The Mountain Parkway

mountain parkwayIn January 1963, a momentous event changed the lives of those of us who lived in eastern Kentucky: the Mountain Parkway opened. The Parkway was a limited access highway similar to an Interstate highway. It provided a way for mountain people, who had been effectively isolated because of inadequate roads, to avail themselves to the benefits of hospitals, educational institutions, shopping centers, etc.

Thinking of the Mountain Parkway in my eastern Kentucky hills reminds me of a highway spoken of in scripture. God’s word says, “A highway shall be there, and a road, and it shall be called the Highway of Holiness. The unclean shall not pass over it, but it shall be for others. Whoever walks the road, although a fool, shall not go astray” (Isaiah 35:8). 

Much like the Mountain Parkway eases access to the isolated communities of eastern Kentucky, the Highway of Holiness provides a way into the presence of God. In His presence sins are forgiven and a right relationship with Him is restored. The benefits of this restoration are peace of heart and mind and His abiding presence. Sin and disobedience have isolated man from God, but God has made a way to reconcile man to Himself through Jesus Christ.

Like the Mountain Parkway, this Highway of Holiness is a limited access highway – Isaiah says, “The unclean shall not pass over it.”  An on-ramp is needed, and one is provided for us in 1 John 1:9: “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”  Only Jesus Christ can give access: “Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12, NKJV).

Psalm 24:3-5 provides a valuable road map of the way into God’s presence: Who may ascend into the hill of the Lord? Or who may stand in His holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who has not lifted up his soul to an idol, nor sworn deceitfully. He shall receive blessing from the Lord, and righteousness from the God of his salvation.” 

As I journey in and out of the hills of eastern Kentucky that I love, I am so thankful for the Mountain Parkway. As I make my journey through the days of my life, I thank God for the Highway of Holiness that takes me into His presence. 

But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.
(Ephesians 2:13)

~ Brother Roy


The Old Lamplighter

old lamplighterTraveling on an Interstate highway recently, I was listening to music from the ‘50s. The song, “The Old Lamplighter” by the Browns, stirred feelings of nostalgia in me. I kept replaying one particular phrase over and over in my mind, “He made the night a little brighter wherever he would go.”

Gradually, moments of reminiscence were replaced with the words of Jesus. 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). The true children of God are to be light in a world that’s grown dark because of sin.

After a time of introspection, I asked myself, “Am I honoring the clear and unambiguous words of Jesus”? I thought of times when I have not been the light I should have been. I reflected on the times when I put my light under a bushel. Scripture in Book of James came to mind, “Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin” (James 4:17).

There is only one thing a person should do when they become aware they are out of harmony with God’s word. It is to confess failure and repent. The Spirit of Christ spoke to the Church of Ephesus in the second chapter of Revelation. He commended the Church on a number of things they were doing well. But, He also said, “Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place—unless you repent” (Revelation 2:4-5, NKJV). 

Prayer: Father, I remember the words of Jesus instructing me to be the ‘light’ of the world. I am sorry for my short comings and failures. I repent. I recommit myself to being the light you desire. It’s my first love. Please help me to let my light shine before men so they may glorify You.

I want to make the night a little brighter wherever I may go.

~ Brother Roy


Poison Mushrooms

mushroomsI noticed some mushrooms growing under a bush by a sidewalk where I was walking. My first thought was, “I wonder if they are poisonous?” My second thought was the recollection of a saying from my eastern Kentucky youth: “You don’t send a city boy to pick your mushrooms.”

With this saying in mind, I am going to attempt to deal with an important problem in our churches today.  Our churches are often pressed to find willing workers. We have all heard preachers say, “God is more interested in availability than ability.” I suppose I’ve made the statement 100 times or more. There is a truth there, but let me sound a warning:  the statement, if not fully understood, is dangerous. It is a half-truth, which can be more dangerous than a lie. The truth is that sincerity of purpose and good intentions are no guarantee of harmless actions, especially in the spiritual realm. You must be more than available. You must have some knowledge and be willing to prepare yourself.

An account in 2 Kings 4:38-41 illustrates this point. An apparently fine young man, studying to be a preacher, set out with the desire to help, but poisoned his friends. With the best of intentions, he responded to the prophet Elisha’s request and went out to gather herbs from the the countryside for a stew. After gathering a lap full of wild fruit, the Living Bible says, “He shredded them and put them into the kettle without realizing that they were poisonous” (2 Kings 4:38). Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown’s Commentary (p. 233) notes that there was wild fruit in Bible lands that was very poisonous. “They cause derangement of stomach and bowels leading to violent diarrhea to be followed by death.”

The young man in 2 Kings may have been qualified to go get the cooking pot. He may have been qualified to gather the wood for the fire.  But he was not qualified to undertake a task about which he knew so little. We often have people in our churches teaching our impressionable young people, counseling new converts, etc., who are using the wild fruit of personal opinion. They are not well-schooled in scripture and doctrine, so they may teach things that are distorted or not true.

