The Empty Tomb

empty tombWe most often embrace two foundational truths when we come to the Biblical account of Easter. One is the crucifixion of Christ, and the other is His resurrection.  That is as it should be. But just for a moment, let me direct your attention to another cornerstone of our redemption –‘the empty tomb’.  There may be some variation in the perspectives of the four Gospel writers as they report the early arrivals to the tomb. Who came first, how many initially arrived, and when show slight differences. There is however great unanimity on the fact that the tomb was empty when they arrived.

As Jesus’ followers came to the sepulcher that resurrection morning, they all reported the tomb was empty. For example, Luke reports, “And they entered in (the sepulchre), and found not the body of the Lord Jesus (Luke 24:3).” The empty tomb was no idle tale of grief stricken disciples. Across the ages, some have thought it was an idle tale, but the church says it wasn’t. In fact, the church stakes it existence on the empty tomb.

The society of the day, in the part of the world where Jesus lived, was greatly influence by Greek and Roman cultures.  Almost everyone believed in what was called “the immortality of the soul.” That belief seems to have been held by the women who came to the tomb the first Easter morning. Perhaps that helps explain why Mary’s first reaction was, “They have taken away the Lord out of the sepulchre, and we know not where they have laid him” (John 20:2). If she only believed in the  immortality of the soul, then she would have thought the spirit was gone, but there was a body somewhere. But, there was no dead body! The body had been raised to life just like He said. The truth of His teaching depended on the empty tomb.

The difference between the immortality of the soul and the resurrection of the body is no small matter for our Christian faith. That’s why Paul said, “And if Christ be not risen, then our preaching is in vain, and your faith is also in vain” (1 Corinthians 15:14).

The immortality of the soul is about a belief in man’s indomitable spirit and little more. It was the conviction that at death man becomes a disembodied spirit. The resurrection of the body is about God’s unspeakable love. It’s about God’s power to create, redeem, restore, and resurrect  the body. Easter is not about the immorality of the human spirit. Easter is about the power of the Father to redeem your life from whatever it is that keeps you from the fullness of everlasting life with Him. The empty tomb is a symbol that not even the last enemy, death itself, can stop God from keeping His promises.  The bodily resurrection of Jesus is our blessed assurance. I believe in the empty tomb and the resurrection of the body.

“And God hath both raised up the Lord, and will also raise us up by His own power.”
1 Corinthians 6:14

~ Brother Roy

The Meanest Men Who Ever Lived

crown of thornsAfter a disheartening hour of watching the evening news, I went into my office.  (It’s actually our dining room.)  I sat down and took a few minutes to reflect on man’s inhumanity to his fellow man. Scenes of the horrible murderous raids on the Samburu tribe in East Africa, where NHIM has worked over the last decade, came to mind. I also thought of the atrocities in Syria and a myriad of other places on earth where mean and vicious men torture and murder innocent men, women, and even children. Maybe it’s a quest for power or maybe just a mean spirit that causes some men to take delight in hurting people and hearing their cries for mercy.

I began to wonder who the meanest men that ever lived might be. I was soon compiling a list. Perhaps it was because of the influence of the Easter season, but I have arrived at a group that I want to put forward as candidates for “ The Meanest Men Who Ever Lived”. It’s the Roman soldiers who crucified Jesus. First, let me speak a word on behalf of these hard and violent men. It is terrible that they brutally beat Jesus. But the scourging was ordered by Pilate, and the soldiers were carrying out orders (John 19:1). When they crucified Him - nailed His hands and feet to the cross – they were doing their job. They were assigned executioner duties; they followed orders because they had no option.

Oh, but they didn’t have to plat a crown of thorns and jam it on His head. They intended to torture Him and inflict indescribable pain for the sheer joy of making Him suffer more. They knew that the skullcap’s skin was thin and filled with very sensitive nerves. They knew that ramming the sharp and hard thorns into His skull would cause unbearable pain. Matthew 27:29 tells us the soldiers also mocked Him and spat on Him. They didn’t have to do that. It was not part of their orders. Then, Matthew informs us that they “struck Him on the head”(v.30). Undoubtly, this was to drive the thorn spikes deeper and inflict even more suffering and pain. They didn’t have to do that!

