Friday, January 27, 2012


“And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” (John 8:32)

(With apologies to Reader’s Digest magazine, this is my “Reader’s Digest condensed version” of the post I have entitled, “Bob Baril Coming Out of the Closet.”)

I was off all day yesterday, which was unusual. I DO have almost every Thursday off from VIP Answering Service, but on such off days, usually I work a few hours at BJs doing promotional work. BJs had nothing for me on Wednesday, and I decided to just make Thursday a day off. I took a long walk...what I call a “prayer walk” in the morning, On this walk as I prayed and thought, I decided to put out a frank e-mail in the spirit of networking stating my employment and financial needs, and soliciting help of from anyone who knows of any desirable employment. I took a few classes at the Employment and Training Center in Marlboro over the Fall. Most of the classes were really not “job training; well, one was; MOST of them were motivational classes about learning to sell yourself to employers, how to ace an interview, how to get an interview, etc. One of the most valuable classes I took was about “networking”. The teacher explained that most jobs do not come through Craigslist, nor through online postings, nor even employment agencies. Over 50% of all jobs that people get, they get through networking. That is, someone knows someone who knows someone who opens a door for you to have an interview and the next thing you know, you have a job.

My friend Jim Spence years ago told me he loved having me on the Board of his nonprofit organization because I “network well”. I do. I had decided to put out a networking blog piece and e-mail stating my needs and asking if anyone knew of any employment positions available that would be suitable for me, AND asking that each person pass this along to friends and family.

Sadly, the church I pastored declined. I did everything I could in my own strength to make it work and keep it opened. I failed. In early 2010, the District closed the church. They graciously allowed us to live in the parsonage for one more year. I got a job at VIP Answering Service through “networking”. I liked the idea that on this job I was sitting, talking, and helping people. It’s just that you really are never going to get rich doing this job. It’s a great supplement, but I DO need to find something with more hours and more pay.

We moved into Webster in March of 2011. Didn’t I know that this day was coming...that I would have to move out or have a much better job? Yeah, I did. I’m also still depressed and constantly exhausted. I feel really good that I shave and shower each day, go to work at the answering service and sometimes work at BJs. I feel like that’s been the best I could do. Maybe I am wrong about that.

I have applied for some chaplain positions with the State. As a matter of fact, today I got a letter from a friend about a chaplain position that is available, and I’m dropping an application in the mail today. I have also applied for some other jobs. I DO belong to some of those “job search” things on-line. Daily I get e-mails about applying to be a manager at CVS or a salesperson at a beauty supply place, stuff like that. These just don’t interest me and they don’t usually pay well.

In 2-3 months we have to begin paying for our apartment. If we cannot, we have to figure out where we will live, and likely what we will do with our furniture.
If you know of any possible positions I might qualify for, please let me know.
If you have any ideas at all, please let me know. Thank you.


“And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” (John 8:32)

I have to say “right off the bat” that I am not a homosexual, nor do I have homosexual tendencies. I know that a title like “Coming Out of the Closet” will bring that to mind for many people. But I can imagine how difficult it must be for gay people To “come out of the closet”. They risk total rejection and revulsion. They risk the loss of family, friends, maybe even employment. They risk being tarred with a stereotypical brush, and worst of all, being told that God wants nothing to do with them. (Homosexuality is a complicated subject, and a topic for ANOTHER day.) I relate because I am about to share matters in this piece which CAN potentially bring me the rejection of some people. It CAN mean the loss of some family, some friends, and maybe ruin me professionally. So, I do not post this lightly. I originally considered writing this post in two or three installments, as it will be very long. But, for context and continuity, I’m going to do it as one. (I AM going to post a very short “Readers Digest Condensed Version” of this shortly after I post the long one, just because some people will never want to read the long one.)

I was off all day yesterday, which was unusual. I DO have almost every Thursday off from VIP Answering Service, but on such off days, usually I work a few hours at BJs doing promotional work. BJs had nothing for me on Wednesday, and I decided to just make Thursday a day off. I took a long walk...what I call a “prayer walk” in the morning, On this walk as I prayed and thought, I decided to put out a frank e-mail in the spirit of networking stating my employment and financial needs, and soliciting help of from anyone who knows of any desirable employment. I took a few classes at the Employment and Training Center in Marlboro over the Fall. Most of the classes were really not job training; well, one was; MOST of them were motivational classes about learning to sell yourself to employers, how to ace an interview, how to get an interview, etc. One of the most valuable classes I took was about “networking”. The teacher explained that most jobs do not come through Craigslist, nor through online postings, nor even employment agencies. Over 50% of all jobs that people get, they get through networking. That is, someone knows someone who knows someone who opens a door for you to have an interview and the next thing you know, you have a job.

My friend Jim Spence years ago told me he loved having me on the Board of his nonprofit organization because I “network well”. I do. I had decided to put out a networking blog piece and e-mail stating my needs and asking if anyone knew of any employment positions available that would be suitable for me, AND asking that each person pass this along to friends and family. I had planned to clean our apartment for the afternoon. It was not going to be a “perfect” cleaning, but would be the best cleaning some rooms have gotten in three months. Mary Ann and I are both very busy and usually just too tired to clean the apartment. Something like cleaning an apartment is the best thing in the world for’s physical exercise, it’s mindless, and in the end it gives a great feeling of accomplishment.

Mary Ann very much does not want to be mentioned on this blog or in my e-mails. It’s something she feels very strongly about that is nonnegotiable. I hate to do this, but there is no way I can tell my story without putting A LOT out on the table. This may well hurt and disappoint, her. She may well view this as a broken promise and as totally disrespectful to her. As much as that scares me, I feel compelled to to it. To my surprise, Mary Ann came home early yesterday. I will admit, I was disappointed. I wanted to have that time to myself cleaning. She then stated that we have to talk. She asked me some questions that are very difficult for me. I did not know how to answer. I kept saying “I don’t know”. She did not like my responses.

Mary Ann was not being a jerk. She is very concerned about our financial and living situation. Many people do know know the rental of the apartment in Webster has been provided as a benefit for us by the Southern New England District of the Assemblies of God. This arrangement is coming to an end soon. I had thought it was ending in April, and she believes it is ending in March. Whoever is right, it IS ending soon. The problem is, unless I get a much better job or a very lucrative part-time job in addition to the answering service job, there is absolutely no way we can afford to live at the Webster apartment. Even THEN, it’s going to be dicey. Frankly right now, I am behind in several key bills. We’re just not “making it”. In counseling and one-on-one I have been accused of “not caring” and being in total denial. Mary Ann has said over and over, “I don’t understand, I don’t understand, I don’t understand...”. And, I was reminded of the message of the film, :”Courageous” which says the MAN has to be the “provider” and “protector”. (I guess I always thought God was supposed to be the provider and protector.)

And THEN there IS the matter of the Southern New England District. I sat through meetings with the officials looking at me saying, “His wife worked three jobs at times and he keeps her at am arm’s length”. I looked like the laziest, most irresponsible guy. One official told me, “Once the church closed, Mary Ann stayed in touch with us and did EVERYTHING we asked of her. You did NOTHING. You had to be FORCED to do ANYTHING.” And, I did. These were not my finest hours.

That part is strictly the introduction. We have not gotten into the closet at all, yet. Are you ready to go into the closet? Get your flashlights ready, and take a deep breath:

Many of you know I had very different parents and that I got some very interesting sets of genes from them. My father was very extroverted, very confident, and very authoritarian. He was a leader. He was an outstanding public speaker. My mother was a reader and loved history and current events. She read and read and read. I don’t know ANYONE who read as much as she did. She was a diligent person, but she was not at all a leader. The LAST thing she wanted to do was to be a leader. And, she did not have a lot of energy. During the years she worked 40 hours a week, she would literally just come home and collapse. She always talked about how tired she was, how she had no energy, and she was frequently very depressed. I get my public speaking and sometimes impressive outward persona from my father, but internally I am my mother. I also have struggled all through life about feeling like a misfit, but THAT is also possibly the subject for another day.

