Help Somebody Today

Some people might consider me a religious mystic. Other may think I tend to be a bit of a fanatic. I do plead guilty to believing in the power of prayer and believing God answers prayer. On a recent morning I was talking to God – praying, if you please. I was asking His guidance in how I should spend my day. With time available and the absence of a restrictive schedule, I was inquiring about what I could do that would be pleasing to Him.

In a matter of moments, the words of a hymn began to run through in my mind. I believe the words came too quickly and were too connected to my prayer request to be a coincidence. The hymn was an old one that I remembered from my youth. I had not thought of the song for decades, but there it was. To me it was God’s clear answer to my petition:

Look all around you, find someone in need, Help somebody today!
Though it be little—a neighborly deed—Help somebody today!

Many are waiting a kind, loving word, Help somebody today!
You have a message, oh, let it be heard, Help somebody today!

Many have burdens too heavy to bear, Help somebody today!
Grief is the portion of some everywhere, Help somebody today!

Some are discouraged and weary in heart, Help somebody today!
Someone the journey to heaven should start, Help somebody today!   

(Carrie E. Breck, 1904)

Sensing God’s answer, I embraced the day. What a glorious day it was! I was privileged to do some small acts of kindness. Oh, what joy came to my heart. I look forward to more wonderful days to come. Friends, we may not be able to do some great noteworthy tasks, but it is certainly within our capabilities to speak a kind word, help bear a burden, or take a friend a donut. An understanding smile or a hand on a shoulder stooped by a heavy load is something any of us can do. It may be little more than to listen with compassion to a troubled heart or perhaps utter a simple prayer of encouragement that truly helps somebody.

On that special day mentioned above, I experienced a great blessing. I reaffirmed, to my joy, the truth of a wonderful verse of scripture: “Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap” (Luke 6:38, NIV). I encourage you to ‘help somebody today’. Three will benefit:

  • The person you reached out to will be helped and encouraged.
  • You can experience the joy of helping. As noted in the above scripture, blessing “will be poured into your lap”.
  • The Lord will be pleased. “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me” (Matthew 25:40, NIV).

Prayer: Lord, help us to be sensitive to those around us that we could help. May we be willingness to do so. May we see people around us through your eyes.

~ Brother Roy

Remember, and Forget Not

It was Memorial Day morning when we looked out the front door of our patio home. We live in Wesley Village, a Senior Retirement Community, and the patio homes are located on a half mile circle. Passing by our home was a lone senior citizen carrying an American Flag around the circle. Later in the day, a village celebration was held on Veteran’s Circle, but the picture in my mind is of the lone walker and his act of remembrance.

The act of remembering life-changing events and those who have gone before is a powerful tool to motivate those who follow. Faith is forged in the fires of remembrance. Scripture provides the pattern. The fourth chapter of the book of Joshua gives us these words:

  • And Joshua set up at Gilgal the twelve stones they had taken out of the Jordan. He said to the Israelites, “In the future when your descendants ask their parents, ‘What do these stones mean?’ tell them, ‘Israel crossed the Jordan on dry ground.’ (Joshua 4:20-22, NIV).
  • “He did this so that all the peoples of the earth might know that the hand of the Lord is powerful and so that you might always fear the Lord your God” (Joshua 4:24, NIV).

The Apostle Peter provides us with the wise words of counsel: “So I will always remind you of these things, even though you know them and are firmly established in the truth you now have. I think it is right to refresh your memory as long as I live in the tent of this body” (2 Peter 1:12-13, NIV).

The lone walker carrying the flag helped us remember those who paid the ultimate price for our freedom to worship and serve the Lord without fear. He “refreshed our memory“ of the Lord’s hand on us and our nation.

Bless the LORD, O my soul, And forget not all His benefits. (Psalm 103:2, NKJV)

~ Brother Roy

Hidden from View

I was showing a friend some recent photos on my iPhone. He is much younger and certainly more tech savvy than I am. He said, “Let me show you a feature on your phone that you probably didn’t know was there. In the Photo icon is a section labeled Albums, and then in Albums open the heading Utilities, click on the line labeled Hidden. Here photos can be hidden from view and only accessed by a special code”. He was right. I was unaware of the feature.

My naïve response to this revelation, “What would you need that for?” My young friend’s retort was, “Duh.” The light finally began to dawn. “Do you mean it’s there so you can hide pornography, clandestine images, and other surreptitious stuff?” A telling smile crossed his face. 