I thought these men would be my nomination for “Meanest Men Who Ever Lived”. Then a sobering and unnerving scripture came to my mind. “For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted the heavenly gift, and have become partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, if they fall away, to renew them again to repentance, since they crucify again for themselves the Son of God, and put Him to open shame(Heb. 6:4-6).  It seems there are as many explanations of this passage as there are commentators who attempt to deal with it. I am willing to let every believer wrestle with this passage as I have. But, it says to me that if I continue in willful sin I am a crucifier also. Perhaps it has something to say to you.

Friends, we must understand, “No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make a way of escape, that you may be able to bear it” (1 Cor. 10:13). We don’t have to keep on hurting Him. We must not continue doing things that we know are wrong and thus “crucify Him afresh”. We must not claim to be Christian and then live like the fallen world around us lives. To do so brings “open shame” to the name of Christ. We do not have to be ‘persistent sinners’ and wound Him. If we choose to, are we not then candidates to join the ranks of the meanest people that ever lived?

The point I wish to make is simply this, the meanest thing any of us is capable of doing is to continue sinning and excusing that sin by a presumptive response such as, “Oh well, I’m only human,” or, “everybody sins everyday in thought, word and deed”. While weakness of the flesh is a continual problem for us all, it is not an excuse for continuing in sin. God forbid that we should continue sinning because we are now under grace. The meanest thing we can do is to take for granted His love and grace. We don’t have to shove that crown of thorns on His blooded brow.

~ Brother Roy

A Tree by the Water

old oak treeStanding less than a hundred yards from the water’s edge on the coast road just outside Bayou La Batre, Alabama, is an old live oak tree. There is nothing between the old tree and the water to break the wind and waves. The old tree is battered and gnarled from many storms and hurricanes across its lifetime. There are limbs missing and the clumps of leaves have been blown away. Yet, there it stands as if defiant of all the storms that have assaulted it across the years. It is a survivor. It has taken the blows and is still standing.

Our days here on earth are often marked with major storms that can change the landscape of our lives. Catastrophic illness, family breakups, financial failures, and other crises may topple our plans and dreams. Is there something that can help people like us stand up against the storms that sweep across our lives? That old live oak stands as a testimony to endurance. God can help the things He has created to stand against adversity.  Here are a few lessons drawn from the old oak on the shore:

  • Believers are a planting of God. “That they may be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified.” (Isaiah 61:3b)
  • As a planting of God, believers may prosper under His hand. Those who are planted in the house of the Lord shall flourish in the courts of our God.” (Psalms 92:13-14)
  • God’s planting can withstand the storms because of a deep root system. “For he shall be like a tree planted by the waters, which spreads out its roots…”  (Jeremiah 17:8)
  • Through faith believers can be “rooted and grounded in love(Ephesians 3:17). They can “be rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith…” (Colossians 2:7). This rooting and grounding can enable believers to withstand the storms of life.
  • The plantings of God can stand against the storms across a lifetime, even into old age. It seems to me at this point in my life, 71 years old and under assault from cancer, that the storms often increase in number and intensity with age. My comfort is in Psalm 92:14: “They shall still bear fruit in old age; They shall be fresh and flourishing.”

My mind hearkens back to a chorus I used to sing in youth group so long ago:

“Just like a tree that’s planted by the water, I shall not be moved.”

~ Brother Roy

Samburu Update

kenya flagLast week I heard from Michael Lolwerikoi in Samburu, Kenya. There had been a recent robbery attempt on him as he traveled north into the region where we have drilled wells. Highwaymen shot the rear tires on his Land Cruiser. He kept driving on shredded rubber and the rims reaching safety when a group of vehicles headed south came to his aid. Michael is safe, but suffered the loss of very expensive tires. Since NHIM helped with the first water well in the area, Michael reports that there are 16 wells now in operation. We are thankful that a couple of other like-minded missions have taken up the cause.

