People Watching

people watchingPeople watching can be a fascinating pastime. While waiting for my wife at places like the Mall or Wal-Mart, I try to finding an out-of-the-way place and just observe the passersby.

It seems to me that you can infer a lot about people by the way they walk. Some walk with a spring in their step and others move with a heavier, slower walk. You can see some dawdle and appear to lack a specific destination. There are those that move with at a brisk pace as with a specific purpose. You may see some move with a sad demeanor, while others walk with a happy and confident gate. I often wonder if I could get an in-depth look into the different lives, what I would really find.

My heart is especially moved by those who walk with a slow, somber deportment. Their body language seems to denote a troubled spirit. I sense a little of what Jesus must have felt in Mark 6:34, “And Jesus, when He came out, saw a great multitude and was moved with compassion for them, because they were like sheep not having a shepherd.” Often I have felt a prayer rising up in me for people that I don’t know and will likely never meet. Perhaps you have had similar feelings. May those feelings find a prayerful lodging place in our hearts.

Jesus was “moved with compassion”, not sympathy. It was more than just feeling sorry for them. He was moved with compassion for them. This compassion led to action. In Mark’s account, Jesus spent the rest of the day teaching the multitude. Later that afternoon, He fed them. We need to have compassion like Jesus had. We need to be moved to action. It is usually not difficult to find other Christians around us who strive to relieve both spiritual and physical needs of people. We may join with them or move forward on our own. But, do something we must!

In Luke 4:18-19, Jesus said of himself, “The spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He hath anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed; to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.” If we are to be a follower of Jesus, we must be compassionately engaged with Him in reaching out to those who need our help.

Prayer: Lord, let me be a co-laborer with you. I want to be more than just a ‘people watcher’. I want to work with You in ministering to those in need.

Take a Stand

stand up for jesusTeams had gathered for an athletic competition. The person who was to sing the National Anthem was a ‘no-show’. Moments passed as everyone seemed perplexed about what to do. Then a young man who was in the group waiting to compete stepped forward and sang the National Anthem. Someone there captured the moment on video and posted it. It went viral and thousands viewed the the event. Eventually, national television aired the incident of the courageous young man standing up and honoring flag and country.

There is a message in this event for those of us who are Christian believers. The scripture says, “Be ready to speak up and tell anyone who asks why you’re living the way you are, and always with the utmost courtesy” (I Peter 3:15, MSG). In Paul’s instructions to Timothy, he urges Timothy to be “instant in season and out of season” to share the gospel (2 Timothy 4:2, KJV). 

We need to be prepared to stand up and speak up for Jesus. Like the young man mentioned above, we never know when such a moment may present itself. The first lines of the hymn “Stand Up, Stand Up for Jesus” emphasize this point:

Stand up, stand up for Jesus, Ye soldiers of the cross;
Lift high his royal banner, it must not suffer loss.

The banner the young athlete was standing up for was the American Flag. The banner for which Christians need to stand and the banner we must lift is the Cross of Christ. Jesus said, “And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all peoples to Myself” (John 12:32, NKJV). As believers, we ought to be ready at all times to let our witness be seen and heard. Always we should do so with “upmost courtesy”. The NIV translation says, with “gentleness and respect”. But, stand we must if we are to follow the Lord’s plan for helping to redeem a lost and dying world.

Most of us regularly have opportunities to share our faith. May we be up to the challenge of utilizing these openings to tell others the ‘good news’. The eternal destiny of someone may rest in part on our willingness to stand up for the Savior.

Prayer: Lord, today send an opportunity my way to be Your witness. I want to do my part in lifting You up. I will take a stand.

~ Brother Roy

Parting Words

writeMy 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 to survive. His early years were spent looking for jobs here and there. A depression-era 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. 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 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 wins 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 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

Now Thank We All Our God

Nun_danket_alle_Gott_(1653)If not for his hymn “Now Thank We All Our God”, we might never have known the name Martin Rinkart.  Rinkart was a Lutheran pastor who lived in Saxony during the brutal Thirty Years’ War in the first half of the 17th century.

Rinkart lived and ministered in the walled city of Eilenburg, which became a haven for political and religious refugees, leading to overcrowding that brought famine and disease.  A severe plague ravaged the city in 1637, and at its height Rinkart, the only surviving minister in the city, was performing as many as 50 funerals per day.  He is said to have performed over 4,000 funerals that year, including his wife’s.

Under those awful conditions and constant military threats, Rinkart continued to serve God and the people of Eilenburg.  And even in that world dominated by death and disease, he penned the words of one of the most well-known hymns of thanksgiving:

Now thank we all our God with heart and hands and voices,
Who wondrous things has done, in Whom His world rejoices;
Who from our mothers’ arms has blessed us on our way
With countless gifts of love, and still is ours today.

