Losing Weight

“Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us” (Hebrews 12:1, NKJV).

Confined to the house by both Covid-19 and several winter storms, my television viewing increased substantially. The ol’ eyes could only focus on a book or computer screen for so long, and then it was TV time. I was amazed at the number of weight loss commercials, as I stuffed myself with snack food because of boredom and lack of self-control.

There seems to be no end to the pills, potions, and programs that promise easy weight loss. It’s interesting how they all seem to end with “our product, when incorporated with a proper diet and sufficient exercise, will assist you in reaching your goals”. So, could it be that it is actually the proper diet and sufficient exercise that are the major contributing factors rather than the product?

In the spiritual realm, I’ve noticed a similar phenomenon. There seems to be no end to the books, study guides, CDs and videos (if acquired for a small donation) that when incorporated with Bible reading, sufficient prayer life, regular church attendance, and Christian fellowship will assist you in reaching your spiritual goals.

In either case, these products are usually an attempt to convince you to spend your money rather than put in the hard work and effort necessary to accomplish your objectives. On the spiritual side, the Apostle Paul gives some good advice: Work hard so you can present yourself to God and receive his approval. Be a good worker, one who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly explains the word of truth(2 Timothy 2:14, NLT). I am convinced that there is no ‘magic bullet’ in the areas of spiritual growth and maturity. We must expend the effort in the Biblical areas that we know to be essential in developing Christian grace and spiritual maturity.

A sedentary lifestyle and poor diet naturally lead to extra weight and weak muscles. If a ‘lose weight easily without exercise’ pill or program seems too good to be true, it is surely just that – too good to be true. The weight you lose will be mostly in your pocketbook. The same is true in our spiritual lives.  Listen to Jesus: “Then He said to them all, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me” (Luke 9:23, NKJV).

In the long run, daily commitment to God’s word, prayer, and serving others is the path Jesus modeled for us. Following Jesus is a proven plan. The Apostle Paul gives this word: “Meditate on these things; give yourself entirely to them, that your progress may be evident to all.(1 Timothy 4:15, NKJV).

Prayer: Lord, help us to “lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.” Amen.

~ Brother Roy

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)

Even Better Than Angels

Have you ever met someone who LOVED angels?  Angels have long held a fascination for people of faith, and they often serve as a comforting reminder of God’s care and provision for His people.  I remember a painting that hung on the wall of my bedroom as a child of an angel helping two little children cross a rickety old footbridge on a dark and stormy night.  It was a picture that had relevance to me, because at the bottom of the hill where I lived, an old footbridge with missing slats crossed the Kentucky River, and we often walked across cautiously, taking care to stay on the steel beams lest the rotting wood give way.

The ancient Jews had a very high respect for angels.  Having no concept of the Trinity, ancient Jews believed that in the Creation story when God says, “Let us make man in our own image,” He was speaking to His angels.  Also in the Jewish tradition, as is recorded in Acts 7:53 and Galatians 3:19, angels were present on Mount Sinai and active in communicating the Law to Moses.  There was an idea in that Jewish tradition that angels were close in proximity to God – that they were God’s entourage – so they were potentially a means of access to God, who was inaccessible.

The writer of the New Testament epistle to the Hebrews was seeking to encourage Jewish converts to the Christian faith to hold on to the faith they had found in Christ and to demonstrate that Judaism was all along pointing the way to Christ.  And we read in Hebrews 1:3b-4 (NASB) that, “When (Jesus) had made purification for sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become so much better than the angels, to the extent that He has inherited a more excellent name than they.”

I wonder if perhaps, as these Jewish believers tried to reconcile Jesus with their old faith, they proposed that Jesus was simply an angel – a messenger from God, but not a Son, worthy of the right hand of the throne?  In the verses that follow, the writer to the Hebrews references at least seven Old Testament texts to demonstrate that Jesus has a place of honor high above even the angels.  And because of that truth, the writer encourages the reader to “pay much closer attention to what we have heard, so we do not drift away from it” (Hebrews 2:1).  The writer is concerned that these believers would slowly drift back into the old way that they followed before Jesus.