I took the occasion to talk ‘straight’ to my young friend who is in his beginning years of ministry. Sadly, I have counselled with a number of ministers who have destroyed their ministries because of pornography and illicit activities that they thought were hidden from view. Let me affirm my belief that no matter how sophisticated technology becomes, no matter the lengths to which some go to guarantee secrecy, sin can never really be hidden. My  conclusion on the matter: “Be sure your sin will find you out” (Numbers 32:23, KJV). It’s true every time – maybe sooner, maybe later – but sin will always find you out.

From ancient days to the present moment, people have sought ‘dark places’ to hide immoral activity from others and from the Lord. God’s word has much to say on this point. The Apostle John says, “Men love darkness rather than light, because their deeds are evil” (John 3:19). The very fact that there is a desire to conceal certain activities could be an indication that these activities are evil.

May I share just a few scriptures on the matter.

  •  “For there is nothing covered, that shall not be revealed, neither hidden that shall not be known” (Luke 12:2).
  • All things are naked and open to the eyes of Him we have to do with” (Hebrews 4:13).
  • “Can any hide himself in a secret place that I shall not see him?” (Jeremiah 23:24).
  • The eyes of the Lord are in every place, keeping watch on the evil and the good” (Proverbs 15:3).

There is a remedy for the problem of wanting to hide things from view: “But 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).

~ Brother Roy

Press on to Maturity

Has anyone ever said to you, “Oh, grow up!”?  Surely not.  Well, how about this – have you ever looked at someone and said to yourself, “That person is so immature. I wish they would grow up!”?  If you have ever had such a thought, you have an idea of what the writer to the Hebrews was feeling when instructing Christian believers about some of the more advanced details of the Christian faith.

In Hebrews 5:11-14, the writer scolds, “you have become poor listeners. For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you have need again for someone to teach you the elementary principles of the actual words of God, and you have come to need milk and not solid food.  For everyone who partakes only of milk is unacquainted with the word of righteousness, for he is an infant. But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to distinguish between good and evil.”

The writer to the Hebrews is like a schoolteacher who knows they need to move on to more difficult content, to deeper waters, but their students have become poor listeners.  Often students are eager to learn at the beginning of the school year, but as the year slogs on, they become apathetic.  Such seems to have been the case with these Hebrew believers.  They should be experts.  They should be teaching this stuff to others.  But here they are, plowing the same soil over and over again.

The writer says these believers are so immature that they can’t handle solid food.  Like an infant, they are only able to digest milk, which the writer compares to the bare basics of the Christian faith – repentance, faith, baptism, resurrection, eternal judgement.  But if a human never consumes anything other than milk, they’re not going to grow properly.  We all reach a stage when milk is not sufficient – we need to add solid foods that provide the nutrients and vitamins and calories that we need to grow. 

These believers are stuck on milk, and they’re not really interested in anything better.  The grace and mercy part of their faith is warm, it’s fuzzy, it’s comforting.  And so they are in this state of arrested development.  The writer says as we mature, we gain practice, and our senses are trained to discern right and wrong.  But if we don’t mature, we don’t progress, and if we don’t progress, eventually we regress.  Oliver Cromwell had written in Latin on his Bible, qui cessat esse melior cessat esse bonus – “He who ceases to be better ceases to be good.”

THEREFORE, the writer says, “leaving the elementary teaching about the Christ, let us press on to maturity” (Hebrews 6:1).  There is so much more to the Christian’s calling than those basics!  And the writer calls us to move on from those things and press on to maturity.  So what does maturity look like for the Christian believer?

To avoid any confusion, perhaps we should first look at what maturity is not

  • Maturity is not necessarily related to age.  It has little to do with how long you have lived, or how long you have been a Christian – you can be old and immature.  God desires that as we grow older we will mature, but that does not always happen.
  • Maturity is not always related to appearance.  You can appear to be spiritually mature by the places you frequent – church, a Christian school; by activities in which you engage – volunteering, teaching Sunday School, carrying a big Bible.  But the fact is many can and have disguised themselves as a spiritual person.
  • Maturity does not necessarily relate to achievement.  You can accomplish many things – in studies, in vocation, even in ministry – and still be very immature.

The word “maturity” implies growth, development, moving toward completion.  So “pressing on to maturity”, at least in the spiritual sense, is about moving on from simple understandings and practices and rituals, and advancing to the life of obedience and fruit-bearing and loving and evangelizing and serving to which God has called us.

We are to be ever “growing up” in the things of God.  When we give our lives to Christ, that first sprout of the seed of salvation that was planted in our lives, that is the beginning, not the end of our salvation.  So, as the writer to the Hebrews exhorts us to do, let’s not be satisfied with the very basics of belief, but acquaint ourselves with the words of righteousness (5:13) and through the practice of our faith have our senses trained to discern good from evil as we move forward to maturity.

