From Seed to Full Flower

sunflowerFall was rapidly approaching. Crops were nearing maturity and harvest. A field of sunflowers caught my attention. The huge seed heads were bowing toward the earth. The seed heads of some varieties can be especially large. A quick Google check indicated that the heads may, at times, contain up to two thousand seeds. In God’s creative design, a small seed can produce a remarkable harvest.

A life lesson emerged in my mind. A recent Sunday School lesson focused on Revelation 16 At the end of time, the order is given, “Go, pour out the seven bowls of God’s wrath on the earth” (v.1). Terror, suffering, and unspeakable pain beyond imagination are poured out. John Swaim, an excellent teacher, made an insightful and soul-stirring statement: “Here we see the full flower of earth’s first sin in the Garden of Eden.” Although there was some discussion that followed, my mind was riveted to his statement. I was shaken by the thought and experienced “a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God” (Hebrews 10:27, NIV).

I wonder if the daily reports of mass shootings, staggering numbers of drug overdose deaths, abuse of children, starvation, terrorism, cruel tyrants and more are the harbingers of far worse things to come? Is the rapid decline in the influence of the church a herald of the looming apocalypse? Are the judgments of God coming to ‘full flower’? If so, what should I be doing?

There are two areas of crucial concern for me. First, my own personal readiness for these coming events. I want to approach each new day with clean hands and a pure heart through the power of the Holy Spirit. “But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything done in it will be laid bare. Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming” (2 Peter 3:10-12, NIV). I desire to live in a state of readiness.

The second area of concern is my obligation to be a witness to those who are not in a right relationship with the Lord. To share the offer of salvation from the Lord and to tell of the impending judgment if He is rejected is both a both a privilege and a responsibility. James admonishes us, “Remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of their way will save them from death and cover over a multitude of sins” (James 5:20, NIV). The Message translation gives a clear and simply word, “God isn’t late with his promise as some measure lateness. He is restraining himself on account of you, holding back the End because he doesn’t want anyone lost. He’s giving everyone space and time to change” (2 Peter 3:9, MSG). I desire to be a ‘light’ for Christ in a world that is growing darker by the day.

Prayer: Lord, as I contemplate the end of time, may I be committed to personal holiness. May I be fervent in my desire to share the message of salvation to all who will listen.

~ Brother Roy

Drive-In Revival

“Get in touch with God, turn your radio on!” That was the theme at the Sunday afternoon worship service at Bear Pen Church.  We were in our second week of Sunday afternoon drive-in revival services at the little church in Wolfe County, Kentucky.  A global pandemic required us to avoid close contact with each other, but “social distancing” did not prevent us from gathering to worship and hear the Good News.

Cars gathered on the hillside in front of our Abiding Hope Food Pantry as music and a revival message filled each car. Our little FM radio transmitter sent a clear signal to each car. The “Amens!” came by way of a honk of the horn and the flash of headlights. Praise the Lord, when our church door was closed, God opened a window. The Spirit of God visited with us as we turned our radios on.

lauter bear pen drivein

A Great Change

cirrus clouds

I was gazing out over the waves from the seventh floor condo balcony in Destin, Florida. The warm sun and a gentle breeze was soothing to my soul. There wasn’t a cloud in the bright blue sky. Although I didn’t fall asleep, I was adrift in thought and oblivious to the passing of time. Sometime later, I roused to full consciousness. I quickly became aware the unclouded sky had given way to a cover of high flying Cirrus clouds.

From my previous days as a science teacher, I knew that an increasing cover of Cirrus clouds indicated a change of weather would occur within 24 hours. The sobering reality of change, not only in the weather but in life in general, settled in my mind. Perhaps my sensitivity to change has been heightened by recent events in my own life. In our mid-seventies, my wife and I faced a radical change. We sold the home we had built with our own hands 43 years earlier. We downsized drastically and moved into a senior living center. Wow! What a change!

Faced with the inevitability of change, we need to be prepared to deal with it. I want to make a slight word substitution in Proverbs 27:12 (NIV) without altering the true perspective of the verse: “The prudent see change (danger) and take refuge, but the simple keep going and pay the penalty.” With things changing all around us, we can take refuge in God’s unchanging word. It is there that we find instructions and directions that can help us cope with the ebb and flow of life’s circumstances. “I gain understanding from your precepts; therefore, I hate every wrong pathYour word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path” (Psalm 119:104,105, NIV). 

