Seven things I am thankful for today

Thanksgiving day.  It seems like a good time to remember the things that  I am thankful for.  Here’s my list:

1. God’s grace, mercy and faithfulness which have been poured out on me over the past 50 years of knowing Him. He has sustained me in faith, blessed me with His providence, provided all I need and grown me in grace. He has not dealt with me according to my sins, but has removed them from me as far as the east is from the west. He has proven the truth of Matthew 6:33:

But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

God has used many means to bring this about, especially His church and His word.

2. Family. Mary, my faithful and loving wife, has been His greatest gift besides my salvation. Her passion to know God is a constant encouragement and challenge to me. I am grateful for my parents (Dad would have been 99 today) and my children and grandchildren. Their lives are a tangible connection with the past and with the future.

3. A place. Although my life here in this world is temporary, I am glad for the privilege of living on the same land I lived on as a child, with good and, sometimes, painful memories of growing up.

4. Work. I am thankful for abilities to teach, preach and write that I can still use for God’s glory.

5. Health. I am blessed with better health than many my age so that I can still walk and hike in the mountains, hear and see others, travel to see family and friends, and enjoy work and recreation.

6. Finances. God has always provided for us and continues to do so. Although we depended on donor support as missionaries and the salaries of a pastor and a teacher, we have never missed a meal, gone homeless, or suffered the lack of any basic needs.

7. Purpose and hope. I am thankful for a compelling reason to live fully for God’s glory all the days that He has assigned me on earth, and for the promises of God to be with me to the end of life and, because of the mercy and grace of Jesus Christ and His atonement for my sin, to receive me to Himself when this life is over.

I think that covers the main categories.

What are you thankful for today?

A Perspective on Beheadings by Rick Perrin

I rarely re-post other blogs but this one is different.  My former pastor, Dr. Rick Perrin, has written an insightful article on beheading and what the book of Revelation says about it.

Warning: this is not for the faint of heart.

Click here to read.  May this blog post serve as a reminder to those of us who believe in Christ that it is time to put on the full armor of God and to pray.

10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. 12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. 14 Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15 and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. 16 In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; 17 and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, 18 praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, 19 and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak.  Ephesians 6: 10-20 (ESV)

Is reading through the Bible in a year a bad thing?

In a thought-provoking post my good friend, Derick Dickens, says that we should stop reading through the Bible in a year. You can follow his reasoning at Complete in Thee. What he is arguing is that mere, casual Bible reading, even annually, will not result in a deep knowledge of God’s truth or a well-developed grasp of Biblical theology.

I don’t think the problem is that so many of us merely read the Bible through every year and, therefore, fail to go any deeper. The truth is few ever read the Bible through even once in their lifetime and, therefore, fail to fully grasp its truth. Since the Bible is all God-breathed from Genesis to Revelation we should aim to read it all, whether annually or otherwise, on a continual basis. We should also recognize that, by itself, casual reading will not suffice for a deep knowledge of God’s word. I make a distinction between reading and studying. What Derick is recommending is Bible study and his method is a good one.

No, reading through the Bible in a year is not a bad thing.  Don’t stop reading through the Bible, in a year or in a lifetime, but know that it is not enough.

I say, keep reading through the Bible, but add serious Bible study and don’t forget to make diligent use of the means of grace which includes hearing the preaching of Scripture.

What’s Important?

On this day, when a widely loved and respected celebrity has died unexpectedly and by his own hand, I read these words from the Puritans and am reminded that we all have an appointment with death and God.  What is truly important today?

From “Openness” in The Valley of Vision

I hasten towards an hour

When earthly pursuits and possessions will appear vain,

When it will be indifferent whether I have been rich or poor,

Successful or disappointed,

Admired or despised.

But it will be of eternal moment that I have mourned for sin,

Hungered and thirsted after righteousness,

Loved the Lord Jesus in sincerity,

Gloried in his cross.

May these objects engross my chief solicitude!

For the complete text of this prayer, click here.

Learning to Trust God’s Providence

I read this prayer from the Valley of Vision today and thought of some who are going through difficult times right now.  The prayer is entitled “Peril”.

Sovereign Commander of the Universe,
I am sadly harassed by doubts, fears, unbelief,
in a felt spiritual darkness.
My heart is full of evil surmisings and disquietude,
and I cannot act faith at all.
My heavenly Pilot has disappeard,
and I have lost my hold on the Rock of Ages;
I sink in deep mire beneath storms and waves,
in horror and distress unutterable.

Help me, O Lord,
to throw myself absolutely and wholly on thee,
for better, for worse, without comfort,
and all but hopeless.
Give me peace of soul, confidence, enlargement of mind,
morning joy that comes after night heaviness;
Water my soul with divine blessings;
Grant that I may welcome that humbling in private
so that I might enjoy thee in public;
Give me a mountain top as high as the valley is low.
Thy grace can melt the worst sinner, and I am as vile as he;
Yet thou hast made me a monument of mercy,
a trophy of redeeming power;
In my distress let me not forget this.