I had several jobs at Draper Mills in Canton during my school years. I got them from “networking”; my mother was the Draper Mills payroll clerk. They were some tough factory jobs. I did not LIKE them, but I did them. Well, one job I DID like. One summer the janitor had a heart attack. I spent the whole summer as the substitute janitor. I loved that job because I went through the whole mill every day. I was by myself walking through the mill, servicing the bathrooms, etc. During the summer of 1978, however, I had a traumatic work experience at Draper’s. I was hired to work in the “needle room”. I know most of you don’t understand textile mills, and it’s really too much to explain what the needle room does. But I worked with a guy named Ed Keefer. I wrote a whole piece on the blog about that job with Ed Keefer a few years ago. Ed was a slight guy around fifty with glasses, but his appearance was very deceiving. Ed is one of the cruelest individuals I have ever met. He yelled and screamed at me every day. He actually pounded his hand and yelled and yelled about how stupid I was. He told me he’d once worked with a mentally retarded guy who was as stupid as I was. And he HATED working with that guy. But now, I was as stupid as that retarded guy. He had an excuse and I had no excuse. Day after day, he yelled, pounded tables and yelled about how stupid I was; he yelled and insulted me. It was horrible. I was not one to tell my parents anything like this, but finally after weeks of it, I told them and to my shock they told me to quit. My father was doing some major wall and cement work at home that summer and he would use me doing manual labor there, and that’s what happened. But this experience at Draper’s badly scarred me. It deeply shook my confidence and self-esteem.

Just a short time later, I had another bad job experience. During school that Fall, I took a job at the Maranatha retirement center in the kitchen area. The manager of Maranatha at the time was an ex-miliatry officer and Assemblies of God minister named Brother Durham. He was very military and very serious. One evening, he corrected me about something I did. It was NOT being corrected that I minded. It was how he did it. He was demeaning, and he called me “boy”. I know how the Black people must have felt. “Boy”...and being demeaned. I didn’t care that this guy had been a military officer nor that he was the guy in charge. I was twenty-four and had a Bachelor’s degree. NOBODY was going to call me “boy”. I left that job shortly thereafter, and there was another scar.

In the Fall of 1979 in Sharon, Massachusetts I took a job a new K-Mart. The job was setting up the entire store. There were huge cartons of merchandise all over the floor, AND there were metal shelving units in pieces all over the place. We had to assemble the shelving units, then unpack the merchandise. In some cases, we had to put merchandise together. I was working in hardware, and I had to put some work benches together, for instance. They gave us booklets with black & white photos. There were exact photos of what your shelf was supposed to look like. You had to put it together and pack it EXACTLY like the photo. If you think that is easy, well, honestly, it’s NOT. It’s too bad that show “Undercover Boss” was not on the air then. If you’ve seen it, they have things happen like the head of Pizza Hut is working at one of their restaurants and can’t work the cash register correctly, or can’t make the pizza correctly. He’ll get corrected and told he DOESN’T have what it takes to work at Pizza Hut....later they discover he is the CEO! That show would have helped me.

There was a young woman named Donna that my boss loved. Honestly, she was a lot like my wife Mary Ann,except that she had dark brown hair. She put her shelves together flawlessly. She stacked and displayed the stuff EXACTLY as it looked in the black & white photo. She made it look SO easy!. I tried and tried and tried, and my shelf looked like it was done by a third grader. My boss was furious.

“You’re not even trying, ARE YOU??!!” he accused.

Honestly, I was.

I didn’t stay at that job too long. Once again, I left with extremely low self-esteem. I believed I was more than a misfit. I was stupid. I was incapable. Something was seriously wrong with me. I kept these feelings all bottled up inside. I applied for a lot of jobs in those days and I went on a lot of interviews, but I never came across very well. I’d get the “don’t call us, we’ll call you” treatment form the interviewer and that would be it.

David C. Milley who pastored Christian Life Center, Walpole for many years was a complicated guy. He says he was the easiest person in the world to work for, and he really wasn’t. But a big gift of Dave’s was that he saw what people COULD be and he believed in some people that no one else believed in. When he hired me as a full time Assistant Pastor, I did not hold any ministerial credentials and a lot of people thought I was afraid of my own shadow and would never succeed. I actually developed a lot as a minister and as a person there. I became a Licensed Assemblies of God minister in 1981 and an Ordained minister in 1985. In 1987, I assumed the pastorate of First Assembly of God of Framingham. I so enjoyed those days. Mary Ann and I got married in 1982. We had three kids during the 1980s. I developed into a very good pulpit preacher and a very good teacher. I was never good at the business end, but I DID get enough experience that I really got better at it. I was also never much for counseling but many times God showed me what to say and do when I had no idea.

The church was small, but I DID “network” well. I remember that one Sunday on his vacation Pastor Sam Hollo and his wife Esther came to our Sunday morning service. (Sam and I were in a pastors’ prayer group together.) After the service, Sam complimented the sermon and the service. He said, “Bob, you are the BEST preacher in MetroWest. I tell everybody that. I’m SERIOUS.”

Sam has an earned doctorate and was pastoring Westgate Church in Weston, a large, successful church. That compliment meant a lot. I got a lot of other such compliments. Many times I wrote guest columns for the local newspaper. Despite all my deficiencies, I realized I had an amazing gift for discussing very serious issues in a light hearted way, but in a way that people could and would remember. In speaking, I’d have crowds laughing one minute and crying the next. I still have people who contact me and tell me something I said from the pulpit or in a class or even one-on-one to them totally changed their life for the better.

About that business of Mary Ann working three jobs and me not caring: she DID work three jobs at one time for a year or two in the 1990s:  During that time I did all the snow shoveling and all the yard work. I also did 90% of the cooking and laundry. I did all the leaf raking in the fall. If a tree limb fell in the back yard, I’d be out there with a saw cutting it up and hauling it away. I was painting the porch and staining the deck in the summers. My kids say they seldom remember me just laying around. They remember me much more as a workaholic. When my parents died and I received an inheritance, I had Mary Ann take a full year off of all employment.  The next year, she worked only minimal part time hours. THAT year I sold $13,000 worth of stock to make up for the money she would have made. I took her to Cape Cod, bought her a one year old mini van and paid $20,000 cash for it. I paid for us to have a wonderful vacation to Alaska in 2002.

Yes, sadly, the church declined. I did everything I could in my own strength to make it work and keep it opened. I failed. In early 2010, the District closed the church. They graciously allowed us to live in the parsonage for one more year. I was confused and I was furious. Honestly, it took until Sept. 2010 for me to really BELIEVE and GRASP that the church was closed and I would never pastor it again. Mary Ann very much wanted me to become a Pharmacist’s Assistant at CVS. Honestly, I am terrified of cash registers. Terrified. I prayed for a job where I would not have to work a cash register, that would not be too physically taxing, and where I would not be reviled for being “stupid”. The owner of VIP Answering Service and I have a mutual friend, so that was “networking”. I liked the idea that on this job I was sitting, talking, and helping people. Sure sometimes I make mistakes...we take HUNDREDS of calls. We all make mistakes and get corrected, but we aren’t treated like we are stupid or unappreciated. Never. It’s just that you really are never going to get rich doing this job. It’s a great supplement, but I DO need to find something with more hours and more pay.

We moved into Webster in March of 2011. Didn’t I know that this day was coming...that I would have to move out or have a much better job? Yeah, I did. I’m also still depressed and constantly exhausted. I feel really good that I shave and shower each day, go to work at the answering service and sometimes work at BJs. I feel like that’s been the best I could do. Maybe I am wrong about that.

I have applied for some chaplain positions with the State. As a matter of fact, today I got a letter from a friend about a chaplain position that is available, and I’m dropping an application in the mail today. I have also applied for some other jobs. I DO belong to some of those “job search” things on-line. Daily I get e-mails about applying to be a manager at CVS or a salesperson at a beauty supply place, stuff like that. These just don’t interest me and they don’t usually pay well.

It is true that in 2-3 months we have to begin paying for our apartment. If we cannot, we have to figure out where we will live, and likely what we will do with our furniture. AND one of the other reasons this has not been on my front burner is that usually every week there’s some bill I have that I can’t pay and I literally have to pray the money in. That actually happened THIS week with car insurance.

SO, that’s it. I let you in my closet, and I came out.

If you know of any possible positions I might qualify for, please let me know.
If you have any ideas at all, please let me know. Thank you.

Thursday, January 26, 2012


"...for the LORD seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart." (from I Samuel 16:7)

The City of Newton, Massachusetts is reeling this morning due to the arrest of two city employees who had allegedly been involved in serious criminal sexual behavior. Each involves employees who were around children on their jobs. One was a popular elementary school teacher. The other was a library worker. The library worker did not usually work directly with children, but since children frequent the library, he was certainly around them. Mayor Setti Warren is distressed. The City conducts careful background checks of all of its employees, and will continue to do so. So, HOW did this happen and how COULD it happen?