~ Matt Kinnell, NHIM Board Chair

Dry Places

Have you ever gone through times in your spiritual journey when you felt like you were in ‘a dry place’? Has your soul been thirsty for the refreshing presence of the Lord, yet you felt He was far away? I’ve been there and perhaps you have been also.

I was working on a sermon whose setting was the Wilderness of Beersheba. It was a desolate, arid wasteland about 50 miles south of Jerusalem. It is part of the foreboding Negev Desert. It has been described as a rocky desert that is a mélange of brown, rocky, dusty mountains interrupted by wadis (dry riverbeds) and deep craters. The Wilderness of Beersheba was certainly a dry place.

Yet, Beersheba was a place where several notable people came into contact with God. Hagar (Genesis 21:17) was first. Isaac (Genesis 26:24) and Jacob (Genesis 46:2) both heard from God in dreams they had in Beersheba. Elijah (1 Kings 19:5) was in the wilderness of Beersheba when God spoke to him. God used this barren, dry place to shape some of the most significant lives in the Bible.

Could it be that it sometimes takes extreme circumstances to get our attention? Maybe we do not really long for the Water of Life until we are in a dry place. If we think we have no need of Jesus, He will not force entry into our lives to help. “Jesus answered and said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick(Luke 5:31, NKJV). The beautiful words of Lucy Rider Meyer’s hymn, Come, Every One Who Is Thirsty, speak to my heart:

Come every one who is thirsty in spirit;
Come, every one who is weary and sad.
Come to the fountain, there’s fullness in Jesus –
All that you’re longing for; Come and be glad!

Child of the world, are you tired of your bondage?
Weary of earth-joys, so false, so untrue?
Thirsting for God and His fullness of blessing?
List to the promise, a message for you:

“I will pour water on him that is thirsty;
I will pour floods upon the dry ground.
Open your heart for the gifts I am bringing;
While ye are seeking Me I will be found.”

Prayer: Let us pray with David, “O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water” (Psalm 63:1).

~ Brother Roy

Things Left Behind

A friend called and wanted me to meet him at a rental property he owned. When I met him there, I encountered a ‘surreal’ situation. The house was completely furnished. Couches, chairs, tables, lamps, beds, dressers, appliances, a large screen TV, rugs, and more. Dishes and cooking utensils were in the cabinets, there was food in the refrigerators, cupboards were stocked with supplies, and there were clothes in the closets.

Now for the surreal part. The couple who had lived there abruptly moved out leaving everything behind. They vacated the property over a year and a half ago. There had been no subsequent communication. My friend needed to clear everything out of the house so it could be refurbished and made ready to rent or sale.

Surveying the situation, I recalled Biblical accounts of people suddenly moved out of their life’s circumstances leaving everything behind. A phrase from the Gospel of Luke echoed in my mind: “Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?” (Luke 12:20, NIV).

Later that evening I had time for more serious reflection. As we move through the days of our lives, we are never really certain when we will depart this life for eternity. Scripture gives us this warning, “Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring” (Proverbs 27:1, NIV). When the moment of death comes, ”No one has power over the spirit to retain the spirit, And no one has power in the day of death” (Ecclesiastes 8:8, NKJV).

When the summons comes from God, we will drop everything and leave all things acquired or accumulated behind. We will hurry off for our appointment with judgement. “And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment” (Hebrews 9:27, NKJV). A person ought to be aware of what will take place at judgement. John said, “And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened. “And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books” (Revelation 20:12, NKJV).

I determined, in those moments of reflection, not to be like the man Jesus described in the Gospel of Luke. That man said, And I’ll say to myself, ‘You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.’ But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’” (Luke 12:19-20, NKJV). I want to follow the Lord’s advice not to lay up treasures here on earth to be left behind, but rather to lay up treasures in heaven where they will be waiting for me (Matthew 6:19-21, NKJV).

There is a poignant phrase in Eastern Kentucky that I remember from my youth: ‘You never see a U-Haul pulled behind a hearse.’  Scripture says, “For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out” (1 Timothy 6:7, NKJV).

Only one life, ’twill soon be past, Only what’s done for Christ will last.” – C.T. Studd

~ Brother Roy

The Sharpest Knife in the Drawer

As I was preparing dinner one night, the knife I was using to cut up the raw meat had grown dull and wasn’t slicing cleanly, leaving me sawing away in futility while my frustration grew.  For whatever job one undertakes, having the proper tool in good working order is essential, and this is especially true in anything requiring cutting.

