Indispensable

A few days ago, an elderly gentleman said to me, “Brother Roy, I don’t know why I’m still here. I’m ready to go home to heaven. I’m not able to do anything. I’m of no use to the Lord. I don’t know why I’m still alive.” Across the years, I’ve I have heard similar expressions many times. My wife’s grandmother was 96 years old and blind when she voiced such feelings.

On the surface that question may seem to have some merit, but when considered in the light of Scripture it is not a legitimate inquiry. On two occasions, God has interjected Himself into human affairs to reveal His plan for delivering His people from bondage:

  • First, it was to Moses at the ‘burning bush’. God announced:  “I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering. So I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey” (Exodus 3:7, NIV). God had a plan to deliver His people from their bondage in Egypt.
  • The second time, His announcement came to shepherds in Galilee. “But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord(Luke 2:8-11, NKJV). God had a plan to deliver all people from the bondage of sin.

On both occasions when God revealed His plan to deliver His people, human instrumentality was the key. God unveiled His plan to Moses, “I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt” (Exodus 3:10). Jesus revealed His plan to His followers, “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8, NKJV).

Believers are the Lord’s plan to reach out to the lost and dying world. There is no ‘Plan B’. Like Moses, most of us move to the default mode of ‘excuses’ when God identifies us to carry out His plan. Excuses will not avail. The Lord knows our strengths and weaknesses. We ARE the plan. We dare not fail. Family, friends, and a lost world are depending on us. God’s word asks, But who are you, a human being, to talk back to God? “Shall what is formed say to the one who formed it, ‘Why did you make me like this” Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for special purposes and some for common use? (Romans 9:20-21). Amazingly, we are His chosen ones even if we feel insignificant and weak.

In His design, “But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty” (1 Corinthians 1:27, NKJV). We are all part of the body of Christ, therefore, “The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable(I Corinthians 12:21-22)

When we realize that we are God’s plan to reach lost and dying people, may we respond like William Borden, the millionaire who gave up his fortune to become a missionary to the Uyghur Muslims of northwestern China – when he died en route to the field of his calling, his Bible was found to be inscribed with three phrases: NO RESERVES – NO RETREATS – NO REGRETS !

~ Brother Roy

Reaching to South Africa from Eastern Kentucky

Raliegh Spencer, a mountain youth, was in his early teens when he talked to me about Africa and our ministry there. He felt the Lord was moving him to reach out and try to help a boy in Africa. He went to work earning money and saving his allowance. By the end of the summer, he had approximately $350. He wanted to know if New Hope could help him find a boy about his age that needed help. My daughter, Lori Wright, was living in South Africa. She was working with a single mom with a son about Raliegh’s age named Aubrey who desperately needed help to stay in school. 

Lori was able to get the money into the hands of the boy’s mother, who was then able to pay her son’s school expenses. Aubrey was able to stay in school, a key to his survival in a country locked in poverty. Aubrey completed his basic public school education in 2021. He took the rigorous government exams to see if there was a chance that he could pursue post-secondary education. After long months of waiting, the results came. This exciting news just came to us — not only did Aubrey qualify to proceed, but amazingly he received a full scholarship to the University of Botswana!

The axiom, “Little is much when God is in it,” is validated by this account. A mountain youth with a small amount of money reached across the world and across cultures and provided help of inestimable worth to an African boy. May God be praised!

~ Brother Roy

Auto-Start

For people who live in areas where cold, frosty mornings are a regular occurrence in winter, a car ‘auto-start’ is a great accessory. It helps ease the dread of stepping outside to face a hostile day. Standing on the inside where it is warm and starting the car certainly beats sitting in an icy cold vehicle waiting for a little heat. The pre-defrosted windows provide good visibility. The car’s warm interior provides a welcome shelter against the cold. It’s a good “start” to the day.

The social world in which we live can also be cold and inhospitable at times. Sometimes, we may be reluctant to embark on such a day. We would prefer pulling the covers over our head and staying in. Is there a spiritual auto-start we can rely on? Is there a way to start the day with a clear windshield that provides a good panorama of what lies ahead ? Is it possible to start the day with a warm and hopeful heart? The answer is: ‘Yes’.

My present vehicle has a button on the key fob that I push twice and the engine starts. I follow a similar pattern in my personal life. First, I repeat the prayer that Jesus taught us to pray: “Our Father, which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy Name. Thy Kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, As it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses, As we forgive them that trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, But deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, The power, and the glory, For ever and ever” (Matthew 6:9-11, KJV).

