A Kick in the Shin

Have you ever walked across a dark room and bumped into a stool or some other object that’s knee high? Oh, the pain! If you have had that experience, you understand the idiom ‘a kick in the shin’. That phrase is used to describe an extremely painful event or situation. The shinbone, or tibia, is just under the skin and is therefore extremely vulnerable to about any kind of blow. A hard strike to the shin can be debilitating.

In ancient days, warriors and people who had to negotiate rugged, rocky terrain often had their lower extremities protected by armor for the shins called ‘greaves’. The primary purpose of greaves was to shield the tibia from attack. The Bible specifically mentions greaves: “And he (Goliath) had greaves of brass upon his legs”(1 Samuel 17:6).

In our modern day, it is no surprise to me to find that athletes in any number of sports wear shin protectors. But I was shocked to see the large number of companies that sell shin protectors for the elderly. As balance and strength diminish, the need for this kind of protection increases.

In the spiritual world, Satan attacks areas that are most vulnerable or that will result in the most harm. He delights in ‘kicking us’ in the spiritual ‘shins’. It is nearly impossible to develop an all-inclusive list of highly susceptible areas in believers’ lives. Weak areas vary from person to person. The following list is illustrative rather than exhaustive:  greed, materialism, a critical attitude, self-centeredness, cheating on your taxes or engaging in unethical business practices, pornography, lust, gambling, gossip, slander, lack of personal devotional and prayer time.

God can equip believers with greaves to protect the soul. Consider these verses of scriptures:

  • “But You, O Lord, are a shield for me, My glory and the One who lifts up my head(Psalm 3:3, NKJV).
  • “You make your saving help my shield, and your right hand sustains me; your help has made me great” (Psalm 18:35, NKJV).
  • “As for God, His way is perfect: The Lord’s word is flawless, He shields all who take refuge in Him” (Psalm 18:30, NKJV).
  • “Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil(Ephesians 5:11, NKJV).

God’s Word promises us that we can protect our ‘shins’ in the face of life’s uncertainties. Walking daily with Jesus, spending time in God’s Word, and maintaining a consistent prayer life will protect us from an unexpected ‘bump in the night’. Psalm. 91:5 (NLB) says, “Now you don’t need to be afraid of the dark anymore.”

“His truth shall be your shield and buckler. You shall not be afraid of the terror by night.” (Psalm 91:4-5, NKJV)

~ Brother Roy

God’s Laughter

About sixty years ago, I heard a sermon that still burns in my mind. The title of the message, as I recall, was – “The Laughter of a Fool – One of the Seven Wonders of the Fallen World”. In that message, the preacher brought several sobering and unnerving truths. He pointed out that while God loves all men, the scripture says, “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Hebrews 3:3).

The verse, “The Lord laughs at those who laugh at him, but he is kind to those who are not proud” (Proverbs 3:34, NCV), is a hard saying. I believe it is not so much that God reviles the lost, but that He loves both the sinner and the saint. Scripture says, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16, KJV). Although God loves both, He weeps for those who reject Him and laugh at His offer of grace. However, He smiles at those who love Him and calls them His children. Hebrews 10:29 asks, “Of how much worse punishment, do you suppose, will he be thought worthy who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, counted the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified a common thing, and insulted the Spirit of grace?”

Think about this: God is never threatened by our arrogance. Know this truth, “Surely He scorns the scornful, but gives grace to the humble” (Proverbs 3:34, NKJV). You can be sure that God is not amused when He laughs at a mocker. This is the laughter of a heavyweight champion of the universe in response to taunting from a 90-lb. weakling who wants to fight. You don’t want to hear this kind of laughter. It may be your last memory before the lights go out.

Three times in the Book of Psalms (Psalm 2:4; 37:13; 59:8), we read that God shall laugh. Again, the word “laugh” does not mean laughing with joy or “making a joke of.”  It means, “to hold in derision – to mock or to scorn”. God’s enemies may plot against the Lord and his people, “but the Lord laughs at the wicked, for he sees that his day is coming” (Psalm 37:12–13). God laughs at those who set themselves against His Anointed (Psalm 59:8). When He laughs, He does so to give us a signal. This signal is fearful to His enemies, but wonderful to His children. You don’t want to hear Him laugh at your haughtiness!

