Saturday, April 29, 2006


“...A measure of wheat for a penny, and three measures of barley for a penny; and see thou hurt not the oil and the wine.” (Revelation 6:6)

That verse from the Book of Revelation describes a time during the coming future Tribulation period in which inflation will be absolutely out of control, necessities will cost huge sums of money (the old English “penny” represents the Biblical denarius or one day’s wages), and ultimately the economy will collapse.  It seemed to me to be an appropriate verse for this topic.

Back in the 1960s, Exxon (well, then it was called “Esso”) used to advertise, “Put a Tiger in Your Tank!”.  I won’t be doing that for quite awhile.  Several years ago, Exxon merged with Mobil to form Exxon-Mobil, the world’s biggest oil company.  Exxon-Mobil has had RECORD-BREAKING profits over the past year.  Most of you know that Mr. Raymond, the C.E.O. of Exxon-Mobil received an obscenely high compensation and retirement package.  An e-mail has been circulating, calling for American consumers to boycott Exxon-Mobil.  A few days ago, I heard on the radio that one Texas County has officially called for a boycott against Exxon-Mobil.  If virtually NOBODY bought Exxon or Mobil gasoline or oil, they would be FORCED to drop their price and ultimately all other gasoline suppliers would have to drop their prices.  Someone phoned in a question to one of those “financial experts” on the radio asking if the premise of that e-mail is REALLY valid- if such a boycott of Exxon-Mobil would REALLY work.  (This is not an urban legend, I HEARD the radio program myself!)  The expert was very skeptical that the American public would really band together and boycott Exxon-Mobil, but he said that IF the American public really did that, he believed such a boycott WOULD work.

For those of you in the Framingham, MA area, you know there is an Exxon station almost right around the corner from where I live.  Each Tuesday, the station lowers its prices to below the usual retail prices and cars FLOOD into the station.  People should NOT do that!  On Wednesdays, the price goes back up.  The local station and Exxon are doing a spectacular business there.  They are learning NOTHING!  They are paying no price for their greed.  I shake my head when I drive by (or walk by) that station on Tuesdays.  I’m serious.  I’m not buying Exxon or Mobil gas in 2006 UNLESS their price drops below $2 a gallon, and even then, I may wait for $1.89.


That’s it.  See you at the Shell station, or the Hess station, or the local independent station...

Thursday, April 27, 2006


“But as God is true, our word toward you was not yea and nay.” (2 Corinthians 1:18)

Despite the title’s implications, this piece has NOTHING to do with a tribe of Indians (or is it “Native Americans”?) from southwestern New England!  Rather, I’m going to tell you a story and draw some applications from it.

When I was a young kid growing up in Canton, Massachusetts we had a generally close relationship with the kids next door.  I won’t use their real names- I’ll call them the Banks family.  We grew up with the Banks family.  We played with them- rode bikes- went places- did stupid things which ended up in Mr. and Mrs. Banks punishing them and Mr. and Mrs. Baril punishing us.  All that kind of stuff.  But PERIODICALLY the Banks kids would go through an amazing transformation which would be sad and disturbing for us Baril kids.

The Banks kids had cousins from Connecticut...well to be more accurate, they had an Uncle and Aunt and cousins from Connecticut.  Once or twice a year, the Connecticut family would come to Canton and stay with the Banks’ for anywhere from 1 to 3 days.  You just didn’t want to be around the Banks kids when that happened.  Oh, the kids from Connecticut were nice enough.  They were not mean or bullies or anything like that.  But when the black ‘62 Chevrolet Bel-Air sedan sporting those deep blue Connecticut license plates pulled into that driveway, the Banks kids changed.  To look at them, it was as though they were INTOXICATED from ingesting some sort of a very powerful mind-altering drug. They looked happy and STUPEFIED.  All reason “went out the window”.  All manners “went out the window”.  All memories of the close friendships we had with them “went out the window”.  The Banks wanted nothing to do with the Barils as long as the Connecticut cousins were present.  Nothing.  Well, that’s not even accurate.  That would have been easier. It was more like they did not want us around but they wanted to TORMENT us by letting us know how wonderful it was that this family (we Baril kids referred to them as “the Connecticuts”) was present.  I remember that on one visit, the Banks’ kids and their cousins were given some sort of treats.  The Banks kids shouted gleefully and ecstatically, “None for the Barils!  NONE for the Barils!”

When “the Connecticuts” would leave, it would take Jimmy and Robbie Banks up to 48 hours to completely get the “drug” out of their systems.  They might seem O.K., then launch into a moment of making a cruel remark or a bragging statement about the people from Connecticut.  But it would quickly lapse.  We learned not to take this stuff too seriously.  We knew it would just take that two days to get it completely out of their systems.  Then they were their usual friendly selves again.  We eventually became conditioned that when we saw that ‘62 Bel-Air pull into the driveway-  we knew to just sadly go home and let the thing run its course.

I told that story, because I’ve found that the Banks’ kids are not the only ones who suffered from “the Connecticuts” disease.  I’ve learned that it can affect people of any age and any background.  For many years, there was a woman in our church in Framingham who would be fine until her parents came up from Florida for a week long visit.  She (granted in a somewhat more adult manner) would enter into the same trancelike state which would actually produce states of inconsistency and irrationality.  And, she ain’t the only one!  I’ve seen people who’ve make commitments and promises completely change when some relative or friend from out-of-town shows up.  You may think I’m making much too much of this, but I don’t think I am.  Imagine if Governor Romney’s brother (if he has a brother) showed up for a week, rendering him zombie-like and incapable of Governing the state.  (I know, I know, some of you liberal Democrats think he already IS zombie-like and incapable of running the state!)  Imagine if Simon Cowell just sat drooling and staring into space on American Idol because his parents from England were in the audience.   Imagine how you’d feel if your morning paper was not delivered because the delivery man’s sister from Brazil was visiting and he just forgot about his job.  

