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

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Harley and the Ball

golden ballWe had scarcely got settled into a cottage by Mobile Bay when Harley came over to welcome us. Harley is a Golden Retriever from next door. He is a nice old dog and considers himself to be the unofficial greeter for the B&B where we were staying. Harley is badly crippled. He was injured in an accident playing ball, and his back legs were heavily damaged. For a while he couldn’t walk. Gradually, he has learned to walk again with an uneven gate and a wobble. When he tries to run, he just hops.

After a short meet-and-greet session, Harley disappeared. He came back carrying a yellow tennis ball in his mouth. He wanted to play ball. At that point, his owner asked us to resist throwing the ball, even if Harley persistently begged. She told us, “Harley still wants to play fetch, but he isn’t able.” She was afraid he would hurt himself trying. Poor old Harley, ‘the spirit is willing, but the body is weak’.

We often use that phrase as a rueful admission of weariness or other physical weakness. This idiom was first recorded in the New Testament (Matthew 26:41), where Jesus tells his disciples, “watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” I can say that I understand the scripture, and I can relate with Harley more with each passing day. I also identify with Psalm 37:35:I have been young, and now am old.” There are so many things that my mind tells me I can still do, but my body tells a different story.

There is an economy and design in God’s kingdom. There are tasks for the young and also things for the old or physically weak to do. While I may not be able to do many of the physical tasks I’d like to do, I can still “watch and pray”. I can be thankful and pleasant. God’s word says, “They will still bear fruit in old age, they will stay fresh and green, proclaiming, “The LORD is upright; he is my Rock, and there is no wickedness in him” (Psalm 92:14-15, NIV).

Prayer: Lord, many of us still want to “play ball”. May we bear fruit in our in our times of weakness or in old age. We want to bear spiritual fruit – “the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law” (Galatians 6:22-23, NKJV).

~ Brother Roy

Block This Caller

block this callerSolicitors and scammers seem to have a way of finding my phone number and ringing me at the most inconvenient time. I am glad for the ‘Block This Caller’ feature on my cell phone. I have the option of blocking further calls.

We have a similar option in the spiritual realm. Our God is a speaking God. Even a cursory review of scripture reveals multiple references of God speaking to man. However, the Lord created humankind with ‘free will’. We are people of volitional choice. We are free moral agents who can ‘Block the Caller’. Our all-wise God speaks to us for our own well-being, but we don’t have to listen.

An Old Testament reference serves as an example: “And the Lord spoke to Manasseh and his people, but they would not listen” (2 Chronicles 33:10). In the New Testament, the Apostle Paul points to men’s ability to block God’s attempts to communicate: “And even as they refused to have God in their knowledge, God gave them up unto a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not fitting” (Romans 1:28, ASV).

Psalm 139:14 says, “I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” The wonderful part of our creation is that we were created with free will by our loving Heavenly Father. We are free to choose His offer of love, guidance, and eternal life. Likewise, the fearful part of the way we are made is also our free will. God’s word says, “Today I ask heaven and earth to be witnesses. I am offering you life or death, blessings or curses. Now, choose life! Then you and your children may live” (Deuteronomy 30:19, NCV). We are free to listen and receive God‘s gift or free not listen and reject God’s will for our life. We don’t have to listen!  

Prayer: Lord, I want to hear from You. Please help me to listen for your voice. May I never utilize my free will to ‘Block the Caller’.

~ Brother Roy

You Are Here

you are hereDuring a Renewal Conference at our church, Dr. Timothy Tennent, President of Asbury Theological Seminary, gave an engaging illustration. When a person enters a shopping mall, they almost immediately encounter a large locator map. A person can then find the location of various stores such as shoe stores, book stores, department stores, etc. Perhaps the most significant point on the map in front of you is the ‘You Are Here’ position. You need to know where you are in order to choose the directions to where you want to go.

Dr. Tennet shared about the ‘fall’ of man in the beginning and later the ‘redemption’ of man through Jesus.  At each juncture, he used the phrase ‘You Are Here’. I thought, What an important concept if we want to accurately chart our journey to heaven.

For example, we must know where we are in order to start the journey.

