A Doorstop

I was in a hurry. I was a little overzealous with the force I used to open an inside door. Thank heavens for the nifty little invention called a doorstop – the rubber-tipped device attached to the wall to prevent damaging contact between an opened door and the wall. It saved me from a hole in the wall and a costly to repair.

I have found myself longing for an equivalent in my spiritual life. There are times when I need a spiritual ‘doorstop’. How often have I spoken too quickly? How many times have I jumped to an erroneous conclusion? Many times I have rushed ahead in a sincere attempt to help, only to have made things worse.

The Bible speaks to the issue of inappropriate haste:

  • “My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry”  (James 1:19, NIV).
  • “Do you see a man who is hasty in his words? There is more hope for a fool than for him” (Proverbs 29:20).
  • “He who gives an answer before he hears, It is folly and shame to him”  (Proverbs 18:13).
  • “Also it is not good for a person to be without knowledge, And he who hurries his footsteps errs” (Proverbs 19:2).

Most of us intuitively recognize the truth of the words given above, but fail to implement them in our daily lives. You may be like me – I tend to be a little ADHD (attention-deficit/hyperactive) spiritually. There are times when I need a doorstop.

A person is wise to develop a plan that incorporates what is known to be true into daily practice. “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says” (James 1:22, NIV). A start might be to begin each day by reviewing the scriptures above and punctuating them by prayer. This can lead us to form a spiritual pattern – to God’s glory. A patient and thoughtful approach to each day’s activities is prudent.

Prayer: Lord, I need spiritual doorstops. Help me to intentionally build into my life patience and proper actions that reflect You.

~ Brother Roy

“Prove It.”

“Christ in the Desert”, by Ivan Kramskoi (1872)

An adult Jesus appears on the stage of Scripture on the bank of the Jordan River where He asks His cousin John to baptize Him.  And as Jesus comes up out of the water, He sees the heavens open, and the Spirit of God descends like a dove and settles on Him, and a voice from heaven declares, “This is My beloved Son, with whom I am well-pleased” (Matthew 3:17).

After that declaration, the Spirit leads Jesus into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.  Jesus fasts for 40 days and 40 nights and is hungry. At that moment of physical weakness, the devil shows up for a showdown. If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread” (Matthew 4:3).

The devil’s challenge to Jesus here isn’t really to perform a miracle or feed His hunger.  At the Jordan, God had said, “This is my beloved Son;” now Satan says, “If you are really God’s Son…prove it.” Satan is asking Jesus to prove what God has already declared.  But Jesus has no obligation to prove His Sonship.  It is evident on the basis of God’s word.  So He replies with the words of Scripture: “It is written, man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes out of the mouth of God” (4:4). Miraculously feeding His hunger would not make Jesus the Son of God; the word coming from the mouth of God, “This is my beloved Son,” makes Him the Son of God.  Jesus is, and we are, what God says we are. 

If Jesus had never eaten again and starved to death there in the desert, it would not have changed the reality that He was the Son of God, because that is who God declared Him to be. Many would come to Jesus looking for signs and wonders (like turning stones into bread) as proof that there was something special about Jesus.  But the thing that was special about Jesus was that God said, “That’s my Son. I love Him. He’s doing just what I want Him to do.”

Next the devil says, “So You want to quote Scripture?” And he takes Jesus to the pinnacle of the temple, and again He asks Jesus to prove something: If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down; for it is written: ‘He will give His angels orders concerning You’; and ‘On their hands they will lift You up, So that You do not strike Your foot against a stone’” (4:6). Jesus answers, “Scripture also tells us not to put God to the test” (4:7).  Again, Satan says, if you’re the Son of God, prove it. Jesus says I don’t need to prove it; God said it, and it need not be tested.

Finally Satan gets around to what he’s really after.  Those first two temptations were just trying to goad Jesus into a demonstration.  Now, the devil takes Jesus to a high mountain where they can see all the kingdoms of the world and offers all of it to Jesus if only Jesus will fall down and worship Satan (4:8-9). In reality, what the devil is offering is a shortcut: “What if I told You that You didn’t have to go through with this whole incarnation thing?  What if You could have all of this simply by switching Your allegiance to Me?”

When Jesus rejects Satan’s offer, again with the words of Scripture (“You shall worship the Lord your God, and serve Him only” (4:10)), what Jesus was choosing…was the cross.  Satan was offering to give Jesus the glory that He would have to earn through obedience to death, but Jesus believed what God said about Him and remained committed to the Father. 