Am I saying we should not love our families, spend time with them, and be excited to see them?  Of course not!  I’m just saying that I’m AMAZED at the hold some people’s friends and relatives have on them... to the point that they will actually CHANGE, and can even become unpleasant to be around.

If I hadn’t seen that a number of times, I wouldn’t be writing about it.  I have many faults, but one thing I’m proud of (and I hope it’s not a sinful kind of pride) is that I’m consistent and I don’t let things like the stuff I’ve described above affect my commitments and my life in general.  I don’t think somebody’s arrival should totally change me for the duration of their visit.  If you’re like the Banks kids, I hope this at least makes you take inventory of how your STUPOR (over whatever are “the Connecticuts” in your life) may affect and even hurt others.   As the Scripture says, “...let your yea be yea...  Be consistent.  Don’t be manipulated.  And to quote the words of a minister friend from many years ago, “If you still love me, say Amen!”.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006


“For while one saith, I am of Paul;  and another, I am of Apollos; are ye not carnal?”  (I Corinthians 3:4)

I’ve been “all over the place” politically during my life!  My parents were registered Democrats.  I would call them “conservative Democrats”.  Like most registered Democrats, they favored government programs which helped working-class people.  They viewed Franklin D. Roosevelt and Harry Truman  as heroes.  In the 1950s my parents DIDN’T particularly like J.F.K.  They voted for Nixon in 1960, although I think they both regretted that, and they considered J.F.K. a surprisingly good President.  As a young person, it was clear to me that the Democrats were good and the Republicans were bad.  Democrats cared about the struggles of Black people.  Democrats like R.F.K. and Gene McCarthy wanted to end the Vietnam War (as I did).  (I guess it didn’t occur to me that Democrat President Johnson ESCALATED the Vietnam War.)  Like most 18-year-olds, I did not state a party preference when I registered to vote in 1972, but I strongly leaned toward the Democrats.  I proudly cast my vote for George McGovern in the ‘72 Presidential election, and I was devastated when he lost.  I just could not understand how ANYONE could vote for “evil” Tricky Dick Nixon.   Again, it was all too simple:  Democrats were good and Republicans were bad.

In 1976 I proudly cast my vote for Jimmy Carter.  1976 was one of the very few years in which the evangelical Protestant vote overwhelmingly went for the Democrats.  Jimmy Carter was a “born-again Christian”... a guy who endorsed Billy Graham and espoused Graham’s message of “making a personal commitment to Christ”... a guy who taught Bible classes.  The paperback book “The Miracle of Jimmy Carter” sold like hotcakes in Christian bookstores.  I was one of millions who bought it and LOVED Carter.

Like millions of evangelicals, I was very disappointed in Jimmy Carter’s presidency.  I expected him to be a crusader against abortion, for prayer in the public schools, and for Godliness.  While Carter was “personally” for most of the agenda of the evangelicals, he was a political realist and understandably loyal to the Democrat Party establishment.  Double-digit inflation, out-of-control interest rates, the Iranian hostage crisis, and Carter’s frankly inept leadership left this one-time liberal Democrat kid confused and disgusted.  By 1980 I was a registered Republican and a huge fan of Ronald Reagan.  

I was ECSTATIC when Reagan was elected in 1980 and even more thrilled that “pro-abortion” George McGovern was defeated for reelection to the U.S. Senate.  I now knew who the good guys and bad guys were.  Obviously, George McGovern was not the outstanding man I’d believed him to be in 1972.  He was a cruel ungodly man who wanted babies aborted.  Ted Kennedy was pretty-much the Antichrist.  Ronald Reagan was the greatest man alive.  Yup, it was all too simple:  Republicans were good and Democrats were bad.

I spent almost fifteen years as not just a conservative Republican, but a far right wing Jesse Helms admiring ideologue.  I was disappointed in 1988 when “God’s man” Pat Robertson was defeated for the Republican nomination by the “internationalist country club Republican” George Bush.   As a good hard-line right winger, I held my nose and voted FOR George Bush and against Michael Dukakis for President.  I was thoroughly disgusted by Clinton’s election and reelection, but something began to happen within me during the Clinton years.  I turned 40, and I finally grew up.  Although I was clearly on the conservative side of MOST major issues, I was not on the conservative side on all of them.  In watching political roundtable shows, I was surprised to agree with the liberals about one-fourth of the time.  I began noting that I had evangelical minister friends who were not necessarily RepRepublicans or even conservatives.  And I LIKED these people.  

I’m still registered Republican and I’m mostly conservative, but I don’t think life or politics are “all too simple”.  I’m bothered by two kinds of people that I frequently run into:  Those who HATE George W. Bush and consider him evil incarnate, AND those who LOVE George W. Bush and believe he is incapable of doing anything wrong.  Both types are ideologues.  Both see a world that’s “all too simple”.  Both are wrong.

Ideology.  Is is really ideology, or is it IDOLATRY?
This is part of why I’ve really resonated with the Framingham Interfaith Clergy Association’s efforts this year to foster a climate of peace, UNDERSTANDING, and respectful dialogue.  When it comes to this political, ideological intolerance, I grew up at 40.  I hope most people won’t wait that long...