The phrase that most of our English Bibles translate as “pay close attention” also had nautical meaning in Greek.  The term could also refer to mooring a ship.  William Barclay notes that the verse could perhaps be more vividly translated, “Therefore, we must anchor to the things we have been taught, lest our ship drift and be wrecked.”

As in the nautical world, there is spiritual danger in drifting away, as the following verses (Hebrews 2:2-4) make clear.  The writer asks, if the word spoken through angels – the Law – was so rigid, so demanding; if every transgression or omission received a just punishment; if they who had fewer privileges than we were punished, enslaved, dispossessed, destroyed, for neglecting the Law – how will we escape if we neglect Christ’s great salvation?

We have, the writer explains, the words spoken through the prophets.  We have the witness of the apostles.  We have signs, wonders, and miracles.  We have the gifts of the Holy Spirit.  Can we really look at all of those things and say, “You know, I just don’t think this is the way”?  If those proofs and testimonies are so inconsequential to us that we would not anchor our souls in them – that we would carelessly drift into unbelief, how will we escape if we neglect so great a salvation?  Not reject it – what if through carelessness of spirit we simply neglect it?  How will we escape?

Lord Jesus, thank you for being faithful to the Father’s great plan of salvation.  You alone are worthy of sitting at the right hand of the Majesty on high.  Help us to anchor our souls in Your truth so that we will not carelessly drift away from it.

~ Matt Kinnell, NHIM Board Chair

The Pursuit of Happiness

A young preacher’s wife told him that she was leaving him and returning to her former life without Christ. The reason: She wanted to be happy and she just wasn’t having any fun. As I sat and listened to this sad report, the Biblical account of Felix (Acts 23:24-26) came to mind.

Felix’s name means ‘happy’ or ‘prosperous’. He was a governor of Roman-occupied Judea who had earned his Roman citizenship. He is described by the historian Tacitus as cruel, licentious, and base. 

The Jews had seized the Apostle Paul in the temple in Jerusalem and were plotting to kill him, but Paul was rescued by Roman solders who learned that he was a free-born Roman citizen. Paul was sent to Caesarea to appear before Felix. At his hearing, Paul presented the gospel in such a powerful way that Felix’s conscience was pricked: “And as he reasoned of righteousness, temperance, and the judgment to come, Felix trembled, and answered, ‘Go thy way for this time; when I have a convenient season, I will call for you’” (Acts 24:25).

Felix didn’t resent Paul’s plain speaking, but he postponed a decision. He wanted to wait “for a more convenient season”. His self-indulgent quest for temporal happiness held him back. A convenient season did not come. Felix is a ‘type’ of many whose consciences are stirred toward righteousness, but whose hopes of eternal life are lost in the pursuit of pleasure and by delays in yielding to God’s plans for their lives.

The two worst enemies of the soul are “Yesterday and Tomorrow”:

  • Yesterday slays its thousands. Past sins plunge many into darkness and confusion. Priceless opportunities are trampled upon. The conscience becomes seared, and the longing for the Lord’s presence diminishes. The old way of life beacons them back. The result is captured in scripture: “The harvest is past, the summer has ended, and we are not saved” (Jeremiah 8:20).
  • Tomorrow slays its tens of thousands. Vows, promises, intensions go unfulfilled. Additional opportunities to follow Christ fully seem never to come. People, like the young preacher’s wife, fail to realize that NOW is the acceptable time to embrace God’s will. As with Felix, the ‘convenient time’ never dawns. And like Felix, they join the ranks of the lost. The pleasures of sin may last for a season (Hebrews 11:25), but missing God’s will results in eternal separation from all that is good. To pursue ‘happiness’ at the expense of following God’s will is disastrous.

The Apostle Paul’s words to the Corinthians still ring true: “As God’s co-workers we urge you not to receive God’s grace in vain. For He says, ‘In the time of my favor I heard you, and in the day of salvation I helped you’.  I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation” (2 Corinthians 6:1-2 NIV).