Are you preparing for the changes in your life that will surely come? I have found the following scripture verses helpful:

  • “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, NIV)
  • So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:18, NIV).

I am presently waiting for the next GREAT change in my life. It may be tomorrow, maybe next year, maybe in ten years or more, but it will come. “In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye.…we shall be changed. For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality” (1 Corinthians 15:52-53, NIV). In the meantime, what a joy it is to walk with Jesus through each change in my life.

At times, I enjoy reading Eugene Peterson’s paraphrase, The Message. It can provide a fresh look at well-known scriptures. For example: “Even though on the outside it often looks like things are falling apart on us, on the inside, where God is making new life, not a day goes by without his unfolding grace” (1 Corinthians 4:16, MSG). While I wait, my heart sings, “Morning by morning new mercies I see; All I have needed Thy hand hath provided— Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me!”

We Shall Be Changed – Hallelujah

~ Brother Roy

The Inevitable and the Optional

cemetery cross 2As the morning coffee crew gathered at Fitch’s Store, a sense of sorrow and disbelief hung over the group. The day before, a robust young man in his thirties had died. He was a frequent patron at the store. All of us knew this well-liked young man. It was certainly a heartbreaking loss to family, friends, and community. His death was a sudden and harsh reminder of our own mortality.

We had to come to terms with the fact that under God’s providence we will all die one day. Unless we are part of the generation that will be alive at the return of Christ, no one is going to get out of this world alive. We have a hard time internalizing that fact. Americans spend billions of dollars a year trying to slow the aging process. Joggers line the road early in the morning to exercise and to keep their hearts healthy. We take vitamins and other supplements, trying to stave off diseases. And those are good things. We ought to be good stewards of our physical bodies. But those things will not keep us from dying. We all are going to die someday. Physical death is inevitable.

While our physical demise may be inevitable, our spiritual death is optional. An old adage says, “born once, die twice; born twice, die once”. If we experience only physical birth, we will die physically and also be subject to a second death – spiritual death. The term “second death” occurs four times in the New Testament, specifically in Revelation 2:11, 20:6, 20:14, and 21:8. Unless spiritual death is faced and reversed in this life, the final result will be unending separation between God and all who reject Him. This is the second death.

The good news is this second death is optional. Hear God’s words of the matter:

  • Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.” (John 3:5-7, NIV)
  • “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)
  • Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.” (1 John 5:12, NIV)

Prayer: May we exercise our option and chose life in Jesus.

~ Brother Roy

Sparrow Care

sparrowI was listening to a Christian radio station while driving. They were playing one of my favorites, ‘His Eye Is On The Sparrow’ by Charles Gabriel. Beautiful memories of a dear friend and song evangelist, Paul Roher, came to mind. We had spent many years working together in camp meetings and revivals and at Asbury College. The song was one of his most requested songs. Memories were flooding my soul.

Although I had heard the song more times than I could count, it seems the Lord used it in a special way this time. Sparrows are among of the most common birds in the world. They are considered the lowliest of our ‘feathered friends’. I thought, “I’m a sparrow.” A sense of comfort and security settled over me. My heart kept singing “His eye is on the sparrow and I know He watches me.” I may not be an eagle or a peacock, just a lowly sparrow, but He cares for me.

The scriptures assure me of this truth;

  • “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care.” (Matthew 10:29, NIV)
  • “Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God.  Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.” (Luke 12:6-7, NIV)

Matthew mentions two sparrows for a penny and Luke’s account notes five sparrows were sold for two farthings. Sparrows were so common and cheap that if a man bought two farthings’ worth he got one thrown in free. Yet, the Lord promises “not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care.”

In a world fraught with trouble and uncaring people, a world where ‘might makes right’, a world that seems to cater to the rich and famous – what a blessing it is to realize that the One who really matters has His eye on us. He cares for us no matter how insignificant and lowly we may be in the eyes of the world.

May I ask, “Do you have a personal relationship with the one who watches over and cares for you?” You can by confessing your sins and inviting Him in to your heart (1 John 1:9).

Prayer: I want to walk with the One who provides His followers ‘Sparrow Care’.

~ Brother Roy

Improving

improvementWhen I moved to Wilmore to attend Asbury College, I often encountered Dr. Paul. He was a retired professor and frequently visited the campus, especially for chapel services. He was a pleasant and engaging gentleman who always had a smile. If you asked him, “Dr. Paul, how are you today?” he would respond, “Improving, improving.” His reply of “improving” was always followed up with the comment, “The largest room in my house is the room for improvement.”