Questions to consider: Is God laughing at your arrogance and weeping over the consequences of the destructive road you’ve chosen? Remember, “Pride goes before destruction, And a haughty spirit before a fall” (Proverbs 16:18, NKJV). Might He be smiling because you’ve humbled yourself and accepted the gift of forgiveness that Jesus purchased on the cross? Can you smile today because you know the joy of living in the light of His love and grace?

“For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 6:23, NIV).

~ Brother Roy

A Star! A Star!

In Genesis 1:16, on day 4, the Bible states God made “the two great lights – the greater light to rule the day and the lesser light to rule the night – He made the stars also.” The night sky is exciting to study. It consists of billions and billions of stars, dust, meteors, etc. As a schoolteacher, this was one of my favorite subjects to teach. The vastness is inconceivable and mind-boggling for me.  I can’t define the distances involved in space.

Our sun is the only star in our solar system, and it is 93,000,000 miles from us. Sunlight takes about 6-8 minutes to reach Earth. How is it possible to comprehend even the speed of light? Traveling at 186,000 miles per second, it would take 4 years to reach the nearest star to our solar system.  My mind shuts down attempting to realize new stars and galaxies are often being discovered as their lights are just now reaching Earth.

About my fourth year of teaching, I was blessed to have a very smart and insightful nine-year-old boy. We were studying space, and he was trying to comprehend stars and light years. He raised his hand, and I called on him for his question. He asked, “Didn’t God create the Earth and the stars?”

“Yes, sir,” I answered. ”We believe this to be true.”

He then had this inquisitive look on his face. Once again raising his hand, he wanted to know if God had created the Christmas Star when Jesus was born.

“Yes, God did create the Christmas Star,” I answered.

“Okay…” was his reply. Apparently, the speed of starlight was still a wonder to him.

Teachers know that students are prone to ask questions we have never studied or thought about. It was just the way he said “okay” that I knew I was about to be asked one of those questions. He was going to stretch my knowledge of space. “Mrs. Lauter, then did the light from the Christmas Star shine immediately on Earth, or did it take many light years?”

I had never thought about it! As I tried to consider the answer, my uncertainty was quite evident. I simply had to answer him, “When we get to heaven, we’ll just have to hop up on God’s lap and ask Him.”

What would your answer have been to this child’s question? I’ll never be able to provide a certain answer. Isaiah 55:9 says, “God’s ways are higher than ours, and His thoughts are higher than our thoughts.”  All I know is God created the Christmas Star as a sign that His Son had been born on Earth that night. How? It’s a Christmas Miracle!

Have you ever considered the Christmas Star?  Has His light ever shined in your heart?

~ Sue Lauter

The Cedar Tree

My grandfather’s small 42-acre farm was populated by numerous small cedar trees and bushes. Cedars grow in almost any type of soil. Poor, rocky ground is not a barrier. It was hard work ridding fence rows and open spaces of these nuisance plants. Across time, I developed a real dislike for the little evergreen invaders.

But there was an exception to my aversion to cedars. On December 24th each year, I knew the fullness of time had come. Grandpa Joyce would take me and my older brother to go get a Christmas Tree. The lowly cedar trees took on a whole new identity.

As we carried the tree to the house, Grandpa explained that the cedar would dry quickly inside. It could pose a serious fire hazard. We would put the tree up Christmas Eve, and it had to come down New Year’s Day. For eight special days, the mean little cedar occupied a central place in the living room of our farmhouse. Decorative glass ornaments, a few electric lights, shimmering tinsel, and a special star on top transformed the poor tree into an important part of our Christmas season. Not only did the tree brighten meager surroundings, but the fragrance of fresh cedar filled the house and refreshed our home.

Along with those endearing childhood memories, let me share this perspective on Christmas. Luke notes that when the Savior came, his parents “wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn” (Luke 2:7, KJV). Jesus did not enter the world as a wealthy king born in a palace, but He was born in a lowly stable among the animals. He was generally seen by fallen man as a noxious weed, yet this ‘poor cedar’ became the Prince of Glory.

Other scriptures related to Christmas come to mind. “He grew up before him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of dry ground. He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by mankind” (Isaiah 53:2-3, NIV). This scripture seems reminiscent of my negative boyhood thoughts about the unlovely cedar. Then, like the lowly cedar, the Savior rises to beauty as the centerpiece of our lives. Under the light of His star comes joy and hope. The fragrance of His presence permeates our lives. He brings peace and goodwill to human relationships. When Jesus is near, life is good.