And do you know what the end of the story is?  “The kingdom of this world is become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever” (Revelation 11:15)“And the devil who deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are also; and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever” (Revelation 20:10).  I’d say Jesus chose wisely.

~ Matt Kinnell, NHIM Board Chair

What’s Good?

As Jesus was setting out on a journey, a man whom we know as the Rich Young Ruler ran up to Him, knelt down, and asked, “Good Teacher, what shall I do so that I may inherit eternal life?”  Jesus’ response? “Why do you call Me good? No one is good except God alone” (Mark 10:17-18).

There is a question that lies at the root of almost every argument and controversial conversation that takes place in human society, and that question is: “What is good?”

Depending on whom you ask, “good” may be defined as things that benefit an individual, things that benefit society, things that benefit the marginalized, things that make me feel good, things that fill a need, things that show love, things that promote acceptance, things that are selfless, things that evoke celebration, things that make people feel positive about themselves, things that produce a certain emotion, things that produce a certain result.  But what, really, is “good”?

Sometimes we know instinctively what is good.  Jesus acknowledged this in the Sermon on the Mount: “What person is there among you who, when his son asks for a loaf of bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, he will not give him a snake, will he? So if you, despite being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!” (Matthew 7:9-11).  Even evil people, Jesus says, sometimes are able to recognize good and do it.  But what makes something good?

Jesus’ answer to the Rich Young Ruler is instructive on two levels.  First of all, for those who have ears to hear, Jesus is telling us something about Himself. Jesus replied, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone.” Jesus might well have gone on to say, “If only God is good, and you are saying that I am good, what you are really saying is that I am God.”  Such a claim would have brought cries of blasphemy, so Jesus left His listeners to make that logical conclusion for themselves.

But Jesus was also saying something about the nature of goodness.  If only God is good, then whatever goodness is, God has something to do with it.  If we go all the way back to the creation story in Genesis, we read over and over how God declared all the things He created to be “good”.  God judged His creation good, because as Creator that was His prerogative.

J. Vernon McGee said, “This is God’s universe, and God does things His way. You may have a better way, but you don’t have a universe.”  God, by virtue of His position as Creator of the universe, has the authority to judge His creation according to His will.  And so if we want to define what is good, the only source we have, the only authority that matters, the only One who is truly good, is God.

There are high stakes for knowing what is good.  Isaiah warned, “Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil” (Isaiah 5:20).  We cannot allow opinion or feelings or circumstances or culture or politicians or preachers or social media to define goodness.  By the testimony of Jesus, we know: “No one is good except God alone.” He alone is the authority on what is good.

“Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good.” (Psalm 106:1, 107:1, 118:1, 136:1)

~ Matt Kinnell, NHIM Board Chair

This Is an Alert!

It seems to me that recent years have brought an ever increasing number of ‘Weather Alerts’. They air on television, radio, and even on my cell phone. I’m sure the increase is partly due to better communication capabilities, but climate change appears to be the main factor. There are major changes in our weather patterns. Extreme weather events are more common.

Alerts concerning tornadoes, hurricanes, floods, record heat or cold, etc., come on a weekly and sometimes even daily basis. They are so frequent that the tendency is to be only mildly concerned or ignore the warnings altogether. And then disaster comes! We fail to respond properly, and tragedy strikes. Its like the old ‘cry wolf’ adage. The media seems to have cried ‘wolf ‘so many times that it’s difficult to know if there is compelling reason to react or not.

Could a similar fate await us in the spiritual realm? The scriptures are replete with many sobering ‘alerts’ in the spiritual domain. Regular Bible reading, massages from the pulpit, and  other trusted sources are ‘in our ears’ on a steady basis. Jesus said, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear!” (Matthew 11:15, NKJV).

Ignoring Weather Alerts can be perilous, but disregarding Biblical Alerts can have eternal consequences:

The Lord is slow to anger and great in power,
And the Lord will by no means leave the guilty unpunished.
In whirlwind and storm is His way,
And clouds are the dust beneath His feet. (Nahum 1:3)

For behold, the Lord will come in fire
And His chariots like the whirlwind,
To render His anger with fury,
And His rebuke with flames of fire. (Isaiah 66:15)


But know this, that in the last day perilous times will come: For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away! For of this sort are those who creep into households and make captives of gullible women loaded down with sins, led away by various lusts, always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth. Now as Jannes and Jambres resisted Moses, so do these also resist the truth: men of corrupt minds, disapproved concerning the faith; but they will progress no further, for their folly will be manifest to all, as theirs also was. But you have carefully followed my doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, longsuffering, love, perseverance, persecutions, afflictions, which happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium, at Lystra—what persecutions I endured. And out of them all the Lord delivered me. Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution. But evil men and impostors will grow worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived. But you must continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them, and that from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. (2 Timothy 3, NKJV)

