On the Wall

phil 1.3Fitch’s Store is our small town gathering place for morning coffee and community news. On the wall behind the small tables where we share coffee and donuts are several rows of framed pictures. These pictures are of friends that have been a part of our fellowship. These folks have passed on from this life, but are fondly remembered by those who gather there.

Recently, my wife brought to my attention the following poem by an unknown author:

I thought of you today, but that is nothing new.
I thought about you yesterday and days before that too.
I think of you in silence, I often speak your name.
All I have is memories and your picture in a frame.
Your memory is a keepsake from which I’ll never part.
God has you in His arms, I have you in my heart.

True friends remember us across time. While that is a pleasant thought, there is someone far more important who we want to remember us. Scripture tells us that the Lord remembers. “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! See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands; your walls are ever before me” (Isaiah 49:15-16).

All of us should certainly desire to live among family, friends, and community so as to be fondly remembered. Of even greater eternal importance is to be remembered as part of God’s family. That happens when we receive His son, Jesus, as our Savior. Like the thief on the cross, may our heart’s cry be, “Jesus, remember me when You come in Your kingdom!” (Luke 23:42). With Jesus as our Savior, we will never be forgotten.

A Precious Promise: “But the loving kindness of the LORD is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear Him, And His righteousness to children’s children” (Psalm 103:17).

~ Brother Roy

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Moving Day

moving vanMoving day was rapidly approaching. My wife Sue and I have only moved to a new residence four times in our fifty-seven years of marriage. We have been at our present location for more than forty years. As you can imagine, we had mixed emotions. We felt the excitement of adjusting to new place and the melancholy of leaving behind our familiar and loved home.

Scripture relates many instances of God’s people moving to new surroundings. Certainly, the Exodus of the Hebrews from Egypt to Canaan immediately comes to mind. In the New Testament, Jesus’s family had to move to Egypt at the beginning of His life and then back to Israel when it was safe to do so.

Believing that scripture can provide needed insight, I turned to God’s word. I always find comfort and assurance in Psalm 119:105, “Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path”. The following scriptures provided surety for me:

  • Luke 10:5 –When you enter a house, first say, ‘Peace to this house’.
  • Proverbs 24:3-4 – By wisdom a house is built, and through understanding it is established; through knowledge its rooms are filled with rare and beautiful treasures.
  • Isaiah 32:18 –My people will live in peaceful dwelling places, in secure homes, in undisturbed places of rest.

We prayed for our new home to be a place of peace. We also asked the Lord to help us not only move in familiar furniture, but to fill the rooms with the precious treasures of the Lord’s presence. We joyfully received His words, “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland” (Isaiah 43:18-19, NIV). Because of the Lord’s shepherding care, we can approach our transition with the great expectation of seeing the new thing that He is doing.

His Precious Promise for Moving Day: “My people will live in peaceful dwelling places, in secure homes, in undisturbed places of rest”  (Isaiah 32:18).

~ Brother Roy

Sorry, I Didn’t Get That

siriAs I walked into church, I turned my cell phone to silent and vibrate. I slid it into the zipper pocket of my leather Bible carrier along with my keys. The Sunday School lesson was intense and compelling. We were studying the later chapters of Revelation. The imagery and symbolism proved to be challenging and difficult to understand.

At one point, I moved my Bible from one knee to the other. A voice loud enough to be heard by most of the class said, “Sorry, I didn’t get that.” After a moment of awkward silence, laughter broke out. Apparently, when I shifted the Bible’s weight, the keys in the pocket pushed the cell phone button and ‘woke Siri up’.

As the humor faded, I had to confess that in reality there was much about the chapters that I didn’t understand. Nevertheless, there was a lot I did ‘get’. A famous quote attributed to Mark Twain reflected my thoughts. “Some people are troubled by things in the Bible they can’t understand. What troubles me are the things I can understand.”

Although I do not have full and clear understanding of many of passages in Revelation, I know this for sure, All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17, NKJV).

I may not understand everything about end time events, but I do know that the judgment of God against sin will happen as scripture declares.  In view of the Biblical declarations, as believers we should follow Paul’s admonition to Timothy: “Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman who needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15, KJV). If we heed God’s word, we will not be caught unaware. But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief” (1 Thessalonians 5:4, KJV).

A Precious Promise: “For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. He died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him” (1 Thessalonians 5:9-10, NIV).

