A State of Mind

still-waterThe 23rd Psalm certainly has to be considered one of the most loved passages in the Bible. How many times have you, like me, recited those opening verses: “The Lord is my shepherd I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures. He leadeth me beside the still waters”? I want to direct special attention to the phrase, “He leadeth me beside the still waters”.

When my heart is troubled and I need to calm down, my mind seeks to retreat to a place of ‘the still waters’. When possible, I love to physically go to a quiet place by water’s edge. In an earlier NHIM devotional titled Still Waters, I spoke of such a place on Dauphin Island, Alabama. However, it is not usually possible to withdraw to a physical place. What can we do when our peace is disturbed and we cannot physically escape?

I have found that the solution is in knowing that ‘still waters’ is a state of mind as much as it is a physical place. In John’s Gospel, Jesus said, “I am leaving you with a gift–peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid (John 14:27, NLT). We may not always be able to go to a physical place beside the still waters, but praise the Lord in our spirits we can all come to Jesus and find peace of mind and heart.

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 16:33, NIV). Are you stressed, harried, anxious? Are your mind and heart troubled? Come to Him! He will lead you to the spiritual ‘still waters’ and give you His peace. He promised! And, The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us…” (2 Peter 3:9, NKJ).

“The Lord will guide you always …to a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail.” (Isaiah 58:11, NIV)

~ Brother Roy

Fat Potato

kya miss sue

Miss Sue singing “Jesus Loves Me” with 4-year-old Kenny

“Siduhla sa zambane,” the children shout.  It is Zulu for “fat potato”, a ring game the children play at Kya Sands squatter’s camp. Although there are many different languages spoken by the children of Kya, all of them understand ‘siduhla sa zambane’.  

On several occasions, my wife and I have had the privilege of working along side our daughter and her church friends at this squatter’s camp in Johannesburg, South Africa. These dedicated Christian folks, mostly women, work with the children in a field at the edge of the camp (a sprawling slum). In spite of hunger, deprivation of every kind, lack of sanitation and other basic human services, they come to the field. You can hear them coming as they fill the air with laughter and enthusiasm.

Their time in the field seems to bring a blessed relief from their tiny tin shacks and the rubbish that comprises most of their world. The children are led in exercises that contribute to hand-eye coordination essential to learning how to read. They also work with large motor skills and muscle development. The workers help children with basic vocabulary, sharing, teamwork, and so many other survival skills. Developmental goals are woven into activities and games the children enjoy.

One of the games the children love to play is ‘fat potato’. Squeals of laughter echo across the field as the one in the middle of the ring picks someone on the outer circle to come to center of the ring and be the fat potato. Running, jumping, peeping and hiding are the order of the day. I am sure there are many nuances of the game that are understood by the children that escape me. I do know that the joy they express by being able to play in a safe environment, surrounded by adults that care about them is a beautiful thing.

Let me share some thoughts that deeply moved me as I watched the Kya Kids in the field. This was a place where they could come and for a time:

  • Be free from fear
  • Be loved unconditionally
  • Be accepted, valued and be confident enough to be the ‘fat potato’
  • Know there are no ugly people and that all children in the field are equal
  • Know clothes, possessions, and skin color are not things by which they are judged
  • Find hope for tomorrow and the future
  • See Jesus in the people who surround them
  • Get a nutritious snack (perhaps the only food for some that day) 

Observing them, I recalled the words of Jesus, “And He said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 18:13, NIV). How grateful I am that I have a ‘place’ in Jesus. He is my safe place, my field. Do you have such a place? Look the list above. Are you willing to become as one of these small ones in childlike faith and receive Jesus’ unconditional love? He will be your field.

“Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these” (Matthew 19:14).

~ Brother Roy

Develop or Repair

silhouette-1082129_1280A statement on a local newscast caught my attention. A father being interviewed said, “It’s better to develop strong children than to repair broken adults.” The more I reflected on the statement, the more I appreciated the wisdom of this father.