Saturday, April 22, 2006


“...behold, now is the accepted time...” (2 Corinthians 6:2).

Now.  Now is the time.  My late parents taught me many things.  There’s one thing they are still teaching me, almost six years after their deaths:  Don’t procrastinate.  My parents were mostly good people.  They were “human”. They had their good points and their bad points.  Two of their WORST points were that they were each pack rats and they were each very severe procrastinators.  They died of natural causes within just a few weeks of each other.  As pack rats and procrastinators, they left my sister and I the monumental task of going through all of their “stuff” and finishing many projects they’d started.  My sister lives in the house where we were raised in nearby Canton, MA.  I thank God she lives there.  We could NEVER have readied that property for a “quick sale” unless we just sold it as is with all the stuff in it.  We are still cleaning up and fixing up the house!

The second floor of the oversized “Cape Cod” style house was unfinished.  There was a half built stone wall that was never finished.  There was a homemade fence that was never finished.  My mother left letters and magazines from the 1970s and 1960s, lots of them.  There were broken down appliances.  There were books and books and books, and clothes and clothes and clothes.

Frustrated, my sister has said, “They never finished anything!  I want to finish things!”  I agree.

My parents would be in their early 80s today.  I think they each envisioned living into their 90s, healthy, and having all their projects and plans completed, but it just never happened.  Life “got away from them”.  Like my sister, I also do not not want to leave behind a mess to clean up.  Being a minister, I think I’m particularly cognizant that life is short.  I admit that I can be “driven” to get things done- maybe too much so, but I’ve seen the danger of putting things off.  

This blog is a good discipline for me.  Unless I’m out-of-town (as I will be in a few weeks) I make sure I post something on it every Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday.  I have checklists and daily routines and disciplines.  I know that may seem a bit fanatical, but I’m pretty much my own boss (well, I do answer to my Church Board, but they’re pretty good and usually don’t put too much pressure on me).  I  want to make sure I use my time and energy wisely.  

I’m really not putting my parents down, in case you’re thinking that!  I miss my parents.  I frankly miss them much more than I ever thought I would.  There are so many times I wish I could just sit down and have a conversation with them, but I can’t.  But their procrastination has left a tough burden  for our family to deal with.  I feel so strongly about this:  don’t procrastinate.  Don’t put things off.  Be disciplined.  Follow through with what you need to follow through with.  What’s that one thing you REALLY need to do today?  Do it!

Thursday, April 20, 2006


"All things are lawful unto me, but all things are not expedient:  all things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any."  (2 Corinthians 6:12)

I'm not sure why, but many Christians LOVE to "RAIL" against sin.

"God will JUDGE the homosexuals!" they proclaim.

"Put that cigarette out!  Your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit!"  is another familiar line.

Some even proclaim that Jesus didn't drink wine- only grape juice.

Despite all of the self-righteous pontificating, I have rarely heard anyone bring up the issue of addiction to caffeine.  Could it be because they ARE addicted to caffeine?  As of this writing, I am addicted to caffeine.  I also know that addiction to caffeine is clearly in violation of 2 Corinthians 6:12 which is quoted above.  Probably 50-70% of the adult population of the United States of America is addicted to caffeine, and that statistic would be about the same for evangelical Christians and non-evangelical Christians.

I've been drinking caffeinated beverages as long as I can remember.  Although it was usually reserved for special occasions, I certainly drank my share of Coke and Pepsi as a kid.  We also drank tea, although it was heavily diluted with milk.  I drank my first cup of coffee when I was 12.  Like most 12-year-olds, I didn't think it tasted all that great, but with lots of cream and sugar, it was tolerable.  By the time I was 18, I could drink coffee with the best of 'em.  At that age, I still prefered cola drinks and tea to coffee, but I was probably drinking three or four cups of coffee a week.  I went on staff at Christian Life Center church in Walpole in 1981. There was an "industrial strength" coffeemaker at the staff's disposal throughout the workday.  It became normal for me to drink at least 3 mugs full of coffee a day, and sometimes more.  By the mid-1980s I absolutely LOVED the taste and smell of coffee and was completely addicted to caffeine.  I knew  I was addicted because if I ever skipped caffeine for a day, and once-in-a while I did, I had the WORST headache, plus overwhelming fatigue and irritability

One Sunday this past summer, I preached on 2 Corinthians chapter 6.  In dealing with verse 12, I admitted my caffeine addiction, that it was wrong, and that it was something I knew I had to deal with before God.  The trouble was, I couldn't figure out WHEN I could ever get off caffeine.  I certainly wasn't going to do it while working, or I couldn't get my work done.  I certainly wasn't going to do it while on vacation, because that would ruin my vacation.

Lent is not a big deal in the Assemblies of God, but this past Lent I decided to see if I could LIMIT my caffeine intake.  I allowed myself to have caffeine first thing in the morning and in the evening, but NONE during the bulk of the day.  Having a decaf coffee in the middle of the afternoon and drinking caffeine free Coke at home during lunch helped me to "pretend" I was still drinking caffeine.  I wondered if after Lent I would just go back to my "normal" pattern.  I haven't.  Now, I did say I'm still addicted to caffeine.  I am, but much less so.  I'm actually writing this on Wednesday afternoon at 2:20 p.m.  So far today I have not had caffeine at all.  I AM starting to feel just a little bit tired, but there's no headache and I really don't feel too bad.  (I will probably have my first coffee of the day in awhile.)  Last night at our Board meeting I had two cups of real coffee.  This morning my heart was RACING from too much caffeine.  I actually saw that as a good thing.  Because I'm now a lot LESS addicted to it, it's starting to really affect me.  (Six months ago I could drink 3 strong coffees in the late evening, fall asleep and sleep like a baby!)

