Thursday, April 29, 2010


“I will instruct thee and teach thee in the way which thou shalt go” (from Psalm 32:8)

I recently had an on-line conversation with a friend of mine regarding “religion”.
This woman is around twenty years younger than I am and what I’d describe as a “secular Jew”. Her husband is a Gentile. She wrote something to the effect that she does not understand what KIND of a Gentile her husband is and really does not understand the diversity of Christianity, and what various “Gentiles” believe. She seemed kind of embarrassed about how little she really knows about God or religion. I wrote back that she and her husband are actually very typical “Gen Xers”---that most Americans born after 1965 have very little understanding of the things of God or “religion”. I mused that maybe I should teach a class someplace called, “Religion For Dummies” and try to explain some of this stuff - I also made sure I let her know I didn’t think she was a “dummy”!

It amazes ME that all sorts of people read this blog. Some are friends and relatives, but at least half of the readers are folks I’ve never met. Many readers are very committed Christians, but there are atheists, agnostics, and really all sorts of folks. There is NO WAY I could truly cover the topic of “Religion For Dummies” in one posting. If I tried to cover all the major world religions such as Taoism, Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, etc, that in itself would take several postings. I think I’m going to stick with what most of us have been most familiar with growing up in the U.S.A. and that’s what’s called “Christianity”.

It’s actually unfair to write about Christianity without mentioning, Judaism, however. It’s really weird how so many “Gentiles” hate Jews because Jesus Christ WAS and IS a Jew and the roots of Christianity are ABSOLUTELY Jewish. I don’t believe God ever intended Christianity to be a “religion”. He intended it to be a way of life. In fact, in the First Century, Christianity was originally called “The Way” and it was considered a sect of Judaism, albeit an offbeat sect of Judaism. It was after at least a decade that the term “Christians” was used of Believers in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, and it was used as a derogatory term. It was very controversial when Gentiles first joined this movement, but eventually they outnumbered those from Jewish backgrounds.

My mother was a devout Roman Catholic. She believed with all her heart that the Catholic Church was the “one true Church” and that the Eastern Orthodox Churches had broken away from it. She also believed Peter was the first Pope. Good luck trying to prove THAT one! Again, Christianity was never meant to be a religion but MAN made it into a religion. I believe true Christianity means having a RELATIONSHIP with Jesus Christ and committing your life to Him. BUT, if I DID believe Christianity was meant to be an INSTITUTION, then I’d have to conclude my mother was wrong. In fact, the Orthodox Church WAS the first INSTITUTIONAL church and the Roman Catholics (“the western church”) broke away from it. The east kept their headquarters at Constantinople (Istanbul) in Turkey and the west at Rome. (My Armenian Orthodox friends will remind me that THEY are Eastern Orthodox but are NOT under the Constantinople headquarters, but I’m trying to keep this simple!)

Roman Catholicism and the Eastern Orthodox churches became largely CULTURAL. You were essentially BORN into them, baptized as a baby, and spent your whole life in the CULTURE of the church and the society. I don’t believe God ever intended for it to be that way. However, it’s far too simplistic to say things like, “All the Catholics are going to Hell”; or “all the Catholics have a false religion”. In fact, throughout the centuries God always had a remnant of TRUE Believers in these churches who put their faith and trust in the Lord Jesus Christ alone for salvation and loved God and their fellow man. During the 1400s and 1500s, the Protestant Reformation broke out in Europe. Catholics typically teach that Protestantism came about because King Henry VIII wanted to get divorced and remarried and the Pope said “no”, so he started his own Protestant church. That IS how the Anglican church got started, but it ignores what was happening theologically throughout Europe. Martin Luther, John Knox, John Calvin and others risked their lives and reputations challenging the institutional Roman Catholic church and urging people to read the Bible and get back to the simple message of the Gospel and basic Christianity.

Later, Protestant groups sprang up that (sadly) most other Protestants considered weird including Anabaptists, who later became called just Baptists. Did you know that the Mennonites and Amish are sects of Baptists? Baptists stressed “believers’ baptism by total immersion in water” and rejected infant baptism. Today, many Protestants including my own group, the Assemblies of God, embrace Baptist teaching about water baptism, but centuries ago, Baptists could be burned at the stake! My friend, the Rev. Mindi Welton-Mitchell, can tell you there are over 40 different kinds of Baptists, NOT counting “independent Baptist churches”. The American Baptists and Southern Baptists are two of the largest Baptist bodies in the U.S.A. The Pilgrims and Puritans who came to New England in the 1600s felt the Anglican Church was far too “Roman” and formal and longed for a simpler, more Biblical faith. They eventually evolved into the New England Congregational churches.

In the early 1800s, some Congregational churches began to embrace radically different beliefs and philosophies from what they’d traditionally followed. They rejected the Christian doctrine of “The Trinity” and adopted kind of what I’d call an “I’m OK, you’re OK” kind of religion: Unitarianism. Here in Framingham, MA, “First Parish Church” a Congregational Church embraced Unitarianism, and a new Congregational Church “Plymouth Church” was formed. A similar thing happened in my own home town of Canton, MA.

The Methodists came out of the Anglican and Episcopal Churches. John and Charles Wesley felt the Anglican Church was just too formal and longed for an emphasis on personal salvation through Jesus Christ, rigorous Bible study, and holy living. They were famous for their “Methods”. The “Methodists” were originally a society within the Anglican and Episcopal Churches but eventually broke away to become a separate denomination.

The Pentecostal movement, of which the Assemblies of God is a part, took place in the first couple of decades of the twentieth century. Most Pentecostals were former Methodists, Baptists, and Presbyterians. They had been kicked out of their churches due to their belief in speaking in tongues, healings, and miracles. (More mainstream Protestants taught that these things were “not for today”. Ironically, Roman Catholics taught that these things WERE for today!) The Assemblies of God was formed in 1914 in Hot Springs, Arkansas. Today, it’s headquartered in Springfield, Missouri.

The charismatic movement “hit” the mainstream churches of America in the late 1960s and early 1970s. From the charismatic movement and the youth culture of that period came churches such as Vineyard Christian Fellowship which are doctrinally similar to the Assemblies of God but much “cooler”...where the pastor may well wear jeans and a tee shirt and the congregation will seem much more like a group on the beach in southern California than an “evangelical church group”. I know that one problem the Vineyard is having is a problem almost all churches are having...they attract very few folks under 40. The cool young people of the Vineyard are now mostly in their 50s.

Yes, MAN keeps creating institutions and denominations and God longs to have a PERSONAL RELATIONSHIP with men and women! Most of you know I was raised Roman Catholic but had a “born again” experience as a teenager. As a kid, I had religion up to my ears, but now I have Christ in my heart.

