Indispensable

A few days ago, an elderly gentleman said to me, “Brother Roy, I don’t know why I’m still here. I’m ready to go home to heaven. I’m not able to do anything. I’m of no use to the Lord. I don’t know why I’m still alive.” Across the years, I’ve I have heard similar expressions many times. My wife’s grandmother was 96 years old and blind when she voiced such feelings.

On the surface that question may seem to have some merit, but when considered in the light of Scripture it is not a legitimate inquiry. On two occasions, God has interjected Himself into human affairs to reveal His plan for delivering His people from bondage:

  • First, it was to Moses at the ‘burning bush’. God announced:  “I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering. So I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey” (Exodus 3:7, NIV). God had a plan to deliver His people from their bondage in Egypt.
  • The second time, His announcement came to shepherds in Galilee. “But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord(Luke 2:8-11, NKJV). God had a plan to deliver all people from the bondage of sin.

On both occasions when God revealed His plan to deliver His people, human instrumentality was the key. God unveiled His plan to Moses, “I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt” (Exodus 3:10). Jesus revealed His plan to His followers, “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8, NKJV).

Believers are the Lord’s plan to reach out to the lost and dying world. There is no ‘Plan B’. Like Moses, most of us move to the default mode of ‘excuses’ when God identifies us to carry out His plan. Excuses will not avail. The Lord knows our strengths and weaknesses. We ARE the plan. We dare not fail. Family, friends, and a lost world are depending on us. God’s word asks, But who are you, a human being, to talk back to God? “Shall what is formed say to the one who formed it, ‘Why did you make me like this” Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for special purposes and some for common use? (Romans 9:20-21). Amazingly, we are His chosen ones even if we feel insignificant and weak.

In His design, “But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty” (1 Corinthians 1:27, NKJV). We are all part of the body of Christ, therefore, “The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable(I Corinthians 12:21-22)

When we realize that we are God’s plan to reach lost and dying people, may we respond like William Borden, the millionaire who gave up his fortune to become a missionary to the Uyghur Muslims of northwestern China – when he died en route to the field of his calling, his Bible was found to be inscribed with three phrases: NO RESERVES – NO RETREATS – NO REGRETS !

~ Brother Roy

Auto-Start

For people who live in areas where cold, frosty mornings are a regular occurrence in winter, a car ‘auto-start’ is a great accessory. It helps ease the dread of stepping outside to face a hostile day. Standing on the inside where it is warm and starting the car certainly beats sitting in an icy cold vehicle waiting for a little heat. The pre-defrosted windows provide good visibility. The car’s warm interior provides a welcome shelter against the cold. It’s a good “start” to the day.

The social world in which we live can also be cold and inhospitable at times. Sometimes, we may be reluctant to embark on such a day. We would prefer pulling the covers over our head and staying in. Is there a spiritual auto-start we can rely on? Is there a way to start the day with a clear windshield that provides a good panorama of what lies ahead ? Is it possible to start the day with a warm and hopeful heart? The answer is: ‘Yes’.

My present vehicle has a button on the key fob that I push twice and the engine starts. I follow a similar pattern in my personal life. First, I repeat the prayer that Jesus taught us to pray: “Our Father, which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy Name. Thy Kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, As it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses, As we forgive them that trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, But deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, The power, and the glory, For ever and ever” (Matthew 6:9-11, KJV).

Secondly, I repeat (or sing) the hymn “Great Is Thy faithfulness” by Thomas Chisholm:

            Great is thy faithfulness, O God my Father; 
            There is no shadow of turning with thee; 
            Thou changest not, thy compassions, they fail not; 
            As thou hast been thou forever wilt be.

            Great is thy faithfulness! Great is thy faithfulness! 
            Morning by morning new mercies I see:
            All I have needed thy hand hath provided–
            Great is thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me!

            Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth,
            Thine own dear presence to cheer and to guide,
            Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow:
            Blessings all mine with ten thousand beside!

Two simple steps in the morning, and we can be off and moving into the day. We can walk hand in with Jesus. His presence is there to cheer and to guide. His strength and His promises will provide all that we need. Forgiven and forgiving, He will lead us away from temptation and evil.

What a great way to start the day! Hallelujah!

~ Brother Roy

Power Failure

A weather alert flashed across the television screen. It warned of a freezing rain event likely to coat power lines and tree limbs with up to three quarters of an inch of ice. The Governor announced a ‘State of Emergency’ in advance of the approaching nemesis. National Guard units, highway workers, and power line crews were placed on ‘High Alert’.

Along with extremely dangerous road conditions, a major concern of the impending storm was downed power lines. The weight of a heavy coating of ice could snap power lines. An additional threat comes from ice covered branches, even whole trees, crashing down across the lines. An arctic blast of single digit temperatures would follow the freezing rain. The dependence of our modern way of life on electricity cannot be overstated. Without electricity, homes and business would be plunged into darkness and life-threatening cold.  Because few people have an alternate power source, a power failure can be disastrous.