I'm just taking this one day at a time.  I'm not totally off caffeine.  I may or may not eventually get totally off of it.  I still like the "pick me up" a real cup of coffee or a caffinated Coke gives me.  I just want to be a lot less dependent on the stuff.  

I was thinking about what to post on my blog on Thursday morning.  Since I realized it's now after 2 and I have not had any caffeine yet today, I just thought I'd write about that.

Again, I'm not COMPLETELY off caffeine so don't yell at me if you see me drinking a real Coke or a real coffee, but it does feel good to be LESS dependent,  and maybe '07 will be the year I'm completely off the caffeine.

I'd love to hear your comments!.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006


The last piece I wrote on this blog was “Could Michael Graham Be Right?”  I almost entitled this one, “Could Howie Carr Be Wrong?”!  For those of you who don’t know, Howie Carr is Michael Graham’s competition on WRKO Boston.  Every year Howie Carr laments the Boston Marathon and wishes it would just go away.  Howie wouldn’t be too happy with me because I really like the Boston Marathon.

I realize the race IS inconvenient and disruptive for many people.  It IS true that the race generates a tremendous amount of litter; and I know the worst part of it is runners indiscriminately urinating all over the place.  Even so, I think it’s quite a feat for someone to run 26 miles!

I’ve been a participant in several “Walk-a-thons” over the years- the last one was ten years ago.  In school I was one of the last kids picked for teams in gym class.  My father was embarrassed because I wasn’t a great athlete.  Well, let’s call it for what it is:  I wasn’t an athlete period.  But the one great physical achievement I’ve done IS that I’ve completed those lengthy “Walk-a-thons” and each time that I did, I felt like a quarterback who won the Super Bowl!  Thus, I can imagine what it must be to RUN that distance.

Hebrews chapter twelve pictures the Christian life as a race in which the “Old Testament saints” (as we evangelicals call them) are spectators cheering us on, and Jesus is our coach.  We are to run the race with endurance (see Hebrews 12:1-13).  We are not to give up.  Life itself is also like a grueling race.  Life has its exhilarating moments as well as its heartbreak hills.  Interestingly enough, if the Boston Marathon were an allegory of a human life span,  downtown Framingham (where I watch the race) would represent someone who is roughly 18-years-old.  That’s such a key time in life.  At Framingham, some are filled with joy and enthusiasm, and some look like they’re already about to quit.  With my loud voice I yell,

“All right, Matt, All right!”
“Go Sarah!”
“All right, Canada!”
“Kevin’s Dad, All right!”

Many smile and say “thank you!”

Will this loud, eccentric “Franco-American” (my mom HATED that ethnic term) 51-year-old’s exhortation help even one runner stay positive and make it to the end? I like to think so!

I didn’t put a lot of thought into this piece.  I’m just sitting at the computer writing.  I know that my own life has been mostly NOT easy.  I struggle over the issues of:

---Am I a good leader?

---Am I a good husband and father?

---Indeed I AM loud and eccentric.  Do people dislike that?  Do they dislike me?

---Sometimes I can be the life of the party...but are they laughing WITH me or are they laughing AT me?

---Even:  The Framingham church continues to be small.  Does that mean I’m NOT a good pastor?

The Bible is a great comfort and encouragement to me and helps me deal with all those (and other) issues.   To use a very rural, Southern expression:  I’LL TELL YOU WHAT -  I’d love to hear somebody say “All right, BOB, You can DO it!”

In my heart, I believe Jesus IS saying that.  

This is the most open I’ve been so far on this blog.  Maybe it helps you understand why I love the Boston Marathon and why I show up to cheer those runners on!

Saturday, April 15, 2006


If you are from outside of the Boston area, and/or are from outside of the Washington, DC area you may not even know who Michael Graham is.  Michael is a popular “afternoon drive” radio talk show host who broadcasts on Boston’s WTKK “96.9 FMTalk”.  Graham was actually fired from his radio gig at a big Washington, DC station less than a year ago.  I feel bad he got fired, but I also say, “thank God!”.  He’s brought such a fresh and interesting perspective to Boston radio, AND the guy’s a riot!

Michael has a lot to say about illegal aliens, the Iraq war, even the killing of turkeys in Canton, MA for that matter, but my title, “COULD MICHAEL GRAHAM BE RIGHT?” is not about any of those issues.  Michael has some interesting observations about how people DRESS for CHURCH ATTENDANCE.  That’s what I want to talk about just before Easter.

Although Michael grew up in an evangelical Protestant home in the South and graduated from Oral Robers University, he married a Roman Catholic girl and is raising his kids as Catholics.  He also attends the Catholic church with his family.  (For you evangelicals, I know ... I know ... how could he do that? etc. ...but that’s not the topic of this posting.)  Michael Graham has observed on several occasions that the people at Catholic masses he has attended dress like bums. Well, “bums” is my word, but I think Michael has a good point.  It’s not limited to the Catholic church, however.  The trend in all churches, with the exception of African-American churches (and most Hispanic churches) is that people absolutely dress like slobs.  In the Catholic church, that trend was beginning as far back as the middle 1970s.  Many of my peers began dressing like they were going out to mow the lawn when they went to church.  My parents, especially my Dad, were VERY strict about the proper way to dress for church.  Back in the 1970s when I was a young adult, I always dressed up for church.  