Did this piece help you or did it totally confuse you? Questions?

Tuesday, April 27, 2010


"So built we the wall; and all the wall was joined together unto the half thereof: for the people had a mind to work." (Nehemiah 4:6)

The following is the text of an e-mail I put out today to over 50 people that I know...most of whom are in New England. I also decided to post it here:


I really DON'T like to write to a bunch of people at once but sometimes it's just the quickest way to communicate.

One of the most famous episodes of "I Love Lucy" is when Lucy and Ethel go to work in a chocolate factory.
I know, everybody remembers Lucy stuffing chocolates into her blouse, and the result.

But most people don't remember what happened before that when Lucy and Ethel went to the employment agency.

"What kind of work do you do?" asked the employment specialist.

"What kind of jobs do you have open?" asked Lucy...kind of nervously.

That conversation repeated itself several times before they ended up at the chocolate factory.

I feel a lot like Lucy going to that employment agency.

I go to various on-line job search sites. There are all kinds of jobs for really "hi-tech" people and for
people who are highly skilled and have much experience. I find myself thinking, "What kind of jobs do you have open?!"

Most of you know that the church I pastored for 23 years...FIRST ASSEMBLY OF GOD OF FRAMINGHAM...closed on March 7.

I HAVE a job at a telephone answering service. It was really confusing at first because there's a LOT of computer stuff and procedure
you have to learn. After a few weeks, I've gotten pretty good at it. But most weeks it's going to be no more than 20 hrs, IF that...and
the pay is just above minimum wage. Mary Ann and I are quickly falling way behind financially. Thank God a churches helped us
out with generous checks; but with a kid graduating from college and all the fees and requirements of that, and with just trying to
get by, we're barely making fact, we're NOT. Thank God my daughter Amy from MO is donating a 1995 Ford Taurus to me,
but we're beginning to wonder if we'll be able to afford even this car.

On a good note, I have a preaching engagement at a small church in Franklin (Tri County Christian Fellowship) on May 16.
I would like to book at LEAST 6 Sunday morning preaching engagements between late May and mid-September. You pastor
friends could REALLY help me by having me come and speak on a Sunday morning and by the grace of God, I won't disappoint you!

Also, some of you know of small companies or even large companies would are hiring and would hire someone in my situation.
I need a better job with more hrs. and better pay.

Please... I ask you to join me in prayer.
I would love to come and speak at your church if you're a pastor.
And if you have ANY ideas or leads for employment I am very open to that!

Thank you,

Sunday, April 25, 2010


“And he spake also a parable unto them; No man putteth a piece of a new garment upon an old; if otherwise, then both the new maketh a rent, and the piece that was taken out of the new agreeth not with the old.
And no man putteth new wine into old bottles; else the new wine will burst the bottles, and be spilled, and the bottles shall perish.
But new wine must be put into new bottles; and both are preserved.” (Luke 5:36-38)

Many people in Jesus’ day did not understand His parables about repairing an old garment with new fabric or about putting new wine into old wineskins. Many people in OUR day don’t understand them, either. My friend actor Dennis Cole (about whom I recently wrote a posting on this blog) often speaks of the new wine in old wineskins parable. Dennis is concerned that pastors and churches try to keep things “religious” and “the way things have always been” instead of being directed by God’s Holy Spirit to what His will is for a particular church or ministry. That parable is on my mind as I write.

Yes, it’s been very difficult for me to not be pastoring and to have seen First Assembly of God of Framingham closed. However, I’m now beginning to understand that attending a very healthy church on Sunday mornings is a great blessing. I DO have a Sunday morning speaking engagement elsewhere in a couple of weeks, and I am excited about that. I also hope that during the summer months, I may get some more bookings when pastors are on vacation. I would NOT want to be out preaching EVERY Sunday, however. It’s been a real blessing to worship at Bread of Life Assembly of God in Westminster and I really don’t want to miss too much of what God is doing and will be doing there!

Gary and his wife Janis Collette are each Ordained Assemblies of God ministers. They have been at the church in Westminster for eighteen years. The original Westminster church was located in a pretty, quaint, white New England church building which maybe seated a hundred. When Gary and Janis went to the church there were maybe a handful of people there, if that! It was a tiny church in an out of the way location. It didn’t seem like a recipe for success. Under the Collette’s ministry, however, the church has grown. Within a few years, they sold the original church building, bought property and built a gymnasium/multipurpose facility where the church currently worships. Plans call for a nice new church sanctuary to be built sometime in the future.

After over twenty years as a pastor, I can pretty well get the “feel” of a church within a few minutes of walking into the lobby on a Sunday morning. Some churches are very cold and unfriendly. Some are so “friendly” they SMOTHER you. Some are very INSULAR...they don’t want outsiders there. Some are very into hype and emotionalism. Some are stoic and quiet. From the very beginning, the Westminster church made a great impression on me. The church is friendly, but they don’t try to smother visitors. The worship services are contemporary and upbeat, but they DON’T feature the find of loud obnoxious music that characterizes many of today’s charismatic churches. The services are a tad long. but they’re also VERY good that I really don’t mind them being a tad longer than I was used to. Pastor Gary Collette is an excellent preacher. He’s a very pleasant humble guy, but a great public speaker. More importantly, his sermons are very “meaty”. They are solid Biblical messages.

Assemblies of God churches have changed drastically since I first set foot inside an AG church in the mid 1970s. In those days, all AG churches were pretty much alike. Everybody used hymnals; usually “Hymns of Glorious Praise” or maybe the older “Melodies of Praise”. The Sunday School material all came from the AG’s Gospel Publishing House. Every AG church had a Sunday night service. Church people went to services on Sunday morning AND Sunday night. Often, there were more people present on Sunday nights than on Sunday mornings. Sunday night services were longer, and featured lengthy “altar calls” in which people would go forward, kneel, and pray for the Baptism in the Holy Spirit, or for some other spiritual blessing. Most AG churches usually had a midweek service, or in some cases, a midweek Bible Study. That was usually the night the Youth Group would meet in a separate room. You could go to any AG church from Maine to Florida; from Indiana to Oregon, and they were all about the same.
Today, it’s very different. I’d say about 10% of AG churches in 2010 would fit the description of the 1970s church...but 90% would NOT. At least 80% of AG churches no longer have a Sunday night service. Altar calls have either disappeared or are rapidly disappearing from many AG churches. Services are getting shorter. Hymnals are mostly a thing of the past. Churches sing modern praise music. Much of it is very good, but some of it is very loud and frankly pretty awful. In the 1970s, most of the people, especially the ministers and their families, dressed up for church. Today it’s not uncommon to find pastors in very casual clothing.