Secondly, I repeat (or sing) the hymn “Great Is Thy faithfulness” by Thomas Chisholm:

            Great is thy faithfulness, O God my Father; 
            There is no shadow of turning with thee; 
            Thou changest not, thy compassions, they fail not; 
            As thou hast been thou forever wilt be.

            Great is thy faithfulness! Great is thy faithfulness! 
            Morning by morning new mercies I see:
            All I have needed thy hand hath provided–
            Great is thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me!

            Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth,
            Thine own dear presence to cheer and to guide,
            Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow:
            Blessings all mine with ten thousand beside!

Two simple steps in the morning, and we can be off and moving into the day. We can walk hand in with Jesus. His presence is there to cheer and to guide. His strength and His promises will provide all that we need. Forgiven and forgiving, He will lead us away from temptation and evil.

What a great way to start the day! Hallelujah!

~ Brother Roy

THIS Is My Father’s World

On Sunday morning, I sat in the church sanctuary with my family.  The light of brilliant sunshine poured through the windows as a glorious Lord’s day warmed with the passing hours.  In the light of such a beautiful day, I couldn’t help but think that this must have been the kind of morning that the hymnwriter was thinking of when he penned the words to the second verse of the hymn we were singing, “This Is My Father’s World”:

This is my Father’s world, the birds their carols raise.
The morning light, the lily white, declare their Maker’s praise.
This is my Father’s world, He shines in all that’s fair.
In rustling grass I hear Him pass; He speaks to me everywhere.

Then my mind was transported to another place, and I wondered if perhaps it was a morning like the one that broke that day over the city of Kyiv, Ukraine, that the hymnwriter had in mind when he wrote the third verse:

This is my Father’s world, oh let me ne’er forget
That though the wrong seems oft so strong, God is our ruler yet.

It was important for me to remember that when the morning is crowned with the glory of God’s creation, this is my Father’s world; and when the morning is clouded with the cruelty of man’s destruction, this too is my Father’s world, and He is there for both those who are at peace and those who are hurting.  It is an encouragement to remember this truth as we pray for peace and for a day when “earth and heaven be one”.

Our closing hymn this Sunday also spoke to my heart.  The second verse of “Be Still, My Soul” proclaims, “Be still my soul, the waves and wind still know His voice who ruled them while He dwelt below.”  It is such a comfort to know the Master of the waves and wind.  There is no ruler so bold nor army so strong that it can take His throne.  May the Prince of Peace bring peace to our troubled world.

~ Matt Kinnell, NHIM Board Chair

Power Failure

A weather alert flashed across the television screen. It warned of a freezing rain event likely to coat power lines and tree limbs with up to three quarters of an inch of ice. The Governor announced a ‘State of Emergency’ in advance of the approaching nemesis. National Guard units, highway workers, and power line crews were placed on ‘High Alert’.

Along with extremely dangerous road conditions, a major concern of the impending storm was downed power lines. The weight of a heavy coating of ice could snap power lines. An additional threat comes from ice covered branches, even whole trees, crashing down across the lines. An arctic blast of single digit temperatures would follow the freezing rain. The dependence of our modern way of life on electricity cannot be overstated. Without electricity, homes and business would be plunged into darkness and life-threatening cold.  Because few people have an alternate power source, a power failure can be disastrous.

An analogy between a power failure in our physical world and in our spiritual lives can easily be seen. Our spiritual power source is the Holy Spirit. When someone makes the commitment to follow Jesus, the Holy Spirit immediately takes up residence within that person.But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8, NKJV). You become connected to the inexhaustible power of God. But, like power lines in the physical world, certain conditions can result in power outages.

Scripture gives several ‘alerts’ about conditions that can cause a spiritual power failure. The most obvious is sin, the willful breaking of a known spiritual law. “But your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, And your sins have hidden His face from you so that He does not hear” (Isaiah 59:2). In addition to this most evident cause of a spiritual power outage, the writer of Hebrews cautions us “to lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us” (Hebrews 12:1). It is the term ‘weight’ that I want to emphasize. Like the freezing rain coating the power lines and tree limbs adding an unsustainable overburden, the added stress of spiritual weights can lead to a power failure.

The ‘cares of this world’ can so burden a person that the power to live confidently and victoriously fails. However, we are not powerless in the face adversity. Shaking off the weight may be accomplished by recognition of  the condition, confession, and repentance. Time in God’s word, prayer,  the great hymns of the church, and interaction with fellow believers all can help keep the current flowing. Let us heed the Biblical alerts and prepare for the possibility of a power outage before it occurs. We can do all things through Christ who will empower us.

