Trash Talking

trash talkingIf you have even a passing interest in sports, you are aware of the expression ‘trash talking’. The expression has certainly come to prominence in recent years. Athletes have elevated the infamous practice to a verbal art form. Trash talking consists of belittling an opponent and extolling one’s own prowess. It is an attempt to intimidate a rival by words rather than actual physical superiority. This practice may also referred to as talking ‘smack’.

The concept of trash talking is not new. Across human history, people have engaged in this nefarious practice under various names. Two well known Biblical events exemplify this practice.

  • During the time that Nehemiah was leading the Jews to rebuild Jerusalem’s tumbled down walls, his detractors engaged in trash talking him and his effort. In Nehemiah 4, disparagers mocked Nehemiah and called the people weak Jews. With derision, they taunted the people saying that if a little fox jumped up on the wall it would collapse.
  • The account of David and Goliath offers a second look at Biblical trash talkers. Two statements in the account catch my attention. First, “Goliath stood and shouted to the ranks of Israel” (1 Samuel 17:8). Next, “On hearing the Philistine’s words, Saul and all the Israelites were dismayed and terrified” (1 Samuel 17:11). There is no record of Goliath winning a single battle or killing another solider.  He may well have been nothing more than a big, clumsy klutz, a trash-talking big mouth.

Often Satan, the father of lies and trash talk, succeeds in demoralizing and defeating people without much resistance. He is a master of pointing out our weaknesses and reciting our past failures. He points out what appears to be overwhelming circumstances against us. Many people yield without a fight. Like the Israelites, when “Goliath …of Gath, stepped out from his lines and shouted his usual defiance … they all fled from him in great fear” (1 Samuel 17:23-24). 

Thankfully, God has not left us powerless to Satan’s attacks. The book of Revelation reveals the three sure-fire weapons God has given us to silence Satan’s threats: “Then I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, “Now salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of His Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren, who accused them before our God day and night, has been cast down. And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death (Revelation 12:10-11). 

In addition, scripture gives us this promise: “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind” (1 Timothy 1:7). We are also told in the Book of James, “Stand against the devil, and the devil will run from you. Come near to God, and God will come near to you” (James 4:7-8, NCV). 

A Final Word: “There is no room in love for fear. Well-formed love banishes fear. Since fear is crippling, a fearful life—fear of death, fear of judgment—is one not yet fully formed in love” (1 John 4:18, MSG).

~ Brother Roy

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A Fantasy World

mahoganybayMy wife and I were passengers on the Cruise Ship ‘Fantasy’. We watched as the ship’s captain skillfully piloted the large vessel into a beautiful new port called Mahogany Bay. Because the port and pier area was of recent construction, it looked fresh and clean, unlike many ports of older vintage. Most of the older ports are of industrial grade. Their design was for utility and function and not as cruise ship ‘eye-candy’. The visual attractiveness of Mahogany Bay testifies to the attention given to appearance in this up-to-date port of call.

Once we we disembarked, it was only a short walk along the pier until we were standing at the appealing entrance into the shopping village. The walkway ascended a small hill that was lined with beautiful trees and foliage. The plaza was adorned with sparkling fountains, beautifully painted buildings, and decorated alcoves. There was a sky lift to transport visitors above the trees, across a scenic inlet, and finally depositing passengers on a well-manicured beach (for a $14 fee).  A nature trail also curled around the hill top. It was replete with stunning tropical flowers, an unimaginable variety of trees and bushes, and of course shaded benches where you could stop and drink in the beauty.

The centerpiece of this artificial ‘world’, owned by Carnival Cruise Lines, was naturally the shopping village. The International Diamond Store, the Columbia Emerald Store, the Mayan Jade shop, and any number of other jewelry stores were prominent. Expensive liquor stores and fancy bars that offered drinks with exotic names populated the plaza. There was also a profusion of shops offering T-shirts, souvenirs, and ‘native crafts’. Not so obvious was a buffer zone around the village and security guards to keep ‘undesirable locals’ out of this fantasy world.

So much of this temporal world in which we live, like Mahogany Bay, is artificial. The glitz and glitter that the synthetic world offers are meant to give people the illusion of ‘real’ value. Here and across the broad spectrum of our lives, the hype tries to convince people that happiness is to be found in alcohol, luxury items, expensive jewelry, and trendy clothes. The allure of sex without boundaries often draws the unsuspecting into loveless and shallow relationships, and many follow social media and dating websites that market elusive dreams.

Solomon’s wisdom echoes across the ages: “Why will you set your eyes on that which is not? For riches certainly make themselves wings; They fly away like an eagle toward heaven” (Proverbs 23:5). In addition, please hear these words of Jesus on this matter in the sixth chapter of Matthew:

  • Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven…
  • Is not your life more than food and the body more than clothing?
  • But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness all these things shall be added to you. 