When you start your journey, You Are Here:

  • “Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned.” (Romans 5:12.)
  • “For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners.” (Romans 5:19)
  • “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23)

By realizing where we are, we can then acknowledge our sins and receive forgiveness and justification through Jesus. “For if many died through one man’s trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many” (Romans 5:15). 

Once you have received Jesus as your Savior, You Are Here:

  • But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name.” (John 1:12)
  • As you move ahead toward your destination know this: “… if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.” (1 John 1:9) 

When you near the end of your life’s journey, You Are Here:

  • Jesus said, “And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also. And where I go you know, and the way you know.”  Thomas said to Him, “Lord, we do not know where You are going, and how can we know the way?”  Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” (John 14:3-6)

 Prayer: Lord, when we finally walk through Heaven’s gates, may we hear you say, “You Are Here”!

~ Brother Roy

Another Way

wise men starWe are just a few steps into the new year. The music of the Christmas season has faded. The trees, tinsel, and yard decorations have been takes down and put away. New Year’s celebrations are over. We are walking into a new year.

With that perspective in mind, scripture from the second chapter of Matthew can serve as a path forward for us. The wise men had seen the light of the Natal Star and followed it to Bethlehem. And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense and myrrh” (Matthew 2:11). Herod’s murderous intent was revealed to the wise men. “And being warned of God in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed into their own country another way(v.11b). 

The wise men, like the other people on earth, had seen the light of His star. Unlike others that had seen the light, they followed the light to the Christ. Their account reminds us that it’s not the light we see, but the light that we follow that determines our eternal destiny. When they found Jesus, “they fell down, and worshipped him”. These wise men then presented Him gifts representing their most valuable possessions.

If we, like the wise men, have let God’s light bring us into the presence of Christ; if we have bowed our knees and hearts and worshipped Him; if we have presented Him the gift of our life and service, we must not go into the new year without a new direction. We must not move away from the Christmas experience only to return to the same old paths. If we would be wise, we need to journey into the future ‘another way’. When we walk in the newness of life in Christ, we have a precious promise.

“The LORD will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail” (Isaiah 58:11).

~ Brother Roy

Is There Any Word from the Lord?

imagesSo many words! The airwaves crackle with opinion editorials and purported news. Much of what we hear is unsubstantiated information.  The messengers hope that if the noise is repeated long enough and loud enough, it will be believed. Text messages, snap chats, Facebook messages, and more, flood our electronic devices. Words, words, words, ring in our ears. Advertisements, mostly unsolicited and unwanted, clamor for attention, promising miraculous things at the best price ever! Yada, yada, yada.  

Most of the noise that surrounds us is superfluous, but there are words we do need to hear. There are words that can impact our present and future well-being. In the ancient day when Zedekiah was king of Judah, he faced a very uncertain future. He had largely ignored the words of God. “But neither he nor his servants nor the people of the land gave heed to the words of the Lord…” (Jeremiah 37:2). Zedekiah, not wanting to hear unfavorable words of God coming from the Prophet Jeremiah, had the prophet locked away from public hearing.

That was then (587 B.C.), but the impact of ignoring the word of the Lord is the same today. Ignoring God’s words is a prescription for disaster. The conditions for Judah worsened. Fear and confusion gripped the land as destruction moved inexorably closer. Finally, in desperation Zedekiah sent for Jeremiah and asked, “Is there any word from the Lord?” and Jeremiah said, “There is.” Unfortunately, God’s word was still unheeded, and catastrophe followed.   

We, like the people of Zedekiah’s day, face a scary and uncertain future – terrorism, hatred, violence, disrespect, corruption, dishonesty, and greed abound. The family unit is disintegrating and is menacing stable social structures.

As we drown in a sea of words, isn’t it time we ask, “Is there any word from the Lord?”. The answer: “There is!”

Ultimately, it is His word that really matters because He is “the Word of Life(1 John 1:1). His word to us, “If my people who are called by my name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land” (2 Chronicles 7:14). The word of the Lord is the same yesterday, today, and forever. It is His word for the New Year!

God is speaking. Are we interested in listening?

~ Brother Roy