“The prudent see danger and take refuge, but the simple keep going and pay the penalty.”  (Proverbs 22:3, NIV)

~ Brother Roy

Eastern Kentucky Update: A New Preacher

The Lord is blessing our church planting ministry in Eastern Kentucky. New Hope International Ministries has partnered with local church planter David Spencer in this neglected area. A reliable survey of the area indicated that there were more than 690,000 unchurched people in the 42-county area our ministry is targeting. God is blessing the ministry in spite of an era of church closings and plummeting attendance.

We have experienced a problem along with our success. Where do you find Godly ministers to lead the churches? Small congregations in the Appalachian poverty pocket often struggle financially. Opportunities for work are scarce and unemployment rates are among the highest in the nation. Salaries for ministers are minimal at best. Attracting quality people to join our team is problematic when they have families to support.

The call of the Lord on potential ministers, the effectual fervent prayers of God’s people, and diligent searching for people to join us is our strategy. Our scriptural guide – “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths” (Proverbs 3:5-6).   

Recently, we redeployed one our most successful pastors. We were faced with the need to find a new couple to lead the church that has been the hub of our church planting ministry. The Lord answered prayer. A graduate of Southern Wesleyan University, Jonathan Herron answered the call. Jonathan is an ordained minister with valuable experience. His wife, Celia, had served as a missionary in the Middle East under World Gospel Mission. She is a registered nurse that brings needed health care expertise as well as spiritual leadership to Bear Pen Community Worship Center. Is God amazing or what? Will you join us in praying for them?

May God be praised!

~ Brother Roy

I Get So Dizzy

My daughter and I were discussing Figure Skating in the Olympics. We were amazed that the skaters do so many spins without getting dizzy and falling. Having much more time than money, I took time to go to the internet for answers. I found many explanations, some more helpful than others.

There was one technique in particular that I found most interesting. A skater locks their eyes on a fixed point as they slow down or come out of a spin. By fixing their sight on a landmark, it helps them orient themselves even though the fluid in their ears that aid in balance keeps spinning. This approach held a life lesson for me.

It seems to me that the events in the world in which we live move at a dizzying pace. It makes my head spin. A secular song by Tommy Roe gives expression to my feelings: “I’m so dizzy, my head is spinning like a whirlpool, it never ends.”  I have found help for this condition in a concept similar to the method used by skaters. Scripture encourages me to fix my eyes on Jesus. Fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:2, NIV). Because I believe that “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8), I am able to look at Him as the fixed point that stabilizes me in these whirling times.

Because the Lord reveals Himself in the Bible, reading His word helps me see Him when I feel I am beginning to spin out of control. I can also see Him reflected in the lives of Christian friends. The course of the worship song “Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus” by Helen Lemmel speaks to my heart and helps steady me:

                        Turn your eyes upon Jesus
                        Look full in his wonderful face
                        And the things of earth will grow strangely dim
                        In the light of his glory and grace.

I have carried another Christian course in my mind from my youth group days, “In the morning, I see His face. In the evening, His form I trace. In the darkness, His voice I know. I see Jesus everywhere I go.”  A simple truth for living successfully in this twirling world is to fix our gaze on the Lord Jesus.  

                        Stayed upon Jehovah, hearts are fully blest
                        Finding, as He promised, perfect peace and rest.

~ Brother Roy

The Bird Feeder

January brought a period of heavy snow followed by brutally cold temperatures. It was a perilous time for the song birds that inhabit the trees and bushes around our patio home. I filled our two bird feeders and suet holders. Time passed and a few birds showed up at the feeder. A little later, a wide variety of birds were flocking to the feeders. The seed and suet was critical to their survival with the snow-covered ground and freezing temperatures.

If you are a church attender, you likely know the direction this devotional is headed. Although there are numerous references in scripture about birds, perhaps the best known are the words of Jesus. “Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them” (Matthew 6:25-26, NKJV). Jesus makes it clear that God is the ‘bird feeder’ and that He loves and cares for His creatures. If God provides for the birds when they cry out to Him, how much more will He provide for His children! This is an awesome truth for us to know.

As the birds flittered around, several things caught my attention:

  • It takes a lot of energy and effort on their part – they were not just sitting around waiting for someone to put food in their mouth.
  • They were actively gleaning the food that had been provided for them; if not, they would have starved.
  • The birds must have had faith that food was available somewhere, so they kept searching. They didn’t just sit in one spot and wait for food to show up. They kept looking, obviously confident that food was available someplace.

