Not My Fault

I suppose most of us have had times in our lives when we came up short of expectations. For various reasons, we did not do our best. There usually follows a period of explanations and excuses. We engage in the ‘not my fault’ narrative trying to lessen the disappointment that we feel in ourselves and others may feel about us. 

An old saying fits this situation: ‘A poor workman always blames his tools.’ How difficult it is for us to accept responsibility for or actions, especially if we are not pleased with our performance. We must be forewarned that making excuses and blaming someone or something else, if it becomes our modus operandi, is very destructive. It can have a devastating effect on our own mind and heart. When we fail to take responsibility, it creates anxiety and insecurity.

Learning to accept responsibility is a must if a person is to be successful in life and intends heaven to be their home. Accepting personal responsibility is taking ownership of our own behavior and the consequences of that behavior. Until we accept responsibility for shortcomings and failures, it’ll be very difficult to develop self-respect or to have the respect of others.

It’s a simple truth that all human beings, young and old alike, make mistakes and poor choices. So, you should first understand one thing: You’re not the first person (nor will you be the the last) who has fallen short in the personal behavior department from time to time. The following steps for dealing with failure to meet expectations are Biblical and redemptive:

  • Face the situation head-on without excuses such as, It’s not my fault, I’ve had a string of bad luck, if I was older/younger/richer/smarter/single/married/better educated/better connected, etc., this wouldn’t have happened to me.
  • Realize that simply saying ‘I’m sorry’ does not automatically restore confidence.
  • Acknowledge your failures with heartfelt confession and true repentance. “For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death” (2 Corinthians 7:10, NKJV).
  • With the help of the Holy Spirit, don’t repeat the action. John 8 relates the account of a woman caught in adultery that was brought to Jesus. The law demanded that she be stoned. What happens in this verse must be taken in its full context. Jesus does not tell the woman, “You did nothing wrong.” He does not say, “Don’t worry about what you did.” Instead, Jesus simply states that He does not condemn her—which in this context refers specifically to stoning her for this particular sin. He also explicitly tells her not to commit this sin anymore. This incident is often misapplied by those who think Christians ought never to speak out against sin. The exact opposite is true: Jesus showed this woman incredible loving grace, while still firmly calling her adultery what it was – ‘sin’ and a moral failure which must not be repeated.

Prayer: Lord, help me to accept responsibility when I fail and with Your help to rise above the situation.

~ Brother Roy

Look Both Ways

Most of us have heard the following advice many times, “Look both ways before you cross the street”. Today, we need to heed that good advice again. Here we are, we’ve finished 2020, and we can look back over many turbulent days. We can also look forward to a New Year not yet cluttered with events. It is my intent in this devotional to briefly look both ways as we cross into the New Year.

The 2020 year, in many respects, has enveloped our minds in a kind of fog. Covid-19 has and continues to be lethal, leaving a path of sickness and destruction. This global pandemic has infected tens of millions, and the number of deaths staggers the mind. There have been three deaths in our family due to Covid. Now, a new Covid strain is exploding in Europe. Lockdowns, isolation, and mental distress seem to be the order of the day. Economic woes and political upheavals have inundated us. The fog of confusion and uncertainty as we look back threatens to obscure our view of things that are of eternal importance.

How about an attempt to look forward to see what the New Year might reveal?  I would like to offer some reflections about peering into what seems to be an obscured future.  For more than a decade, my wife and I have been privileged to spend time on Dauphin Island off the coast of Mobile, Alabama. During our days on Dauphin Island, I grew accustomed to looking across the bay each morning and seeing the bridge that connects the island to the mainland. When heavy fog comes in, it is impossible to see this vital lifeline connector. I knew the causeway and bridge were there, but not being able to see them can be a little unsettling.

My discomfort is partly due to past history. A dozen hurricanes and tropical storms have battered the island in the last 50 years. September 12, 1979, a bruising Category 3 hurricane named Frederic roared up the Gulf of Mexico and across Dauphin Island before surging into Mobile Bay. The 120-mile-per-hour winds and 12-foot storm surge destroyed the only bridge to the island and destroyed 140 houses. For several years, the only way on and off the island was by boat. The people on the island have been assured that the present three mile long bridge (1982) is hurricane-proof and storm-proof.

I soon learned the fog that blankets Dauphin island in the morning hours would eventually dissipate. The rising sun would melt away the fog. It was always comforting when the fog lifted and I could see the bridge. In like manner, the spiritual fog that threatens to block our vision into the new year can also be dispelled. Although surrounded by the fog of 2020 as we move into 2021, we must have faith to believe Jesus is there, even though circumstances seem to obstruct our vision. We need to be assured that He loves us and wants to clear away the fog.

