Wednesday, March 30, 2011


(From the Greene County Dailies series)

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.” Matt. 5:6

Most Americans have never known real hunger—that gnawing in the belly that never goes away because there is never enough to eat.  The same is true of thirst: in times of drought we wonder if the grass or crops will survive, not if we will.  But in Jesus’ day, people lived by what they could earn and buy each day.  Food could often be scarce to non-existent.  The same was true of water.  Thus, hunger and thirst were two incredibly intense drives.

Jesus says the same intensity that we would feel if we were starving is what should drive us toward “righteousness”—right standing before God.  The greatest concern of our lives ought to be, “am I right with God?”  This is what Jesus came to provide; both the knowledge and the basis for being right with God.  The person who discovers this first realizes how much he needs it.  He hungers and thirsts to know God.  Have you come to the place where being right with God is all that matters?  If you have, then Jesus can satisfy.  Come to him!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Why Meek is What You Should Seek

(From the Greene County Dailies series...)

“Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.”  Matthew 5:5

            There are few statements of Jesus that seem more “out of touch” than the third of his Beatitudes.  We see little evidence today of meekness winning contests or popularity.  Most view meekness as weakness.
            But what does the word actually mean?  If you search the dictionary or study how the word in the original language was used, you find it refers to great strength under measured control.  It spoke of a colt that had to be broken to be useful, or of a strong medicine that soothed a person’s injury.  It is not weakness, nor the opposite of self-confidence, but rather the possession of power, and the self-control to use it wisely. 
            Such people don’t need attention for validation.  They know who they are and what gives them value and significance.  That kind of knowledge is truly power.  It is the power of a Moses, and that of Jesus—both called “meek” in the Bible.  And it is God’s saving power within that assures people of their very bright future as inheritors of new heavens and new earth.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Helping the Relief Effort in Japan through Samaritan's Purse

If you are looking for a place to donate toward effective relief of the suffering in Japan, and through an agency that will be "up front" about their Christian commitment and the importance of the Gospel, I would recommend the efforts of Samaritan's Purse.  They have already send 93 tons of materials, and more are being purchased for delivery. 
There are others doing similar work, and this is not to take away from them, but I wanted to provide an agency and response opportunity to use with confidence, and Samaritan's Purse has shown itself to be such an agency.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

"Mourning" Glory

(Another in the series of articles that appear in the Greene County Dailies)

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.”  Matt 5:4

When we finally recognize we are less than perfect (a polite way of saying what the Bible calls “sinners”), there are numerous strategies we might employ—only one of which yields good results.

We can deny the truth—calling sin something else: mistakes, misunderstandings, and weaknesses.  Each partially true, but honesty compels us to see our motives and actions are often selfish, uncaring, and possibly cruel.
We can compare ourselves with others, concluding we are better than average.  If that is God’s measure, we would be alright.  However, God says “Be perfect!”  “Be holy!”  No matter how much better than me you are, you are not perfect.

We can assume that as long as our good outweighs our bad, we will make it.  But whose scales will we use?  And who assigns “weight” to good that is done with mixed motives?

Our only hope is to do what Jesus said—mourn.  Recognizing we are sinners and we can’t change ourselves, we cry out in despair, and are comforted by the only one who can change us and has paid the price for our sins already.

Update on the Carrs in Japan

Those of you in our services on Sunday heard that Tom Carr, our missionary in southern Japan, was wrongfully accused of an attack and arrested by the police in their town, even though Tom was the one who called the police to seek their intervention to stop a woman from beating her estranged son.  The son has been living with the Carrs, and has trusted Christ.  He confirms the true account, but because Tom's accuser is Japanese and he is not, he was judged by the police to be in the wrong. After three days in jail, including a national holiday where no investigation would be done, the family and friends there were informed Tom would be in jail for another ten days for further investigation.  The newspaper carried the story on Sunday, basically saying Tom was guilty of the charges but he denies it.  Already one invitation to speak to a university has been withdrawn.

However, Paula was able to see Tom briefly Monday night and reports that he is well and generally in good spirits, although he says he gets "down" at times. 

Paula asks that we pray for Tom's spirits and for his testimony as he continues in jail, and that he might be released before the ten day period is over.  There is a possibility it could go longer.  The system in Japan assumes guilt until innocence is established.