It is wise to heed the words of scripture: “O taste and see that the Lord is good. How happy is the man who trusts in Him!  O fear the Lord, all you who belong to Him. For those who fear Him never want for anything” (Psalm 34:8-9, NLT).

Happy is the one who trusts in the Lord! 

~ Brother Roy

Gone Phishin’

The internet age introduced the word ‘phishing’ into my vocabulary. Phishing is a term for techniques used to deceive unsuspecting internet users. Users are lured by communications purporting to be from a trusted party. Phishing often directs users to enter personal information at a fake website which matches the look and feel of the legitimate site.

I was victimized a few years ago by a website I thought was Safari. I was asked to call a phone number that looked like Safari’s number, but turned out to be one number off. I was fortunate to recognize the scam before irreparable damage was done. After hours and days, I was able to extricate myself without loss of funds.

While phishing is a new term, the scam is as old as the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3:1-6). On his first phishing expedition, Satan reeled in Eve and Adam. Creation has never fully recovered from the devastation. In the most audacious phishing event of all time, Satan came to Jesus at the beginning of His ministry here on earth. Luke 4:1-13 records the event, Jesus’ Temptation in the Wilderness. While Jesus did not succumb to the devil’s deceitfulness, overall the devil’s phishing schemes have been so successful that they remain among the enemy’s main tools.

While wicked and cunning men wreak havoc on our bank accounts and financial well-being, there is a greater problem still. It is the constant pressure to believe lies and half-truths in our spiritual lives. Jesus warned us about ‘phishers of men’. He said, “Beware of false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves” (Matthew 7:15). These religious deceivers can be very convincing and often seduce believers that are not well grounded in God’s word. “And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. It is not surprising, then, if his servants also masquerade as servants of righteousness” (2 Corinthians 11:14-15).

The Apostle Paul offers this advice: Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings” (1 Peter 5:8-9, NIV).

Prayer: Dear Lord, please post a ‘No Phishing’ sign on my heart.

But If Not…

But if not…” These three little word have helped me clarify a point that is fundamental in my faith. I believe God can save a person’s life and that He can deliver a person from the gravest peril. He may do either or both. But if not, what then?

Daniel 3:16-18 brings the words ‘but if not’ into clear focus. “Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego answered and said to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. If that is the case, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us from your hand, O king. But if not, let it be known to you, O king, that we do not serve your gods, nor will we worship the gold image which you have set up.”

We often pray for healing from serious physical illness or deeply trying circumstances. We believe the Lord is able to remedy the most serious conditions. But we need to understand that it may not happen as we think. I believe He can and will always deliver one of His children from total destruction by the evil one. However, He may not physically save our lives in the here and now. But if not,’ He is still God and will always have our eternal well-being as His motivation. 

Jesus said, “And fear not them which kill the body but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10:28). According to commentators Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown:

“A decisive proof this (is) that there is a hell for the body as well as the soul in the eternal world; in other words, that the torment that awaits the lost will have elements of suffering adapted to the material as well as the spiritual part of our nature, both of which, we are assured, will exist for ever. Note them which kill the body’. That is, ‘fear not’ people or things who have no power to injure the soul, the immortal part of our being. The body is a small matter to deal with in comparison to the soul. Temporal death that looms so ominous is a minor disruption compared to eternal death. The Lord directs people, therefore, not to be overly alarmed at the prospect of temporal death, but to fear God, who can destroy both soul and body forever.”

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible, by Robert Jamieson, Andrew Robert Fausset, and David Brown, 1871

As we walk our probationary journey of life, we can rest assured that there is no situation that comes to us from which the Lord cannot deliver us. He is able! However, we must also know that He may choose not to extricate us from temporal circumstances. He tells us in His word, “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). We need to understand that “…though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed” ( 1 Peter 1:6-7, NIV).

Our Lord Is Able To Deliver Us – But If Not…

~ Brother Roy

Under Anathema

Joe Btfsplk was a character in the satirical comic strip ‘Li’l Abner’ (published 1934–1977) by cartoonist Al Capp. Joe was a classic ‘bad luck’ guy. A small, dark rain cloud perpetually hovered over his head to symbolize his bad luck. Whenever Joe showed up in the comic strip, disastrous “stuff” happened. 