ALL CLEAR (after the storm):

“When the storm has swept by, the wicked are gone, but the righteous stand firm forever.” (Proverbs 10:25, NIV)

~ Brother Roy

Somewhere in the Shadows

There are times when I have been keenly aware of Christ’s presence surrounding me. Those are joyous and comforting moments. There have also been times when He didn’t seem so up-close. Times when we feel like the Lord is distant are usually periods when we are preoccupied with troubling circumstances. Upheavals in our daily lives like illness, family issues, and personal problems can obscure our awareness of His presence.

Recent circumstances brought those disconcerting times into my life. The sudden death of a loved one was devastating. Like the disciples caught in a storm on the Sea of Galilee (Mark 4:38), my heart cry was, “Master, don’t you care that the wind and waves are overwhelming me?” Once again, He patiently stood in the midst of my storm and spoke, “Peace.” His presence encompassed me and His blessed assurance calmed my heart.

An old hymn from my childhood days came clearly to my mind. May I share with you some beautiful words of E. J. Rollings’ hymn – Standing Somewhere In The Shadows:

            Has the darkness of night settled round you
            Has your hope and your faith wavered too?
            Has the storm over shadowed your sunshine,
            And life lost attraction for you?

            Are your crosses too heavy to carry;
            And burdens too heavy to bear?
            Are there heartaches and tears and anguish;
            And there’s no one who seems to care?

            Standing somewhere in the shadows you’ll find Jesus,
            He’s the Friend who always cares and understands.
            Standing somewhere in the shadows you will find Him
            And you’ll know Him by the nail prints in His hands.

As we face unknown situations in the future, ‘let this blessed assurance control’: the Lord is near. He may be just outside our view, in the shadows, but He is close by. Faith is knowing that He is there.

“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”  (Hebrews 11:1, ESV)

~ Brother Roy

The Man Who Refused a Pardon

In 1829 two men, George Wilson and James Porter, robbed a United States mail carrier. Both were subsequently captured and tried in a court of law. In May 1830 both men were found guilty of six charges, including robbery of the mail “and putting the life of the driver in jeopardy.” Both Wilson and Porter received their sentences: Execution by hanging, to be carried out on July 2.

Porter was executed on schedule, but Wilson was not. Influential friends pleaded for mercy to the President of the United States, Andrew Jackson, on his behalf. President Jackson issued a formal pardon, dropping all charges. Wilson would have to serve only a prison term of 20 years for his other crimes. Incredibly, George Wilson refused the pardon! An official report stated Wilson chose to “waive and decline any advantage or protection which might be supposed to arise from the pardon.” Wilson also stated that he, “had nothing to say, and did not wish in any manner to avail himself in order to avoid sentence.”

The U.S. Supreme Court determined, “The court cannot give the prisoner the benefit of the pardon, unless he claims the benefit of it…. It is a grant to him: it is his property; and he may accept it or not as he pleases.” Chief Justice John Marshall wrote, “A pardon is an act of grace, proceeding from the power entrusted with the execution of the laws…. (But) delivery is not completed without acceptance. It may then be rejected by the person to whom it is tendered, and…we have no power in a court to force it on him.”

George Wilson committed a crime, was tried and found guilty. He was sentenced for execution, but a presidential decree granted him a full pardon. When he chose to refuse that pardon, he chose to die. Reading this amazing story, we might wonder, “How could anyone refuse a pardon for the death sentence? The man was a fool!” But, what if you also are refusing a pardon, one enabling you to spend eternity in the presence of God rather than everlasting punishment in a place the Bible calls Hell?

The Bible plainly teaches we all are sinners, people who have repeatedly broken God’s laws. For instance, Romans 3:23 states, “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” Another verse says, “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us” (1 John 1:8).

What about the penalty of sin – what are the consequences? We are told, “For the wages of sin is death…” (Romans 6:23). The Old Testament concurs: “…the soul that sinneth, it shall die” (Ezekiel 18:4). That does not sound like good news, but God has provided a pardon, one He makes available to us all.

In Isaiah 55:6-7 it says, “Seek ye the Lord while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near: Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the LORD, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.”

If you have not already done so, the question is this: Will you receive or reject the pardon? We each must choose. “He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God” (John 3:18).

~ Brother Roy

To Heal or To Forgive?

In Mark chapter 2, we read the familiar story of Jesus healing the paralytic who is lowered by his friends down through a hole in the ceiling to where Jesus was preaching to a packed house. 