I’d say there’s no “typical” was to dress at Bread of Life. The pastor and ushers dress up but most of the people dress fairly casual. Most importantly, the worship is GREAT and the atmosphere is great. Something that greatly impresses me is that the Westminster church often has Sunday MORNING altar calls on the level of the old time AG Sunday NIGHT altar calls . My experience is that there are very few AG churches (especially in New England) today where people are very hungry for God and thronging the altars on a Sunday MORNING. You can “mark” this blog posting; I expect there will be a GREAT revival at the Westminster church because the people are hungry for God and the pastors have a Godly perspective.

Another characteristic of the “old time” Assemblies of God churches was every family was given a “Pentecostal Evangel” magazine every week. (That’s the national church magazine.) That tendency is also “going by the boards”. A number of churches no longer get the “Evangel” because it’s available on-line. At the Framingham church we were still getting the “Evangel” but we had stopped buying the AG Sunday School materials and the weekly Sunday School “magazines”. About half of our Evangels were going in my recycling bin each week. I have a feeling that if we’d have stayed open we would have at least reduced the number of Evangels we were receiving. I was surprised at Westminster to be handed a Pentecostal Evangel magazine each week (along with a bulletin) as we walked into the service. Today, the pastor announced they’re no longer going to be getting the Evangels, but that they’re available on-line. Honestly, I always had a pile of Evangels in the bathroom where they made great reading material! The Evangel is a part of my 34 year Assemblies of God heritage, and I’ll miss it, but I know I’d much rather be at a church where the Holy Spirit is moving and there are no Pentecostal Evangels than to be at a church where they hand you a Pentecostal Evangel magazine but the services are dead.

So, bring on the new wine!

Friday, April 23, 2010


“Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh. “ (Genesis 2:24)

A woman I’ve been acquainted with for a number of years called me this week and asked me a question I have never been asked before. She and her husband have several grown kids ... some are biological children and some are legally adopted children. One of their biological sons and one of their adopted daughters have fallen in love and are getting married in a few weeks. She and her husband are agonizing about it but will most likely NOT attend. the wedding. I was surprised that such a wedding is legal, because I thought once there was a LEGAL adoption, this would legally be considered incest (even though there is no biological relationship). I said I thought such a marriage was wrong and that if it were me, I don’t think I would attend.

I then "ran this by" someone close to me who strongly disagreed with me saying the parents SHOULD attend and that the marriage does not matter because there is no biological relationship.

I later e-mailed a few mature Christian friends (many of whom are pastors) and asked for their thoughts. To my surprise, only one (a Baptist pastor from Cape Cod) took a hard line on it, saying it was legally incest and would not be a proper marriage. Most who responded felt there was no problem with this marriage taking place, and felt the parents should attend the ceremony. A couple of folks were neutral and really had no opinion either way.

They certainly didn’t teach about encountering this sort of thing at Central Bible College!

I’m actually glad it’s not a situation where I’ve been asked to perform the ceremony or even where I’m invited to the wedding. But it’s probably the most difficult moral and ethical question I’ve been asked in a long time.

What do you think? Incidentally, this is a TRUE story. Obviously, I don’t want to reveal the identity of the family or the community or state in which they reside.
But I’m genuinely trying to sort this question out, and I’m interested in Biblical and legal input anyone may have about it.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010


“For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die.” (Romans 5:7)

The Final Jeopardy statement for the April 21, 2010 show was “Named Hawaii’s first saint in 2009 he died in Molokai in 1889”.

Immediately after the “Final Jeopardy” music, Alex Trebek said he thought this should be a “slam dunk”. It wasn’t. Not one of the three contestants knew the answer. I DID know the answer. It was “Father Damien”. Father Damien was a Roman Catholic priest from Belgium who ministered to people with leprosy on the Hawaiian island of Molokai and ultimately died of the disease. I encourage you to read the entry for “Father Damien” on Wikipedia.

(Listen, I realize I’m probably coming across as bragging here. I DON’T generally write about how many times I DON’T know the correct answer on Final Jeopardy- which is MANY times! I also don’t write about the fact that there are many nights in which I watch Jeopardy that I’m really embarrassed because if I had been a contestant on that particular show, I would have finished in the red and would not even have been able to compete in Final Jeopardy!)

There’s so much I need to make CLEAR here: The whole idea of a religious institution NAMING dead people to a special status as “Saints” to be “prayed to” is a practice of the Roman Catholic Church and of some other liturgical churches. I totally disagree with this practice. Christians are to pray to GOD, not to dead people. And, ALL born-again Christians are “saints” meaning “those who are being sanctified”. Many believe we EARN our way into Heaven. We DON’T! No one could ever be GOOD ENOUGH. The New Testament teaches that Heaven is a free gift to those who repent of their sins and TOTALLY place their faith and trust in Jesus Christ for their salvation.

Even so, we CAN and SHOULD admire Father Damien. He must have been a wonderful man. He put the needs of suffering lepers above his own needs and comforts. He loved lepers, and gave his all for them.

Recently, Moe Lauzier, on his “Issues of the Day” blog wrote about Ed Freeman. Ed Freeman, an Idaho resident, died just a few days ago. On November 11, 1967, Ed heroically saved 29 servicemen who were under fire in Vietnam. Moe made the point that we honor celebrities as heroes who usually don’t deserve that honor, and yet most people have never heard of Ed Freeman. That’s also true of Father Damien. I wouldn’t PRAY to him or believe HE could work miracles; I would never say he worked his way into Heaven. But, his example of selflessness makes him a hero. I just think it’s interesting that not one of the three Jeopardy contestants got Final Jeopardy right on tonight’s program.

Are you familiar with Father Damien? If not, I’m glad he was mentioned on Jeopardy because now a lot of people will learn about his life.

We’re a very selfish society.

Listen, I spent many years as a pastor, and sometimes I’ve been a very selfish guy. I’m ashamed of that. We all need to give more time and attention to others and less to ourselves.

Sunday, April 18, 2010


“Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall. “ (I Corinthians 10:12)

My girls, then teenagers, “got” me with this one around ten years ago:

“There’s a GHOST in First Corinthians 10!” they happily announced to me.

“What are you talking about?!”

“Dad, there’s a GHOST in First Corinthians 10!” they repeated.

This bantering went back and forth for a few minutes. Finally, Amy opened up her N.I.V. (“New International Version” an easy to read interpretative translation very popular in evangelical circles) Bible to First Corinthians 10. There, in the margin was a drawing (obviously by my other daughter, Rachel) of a freindly I remember the cartoon character Casper the friendly ghost!

Well, in a sense, there WAS a ghost in First Corinthians 10!