Half a century has passed since then, but Dr. Paul’s words still challenge me. The wisdom behind his words are well-grounded in scripture. Peter emphasized the necessity for believers to keep ‘improving’ in their walk with Christ:

  • “For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 1:5-8, NIV).
  • “But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever! Amen” (2 Peter 3:18, NIV).

The Book of Hebrews urges believers to keep improving; “Therefore let us move beyond the elementary teachings about Christ and be taken forward to maturity, not laying again the foundation of repentance from acts that lead to death, and of faith in God, instruction about cleansing rites, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. And God permitting, we will do so” (Hebrews 6:1-3, NIV).

With scripture urging true believers to keep improving, adding to their faith, moving forward to maturity, it is incumbent on us to do so. We need to ask ourselves, “Am I improving?” We need to understand, like Dr. Paul, “The largest room in our house is the room for improvement.”

Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you—unless, of course, you fail the test?” (2 Corinthians 13:5, NIV)

~ Brother Roy

Not Afraid of a Butterfly

butterflyIt was a different kind of lesson. The Sunday School class didn’t follow a normal routine. The guest teacher addressed issues of the elderly, death, and dying. The teacher was part of a wonderful service organization that includes hospice care. Being one of the many seniors in the class, she had my undivided attention. It was illuminating to hear this outstanding presentation from a Christian perspective.

Later, as I reflected on the class, I recalled a statement that I have carried in my memory from my youth to this day. I heard a noted, elderly evangelist say, “I am no more afraid of death than I’m afraid of a butterfly.” The image of a beautiful, gentle butterfly certainly doesn’t conjure up fearful thoughts about death.

I taught High School Biology for a number of years. A favorite part for me, and I think for the students, was the study of the life cycle of the butterfly. The concept of metamorphosis is amazing. For the sake of brevity, I’ll just touch on a few high points. The process starts with a butterfly laying an egg. The egg develops into a caterpillar. Once fully grown, the caterpillar forms itself into a “pupa” (or chrysalis) – a kind of vessel in which the caterpillar changes into a butterfly. Finally, the beautiful, graceful butterfly emerges and takes wings and flies away.

I thought of the similarities in my life’s journey to that of the butterfly. For example the butterfly’s caterpillar stage consists mainly of voracious eating as it prepares for the next stage. My physical profile will validate my time in the ‘caterpillar’ stage. But, I certainly trust there was growth in the inner man as well.

In the next stage, the caterpillar weaves a chrysalis and basically becomes inactive as changes are taking place on the inside. Now retired, my daily activity has slowed. With the help of the Holy Spirit and additional time, there have been many internal changes as I grow ever closer to the Lord. “Even though on the outside it often looks like things are falling apart on us, on the inside, where God is making new life, not a day goes by without his unfolding grace (2 Corinthians 4:16, MSG).

My caterpillar stage is nearing completion while I’m being renewed inwardly. Like the butterfly, I am waiting to breaking free, to drop the old robe of flesh and with new wings of the spirit fly away to heaven and home.

Because of Jesus, I am no more afraid of death than I’m afraid of a butterfly.

~ Brother Roy

“Pre-Cert”

approved stampMy wife’s hospital recovery period was nearing an end. A case worker came in to discuss our next step. My wife definitely needed to move to a rehabilitation facility before returning to our home. During the case worker’s rapid-fire presentation, the term ‘pre-cert’ occurred several times. Although she was obviously accustomed to using the abbreviation, I was not familiar with it. Eventually, I asked her, “Are you talking about precertification?” She responded in the affirmative and slowed her verbal pace.

While the shortened vocabulary version was quick to say, the actual process certainly was not. Attention to detail in the ‘pre-cert’ was necessary. As is so often the case, such life situations prompt me to find an analogy in the spiritual realm.

Our probationary period of life on earth will end. “And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment” (Hebrews 9:10, NKJV). Scripture describes the judgment scene: “And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books” (Revelation 20:12 NIV). Scripture continues: “Anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life was thrown into the lake of fire” (Revelation 20:15, NIV).

To enter into eternal life with Jesus, you must go through ‘pre-cert’:

  • Step one: confess and believe.  “… if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9, NIV).
  • Step two: live according to His will. “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 7:21, NIV).
  • Step three: finish life’s journey strong in faith in Christ. “For if we are faithful to the end, trusting God just as firmly as when we first believed, we will share in all that belongs to Christ” (Hebrews 3:14 NLT).