An analogy between a power failure in our physical world and in our spiritual lives can easily be seen. Our spiritual power source is the Holy Spirit. When someone makes the commitment to follow Jesus, the Holy Spirit immediately takes up residence within that person.But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8, NKJV). You become connected to the inexhaustible power of God. But, like power lines in the physical world, certain conditions can result in power outages.

Scripture gives several ‘alerts’ about conditions that can cause a spiritual power failure. The most obvious is sin, the willful breaking of a known spiritual law. “But your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, And your sins have hidden His face from you so that He does not hear” (Isaiah 59:2). In addition to this most evident cause of a spiritual power outage, the writer of Hebrews cautions us “to lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us” (Hebrews 12:1). It is the term ‘weight’ that I want to emphasize. Like the freezing rain coating the power lines and tree limbs adding an unsustainable overburden, the added stress of spiritual weights can lead to a power failure.

The ‘cares of this world’ can so burden a person that the power to live confidently and victoriously fails. However, we are not powerless in the face adversity. Shaking off the weight may be accomplished by recognition of  the condition, confession, and repentance. Time in God’s word, prayer,  the great hymns of the church, and interaction with fellow believers all can help keep the current flowing. Let us heed the Biblical alerts and prepare for the possibility of a power outage before it occurs. We can do all things through Christ who will empower us.

“The prudent see danger and take refuge, but the simple keep going and pay the penalty.”  (Proverbs 22:3, 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

Relegated to the Garage

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” (Hebrews 12:1, NIV)

A couple of years ago, my wife and I made the painful but necessary decision to drastically downsize and move to a senior retirement community. Our home of 43 years had two levels with 2,000 sq. ft on each level. Our new home is one level and has a little over 900 sq. ft. total living space. We rejoiced that our daughter and son-in-law had just built a lovely home a mile away. They were gracious and were able to take many family treasures that we couldn’t take with us.

The garage of our new patio home became the repository of things we could not fit into our cozy-but-small living area. Within months, any thought of putting our car in the garage was abandoned. We also rented a small storage unit until decisions on what more to keep could be made. Now, two years after the move, most of the boxes have been sorted through, and more stuff has been jettisoned. A lot of shelving has been added, but still the garage is nearly full. I gradually resigned myself to the necessity of me and my ‘special’ stuff being relegated to the garage. I have successfully carved out room for a small table, a chair, and a lamp. They are surrounded by book shelves, sermon files, artifacts from sixty years of ministry and family remembrances.    These are items I don’t necessarily need every day, but things I want to keep close by.

Now that I am “kind of retired” (I preached 24 times in a 30 day span this summer, and I still preach every Sunday), I have more free time than in previous years. I needed a quiet place to pray, read, and work on sermons with my resources close at hand.  My garage ‘sanctuary’  is a place where, like Winnie the Pooh, “sometimes I sits and thinks, and sometimes I just sits”. I now realize that I have not been relegated to the garage, but elevated to a sanctuary.

The many pictures and mementos that fill the area where I sit are for me “a great cloud of witnesses”. They challenge me to “run with perseverance the race marked out for me”. It is easy for people, as they get older, to get so entangled in the cares of this world (Mark 4:19) that they become unfruitful, unproductive. Aches and pains, financial concerns, and other problems of daily life can rob a person of an awareness of God’s love and grace. Thoughts tend to turn inward. Spiritual myopia often blinds people to the bigger picture. Believers may cease to “press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus(Philippians 3:14, NKJV).

We all need a place like a garage sanctuary, a prayer closet, or a little corner where our cloud of witnesses can cheer us on. We need to finish well. We must not stop short of obtaining the prize Christ Jesus sets before us. Let us follow Helen H. Lemmel’s advice:

Turn your eyes upon Jesus
Look full in his wonderful face
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim
In the light of his glory and grace

~ Brother Roy

Buried Like a Donkey

A couple of years ago, my wife and I decided to plan and prepay for our funerals. Picking our caskets, vaults, and other arrangements was both surreal and sobering. Although death is inevitable, it’s still a somber event to design your own gravestone.

A recent Sunday School lesson caused me to reflect on these pre-planned arrangements. Our class was studying the Book of Jeremiah. As we reviewed chapter 22, a verse captured my attention. It was Jeremiah’s prophecy concerning King Jehoiakim: “He will be buried like a dead donkey” (Jeremiah 22:19, NLT). The Bible tells the whole truth and speaks candidly about death.

Two contrasting images of funerals immerge in the teachings of Jesus in Luke 16. Jesus shares what many believe to be a parable about the death of two men, while other Bible scholars conjecture that this may have been an account of actual people known to the Master. “There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day. At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores  and longing to eat what fell from the rich man’s table. Even the dogs came and licked his sores. The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried.  In Hades, where he (the rich man) was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side” (Luke 16:1923)

Lazarus’s body was likely unceremoniously disposed of in the city dump. But, his real ‘funeral’ was one that anyone of us would desire. The pallbearers of Lazarus’s spirit were angels who bore him into Paradise, by Abraham’s side.