The answer is that there's an inconvenient truth about background checks, such as the CORI checks (criminal record background checks) often done and often required as conditions of employment in Massachusetts: There are still a number of offenders including sexual offenders who can slip through them. Despite all the "sex offender registration laws" and all the rest of it, none of these things can guarantee safety or security. In fact, they can give us a false sense of security.

This is meant in no way as a slap against Mayor Setti Warren. He is a liberal Democrat and politically we are on the opposite side of most issues. But Setti Warren is a nice guy and a very smart man. He is competent. Yet, he's now learning the inconvenient truth I'm writing about here.

The little church I pastored got quite a taste of this in 2000. Tom D., a prominent and much loved Member of the church, was arrested and convicted of child molestation that year. Thank God, the victim was not someone from our church. Tom D. had led a double life for years. Tom D. came into our little church, First Assembly of God of Framingham, in 1989. He had just been hired as a Counselor and prominent staff member at The Bridge House, "New England Aftercare Ministries". (I was a Board Member of New England Aftercare at the time. Their Executive Director was my good friend, the Rev. Jim Spence.) Tom came highly recommended by his Assemblies of God pastor from southeastern Connecticut. Tom passed a thorough criminal background check. A good teacher, and intense speaker, he seemed to be a good fit for The Bridge House staff. And, our little church was thrilled to have Tom D. as a Member.

Over the years, Tom D. served as a Deacon and as a Sunday School teacher. He became an Ordained minister, NOT through the Assemblies of God, but through the Evangelical Church Alliance. From time to time, I had Tom preach at our church. Tom had a much different persona that I do. Tall and heavyset, he looked like a football player. His style was very "macho". He also played keyboard during our worship services. Tom would often give "Prophecies" during the services. "Am I not the Lord?! Am I not doing a new thing in your midst?!" he would begin. He preached like a football coach trying to fire up a losing team during halftime.

"We're gonna TAKE ON THE DEVIL!!" he would shout.

To many of the blue-collar men at our church, Tom D. was a huge hero. To many of these same guys, I suspected I was kind of a disappointment...not particularly macho, and not always completely sure of myself. I suspected SOME thought, "Why can't Bob Baril be more like TOM? Why couldn't TOM be our pastor?!"

Not everyone felt that way. Many of the women did not like him. Tom did not seem to like women very much. He was divorced and had kids, but said very little about his past. One time a pastor friend of mine (at a ministers' meeting) asked Tom, "Tom, you have any children?"

Tom looked like a wild man, glared at him and yelled, "YEAH!!!!"

One guy at our church named Bill S. did not like Tom. After Tom's arrest, he reminded me that he once came to me and said that Tom reminded him of a child molester and that I'd flatly dismissed the comment. I had to dig way back in my memory banks, but I finally DID remember that. At the time, Tom was loved and admired by so many. AND he had passed a criminal background check. AND Jim Spence loved and supported him. So such a thing was UNTHINKABLE to me.

In late September of 2000, Tom D. was arrested. He had been having a sexual relationship with an under aged boy. His computer at The Bridge House was confiscated and authorities discovered he'd been going to all sorts of unsavory websites. Jim Spence was devastated. Tom was fired immediately. The following Sunday, Jim Spence and I sat with our congregation during the service and frankly told what had happened to Tom. We each apologized for putting this guy forth as a leader, when he was obviously not what he appeared to be. This could not have happened at a worse time for me. I buried each of my parents during mid-2000. My father died of cancer on an Alzheimer's unit in June of 2000 and my mother died of bone cancer in August of 2000. For their final year of life, I was consumed with their crises and frankly just going through the motions of being a pastor. In September of 2000, I was emotionally tired and spent. I really needed the church to be like Aaron and Hur with Moses. But now, the church, for the most part, was devastated. Some were devastated because they loved Tom so much. Others were devastated because I'd let them down as pastor.

Over the next eighteen months, almost all of the key families in the church left. In my heart, I feared the church would die a long, slow death. I struggled and struggled to keep the church alive and to make it grow. I tried anything and everything. The mistake I made (looking back) is that I tried to carry and fix the church on my own, and try as I did, I just couldn't. It was closed by the Assemblies of God in 2010, and at that time I was the one who was devastated.

There are all sorts of seminars about the importance of churches doing background checks on their people, especially those who work with children. I'm all for those, but sometimes they don't work. Tom had no official criminal background.


I admit, there were always some things about Tom D. that did not quite add up. He had been a police officer in Connecticut in his distant past. He LOVED to talk about being a cop. It's obvious that he'd LOVED being a cop. My experience is that guys who love being cops don't just suddenly leave the force to become bus drivers and work in transmission shops. But Tom did. He left the force, moved to Florida, and became a bus driver and later worked in a transmission shop. Somehow, years later he came back to southern Connecticut and became involved in a church and in prison ministry. I now believe Tom was caught in child molestation when he was a cop. I firmly believe there was a cover up. It was probably at that time that his wife divorced him. That is why he never talked about his ex-wife or kid, and why he'd react with such hostility when asked about them. Tom had probably agreed to leave the force and move out of the area and then all charges would go away.

Unfortunately, the experience with Tom sort of validates my son Jon's philosophy of "trust no one". Jon, indeed, tends to keep to himself and really does NOT trust anyone. On the other hand is Claire G. whom I've written about on this blog in the past. Claire G. once told me she took every person at face value. She always expected and believed the very best about all people, and therefore could be easily taken advantage of, and she sometimes was.

I guess we all have to function in life somewhere in the middle.

The bottom line, is if you think CORI checks will protect you and that you can guarantee protection from unsavory characters...well, think again.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012


"...I now write unto you; in both which I stir up your pure minds by way of remembrance:" (from 2 Peter 3:1)

Thirty-three years.

It was January 25, 1979, thirty-three years ago today that Rachel and Rebecca Rayburn were born.

Rachel and Rebecca Rayburn are identical twin girls who are the children of James and Debbie Rayburn. I went to Central Bible College with James. James Rayburn and I had some things in common. We each held previous Bachelor's Degrees. I had a Bachelor's in History from Stonehill College and he had a Bachelor's in Physical Education from Georgia Southwestern University. I was just a tad older than many of the kids at CBC; not much older, just a couple of years, but James was six years older than me and therefore around eight or nine years older than many of the students. At the time I was at CBC, there were at least twenty-five students in the same boat as we were...those with previous Bachelor's degrees who were classified as "Seniors" for as long as we were there. The typical "Senior" with a previous degree was there for anywhere from one to six semesters. Many went on to the AG Graduate School after a semester or two (it's now called AG Theological Seminary). Many others stayed and graduated from CBC like James and I did. We each have Senior pictures in the 1978 and 1979 yearbooks, but we actually graduated in 1979. The Rayburns hailed from Dawson, Georgia. If you've seen all those Christian films like "Fireproof" and "Facing the Giants" which were made in Albany, Georgia, you may be interested to know that Dawson is just a short drive from Albany. (I have visited both places.)

I arrived at CBC in January of 1977 and James in September of that year. At first, he was very nervous, wondering if he really had what it takes to be a minister and wondering if he'd fit in and could make it at CBC. I had been EXACTLY the same way during my first semester, so I kind of "mentored" him for his first few weeks at school and we really hit it off. I learned that James had good reasons to wonder if he'd ever make it as a minister. He is divorced and remarried. In the late 1970s, and in fact up until less than ten years ago, if you were divorced and remarried, the odds that you would ever be credentialed as an Assemblies of God minister were pretty much ZERO. Some students and faculty told him to go home; that he would never be an Assemblies of God minister. (That issue is really not what this piece is about, but as a side note, James was given sort of a make-shift credential by the Georgia AG District allowing him to pastor there. When the Assemblies of God changed their policy on the national level, James was Licensed and Ordained. He pastors the AG church in Soperton, Georgia today.) Something we did at school which we are still very proud of is that we started a Men's Fellowship group at the Maranatha nursing and retirement complex which is located next door to CBC. We had both retired missionaries and elderly sinners coming out to our fellowship meetings on Thursday nights. James and I met and knew personally some of the great ministers of the Assemblies of God from the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s because of our ministry at Maranatha.