Next they tried it on my very intelligent son Jon who has a tendency to be critical, opionionated, outspoken, and easily annoyed. He entered into the same kind of discussion with them I’d had, except that he was more annoyed and intellectual about the whole thing. Before even turning to the passage, he began ridiculing the N.I.V. and assuming there was some sort of a ridiculous mistranslation in the N.I.V. in chapter ten!

That Bible with the ghost in First Corinthians 10 is now in the home of Amy and her husband David in Springfield, Missouri. A year ago when I was out there, I informed David there was a ghost in First Corinthians 10. As I expected he was confused and skeptical, and then got a laugh when he saw the ghost!

I took a short walk this afternoon and experienced something that made me think of the ghost in First Corinthians 10. I was walking along and saw a few people in a parked four-door compact car. I did a double take, because in the back seat I saw what appeared to be a ghost. Well, I knew it wasn’t a REAL ghost! It DID look like a person is a ghost costume, however! I saw a figure covered in what looked like bright white satin...perhaps an adult ghost costume. Earlier in the afternoon, I’d been out and encountered a little boy and his mother- the little boy was dressed up in a Batman cape. Now that I encountered the “ghost” it almost seemed like maybe now people dress up for Patriots Day like they do for Halloween! As I got closer to the compact car, it turned out there was a girl, probably in her late teens, kneeling on the back seat and slightly bent over. That WHITE was her JACKET! At a distance, there was the optical illusion of a person in a ghost costume sitting in the car!

There’s an old expression “seeing’s believing”.

Do you know, that’s not necessarily true?!

Most of us have been to so called magic shows where a rabbit appears to supernaturally appear out of a guy’s arm or a bowling ball instantly turns into a red and gold handkerchief...things like that. Such showmen tell us, “The hand is quicker than the eye”.

Sometimes we get way too intense about things and take things way too seriously!
Friendships have been broken; family members have refused to speak to one another, over something that HAPPENED...well, they SAW it...or did they?

People have joined dangerous cults because they “saw” something that “proved” the cults’ they thought.

Yes, we evangelical and Pentecostal Christians get made fun of a lot for saying it’s important that people study and know their Bibles, especially their New Testaments inside out so they won’t be easily deceived. And that’s true, and good advice.

In closing, don’t forget, there’s a ghost in First Corinthians 10!

Saturday, April 17, 2010

"THE 19th of APRIL"

“One man esteemeth one day above another: another esteemeth every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind.” (Romans 14:5)

Monday is “Patriots Day” and also Marathon Day in Massachusetts. It’s also Patriots Day in Maine. I THINK Maine and Massachusetts are the only two states that observe the holiday. One thing that I think is cool about THIS Patriots Day is that it falls on the 19th of April.

I suppose this will make me sound like an old geezer to some, but I remember the days BEFORE we had so called “Monday holidays”. February 22 was “Washington’s Birthday” and it was celebrated on whatever day it fell upon. October 12 was “Columbus Day”. April 19, in Massachusetts, was Patriots Day. Memorial Day was always May 30. True, Labor Day was always the first Monday in September, but I think that was the only holiday that always fell on a Monday.

My mother, and a lot of people of her generation and older not only always called Independence Day, “the Fourth of July”, but they named most holidays (except for Labor Day, Christmas, and New Years’) that way. To my mother, the upcoming holiday was always, “the Nineteenth of April”. I believe Massachusetts was the first state to adopt “Monday holidays” back around 1967, and within four or five years, the federal government followed our example. I think it’s kind of too bad. I wouldn’t mind seeing the holidays revert back to the schedule upon which they were celebrated fifty years ago.

The Boston Marathon is the Super Bowl of Marathons! I feel really privileged to live in Framingham, right along the Marathon route! Last year, I was in Missouri for Patriots Day, and boy was that a nothing! I’m glad to be here this year!

I also feel a connection to Patriots Day because of Paul Revere. Tourists visit Paul Revere’s house in the North End of Boston. THAT was Paul Revere’s “town house”...where he stayed in the city and he WAS a wealthy and successful man. His “real house”...his HOME was in my hometown of Canton, Massachusetts...about 17 miles from downtown Boston and about 5 miles from the Boston city line. In the 1770s, Canton was part of the Town of Stoughton. (Today, Canton and Stoughton are bitter sports rivals, so that’s a hard pill for Cantonians to swallow!) Canton was incorporated as a separate town in 1797. Somebody thought that Canton was exactly opposite Canton, China on the globe (it’s not even close!) and that’s how Canton got its name. I believe Canton, MA was the first “Canton” in the U.S.A. (and Springfield, MA was the first “Springfield” in the U.S.A.). Today, many states have “Cantons” and “Springfields”. Did you also know that Paul Revere’s dominant ethnic background was FRENCH, like mine? His original last name was Riviere.

I hope I haven’t bored most of my readers to tears. I’ll have to stand outside your window and yell, “THE BRITISH ARE COMING!!” That’ll wake you up!

Happy Patriots Day, everybody!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010


“and whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men;” (Colossians 3:23)

I know I've written about actor and minister Dennis Cole on this blog in the past. Dennis and I had a wonderful phone conversation yesterday, and I want to write about him again today.

A couple of years ago, my wife Mary Ann and I attended “Webstock”, the special annual summer outreach event of Faith Assembly of God in Webster, MA. At the time, Rick Amendola was pastor. (Rick was also my Assemblies of God Presbyter- kind of like an “area minister” in the Baptist churches. Rick now pastors in Haverhill, MA.) Webstock was happening on a Friday night and a Saturday afternoon in August.

Friday night was rainy and Webstock had to be moved from Webster Lake to the church’s sanctuary. The music was great, and the special guest, Dennis Cole, was OUTSTANDING. Dennis is an Ordained Minister and professional actor from Albuquerque, New Mexico. It would probably be inappropriate to say Dennis “performed”. More than performing, he ministered! That night, Dennis ministered “The Book of James”.

You may be tempted to think: “I guy in costume doing the Book of James...a real snooze, right?” WRONG! Dennis involved members of the audience at various points in his dramatic presentation. It was RIVETING! Dennis led us ultimately to an altar call. A number of visitors responded to the call to receive Jesus Christ as their Personal Lord and Savior that night. A number of others responded for various areas of recommitment...including me.

I had never experienced anything quite like it and I was deeply moved.

On Saturday, I went to Webstock at Webster Lake. There Dennis Cole ministered “The Sermon on the Mount”...also very powerful and a great witness to the crowds at that picnic site. I couldn’t imagine Dennis would EVER agree to come and minister at our very small church in Framingham, but I gave him my card and asked him to call me. I was shocked that Dennis DID call me. We had Dennis Cole at our church twice...each time the attendance was good, the services powerful, and the altar calls mightily anointed as Dennis Cole ministered in several Gifts of the Holy Spirit including the Word of Knowledge.