Jesus healed often during His years of ministry on earth.  The Gospels tell us that when Jesus saw the sick and afflicted, He was moved with compassion and healed out of that compassionate heart.  But healing the sick was not really the main reason He was there.  When the crowds began to push in to see and seek healing, Jesus said that preaching was really why He came (Mark 1:38).  His compassion led Him to heal sickness of body, but His mission was to heal sickness of soul.

So the four friends lower the paralytic down through the roof, and Jesus is moved by their faith.  But rather than simply saying, “Be healed,” Jesus declares to the paralyzed man, “Son, your sins are forgiven” (Mark 2:5).  That’s a strange way to start a healing, no?

The religious scribes in the audience notice.  Can you see their eyes popping open, their jaws hitting the floor?  And Mark tells us that in their hearts, they were thinking, “He is blaspheming! Who can forgive sins except God alone?” (2:7).  Their thoughts may have been silent, but they were not hidden from Jesus, and the Rabbi from Nazareth saw a teachable moment.

The ideas of sin and suffering were inextricably linked in first-century Judaism.  You remember well the question asked of Jesus in John 9:2: “Who sinned, this man or his parents, that he would be born blind?” Jesus would deal in that interaction with the faulty premise of that question.  But it shows that the connection already existed in people’s minds that suffering is a result of sin.  So the people gathered in Simon’s house that day already assumed that the paralytic’s problem was two-fold.  And they’ve come to expect Jesus to deal with the consequence of the man’s sin – to heal his paralysis. That’s what they’ve come to see, really.  But does He have the authority to deal with the spiritual problem as well?

So Jesus asks them in verse 9: “Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven;’ or to say, ‘Get up, and pick up your pallet and walk’?”  What an interesting question.  Let’s say you were a charlatan – a false prophet.  You have a confirmed paraplegic in front of you.  Would it be easier to say that you forgive his sins or to make him stand up and walk?  Which would be easier to prove?

A fake healer is easily spotted, but one cannot really prove that they have forgiven a man’s sins. So Jesus tells them, “So that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins…I say to you (the paralytic), get up, pick up your pallet, and go home” (v. 10-11).  And the guy gets up! He was paralyzed – everyone knew it – and he got up right there in front of everyone!

Jesus did heal the man’s physical infirmity.  But He did so in order to demonstrate that He had the authority to forgive sins.  He used the proof of His power to heal as evidence of His authority to forgive.  In doing so, Jesus showed that He not only could deal with the man’s paralysis (which the people saw as a consequence of sin), but that He also could deal with the man’s spiritual need as well.

Sin has consequences.  And Jesus can certainly help us pick up the pieces of the damage sin does to our lives.  Those are the things we so often ask Him to do for us.  But how much greater is His authority to deal with our spiritual need! Jesus can bring healing to the broken things in our lives, but the greater gift He offers is forgiveness.

~ Matt Kinnell, NHIM Board Chair

What To Do When You Don’t You Don’t Know What To Do

There are crises that swirl all around us. Certainly, there are many with national and international consequences. But in this brief devotional, I want to focus on those that are smaller and more personal. I want to look at those that are in the context of our family life and other close social relationships. They may not be of global significance, yet they are important to us.

The Gospel of John’s account of the marriage feast at Cana will serve as the Biblical backdrop for my thoughts. Weddings were a major part of community life in the Hebrew culture of Bible times. In Jesus’ day, a nuptial feast was indeed a feast in which great hospitality was extended over time; no “two-hour reception and you’re out of here”.

Jesus and His disciples were in attendance at a wedding. Mary, mother of Jesus, was also there. She was apparently close to the people gathered at the celebration. Perhaps she was a family member or a kind of wedding consultant. At the wedding celebration, they ran out of wine. Mary was the first to notice. With the whole community involved, it would have been a crisis of epic proportions for the wedding party’s families to run out of wine. Embarrassment  and humiliation would spoil this joyous occasion.

When you are in the midst of a family or personal crisis, what do you do when you don’t know what to do? Mary didn’t want anything to bring down the enjoyment. She knew what to do! Mary went to Jesus to inform him that there was no more wine. She knew Jesus was special and could help.

When Mary presented the problem to Jesus, He politely replied that His time hadn’t arrived yet: “Jesus said to her, ’Woman’, what does your concern have to do with Me? My hour has not yet come” (John 2:4, NKJV). I do not believe Jesus’ reply was disrespectful. Jesus calling Mary ‘woman’ may sound a little harsh to us – maybe like He’s rebuking his mother. But by Mary’s response, we know this is not the case. She receives his response in a positive light, telling the waiters nearby: “Whatever He says to you, do it” (v.5).