When I was a new Assembiles of God minister in the early 1980s all A/G ministers dressed really nice for church, and MOST A/G laypeople did also.  I hope I won’t get any nasty letters about this, but I think the group that started the trend toward casual dress in evangelical circles is Vineyard Christian Fellowship. Now, I’ve got friends in “the Vineyard”, at times I’ve worshipped at the Framingham, MA “Vineyard” church, and I LOVE most of the “Vineyard” music- and we use a lot of it at our church.  But the Vineyard look is casual AND I MEAN CASUAL.  It started at Vineyard Christian Fellowship thirty years ago, but today casual dress among evangelicals at church is the norm.  Have you ever seen Rick Warren, author of the “Purpose Driven...” books?  Any time I’ve ever seen him interviewed on television he’s wearing a bright, open-collared Hawaiian shirt- and he’s overweight, to boot, so that makes the shirt look worse.  He just doesn’t LOOK like a pastor... I’m sorry, but he doesn’t.

Now, I do realize we have to be open for people to “come as they are” to church (see James chapter 2) and I fully agree with that.  AND, I realize that Easter Sunday is the one Sunday that people tend to dress up- they tend to RIDICULOUSLY dress up to show off their fancy and expensive clothes.  (I’ll be wearing one of my semi-worn-out off-the-rack suits for Easter- no expensive stuff for me!)  I realize we CAN make far too much of dress and appearance, and I know that putting dress and appearance above all else would definitely be wrong.  I know I probably sound like “an old fuddy duddy”.  It’s just that Michael Graham has brought this up and spent time on his show discussing it several times.  He’s at least eight years younger than I am, but I find it interesting that he obviously feels the same way I do about appropriate attire for church.

Just curious, how do YOU feel about it? Could Michael Graham be right?

Now, I DO know the Bible says, “...whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God”.  (I Corinthians 10:31)

Thursday, April 13, 2006


Did anybody see “King of the Hill” on FOX television this past Sunday night (April 9)?   I’ve been a fan of “King of the Hill” since it went on the air in early 1997.  The nice thing about cartoon shows is that the characters either do not age at all or age VERY slowly.  The Hill family has probably aged about one year in the past nine.

Sunday night’s episode was GREAT.  It was not the first time the show has dealt with church issues, but this was the best treatment of church issues BY FAR.  In the plot of Sunday night’s show, the Hills are late for church one Sunday morning at Arlen First Methodist and “their” seats are taken by a new family.  The new family refuses to change seats so the Hills can sit in “their” regular seats.  The female pastor (no offense to folks from Minnesota but she has an ANNOYING Minneapolis area accent) has no sympathy for the Hills.  Embarrassed and frustrated, the Hills look for another church.  Over the next few weeks they visit a wild and crazy Pentecostal church (now, I’M Pentecostal, but this one REALLY WAS wild and crazy), a Spanish-speaking Roman Catholic church, and a mega church which features a coffee and doughnut restaurant, a movie theater, and large screen High Definition television.  The Hills happily join the mega church.  Hank finds out, however that all that glitters is not gold.  The church has activities just about EVERY night, and the pastor and people are overbearing and controlling (though nice and well-meaning).  

After a few weeks, the Hills decide they need to be back at Arlen’s First Methodist.  They make up with the pastor, and conveniently, the new family who had sat in the Hill’s pew decide to switch to the mega church.

If I knew what the episode would be, I absolutely would have taped it and used it for discussion in a Sunday School class over the summer. (Yeah, I realize technically that usage would be illegal, but to anyone who is thinking that, please get a life.)

Ten years ago I began postulating that the church of the mid-Twenty-First Century would be vastly different from the church of the 1990s. - that by that time all churches would be either mega churches or very small churches of under fifty in attendance.  In fact, that trend is ALREADY taking place!  I heard a news item within the past few days that medium-sized churches in America (churches of 150-300) are in decline and are projected to continue to decline.  The churches that are growing are the very small ones and the very big ones.  Although Arlen’s FIrst Methodist IS a medium-sized church and appeared to “win the battle” in this episode, sociological and demographic studies tell us they will ultimately lose the war.

I’m not saying I LIKE that’s just reality.  My wife DIDN’T like the “King of the Hill” episode.  She felt like the Hills were babies and got exactly what they wanted.  My young adult son, Jon, commented, “Yeah, but that’s realistic.  THAT’S how it is in churches!”  He’s right.

When we’re out-of-state visiting churches, my wife actually prefers to visit mega churches.  I find them kind of overwhelming and out-of-touch with the struggles of small churches.  I suspect that “should the Lord tarry” someday when we’re retired, we’ll probably be in a mega church, though!

What did Jesus say about church size?  “For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.”  (Matthew 18:20)

Tuesday, April 11, 2006


It seems like every year the media comes out with some sort of crazy “story with a religious theme” every year at the Easter/Passover season.  This year it’s the the bizarre “Gospel of Judas” story.  I thought about addressing that and giving my thoughts about why the “Gospel of Judas” is just a lot of garbage, but I’d rather share MY OWN Easter season thought provoking story with you!