A friend of mine from Eastern Kentucky had a phrase for hard luck people like Joe. He used to say, “That fellow is under anathema,” meaning he was under some kind of curse. I’ve also heard people say, “If it wasn’t for bad luck, that fellow would have no luck at all.” Perhaps many of us have at times felt like we were under a dark cloud – under anathema.

If you have felt that way, a self-examination may be in order. Scripture instructs us, “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, NKJV). When God’s people obey Him, He blesses them. When they disobey Him, divine judgment or discipline will sooner or later be the result. God’s word says, If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin lies at the door” (Genesis 4:7, NKJV).

If you sense a black cloud of bad luck and trouble hangs over you, it may be more than a feeling. It may be a message of divine mercy.  The Lord may be shining the light of conviction on sin in your life. He loves you. Because of His great love, He may be calling you to repentance.  “The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9, NKJV). The proper response to feeling you are under anathema is confession and repentance. God promises, “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).

Blessings are the wholeness and holiness of God filling our lives; curses are everything that is not sacred filling our lives. A curse isn’t God taking revenge out on us because we disobeyed. A curse is everything that is not sacred filling the void left in our lives when we make the choice not to have God at the center of our being. If we make a choice to eschew God’s blessings, the result is that which is unholy will invade. The field which was meant by our Father to grow the seeds of His love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23, NKJV) will instead yield thorns and thistles (Genesis 3:18).

You Don’t Have Live Under Anathema!

~ Brother Roy

Shalom, Continued

In a recent post titled ‘Shalom, Y’all!’, I addressed some of the nuances of the Jewish greeting shalom. In this post, I would like to explore more of the implications of the concept of Shalom. As noted in ‘Shalom, Y’all!’, the Jewish greeting carries the broad meaning of peace, wholeness, health, safety, and prosperity. But, I think there is even more implied in the word shalom than those previously mentioned.

Of all the devastating impacts of man’s Fall in the Garden of Eden, the resulting estrangement from God was paramount. Revered Bible scholar Dr. John Oswalt says that alienation from God was perhaps the worst part of the judgment against Adam and Eve. The Bible says, So He drove out the man; and He placed cherubim at the east of the garden of Eden, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to guard the way to the tree of life” (Genesis 3:24, NKJV).

Before they disobeyed, Adam and Eve were at peace with God and all He created. Their needs were supplied. They did not suffer hunger, disease, or pain of any kind. Beauty surrounded them, and all good things were for them to experience and enjoy. They weren’t lonely, for they had each other, and more importantly, they had an intimate relationship with their Creator. If any people ever experienced peace, it was Adam and Eve. The condition of peace existed in the garden only as long as they were obedient to God’s will. Sadly, they chose to disobey and the Shalom of God was lost for them.  

The world’s definition of peace can be negative – the absence of turmoil. Shalom is positive – the presence of the Lord. There is a colloquial saying that reflects this truth: “No God, No Peace; Know God, Know Peace.” A personal relationship with God is the prerequisite for real peace. The Bible says, “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on Thee: because he trusteth in Thee” (Isaiah 26:3, KJV). The Orthodox Jewish Bible translation of this verse is slightly different and beautiful: “Thou wilt keep him in shalom shalom, whose yetzer (mind-set) is stayed on Thee; because he trusteth in Thee” (Yeshayah 26:2-4). The beautiful words from Havergal’s  great hymn ’Like A River Glorious’ flows from this verse in Isaiah:

Stayed upon Jehovah, hearts are fully blest
Finding, as He promised, perfect peace and rest.

Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid” (John 14:2, KJV). Peace – lasting peace – transcends the situations of our own personal lives because it doesn’t come from us. It comes from the Lord. What we cannot attain on our own is provided for us by His grace. He promises all the qualities of shalom – wholeness, completeness, soundness, health, safety, prosperity and His presence – to those who will look to Him.

Prayer: Dear Lord, please give to all who read this devotional thought Your shalom.