The teenage boy, Hiro, is 16 and had been thrown out of his house by his parents, in what has been described to me as a very dysfunctional family.  It seems that when Tom called the police, the mother and her friend became frightened and staged an injury so that when they arrived, they could claim Tom had been violent. 

This is certainly a case when Tom is having all manner of things said falsely about him because he has acted with the love of Jesus toward this young man.  Pray that God's "blessedness" will be his in the coming days.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Why This Protestant Celebrates St. Patrick's Day (and his life)

            OK, I know as a more Reformed style Protestant I should be wearing orange today, but my green shirt is on, and I’m enjoying remembering the history of a young man who escaped from slavery, only to experience both God’s call to himself and then God’s direction to go back to the very people who enslaved him to preach Christ. 
            “But wasn’t he a Catholic?”  Well, yes, but there weren’t Protestants back then—all Christians were a part of the one organized “universal” (that’s what Catholic means) church.  And many historians believe that the Christianity he left behind in Ireland after his death was a much more robust Christianity than the Latin version became as time went by—witness the evangelistic zeal of the Irish monks that traveled the known world in the centuries after Patrick.
            History is sketchy, and myth can work its way into such stories, but the basic outline of Patrick’s life is as follows.  He was a Briton who was kidnapped by Irish raiding pirates and carried to Ireland where he became a slave.  He escaped a harsh life there to return to Britain, where his faith was established and he had a calling (some stories say a vision) to return to Ireland.  He did so, and through preaching and contests with pagan priests, established the message of Christ firmly on Irish soil.  Such a story should be celebrated and emulated by all who cherish the message and power of the Gospel. 
Here is a stanza from a prayer attributed to Patrick, passed down through the ages.
"Christ be with me, Christ within me,
Christ behind me, Christ before me,
Christ beside me, Christ to win me,
Christ to comfort and restore me.
Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ in quiet, Christ in danger,
Christ in hearts of all that love me,
Christ in mouth of friend and stranger."

            Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Praying for Our Friend and Former "Neighbor"

Eric Mounts, pastor of Southgate Baptist Church for 15 years and a good friend from my college days, has taken up the call of God to become the pastor of Bible Center Church in Charleston, WV.  He begins his new ministry this Sunday.  You can read an interview in the local Charleston paper here.

Eric is a faithful brother in Christ and a gifted pastor, and I would encourage all of the Grace family to be in prayer for him as he begins this new work.  I can relate personally to the challenge Eric has faced in determining to leave a flock he loves to respond to God's call to a new ministry.

I would further ask us to be praying diligently for Southgate, as they go through the process of adjusting to Eric's departure and transitioning into a position where they will be ready to seek and call their next pastor.  As our own fellowship knows this is a challenging process for a church, but one that can be very beneficial, too.

Monday, March 14, 2011

A Review Posted for Alcorn's Latest Great Book

I just reviewed this book at the "Blogging for Books" site.  You can read the review here. Randy Alcorn has long been one of my favorite writers and thinkers, and this book was not a disappointment as he turned his attention to theodicy: the term used to describe the tension between the the claims that God is good and all powerful, and the existence of evil and all the pain and suffering it brings. 

The site is maintained by Multnomah Press, and you can find reviews of this and all of their other more recent releases.  And, fyi, you can sign up at this site to receive books for free, IF you agree to post a review of the book.  Not a bad deal, especially if you are a reader.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Spiritual Poverty

(I'm returning to posting the devotional "thoughts" I've been asked to write for the Greene County Dailies, so here is the beginning of a series on the Beatitudes)

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Matt. 5:3.  Reading this first beatitude sounds like a call to depression.  In one sense it is.  Jesus doesn’t value feeling bad, but what is essential in coming to him is coming to the end of your own resources for being “good.”  To be poor in spirit is to recognize one’s spiritual bankruptcy—I have nothing good enough to merit God’s favor or escape his wrath.  As long as I insist I’m not bad enough for Hell, or I deserve to have my failures overlooked, heaven remains out of reach.  Jesus did not come to offer basically good people a “sin management” program where we make ourselves better with a little boost from him.  We aren’t good in God’s eyes, and we can’t manage sin—it manages us.

So what makes this beatitude a blessing?  It’s the freedom to be honest with God about our condition—honesty that says, “I can’t do this!”  Jesus said elsewhere he didn’t come to save people who consider themselves righteous, but to save sinners.  When you can see your spiritual poverty, you will be able to see the Savior.