If you think you can't get pregnant while on the pill, think again! James and Debbie lived in Boyd Hall, the complex for married students who did not have kids. In the Fall of 1978, to Debbie's shock, she tested positive for pregnancy. Debbie is much younger than James. He was twenty-nine at the time and she was just nineteen. A few weeks later, it was revealed that she was carrying twins. They were excited about the babies coming, but due to other issues, especially finances, this was overwhelming for them. Debbie worked at a local pizza fast food restaurant. As the pregnancy went on and she began getting more fatigued, she had to leave work and James got a job at a cafeteria. Things got really stressful for them.

I was shocked to learn while on my way to morning chapel service on January 25, 1979 that Debbie had given birth the night before; more than two months early! The babies were at Cox Medical Center. Ironically, Cox was just east of the Assemblies of God headquarters on Boonville Ave. in Springfield. The girls were tiny and were in the neo-natal intensive care unit. Things were a lot more sophisticated medically in 1979 than you might think, but certainly not as sophisticated as today. The tiny babies were in little incubators. The Rayburns named them Rachel and Rebecca. Their prognosis was very much in doubt. I remember James telling Debbie it was very likely the babies would die, and I remember Debbie saying she just could not believe God would allow them to die.

The whole school was praying for the Rayburn babies. This was big news on campus. Ironically, I was not one of the "cool kids" nor one of the "popular kids"...far from it. Yet, I was the closest student to the Rayburns so I largely became a contact person between students and faculty and the Rayburn family. The next thing I have to share is an example I often use when I preach about the Gift of Faith from I Corinthians chapter 12. The Gift of Faith is not "saving faith" nor is it "ordinary faith". It's a supernatural gift of the Holy Spirit to believe God and have extraordinary faith in an impossible situation. As the days went on, the condition of the Rayburn babies continued to be "touch and go". Little Rachel was in especially critical condition. Fearing for her vitality, the hospital had her flown to Kansas City Childrens Hospital as a last ditch effort to save her life. I traveled to K.C. for a couple of days with James and Debbie during this time. I remember the hospital being right across the street from the Hallmark Cards headquarters. I have often regretted that as a pastor I was seldom, "God's man of faith and power." One key woman at our church once told me I was full of fear and doubt. When the church was in a terrible time of crisis in the mid-1990s one male Board member told me he looked to me for faith and leadership and found none. Those critiques were accurate. So much of the time, I was just a simple scared guy in way over his head trying to get through from day to day. But THAT is what makes this testimony of the Gift of Faith all the more valid! Despite all the gloom and doom facing the Rayburn babies I had PERFECT FAITH for their TOTAL HEALINGS and I never doubted. I prayed for them, but in complete faith. I would proclaim, "I just KNOW they are going to be perfectly fine." And I DID know that. I now know THAT was the Gift of Faith in operation!

In late April, the babies came home. They were amazingly healthy. The Rayburns were cautioned that there COULD be long term effects from the trauma the little twins had gone through. They MIGHT be intellectually and academically slow in school; there might be other issues. Today, they are celebrating their thirty-third birthdays. They are each married with kids of their own. Each girl did very well in school and in any endeavor they attempted. God brought them to perfect health.

On another side note, today my daughter Amy lives in Springfield, Missouri and works as a pediatric nurse at the much newer and very modern Cox South Medical Center. Some days, she works in the NICU. I still find that amazing.

I remember all this today, and I testify of the goodness and power of God!
Yes, that was a significant day; January 25, 1979! Happy Birthday, Rachel and Rebecca!

Sunday, January 22, 2012


“And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers;
For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:” (Ephesians 4:11-12)

(Yes, my title is a play on the old film title, "Kramer vs. Kramer"!)

This morning (Sunday, January 22) I arrived early for the Adult Sunday School at Bread of Life Church. Glancing at the church bulletin I’d just picked up, I noticed our guest speaker in the morning service would be Rev. Dan Kramer. I hadn’t realized we were even having a guest speaker. (Guess I did NOT read last week’s bulletin very carefully!) My immediate thought was, “WHY do I know that name, Dan Kramer?”

Looking at the next page of the bulletin, I found a “blurb” about the Rev. Kramer and realized I’ve heard him speak before. Dan Kramer is the father Renee Greene, wife of Bread of Life’s Youth Pastor Billy Greene, and music director of the church. Kramer is a most interesting and unusual guy. He hails from Baltimore. It took some guts for a guy from Baltimore to be preaching in the heart of New England on the morning of the Patriots/Ravens game for the AFC Championship. (Come to think of it, the Pastor’s wife, Janis Collette is a New Yorker, and I suppose during baseball season, that takes guts, too!) Kramer has has a long career in law enforcement, and he definitely LOOKS like a cop! (There’s a real camaraderie between all men in blue, and I know my late father would have LOVED him!) Kramer spent twenty-one years as a Baltimore Police Officer. My understanding is that he still works in law enforcement in a different capacity; I THINK with the Baltimore County Sheriff's Dept. Kramer has also become a credentialled minister and has been anointed by God with a powerful healing ministry.

When I heard the Rev. Dan Kramer speak about a year ago, he pretty much gave his testimony of how God has used him to win souls for Christ as a law enforcement officer. I was NOT prepared for the style of ministry Dan Kramer would use today. This was a full blown old fashioned Pentecostal/Charismatic healing service! It was not some phony/baloney kind of thing. Sadly, that has happened quite a bit in Pentecostal/Charismatic circles. This guy moves in the power of the Holy Spirit, and from all I could tell and discern, it’s the real deal.

Readers who were part of Christian Life Center church in Walpole, Mass. back in the 1980s will remember the Benny Hinn services which used to take place there in those days. I was an Assistant Pastor there in those days. This was long before Benny Hinn was nationally and internationally famous. We used to bring him in for services every three to four months. The church would be packed out, and we saw some amazing things happen in those services. This was the closest thing to that which I’ve seen since those days.

Bread of Life is up in Westminster, Mass. near Gardner and Fitchburg. From a lot of places IT’S A HIKE. I drive fifty miles one way from Webster. But it’s worth it. For some of you old time “Walpole” people, you ought to come visit sometime. Bread of Life is not at all your typical 2012 Assemblies of God church and that is a big part of why I drive the long trip to go there. My concern is that many of today’s Assemblies of God churches have moved in one of two directions: They’ve either become very “subdued” and “seeker sensitive” or they’ve become “three ring circuses” with all kinds of “off the wall” stuff going on. Frankly, the subdued/seeker sensitive churches are very common. One doesn’t hear too many sermons on the Baptism in the Holy Spirit anymore. In fact, one doesn’t see or hear the Gifts of the Holy Spirit in operation in many of our services anymore. And, “altar calls”; in many of our churches people would ask, “What are THOSE?!” Bread of Life uses mostly up-to-date music, but most of it is the really good, worship stuff and not the “loud knock ‘em into the other room” stuff. It’s RARE to find an AG church today which has altar calls almost every Sunday morning with the altars packed most of the time.

The bottom line is, Bread of Life was a great venue for Dan Kramer. There was a powerful presence of the Holy Spirit. There were a number of people “slain in the Spirit” and I DON’T mean pushed down! There were a number of genuine healings. I liked that Kramer kept giving all the glory to God. He also stressed the importance of the Baptism in the Holy Spirit, and the importance of intercessory prayer.

I had plans for the afternoon due to the game, so I left at 12:45 p.m. The service started at 10:15 and was still going on when I left. Whatever happens with the game (and I have it on RIGHT NOW as I’m writing) I experienced something far more exciting in Westminster this morning.

I sincerely hope Pastor Gary Collette will consider having Dan Kramer come to Bread of Life several more times this year, and that he will heavily promote the services.

Thursday, January 19, 2012


“Alexander the coppersmith did me much evil: the Lord reward him according to his works:” (2 Timothy 4:14)

Yesterday’s San Francisco Chronicle published a story about a recent University of California at Berkeley study which found that gossip can have healthy and therapeutic aspects. This flies in the face of much of what we’ve heard about gossip. There’s no question that gossip usually causes great harm. Typically, gossip contains malicious (and usually untrue) information and is aimed at harming or even destroying a person’s reputation. Yet, the study found that not all gossip is bad. Quoting from the article:

“UC Berkeley psychologists have found that gossiping - specifically spreading information about a person who has behaved badly - can play a critical role in maintaining social order, preventing exploitation and lowering stress.”