Prayer: Lord, today help me to see above and beyond the tinsel of the temporal world. I want to set my affections on things above.

~ Brother Roy

A Voice

megaphoneA crackle of static and an abrasive voice jarred me to consciousness. The sound came from a speaker recessed in the ceiling above me. My mind had been far away with the gentle rocking of the ship, the warm sun, and motion of the waves. The voice sounded again, “Hello, folks this is Ben, your Cruise Director, ‘the Voice from above’.” Ben unleashed a barrage of words trying to get passengers to drink, party, and spend. Passengers were being enticed to indulge in a myriad of self-pleasing activities, all of which seemed calculated to empty passenger’s pockets and line the coffers of the cruise line. We were told to get out there and have fun.

Voices like Ben’s join innumerable other “sirens’ voices” in mankind’s ear. Like the sirens of Greek mythology who enticed sailors to their doom, they try to get us to enjoy the pleasures of self-indulgence for a season without regard for the consequences that come later.

From the beginning of man’s sojourn on the earth, the ‘voices’ have been calling. In Genesis chapter 3 we hear the sirens’ voice at the dawn of creation: “Then the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die…So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and desirable to make to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate” (Genesis 3:4-6, NKJV).

The consequences of listening to the siren’s voice, which was certainly not from above, was devastating to the sailors in Greek mythology. It was truly so for Eve and Adam. It is still so today for those who listen to those alluring invitations. The ‘true’ voice from above gives us these words, “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life” (Galatians 6:7-8, NKJV).

As our days unfold, let us ask the Lord to help us block out the siren’s call of this world. That call beckons us to ignore God’s word and live to please ourselves. We are urged to get out there and enjoy life without counting the cost.

Jesus said, “My sheep hear My voice and I know them and they follow Me.”
(John 10:27)

~ Brother Roy

The Half Has Not Been Told

vast ocean

Ezra and Arze, two brothers from deep in the hills of Kentucky, got their first look at the ocean. On the shore, Ezra stood on his tiptoes and shaded his eyes, peering into the distance. He finally said, “Golly, I never had any notion the ocean was so big. It looks like it goes on forever!” His brother replied, “And just think, we are only looking at the top of it.”

It’s the same way when we try to understand the love of God. It is incomprehensible. An account in 1 Kings 10 tells of the powerful and wealthy Queen of Sheba’s visit to Jerusalem. It illustrates the point. She came to see if the stories she had been hearing about Solomon and his kingdom could possibly be true. Upon meeting Solomon and seeing for herself she exclaimed, “However I did not believe the words until I came and saw with my own eyes; and indeed the half was not told me” (1 Kings 10:7, NKJV).

Rev. Benton Vespew Ellis’s hymn “The Love of God” is one of my favorites hymns.  It expresses more clearly than I ever could the overwhelming nature of God’s love for us:

The love of God is greater far
Than tongue or pen can ever tell
It goes beyond the highest star
And reaches to the lowest hell

Could we with ink the ocean fill
And were the skies of parchment made
Were every stalk on earth a quill
And every man a scribe by trade
To write the love of God above
Would drain the ocean dry
Nor could the scroll contain the whole
Though stretched from sky to sky

At times I feel a little like Ezra and Arze must have felt as they gazed at the ocean. I simply cannot comprehend His great love. But this I know: “… God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8, NKJV). The more I experience God’s love, the more I want to say, “The half has not been told.”

~ Brother Roy

The Trinity

3 pelicansI was sitting on the porch of the Cottage by the Bay near Mobile, Alabama, enjoying the dawn’s early light. The quiet before the rhythm of the day begins is my favorite time of day. Those peaceful moments help me prepare my heart for unseen events that lie ahead.

Out of the mist, three pelicans flew by. They were gliding silently on the morning air currents. They were flying in tight formation, wingtip to wingtip. If one tilted to the left, in unison the other two followed. Being a deeply religious soul, with about 60 years in the ministry, I see spiritual significance in most everything that surrounds me. This was no exception. These three beautiful winged creations of God brought to my mind the Holy Trinity: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. My heart began to sing, “Holy, holy, holy! Lord God Almighty! Early in the morning our song shall rise to Thee; Holy, holy, holy, merciful and mighty! God in three Persons, blessed Trinity!” (John Dykes – Public Domain).

The Trinity is one of those spiritual concepts that I don’t fully understand. In simple faith however, I relax with the scripture that says, “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,” says the Lord For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways, And My thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:8-9, NKJV). 

May I share some of those simple thoughts that I have about the Trinity?