All-wise God,
Thy never-failing providence orders every event,
sweetens every fear,
reveals evil’s presence lurking in seeming good,
brings real good out of seeming evil,
makes unsatisfactory what I set my heart upon,
to show me what a short-sighted creature I am,
and to teach me to live by faith upon
thy blessed self.

Out of sorrow and night
give me the name Naphtali –
‘satisfied with favour’ –
help me to love thee as thy child,
and to walk worthy of my heavenly pedigree.

God has a good purpose in our trials, fellow Christian.  He will see us through whatever is ahead. Trust Him.

My thanks to Tim Challies for posting this at the link below.

Memorial Service for Dwight Hill

For those who may be interested, here is the link to the memorial service for Dwight Hill, held on Saturday, April 19, 2014 at Neighborhood Church in Chico, CA.

Here is the program of the service:

Welcome- Alec Hill (Dwight’s brother)

Sharing thoughts about Dwight – Ruth Hill (wife), Julie Jones (daughter), Wes Hill (son)

Reading of Psalm 112- Sawyer Jones (grandson)

Solo by Rick Keene “I will praise Him still”

Sharing thoughts about Dwight- Skip Gray, Doug Hignell, Rob Pock, David Ong

Song: It is well with my soul

Final thoughts and closing: Alec Hill



The Dark Guest

Today’s Bible reading took me to another sad and sordid chapter in the history of God’s people in the Old Testament (I Kings 16-18).  King Elah, comfortable and secure after two years of ruling Israel, is working on getting himself good and drunk. Zimri, his traitorous servant, seeing his chance for power and glory, kills Elah in his stupor.  Zimri installs himself as king and in a bloody, seven-day reign executes every possible heir to the throne.  But the nation rises up against Zimri who seeing imminent defeat, torches his house and dies in the flames  (I Kings 16:8-28).

It’s not a pretty picture, but it is a realistic one. The Bible never paints Man as basically good, not even those who are enlightened by the Word of God and called to be His people.  We still struggle with what one of the Puritans called “the dark guest within whose hidden presence makes my life a hell.”  That same writer called on God to destroy that unwelcome and sinister boarder recognizing that though his sins are  crucified they are not yet mortified.  He confesses:

I am not yet weaned from all created glory, honour, wisdom, and esteem of others, for I have a secret motive to eye my name in all I do. *

Are we not a lot like Zimri, hating all that threatens our own security and glory?  Do we not take whatever steps are most promising to exalt ourselves or  that are least uncomfortable to avoid being diminished before the eyes of others?

Yet in Christ there is hope of progress in our war with sin.  In Him, we find forgiveness and mercy which is new every morning (Lamentations 3:21-24; Ephesians 1:7) .  In Him, we find security because His righteousness is credited to the account of His people (I Corinthians 1:30).  In Him, we find true glory because He has gone to prepare a place for us and has prayed that His own may be with Him in glory (John 14:1-3;17:20-26).

Though there is a dark guest within, we may have confidence to cry out with our anonymous brother:

There is no treasure so wonderful

as that continuous experience of thy grace

toward me which alone can subdue the risings of sin within:

Give me more of it.

My challenge:

Christian brother or sister, do not despair.  Your dark guest is going down. Glory is nearer than ever.

Doubting and skeptical friend, do not take solace in the struggles and failures of professing Christians.  They will ultimately be victorious through Christ.  Repent and believe in the only One God sent who can save doubters and skeptics who turn to Him.

(*The Valley of Vision:A collection of Puritan prayers and devotions,  ed. Arthur Bennett, Edinburgh, Carlisle, Banner of Truth Trust, 1975, p. 126-7)


He sent a man named Dwight Hill


by John Carroll

I wasn’t looking for God when I entered VA Tech in the summer of 1963, only a few days after my High School graduation.   Not at all.  Rather, I was on a fast track to the “good life:” get a degree, land a job, and get married.  By fall of the next year, I had been in school without a break for six quarters (19 months).  I had decent grades, was a corporal in N Squadron in the VA Tech Corps of Cadets, and worked as a disc jockey at WUVT, the campus radio station.  I was about to join Alpha Kappa Psi, a professional business fraternity.

Sure, I was achieving my goals on schedule, but there was a problem. My successes were empty.  My life had no meaning beyond the next social event.  I was living from weekend to weekend and crossing off the days in between. Somehow I was haunted by the thought that my dreams for money, marriage, and lots of stuff would become nightmares when they all came true.

About that time, I met a man named Dwight Hill who had come to the campus with a Christian organization called The Navigators.   That didn’t impress me much.  I was more impressed with Dwight’s new Dodge and beautiful wife, Ruth.