~ Brother Roy

He Calls Me by My Name

hello my name isMy daughter, Lori, grew up on the seat of our van either going to or coming from a revival, camp meeting, or church service. She served as the inspiration for many of my sermons. More than forty years have passed since those days. I’m still preaching, and she is still giving me ideas and themes for sermons. A recent call from Lori stimulated another search of God’s word.

She found an interesting quote and was excited to share it with me. The quote certainly resonated with me: “The Devil knows my name, but calls me by my sin. The Lord knows my sin, but calls me by my name.” The quote sent me looking through sermons and devotionals that I had prepared across decades. I found a message I had worked on years ago titled “God Knows My Name”. Some of the thoughts I’ll share come from that message plus a few new reflections.

Names are very important. My name holds tremendous significance for me. I am named Roy after my grandfather Roy, my mother’s father. He was a godly man with an impeccable reputation in the community for honesty and integrity. He also took his church membership as a sacred charge. I carry his name proudly.

God knows my name, and He knows your name. How can we be sure He keeps up with everyone’s name? There are billions of people on earth, but we shouldn’t be amazed that He knows our name. “He telleth the number of stars; He calleth them by name” (Psalm 147:4). A search of scripture reveals God has called people by name from the beginning such as Adam (Genesis 3:9), Hagar (Genesis 16:8), Jacob (Genesis 35:10).

An event in the Gospel of John illustrates the statement, “The Devil knows my name, but calls me by my sin.” Wicked men, doing the devil’s work, brought a woman to Jesus (John 8:44).  They thrust her in front of a crowd gathered around Jesus. They said, “This woman was caught in the act of adultery. The law of Moses says to stone her. What do you say?” (John 8:4). The woman was not called by her name, but was identified by her sin so she could be condemned. However, Jesus did not condemn her. Rather, He sent her accusers scurrying away. Then He said to her, “’Neither do I condemn you.’ Jesus declared, ‘Go now and leave your life of sin’” (John 4:11). Jesus saw her not for who she had been, but for who she could be in Him. 

The second phrase, “The Lord know my sin, but calls me by my name,” may be illustrated by an event in the book of Acts. Saul (Paul) was a vicious opponent of Jesus and the Church. He was on his way to Damascus to continue his murderous persecution of Christians. A great light appeared in the sky and “he fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, ‘Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?’ (Acts 9:4). The Lord saw Paul’s terrible sin, but called him by name. He saw in Paul an Apostle and a kingdom-builder, not a killer. The ‘Good News’ of the gospel is this: the Lord knows our sin and loves us anyway.  He will call us by our name, not our sin.

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)

~ Brother Roy

Wide as the Ocean

vast oceanRecently, I was privileged to spend a month on an extended cruise. I was accorded a sacred trust – I was asked to preach the interdenominational worship services on the ship. What a diverse congregation gathered for the services! Those ‘gatherings’ open the door for daily conversations with fellow travelers about the Lord. When people recognized Miss Sue and me at meals or sitting on deck, they felt free to approach us and ask questions or to share their story.

One lady that I talked with several times seem perplexed about what to call me. She said, “Do I call you Doctor Lauter, Reverend Lauter, Pastor Lauter, or Father Lauter?” I replied, “How about Roy.” Sea days provided time for the spiritually curious to seek us out for possible insights into unresolved issues in their lives. The Cruise Director also asked me to have coffee with him numerous mornings. He even invited me to share with him and some of the cruise’s headline entertainers on several occasions. In addition, we had opportunity to build relationships with several of the servers and cabin stewards.

I sat in the ‘Horizons’ observation area early each day for morning coffee. Many of these mornings, an older lady who attended the worship services would seek me out for a time of devotions and fellowship. She also developed a close relationship with my wife, and tears were shed by them when the trip came to an end.

One morning as I looked out over the immensity of the ocean, the words of a chorus that I learned somewhere in the past echoed through my mind:

Wide, wide as the ocean,
High, high as the heavens above,
Deep, deep as the deepest sea
Is my Saviors love for me.

How did I end up enjoying such a remarkable experience? It certainly wasn’t based on any merit on my part or by campaigning for the job. I am still mystified by the way the Lord opened the door. I can only bow my unworthy head and give thanks for this rare and special opportunity. I have appropriated Paul’s instructions to Timothy as my own, “Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction” (2 Timothy 4:2, NIV).  How about you? Are you ready to seize the opportunities that the Lord may send your way?

