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

Life on the Margin

A favorite strategy in the Devil’s plan book is marginalization. If he can push us away from Christ as the center of our lives, he will wreak havoc. Under the influence of the soul’s enemy, fallen men tend to move to the margins in their assessment of self-worth. Either the person will think more highly of themselves than they ought, or they will think through self-deprecation that they are of little or no value. To move to either margin is destructive.

When a person overvalues themselves, their egotistical attitude alienates people. They project an air of superiority and haughtiness that will push people away. Scripture speaks to this issue:

  • For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself.“ (Galatians 6:3)
  • “For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.” (Romans 12:3)
  • “Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.” (Romans 12:16)
  • “Do you see a man who is wise in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him.” (Proverbs 26:12)
  • Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” (James 4:6)

Likewise, thoughts of feeling worthless and unworthy are also lies from no one other than the Devil. When a person discounts their worth as an individual, it can lead to depression, despair, and a sense of hopelessness. Those feelings often result in a fear of failure, and people become non-productive and ‘turned in’ on themselves. Scripture speaks to this issue as well:

  • “For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.”  (Ephesians 2:19)
  • “And he said, “O man greatly loved, fear not, peace be with you; be strong and of good courage.” (Daniel 10:19)
  • “But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)
  • “Because you are precious in my eyes, and honored, and I love you…(Isaiah 43:4)
  • “If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 15:5)

A life lived on the margin or periphery has a curse on it. Only when a life is centered in Christ can it be all it is meant to be. “For in Him we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28, NIV).  The reason we should center our lives in Christ is clear. When we live in the center of His will, the Lord says to us, For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future” (Jeremiah 29:11, NIV).

Centered on Christ Jesus, hearts are fully blest,
Finding, as He promised, perfect peace and rest.
(from “Like a River Glorious”, by Frances Ridley Havergal)

~ Brother Roy

Slaves of Christ

“Paul, a bond-servant of Christ Jesus…” (Romans 1:1).  If one were reading the Bible in the order it was assembled in the biblical canon, the apostle Paul’s first words of introduction to us are, “My name is Paul, and I am a slave.” 

Christians today don’t talk much about being slaves.  That’s likely because of the understandable aversion to what that idea brings most readily to mind – the awful history of cruel human enslavement that has been and continues to be a terrible reality in our fallen world.  But Paul identified himself as a bond-servant of Christ in his epistles to the Romans, to the Galatians, and to Titus.  In Colossians Paul calls his colleague Epaphras a bond-servant of Christ. And Peter, James, and Jude all identify themselves in their epistles as bond-servants of Christ.  So being a slave was clearly a common understanding of the identity of the early Christian.

What did they mean by that: “a bond-servant of Christ Jesus”?  Simply stated, a bond-servant is one who belongs to another.  It is one whose personal autonomy is entirely subject to a master.  In most cases, a bond-servant, a slave, is one who has been purchased by an owner whose will is the duty of the slave to perform.  As a bond-servant of Christ Jesus, Paul was acknowledging that he had been “bought with a price” (I Corinthians 6:20) and was compelled to perform the service to which he was called – that is, to preach the Gospel among the Gentiles (Romans 1:5).

Oswald Chambers said of the term “bond-servant of Christ”: “These words mean the breaking and collapse of my independence brought about by my own hands, and the surrendering of my life to the supremacy of the Lord Jesus…It means breaking the hard outer layer of my individual independence from God, and the liberating of myself and my nature into oneness with Him; not following my own ideas, but choosing absolute loyalty to Jesus.”

When one is a slave to Jesus, that person gives up their right to have a say in the matter.  (Here’s a little secret – we never had a right to have a say in the matter to begin with.)  But we relinquish whatever false claim we had to autonomy in submission to the lordship of Jesus.  To be a slave to Christ is to reach that point of surrender where our independence is actually dead, and it is not we who are living, but Christ living in us (as Paul wrote in Galatians 2:20).  We must attain the level of commitment where our will is inconsequential, because it has been swallowed up by God’s will.  It’s not that our will is gone – it’s still there; but it has been enslaved by the will of Jesus. 