Mirroring the wisdom of Solomon, this father spoke a truth as relevant today as it was in Solomon’s day: “Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it”  (Proverbs 22:6, NIV).  I do not believe this verse is necessarily a promise, but I certainly believe it is an essential principle for parenting.

The great classical Bible commentator Matthew Henry offered the following observation on Proverbs 22:6: “Train children, not in the way they would go, that of their corrupt hearts, but in the way they should go; in which, if you love them, you would have them go. As soon as possible every child should be led to the knowledge of the Saviour.”

How much better it is to invest our time and energy in developing positive and strong moral values in children than it is to try to rescue dysfunctional adults. The phrase, “As the twig is bent, so grows the tree,” was coined in the 18th century by poet Alexander Pope. The meaning is centered on the idea that early influences have a permanent effect. The experiences children go through and lessons they learn can and will shape who they are and how they act later in life.

~ Brother Roy

Just Turn Off the Light

instead of cleaningI recently saw a humorous coffee mug.  It had a picture of a lady standing in a very cluttered house. The following comment was on the mug: “Instead of cleaning the house, I just turn off the lights.”

After a chuckle and a time of reflection, a rather sobering reality settled in. The comment echoes a philosophy of far too many self-described Christians. It seems when people become aware of the clutter of sin, careless living, or half-hearted commitment, they often choose not to deal with these revelations. When conscience and conviction weigh in, the tendency is to ‘turn off the light’ that is exposing the clutter.

Rather than adopting an attitude of repentance and humility, people often move to a default position such as, “I’m only human,” or, “Nobody’s perfect,” or, “I’m doing the best I can.” The conscience becomes “seared”, and the convicting voice of the Holy Spirit becomes muted. The light is turned off.

A powerful Biblical example is found in the account of David and Bathsheba in 2nd. Samuel. The sin begins with David’s longing look at the beautiful woman, Bathsheba, while she is bathing. David began to lust for her, and then he calls for her to be brought to him. This led to adultery, and then David lied to cover the sin. Next, David had Bathsheba’s husband killed in order to conceal his role in her pregnancy. He simply chose to ‘turn out the light’ rather than repent.

In a last ditch effort to redeem David, God moved the prophet Nathan to confront David with his sin. Hearing the words of Nathan, “Thou art the man”, David was humbled, and the light came on, exposing the sin. Psalm 51 is David’s stirring prayer of confession and plea for mercy and forgiveness. He found forgiveness, but the consequences of his action were catastrophic.

If your conscience makes you aware of the clutter of sin, please don’t turn off the light. Let the Lord help you. Cry out with David, Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me” (Psalm 51:10-12).

Don’t Just Turn Off The Light

~ Brother Roy

Double Fencing

N67-900248In central Kentucky where we live, parallel fences are a common sight on many thoroughbred horse farms. Several feet separate the outer fence from the inner one. Double-fencing along roads is expensive but may provide a valuable measure of safety. Horses that jump one fence are still contained for the moment, and vehicles running through the outer fence will probably be stopped before they crash through the inside one.

The outer fence keeps the animals from bolting and running into roadways or other hazards. Inner fences provide some help guiding the horses safely into areas where the handlers want to direct them. With two fences so close together it makes it possible to easily move these valuable animals between paddocks, barns, and other venues on the farm. Many of these magnificent animals are said to be ‘high strung’ or nervous by nature. The familiar double fences may have a calming effect on the horses as they are move from place to place.

These parallel fences are not so much to restrict the horses’ freedom as they are to keep them safe from harm. In the Lord’s great love, He has provided a type of double fencing for us. Much like an outer fence, His laws and principles are designed to help keep us from dangerous situations. The Holy Spirit that dwells within believers can serve as an inside fence guiding us to places where the Lord wants us to be.

Like the parallel fencing on the horse farms, God’s provisions are not aimed to restrict our true freedom. They offer us parameters that allow us to enjoy life to its fullest. Jesus prayed in His High Priestly Prayer recorded in John 17:15, “I do not pray that You should take them out of the world, but that You would keep them from the evil one”. When we know God’s truth, that truth sets us free to live securely within His will. As the familiar double fences are thought to have a calming effect on the horses as they move place to place, the presence of the Lord around us can give us a sense of peace and well-being.