The Minister of Parliament in the Samburu region was shot recently. He was a friend of NHIM’s work in that region. I met with him the last time I was it the area. I do not have an update on his condition.  Pray for the Lord’s protection as Michael ministers in this unstable and dangerous area.

With the help of Sam Powdrill and Tenwek Hospital, NHIM sponsored the first eye clinic in the region. Sixty-five people who were blind due to cataracts and/or trachoma received their sight. Now more than a year later, the Tenwek team has taken two more clinics to Samburu. Approximately two hundred and fifty people can now see. Praise the Lord!

Catherine, Michael’s niece who graduated from Asbury University in 2012, will receive her Master’s Degree in May. Her degree in the area of Community Development in Third World Countries will be invaluable as she works among her  people in Samburu.

~ Brother Roy


DSC_0443As an early riser, I love to see the sunrise. I’ve seen and photographed beautiful sunrises in Africa, across most of the Caribbean Islands, Hawaii, the South Pacific, Peru and a many other venues. One of my favorites places to watch the sun come up is Dauphin Island, Alabama. Precious Christian friends, Wayne and Pam Eldridge, have a lovely beach house on the island. They have graciously invited us to come whenever we can to rest from our labor and enjoy the beauty of Dauphin Island.

As the sun pushes toward the horizon, it seems the darkness tries, if only momentarily, to retain its grip on the dark skies. My heart always quickens a beat in anticipation of the burst of golden light that inevitably overcomes the night. Soon the shadows flee and before my admiring eyes the sunrise paints the scene with golden hues. Words from a contemporary chorus well up inside: “He clothes Himself in light, the darkness tries to hide, and trembles at His sight and trembles at His sight – How great is our God!”

DSC_0296For a brief moment, in my mind’s eye, I can stand as an observer of Genesis 1: 1-3:  In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. Then God said, ‘Let there be light’; and there was light.”

Often special memories come to me of a dark night, long ago in eastern Kentucky. I was 15 years old and becoming increasingly aware of my sin-dark soul. I was attending a revival in a little Free Will Baptist Church that sat beside the railroad tracks. The massive coal trains would rumble by and literally shake the church. As they passed by, the powerful locomotives belched out smoke, cinders, and soot. A dark cloud covered everything. My soul was shaken with conviction. My dark, sin-ladened heart trembled in fear. It was there I heard Jesus say… “I have come as a light into the world, that whoever believes in Me should not abide in darkness” (John 12:46). 

DSC_0603That dark night, the light of Christ came to me. Since then, I have been privileged to witness many marvelous sunrises. But none can compare to the explosion of light that flooded my soul that night. The reality of John 8:12 was mine: “Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, ‘I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life’.” For 56 years, Jesus has been the light of my life.


~ Brother Roy

They’re Out There

Daniel_Boone_National_Forest_Tater_KnobOur church planting ministry in eastern Kentucky is experiencing amazing success. A frequently asked question keeps coming up, “Where are you going to find pastors for all the new churches?” I respond with a story David Spencer shared with me about a missionary who was working with an unreached people group:  An old missionary was serving in an area that had never heard the Gospel. The Lord was richly blessing and new congregations were popping up everywhere. In this region with an unreached population, friends started asking, “Where do you think you are going to find preachers for all these new churches?” The old missionary simply replied, “Oh, they are out there! They’ve just not been saved yet.”

The wisdom in that little story seems to be coming true for us. We now have several young men and women who have been ‘called’ to join us in this ministry. We are providing mentoring, teaching sessions, and reading material for them. Training sessions have been occurring over recent months. Early morning prayer meetings are held on a weekly basis with members of our new ministry team. David is overseeing sermon and devotional preparation. Initially, they all have had an opportunity to preach trial sermons before the group and be evaluated. Now, many of them are regularly filling pulpits where needed. We are also working with Kentucky Mountain Bible College to develop strong practical programs that will be tailored to the needs of working people. In-service and on-the-job training is essential. It will be necessary for our start-up churches to have bi-vocational pastors. We are thankful for the enthusiasm and commitment of these men and women. Without them we would not be able to continue expanding our ministry.