I’ve recommended Dennis Cole to some pastor friends before. On my recommendation, he ministered at Bethany Christian Center (AG) in Mendon, MA where Phil McCutchen is pastor and at Leominster (MA) Assembly of God where Mark Boucher is pastor. I know he also has ministered several other times for Pastor Rick Amendola.

I appreciate Dennis Cole. For reasons I guess only God and he know, he’s had what serious evangelical Christians call a “burden” for me as a person and for the ministries God has given me. Dennis prays regularly for me, and had a heart for the Framingham church I pastored. If you’re a pastor or a church lay leader, I want to encourage you to invite Dennis Cole to come and minister at your church sometime. I can attest that Dennis will go to the smallest of churches. Our church took care of his hotel room and took love offerings for him. Of course, if a church is larger and able to, he appreciates help with travel expenses, too.

Please check out Dennis Cole’s “Dramatic Christian Ministries” website

I have Dennis Cole’s cell phone number in case you’d like to speak to him personally. Really, If you have Dennis Cole come to your church, you and your church will be greatly blessed!

Sunday, April 11, 2010


“Let another man praise thee, and not thine own mouth; a stranger, and not thine own lips.” (Proverbs 27:2)

Jennie Maroney is no stranger to controversy! I’ve known Jennie for twenty-five years- longer than I’ve lived in MetroWest. Back in the mid-1980s, Jennie’s daughter Sandy was my Secretary at Christian Life Center, a large church in Walpole. Jennie worshipped there often in those days. Just before my move to Framingham in 1987, Sandy kidded me saying, “My mother will have you out picketing in front of the hospital!”

Jennie never asked me to do that, but I quickly realized how notorious she was in Framingham! In the late 1980s, Tom Moroney was a popular columnist for this paper (then the “Middlesex News”). One of his most entertaining columns was about Jennie and was entitled, “Listen Up! She’s Not My Mother!”

This is an apology for Jennie Maroney. Please understand, it’s a “apology” in the true sense of the word. We typically misuse the word “apology”. The Miriam-Webster on-line Dictionary states that the English word “apology” ultimately comes from the Greek words, apo + logos which would best be rendered “speech”. The PRIMARY definition of “apology” is, “a formal justification : defense”. The definition of apology that WE usually think is most apt is the secondary definition, “an admission of error or discourtesy accompanied by an expression of regret”. So, it’s a defense of Jennie Maroney, but it’s also somewhat of a defense of her critics.

Jennie’s not the cold, doctrinaire judge some believe her to be. I happen to know she’s endured her share of tragedy. A few years ago, she lost her second husband Ed Maroney, the love of her life, following a long illness. Shortly afterward, Jennie Maroney was stricken with a very serious illness, herself. During that period, I visited Jennie once in the Framingham Union Hospital, and twice in the Leonard Morse Hospital. She told me on one of those visits that some (upon meeting her) had been surprised and asked, “Are you THE Jennie Maroney?!” Her illness was very serious, and Jennie is quite advanced in age. It was evident on my trips to Leonard Morse how ill Jennie really was. Although I prayed for Jennie on each hospital visit and did all I could to encourage her, I will confess that I returned from my third visit sadly telling my wife, “I expect to read Jennie Maroney’s obituary in the paper soon. Unless there’s a miracle, I don’t think she’ll make it.”

There evidently WAS a miracle, because Jennie now has the energy, vitality, and passion that she had over ten years ago! In my opinion, she looks twenty years younger than she actually is. No, I don’t always agree with Jennie. Back in the ‘80s she wrote a letter to the editor stating that one of the paper’s editorials had obviously quoted from a Communist document! The editors added that it was a quote from the American Heritage Magazine! I was embarrassed for Jennie that time, but agree or disagree, you’ve got to admire Jennie’s courage.

Her recent Letter to the Editor, “Making Home Bible Study Illegal” brought a lot of comments to the on-line edition, and sparked Ed Lawrence’s Easter Sunday column entitled, “Learned Anything Today?”

Ironically Jennie and her critics have something in common: they love to have the last word! I'm ashamed to admit I have that same tendency, and it's a struggle for me to NOT try to have the last word. A lesson we all need to learn is to be teachable. My first pastor in the Assemblies of God, the Rev. Lloyd A. Westover, said almost every person you meet in life has something to teach you, and that’s true.

What do I respect about Jennie Maroney? In an apathetic age, she CARES. Jennie cares about human life, from “unborn babies” to sickly elderly persons. She cares about the community of Framingham and wants to see it become a safer and better place. Jennie has some old fashioned values of decency and morality. In this moral cesspool, her thoughts are welcome. Jennie is not cloistered in a religious ghetto- she cares about bringing Christianity into the marketplace, much as the Apostle Paul did at Athens in Acts chapter 17. Biblical scholars report that Paul's ministry in Athens was one of his biggest failures. No church was established. Many mocked Paul. Yet a few people became Believers, so he did make a difference there.

Much as her critics will decry this, MetroWest is the better for Jennie Maroney being among us and putting her thoughts out in the arena. And, Jennie, those who criticize you (and me, for that matter) are also caring passionate people that we can sometimes learn from, as well!

(P.S. A condensed and slightly edited version of this is found in today’s MetroWest Daily News at )

Thursday, April 8, 2010


“...Am I my brother's keeper?” (from Genesis 4:9)

If you live in the Boston area, you’ve probably been following this story in the news over the past few days. John “Jack” Burke, an elderly man with Alzheimer’s Disease went missing last Thursday (April 1) evening. He was wearing a Red Sox jacket and a blue baseball cap with the inscribed words, “Number 1 Papa”. I’ve seen Mr. Burke’s age listed as both 75 and 76 which makes me wonder if he had a birthday over the past week. It’s very common for elderly people with Alzheimer’s Disease to be constantly walking. Some call this symptom of the disease “sundowning”. It seems Mr. Burke was one who did a lot of walking. He left his Holbrook home at 6 p.m. on the evening of April 1 to take a walk and never returned. He was seen at a Dunkin’ Donuts in Braintree around 8 p.m. that evening. Several days ago it was reported that a police dog picked up his scent in Quincy near the Braintree line. Sadly, yesterday his body was found in a Holbrook wooded area. He had laid down and was using his jacket as a pillow. He had presumably become lost.

