First Church Family,
I’m away in my favorite country other than our own, the beautiful country of Greece. I studied here in college, and later in graduate school, and then was able to be here with my daughter several years ago.
Greece has an incredibly significant history. It was the birthplace of medicine, philosophy, theater, and democracy. And it has significance to our faith.
The Apostle Paul established the Church at Corinth and wrote two lengthy treatises to members of that church (as recorded in 1 and 2 Corinthians.) The Corinthian Church had many problems – and Paul wrote expansive responses to their misbehavior, responses that have been used for more than 2,000 years as guides to church life.
Today, I stood on the rocks in Athens where Paul addressed Athenian intellectuals that had gathered to speak of religion and philosophy. There were statues to the many Greek gods, but there was not a statue to the one true God.
Paul took advantage of their ignorance. He found a statue to an unknown god and shared that he himself knew that God and wished to tell them about Him.
Their inquisitive minds were piqued. Paul then took the opportunity to tell them all about the one true God. They listened attentively, until he told them of the eternal life that they could receive in and through faith in this Sovereign God.
At that point, the brilliant men from Athens laughed and withdrew their interest, saying that there couldn’t be any such God who had the power to allow them to live forever with Him.
That’s hard for us to believe, too, isn’t it? Yesterday on the Greek Island of Rhodes, I had the opportunity to speak with a young twenty-three-year-old Russian man who was one of my guides. I asked him about Russian history and politics, including what his people thought of Russian president Vladimir Putin.
Then, I shared that I am a Christian pastor and asked him if he had faith in God. He responded that he was passively Russian Orthodox but didn’t have anything close to a depth of faith. My heart grew heavy for the young guide. I pray that God might someday use our brief conversation as a catalyst to bring him closer to Him.
But, really, many of us live the same kind of life that he lives, living on the outside as passive Christians but not feeling either God’s presence or power.
My life is always impacted by my travel to places where Bible figures lived and modeled faith. And my faith was strengthened today in Greece.
When you finish this newsletter letter, turn to Acts 17 and walk with Paul in Athens. If you delve deeply, God presence and power with intersect with your mind and spirit.
I will return home to Lenoir after the coming Labor Day weekend. I look forward being with you then; but my prayers are with you now.
Blessings and love,
First Church Family,