The Rising Tide

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAA number of years ago, my wife and I were leading a ministry team of Asbury University students in Northern Ireland. The venue for our efforts was two sea coast towns on the northeast shore. At times, we would see fishing boats tilted on one side and resting on the bottom of the bay. Passing by at a later hour, we would notice the boats upright and floating well above the floor of the inlet. What had changed the orientation of the fishing boats? It was the tide.

Hailing from the mountains of Eastern Kentucky, that was all new to me. There is not much of a tide on Squabble Creek. There is a wise saying among the people along the Irish shore: “The rising tide lifts all boats”.  That saying epitomized the reason we were there.

Northern Ireland was a troubled land at that time. The Irish Republican Army and the Ulster Unionists were literally at war. The youth to whom we were seeking to minister were deeply divided on either side of the conflict. Bombs, bullets, fights, and fires were an almost daily occurrence. Not only were many combatants dying, but numbers of innocent by-standers were also losing their lives in the fray. A sense of hatred and lawlessness pervaded this beautiful land.

How could a handful of young people have any real impact in such a hostile environment? Then a thought stirred my thinking. Jesus said, “And I, if I be lifted up, will draw all men unto Myself.” That’s why we were there. Our prayer was that by lifting Jesus up among these belligerent factions, He would draw them to Himself and then draw them together. The hearts’ desire of our ministry team was that the Prince of Peace would raise these wonderful young people above the conflict. We wanted the words of scripture to penetrate their troubled hearts:

  • How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity” (Psalm 133:1, NIV).
  • “Keeping away from strife is an honor for a man, but any fool will quarrel” (Proverbs 20:3).
  • “Make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose. Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves” (Philippians 2:3).
  • Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful” (Colossians 3:13-15).

Our team was privileged to witness the Lord lift some of the people above the bitterness and strife. In the intervening years, from then until now, much of the conflict has subsided and a sense of hope has settled. If the Lord is lifted up, He is able to do “exceeding abundantly above what we think or ask”.

“The rising tide lifts all boats.”

~ Brother Roy  

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Change of Status

lauter map 2When I made my first trip to M.D. Anderson Cancer Treatment Center in Houston, Texas, my outlook was bleak. My first diagnosis had given a rather short length of life projection. After a myriad of tests and consultations, Dr. Kuban, the lead doctor, sat down with my wife and me. Her prognosis was more encouraging. She told us that if everything went really well, they had a chance of adding five years to my life expectancy.

We had to make a temporary move to Houston to start treatment. Days stretched into weeks of daily radiation. Finally, I was cleared to return home to continue chemotherapy at a local facility. Over the next four years, numerous trips to Houston were necessary, in addition to regular doctor visits here. This last year had raised my concern as PSA and other indicators had elevated. On Monday Sept. 10, I returned to M.D. Anderson for blood work and case evaluation. Five years had lapsed since Dr. Kuban had given me cautious hope.

I sat nervously waiting for Dr. Kuban. The PA’s and nurses had reviewed my records and tests – now the wait. When Dr. Kuban arrived, we exchanged pleasantries, and I tried to appear calm. Then the shoe dropped. Dr. Kuban said, “Mr. Lauter, I am changing your status today. I’m changing you from Cancer Patient to Cancer Survivor.”  All I could say was, “Praise the Lord.”

I really didn’t need a plane to fly home! On the way back to Wilmore, my heart continued rejoicing at the news. Then, I remembered another occasion of such an overflowing heart. It was the day I was the recipient of a spiritual reclassification. Conviction had made me fully aware of the fact that; “… the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:22, NIV). When I confessed my sins, I was forgiven and saved from my sin. I was reclassified from sinner to ‘born again’ believer.

I have been the subject of several other reclassifications, like student to graduate, renter to home owner, teacher to administrator, etc. But, nothing can compare to my spiritual change in status. That change is now closely followed by, “Mr. Lauter, I’m changing you from Cancer Patient to Cancer Survivor.”

May I ask you, “What is your spiritual status?” If there is a problem, let Jesus reclassify you from sinner to believer. There is no other experience like it.

~Brother Roy

Bite the Coin

bite the coin“My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.” (James 1:2-4, NKJV)

The word translated ‘testing of your faith’ occurs only here and in 1 Peter 1:7. The term, which means “tested” or “approved”, was used for coins that were genuine and not debased (Nelson Commentary). When real gold was used in coinage, biting a coin was a test for authenticity – real gold is relatively soft, and biting it (gently!) will leave a faint tooth mark. Harder metals used to make counterfeit coins will not show tooth marks. James notes the testing of our faith, like testing coins for authenticity, is essential for maturing Christians.