Have you ever become troubled or confused in your reading of the Bible because certain passages seemed contradictory?  I think most of us have had this experience.  Critics of the Bible have singled out many so-called contradictions in their attempts to disprove its accuracy.  The accounts in the four Gospels of the Passion of Our Lord have especially been attacked by unbelievers.  As Christians, we know that it is the critics of the Bible who are seriously in error!  Many times, however, we still do not know how to answer them.  I’d like to share a personal experience I had many years ago about a portion from the Passion story that confused me, and the answer and insight that were given to me by the Holy Spirit.

One of the most familiar stories in the Passion accounts is that of the notorious prisoner Barabbas who was released to the crowd instead of Jesus. As I read the narrative in Luke’s Gospel, I noted that this man Barabbas was in prison for murder.  Luke 23:19 says of Barabbas, “Who for a certain sedition made in the city, and for murder was cast into prison.”  Mark 15:7 agrees with this, stating that Barabbas was involved in insurrection, and had committed murder as part of his involvement in the insurrection.  But then I remembered a passage from John’s Gospel that puzzled me.  John 18:40 clearly says, “Now Barabbas was a robber.”  The two accounts did not seem to agree at all.  Although this problem puzzled me, I knew God’s Word couldn’t be wrong.  Jesus said in John 16:13 that the Holy Spirit would guide His disciples into all truth.  I asked the Holy SPirit to help me to understand the apparent contradiction, and almost instantly I as led back to John 18:40.

I saw that the words, “Now Barabbas was a robber.” nowhere stated that he was imprisoned fir robbery.  They merely told something about the man.  The thought was a relief to me, but I still had questions.  Why was the Holy Spirit revealing that Barabbas just happened to be a thief?  Was itjust a triviality like, "Now Barabbas was tall”, or “Now Barabbas liked to go fishing”?  The Holy Spirit still had more instruction to give me.

My thoughts went to John 10:10, where Jesus says,  “The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy...”  I know that passage specifically says, “the thief” but in context the force behind that “thief” is THE DEVIL, SATAN!  The devil comes to steal, kill, and destroy, but as John 10:10 also tells us, Jesus has come to give us abundant life.  Now, THINK ABOUT THIS MAN BARABBAS.  Like Satan, Barabbas was a ROBBER, he STOLE.  He was a MURDERER, so like Satan, he KILLED.  As an INSURRECTIONIST, he would have been trying to overthrow the established government, or DESTROY it.  In Scripture, the Holy Spirit had mead it very clear that Barabbas has three of Satan’s main characteristics.  What was the significance of this in understanding the account of Barabbas?  The answer is - everything!

In Aramaic, the language Jesus spoke, BARABBAS literally meant, “son of the father”.  BAR meant “son of”, as Peter was called Simon BARJONA or “Son of John” in Matthew 16:17.  ABBA meant “father”, as Paul wrote in Romans 8:15, “...but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, ABBA , father.”  In the Bible, names are very significant.  A person’s name revealed his characteristics and attributes.  Why was Barabbas called “son of the father”?  He was called this because he was indeed a son of his spiritual father, the devil.  In John chapter 8, Jesus told the unbelieving religious leaders, “Ye are of your father the devil” (John 8:44).

At that first Easter season almost two-thousand years ago, two prisoners stood before the mob;  Jesus, the unblemished Son of God, and Barabbas, a follower or son of his spiritual father, the devil.   The mob, in their spiritual blindness, cried for Barabbas’ release and delivered their Messiah up to be crucified.

The Holy Spirit solved the seeming contradiction for me.  But as this Easter season, perhaps your very life is a contradiction.  Will you attend church and give lip service to God, while your heart is far from Him?  Is God your spiritual Father?  Jesus Christ loves you!  He shed His precious blood on Calvary for you, and He wants you to come to Him and receive forgiveness of sin and eternal life.  Again, Jesus said in John 10:10, “I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.”  This Easter season it’s YOUR choice: Jesus or Barabbas?

Saturday, April 8, 2006


My taste in music is very much like my taste in food.  There is very little I don’t like.  For some reason, one of my favorite songs is The Beatles’ “A Day in the Life” from the Sgt. Pepper’s album.  That song is now almost thirty-nine years old, but even now, if given the opportunity, I’ll just play it and play it and ...

We have all kinds of days in life.  Right now, the Adults of our church are studying John Ortberg’s “God Is Closer Than You Think” material.  Ortberg says there are “Rainbow Days”, “Don’t Look, God Days”, “Mystery Days”, and “Ordinary Days”.  I’m actually bland enough that I’m happy with ordinary days.

I’m actually WRITING this on Friday afternoon and will post it on Saturday morning.  I just took a walk.  I’ve been tired and depressed and at least somewhat self-condemning.  I prayed and tried to sort out why I’m feeling that way.  I realized I’m a guy who loves schedules, order, and not too much pressure.  (I’ll never understand people who say, “I just LOVE pressure!”  What are they- insane?!)  I can handle an occasionally crazy day, but here’s what happened lately:

Thursday night, March 30 - My car broke down- electrical problems- had to be towed.

Friday, March 31 - With my car in the shop, I had to borrow my wife’s minivan.  I drove out to Westfield to pick up my daughter for the weekend from Westfield State. The trip was OK, but “ministry-wise” I got very little done, and felt a little stressed about that.

Saturday, April 1 - With several guys from our church I spent all day at a Christian Men’s Conference in Lexington, MA.  It was a very good event, but like all of those kind of things, pretty intense.  I came home peaceful, but exhausted.  