The full article can be found on-line at:

Frankly, there are a LOT of very WRONG ideas about gossip commonly taught in evangelical Christian circles. One time, over twenty years ago, I was attending a meeting of a pastors’ prayer and support group. Someone named something about a woman who I will call “Lucinda” (not her real name). I know Lucinda, and I like Lucinda but she is a character and has some kind of weird characteristics and opinions (such as stating that parts of the Bible are untrue and that sometimes sinful behavior is “OK”).

In my typical Bob Baril entertaining and comical style, after Lucinda was named, I did a very quick impersonation of her. It was not malicious. It was frankly true to character and kind of funny. Immediately I was reprimanded by a Christian counselor who was part of the prayer and support group. I’ll call him “Eddie”. Eddie really let me have it. Eddie said that it is NEVER right or appropriate to discuss a person in ANY way, shape or form without them being present. Eddie said that to speak about a third party with them not present, and especially to do a brief impersonation was absolutely wrong and a bad thing.

When Eddie finished, I felt like I’d been slapped across the face. And I wasn’t the one who brought up Lucinda to begin with! I was pleasant but subdued for the remainder of that group meeting.

On my way out the door, I was followed by my friend Jim Spence. I am using his real name here because I don’t think he’d mind. Jim came right up to me and said,

“I just wanted you to know that regarding the comments to you about it being wrong to speak about a third party behind their back, I DID NOT RECEIVE THAT.”

What Jim meant is that he believed what I had been told, while maybe being “nice” and “politically correct” was in fact not Biblically nor ethically correct and was something I should dismiss and not take to heart. The fact that Jim is not only an Ordained minister (TODAY he is an Ordained Episcopal Priest) and also a licensed counselor really helped me put things into perspective.

The comments I heard that day from Eddie are comments that I have repeatedly heard from the pulpit in evangelical churches and from other Christians in more informal settings.

“God would NEVER want you to talk about another person behind that person’s back- that is GOSSIP and that is WRONG” is what I’ve been told.

Well, in that case, the Apostle Paul is guilty of this grave wrong, and so is the Holy Spirit. Would YOU think that it would be appropriate in SACRED SCRIPTURE to name someone BY NAME, and tell that he had done you wrong, and sort of warn others against him or her? I would say that were that question put to the average evangelical Christian and/or to Christian leaders and denominational officials, the overwhelming majority would say it’s wrong. But Paul DID IT. And, IF we really believe in INERRANCY- that all Scripture is the Word of God without error, then in certain cases, speaking or writing about third parties behind their backs, even saying negative things about them (again IN CERTAIN CASES) is OK!

Missionary Dewey Huston (now retired) told me the story that a pastor in Ohio had told him many years ago. Dewey Huston was visiting a particular Assemblies of God church and over dinner, the pastor told Huston that he’d had TERRIBLE opposition and problems with his piano player. The pastor earnestly prayed,and God revealed to the pastor that the woman was in fact a phony and A PRACTICING WITCH! The pastor went to the woman and confronted her. The woman admitted it! She told the pastor she would leave the church and take a bunch of people with her. And, she did! Not long afterwards, she and her followers showed up as regular attenders at a nearby Assemblies of God church. The first pastor called the witch’s new pastor to warn him. But the second pastor would NOT hear him. He was like the guy who rebuked me for speaking negatively about a third party. He was so “loving” that he totally dismissed the first pastor’s warning as sour grapes, and the witch happily played the piano and sewed discord in her new church.

In 2 Timothy 4, verses 9 through 15, Paul wrote:

“Do thy diligence to come shortly unto me:
For Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world, and is departed unto Thessalonica; Crescens to Galatia, Titus unto Dalmatia.
Only Luke is with me. Take Mark, and bring him with thee: for he is profitable to me for the ministry.
And Tychicus have I sent to Ephesus.
The cloke that I left at Troas with Carpus, when thou comest, bring with thee, and the books, but especially the parchments.
Alexander the coppersmith did me much evil: the Lord reward him according to his works:
Of whom be thou ware also; for he hath greatly withstood our words.”

Paul, in fact, in Sacred Scripture, inspired by the Holy Spirit, “gossiped” about Demas, Crescens, Titus, Alexander, and others.

There’s a very controversial verse in Luke 16:8 that essentially says that many times your average non believing secular irreligious person has far more SMARTS regarding life than do Christians! It’s true. You know what?... those who did the study at the University of California at Berkeley once again proved the truth of Luke 16:8!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012


"And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death." (Revelation 12:11)

The above verse from the last book of the Bible is very powerful. I have preached whole sermons on just that verse (using the three ways the Believers OVERCAME the enemy as my three points). I want to focus on point TWO today, "the word of their testimony". How powerful a testimony of what God has done is!

Today, something very special happened to me. Last night, I sat and wrote three letters. You know, it's one thing to write on a computer and push a "send" button, and I do that all the time; and it's one thing to type a letter on your word processor, print it out and mail it. It's an entirely different matter to take paper and pen and sit and write out several letters in script. (For me, printing is easier and I usually print my letters, but last night I wrote three letters in script.) When you sit and write a letter in script to a loved one, it truly is a labor of love.

What I wrote in these letters is very personal. I wrote one to a family member sharing some very special inspiring words. I wrote one to a family friend, sharing thoughts of appreciation and encouraging words. Finally, I wrote one to a good friend who has been going through a difficult time. I knew the weather would be bad today, so I took a gallon sized "freezer bag" and placed all the letters inside. THAT way, they would not get wet from any rain, snow, or sleet.

I left for work fairly early this morning. We had about two inches of snow on the ground in Webster, and by the time I was clearing off the car, it was mostly rain with a little snow and sleet mixed in. I had a lot to carry to the car today; several bags of one kind of another...including the freezer bag with the letters. When I arrived at the parking lot by VIP Answering Service, I noticed that the clear bag with the letters did NOT seem to be in the car. I had only five minutes to get into work but I looked and looked and LOOKED and it was not there!

I've got to tell you, I was heartbroken and I was upset! I figured with all that "junk" in my hands I must have accidentally dropped the clear bag with the letters. Our "back yard" at the duplex in Webster is really not a yard, it is an asphalt parking lot. The other half of the duplex is an insurance company, and before our home was an apartment it was previously a construction company's office. The good news is that the lot gets plowed. But considering the bag with the letters, the bad news is that it gets plowed. I could picture that plow blade just shredding that bag and letters as it deposited them in a snowbank. OR, perhaps they would somehow be spared, but I'd find the letters exposed to the elements and laying soaked in a puddle when I got home.

Something like this can get me very preoccupied. I knew if I didn't get it out of my mind, I would probably make a hundred serious mistakes at work today. So I had to trust the Lord to give me peace and enable me to not think about it and do my job.

Several times today I prayed, "Lord, PLEASE protect those letters, Lord PLEASE spare those letters."

As an act of faith, on the way home I stopped at the Framingham Centre post office on Route 9 and bought stamps for the letters. When I pulled into my residence's parking lot, it had indeed been plowed. I got out of the car, and my eyes scanned the lot and the snowbanks. I saw no evidence of the plastic bag or letters. My heart sank, just a little. I walked up to our door, and saw something stuffed into the doorpost area.


It was!

It was the plastic bag and letters PERFECTLY intact! No wetness, no dirt, no damage. I am not sure if the insurance guy put the bag there, or a neighbor, but the bottom line is GOD did it.

I got choked up and said right out loud to God, "This means so much to me".

I put the stamps on the letters, drove to downtown Webster and dropped them in a mailbox.

And then, I went to the public library's reference room to the computers, for I just HAD to give this testimony!

Sunday, January 15, 2012


“A good name is rather to be chosen than great riches, and loving favour rather than silver and gold.” (Proverbs 22:1)

I’m a New England Patriots fan, and as such, I enjoyed watching Saturday night’s
(Jan. 14, 2012) big Patriots win against the Denver Broncos in their important AFC playoff game. It was a COLD New England night. It had to be BRUTAL to be at Gillette Stadium watching the entire game in subzero wind-chill conditions, but I don’t think the Patriots’ fans minded. As exciting and just plain GREAT as this win was, there was just ONE aspect of it that was, well, kind of sad for a serious evangelical Christian like me. That’s the fact that the Patriots having such a huge win meant it was a huge loss of Denver quarterback Tim Tebow.