As a foggy day progressed on Dauphin Island, the sun came up and caused the fog to lift. I could see the bridge was still there. In like manner Scripture promises, But it won’t be long before the weather clears and the sun shines bright! We’ll see it all then, see it all as clearly as God sees us, knowing Him directly just as He knows us” (1 Corinthians 13:12b, MSG).

How do we keep the spiritual fog from blocking our view of Christ in the New Year? Let me share some things that help me. I believe they can also help you.

  • Read and anchor in Psalm 23. This Psalm is one of the most beloved of all scriptures. If you have not already memorized it, do so. It can help clear away the fog.
  • Look up and commit to memory Isaiah 46:4 – “Even to your old age and gray hairs I am He, I am He who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you”.
  • Trust God’s promise in His unchanging Word, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future” (Jeremiah 29:11, NIV).
  • Take time to sing a favorite hymn or gospel song, like: Blessed Assurance; It is Well With My Soul; Now I Belong To Jesus; On Christ The Solid Rock I Stand; He Hideth My Soul; or Rock Of Ages. (In my case, it may be better to read the words and hum.) *If you don’t have a hymn book, contact me at NHIM and I will find you one. NO ONE SHOULD BE WITHOUT HYMNAL!
  • Adopt an old Hebrew perspective of moving into the future. ‘You walk backwards into the future’. While you may not be able to see exactly what the future holds, but you can see the past. You can see God’s faithfulness as you look back across the years. He has always been faithful. You can rest in the assurance that He was there yesterday and He will be there tomorrow. You can step into 2021 knowing He is going ahead of you. Hear Him say, “I’ve got this!”

Allow me to paraphrase some of the lyrics of a Johnny Nash recording: “I can see clearly now, the fog is gone, I can see all obstacles in my way. Gone are the thick clouds that had me blind. It’s gonna’ be a bright, bright sunshiny day.”

“Look both ways before you cross the street”

~ Brother Roy

Parting Words

My 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 survive. His early years were spent looking for jobs here and there. A depression-era parting 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, and 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 also 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 win 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 Him and 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

One Way

one-way-traffic-sign-k-1833_plWe are all familiar with ‘One Way – Do Not Enter’ signs. They are posted in clear view of the driving public to restrict traffic flow on certain streets and roadways.  They are there to prevent head-on collisions. We see them and instinctively respond to them for our own good. It is foolhardy to disregard these signs.

This is not the case in the religious world. Across the years and across religious faiths there has been much disagreement and debate about the ‘one way’ to obtain eternal life. While differences among diverse religious faiths is to be expected, there is surprising disparity within the Christian community. Many believe that to claim belief in Jesus as God’s only Son and our Savior as the only way to heaven is too exclusive and narrow. A host of other Christians believe that Jesus is the only way to eternal life.  There are others who hold that it doesn’t make any difference what you believe as long as you are basically a good person. They would proclaim that God is loving and kind to the point that no one will be excluded from Heaven.

I have read the writings of many of the proponents of the various positions. I have concluded personally that long after the pages upon which these religious sages have written have turned yellow and crumbled; long after silverfish have eaten their fill of the deteriorating print; long after the musings of religious pundits have faded from memory, the Bible will still be true. It will still be the number one bestseller, as it has been across centuries.  I have determined that I will take the following Holy Scriptures at face value:

  • “Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father, except through me.” (John 14:6, NIV)
  • “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12, NIV)

“For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus.” (1 Timothy 2:5, NKJV)

~ Brother Roy

A Christmas Lamb

One of the most moving accounts in all of human literature is the record of Abraham and Isaac in the Book of Genesis. Abraham, the Father of our faith, had a son born to him and Sarah when he was one hundred years old and Sarah was ninety. Isaac was the child of God’s promise to Abraham. He was their only son – the one they had longed for across decades. Then, in an incredible turn of events recorded in Genesis 22, God gave Abraham a strange directive:

Then He said, “Take now your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you …But Isaac spoke to Abraham his father and said, “My father!” And he said, “Here I am, my son.” Then he said, “Look, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering. And Abraham said, “My son, God will provide for Himself the lamb for a burnt offering, So the two of them went together …And Abraham stretched out his hand and took the knife to slay his son…And He said, “Do not lay your hand on the lad, or do anything to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me” (v.2-12).

God did indeed provide a lamb that was an acceptable sacrifice in place of Isaac. Then Abraham lifted his eyes and looked, and there behind him was a ram caught in a thicket by its horns. So Abraham went and took the ram, and offered it up…” (v.13).