“But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear.” (1 Peter 3:15)

~ Brother Roy

Talk to the Animals

As a child, I was fascinated by animals. The account of Noah’s Ark captured my attention at an early age. I never outgrew that attraction. Fifty plus years have passed by since I became aware of God’s call on my life to ministry, and I am still intrigued by God’s fauna. Across those years, I have prepared more than fifty sermons and devotionals that have a connection to the Lord’s animal kingdom.

Long before Dr. Doolittle ‘talked to the animals’, God’s word spoke of lessons to be learned from His creatures.  It is as if the words recorded in Job 12:7-10 were spoken to me as well as Job: “But ask the animals, and they will teach you, or the birds in the sky, and they will tell you; or speak to the earth, and it will teach you, or let the fish in the sea inform you.  Which of all these does not know that the hand of the Lord has done this?  In his hand is the life of every creature and the breath of all mankind.”

Even a cursory overview of the animal kingdom convinces me of the heavenly Father’s creative design. There is common thread running throughout all of the creatures with whom we share the earth. What a blessed assurance for the children of God to know that “in his hand is the life of every creature and the breath of all mankind.”  The breath of life that animates us also enlivens all of His creation. Jesus Himself taught many lessons utilizing examples from the animal kingdom. It is difficult for me to think of a bird, an ant, a fox, or sheep without recalling the masterful analogies of the Savior.

If you are ever looking for a theme for Bible study, you might get a good commentary or, in this day, do a Google search of scripture focused on God’s care of His creatures. Refresh your mind of His tender care of the sheep. Remember how He feeds the sparrows. Also, heed the warnings He gives by evoking thoughts of certain fierce animals. In one verse Jesus draws on our awareness of four different animals to teach a lesson: “Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves. Therefore, be wise as serpents and harmless doves” (Matthew 10:16). 

Prayer: Lord speak to us through your incredible creatures. All of creation declares Your glory.

~ Brother Roy

Avoiding Storms

jonah-and-the-whale-carlo-antonio-tavella
“Jonah and the Whale”, by Carlo Antonio Tavella (1668-1738)

Traveling by ship can be a pleasant experience. However, on a recent voyage, we sailed into a storm. The ship was in the experienced and able hands of the ship captain, but it was still alarming as the wind howled and waves crashed against the bow. My mind harkened back to the Biblical account of Jonah.

“Now the Word of the Lord Came to Jonah” (Jonah 1:1). I believe, sooner or later, God’s call comes to every person. We serve a ‘speaking’ God. He may speak to us in a sermon, a song, advice from a Christian friend, a verse of scripture, etc. The Lord said to Jonah, “Arise and go to Nineveh that Great City and cry out against it.” What a phrase comes next: “But Jonah…”  In defiance of God’s word, he didn’t listen. Jonah clearly understood God’s word and what His will was. But Jonah set his will against God’s will. Know this, as free moral agents, we don’t have to listen to the Lord. Jonah exercised his free will and refused God’s call, to his own ruin.

Some thoughts about the account of Jonah:

  • He boarded a ship to flee from God’s presence. He chose to go the opposite direction. Ah, Jonah, and anyone else who is running from the Lord, you need to be aware of Psalm 139:7-10: “Whither shall I go from thy spirit? Or whither shall I flee from thy presence? If I ascend up into heaven thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there. If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the utter parts of the sea, even there thy hand shall lead me. Thy right hand shall hold me”.
  • God will not compel us to obey. God honored Jonah’s free will.
  • Verse 3: “He went down to Joppa”. We always go ‘down’ when we run from God. “He paid the fare”. We always pay dearly when we run from God.
  • Verse 5“But the Lord sent out a great wind on the sea, and there was a mighty tempest on the sea”. End result – Jonah was thrown overboard by the ship’s crew and swallowed by a great fish.
  • Where was the storm? It was on the Sea! If Jonah had stayed on dry land and started for Nineveh like God asked him to do, he would not have been caught in this terrible storm at sea.

Those who choose to run from God are destined to find themselves caught in a storm. The storms of life, in which we find ourselves engulfed, can often be avoided by listening to the Lord.

Prayer: Lord, when you speak to us, let our answer be, “Yes, Lord, Yes”. By doing Your will, we can avoid many of life’s storms.

~ Brother Roy