It seems likely that the rich man’s body was buried with all the ‘pomp and circumstance’ attendant to his status. However, the rich man (some Bible scholars think it may have been Caiaphas the High Priest) found his grave to be a trapdoor to Hades and torment. No matter how elaborate the casket, how prestigious the burial plot, or how great a host of paid mourners, who would want to be in his place?

The Prophet Jeremiah’s prophecy of the funeral of the wealthy, powerful King Jehoiakim is much like the rich man of whom Jesus spoke. Jeremiah said, “He will be buried like a dead donkey —dragged out of Jerusalem and dumped outside the gates” (Jeremiah 22:19, NLT).  On the other hand, a poor, bedraggled, dying thief heard Jesus say, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43, NIV). In each situation, we might ask the same question as Jesus: “For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?” (Mark 8:36, KJV).

As we plan for our own funerals, may I suggest we spend less time on caskets, burial plots, and temporal arrangements, and more time on things of eternal significance. Better to be buried in a paupers’ field with ‘clean hands and a pure heart’ (Psalm 24:3-4) than to have a grand funeral and be lost.

Conclusion: Pray to have a funeral like Lazarus, not one like King Jehoiakim.

~ Brother Roy

The Stamp

Recently, as part of my job duties at our local public library, I was certified as a Notary Public.  The main function of a notary is to verify that a signature on a document was made by the person who is represented by the signature.  Typically, that is done by the signor showing me a photo ID and signing the document in my presence.

When a notary is satisfied that the person signing a document is who they say they are, the notary signs an affirmation of that fact and stamps the document with an embossed seal.  The image carved into the seal is thereby imprinted on the paper to legitimize the authenticity of the notarization.

In Hebrews 1:3 (NASB), the writer avers that Jesus is “the exact representation of (God’s) nature.”  The Greek word used there is charakter, which in Greek has two meanings: a seal and the impression that a seal leaves on wax.  It is the same word for both the seal and the impression, because the impression has the exact form of the seal.

Just as when you look at a notary stamp embossed on a document and see exactly what is carved on the stamp, when you look at Jesus you see exactly what God is like.  John Wesley said, “Whatever the Father is, is exhibited in the Son.”  It isn’t God the just and Jesus the merciful; it isn’t God the wrathful and Jesus the kind.  Jesus is the exact representation of God’s nature.

Because Jesus is the exact representation of God’s nature, He could tell Philip, “The one who has seen Me has seen the Father” (John 14:9).  In the introduction to his Gospel, the Apostle John wrote, “No one has seen God at any time; God the only Son, who is in the arms of the Father, He has explained Him” (John 1:18).  God, who is as the hymnwriter said, “in light inaccessible, hid from our eyes”, revealed His character to us through Jesus, who is the exact representation of God’s nature.

The Apostle Paul said that we look at the glory of the Lord as in a mirror as we “are being transformed into the same image” (2 Corinthians 2:18).  Paul also proclaimed that we were “predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son” (Romans 8:29).  It is clear that this journey of salvation is intended to transform and conform our character with the character of Jesus.

Jesus prayed for us in His great High Priestly Prayer that “the glory which You have given Me I also have given to them, so that they may be one, just as We are one; I in them and You in me, that they may be perfected in unity, so that the world may know that You sent Me, and You loved them, just as You loved Me” (John 17:22-23).  Jesus wants us to be like Him, because He is like the Father.  And so when the hope of Jesus’ prayer is a reality in our lives, the world can look at us and see the image of Jesus, who has the image of the Father.  When we are conformed to that image that we were created to be, the world may know who the Father is.

O to be like Thee!  O to be like Thee!
Blessed Redeemer, pure as Thou art;
Come in Thy sweetness, come in Thy fullness;
Stamp Thine own image deep on my heart.
~ Thomas O. Chisolm ~

~ Matt Kinnell, NHIM Board Chair

Happy Easter from NHIM – He Is Risen!

Christ the Lord Is Risen Today

Christ the Lord is risen today! Alleluia!
Sons of men and angels say, “Alleluia!”
Raise your joys and triumphs high! Alleluia!
Sing, ye heavens, and earth reply: “Alleluia!”

Love’s redeeming work is done! Alleluia!
Fought the fight, the battle won! Alleluia!
Death in vain forbids Him rise. Alleluia!
Christ has opened paradise! Alleluia!

Lives again our glorious King! Alleluia!
Where, O death, is now thy sting? Alleluia!
Dying once He all doth save! Alleluia!
Where thy victory, O grave? Alleluia!

Soar we now where Christ has led, Alleluia!
Following our exalted Head, Alleluia!
Made like Him, like Him we rise! Alleluia!
Ours the cross, the grave, the skies! Alleluia!

by Charles Wesley (1739)