When this “despised and rejected” One assumes in His rightful place, we call Him “Wonderful, Counsellor, the mighty God, the everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6-7). Herod’s nuisance plant, Bethlehem’s Babe, becomes the Prince of Glory and the Savior of the World!

Prayer: As Christmas approaches, may Jesus be the center piece of our lives. Like the Christmas tree of precious childhood memories, may the light of His star illuminate the dark areas in our hearts. May the fragrance of His presence fill our days and bring ‘good tidings of great joy’. 

Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men!

~ Brother Roy

Going Up or Down?

A 94-year-old friend recently bought a new car. It is the first automobile he has owned that has a digital compass in the instrumental panel. Of all the information the panel provides, the compass seems to have made the biggest impression on him. He exclaimed, “Now I can tell which direction I’m going!”

His fascination with the compass prompts a question: “Do you know which direction are you going?” Here, I’m speaking of spiritual direction rather than geographical direction. There are two Biblical accounts that come to my mind related to spiritual direction – one is recorded in the Book of Ezra and the other in the Book of Jonah.

Going Up: The 8th Chapter of Ezra records the moving account of the Aliyah (Hebrew for “going up”). It is the term used for the trip up to Judah and Jerusalem. The Hebrews had learned a bitter lesson: sin has harsh consequences. For 70 years the Hebrews had languished in bondage in a foreign land for their sins and disobedience. Finally, the long period of exile had come to an end. By decree, the Jewish people were released to return to their homeland. The Persian King Cyrus delivered a proclamation, “I make a decree, that all they of the people of Israel, and of his priests and Levites, in my realm, which are minded of their own freewill to go up to Jerusalem, go with thee” (Ezra 7:13, KJV). They were free to ‘go up’.

Going Down: God spoke to Jonah and directed him to go to the great enemy city of Nineveh and cry out against it. “But Jonah arose to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord. He went down to Joppa, and found a ship going to Tarshish; so he paid the fare, and went down into it, to go with them to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord” (Jonah 1:3, NKJV). In addition to Jonah’s geographical course, I see spiritual direction as well. Jonah, because of his disobedience, went down and paid. When we move away from God’s will, we always ‘go down’ and we always ‘pay’.

Which direction are you going? We can, like the people in Ezra’s day, choose of our ‘own freewill to‘go up! As a compass always indicates true north, the Bible always points to absolute truth. The Psalmist cries, “Your word is a lamp to my feet And a light to my path” (Psalm 119:105, NKJV). The Message Translation shares this petition, “Give me your lantern and compass, give me a map, So I can find my way to the sacred mountain, to the place of your presence” (Psalm 43:3, MSG).

You may also, by active decision or by default, choose to move away from God’s plans for you. Like Jonah, you can go down. You can pay the heavy price. The cost will be your relationship with the loving Heavenly Father and your eternal life. “And if it seem evil unto you to serve the Lord, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:15, KJV).

My Conclusion: Aliyah! Aliyah! I choose of my own freewill to follow Jesus. I choose to go up!

~ Brother Roy

A Lower Light Keeper

I’m not sure what brought the beloved hymn ‘Let The Lower Lights Be Burning’ to the forefront of my mind. I rather think it was the Holy Spirit nudging me to recommit to His calling on my life. The Lord called me to be His witness when I received Him as my Savior in my teens. Endeavoring to be obedient to His call, I have served as a pastor, evangelist, and missionary over the last 60 plus years. At 80, I am intent on finishing strong. I want to be His witness, a light for Him, until my final breath.

I know that Jesus is THE Light of the world. Scripture says, “Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life(John 8:12, NKJV). The ‘light of life’ has dwelt in me from the day of my new birth. He is the great Lighthouse that beams the Father’s love and mercy across the troubled sea.

But I also understand that He called me to be a light in this world. He said, “You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven(Matthew 5:14-16, NKJV). My calling is to let my ‘little light’ shine.