Last night, I saw Mr. Burke’s son speaking on one of the Boston television station’s newscast. He was sad but relieved that his father’s body had been found. He then had some very important words to say, encouraging viewers to be alert to notice a confused elderly person wandering around and should that happen, to contact the authorities. There IS a tendency many of us have that we don’t want to BOTHER people and that we may hesitate to get involved in such a situation. Had someone taken a moment to engage Mr. Burke in conversation during his final walk, and then realized the man suffered from dementia, and called the police, Mr. Burke would probably be alive today.

Mr. Burke’s case reminds me of what happened to my mother’s Uncle Arthur back in the 1960s. Arthur McDonald (he’d changed his name from MacDonald so people would think he was Irish rather than Scottish) was my maternal grandmother’s younger brother. Arthur had never married. He was an accomplished amateur boxer as a young man, and had spent many years as a Boston Police Officer. When his physical and mental condition badly deteriorated he was placed in (the former) Long Island Hospital in Boston Harbor.
Like Mr. Burke, one day Arthur went missing. He was missing for a month. Finally, my father who was very active in the Civil Air Patrol, organized a search on Long Island with the C.A.P. and other volunteers for one Saturday at Long Island. They found his body. I remember attending Arthur McDonald’s funeral. He had a flag draped casket, like John F. Kennedy did. The family was at peace that his body had been found and that he was able to be given a proper burial.

Many years later, my father was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease. He was so physically impaired that he could not walk for more than a very short distance at a time. His final days were in a nursing home, almost always in a wheelchair.

My heart goes out to the Burke family. I hope we’ll all remember Jack Burke’s son’s request and be “clued in” to watch for confused elderly people and be prepared to help when needed. For those of us who have had a parent with Alzheimer’s Disease, there is always the thought that WE may one day be Alzheimer’s patients. In fact, my father’s mother suffered from Alzheimer’s back in the 1950s. If one of your biological parents had Alzheimer’s disease, you’re about 25% more likely to someday be afflicted by it than are folks in the general population, and that number rises to 50% if both of your parents had Alzheimer’s.

Yes, it was a sad ending in Holbrook, but let’s take the admonition to heart about being alert to the needs of the elderly!

Monday, April 5, 2010


“and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, charity.
For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (2 Peter 1:7-8)

Not long ago I posted an entry on the blog about a very special elderly woman named Claire. This post is about another very special elderly woman named Lucy. I am not going to use her last name here. Lucy is a very humble woman. I’m sure she’d be embarrassed to have me mentioning her on the blog. Lucy’s a Quaker.

One of the benefits I had in attending the meetings and activities of the Framingham Interfaith Clergy Association is that I met a lot of people from many and varied backgrounds. Did I AGREE with all of them? Certainly not! But I learned much from most of them. My first pastor in the Assemblies of God, the Rev. Lloyd Westover, taught that nearly everyone you meet in life has something to teach you. I’ve found that Pastor Westover was right about that.

I don’t know Lucy’s exact age, but I’d guess she’s at least 85. At “F.I.C.A.” (what we called the clergy association) one issue that frequently came up is whether our name was the best since some religious groups do NOT have clergy. Did you know, for instance, that the Christian Science religion has no clergy? That’s also true of the Quakers (officially known as the Society of Friends). Each of those groups sent a lay representative to F.I.C.A. I believe it was somewhere around 1997 or 1998 that Lucy began attending F.I.C.A. as the representative of the Framingham Friends Meeting. Lucy has to be one of the sweetest, gentlest, and kindest people I have ever met. She did serve as F.I.C.A. Secretary for several years. Lucy’s no longer a “regular” at F.I.C.A. The Quakers have sent a couple of other representatives over the past few years. But Lucy’s a fixture at any local special services.

This afternoon I received an unexpected letter in the mail from Lucy. It was a copy of the program for the Community Good Friday Service held at Edwards Congregational Church. Lucy had enclosed a handwritten note saying she thought I might like to see it and that she had missed me being at the Good Friday Service. I must say, THAT note was very special. I was “blown away” that she’d even think of sending me a program and a note saying I was missed. I’ve also been impressed through the years that from time to time Lucy would ask me how my wife Mary Ann was doing in her job at Marian High School or how my daughter Amy was doing out in Missouri in her nursing career. She wasn’t just being polite- you could tell she really MEANT those questions.

Cultures of the past revered their elderly. Unfortunately, our culture tends to treat people over age 75 like little children and pretty much shove them in the back room. We can learn so much from older people like Claire whom I recently wrote about, and like Lucy. Claire is a towering example of unselfish service and sacrifice, and Lucy is a beautiful example of true kindness and thoughtfulness.

Our society makes a lot of extroverted loudmouths. Yes, Morton Downey, Jr. may be deceased, but there are plenty of extroverted loudmouths of his ilk all over the place. I admit that I tend to want to be noticed and I want to be paid attention to. Have I ever acted like an extroverted loudmouth just to try to get noticed, recognized, and respected?

Yes, I have. I’m not proud of that.

I think God is calling me and a lot of other people to be like do the right be kind and considerate...though most will never show us any appreciation for our kindness and consideration.

May we choose the calling and lifestyle that Our Heavenly Father has ordained for us.

Sunday, April 4, 2010


“A merry heart does good, like medicine,
But a broken spirit dries the bones.” (Proverbs 17:22 New King James Version)

What a sports headline I read on Easter Sunday morning: “Satan the Savior for Bruins”. That was on page 1 of the sports section of the April 4, 2010 MetroWest Daily News. The story was continued on page 4, where the secondary headline on read, “Satan Leads Bruins to win in OT”.

To appreciate that secondary heading, please be reminded that I (along with a number of other ministers) usually use “OT” in my preaching and teaching notes for “Old Testament”.

“Wow, Satan led the Bruins to a win in the Old Testament?! It must be in an obscure book! Maybe they were a pagan Canaanite tribe?!”

I will admit I’m not much of a hockey fan. I did not know there was a “Satan” on the Boston Bruins team! I learned that his name is: Miroslav Satan

The story is found at:

Here are some excerpts from the story which may have you laughing as it did me on Easter Sunday morning:

“Satan had both goals for Boston (36-30-12), which has scored just five times in four games.”

“Satan managed to get the puck behind Gustavsson, but it was swept to safety by Phaneuf.”

Yes, Satan led the Bruins to victory on Easter weekend, and the Rex Sox Opening Day, (well, it’s “Opening NIGHT”) game is on Easter Sunday night against the Yankees.

You can’t make this stuff up!

Saturday, April 3, 2010


DISCLAIMER: After over 25 years as an Assemblies of God minister, I’ve learned that some people become very offended over anything and everything. Please don’t think in this posting that I’m making fun of Jesus Christ rising from the Dead or that I take lightly what the Lord Jesus Christ did for me! Easter is the most special day of the year, and I would be NOTHING without Our Lord, Jesus Christ!
I just couldn’t resist telling this story of an inanimate object “rising from the dead” on Easter weekend!