The Tebow phenomenon has been, well, amazing and unusual. This young player that many people had never heard of until November has taken the country by a storm. It was reported just this past week that he is now the most popular athlete in the country. Tebow is just not typical as NFL quarterbacks go. The former University of Florida player has an unusual style for an NFL quarterback. Drafted by the Denver Broncos in 2010, during this season he has led the previously lackluster Broncos to a number of amazing wins, frequently in coming from behind during the fourth quarter. The Broncos’ win over the Pittsburgh Steelers LAST weekend STUNNED a number of seasoned football fans and commentators. It’s NOT so much his unorthodox style and amazing achievements on the field that have garnered the bulk of the attention, however. The thing most people are talking about is Tebow’s evangelical Christian faith. His public demonstrations of faith and praise to the Lord Jesus Christ along with his frank revelation that he’s a virgin and that the most important matters in his life are his faith in God, and his practical living out of that faith in missionary endeavors have caused people of every stripe to take notice. The taking notice of Tebow has led to everything from extreme admiration of Tebow from people on the “religious” end of the spectrum, to contempt, sarcasm, and even hatred from nonbelievers at the other end of the spectrum.

The matter of SOME professional athletes and other celebrities being “born again Christians” and sharing their faith publicly in one form or another is not as unusual as one might at first think. Tom Landry, the legendary coach of the Dallas Cowboys back in the ‘60s and ‘70s was an outspoken evangelical Christian who did not shy away from speaking at Billy Graham Crusade meetings. The same kind of thing can be said about Tony Dungy who coached the Colts in much more recent years. Kurt Warner who played for the Packers, Rams, and Cardinals, is a highly committed evangelical Christian. Some of you will recall that he led the Rams in that 2002 Super Bowl meeting with the Patriots in which Brady led the Pats to their first Super Bowl victory. Many long term Boston Red Sox fans know that Rico Petrocelli is a born again Christian as is a guy who played for the Sox in much more recent years. Outside of the athletic arenas, many will remember that Jimmy Carter had the whole country talking about what it meant to be “born again” back in 1976 as did former Nixon “hatchet man” Chuck Colson in 1977.

The thing that is different about Tebow is that he has been SO outspoken and demonstrative about his Christian faith...possibly more so than all of the above Christian athletes and celebrities put together. I know that’s really rankled some folks.

“Religion is a PRIVATE matter,” some have bluntly said, “WHY doesn’t he just keep his faith PRIVATE and QUIET?!”

Some have also quoted from Matthew chapter 6 where Jesus DOES say that people should NOT be doing their praying and giving to charity in public demonstrations to garner praise and support for themselves. They’ve freely accused Tebow of doing this. On the one hand, in certain cases and situations, that argument DOES have some merit. I’ve been moving in evangelical Christian circles for over forty years. I’ve seen a LOT of Christians who in one way or another bragged about their prayer lives or who “prayed” in a sensational manner in public to call attention to themselves. AND, I’ve been around a few Christians who didn’t mind letting everybody know things like, “Hey I REACHED right for my checkbook, and wrote out a check for $5,000 for that missionary! This is my path to God’s blessings!” Yes, there are “Christians” of that ilk who frankly make me want to throw up!

The thing is, I DON’T think Tebow, despite his outward demonstrations of faith and praise, is THAT kind of Christian. When I hear people ask< “WHY can’t these evangelicals just KEEP their faith to THEMSELVES?!” I want to launch into an explanation of what an “evangelical” is. An “evangelical” is one who believes that the “Good News of eternal salvation through Jesus Christ is available for EVERYONE and that God wants this message ACTIVELY AND PUBLICLY PROCLAIMED by all Believers.” There are verses such as Mark 8:38 which indicate that we should NOT be shy and private about our faith. That verse says:

“Whosoever therefore shall be ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation; of him also shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he cometh in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”

I don’t want to bore anyone with a listing of Bible verses, but if you check it out, the evangelicals’ claim that they MUST be public and freely proclaiming their faith is very much New Testament doctrine and is quite correct.

Now, do I think God really cares if the Patriots win and Denver loses, or vice versa. I feel a little weird trying to speak for God, but my gut feeling is that God doesn’t care. I don’t think we’re supposed to be praying, “God, let my team win.” NOT when there are so many more important things to pray about! But, to thank God for the opportunity to pray in the NFL; to thank God for one’s talents and abilities, to thank God for the coaches and the fans, etc.; to pray that one’s football career could be a positive example and role model to others, well, all that stuff is a very good thing.

Last week, a Patriots fan called up the Jim and Margery show on BostonTalks 96.9 and said that although he wanted the Patriots to win, IF Denver won, he really wouldn’t be all that sorry. I had been feeling the same way. I’m thrilled that the Patriots won and won big. BUT, it bothers me that there’ll be plenty of swearing and obscenities proclaimed against Tebow and his God; an attitude of “We showed that God-guy a thing or he can take his Bible back to the locker room and SHUT UP!”

I’m thrilled the Patriots won, but in my humble opinion, if Tebow never won another game, he is still a winner. He loves God; he is not ashamed to say he’s received Jesus Christ as His Personal Lord and Savior. He’s not out sponsoring dog fighting rings. He’s not at some strip club having relations with every cheap girl who’ll have him. He’s not stinkin’ drunk and foul mouthed. He’s not a selfish jerk. He’s got a good name. And as the verse from Proverbs above says, that’s to be chosen rather than great riches, silver or gold.

Monday, January 9, 2012


"Lest Satan should get an advantage of us: for we are not ignorant of his devices." 2 Corinthians 2:11)

Recently, a person I know asked if I believe in exorcism. I think I blew that person away when I replied that I DO believe in it. That brief exchange got me thinking, and I decided to share some thoughts about it here.

There is no way to do an exhaustive treatment of demon possession and exorcism in a few paragraphs on a blog. It's a very complicated subject; the kind of thing one could easily devote a two or three hundred word book to. This will, therefore, be VERY brief and merely scratch the surface. The question was prompted by the kind of thing which has been shown in films such as the classic mid-1970s movie, "The Exorcist" and more recently in all sorts of horror and semi-horror movies. I have not seen all of these movies, but I have seen parts of "The Exorcist". (I don't think I've even ever seen THAT whole film.) The bottom line is that Hollywood, for the most part, really exaggerates this stuff. There's a LOT of sensationalism they include in films that doesn't happen in real life. This does NOT, however, mean that demons and demon possession are not real and that exorcism is not valid. Exorcism is still considered a very valid rite of the Roman Catholic Church even in the early Twenty-first Century. In addition, the casting out of demons has absolutely taken place in evangelical and Pentecostal meetings; SOMETIMES in public services, and much more commonly with small groups of interceding Christians in fairly private settings.

The origins of demons is itself a controversial matter. Most conservative Christian theologians believe demons are fallen angels...that sometime prior to the Garden of Eden, Lucifer and a group of angels rebelled against God and lost their first estate of being holy angels. There is an allusion to this in Revelation chapter 12 verse 4; as well as in some chapters of the Old Testament. A MORE controversial theory about demons held by a minority of Pentecostals and charismatics is that demons are NOT fallen angels, although there ARE fallen angels. Rather, demons may be the spirits of beings that lived on earth in a pre-Adamic civilization. The pre-Adamic civilization is taught in the study notes of the Dake's Annotated Reference Bible authored by Finis J. Dake (now deceased). This viewpoint is held and proclaimed by healing evangelist Benny Hinn and others. Some advocates of this position argue that it explains the CONSTANT desire of demons to INHABIT BODIES of human beings and animals. I am not 100% convinced of exactly where demons originated. In Bible College we were taught the classic view that they are fallen angels, but I honestly believe the controversial viewpoint of Dake, Benny Hinn and others may have merit.

It's commonly argued that only ignorant and superstitious people could possibly believe in demon possession and exorcism...that this was the belief of ancient peoples who tried to explain away mental illness. A careful study of the synoptic gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) reveals that Jesus came to heal the physically sick, the mentally ill (sometimes called "lunatics"), the neurologically ill (sometimes called "epileptics"),AND to deliver the demon possessed. That was true two thousand years ago, and it is also true today.