We catch a glimpse of Mary’s heart in this account. She saw a need and took it upon herself to help this couple avoid any kind of embarrassment on their wedding day. So she turns to the one person she knows can help – Jesus. I wonder, where was Joseph?  In that patriarchal society, men were the heads of their household and decision makers. However, there is no mention of Joseph after Jesus was twelve years old at the Temple. Jesus, as oldest son, would be expected to fill that role if Joseph was absent. Mary knew what to do. She brough this crisis to Jesus.

When you are in a time of crisis in your life and are struggling with what to do, follow Mary’s lead. Take it to the Lord. The words of a beloved hymn say it well:

Leave it there, leave it there.
Take your burden to the Lord and leave it there.
If you trust and never doubt, He will surely bring you out.
Take your burden to the Lord and leave it there.

(Charles Albert Tindley)

Finally, having taken the problem to the Lord, “Whatever He says to you, do it.”

~ Brother Roy

Sift You Like Wheat

Once again, my affinity for old tools and household items led me to make a small purchase at a peddler’s mall. The teacher/preacher in me causes me to see an ‘object lesson’ in many common items. This was no exception. My vintage treasure was an unusual old flour sifter. 

The old sifter sparked a picture in my mind’s eye. I saw the Last Supper. Jesus was warning Simon Peter that a test of faith was coming: “Simon, Simon! Indeed, Satan has asked for you, that he may sift you as wheat (Luke 22:31, NKJV). In biblical times, wheat or other grain was sifted through a sieve or large strainer. As it was shaken violently, the dirt and other impurities that clung to the grain during the threshing process would separate from the good, usable grain. My small kitchen sifter served a similar purpose; sifting flour used to be necessary to separate out things like bugs or chaff, etc.

The outspoken disciple Peter seemed to be in the same predicament as Job when Satan sought to put him to the test (Job 1:9-12). Satan wanted to “sift Peter as wheat,” which means that he wished to shake Peter’s faith so forcefully that he would fail, proving that God’s faithful servant was deficient. It was not just Peter who was in danger, though. The word for “you” in Luke 22:31 is plural. Jesus was speaking to Peter, informing him that Satan had his sights set on all the disciples. Some translations, such as the Berean Study Bible, specify the whole group: “Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift each of you like wheat.”

To this day, Satan desires to sift all believers as wheat. We need to be prepared for such sifting. While these times of testing may take us by surprise, they need not catch us unprepared. A knowledge of scripture, an up-to-date prayer life, and a daily walk with Jesus will allow us to immerge victoriously from the most violent shaking.

A Promise From God’s Word: So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” (Isaiah 41:10, KJV).  This verse promises that God will strengthen us in the face of Satan’s sifting.

~ Brother Roy

Not As Beggars

When we come to the Lord in prayer, we do not come as beggars. Jesus said, “I have called you friends” (John 15:15, NKJV). Not only do we come to Him as our Friend, but as a joint heir in the Kingdom Of God. “Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory” (Romans 8:12, NIV).

A person of faith does not need to beg. Seeking God and calling out for Him to work in our life is different from begging. A believer knows that God can and ultimately will work on their behalf.

A person with little or no faith is concerned that God will not work and is pleading for Him to change His mind. In such a person, praying can become more of a doubtful hope than a confident petition.

God is moved by trust. While He is touched by our need, He responds to our faith. Bringing loved ones and heartfelt concerns to God shows we trust Him with things that are precious to us. It demonstrates our faith in Him. “But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him” (Hebrews 11:6, NKJV). When we pray in faith, it is a testimony of our trust in Him and His goodness.

Begging has a measure of manipulation within it – “If I can just show God that I really need it, maybe He will move on my behalf.” Begging also carries with it a strong element of doubt. You beg from someone who may be indifferent to your situation and may or may not choose to help.

Seeking God on a foundation of faith shows confidence and expectation. When you pray in faith believing, you are calling on someone you know cares and is able to help. “But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavers is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed. For let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord” (James 1:6-7, KJV).

When we come to Lord, we should not be anxious or worry. We should, in faith, simply convey our prayers and supplications to Him. We should come to Him with thanksgiving for all He has done and with confidence in what He is going to do. We come not as beggars, but as His children.  “Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16, NKJV).

But God has listened. He has heard my prayer. Praise God. He did not ignore my prayer. He did not hold back his love from me(Psalm 66:19-20, IBC).