A layperson with the desire to serve either jumps in or is pushed in to teaching a Sunday School class, a small group, or a youth group, without preparation. Someone is elected or appointed to leadership in the church who is not spiritually qualified – not “known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom” (Acts 6:3). A zealous person goes on a mission trip, but they make little or no effort to prepare themselves to handle the sacred truth. A well-intended person gives bad counsel at an altar that deflects real conviction. Another employs ‘pop’ religious psychology that is not Bible-based. Such people take on tasks without heeding the Biblical admonition, Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15).

Our Lord never taught that good intentions and sincerity of purpose were sufficient grounds upon which to minister and serve. Hear Jesus’ response to Peter: “But He turned and said to Peter, ‘Get behind Me, Satan! You are an offense to Me, for you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men’” (Matthew 16:23). Jesus also said, “And if the blind leads the blind, both will fall into a ditch” (Matthew 15:14). Paul speaks of those that “have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge” (Romans 10:2).

Lord help us to study, pray, and prepare ourselves if we want to be your witnesses.

~ Brother Roy

Mile Markers

mile markerAs an evangelist, I drive thousands of miles each year. Mile after mile passes by on unfamiliar highways. Once in a while, I take notice of the little green signs with numbers on them. They are mile markers and you can find them along all sorts of highways. Some are local or state highways, while others may be large interstate highways. These unassuming little markers are exceedingly valuable and can prove to be real life savers.

For example, if you are driving a lonely highway at night and your car breaks down or you come across a terrible accident, what would you do? You would want to call someone for help. But how would you tell them where you are? The markers can help you pinpoint your location for emergency assistance.

In our spiritual journey, we also need to be aware of where we are in Christ. There are times when we may need to call for assistance. Paul encourages Christians to be mindful of their progress:Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves” (2 Corinthians 13:5, NKJV). If our journey takes us on roads we have not previously traveled, we need know where we are. We also ought to know if the markers are indicating progress toward our destination.

Peter provides some markers that can help us know if we are travelling the right direction and the distance we need to go. “But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love.  For if these things are yours and abound, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For he who lacks these things is shortsighted, even to blindness, and has forgotten that he was cleansed from his old sins” (2 Peter 1:5-9, NKJV).

Where are you in your journey toward heaven and home? Can you identify your position in Christ? Are you using the scriptures as a map to Christian maturity? Are you watching for spiritual mile markers to help you determine your progress?

“Let us search out and examine our ways.”
(Lamentations 3:40)

~ Brother Roy

Choose Your Ruts Wisely

rutsAcross the years, I often heard my father employ the following witticism: “Choose your ruts wisely. You may be in them for many miles”. His reference was to a time when dirt roads were often the only thoroughfares. During wet periods, vehicles would sink into the wet earth and cut deep tracks or ‘ruts’. Once your vehicle wheels dropped into a pair of ruts, you were constrained to travel in that track.

The application of that analogy to human behavior is a logical progression. The Oxford Dictionary provides this secondary definition of a ‘rut’: A habit or pattern of behavior that has become dull and unproductive, but is hard to change. I have heard many people despondently say, “My life is in a rut.” If your life is truly tedious and fruitless, it is a sad situation, but there is a remedy.

A conversation with Dr. John Oswald, an eminent Old Testament scholar, provided fascinating new information related to ruts or vehicle tracks. He pointed me to Psalm 23:3, He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.” The word used here for “paths” comes from the Hebrew noun מַעְגָּל (ma’gāl), which in actuality is “an entrenchment caused by cart or wagon wheels”. Thus, these are cart or wagon tracks, ‘ruts’ if you please. These tracks were firm and compacted. Rightly chosen, they provided a good solid path for the sheep and would keep their small sharp hooves from sinking in soft earth. 

In life, we have choices we must make. In other words, we can ‘choose our ruts’. We may decide, as so many do, to follow our own basic human instincts and our own self-interests. However, scripture warns, “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death” (Proverbs 14:12, NKJV).

God’s word also informs us that, “The way of a fool is right in his own eyes…” (Proverbs 12:15a).  But we do have an alternative. We may trust the Lord and follow His counsel knowing that “he who heeds counsel is wise” (Proverbs 12:15b).

God’s word teaches, “In the way of righteousness is life, and in its pathway there is no death” (Proverbs 12:28).  As you chart your way forward, choose the Lord’s pathway leading to eternal life!

Prayer: Lord help me to choose my ‘ruts’ wisely so that “goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever” (Psalm 23).

~ Brother Roy

REPOST: The Harmonica: A Christmas Story

The following devotional is a repost from the NHIM archives in 2013.

harmonicaMany years ago, I was deeply involved in mission work in Jamaica. One of the primary ministry points was an extremely needy boys’ home. On one of my initial trips to this home, I was struck by the austere conditions in which the children lived. Months passed, but I couldn’t get those children out of my mind. As Christmas drew near, I worked feverishly and with the help of family and friends, I gathered items to take to the home for Christmas. I didn’t inform the superintendent of my intentions of a Christmas visit. I wanted it to be a complete surprise.