Sunday, April 2- We had to turn those clocks AHEAD at bedtime so I was REALLY tired.  I fumbled my way through Sunday School and morning worship service.  I was just so tired!  I drove my daughter back to Westfield State.  I know most of my fellow Assemblies of God ministers would be shocked, but I sat in front of ABC’s “Desperate Housewives” and genuinely enjoyed the episode.  Not long afterward, I was sound asleep.

Monday, April 3-  I had all kinds of “stuff” to do.  Unfortunately, the guys from the glass company came to replace a window we’d contracted them to replace.  It took almost ALL DAY.  I had SO much to do outside of the church building but I was “stuck” at the church building.  A guy from the church dropped by with a friend. The visit was meant to be encouraging, but for the most part, it wasn’t.  The guy really got on my nerves.  I wanted to punch him out or swear at him (now, none of my superiors from the Assemblies of God are reading this - I hope!).  I was pleasant, but by the end of the day I was depressed and breathing hard.  My wife was concerned that I needed to rest.  Honestly, I was even a little concerned that I might not be OK.  Remember the prayer vigil I wrote about?  Well, I went to it tired, depressed, and not feeling well.  It was cold and drizzly, but God gave me the strength to participate with enthusiasm and I doubt anyone could tell I wasn’t feeling well.

Tuesday, April 4- Yes, I wrote about that, too.  I went to the Benny Hinn Breakfast.  It WAS a good event, but this was one day off (Tuesdays are my day off) that I wanted to sleep in!

Wednesday, April 5-  I can’t go into any detail about it but I learned of a problem (disobedience) situation regarding someone in the church.  I was kind of “mad” about it, but I realized I have to use wisdom and not “flip out” over everything everybody does.  Wednesday night at prayer meeting we had visitors from out-of-state who brought their little kids.  I really wasn’t in the mood for little kids, but I tried to remember Jesus’ admonition about “Let the little children come to me...”  I made the best of the situation and actually tried to enjoy the kids.

Thursday, April 6-  I went to a town civic meeting in the morning (about downtown Framingham issues) and spoke up and put “my two cents in” quite a bit.  I think I was used prophetically at this meeting.  In the afternoon, I attended what was called a “Town Meeting” at the State House in Boston sponsored by 96.9 FMTalk.  I got to meet talk show host Michael Graham with whom I’ve corresponded by e-mail so that was kind of “cool” but by Thursday night I was exhausted.

Friday, April 7- running errands for the church, working on a Bible study, working on a sermon, trying to plan out my schedule for next week.  Tired. Depressed.  Trying to sort out church bills and (even worse) personal bills I’m behind on.  Well, upon review of the past week, I guess it figures why I’m tired and depressed.

I’ll be OK.

“This is the day which the Lord hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it.” (Psalm 118:24)

Thursday, April 6, 2006


God’s timing is impeccable!

On Tuesday morning, April 4, 2006, my son Jon and attended the Benny HInn Ministries Pastoral Breakfast at the Boston Park Plaza Hotel.  The date is very significant because I first attended a Benny Hinn service on April 4, 1981, exactly twenty-five years previously.  The place was Christian Life Center church in Walpole, which sadly no longer exists.  Although I spent a number of years on the pastoral staff there, in April of 1981 I was an ordinary layman.  That day, the young lady who would ultimately become my wife attended Christian Life Center for her first time (for the Benny Hinn event).  On the MORNING of April 4, 1981, I was the FIRST PERSON Benny Hinn prayed for at the altar call.  I was terrified.  I told him, “I want guidance and direction for my life and an anointing on my ministry.”  Benny Hinn prayed and I fell down under the power of God.   It was quite a moment.

Through the years, however, I came to largely dislike Benny Hinn.  When I became a staff pastor, I had occasion to meet him behind the scenes several times.  I found him to be self-absorbed and arrogant.  I also had a very difficult time with the way Benny conducted services, and I found them to be more like disorderly sideshows.  Benny Hinn also tends to be much less media savvy than the great “healing evangelist” whose mantle he now carries- Kathryn Khulman.  His lavish lifestyle and (sometimes) lack of wisdom have caused him and the Body of Christ problems.

In 2000, I attended the Benny Hinn Ministries Pastoral Luncheon in Worcester.  I went mainly to be a spectator and to look for unscriptural inconsistencies.  I did not attend the Worcester crusade that year.

Some weeks back, I got the invitation to the Boston breakfast.  I didn’t know why, but I sent in the card and  indicated I would attend.  Only later did I realize the significance of the date.  I thoroughly enjoyed this week’s Pastoral Breakfast.  And, I have to admit, I’m at least “rethinking” my feelings about Benny Hinn.  His staff could not have been a finer group. Event Director Kurt Kjellstrom and Event Manager Patrick Gambill humbly and warmly shared some great personal testimonies.  Pastor Dave from Benny Hinn Ministries gave a wonderful message which touched my heart.  The clips of the Indonesia Crusade, and the video word to the Boston pastors from Benny Hinn were quite powerful.  I still have some problems with Benny Hinn, but I do believe he genuinely wants to see people saved and healed, and I do believe he wants to see Jesus Christ praised and exalted.  I certainly can’t disagree with those goals.

I will attend the Crusade at the BankNorth Boston Garden (former Fleet Center) on July 27 and 28.  Will I accept wholesale everything that takes place? Probably not.  Will I be praying for many healings and salvations?  Yes, I will, and I’ll rejoice when they take place.