One day, Dwight asked me to show him around the radio station.  After the tour, he invited me for a coke at the Squires Hall snack bar.  No, I had no idea I was being “set up” for a challenge to get serious about following Christ.  Dwight was intense, a no-nonsense ex-Marine from Seattle.  He would later admit that he doubted that spending that hour with me would make any difference in my life.  I struck him as an un-teachable person, committed to my own plans, and unwilling to obey God.  He was right on the second point, but not the first.  That day, Monday, November 9, 1964, would be the turning point in my spiritual life.

In the snack bar, Dwight grabbed a napkin and began to draw what I later learned was the “wheel” illustration, a rim (my life), a hub (Jesus Christ), and four spokes (Word, prayer, fellowship and witnessing).   He, paused after drawing the hub, looked me in the eye and stated flatly,

“John, you will never have happiness in your life until Christ is in the center of it.”

His words hit me like a sucker punch.

How did he know that I was finding no happiness in my life?  The night before, I had dragged back into the dorm after another disappointing weekend.

Maybe he saw that his words were sinking in.

He continued filling in the various parts of the “wheel.”   When he got to the “witnessing” spoke, he leveled with me again,

“I am here on this campus to reach men for Christ.  Listen, I think you need to be doing the same thing.”

Another punch to the gut.

How did he know that one of my biggest hang-ups was unwillingness to identify openly with Christ and risk ridicule and rejection?

I thanked him for the coke and we said goodbye. I staggered out of the snack bar and headed for my dorm room in Major Williams Hall on the upper quad.   It was a short walk, maybe five minutes.  But I walked slowly.  Dusk had fallen.  I was glad to have darkness around me shielding me a little from possible onlookers as I walked and thought.  Somehow, I felt I was being given one final chance to turn to God.  I felt like I was approaching the last off ramp before Hell.  Privately, I had given up on Christianity  out of frustration with my own sin and endless failures to improve myself, combined with my fear of being ridiculed by the cool people in my world.  But the emptiness and the guilt, accentuated by Dwight’s two comments, had caught up with me.  I was in crisis.

I prayed silently.  “God, I have made a mess of my life.  It seems as confused and tangled as a bowl of spaghetti.  I cannot be a Christian.  I have tried so many times.  I know I will fail again, but I am willing for you to change me if you will.”

Back in my dorm room, I sat down and wrote my girl friend telling her something of what had happened.

But I was caught between doubt and desperation.  Did God hear my prayer?  Would He respond to my crisis?  Would anything really change in my life?

Yes.  Something already had changed.  Only it took 24 hours for me to realize it.

On Tuesday afternoon, it dawned on me that suddenly I wasn’t using the vulgar language and profanity that had permeated my speech,  the kind of language used in a men’s dorm that was not fit for the ears of your mom or little sister.  My roommate, Jim, and I had attempted to eliminate it for the sake of our moms and little sisters but with absolutely no success. This time it was different.  The impossible had occurred.  Later I would understand that the Holy Spirit had regenerated me and I had been “born again.”

Over the next months , Dwight spent time with me, teaching me to study the Bible, pray, trust God for my future, and tell others the good news of life in Christ.  He and Ruth invited several of us to live in their home for a summer so we could concentrate on “knowing Christ and making Him known.”

Last week, Dwight went to meet the One who was the center of his life, the One whom he urged me to make the center of my life.  Dwight served Him, loved Him, and proclaimed Him.  Because he did, a formerly guilt-ridden, empty college student also serves and loves and proclaims Him fifty years later.  And so do innumerable others.

I wasn’t looking for God in college.  But I learned that He was looking for me and He sent a man named Dwight Hill.


Dwight and Ruth Hill with me on February 20, 2014 (photo by Mary Carroll)



Complete in Thee

Recently, I was honored to be asked by my friend, Derick Dickens,  to contribute articles to his new blog site, “Complete in Thee”.  Today, my post “Stalked by Death” (originally posted here) was published.  Please take a look and consider following Derick’s excellent site.

On another note, my dear friend and mentor, Dwight Hill, mentioned in the “Stalked by Death” article, passed away last night.  This morning when I checked “Care Pages” for the latest on Dwight, I read this:

<<Ruth, Wes and Julie want to share that at 9:10 pm on April 10 (Dwight’s 78th Birthday) he passed from this world on to the next where he is in the presence of His beloved Father.

Last week he shared with us that he was so excited to go to heaven and when he got there he felt he would fall at the feet of Jesus and say “Lord, have mercy on me.” Dad truly understood the wonder and glory of his heavenly Father.  He will be greatly missed by his family, friends and all those he touched.>>

It had only been 8 days since the tumor was discovered. This is a sad day for many of us who will miss a great man of God. “Precious in the sight of the Lord, is the death of His saints.”  Psalm 116:15