Across the centuries that followed, the world spurned God’s plans and His attempts to save them from their own destructive ways. In the words of the hymn writer, Phillip Bliss, “The whole world was lost in the darkness of sin.”  Finally, when the right time had come, God unfolded His plan. “But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons” (Galatians 4:4-5 NKJV), and “…at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly(Romans 5:6, NIV).

On the night that Christ came into our world, the dark skies near Bethlehem exploded with light: And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:8-11, NKJV).

Once again, God provided for Himself a sacrificial lamb. This time it was His only begotten son, Jesus. Jesus was the only one worthy to take away our sins.  “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8, NKJV).

This Christmas season, hear again the words from the Gospel of John:  “…John saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29, NKJV).

Jesus Is Our Christmas Lamb

~ Brother Roy

Want to Be a Star?

My wife came home from her Women’s Bible Study group thrilled once again with the Christmas Story. The lady who brought the devotional focused on ‘The Christmas Star’, and she touched Sue’s heart. The scripture was familiar: “Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him” (Matthew 2:1-2 NKJV).

The emphasis was on the light of the Star that guided the Magi to Jesus. The lady then spoke of her ‘Christmas Star’ – the person in her life whose light led her to Jesus. The group was then asked to think of a person whose life helped guide them to Jesus. It was a wonderful time of reflection and remembrance as they thought of those special people that influenced them to seek and to find the Savior.

The final step in this moving devotional was to ask each lady if there was someone in their sphere of influence for whom they could be the light to guide that person to Jesus. Could they be a Christmas Star for someone?

 I am grateful that my wife shared that devotional thought with me. I love the Christmas Season. With the emphasis on the birth of Christ all around us, it’s easy to speak the name of Jesus to those with whom we have contact. That is certainly true of Christian family and friends, but it may also be an opportune time to share our faith with those who are not Christian.

Jesus said, You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:14-16).

Prayer: Lord, help me to be a Christmas Star for someone who sits in darkness.

~ Brother Roy

Another Way

Christmas season has descended upon us again and will soon be over for yet another year. Many will breathe a sigh of relief. Others are left with melancholy feelings and loneliness. Mixed emotions are the order of the day. There is the joy of sharing with family and friends, the wonderful music of the Christmas season, and the excitement of children. Nativity scenes and carols fill the holidays. Add to these activities decorating, buying and exchanging gifts, baking cookies, making fudge, Christmas gatherings, family dinners, travel, and more. For many, all of this causes the adrenaline to flow, and perhaps a few develop a ‘bah humbug’ attitude. *The normal events mentioned above have been altered for most of us because of Covid Pandemic.

In what seems like an instant, the holiday season is over and we come down from our high. It is time to return to the routines of our lives. What lasting impact has Christmas really had on us? I’m talking about more than depleted bank accounts, credit card bills, and exhaustion. Will this year be like so many others? Will the message of Christmas soon evaporate into an occasional pleasant memory?

The second chapter of the Gospel of Matthew relates the marvelous account of the Wise Men. They followed the light of the Guiding Star to the Christ Child. When they arrived in Bethlehem, “They rejoiced with exceedingly great joy” (Matthew 2:10, KJV). When they saw the young Child with Mary His mother, “they fell down and worshiped Him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh” (Matthew 2:11, NIV). 

If we are aware of His presence in this Christmas season, we should emulate the ‘Wise Men’. If we have truly worshipped Him and have also given Him the gifts of ourselves, our time, and our treasures, we will be blessed and eternally changed for the better. The Wise Men left their encounter with the Christ of Christmas differently than they came. “And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route” (Matthew 2:12, NIV).

May we be committed to returning to our normal routines as different people in a different way. Because of a fresh, or perhaps for some a first, encounter with Jesus, we ought to be better people. Let us travel into the days ahead another way, a different way than we came.

~ Brother Roy

Mary’s Reply

Image from the painting The Annunciation, by Henry Ossawa Tanner (1898)

I have never (to my knowledge) had an angel appear to me to deliver a message from God.  But would you agree with me that it would be a startling experience?  Would you be inclined to believe your own experience, or would you have doubts that what you were experiencing was real?  When the archangel Gabriel appeared to the young Mary – a girl, really – in Nazareth and told her that she was blessed, she wasn’t quite sure what to think.  But Gabriel reassured her not to be afraid, for she had “found favor with God” (Luke 1:30, NASB).

Gabriel went on to give Mary impossible news – she would become pregnant and give birth to a son, a royal descendant who would rule over Israel forever (v.31-33).  In our nation where leaders are chosen by vote of the people, it is perhaps not uncommon for parents to believe their child may grow up to be President, but the idea that the son of a girl from Nazareth would sit on the throne of David in a kingdom that would not end – unlikely!