In the article ‘Ways You Must Test Your Faith’ by Rhodes Davis, several test are suggested. Let me share a brief summary:

  • Test 1: Are you obedient to the faith? The first question is simple: are you obeying God? Are you living a changed life? Once you are a child of God, are you daily obeying God’s word? Does your life conform to the standard of teaching to which you committed yourself?
  • Test 2: Are you living in faith? Every day we must live with complete trust in God, casting all of our cares into His hands or accept a weak existence where we do not trust God completely with our life.
  • Test 3: Is your faith growing? Our new birth should result in continual growth, but if we do not tend to our spiritual life, it can stagnate. When it comes to faith, if you are not growing you are dying.
  • Test 4: Is your faith evident to others? Your faith should not be the best kept secret in your life. It should be obvious to others that you are a disciple of Christ. We should be a good example in speech, conduct, love, faith, and purity so that our discipleship would be obvious to all.
  • Test 5: Do you share your faith with others? If you know that the gospel is true and that your faith is transforming, you should not hesitate to share it with others. If you believe the gospel is the only way to salvation, it should urge you to teach others about Jesus.

Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. (2 Cor. 13:5)

~ Brother Roy

South Africa Team Testimony: Guilt vs. Conviction

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I think that the biggest lesson that I have learned from my trip to South Africa was that I should not feel guilty for what I have. One of the topics that we talked about multiple times during our trip was guilt. It is easy for us to go to the townships and walk inside their shacks that house 5 people and are no bigger than my bathroom and feel guilty that our bathrooms are nicer than the entire place that they live. Feeling guilty about what we have is what leads us to giving some money to the homeless person on the street or giving handouts to people who do not have what we do. While this is not bad on its own, the reason that we do it is to ease our guilt. We cannot just give handouts in order to ease our guilty conscience.

Instead of feeling guilty, we should feel convicted. We did not choose to be born in America instead of in South Africa in a township. We do not need to feel guilty about who we are because of genetics or geography, because we had no hand in choosing that. When we feel convicted instead of guilty, we take action that will impact more people than handouts will. And honestly, people do not need more handouts. The best thing that we can do for those who live in poverty is to provide them with resources and skills so that they can make a living themselves. One small example of this is to plant a garden in a township and then task one of the villagers who is willing to tend it. This way, the villager is taking responsibility and now has a way to provide food and/or an income for their family.

This really impacted me and reminded me that guilt and shame are not things that we, as Christians, should hold on to. As is written in Romans 8:1 “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.”

~ Rachel VanLaningham

No Risk It – No Biscuit

ariansBruce Arians, retired coach of the Arizona Cardinals, often used a catchy phrase with his team – ‘No Risk It – No Biscuit’. It was his way of talking about the risk/reward paradigm. The Cambridge English Dictionary gives the following definition of ‘risk/reward’: the possible profit that a particular activity may make, in relation to the risk involved in doing it.

In the Parable of the Talents, Jesus presents us with a story that clearly illustrates principles of the risk/reward concept:  “For the kingdom of heaven is like a man traveling to a far country, who called his own servants and delivered his goods to them. And to one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one, to each according to his own ability; and immediately he went on a journey.  Then he who had received the five talents went and traded with them, and made another five talents.  And likewise he who had received two gained two more also.  But he who had received one went and dug in the ground, and hid his lord’s money.  After a long time the lord of those servants came and settled accounts with them” (Matthew 24:14-19, NKJV).

When the Master of the house returned, the servant that had received five talents and the servant that had received two talents had each doubled what they were given. They had taken the risk of investing. Then, each heard the Master say, “Well done, good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord” (Matthew 25:21, NKJV). They received a reward.

The servant that received one talent had a far different experience. He didn’t risk investment. He said, “I was afraid, and went and hid your talent in the ground. Look, there you have what is yours.” Unfortunately, he heard the Master say, “You wicked and lazy servant, you knew that I reap where I have not sown, and gather where I have not scattered seed…Therefore take the talent from him, and give it to him who has ten talents” (Matthew 25:26-28).  No risk it – No biscuit.