“And it came to pass, as they were much perplexed thereabout, behold, two men stood by them in shining garments:
And as they were afraid, and bowed down their faces to the earth, they said unto them, Why seek ye the living among the dead?
He is not here, but is risen: remember how he spake unto you when he was yet in Galilee,
Saying, The Son of man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again.
And they remembered his words,” (Luke 24:4-8)

People who have been reading my blog for a long time know I can get very sentimental about certain things, especially cars. My late brother Eddie had a turquoise 1971 Ford Thunderbird, for instance. To this day, it’s impossible for me to see an early ‘70s T-Bird at a car show and not get “choked up”. Until very recently I was driving what had been my parents’ 1989 Volkswagen Golf. I remember the first time I saw that new car. It was October of 1989. My friend Ed Duddy and his wife Vikki were up visiting from St. Louis. We went over to my parents’ home in Canton on a Saturday. There in the driveway sat the brand new blue VW. My parents were very excited about the new car and had kept its arrival a secret. They wanted to surprise family and friends. My Dad had previously owned an orange (yes, ORANGE!) 1974 Volkswagen Super Beetle. Dad loved Volkswagens. They were cheap and great on gas. He typically bought a 2 or 3 year old VW and would drive it until it was 8-10 years old; then he’d replace the car. He’d bought the ‘74 when it was around 2-3 years old, and he’d driven the car for at least 12 years, so he was overdue to replace it.

What amazed me is that the new blue ‘89 was an automatic transmission model. Dad loved manual shift cars. It turns out he bought the automatic for my mother’s sake. The car was brand new, but he got a really good deal on it because the 1990s were on the dealer’s lot and they were anxious to sell off the new ‘89s they had. THAT was like my Dad, to look for a “deal”, but I was also surprised he’d financed the car. Gene Baril was a guy who believed in paying cash for everything. I don’t think he EVER had a credit card. My Mom had a couple of credit cards and a checking account. Dad was Mr. “Cash Only”. For him to finance a car was unheard of. Dad also thought it was stupid to have air conditioning in a car, and this new VW was equipped with A/C. I have to say, I was struck so funny about the A/C, automatic transmission, and financing that I chuckled about it for the rest of that weekend!

My parents died within 7 weeks of each other in the summer of 2000. One item I inherited was that 1989 Volkswagen Golf. When I got it in the Fall of 2000 it had only 26,000 miles on it! Except for a few small dents my Mom had put in it (her vision was failing and a few times she scraped it against the garage door frame) it was pretty much in “mint” condition. I wasn’t used to such a SMALL car...and it was a 2 door (I prefer 4 door cars). It was a lot of FUN, however! It was like riding around in a go kart! It got great gas mileage. It had a surprisingly good AM/FM radio (alas, no tape player!) which in a VW is called a “Heidleberg Stereo”! When my kids got their licenses, they had fun driving the VW. It was always a fun car for me. When Amy’s friend “Wes” needed an adult to “sponsor” him for his road test, I did that, and Wes got his license in downtown Framingham on a snowy day in the Volkswagen.

No, the VW wasn’t perfect. It did NOT like alternator belts. I lost track of HOW MANY alternator belts I replaced in that car. About every 12-18 months the alternator belt would fall off and the car would have to be towed and repaired. That got to be a real pain, and expensive. It also went through exhaust systems like crazy! I spent a lot of time at Meineke Muffler! In the past 2-3 years, it was looking “ratty”. The headliner had been falling down and I put a bunch of industrial grade staples in it to hold it up. The rear hatch would not stay up on its own when opened and I had pieces of wood to “prop” it open. The blower fan would only work on the highest speed. About 2 years ago, the A/C died and it was going to be so expensive to fix that I did without it.

As the calendars turned to January 1, 2010, I had a strong feeling that I would not own the 1989 VW beyond 2010. Many of you know that the VW lost brakes in downtown Framingham on February 8. I am thankful I was not killed! I had the car towed to my driveway where it sat until April 2. We officially took the VW off the road, canceling the registration and insurance just a few days ago. Last night, a young mechanic named Ryan who loves to fix up and restore old Volkswagens bought the car. He picked it up with a large flatbed truck. My daughter Rachel and I watched the Volkswagen Golf carried away on the truck...almost like a person being taken away by ambulance. Ryan will put new brakes on the car, fix the exhaust system and do some other work. Upon starting it up he also commented that it has a vacuum leak. I wouldn’t have noticed that but he could tell by the sound.

The VW I watched carried up the street last night seemed a far cry from the brand new car in my parents’ driveway in October of 1989. There was a bit of sadness seeing it go. My wife Mary Ann had an apt observation, however - that my father would have been very pleased that a young mechanic was going to fix it up and drive it. That’s true. Dad would have been pleased as punch that this very young guy was going to take care of “his” car and drive it, sparing it from a trip to the junkyard.

So, on Easter weekend, the Volkswagen has risen!

Yeah, it’s a car. Ryan the mechanic will fix it and maybe even drive it for a few years. Eventually, it WILL end up in a junkyard. But for those of us who put our trust in the Lord Jesus day, we will rise in new bodies and life forevermore! (see I Corinthians 15)

Friday, April 2, 2010


“And not as it was by one that sinned, so is the gift: for the judgment was by one to condemnation, but the free gift is of many offenses unto justification.” (Romans 5:16)

“ have not, because ye ask not.” (from James 4:2)

This piece may seem totally inappropriate to post on Good Friday. If if offends anybody, I regret that. There’s just something gnawing at me today that I’d love to get some solid Biblical feedback on.

I receive a number of e-mail newsletters, as probably many of you do. One of them is from a Christian institution of higher learning. Specifically, it’s from one of our Assemblies of God institutions of higher learning. (In the U.S. Assemblies of God, we have at least fifteen such “endorsed” schools including a seminary, several colleges, and several universities.) I won’t say WHICH AG school it was, except that it was NOT my alma mater, Central Bible College.

The newsletter featured a prominent piece by the school’s President. The school’s President is probably one of the ten most loved and respected Assemblies of God ministers in the U.S. He states that he tries to only put out major financial appeals once a quarter, and that this is one such appeal. The President writes that he needs at least 4 people to donate at least $50,000. apiece this Spring, along with others donating what they can.

In evangelical Christian circles there IS some controversy about putting out such letters and e-mails. SOME good friends of mine say that it’s very bad to put out such information...that it’s manipulative and smacks of the worst of worldly marketing. The example that’s usually given is George Mueller. George Mueller lived in 19th Century England. George was a devout and praying Christian. He founded a number of orphanages which ran totally on faith. He never put out any financial appeals. He just prayed and donations poured in. Not only did MONEY pour in, but more commonly it was sacks of flour, or bottles of milk, or maybe some fresh killed chickens, or something like that. George Mueller ran a number of orphanages that way for many years never putting out any financial or other appeals.