Songwriter Philip Bliss was traveling with the famous evangelist D.L. Moody. While preaching, Mr. Moody told a true story of a tragic shipwreck near Cleveland Harbor in which two hundred people lost their lives. Caught in a violent storm, the ship’s captain was trying to reach the safety of the harbor. The captain saw the great lighthouse of Cleveland Harbor, but he could not see the lower lights on the rocky shoreline. They had gone out. Without the lower lights, the ship missed the main channel and crashed into the rocks and sank. Mr. Moody then made an application from the story: “Brethren, the Master will take care of the great lighthouse of salvation, but it is our job to keep the lower lights burning to guide men safely to Him.” Later, Bliss penned the words of the hymn – ‘Let The Lower Lights Be Burning’:

            Brightly beams our Father’s mercy from his lighthouse evermore,
            But to us He gives the keeping of the lights along the shore.

            Let the lower lights be burning, send a gleam across the wave;
            Some poor fainting struggling seaman, you may rescue, you may save

            Dark, the night of sin has settled, loud the angry billows roar;
            Eager eyes are watching, longing for the lights along the shore.

            Let the lower lights be burning, send a gleam across the wave;
            Some poor fainting struggling seaman, you may rescue, you may save

            Trim your feeble lamp, my brother, some poor sailor, tempest-tossed,
            Trying now to make the harbor in the darkness may be lost.

            Let the lower lights be burning, send a gleam across the wave;
            Some poor fainting struggling seaman, you may rescue, you may save

Prayer: Lord, may I hear and respond to Your words: “I, the Lord, have called you in righteousness, And will hold your hand; I will keep you and give you as a covenant to the people, As a light to the Gentiles” (Isaiah 32:6, NKJV).

Food for Thought

As morning coffee time was ending, one of our regulars, Bob Pate, reacted to a request to consider a certain scripture verse with the statement, “That’s food for thought.”  I’ve heard that expression all my life. This time I slowed the pace of my mental processing and took a few moments to ‘cogitate’ on the phrase.

Initially, this old dog used a new trick – ‘google’. The internet definition is as follows: “an idea or issue to ponder, as in, “That interesting suggestion of yours has given us food for thought.” The metaphor transfers the idea of digestion from the stomach to the mind. It dates to the late 1800s. So I mulled over the expression – ‘food for thought’.

We live in an affluent culture. Restaurants of all types offer an unimaginable array of food. Grocery stores and specialty markets carry gastronomic delights from across the globe. It seems food is at the very heart of our society. It should be noted that not all of these food options are pleasant to taste, nor are all the foods healthy and safe. Some are highly toxic if not prepared properly. Other foods have a pungent aroma and some are definitely an acquired taste.

From my elementary school health classes, I still remember the Four Basic Food Groups necessary for good health. These are vegetables and fruit, grain foods, milk and milk products, and protein foods. Rick Warren (The Purpose Driven Life) postulates four spiritual food groups that Christians should know:

  • Poison – These are the concepts that will derange, degrade, or demoralize you. Pornography, lust, greed are examples of such spiritual poison.
  • Junk food – Most of the stuff on television is the mental equivalent of junk food.  You’ll find little to no nutritional value in it. Many movies and novels available are empty calories. You can eat junk food, but it will not sustain you.
  • Brain food – This is the “good stuff.” It educates you in areas like math, science, history, English, and geography. You need to feed your mind with this classic educational content. It is real brain food. It will help make you a well-rounded person. 
  • Super food – This is the Bible. God’s Word will teach you what you won’t find anywhere else. It answers fundamental questions like, “Who am I? Where did I come from? Where am I going? Is there a purpose to my life? Am I significant?” You’ll only get answers to those questions in the Bible. We need to feast on God’s Word daily.

We must consider what we feed our minds as diligently as what we feed our physically bodies. The adage from the early days of computers is a truism – “Garbage in – Garbage out”. Be careful what you put in your mind because it effects what comes out.

Scripture addresses the issue of spiritual food. Consider, for example, these verses:

  • Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things(Philippians 4:8).
  • “Why do you spend money for what is not bread, And your wages for what does not satisfy? Listen carefully to Me, and eat what is good, And delight yourself in abundance” (Isaiah 55:2).
  • “For the bread of God is that which comes down out of heaven, and gives life to the world” (John 6:33-35).

We are all aware of the anacronym WWJD (What Would Jesus Do?). Perhaps a variation of it could also be helpful as we consider ‘food for thought’- WWJT (what would Jesus think?).

“Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 2:5)

~ Brother Roy

Warped and Watered Messages

A drive through almost any city, town or countryside will make a person aware that we are largely a religious country. You can normally observe churches of a wide variety of rich and varied architectural styles. Size also varies from small country churches to mega buildings seating thousands.

As different as the types of structures are, so also are the messages they proclaim. How can you tell which church is true to the teachings of Jesus Christ? That has been a perplexing question from the earliest days of the church. Not all churches are biblically sound. Jesus warned His followers to be cautious. “Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves” (Matthew 7:15, NKJV).

As the Church grew, many more warnings were given throughout the New Testament:

  • “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables. (2 Timothy 4:3-4)
  • “Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world” (1 John 4:1)
  • “But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction. (2 Peter 2:1). 
  • “Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away” (2 Timothy 3:5)
  • “If anyone teaches otherwise and does not consent to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which accords with godliness, he is proud, knowing nothing, but is obsessed with disputes and arguments over words, from which come envy, strife, reviling, evil suspicions, useless wranglings of men of corrupt minds and destitute of the truth, who suppose that godliness is a means  of gain. From such withdraw yourself” (1 Timothy 6:3-5)

Sad to say, not all churches are “rightly dividing the word of truth”(2 Timothy 2:15). Their messages are often warped (distorted, misrepresented, twisted) and watered (diluted, weakened). How can you know which churches are of Christ?  First, certainly heed in detail the warning given in the scriptures above. Then, you need to know for yourself what God’s word really says. “Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman who needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth(2 Timothy 2:15, KJV).

I believe the scriptures provide us a navigational aid to heaven and home. I believe that scriptures of the Old and New Testaments constitute the divinely inspired Word of God, that they are inerrant in their original writings, without error in all they affirm, the final authority for truth and life. They are the only infallible rule for both faith and practice. A compass always indicates true north, and the Bible always points to absolute truth.

Not all churches embrace the above statement on the authority of scripture. I join with the Apostle Paul, “For what if some did not believe? Will their unbelief make the faithfulness of God without effect? Certainly not! Indeed, let God be true but every man a liar(Romans 3:4).

Embrace the Holy Spirit. “But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have told you” (John 14:26)

Prayer: Lord, help me to detect warped and watered messages and to cling to Your divinely inspired word.

~ Brother Roy

Hearing Problems

Most of us have had the experience of being in a conversation with someone and noticing a blank stare from the other person. Perhaps the other person is thinking of a response or has simply drifted away mentally. There is a disconnect in communication. A colloquial expression from my Eastern Kentucky background says, “The porch light is on, but there is nobody home.”

We serve a speaking God. In the earliest chapters of Genesis, we find God talking to earth’s first couple. From then until the present, it has been the nature of God to desire to communicate with humankind. The problem has never been God’s desire to speak with us; it’s our unwillingness to listen. An intriguing word from the lips of Jesus highlights this problem: “We played the flute for you, And you did not dance; We mourned to you, And you did not lament” (Matthew 11:17, NKJV).

The Bible is filled with accounts of our loving Heavenly Father speaking to individuals, to families, and to nations. And our creative God has not limited Himself to one form of communication: “For God does speak—now one way, now another – though no one perceives it” (Job 33:14, NIV). Scripture tells us that God speaks to all men through creation (see Romans 1:18–20 and Psalm 19:1–2). God has communicated through angels, prophets, dreams, visions, miracles, and even through a donkey that He enabled to speak as a man speaks! (See Luke 1:5–38, II Samuel 24:10–25, Genesis 40:1–23, Daniel 2:1–45, Acts 9:10–18, Exodus 7:8–11:10, and Numbers 22:21–35).

God is speaking. But are we hearing? Unconfessed sins, wrong attitudes, and self-centeredness create distance in our relationship with God, and this distance inhibits our ability hear. Jeremiah, the Old Testament prophet, reports that though God spoke to His people, “Yet they did not listen or incline their ears, but stiffened their necks in order not to listen or take correction” (Jerermiah 17:23). In the New Testament, Jesus said, “For the heart of this people has become dull, With their ears they scarcely hear(Matthew 13:15). When we are having trouble hearing, only confession and repentance will bring us back into that close relationship where we can hear from God again.

Prayer: Lord, we want to hear from You. We confess our sins and repent of anything in us that is not like You. “Speak, for your servant is listening” (1 Samuel 3:10).

~ Brother Roy