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

When Life Is the Pits

cherry pitsOverheard at Fitch’s store: “If life is a bowl of cherries, then I got stuck with the pits.”

I’m not sure if the ending of the phrase is the original, but it struck a chord with me. It ranks in there with, “I always seem to get the short end of the stick,” or, “If it wasn’t for bad luck, I’d have no luck at all.” I cogitated on the idea that sometimes we seem to be the recipient of more than our share of trouble. Then an intriguing thought came to mind. When God is in charge of your life, the ‘pits’ may not be what they seem to be. They could contain the embryos of new life.

The Book of Genesis relates the amazing story of Joseph. Joseph was the 11th of the 12 sons of Jacob. Because of their father’s perceived favoritism for Joseph and Joseph’s seemingly arrogant attitude, the brothers hated him. When he was seventeen years old, they planned to kill him, but the oldest brother, Reuben, restrained them. “And it came to pass, when Joseph was come unto his brethren, that they stript Joseph out of his coat, his coat of many colours that was on him; and they took him, and cast him into a pit: and the pit was empty, there was no water in it” (Genesis 37:23-24, KJV). If ever a person literally got stuck with the ‘pits’, it was Joseph.

But, the Biblical account teaches us that if God is directing our lives, everything will ultimately work to our benefit. The Genesis story tell us, “Then Midianite traders passed by; so the brothers pulled Joseph up and lifted him out of the pit, and sold him to the Ishmaelites for twenty shekels of silver. And they took Joseph to Egypt” (Genesis 37:28).

Now, as Paul Harvey would say, here is ‘the rest of the story”. Joseph became a slave and experienced many other ‘pit’-like incidents. Prison and jail cells were often his home. However, his faith in God’s providential care did not waiver. Eventually, God’s plan began to unfold. It always does! God’s plan propelled Joseph from the pit to the palace. At 35 years old, he rose in position to be second only to Pharaoh, the most powerful man on earth. “And Pharaoh said to Joseph, “See, I have set you over all the land of Egypt” (Genesis 41:41).

A great famine struck Egypt and all of the surrounding countries. Because of Joseph’s God-given wisdom, Egypt became the ‘bread basket’ for that part of the world. Joseph was in charge of all governmental affairs. His family, father, and brothers were forced to come to Egypt to survive. When his family came to Joseph seeking help, they didn’t recognize him. In kindness, he dealt with them. When Joseph finally revealed his identity to his frightened kinsmen, he let them know he had forgiven them. Then he said, But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive” (Genesis 50:20, NKJV).

Joseph had been dealt a bad hand, but he didn’t fold. He trusted God when things looked bleak. God rewarded his patience and trust. Those things which seemed evil against him, God turned into good. The pits became a ‘bowl of cherries’.

“In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths(Proverbs 3:6).  The Lord can take you from the pit to the palace of His will.

~ Brother Roy

Storm Window

storm windowA severe storm with strong winds swept through our neighborhood. A large limb from a tree in my neighbor’s yard fell across the fence and crashed into the lower level of my house. After the storm passed, I went around the house to inspect the damage. The limb had broken the storm window, but not penetrated the inside pane, because the storm window was mounted outside the main glass window.

In addition to insulation, storm windows are meant to provide an additional measure of protection for homes against damages to costly inner glass panes during inclement weather. My storm window did its job. There was no water or wind damage to the room inside.

I thought about how God’s protective care is like a storm widow. When the storms of life assail, the Lord can insulate us from internal damage. We may, at times, sustain some surface damage, but the inner person can be protected. A prayer by the Apostle Paul speaks to this point. He prays, “that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith” (Ephesians 3:16-17).

The word’s of Dottie Rambo’s song, ‘Sheltered In The Arms Of God’, beautifully express this truth:

So let the storms rage high, the dark clouds rise – they don’t worry me
For I’m sheltered safe within the arms of God
He walks with me and naught of earth shall harm me
For I’m sheltered in the arms of God.

Lord, You are my storm window. “In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, Lord, make me dwell in safety” (Psalm 4:8).

~ Brother Roy