In addition to the seeming impossibility of bearing a son who would rule Israel, Mary also finds the science behind this proclamation to be dubious – “How will this be, since I am a virgin?” (v.34).  So Gabriel delivers another mind-blowing detail – “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; for that reason also the holy Child will be called the son of God…For nothing will be impossible with God” (v.35,37).

Mary has just been given earth-shattering news.  It is a message that will alter human history.  It is the long-awaited dawn of the redemption of a fallen world.  It is the culmination of the hope of the people of Israel – the prophesied Messiah come to set His people free.  And He is coming through Mary?  It seems…impossible.

What would your response to such a message be?  Would you be eager to believe it?  Would you be inclined to doubt?  Would you perhaps wonder if God couldn’t find someone else?  Or would you dare to dream that what the angel said is possible and welcome your own participation in it?  That’s what Mary did:  “Behold, the Lord’s bond-servant; may it be done to me according to your word” (v.38).

Now, you and I are not likely ever to receive a message quite like Mary did.  But God has delivered some “impossible” promises to us as well.  My question about our response is the same.  Would we be eager to believe?  Would we be inclined to doubt?  Would we prefer God offered His promise to someone else?  Or would we dare to dream that “nothing will be impossible with God” and reply as Mary did – “May it be done to me according to your word”:

  • “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh” (Ezekiel 36:26). May it be done to me according to your word!
  • “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (I John 1:9) May it be done to me according to your word!
  •  “But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all truth” (John 16:13). May it be done to me according to your word!
  • “But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not faint” (Isaiah 40:31). May it be done to me according to your word!
  • “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you” (James 1:5). May it be done to me according to your word!
  • “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to Him, and He will make your paths straight” (Proverbs 3:5-6). May it be done to me according to your word!
  •  “Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God, and He will come near to you” (James 4:7-8). May it be done to me according to your word!
  • “The name of the Lord is a fortified tower; the righteous run to it and are safe” (Proverbs 18:10). May it be done to me according to your word!
  • “He will cover you with His feathers, and under His wings you will find refuge; His faithfulness will be your shield and rampart. You will not fear the terror of night, nor the arrow that flies by day, nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness, nor the plague that destroys at midday” (Psalm 91:4-6). May it be done to me according to your word!
  • “The thief comes only to steal and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it abundantly” (John 10:10)May it be done to me according to your word!
  • “No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, He will also provide a way out so that you can endure it” (I Corinthians 10:13). May it be done to me according to your word!
  • “May God Himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul, and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The One who calls you is faithful, and He will do it”  (I Thessalonians 5:23-24). May it be done to me according to your word!

“Behold, the Lord’s bond-servant; may it be done to me according to your word.” (Luke 1:38)

~ Matt Kinnell
NHIM Board Chair

Because You Prayed

prayer (1)Recently, my daughter Lori called and said, “Daddy, I’m having my devotions and I’m looking at a verse that is perfect for you to develop into a devotional thought for your website.” It is not unusual for Lori to call with an idea for a sermon or devotional. We have always been soulmates, and she knows my heart. During her elementary, high school, and college years, I pastored a church that was two and half hours away. Every weekend the journey with my wife and daughter was ‘a family affair’. Lori also liked to travel with me during the week to revivals and retreats closer to home. Her insight and support has proven to be invaluable.

The verse that was gripping her heart and now grips mine is this: “Then Isaiah son of Amoz sent a message to Hezekiah: “This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: Because you have prayed to me concerning Sennacherib king of Assyria, this is the word the Lord has spoken against him” (Isaiah 37:21-22, NIV). The phrase ‘Because you have prayed’ resonated with her and prompted her call.

As we talked, we both recalled with joy the times that we had experienced God’s hand in our lives because we had prayed. God had so often intervened to our benefit in times of crisis and distress. We also considered times we should have prayed and didn’t. The words of the beloved hymn came to my mind: “Oh, what peace we often forfeit. Oh, what needless pain we bear. All because we do not carry everything to God in prayer”.

Both of us have since spent time reflecting on those challenging words of scripture. They are helping refocus our attention on prayer. While there is a cornucopia of wonderful verses of scripture on prayer, I’ll share just two:

  • “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer” (Romans 12:12, NIV).
  • “Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need” (Hebrews 4:16, NIV).

May I encourage you to consider how God has touched your life ‘because you have prayed’. Pause and give Him thanks. Consider how different things might have been if you had prayed and didn’t. Determine to be more faithful in prayer.

“Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, NIV).

~ Brother Roy