When I drove up in front of the main building at the home, the superintendent came out. I showed him the packages each boy would receive. Each would get a washcloth, soap, toothbrush and toothpaste, underwear, a pair of shoes, and of course some Christmas candy and a small toy. He told me this had been one of the worst years financially the home had ever experienced.  The children had been informed there would be no Christmas party that year. But then he confidently said, “I knew you would come.” I asked, “How could you possibly know I was coming?” The superintendent then shared with me the following account. It was indelibly etched in my mind. 

John’s Story

When I was a boy, about eight years old, I lived in this very home. It had been a particularly hard year for the home. We were often hungry, our clothes were rags, and we had no toys or little else to take our minds off our deprivation.  Then came a sad day when the old gentleman in charge assembled all of us boys in the chapel. With a heavy heart, he told us that there would be no gifts or special celebration because of our dire financial situation. He said he would try to have toto, (a sweet cornbread), half a banana, and some weak tea for our Christmas morning breakfast. He would also try to get some chicken backs, necks, and feet to go with our rice for our Christmas dinner. We were all sad and solemn as we left the chapel.

I slipped away to my bed. Under my mattress, I had hidden a few pages from an old Christmas catalog that I had taken from the book room. Missionaries sometimes brought magazines along with some worn children’s books to put in our book room.  The pages from the catalog had pictures of toys that the white children in America would get for Christmas gifts.  One picture captured my attention. It was a little boy about my age playing a harmonica. The picture showed the notes rising in the air as the boy played. The boy’s family was gathered around the Christmas tree and were singing together. I dreamed of getting a harmonica for Christmas.

We had been taught that Jesus loved children and heard their prayers. With all my heart, I prayed. Hoping against hope, I prayed and believed Jesus would see to it I got the harmonica. I couldn’t wait for Christmas morning. I didn’t sleep much that night. Before daylight, I searched all around my bed and couldn’t find it. My fear increased as the minutes passed. Then I thought maybe the harmonica had been placed far back under my bed so no one would see it and take it. My hope began to rise as sunlight filtered into the dorm room and I was better able to see. I slipped quietly out of bed and searched under and all around the bed. There was no harmonica! At breakfast, I was hungry and the meal was meager, but I couldn’t eat. I had never known disappointment and sadness so deep. I asked to be excused and walked down the drive to the big entry gate by the road. I sat in the shadow of the gate with my back to the home so none of the boys could see me. I cried and cried. There was no harmonica and Jesus didn’t care about a poor Jamaican orphan.

Through the sobs and tears, I heard noise down the road toward the banana fields. I looked up and saw a dirty old man in tattered, stained clothes step out onto the road. He labored beneath the large stalk of bananas on his shoulder.  He slowly made His way up the road and stopped by the gatepost where I was sitting. He looked into my tear filled eyes and asked why I was crying. Through the sobs, I told him what had happened. I told him that I didn’t get the harmonica and that not even Jesus cared for me on this Christmas day. The old man told me not to cry and tried to reassure me that Jesus really did care. He gave no other explanation or comfort and gradually walked on.

Just before he disappeared from view, he turned around and called out, ‘little boy, come here.’ Still crying, I got up and walked up to him. He reached into his old shirt pocket and pulled out a shiny Harmonica, like the one I had prayed for. He handed it to me. Without another word, he walked on and disappeared from my view.  Could this have been an angel? (Heb. 13:2)

God works in mysterious ways, His wonders to perform (Cowper).

~ Brother Roy

Freedom – A Christmas Gift

born to set thy people free

In December 1745, Charles Wesley published a two-verse prayer that has become a beloved Christmas hymn:

Come, thou long-expected Jesus,
Born to set thy people free,
From our fears and sins release us,
Let us find our rest in thee.

For Wesley, Jesus was born for this purpose. As these beautiful words rang out through our congregation during Sunday worship, ‘my heart was strangely warmed’. My mind held on to the the phrase, “born to set thy people free”. I thought, Here is the true reason for the season. He came to set us free! 

Oh, how the human heart longs for freedom. This great country was founded on a human quest for freedom. Our forefathers were seeking religious and political liberty when they framed our Constitution and Bill of Rights. No other country on earth has provided the degree of political freedom and personal choice as has the U.S.A. Our national anthem proclaims that America is the “Land of the Free”. 

How ironic it is that so many use this freedom to dress themselves in the chains of sin. Multitudes of people combine their God given ‘free will’ with the freedom our government provides and engage in destructive lifestyles. Rather than independence, they find themselves in bondage. In many ways, the bondage to sin is far worse than the iron chains and bars of a physical oppressor. The headlong pursuit of self-pleasing brings fetters of addiction to drugs, alcohol, gross sexual misconduct, dishonesty, etc. The misguided search for this faux-freedom has reached epidemic proportions. God’s word says, “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).

We need to hear the Apostle Paul’s words to the Church in Rome, “Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its lusts, and do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness” (Romans 6:12-18).  God’s word proclaims, “For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another(Galatians 5:13). Jesus was born to set us free. Hallelujah!

And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free”


~ Brother Roy