My question is: Why was George Mueller one in a million? Well, I know there HAVE been a few other ministries that have run totally on faith the same way...but VERY few! My experience is that 98% of churches and para-church ministries depend on financial appeals. If you’ve been a born-again Christian for any length of time, you’ve received (frankly manipulative) fundraising letters from Christian organizations. In some cases, they can get kind of ridiculous, as with the old PTL Television ministry of the 1970s. Every month there would be a sensational letter from them stating they were in a crisis and needed a great financial miracle. And every month, millions of dollars would pour in to them. Well,we all know Jim Bakker went to prison and that all fell apart.

But even the most reputable ministries put out fund-raising letters. They’re usually less sensational than PTL’s used to be, but they definitely ask for money.
Now that I’m no longer pastoring and First Assembly of God of Framingham has closed, I think I can write much more freely about this. Sometimes I was criticized for putting out manipulative fund-raising letters on behalf of the church. I plead guilty. I did put them out. Honestly, they worked. Well, 90% of the time, they worked.

I DID find that if you put out such letters TOO often, they don’t work. You have to have a legitimate need that you can clearly state. You also have to be able to state some legitimate accomplishments of your church's (or para-church organization’s) ministry. Maybe 3 people got saved last month. Maybe a person with a heart condition was miraculously healed at one of your services. Maybe a new family in town got help and direction and wrote you a complimentary e-mail which you draw excerpts from. Put it out there: it works. Just about every time I sent out an “all mailing list” mailing with a heavy fundraising component, two things would happen: ONE is that our attendance would be up for the next couple of Sundays, TWO is that our income would be up for the next couple of Sundays. Then it would drop back to it’s usual level.

“Pastor Bob, the first-century church didn’t do manipulative stuff like that!” some will counter. Actually, they did.

Check out what the Apostle Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 9. It’s quite manipulative. Paul was raising money from churches in the central Mediterranean area to help the famine victims of the Jerusalem area. In that low tech era, he spent over a year soliciting donations; then he and a group of several others brought the donated money to the church at Jerusalem. Specifically in 2 Corinthians 9, Paul writes to the church at Corinth that he’s been bragging to the Christians of Macedonia about how the church at Corinth was ready to give to the offering a year ago. Now, Paul’s kind of nervous. He’s going to be showing up at Corinth with some Macedonians to pick up their money. He’s afraid the Corinthians will have little or no money to donate and that he (and the Corinthians) will look like fools. He gives them specific instructions about putting money aside for the next several weeks in special offerings so that doesn’t happen. When I think about the modern arm-twisting financial appeals in Christian circles, well, that wasn’t much different.

Honestly, in the last couple of months I was at First Assembly of God of Framingham we desperately needed a financial miracle. I wanted to put out one of the strongest financial appeals I’d EVER put out. Frankly, there were a few people on our mailing list that could have made substantial donations. On the other hand, I did not want to offend some people in our church Membership who probably WOULD have found such an appeal offensive. So, I backed off.

Is the George Mueller approach to fundraising the correct one?
The Jim Bakker approach?
The Apostle Paul approach?
The AG College President approach?

There’s no question that such appeals do offend a number of Christians.
Again, they also work.

On Good Friday, we especially remember that “Jesus paid it all” for our salvation.
Unfortunately, churches and ministries all have mortgage payments, and utility bills, and insurance requirements, etc. etc. That battle between “faith” and “promotion/marketing” can be a tough matter to reconcile.

Thursday, April 1, 2010


“One man esteemeth one day above another: another esteemeth every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind.
He that regardeth the day, regardeth it unto the Lord; and he that regardeth not the day, to the Lord he doth not regard it. He that eateth, eateth to the Lord, for he giveth God thanks; and he that eateth not, to the Lord he eateth not, and giveth God thanks.” (Romans 14:5-6)

I’m among a lot of people that can get very confused about the date of Easter. In the “western church” (pretty much Roman Catholic and Protestant) Easter can fall anywhere from March 22 to April 25. Some years (like 2010) the “eastern church” (Greek Orthodox, Russian Orthodox, etc.) celebrates Easter on the same day as the western church, but most years, we don’t. In fact, Jesus Christ was crucified and rose from the dead at Passover time. I’ve often wondered why Easter doesn’t coincide with Passover each year, but it DOESN’T. Some years, Easter and Passover are about a month apart. In 2008, Easter fell on March 23. That just plain seemed SO early! It felt like celebrating Christmas on November 29. There have, in fact, been some icy and snowy Easters in March, and there have been some very summer like Easter dates in April.

A big part of the problem is that we’re dealing with THREE calendars here: The Jewish Calendar, The Julian Calendar, and The Gregorian Calendar. In the Jewish calendar, Passover is always on the 15th day of the month of Nisan. The “eastern church” uses the Julian calendar. The “western church” uses the Gregorian calendar. (In fact, my understanding is, pretty much all of Europe and the Americas used the Julian calendar until sometime during the 1700s when the “western world” switched to the Gregorian calendar.) The date of Easter is set as the first Sunday after the first full moon after the Spring equinox.

I was surprised to read this week that when the Catholic Church had its “Second Vatican Council” in the early 1960s, it seriously considered changing Easter so that it would always be the 2nd Sunday of April. I believe they made that RECOMMENDATION, in fact, but so far it’s never been changed. Also, I was reading this week that the World Council of Churches recommended in 1997 that the eastern and western churches come together and somehow make sure that everybody celebrates Easter on the same day every year. That also is a RECOMMENDATION that is no more than that at this point.

I hope I haven’t bored you, but as a guy who’s often been puzzled about the issue of “WHY does the date for Easter change from year to hear?” this is a big part of why.

The important thing is really not so much the DATE, but what Easter really means. For true Christians, Easter is a very special day; possibly the most important day of the year. My friend, Debby Seler, missionary to Jamaica, wrote a GREAT blog posting about why Easter is very important to her. I encourage you to click on her blog (in the column at the right) and find that posting. It’s really good.

I’m writing this on Maundy Thursday night, and tomorrow is Good Friday. These are solemn days, but I’m reminded of the great sermon by Tony Campolo of Philadelphia, “It’s FRIDAY but SUNDAY’S COMIN’!” (I suspect if you search for that on youtube you’ll find it; it’s pretty powerful.)

May you have a Blessed Easter; and if you have never PERSONALLY received Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, may this be the year that you make that decision!