  • At times I need my Heavenly Father. When the storms of life assail, like a child, I cry out for the strong and mighty arm of my Father.
  • At times I need the Son, my Savior and Friend. He gives the assurance that only a trusted friend can provide. He is “a friend who sticks closer than a brother” (Proverbs 18:24, NKJV). The precious old hymn “What a Friend We Have in Jesus” never ceases to bless and bring assurance to my heart.
  • At times I need the comfort of the Holy Spirit. How I love the words of the hymn, The Comforter Has Come: “O spread the tidings ’round, wherever man is found, wherever human hearts and human woes abound; Let every Christian tongue Proclaim the joyful sound: The Comforter has come! The Holy Ghost from Heav’n, The Father’s promise given.”

The 3 Persons of the Trinity flew across the horizon of my soul this morning.

~ Brother Roy

How Do We Love?

heart perspectie“God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them.” (I John 4:16)

I don’t believe that there is any segment of Christianity that would deny the fact that love is a defining element – if not THE defining element – of our faith.  But I’m not sure that all of us are on the same page when it comes to what love is and what it looks like in action.

Love is selfless.  I John 3:16 says, “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down His life for us.”  In this, through Christ’s example, we see that love is self-giving.  Jesus taught that “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15:13).  And He lived out that ultimate expression of love – sacrificing oneself for the benefit of another.

Because love is selfless, it is best expressed in our relationships with one another.  Paul told the Romans to “be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves” (Romans 12:10).  John indicated the selfless nature of love when he admonished believers that if we see someone in need and have the means to help, but we ignore them, then we do not have the love of God in us (I John 3:17). Love is selfless.

Love requires obedience.  In the Upper Room, Jesus told His disciples, “If you love me, keep my commands” (John 14:15), and He went on to say that “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching” (14:23)II John 2:6 tells us, “And this is love: that we walk in obedience to His commands.” By these instructions we know that love requires obedience.

There is a sort of allergy in our Christian culture to talk of obedience, because when we talk about obedience, it seems to smack of earned salvation or salvation by works.  Make no mistake about it: we cannot earn our salvation through our good works.  There is nothing that we can do that can assure our place in the Kingdom of God.  But Scripture is very clear:  God does command us to love, and love requires obedience.

For too many, love is a feeling – a warm sensation.  But obedience does not always produce such a good feeling.  Sometimes obedience is tough. There may even be times when God’s commands don’t make sense or seem to serve no purpose.  But we obey, because obedience is what love demands.

Evaluating our love  How do we know that we are living in love?  Some time ago Dr. Sam Kamaleson spoke in our Sunday School class at Wilmore Free Methodist Church.  He pointed us to I Corinthians 13:4-7.  He said, as you are assessing your love, look at this paragraph, and every time “love” is the subject, replace it with your name.

{Matt} is patient. (I’m in trouble already!)  {Matt} is kind.  {Matt} does not envy, {Matt} does not boast, {Matt} is not proud.  {Matt} does not dishonor others, {Matt} is not self-seeking, {Matt} is not easily angered, {Matt} keeps no record of wrongs.  {Matt} does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  {Matt} always protects, {Matt} always trusts, {Matt} always hopes, {Matt} always perseveres.

Test yourself with that paragraph, as often as you need to do it.  I think, if we’re honest with ourselves, we’ll know if those things ring true.  And we’ll know if we are really loving as God would have us love.

~ Matt Kinnell, NHIM Board Chair

Ill-Got Amounts to Naught

salesmanA rousing conversation around the coffee table at Fitch’s Store yielded yet another ‘witticism’. We were discussing the deceptive practices of some salespeople. Using misleading information and glib speech, they press to make a sale sometimes at the expense of integrity. Local sage and ‘Carriage Master’ Jerry Allender offered this astute observation: “Ill-got amounts to naught”.

This little morsel of folk wisdom speaks a powerful truth. People who resort to unscrupulous means to gain advantage over others will not prosper over time. While some appear to enjoy ill-gotten gains for the short term, sooner or later there is a price to pay. Numerous scriptures from both Old and New Testaments provide valuable insights:

  • “The getting of treasures by a lying tongue is a fleeting vapor and a snare of death” (Proverbs 21:6, ESV).
  • “Do not wear yourself out to get rich; do not trust your own cleverness. Cast but a glance at riches, and they are gone,for they will surely sprout wings and fly off to the sky like an eagle” (Proverbs 23:4-5, NIV).
  • “Such are the ways of everyone who is greedy for unjust gain; it takes away the life of its possessors” (Proverbs 1:19, ESV) .
  • “Treasures gained by wickedness do not profit, but righteousness delivers from death”  (Proverbs 10:2, ESV).
  • “And he said to them, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions” (Luke 12:15, ESV).

There is likely no other area of human endeavor where real scrutiny must be exercised than finance. The Apostle Paul’s words to Timothy are likely the best known scripture of all concerning money:For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows” (1 Timothy 6:10, NKJV). The highest level of honesty and integrity must be observed in our financial dealings. 

Jesus asks, “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?” (Matthew 16:26, NKJV)

~ Brother Roy