in fact we told ourselves that this was the end” (2 Corinthians 1:8, Phillips). I was feeling overwhelmed, under the gun, Sunday morning when I arrived at my Sunday School class. It was there, in the Lord’s house, that I found relief from the pressure and concern.

It was as if the Lord had prepared the lesson especially for me. The teacher spoke of what to do when you feel overwhelmed. He suggested that we ask ourselves three questions:

  1. Does God know about my situation?
  2. Is the situation too big for God to handle?
  3. Does God have a plan?

The answers were obvious: Yes. No. Yes. I could feel my anxiety melting away and my spirits were being lifted. Scripture says, So, humble yourselves under God’s strong hand, and in his own good time he will lift you up. You can throw the whole weight of your anxieties upon him, for you are his personal concern” (1 Pet. 5:6-7, Phillips). I knew I was no longer ‘under the gun’, but under God’s hand and plan.

All to often, we experience unnecessary anxiety and pressure. As a believer, we are assured of the Lord’s presence. He is willing and able to help us, if rely on Him. Ask yourself the three questions above. You don’t need to live ‘under the gun’.

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. (Psalm 46:1)

~ Brother Roy

Election

i votedNovember was approaching, and the political season was in full flower. Political ads and propaganda were dominating television, radio, and newspaper. Yard signs, door-hangers, and flyers littered the neighborhoods. Election season underscores the deep divide between the parties and candidates. So many of the politicians appear to substitute volume for substance and ‘the beat goes on’.

In my Kentucky mountain home, differences of opinion have often been intense and at times ‘heated’. These disagreements are especially ardent in the arena of politics and religion. It is not uncommon for these disputes to erupt into violence. For the sake of brevity, I will only focus on the religious side. There is a long-standing debate between the ‘free will-ers’ and the ‘unconditional election’ folks. I will not wade into the deep end of the controversy, but rather stay in the shallow end as I attempt to make my point.

I recently ran across a quote by Lela McConnell in her autobiography, The Mountain Shall Be Thine: “A man said about the doctrine of election, ‘Jesus has a vote, the devil has a vote, and I have a vote, but my vote decided the election’” (p.99). I tend to ascribe to that man’s theology. Phrases in scripture like; “let whosoever will come” (Revelation 22:17), “whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16), and “choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve” (Joshua 24:15) tilt me his direction – that of free will.

The old adage, “If you don’t vote, don’t gripe,” seems appropriate. If we neglect to participate in the process that determines our eternal life, we will answer at Judgment. God’s word asks, “how shall we escape if we ignore so great a salvation? This salvation, which was first announced by the Lord, was confirmed to us by those who heard him. God also testified to it by signs, wonders and various miracles, and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will” (Hebrews 2:3-4, NIV).

This election is not to elect Jesus as Savior. He already is and has been since the foundation of the world! Amen! This election is for us to decide if we will spend eternity with Him. I cast my vote for Jesus six decades ago and am so glad I did.

“But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord” – Joshua 24:15

~ Brother Roy