You can find some interesting accounts of demon possession in the Bible. If you study Mark chapter 5, it speaks of a demon possessed man who lived in Gentile territory. He was fully naked, and cut himself with stones. The local people tried to chain him up, but he would just break the chains. Jesus cast many demons (perhaps thousands) out of this man. They fled into a herd of pigs; the pigs ran off a cliff and drowned! In the Book of Acts, chapter 19, there were seven itinerant Jewish exorcists called the Sons of Sceva who tried to exorcise a demon possessed man. The demon possessed man actually leaped on them, crying out, "Jesus I know, and Paul I know, but who are you?!" The seven sons of Sceva fled from that place "naked and wounded". Sweet Professor Opal Reddin at Central Bible College pleasantly told our class, "Now, class, now I don't think that the sons of Sceva were totally NUDE!" In fact, I DO think so!

Anybody who has entered into SERIOUS ministry and spiritual warfare IN OUR DAY has encountered demons and forces of spiritual darkness. One missionary to Japan told me that American missionaries ROUTINELY encounter demons in Japan and cast them out. Another missionary, Gordon Bialik has told of demonic encounters in Portugal. One young woman was filled with demons, much like the guy in Mark chapter 5. It took the whole Bible College there days of fasting and prayer to see this woman delivered. I have not experienced anything as intense as Gordon Bialik and that Bible school in Portugal did, but I CAN attest from several personal experiences that this stuff is very real.

There are two erroneous views of Satan, demons, and the powers of darkness. ONE is to disbelieve in them or to totally trivialize them. The other is to become COMPLETELY FOCUSED on them, walking in constant fear, and believing that there is a demon behind every bush. If a person knows Jesus Christ as their personal Savior and Lord and is truly walking in the Word of God and with the Spirit of God they can be victorious over the forces of darkness. If NOT, they COULD become prey for the forces of darkness.

Some will accuse me of trying to "scare people into the Kingdom of Heaven". That was a common approach one hundred or more years ago. I admit, I seldom use the approach of trying to scare people into Heaven, but if this piece accomplished this, I would view that as a good thing. Personally, I would not want to walk one more day without Jesus in my heart and life!

The Bible teaches in First Thessalonians 5:23 that man is a three part being made up of body, soul, and spirit. The body is just that...the physical body. The soul is one's intellect, emotions and will. But the SPIRIT is the part of us that is meant to know God and be connected with God. If that SPIRIT has not been made alive by the Spirit of God, that person is not a child of God and a "sitting duck" for the forces of darkness. That's why it is SO important to really KNOW the Lord, to receive Him as your personal Savior and Lord and to walk close to Him.

Yeah, no matter what people think of me, I really do believe in demons and exorcism; and I believe that the Lord is more powerful than all the forces of darkness.

Sunday, January 8, 2012


"The lot is cast into the lap; but the whole disposing thereof is of the Lord." (Proverbs 16:33)

The Iowa caucuses happened just a few days ago, but not they seem like a distant memory. In the world of U.S. presidential politics all eyes are on New Hampshire and its Tuesday Primary election. The New Hampshire Primary has been the "first in the nation Primary" at least since 1952. Many argue that it gives the small New England state a position of utmost importance in choosing the leader of the free world that is not warranted. I suppose that's a topic for another day. Today, I'm looking at the question of "Who would God vote for as President of the United States?"

The above is definitely a loaded question. My understanding of Scripture is that God doesn't especially like voting at all! Throughout the past several thousand years, MOST of the time when it comes to issues and personalities, the MAJORITY has been WRONG! Jesus spoke of following "narrow road" rather than the "broad road"; (see Matthew chapter 7). The Bible is full of references to very small groups of people really having the mind of God...terms such as "remnant" come to mind. My friend D.C.M. used to HATE church elections when he was pastoring. He said there was no precedent in the Bible for church elections; rather GOD chose leaders. In fact, he's correct. That verse I opened with speaks of casting of lots to find out the will of God. I know many folks would argue, "But THAT'S in the OLD TESTAMENT and not in the church!". In fact, if you check out Acts chapter 1, you'll see that the replacement for Judas Iscariot was chosen by the casting of lots and not by a vote.

In the Old Testament, God chose Judges and Kings; but often based on what the people that's SORT of like voting. In times of Spiritual revival, God gave leaders who were great men and women of God. (Yes, WOMEN...remember Deborah in the Book of Judges?!) In times when the people lived like the devil, God gave evil kings and leaders who lived like the devil.

I know that the whole "God" thing in politics really turns a lot of people off. A crowd of college kids BOOED Rick Santorum last week because of his VERY conservative and old-fashioned standards regarding homosexual marriage. Many of who have also heard of the people who have trashed Santorum because he brought his newborn dead baby home so his other kids could meet the baby. Honestly, I'm not sure that I would have done something like that, but there's no reason to trash Mr. Santorum for his strong respect for life and personhood and Biblical standards. On the other hand, he DID say the government should stop handing out money to "black people" and that wss a very inappropriate comment for him to make. (I still wouldn't BOO him for that, though!)

I grew up in a family where politics, current events, and history were all considered VERY important. It was the kind of household where the news was on constantly, and there were pages of The Boston Globe spread out all over the house (later it was The Patriot Ledger). My mother was the MOST interested in politics and current events, but my father also liked to talk politics. I couldn't wait to register to vote at 18 and I JUST made it in time to vote in the 1972 election. I very much take after my parents. I am one who can't seem to get enough of news, current events, and national politics. USUALLY by this time in a Presidential election year, there's a candidate that I've chosen and am excited about. This year has been SO hard for me. I am glad I'm not a New Hampshire resident because I am not sure who I would vote for. (In case you didn't know, I'm a registered Republican.)

Bob Dylan sand that song "With God on Our Side" many years ago. Some people think God's a far right wing Republican. Many think God is a bleeding heart liberal Democrat. Some think God is very concerned about politics. Others believe God is so busy running the Universe that He doesn't care about politics. A few days ago, Pat Robertson announced that God has shown him who the next President of the United States will be. Pat, however, insists on keeping this a SECRET. I know it will make a lot of my theologically liberal friends angry that for the most part I like Pat Robertson. But, Pat, COME ON! If God told Pat who the next President will be, Pat should either have revealed who it is, or better still, just kept quiet about the whole thing. There's a little matter about "casting your pearls before swine" also from Matthew 7 that Pat Robertson seems to have forgotten about.

God hasn't told ME who the next President is supposed to be. I don't mean to be disrespectful to President Obama. Listen, I get a lot of forwarded e-mails that trash President Obama. If they're well written and factual, I may forward them on. But, if they're just racist and disrespectful trash, I don't. A friend of mine, Tom Stevens, who is a Charismatic Episcopal Priest,and a Vietnam combat veteran told me he NEVER criticizes President Obama.

"He is the Commander in Chief," says Stevens, "and my role is to respect the office and pray for him."

I can't argue with that.

I did not vote for President Obama. I believed he did not have enough experience to be President. I also believed he is a very nice guy and a very good speaker, but shows little evidence of being a good leader. For the most part, I still feel that way. John McCain, in my opinion, SHOULD have been President. He's a military hero, a smart man, and a real leader. He was a very good Congressman and has been a very good U.S. Senator. I think we missed a great opportunity when we did not elect him. But that's my opinion.

Many of us "social conservatives" (and I'm honestly less conservative than I used to be) have said that in the 1990s America got what we deserved with Bill Clinton and again got what we deserved with Barack Obama. I will add to that my opinion that all the hostility and stalemate in Washington between the two political parties is (for the most part) not a good thing. I have never seen America so polarized, and I don't think that's something for us to be proud of. I am not sure WHO I would vote for if I were voting on Tuesday in New Hampshire. My guess is that I would either vote for Rick Santorum or Ron Paul. I know that Ron Paul is "out there" on some issues, but you may be surprised that Ron Paul is a "born again Christian" and that he is pro-life. He doesn't tend to be "in your face" about those positions, but he's not ashamed of his Christianity or his anti-abortion stance, either. In life, I have tended to be a guy who "marches to the beat of a different drummer" and who is thought of as "unconventional" so Ron Paul does appeal to me. Santorum's convictions also appeal to me, and I DON'T like him being trashed.

But, back to the question of who God would vote for, it's very possible that person is Barack Obama...for the reason I wrote above, and ALSO so we'll get on our knees and start praying for him and for our nation. Incidentally, I think TOO much is being made about the Presidential election and not enough about the Congressional elections coming up this Fall. I think the Massachusetts Senate Race between Senator Scott Brown and Democrat challenger Elizabeth Warren (assuming she wins the Democrat primary) is possibly a far more important race for our country's future.