Our autonomy, our self-determination, can be hard to relinquish.  By identifying as a bond-servant, a slave, we are saying: I have given my independence over to Christ.  But the good news is: unlike that cruelest commerce – human slavery both ancient and modern – Jesus says, “my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:30).  So like Paul we can say, I am a slave, and it’s the most liberating thing that ever happened to me.

~ Matt Kinnell, NHIM Board Chair

A “Nothing New” Year

From youth I have heard the phrase: “There is nothing new under the sun.” The phrase is adapted from the Book of Ecclesiastes where the author complains frequently about the monotony of life. The entire passage reads, “The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun(Ecclesiastes 1:9, KJV).

Will a ‘nothing new’ year be your lot for 2022? It shouldn’t be. God’s word says,  “That, however, is not the way of life you learned when you heard about Christ and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus. You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness” (Ephesians 4:20-24, NIV). With the help of the Holy Spirit, we can have a new attitude and we can put on a new self.

The Apostle Paul states, Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come; the old has gone, the new is here!” (2 Corinthians 5:17, NIV). We must not fall prey to the same old pattern of resolving to do better in the new year only to abandon these determinations soon after. Paul’s advice: “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will” (Romans 12:2, NIV).

Prayer for 2022: Lord, may we respond to your word to us through the Prophet Isaiah; “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 43:19, NIV). We do not want a ‘Nothing New’ Year.

~ Brother Roy

A Spiritual Stimulus

Recent events have brought the concept of a “stimulus package” to the forefront of our news. A basic definition of a stimulus package is a package of economic measures a government invokes to stimulate a floundering economy. The objective of a stimulus package is to reinvigorate the economy and prevent or reverse a recession by boosting employment and spending. It is open to discussion whether or not the current economic stimulus packages accomplish their intended purpose. However, there are situations where some types of stimuli can evoke the intended response.

The Biblical accounts found in Mark 12:41–44 and Luke 21:1–4 serve as an example of a spiritual stimulus.  Jesus called His disciples’ attention to a certain poor widow who had cast two small coins into an offering box in the Temple. These ‘mites’ were the smallest and least valuable coins in circulation in Judea. Although the mites seemed to be of little value, scripture tells us something different. Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on” (Mark 14:43-44, NIV).

What a powerful lesson! The example of the widow’s mites has stimulated me and countless others across time to give into the Lord’s treasury out of the resources we have available. Motivated by the possibility that we can “put more in the treasury” than the rich should inspire us to give generously, to give sacrificially. Think of it – in the eyes of the Lord, you can out give Bill Gates or Mark Zuckerberg at the Lord’s offering box.

The miracle of feeding five thousand men, plus women and children, with five loaves and two fish reveals the Lord’s power to multiply what is placed in His hands. We can trust the One who gave His all, even His very life to rescue us the bondage of sin.

Prayer: Lord, may the truth of Your Word stimulate us to place our resources at Your disposal. Kindle in us desire to commit our lives and all we possess to you.   

~ Brother Roy

Supply Chain Problems

A major issue in the news recently has been the Supply Chain Crisis. Empty shelves, shortages, and dramatic price increases when items can be found have fueled frustration and dissatisfaction. A seemingly endless number of explanations and excuses have been offered, but few solutions advanced.

Exasperated by the supply chain interruptions, we can find consolation in the fact that most physical shortages are more inconveniences than life-threatening necessities. But in the spiritual realm, shortages in faith and hearts empty of God’s love can have eternally devastating consequences.

Unlike the physical supply chain problems that are incredibly complex, shortages in spiritual areas are simpler to diagnose and resolve. Consider these major problems and their solutions.

  • Sin: Behold, the LORD’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; neither his ear heavy, that it cannot hear: But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear” (Isaiah 59:1-2, NKJV).
    Solution:If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9, NKJV).
  • Wrong Motives:When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures” (James 4:3, NIV).
    Solution: Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded”  (James 4:8, NKJV).
  • Deceitfulness: “For, whoever would love life and see good days must keep his tongue from evil and his lips from deceitful speech…For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their prayer, but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil” (1 Peter 3:10-12, NIV).
    Solution: Tell the truth. Don’t lie or say things that are misleading to give others a false perception. Deception will hinder your prayers. Walk the talk.

When the issues mentioned are addressed, the channels between man and God are opened. Then scripture says, “And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19, NIV).

~ Brother Roy