“In him we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28)

~ Brother Roy

What Does He See in Me?

tax collectorSometime back, I was having lunch at Asbury University, where I served on the faculty for 33 years. As friends and I were enjoying good food and fellowship, a group of students passed close by. I overheard one student emphatically ask of another, “What does she see in him?”

Hearing that question sent my mind hurrying back to the distant past when Jesus walked the earth. Gospel writers Mark and Luke both record the Lord’s encounter with a man named Levi. “After these things He went out and saw a tax collector named Levi, sitting at the tax office” (Luke 5:27, Mark 2: 14, NKJV). As the Master engaged Levi, the people around, like the students mentioned above, were asking, “What does He see in him”?

Levi was a tax collector. As such, he was considered by the Jews to be a traitor to their own people. He had joined the hated Roman overlords to assist them in collecting taxes. Tax collectors were considered to be religiously unclean and sinners of the most despised class. But Jesus saw something different in Levi. He saw Matthew, the man who would trade his extortioner’s pen for a brush that would paint many wonderful word pictures and unforgettable images of the Savior. He saw the man who would write the First Gospel in the New Testament. Jesus saw a man that tradition reports became one of the first Christian missionaries.

Reading accounts like that of Matthew or perhaps Gideon (Judges 6:11) sends goose bumps up my spine. These accounts underscore 1 Samuel 16:7 (MSG), “Men and women look at the face; God looks into the heart.”

Others surely must have wondered, as I have myself, “What does God see in me?” I cannot tell you what the Lord saw in me.  I do not know why He called me to follow Him. But this I know for sure, He called me to repentance and saved me. He allowed me to become a co-laborer with Him and help build His kingdom. For that I will always praise His name.

What does the Lord see in you? It is likely far different than what you see in yourself. Go to Him. Ask Him show you what He sees in you. Maybe He sees in you a Matthew, a Gideon, a missionary or a prayer warrior. The Lord has a place for you in His kingdom. He sees you differently than others do.

What Does God See In You?

~ Brother Roy

An Empty Wagon

empty wagonRecently at the ‘morning gathering’ of coffee drinkers at Fitch’s store, Dwight, a local farmer and friend, offered an interesting observation. Commenting on an empty flower display in front of the store, he said, “It’s hard to sell from an empty wagon.”  In the explanation that followed, he told about a picture that hung in the hallway of an older building where he had done business. The picture was of a forlorn and dejected fellow looking into the empty bed of a peddler’s wagon. Beneath the picture was the caption, “It’s hard to sell from an empty wagon.”  The point being that you can’t sell what you don’t have.

The principle espoused in the caption has broad application across many areas of life. It certainly applies to the retail business, but it also pertains to Christianity. In the Book of Acts (1:8), Jesus charged His followers with the responsibility of being His witnesses. He promised that they would have the ‘power’ to be His witnesses through the infilling of the Holy Spirit. A short time later His promise of the Holy Spirit was fulfilled (Acts 2:4). From that day to this, Spirit-filled believers have been able to effectively share the gospel message.

In the spiritual world, the empty wagon principle is a truism. You cannot share what you do not have. If ministers, who are not Spirit-filled, attempt to influence people to follow Christ and join the church, they will be ineffective at best and may even be detrimental. When church members endeavor to influence family and friends to receive Christ as Savior and are not themselves ‘born again’ believers, they may do more damage than good. You just can’t sell from an empty wagon.

Hear the wisdom of Solomon on the matter, “Whoso boasteth himself of a false gift is like clouds and wind without rain” (Proverbs 25:14). The Apostle Peter says of such people, “These are wells without water…” (2 Peter 2:17).

Prayer: Lord, let us share our faith in Christ from a full heart. “A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of”  (Luke 6:45, NIV).

~ Brother Roy