Do you plan to vote this year? Are you excited about politics or are you apathetic? Who do YOU think God would vote for?

Thursday, January 5, 2012


"A fool hath no delight in understanding, but that his heart may discover itself." (Proverbs 18:2)

There's a fascinating (and frustrating) characteristic of human behavior and it's that the solution to a matter can be SO obvious and yet a person can be SO totally blind to it! I experienced that with a person yesterday, and I'll share that story further on.

First, I want to give an example of the kind of thing I'm writing about. Back in the 1980s I read an interesting motivational book. Parts of the book were fascinating and really caused me to think and to understand how a person can be limited by their PERCEPTION of things. On one page, the author presented an exercise for the reader to do. He wrote that below is a Roman numeral, and that the assignment is to look at that Roman numeral and figure out what letter could be added to that Roman numeral to create a number between 1 and 6. Below that paragraph in large bold type was the Roman numeral IX. I sat and stared at that IX. WHAT could the solution be? IX equals 9. It's the Roman numeral 9. So how could I possibly ADD a letter to the IX and make a number between 1 and 6? ANY letter I would add would make it a LARGER number. I couldn't add a V, or another X or a C or an M or a D. I puzzled and puzzled over it. It COULDN'T be done, I reasoned. What kind of foolishness was this anyway? At the bottom of that page, the author wrote that when I turned the page, the answer would be at the top of the next page. I turned the page, and in large bold type I read "SIX". Boy, did I feel stupid! He made his point. If a person added a letter to that Roman numeral IX, well of course it would create a number between 1 and 6. It was SIX, meaning 6. So often an answer is right in front of us, and we can't (or won't) see it.

My father used to lament that most people had no common sense and that he was amazed that they could not figure out how to handle simple problems. He had a very practical mathematical and mechanically inclined kind of mind. Unfortunately, some of us DON'T have a brain that works that way, and if we're not careful, that can be a real handicap to us. As the author of that motivational book demonstrated, we've really got to CHANGE our way of looking at situations.

Now, here is my story from yesterday:

First, I must give a little background. The incident happened on my job as a telephone answering service operator. I've written previously about all the lessons God has taught me on this job. I would never had "signed up" for the church I pastored to close, and to work at a humble job like this for a couple of years, but God has allowed this and showed me and taught me SO much. We have pretty strict guidelines and policies to follow on the job. Most of the the clients we answer for are doctor's offices and medical practices. We can never give out medical advice of any kind. We can also never tell a caller to DO something. We can SUGGEST something, like "Maybe you need to call an ambulance instead" or "Maybe you need to go to an emergency room" but we have to be VERY careful in what we say. We represent our clients. It's very difficult when a caller tells you what a jerk his or her doctor is or how much they resent the medical practice they're calling. We can never "feed" that thinking or agree with them. We represent the client. That DOES become very difficult to do, at times. Yesterday I took a call from a very frustrated woman. I had spoken to her earlier in the week, too. She has been calling and calling a certain doctor's office and the calls would go to the answering service every time. (Sometimes that happens when there's a high volume of calls.) It was unusual that her call came to us SO many times over a few days. Yesterday afternoon, this woman caller was depressed and furious.

"I DON'T want an answering service, I WANT MY DOCTOR'S OFFICE!" she demanded, "HOW can I speak to my doctor's office?"

Now, normally, I'd patch a call like that through to the office on an inside line. Ninety-five percent of the medical practices we answer for have inside lines on which we can patch people through to the office in emergency situations or in cases like that where a caller is frustrated and just insists on speaking to someone in the office. The problem is that HER particular doctor's office does NOT have an inside line. I explained that to her. I did also explain that I could fax a message to them. She was not up for that. She wanted to TALK to someone in the office immediately."

She was almost in tears and demanded of me, "Well, WHAT SHOULD I DO, WHAT SHOULD I DO, WHAT SHOULD I DO??!!"

I paused and took a deep breath.

"Ma'am," I said, "I do understand your frustration. This is somewhat frustrating for me, too. I am really not allowed to give you medical advice nor am I allowed to TELL you to DO something."

I then added, "There actually IS something you could do, but I can't tell you what that is."

Maybe I was asking for trouble!

She didn't like my response. She then began whining like a 5-year-old who had been told she couldn't have candy because it's so close to dinner time.

"Are you telling me to FIND ANOTHER DOCTOR?" she pressed, "Are you telling me to go to an emergency room?"

"I'm really not telling you either thing," I responded, "But if you THINK about it, there really IS something you COULD do."

I had to leave it at that. In fact, she called back AGAIN, and we repeated the same conversation! I guess she felt like I did when I was trying to figure out how IX could become a number between 1 and 6 by adding a letter to it.

Do YOU know the simple solution to what that woman could and should do? It's frankly obvious. Or is it? I could write it here, but I'm not going to. I'm going to see if you can figure it out.

As the old "Emergency Broadcast System" line used to say, "This is a test."
Can you pass it? Do you know what she could and should do? You're welcome to post a comment here or to e-mail me at:

Tuesday, January 3, 2012


"...For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required:..." (from Luke 12:48)

"Whoso mocketh the poor reproacheth his Maker:
and he that is glad at calamities shall not be unpunished." (Proverbs 17:5)

I think sometimes ideologies can become idols.

Biblically speaking, and idol is anything that we make a "god" of - that becomes "front and center" in our lives; but turns us away from God and away from what's right. It's something we may believe is harmless, but can be destructive. When we become prisoners of our ideologies - whether on the political left or on the political right - that's just not of God and it's not healthy. There are a few times that I've written about my political views on my blog and how they've changed. At one time I was quite the "far right" Republican. I'm still a registered Republican. My views today would be described as more moderate, albeit leaning more conservative than liberal,

I felt the need to write all of the above because I have a number of friends and acquaintances who will be surprised that I would write a highly favorable piece about Joe Kennedy and Citizens Energy. Joe's Dad was Bobby Kennedy, and his uncles were President Kennedy and Senator Ted Kennedy. Joe served for a number of years of the late twentieth century as a Congressman; frankly as a Congressman that most conservatives believed epitomized the worst of political nepotism. Some even felt he was an embarrassment to the people of Massachusetts. Joe Kennedy's been vilified as a bleeding heart liberal who (because of his business partnership with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez) is seen as a soft-hearted and weak-headed Communist sympathizer.

Yes, I'm fairly conservative and I say, "God bless Joe Kennedy!" This will probably make home heating oil dealers angry, and I don't mean to do that, but heating with oil heat, as so many residents of the northeast do, is in my humble opinion a pretty dismal proposition. I grew up in a house heated by oil heat, and my father loved oil heat. Fifty years ago, oil heat was considered cheap and safe, and I guess it really was. Today, it's expensive and can sometimes become scarce. In Massachusetts, the law says a utility company cannot shut off natural gas or electricity between the dates of November 15 and March 15. That just doesn't work for oil heat, though! In really cold weather, even with the thermostat set at 52 degrees, the furnace can empty a tank of its oil pretty quickly. There's no law that says a home heating oil dealer has to drive out and deliver one hundred gallons of oil with the promise to be paid ninety days in the future. Listen, no independent home heating contractor can afford to do that and stay in business. I understand that. But there are poor people, elderly, children, the disabled, and others who live in cold conditions during the winter months which are disgraceful. Someone may comment, "It's their own fault," Honestly, in SOME cases, it is. But in most casts, it ISN'T. (And even if it IS, would the Lord really want us to just let people suffer in the cold?) There are many wonderful people in Massachusetts this year living with these cold harsh conditions. "There but for the grace of God go you and I."

Citizens Engergy is running a very powerful ad this winter. In their ad, Joe Kennedy laments the tax breaks for billions while federal fuel aid is cut. I hope I get his quote correct. If not, it's close. He says something like:

"Of whom much is given, little is required;
from those who have little, much is taken away."


I'm no fan of Hugo Chavez...are you kidding?! But Joe Kennedy says Chavez and Citgo are the only ones who'd work with him. All the other oil companies turned him down. If that's true, it's a crying shame! This right leaning registered Republican is saying, "Thank you Joe Kennedy and Citizens Energy. You're doing a truly great work!"