“... Christ is preached; and I therein do rejoice, yea, and will rejoice.”  (Philippians 1:18)

Monday, April 3, 2006


I used to love to listen to Larry Glick.  Glick is now in his 80s and living in Florida, but he was a “legend” in Boston radio broadcasting in the ‘70s and ‘80s.   Larry Glick used to love to uncover, “The story behind the story.”

This posting fits the category of “The story behind the story”.

THE FIRST THING I WANT YOU TO KNOW:  I have a column in today’s (Monday, April 3) MetroWest Daily News.  It can be read on-line at

At the home page, click “Columnists” and then when you get to the Columnists page, click “Baril”.  

The column is very similar to a posting on this blog about whether the driving age should be raised in Massachusetts.  I think it should NOT be.  I do want you to know that the column is NOT my best work.  There are some “typos” and poorly constructed sentences.  In this case, it is not the fault of the newspaper, it’s my fault.  I cranked that thing out on the computer and fired it off without really proofing it and it shows.  Now, I do believe the Editor at the MWDN truly SHOULD edit- and he could have fixed the column, but in all fairness the sloppy writing (as far as the craft of writing goes) is my fault.  I DO hope, however, that the writing is clear enough that it will cause key MetroWest legislators and other important decision makers to be very thorough, thoughtful, and careful before just raising the driving age in a typical Massachusetts knee-jerk fashion. My final couple of sentences will really upset a lot of Senior Citizens I know.  It gives the impression that I want all people over age 80 to immediately lose their licenses.  A careful reading of that columns will show that what I’m ACTUALLY saying is that if we’re going to arbitrarily take away the opportunity of 16-year-olds to drive based on the actions of a minority of them; well, then in all fairness it makes as much or more sense to do the same with 80-year-olds.  (It’s the logic of “what’s good for the goose is good for the gander”.  Most elderly want 16-year-olds off the road, but THEY don’t want to be taken off the road!)

THE SECOND THING I WANT YOU TO KNOW:  I usually post items on this blog on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays.  I’m posting on Monday not only because the column about driving is in TODAY’S paper, but also to let you know I’ll be attending the Benny Hinn pastors’ breakfast at the Boston Park Plaza Hotel tomorrow  and I need to be up and out early for that reason.  With the exception of my immediate family, most people would be very surprised at my opinion of Benny Hinn and Benny Hinn Ministries.  I will have a complete report about the breakfast, and will state my opinions. on THURSDAY.  You’ll want to read that!

I always use a Scripture verse in postings.  This one is a stretch, but here goes:
"I had many things to write, but I will not with ink and pen write unto thee:" (III John 13)
(No, I won't!  I'll use a computer...)

Saturday, April 1, 2006


“Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.”  (Matthew 5:16)

The MetroWest Daily News for Sunday, March 26, 2006 featured a great piece on page H2 by the Rev. Richard Hurst, pastor of the Lutheran Church of Framingham, and this year’s “Convener” of the Framingham Interfaith Clergy Association.  Rich is quite an eloquent writer.  He also has a passion for righteousness and Godliness (with humility).  Rich and Tom Wingate of the Framingham Bah’ai Faith have worked very hard to put together a candlelight vigil on the night before the Framingham Town election.  (The Framingham Town election is Tuesday, April 4; thus the vigil is on the evening of Monday, April 3.)  The vigil will be SHORT.  It will begin on the steps of the Framingham Memorial building downtown at Union and Concord Streets at 6:00 p.m.  After about twenty minutes, participating clergy will disperse to the various polling places across town and will lead in short prayers at these polling places.

I wholeheartedly back this effort and am very pleased to be participating.  This time of prayer for the elections and the Framingham community is NONPARTISAN.  We will not be endorsing any candidates or positions.  Rather, we will be praying for EACH candidate and for civility and mutual respect in our community.  For some who would sarcastically reject this effort as being “liberal, happy/sappy, pie-in-the-sky foolishness”, I want to make it clear it isn’t that at all!  Believe me, I’m no “bleeding heart liberal”.  And, I hold to some very strong political and theological positions.  I also believe in civility and respect.  WIthout civility, respect, and open dialogue, we are not a healthy society.  Without civility, respect, and open dialogue, we are nothing more than a totalitarian society.  I have no interest in being part of a totalitarian society of either the far left or the far right.  I agree with Rich and many of my colleagues that Framingham can be a far better community.  I agree with them that we need to listen to each other and (as much as possible) find common ground.  I really think Jesus would also agree with this.

Some might be surprised that I (a “conservative born-again Assemblies of God minister”) would join with a very diverse group for prayer and for the vigil.  I did not say I agree with all the theology of the clergy represented.  In fact, theologically I strongly disagree with probably at least half of them.  I’d guess that’s true of politics, too.  BUT,  I respect my clergy colleagues in this community as exactly that:  clergy colleagues and fellow citizens.  No, some of them aren’t Christians, and again, I strongly disagree with some of them on a lot of things.   I’m a conservative and I’m a Republican, but I do agree with many of my liberal Democrat friends when they say, “Diversity is very important”.  It is.  That’s a big part of “E Pluribus Unim”.  America is one nation of very diverse people who work together for the common good.  All Americans should be proud of that.

I hope many Framingham residents will join us at the Memorial building on Monday night, April 3 at 6 p.m.  AND, I hope you’ll vote on Tuesday, April 4.
AND, for those of you who don’t live in Framingham, please pray that God will bless the efforts of this vigil and that it will be a peaceful election day.