Let me share two specific examples of the Lord’s provisions for this ministry:

  1. After Malaga Community Church joined our ministry, Mark England, a student and part time employee of Kentucky Mountain Bible College, expressed interest in participating of our ministry. As Mark preached a few Sundays for us at Malaga, a strong bond developed between Mark’s family and the community. Mark is now the pastor of the church and doing very well.
  2. When Faith Community Church in Baxter, Kentucky, became a part of our ministry, we mainly filled the pulpit with our new preachers in training. After a few months, Freddie Finley, an elementary teacher at Mt. Carmel Elementary School, felt the call to pastoral ministry and preached several times for us at Faith Community Church. Within a few weeks, the congregation had adopted Freddie and his family. Freddie is now the pastor at Faith Community Church and will be moving into the community when this school year is finished.

2 Chronicles 16:9 says, “For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show Himself strong on behalf of those whose heart is loyal to Him” (NKJ).    Are you one of those on whose behalf the Lord wants to show Himself strong? Our Church Planting Ministry needs people who are committed to helping fulfill the “Great Commission”. Will you pray for us and support us as the Lord may direct? Contact us at New Hope International for ways you can be involved.

~ Brother Roy

We Have a Dropout Problem

Hand written "I Quit" on a greenboardFor thirty-three years, I served on the faculty of Asbury University. Each fall at Freshman Orientation a new set of bright, expectant faces gathered for the opening of the school year. Realistically, I knew many of them would not make it until the end of the year, let alone four years until graduation. For various reasons, they would drop out. Our educational systems seem plagued with dropouts. The problem of high school dropouts is staggering. Thousands of young men and women prematurely leave school, unprepared for the future.

Even more alarming to me as a minister, as well as a teacher, is the dropout rate from the Church. I’m sad to say that a majority of the people who join a church will become inactive and eventually drop out. This is not a new problem for the Church. John’s Gospel records a day when Jesus gave the people who were following Him  “a hard saying”  (John 6:66 NKJ), and, “From that time many of His disciples went back and walked with Him no more.”

Though many more problems could be cited, may I share with you four ways why so many people in our day drop out of church?

  • Those who act mainly on emotion and impulse often become dropouts. They give a semblance of conversion, but as time passes their commitment wanes. In Matthew 13:3-9 (NKJ), Jesus shares the parable of the sower. Then, Jesus explains the parable in verses 18 to 23. Notice verses 20 & 21: But he who received the seed on stony places, this is he who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy, yet he has no root in himself, but endures only for a while. For when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately he stumbles.”  Ephesians 3:17 admonishes believers to be “rooted and grounded” in faith, lest they fall away.
  • Those who do not participate regularly in corporate worship are candidates for becoming dropouts.  Hebrews 10:22-25: “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful. And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much more as you see the Day approaching.”  Ignatius, one of the revered early Church Fathers, says, “When ye frequently, and in numbers meet together, the powers of Satan are overthrown, and his mischief is neutralized by your like-mindedness in the faith.” I will concede that there are circumstances that may prevent worshiping with other believers.  However, when we are able, it is not wise to forsake the assembling of ourselves together.
  • Those who seek to follow Christ amid other pursuits often become numbered with the dropouts. College students who put social life, athletics, etc., as their priority may not keep Christ supreme in their lives. People who want to follow Christ as one among many interests are often destined to drop out. In Matthew 13:22, Jesus says, “Now he who received seed among the thorns is he who hears the word, and the cares of this world and the deceitful of riches choke the word, and he becomes unfruitful.” To follow Christ means an exclusive commitment to Him. Jesus will tolerate no rivals. In Matthew 6:24, Jesus says, “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other; or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.”
  • Those who want to make Jesus fit into their own plans and schemes are in danger of becoming dropouts.  Today we want a moral code that will let us do what we want to do. People will soon discover they cannot manipulate Jesus into their religious mold. They drop out. Romans 12:2 gives the following instructions: “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.”

“The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but he who heeds counsel is wise.”  Proverbs 12:15

~ Brother Roy