In multiple New Testament references, the word of God is described as a sharp tool.  Paul, in his inventory of the armor of God, described the word of God as the “Sword of the Spirit” (Galatians 6:17).  When John had a vision of Jesus from the island of Patmos, out of His mouth came a two-edged sword (Revelation 1:16).  A two-edged sword, when properly sharpened, is an especially useful or dangerous tool, as it can cut or penetrate from any angle.

The writer to the Hebrews develops this idea of the sharpness of the word of God further: “For the word of God is living and active, and sharper than any two-edged sword, even penetrating as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him to whom we must answer” (Hebrews 4:12-13, NASB).

In that passage from Hebrews we read that the word of God is living and active – it is not archaic or irrelevant.  It is in force, it is effective, it has not exceeded its use-by date.  And that living and active word is capable of penetrating any chamber, no matter how secure.  We read that it can divide the soul and spirit, the bones and the marrow, the thoughts and intentions of the heart.  The word of God is a scalpel that can probe the most secret parts.  There is no veil, no chamber, no membrane, no protective covering that cannot be sliced open and exposed by the word of God.

And furthermore, we read that no creature is hidden from His sight, but all things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him to whom we must answer.  We cannot hide anything from God – He sees all and can compel us to reveal even what we would prefer stay hidden.  No matter what we do to conceal or keep secret the desires of the heart, the motivations of our thoughts, the things we wouldn’t ever want anyone to see – at some point those things will be laid bare.  The word of God will open those private chambers, and our faces will be forced to meet the probing eyes of God, from whom nothing is hidden and to whom all of us must answer.

Trying to disguise our deeds and intentions is as old as the Garden of Eden.  The first time in human history that someone disobeyed God, what was the first thing they did? They hid!  They sinned, and when they looked down, they had been laid bare.  So they hid.  But they discovered that no creature can be hidden from His sight, so they tried to disguise their motivation – Adam blamed Eve, and Eve blamed the serpent.  They didn’t want God to know their true motivation – that they thought they could become like God.  But all things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him to whom we must answer.

If you would rather not find yourself suddenly laid bare, exposed by the sharp truth of God’s word, it would be wise to do a little self-surgery.  We can do that, you know?  We can use the word of God to examine our own behaviors, thoughts, and motivations.  It might not be easy or comfortable, but there is no better tool for the job.

“Search me, God, and know my heart;
Put me to the test and know my anxious thoughts;
And see if there is any hurtful way in me,
And lead me in the everlasting way.”
(Psalm 139:23-24, NASB)

~ Matt Kinnell, NHIM Board Chair

See the Sunrise

I love Vero Beach, Florida. It has a great P.R. slogan: “See the Sunrise, Not a High-rise.” Vero Beach takes pride in the fact that there are not miles of high-rise buildings blocking the view of the beach and ocean. This is one of the attractions that draws people to the town. Small boutiques, oceanside restaurants, and a long boardwalk along the water give this place an unhurried, quaint feel. It’s quite a contrast to the hectic pace of life so many of us live. How unfortunate it is when our cluttered lives crowd out the very things that should bring us joy.

 ‘High rise’ problems block the light of God’s Son from shining into the lives of a multitude of people. Perhaps it’s financial worries, physical problems, family issues, or a moral crisis. These or other difficulties can so obscure a person’s outlook that they don’t see Jesus, ‘the Light of Life’. Possibly you are such a person. You may be experiencing little joy or peace of mind because troubles loom so high you can’t see Him or your way ahead.

Sometimes our problems seem so BIG that we can’t imagine a solution. God’s word has a lot to say about such situations. When David faced the giant Goliath, a true “high-riser”, he believed the battle was the Lord’s, not his: And the Philistine (Goliath) said to David, “Come to me, and I will give your flesh to the birds of the air and the beasts of the field!” Then David said to the Philistine, “You come to me with a sword, with a spear, and with a javelin. But I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts…” (1 Samuel 17:44-45, NKJV). We all know how that turned out! God’s word assures us that we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us (Philippians 4:13).

Jesus said, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 15:13, NIV). When we think we have no place to turn, Jesus says, Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light(Matthew 11:28-30, NKJV).

When His Disciples were faced with a situation they couldn’t handle, Jesus admonished them, “I say to you, if you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you” (Matthew 17:20, NKJV). The key is faith to believe that with Jesus’ help, we can see beyond the ‘high-risers’ in our life.