~ Brother Roy

Shalom, Y’all!

I love Savannah, Georgia!  This charming city in the Old South is graced with antebellum mansions, glorious Victorian homes, splendid monuments, and 22 parklike squares. It is one of the largest National Historic Landmark Districts in the United States. One of my favorite places to visit in Savannah is Temple Mickve Israel, one of the oldest synagogues in the United States. The current synagogue, located on Monterey Square in historic Savannah is a rare example of a Gothic-style synagogue. Monterey Square, with its stately live oaks draped with Spanish moss, is widely considered to be the most picturesque of Savannah’s squares. For me, there is an ethos of peace and tranquility that envelops the Square and Temple.

On a visit to the synagogue, I ventured into the gift shop. The print on various articles of clothing caught my attention. I noticed the Hebrew word שָׁלוֹם and then beneath it was written in English, ‘Shalom Y’all’. I thought, “What a beautiful blending of two cultures which I revere.” The Jewish greeting ‘Shalom’ carries the broad meaning of peace, wholeness, health, safety, and prosperity. ‘Y’all’ is a casual southern hospitable phrase for addressing two or more people.

In the age in which we live, there seems to be little peace in general and likewise little hospitable inclusion of those outside our own circles. I have determined that as I move forward, I will be a ‘Shalom Y’all’ person. I want to speak peace and blessing to those with whom I have contact. I also want to be inclusive and hospitable to more than just those closest to me.

I’ve had a chance to ‘field test’ the Shalom Y’all approach with a person. I took a friend to a pet store to get supplies for her cat. We were in a checkout line, and the clerk was having difficulty with her computer. She was frustrated and apologized for the delay. She looked exhausted, so I said, “You look very weary, I wish I could help.” She began to sob as tears streamed down her cheeks. She told me she had cancer. Her chemo treatments were draining her energy and leaving her nauseated, but she had to work to pay her bills. I asked her if I could say a quick prayer for her. She nodded, and I offered a brief petition. Through her tears, she expressed her deep appreciation. I glanced back at the line behind me. Many had bowed their heads, some were shedding tears, and others gently clapped their hands. No one appeared to be impatient. Several expressions of kindness followed as people moved through line of clerk who now had a smiling face wet with tears. I think all of us there experienced a little Shalom that day.

Shalom Y’all

~ Brother Roy

A Catawampus World

I am trying to come to grips with the fact that I live in a catawampus world. I heard the term ‘catawampus’ when I was growing up, but wasn’t sure it was a real word. Later, I was surprised to find out that it is actually a legitimate word. The dictionary definition: askew; awry; positioned diagonally; cater-cornered. I have determined through personal observation that our world is indeed askew. While I could cite numerous examples of our catawampus state, I will highlight just a couple.

I will be the first to admit that the explosion of technology has left me behind. While most of my maladroit interaction with computers and smart phones may be due to my advanced age and lack of training, scammers and hackers work overtime to steal money from people like me. These crooked schemers reflect some of the worst aspects of a fallen world.

The enemy of our soul still breathes the same lies as he did in the Garden of Eden: “Trust me, you can do as you please, and nothing bad will happen to you”. Wise is the person who is aware of the scripture, For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places” (Ephesians 6:12). The lawlessness, violence, deep political division, and class hatred further manifests the devastating effects of sin on humankind. The impact of man’s disobedience has resulted in a catawampus world.

I do have a plan for negotiating this crooked and perverse world. I am going to walk with Jesus! I will be unwaveringly committed to the Lord. Scripture says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight(Proverbs 3:5,6). I know that when I walk with the Lord; “The crooked places shall be made straight and the rough ways smooth” (Luke 3:5, NKJV).

I love the words of the old hymn “Trust and Obey”, by John Henry Sammis:

When we walk with the Lord in the light of His Word,
What a glory He sheds on our way!
While we do His good will, He abides with us still,
And with all who will trust and obey.

Join with Jesus and me, and let us walk in the light of His Word. With His help, we can stay on the straight and narrow way as we transverse a Catawampus World.

~ Brother Roy