The lessons learned from observing these creatures have obvious implications for human life. God’s word says, “But ask the animals, and they will teach you, or the birds in the sky, and they will tell you” (Job 12:7, NIV).

Here are some applications I can make in my life from the things I observed around my bird feeder:

  • Each day I pray, “Give us this day our daily bread,” and He does. But, I must be actively involved and not just sit around expecting someone to put food in my mouth.
  • I must have faith to believe the Heavenly Father has made provision for what I need.  However, His word to me is to “seek and you will find” .
  • And when I have a need, I must keep searching for the provision while keeping my faith and focus on God, because I know that God always provides for His children. I need to be a seeker, obviously confident that my Heavenly Father has made His provisions available, and diligence will help me discover them.

“And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.”  (Philippians 4:19, NIV)

~ Brother Roy

Like Your Parents

There has been a series of commercials on television recently that poke fun at people becoming like their parents. ‘Dr. Rick’ in Progressive Insurance commercials tries to help sufferers deal with the trials and tribulations of turning into their parents. I must admit, on the surface, the commercials are humorous. I do see glimpses of my parents in my actions and attitudes. However, I also see a disturbing trend in our culture that devalues the ideals and life styles of parents and the older generation.

I have deep admiration for my parents with the morals and values that guided their daily living. Their legacy was passed on to me and helped shaped who I am. It seems obvious to me, as a general principle, that when children dismiss their parent’s morals and values that ‘culture’ degenerates and chaos is likely to ensue.

I believe that the growing disrespect for authority and the increase of lawlessness reflects the rejection of traditional values. As sexual morays have taken a turn toward promiscuity, abortions have skyrocketed, and single parents raising children is commonplace. The nuclear family that transmitted prevailing culture is becoming a thing of the past. Our fractured society is more and more divided into hostile groups. Each person or group has become ‘a law unto themselves’. We are devolving into a self-centered and intolerant society.

The Biblical pattern for social order is much different. Two great Scriptural admonitions stand out in my mind:

  • “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. ‘Honor your father and mother’—which is the first commandment with a promise—’so that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth’”  (Ephesians 6:1,4, NIV).
  • “Listen to your father, who gave you life, and do not despise your mother when she is old”  (Proverbs 23:22, NIV).

I find myself longing for the culture of a by-gone day. I hear God’s word saying, “Thus says the LORD: ‘Stand in the ways and see, And ask for the old paths, where the good way is, And walk in it; Then you will find rest for your souls’” (Jeremiah 6:16, NKJV). I hear the strident voices of today responding as they did in Jerimiah’s day to the scripture above, “But they said, ‘We will not walk in it.’

The words of the Apostle Paul echo in my heart, “For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: whose end is destruction, whose god is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame—who set their mind on earthly things” (Philippians 3:18-19, NKJV).

Prayer: Lord, I  want to “ask for the old paths, where the good way is”.

~ Brother Roy

Emptied Out to Be Filled

In the midst of an excellent sermon, our pastor offered a soul-searching statement: “Blessed are they that are not full of themselves, for they can be filled with God’s spirit.”  The Pastor’s “beatitude” immediately captured my attention.

The account of the Prophet Elisha and the Poor Widow in Second Kings came to my mind. In preparation for the incredible miracle of ‘the flow of oil’, we read the following, “Elisha said, “Go around and ask all your neighbors for empty jars. Don’t ask for just a few” (2 Kings 4:3, NIV). Why ‘empty’ vessels?

  • If the jars already held other content, there would not be room to fill the vessel with the precious oil.
  • If there was debris still left in the jars, it could contaminate the pure oil that would be poured in.

The same principle applies to our lives when we seek to be filled with the Holy Spirit. We must empty out anything that is not like God. Only then can we experience the fulness of His spirit. Likewise, if any contaminating residue of sin remains inside, it will spoil the purity of His spirit.

When we accumulate sin and debris in our lives, it diminishes our ability to be filled with the Lord’s spirit. You and I need to be empty so He can fill us. When we are full of ourselves and our sin, we make it impossible for Christ to fill us with His Presence. When all of me is out of the way, then all of God can come in.

The Apostle Paul points to Jesus as our example: Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men” (Philippians 2:6-7, ESV).

There is a time when being empty is a good thing. It allows us to be filled to overflowing with the goodness, grace, and mercy of God. He wouldn’t ask you to empty yourself of self-centered rubble if he didn’t care about the outcome of your life. Be willing to let go of those things that fill you with less than the Lord’s best.

I promise you that the blessings he wants to pour into us will be far better than the junk that so often occupies space in our lives.

“And the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit” (Acts 13:52)

~ Brother Roy