See The Son Rise, Not a High Rise

~ Brother Roy

Mankind As We Were Meant to Be

When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers,
The moon and stars, which You have set in place;
What is man that You think of him,
And a son of man that You are concerned about him?
Yet You have made him a little lower than God,
And You crown him with glory and majesty!
You have him rule over the works of Your hands;
You have put everything under his feet,
All sheep and oxen,
And also the animals of the field,
The birds of the sky, and the fish of the sea,
Whatever passes through the paths of the seas.
Lord, our Lord, how majestic is Your name in all the earth! 
(Psalm 8:3-9, NASB)

It is easy to imagine David looking up into the clear, starlit night as he is writing this psalm.  Have you ever looked up on a clear night like that?  One of my childhood friends had a birthday in late October, and when we were kids we always had a sleepover for his birthday. Late at night we would climb up into the strip mine fields above his house, and that clear October sky, free of light pollution, would be so vast, and the stars so bright and vivid.  And then several years ago I traveled with a New Hope mission team to Kenya, and we stayed way out in the bush at Olderkesi.  The night sky on the Maasai Mara, with lions moaning off in the distance – wow! – it made those brilliant night skies of my childhood pale in comparison.

When David sees the vastness of the night and the moon and the stars, and he considers the awesome power that must be required to set the universe in motion, his mind is blown – look at this!  What is a human in the context of all of this?!?  We are so, so small.

And yet!  David says, God has made humankind “a little lower than God”, and crowned us with glory and majesty!  (Note: if you have a variation of the King James or the NIV, your Bible may say, “a little lower than the angels”.  That is an accurate translation of the Greek Old Testament, but not of the original Hebrew.  The original Hebrew reads Elohim – God.)

David goes on to say that humankind has been given rule over all of the works of God’s hands – everything in creation was placed under the dominion of humans. This is an affirmation of the promise made at creation: “God blessed them (Adam and Eve); and God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth’” (Genesis 1:28).

How, David wonders, could God hold such insignificant specks of His creation in so high esteem, that he would make them in His own image and give them dominion over all the works of His hands?

The writer to the Hebrews quotes from Psalm 8, which William Barclay described as “a great lyric cry of the glory of man as God meant it to be,” in Hebrews 2:6-8.  But though God indeed subjected all things to mankind, the writer to the Hebrews admits that “we do not yet see all things subjected to him.”  In the words of G.K. Chesterton, “Whatever else is or is not true, this one thing is certain – man is not what he was meant to be.” 

Mankind is constantly frustrated by weakness, by temptation, by the circumstances of a fallen world – and so we don’t see mankind living, as was intended, in dominion over and subjugation of the created world.  This is not how it was meant to be!

“But,” the writer to the Hebrews testifies, “we do see Him who was made for a little while lower than the angels, namely, Jesus, because of His suffering death crowned with glory and honor, so that by the grace of God He might taste death for everyone” (2:9).  When mankind could not live up to what it was created to be, Jesus became a man, and because of His obedient death on the cross, He was “crowned with glory and honor” and by the grace of God tasted death for everyone.

Though God created mankind to have dominion over all things, because of sin mankind was stuck in a cycle of defeat instead of dominion. Jesus entered into that cycle of defeat so that by His death and the glory that it earned Him, He might make mankind what it was meant to be and what, without Christ, it could never be.

~ Matt Kinnell, NHIM Board Chair

Simplicity in Christ

I am a simple man. From the earliest days after my ‘new birth’, I have approached my faith in the simplest terms. Perhaps this approach came to me naturally. My father had to quit school in the fifth grade and work to help support his family. While lacking in formal schooling, he was a wise man. He was a hands-on man and approached things on a practical rather than theoretical basis. That same pattern shaped his religious life. He was simply a good and godly man.

I have had the privilege of higher education that my father never had. After graduate school, I spent thirty-three years as a faculty member of a highly respected private Christian Liberal Arts university. The university was located in the same town as a notable theological seminary. I’ve enjoyed friendship with profound thinkers in the secular and the theological realms. I have been surrounded by, and I am respectful of, ‘academics’ in both worlds. Yet, my longings have been for simplicity in my life and in my faith.

We live in a complex and challenging world. If my father was alive today, I think he would express his advice to me with the following verse: “But I fear, lest somehow, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, so your minds may be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ” (2 Corinthians 11:3, NKJV). He would likely say, “Walking with Jesus is not quantum physics. Keep it simple”.

The Apostle Paul addressed this matter with the early church. For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written: “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent. Where is the wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the disputer of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world through wisdom did not know God, it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe” (1 Corinthians 1:18-21, NKJV).

In my effort to live out my faith on the basis of simple truth, I gravitate to plain and easily-understood scripture. An example of such a scripture is, “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer” (Romans 12:12, NIV). Now that’s a word my simple heart can understand and live by.

Prayer: May our minds never “be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ”.

~ Brother Roy