Spiritual laziness can be devastating. Laziness is the disinclination to activity or exertion despite having the ability to act or exert oneself. Scripture tells us of our responsibility to share the gospel and bear fruit. This obligation creates an eternity determining situation. “Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin” (James 4:17, NKJV). Shrinking back and timidity do not please God. “But the fearful, and unbelieving… shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death” (Revelation 21:8, NKJV).

For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind. (2 Timothy 1:7)

~ Brother Roy

An Excuse for Being Born

first dayThe children in our neighborhood were excited. It was mid-August, and the opening day of school had arrived. Several of the children were veterans. They were going into the third or fourth grade. But a couple were entering school for the first time. They were nervous and holding on to their mothers. I’m sure the ‘horror stories’ told by older students added to the angst of the first day.

I heard a story of a little fellow who was excited about starting first grade. He was a brave soldier and didn’t want his mom to accompany him the few blocks from home to school. He confidently left on his own only to return a short time later, out of breath and in tears. He was crying “Mommy, mommy, I lost my excuse for being born!” The boy’s mother had sent him off with the necessary enrollment information including his Birth Certificate. Somehow, the child had lost the Birth Certificate along the way.

Have you ever wondered, “Why am I here?”  Have you pondered, “Does my life really matter?” People sometimes feel like their existence is without purpose or direction. It is almost as if they feel ‘they have lost their excuse for being born’.

The Bible makes it abundantly clear that God created man and that He created him for His glory (Isaiah 43:7). Therefore, the ultimate purpose of man, according to the Bible, is simply to glorify God. In Psalm 100:2-3, we are told to “worship God with gladness” and “know that the Lord is God. It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.” Part of what it looks like to glorify God is to acknowledge who God is (our Creator, for starters) and to praise and worship Him as such.

In our fallen state, sin separates us from God and makes it impossible to glorify Him on our own. But, through Jesus Christ’s sacrifice, our relationship with God can be reconciled and our sin forgiven. There is no longer a barrier between God and us (Romans 5:10). If you feel like you have no purpose in life, that you’ve lost your excuse for being born, then turn to Jesus. He will give you purpose in life.

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God.” (Ephesians 2:8, NIV)

~ Brother Roy

Willie B

willie bDr. Timothy Tennent, President of Asbury Theological Seminary, shared a fascinating illustration at a recent spiritual renewal conference at our church. The illustration captured my attention, and I share my recollection of it here. As a school boy in the Atlanta area, he made a number of field trips to the Atlanta Zoo. His favorite ‘animal celebrity’, as with most people who visited the zoo, was Willie B, a large silverback gorilla.

Willie B’s small enclosure drew the attention of many zoo patrons. They initiated a campaign to raise funding to construct a large and environmentally appropriate habitat for Willie B. The funding came in, and the community excitedly watched the progress of the project in local media. When the dedication day came for the new enclosure, a large crowd and the media gathered to observe Willie B’s first venture into his new home.

As he stepped out of the door of his small and rather sterile cage, he sat down near the door. He gazed at the large open space including trees, vines, grass, and pool of water. A few minutes later, Willie B got up turned around and went back inside. Perhaps overwhelmed by what he saw, he retreated from the new commodious surroundings into his cage. He seemed to favor the more familiar surroundings.

The application, for me, was immediately obvious. As church members, we are challenged by the Gospel of Jesus Christ to move outside the secure walls of our church. We are soon confronted with the realities of a fallen world – situations like broken homes, aborted lives, abused children, drugs, violence, greed and more. Many of the people we encounter are hostile and angry. They show little, if any, interest in the salvation message we attempt to share. Rejection and disappointment usually follow. So, like Willie B, we retreat into the confines of our less-menacing church environment.  Under such a retreat, the Lord’s Great Commission to ‘go into all the world’ with the message of hope and salvation is given little more than lip service and a small check.

We prefer a non-threatening environment with ‘people like us’. We find our comfort level inside our small groups that aren’t so intimidating. But, as the Willie B’s of our Christian world, we must get out there! Jesus showed us the way by His example. Everyone who knows anything about the Gospels—and even those who don’t—knows that Jesus was a ‘friend of sinners’. We should find ourselves challenged by Jesus’ example and make sure we do not retreat from our fallen world in a way that Jesus never would.

Prayer: Lord, please don’t let me be a spiritual Willie B. With the help of the Holy Spirit, may I be willing to “go into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature(Mark 16:15).

~ Brother Roy