O may this bounteous God through all our life be near us,
With ever joyful hearts and blessed peace to cheer us,
To keep us in His grace, and guide us when perplexed,
And free us from all ills of this world in the next.

All praise and thanks to God the Father now be given,
The Son and Spirit blest, Who reign is highest heaven,
The one eternal God, Whom earth and heaven adore;
For thus it was, is now, and shall be evermore.

Happy Thanksgiving from NHIM!

Walls of Remembrance

There was a long hallway in our home that lead to the back section of the house. My wife, Sue, had made the blank walls into a corridor of cherished mementos. The walls were adorned with things like grandparents’ marriage licenses, diplomas, pictures, newspaper articles, poems and art work from grandchildren, and other family treasures.

It was a joy to see family members stop for a moment and smile before they move on. We often shared family history and events that relate to some of these keepsakes. These shared memories are strands that are woven into the tapestry of our lives and make us strong. They help hold our family together.

The breakdown of family units, members being estranged from each other, and the rising tide of divorce is alarming. This situation is paralleled by domestic violence, child abuse, multiple kinds of addiction, and a dramatic increase in suicide rates. Without solid family ties, our culture is experiencing social disintegration. Without loved ones who know who we are and where we come from, our society is coming apart at the seams.

As important as healthy family ties are, there is another anchor for people that is even more important. It is our relationship with the Lord. When we are a part of God’s family through the new birth, we can weather the storms of life. With God’s grace and mercy, we are able to live successfully through circumstances that so often tear people apart. God’s word assures us of His love. He promises that we stay on His heart and in His mind. “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! (16) See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands; your walls are ever before me” (Isaiah 49:15-16, NIV).

Being a part of God’s family helps hold our earthly families together. I am thankful each day for family, Sue’s Memory Walls, and especially for belonging to God’s family. Bill Gaither says it beautifully in the song “Family of God”: “I’m so glad I’m a part of the family of God. I’ve been washed in the fountain, cleansed by His blood! Joint heirs with Jesus as we travel this sod, For I’m part of the family, the family of God.” Are you a part of God’s family? You can be. Just ask Him.

Prayer: May all who read this devotional be on the walls of God’s heart.

~ Brother Roy

Not a Thread Nor a Sandal Strap

abrahamAlthough many instances in scripture can be found that reflect the character and disposition of God’s friend Abram (Abraham), may I share just two examples:

  • First, “Abram was very rich in livestock, in silver, and in gold” (Genesis 13:1). Following God’s calling, Abram had thrived. Lot, his nephew, traveled with Abram and his flocks and herds also prospered. The land was not able to support both of them. Strife developed over water and pasture. They needed to separate. Although Abram was the Patriarch of the family, and seniority rights dictated that he should have first choice of territory, he deferred to Lot.  Abram believed that his security and his future rested with God – not in land or earthly possessions. Then we read, “And Lot lifted up his eyes and saw all the plain of Jordan, that it was well watered everywhere…like the garden of the Lord.  Then Lot chose for himself all the plain of Jordan”. (Genesis 13:10-11). The record reveals much about both men, especially the wisdom of Abram. The arid hills and a close relationship with God proved to be his security.
  • The second illustration follows in the account of Abram’s interaction with the King of Sodom.  In a courageous and daring rescue, Abram and his servants delivered Lot and his family from a marauding army. The invaders had attacked Sodom and “Then they took all the goods of Sodom and Gomorrah, and all their provisions, and went on their way” (Genesis 14:11). They also took Lot’s family and many of the people of Sodom as captives. After the heroic rescue, Abram returned everything that had been taken to the King of Sodom. The king wanted to reward him handsomely. Abram responded with words that are riveting and give great insight into Abram’s character. “…I will take nothing from a thread to a sandal strap” (14:23).

Abram was apparently aware that two of the devil’s most powerful tools are materialism and greed. The pages of scripture are littered with the accounts of lives that yielded to them and were destroyed. Lot’s experiences serve as case in point. How easy it is to focus on the things this world can provide and forget the Provider. Attention is often on our own strength and cunning to get ahead. We may even justify things like cheating a little on income tax or taking advantage of a situation for personal gain to the detriment of someone else. Decisions do not necessarily have to be dishonest or illegal to be damaging to our character and integrity. A wise friend once told me “Men, like rivers, get crooked following the course of least resistance”.

Let me share two verses of scripture that relate to this devotional:

  • “He who loves silver will not be satisfied with silver; nor he who loves abundance, with increase. This also is vanity” (Ecclesiastes 5:10).
  • As a partridge that broods but does not hatch, so is he who gets riches, but not by right; It will leave him in the midst of his days, and at his end he will be a fool” (Jeremiah 17:1).

Prayer: Lord, help us to live in the center of your will. Our future and our security is in You. We want to “take nothing from a thread to a sandal strap” that we should not have.

~  Brother Roy