Thankfully, my wife met the ‘pre-cert’ criteria and was fully approved. She successfully moved to rehabilitation and ultimately to home. What about you? Where are you in the preparation process? Are you moving toward home?

Prayer: Lord, with the help of the Holy Spirit, may we meet the criteria to make heaven our home.

~ Brother Roy

You At Your Best

service with a smileI recently saw at sign at a business establishment that read, “We are at our best when we are at your service”. The slogan, intentional or unintentional, reflects a wonderful Biblical principle. Jesus said, “Whoever wants to become great among you must serve the rest of you like a servant. Whoever wants to become the first among you must serve all of you like a slave. In the same way, the Son of Man did not come to be served. He came to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many people” (Mark 10:43-45, NIV). The advertising slogan is true; we are at our best when serving others.

We live in an era when it seems many retail establishments such as fast food restaurants, discount stores, and even upscale businesses don’t understand the principle of serving.  At times, patrons are treated as if they are an imposition rather than the basis for the server’s employment. Staff often appear preoccupied and unconcerned about client needs. I realize some of these employees may feel underpaid or may be having a bad day, but rude behavior or an inappropriate attitude is unacceptable. If a cheerful smile or kind word doesn’t change the atmosphere, I “let my feet do the talking”. Human endeavors of all kinds simply go better when a servant’s mentality is present.

There is a major trend across our culture toward ever-increasing self-centeredness. We are in an era of ‘me and mine’ at the center of our lives. It is the age of ‘selfies’- a ‘look at me’ mentality prevails! It’s a day of, ‘my issues are more important than your issues’. My observation is that a self-centered life has a curse on it and drives people away. Scripture bears out this concept:

  • Eve’s drive of self-pleasing led to the ‘Fall’ and expulsion from the garden.
  • It was self-centeredness and jealousy that led to Cain killing his brother.
  • King Saul’s self-focused life caused him to loose his kingdom and his life.
  • Jesus’ disciples, James and John vied for places above the others.
  • Paul often addressed the issue in his letters to the early churches.

The happiest and most contented people I’ve ever known are those who follow the footsteps of Jesus who “did not come to be served. He came to serve others”

Prayer: Lord, help me to follow your pattern in seeking to serve others.

~ Brother Roy

Clothing That Lasts

tattered suitI put on a suit coat that I hadn’t worn for a while. To my chagrin, it was worn threadbare and shiny at the elbows. The coat really didn’t seem that old. A quick look at my shoes revealed thin soles and worn heels, not to mention a hole in the toe of my sock. How quickly our material possessions seem to wear out.

So many things other than clothing also follow the same pattern. A new car doesn’t stay new for long. Appliances wear out, water heaters start to leak, and even my Lazy Boy had to be replaced. I once heard the term ‘planned obsolescence’. Manufacturers make products that will not last in order to create the need to purchase a replacement. It’s the ‘free enterprise’ system at work.

The whole situation is a little disconcerting. I am now well past my three score and ten year allotment (Psalm 90:10). Wear and tear is taking its toll on my body. Knee joints had to be replaced, a CPAP is needed to aid breathing, blood pressure medicine twice a day, blood sugar issues, and the list goes on…

In the midst of decline and deterioration, I have found a precious refuge in scripture. In relation to clothing wearing out, the Lord spoke of His provision for His peoples’ wilderness journey. “Yet the LORD says, “During the forty years that I led you through the wilderness, your clothes did not wear out, nor did the sandals on your feet” (Deuteronomy 29:5, NIV). God provided for His people then and He still provides today for those who journeys with Him.

On our spiritual pilgrimages with Him, the Lord supplies garments that do not wear out. “I will rejoice greatly in the LORD, My soul will exult in my God; For He has clothed me with garments of salvation, He has wrapped me with a robe of righteousness, As a bridegroom decks himself with a garland, And as a bride adorns herself with her jewels(Isaiah 61:10, NIV). His grace and righteousness, unlike earthly garments, never deteriorate, and no moth can destroy. How wonderful to know that the Lord offers us a great exchange. We can give Him our old, tattered garments, and He will give us a robe of pure white, which will last forever.

Prayer: Lord, may we appear before you ‘dressed in Your righteousness alone faultless to stand before the throne’.

~ Brother Roy