Sunday, December 29, 2013


"For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts." (Isaiah 55:8-9)

Those verses from Isaiah chapter 55 are both significant and powerful! At this New Year's season, I want to draw on them and on chapter 16 of the Book of Acts in the New Testament as I share some heartfelt thoughts here. If it would not take up so much space, I'd "cut and paste" Acts chapter 16 here, but that would be too much, so I'll let you look at that on your own.

I have grown children who are very talented when it comes to acting and theater. My daughter Rachel has a Bachelor's degree in Theater Arts and longs to be doing something full-time in that field but for now her job at a major insurance company pays the bills. Rachel is involved with several community theater groups, both acting and directing. A few weeks ago, she had a part in "Annie" in Needham. Part of that show is a mention of President Franklin Roosevelt's "New Deal". That was the inspiration for my title, "Different Deal in the New Year". I know some people may not care for the word "deal" so you can use "Different Ball Game" or some other such title- the intent and effect are the same. Bob Dylan had a song on his first Christian album way back in 1979 entitled, "Gonna Change My Way of Thinking". It's a typical Dylan type of song, but in my opinion, it's got a really good message. So many of us are Christians, but so much of our thinking comes from the world, the flesh, and even the devil; frankly it harms us and holds us back!

My dear friend Ed Duddy was once told that he has a "sanctified imagination". I believe, I have a "sanctified imagination", as well! I know this may sound really crazy, but just use your imagination here: Imagine that Jesus Christ brought you to a special meeting in Heaven, way back before He was born in Bethlehem. I know, that's pretty wild, but just imagine it. He asks you to be part of a committee to help Him decide what things He will do in His ministry on earth.

"Now, for my first miracle," He announces, "here's what I'm thinking. My disciples and I will be at a wedding in a small village where pretty much everybody in the village is present. They've not planned well, and they run out of wine early. I have some servants fill up six large stone waterpots with water; then I miraculously change the water into wine! It will be some of the best wine anybody's ever tasted! What do you think of that?"

What would you think; what would you say? Honestly, I'd probably say something like, "Please, Lord, do you know what a big issue all that 'Jesus drinking wine' stuff is gonna be for twentieth and twentieth-first century pastors? There's the constant matter of 'I can drink wine because Jesus drank wine!' Please consider something else! And, what about the thing that they didn't plan well for the wedding?!"

I'm ashamed to admit it, but I think that's what I'd say. Then imagine Jesus bringing up something else (that also happens to be in John chapter 2 for you Bible scholars out there).

"Let's look at a different matter. There will be a serious problem with animals being sold at the Temple to be used as sacrifices and with moneychangers cheating the people who came to the Temple. I'm thinking of making a whip, going in there, flipping their tables over, swinging the whip around, and throwing the moneychangers out! What do you think of that?!"

I can just hear myself saying, "Oh, Lord, pastors are always trying to tell people to tone things down and be civil. How are we going to explain that one in our Bible studies?!"

I suspect a lot of other pastors would give similar answers to Jesus Christ that I've given here. But, my observations are frankly all wrong! It's human thinking and reasoning; it may sound good, but it's not of God!! I deliberately used those examples to make my point: So often our thinking and living is so far afield of what God wants it to be! (Read that passage from Isaiah again!)

I want to get into the "meat" of this piece now, and it's found in Acts chapter 16. This was part of Paul's Second Missionary Journey. Please don't fall asleep or stop reading here! This is very powerful and important stuff. The only part of Acts 16 that I'm not going to deal with is Timothy being circumcised in the first few verses- it's just too much to go into at this time. Let's look, however, at FIVE AREAS from Acts chapter 16 that are very important for us to consider! GOD WANTS YOU TO BE OPEN TO A "DIFFERENT DEAL" AS IT WERE IN YOUR WALK WITH GOD! GET OUT OF GOD'S WAY! YOU CAN BE A NEW YOU IN THE NEW YEAR!

Notice Acts 16 verses 6-10. Paul, Silas, and Timothy were setting out from what we would call "central Turkey" to bring the Gospel to new areas. There are two places that they seriously considered going to, but they got a strong impression from the Holy Spirit to not go into "Asia" or "Bithynia". Doesn't that seem strange?! I have a pastor friend who believes the Holy Spirit said this because there were already Christians in those places. I honestly don't agree with that. I don't think there were Christians there, but the Holy Spirit said, "Don't go there!". If you were Paul and his companions, what would you have done? Many of us would have said, "That's got to be the devil! I'm going in!" Do modern Christians do things like that? In my opinion, yes and fairly often. Listen, I've done that! If they had gone to Asia or Bithynia, would God have done some good things and would there have been some fruit of their ministry? I honestly belive: yes. But, they would have settled for far less than God had for them! Read James chapter 4:13-16 about human thinking and planning and how flawed it can be. Jesus said in John 10:27 that His sheep hear His voice. How we need to learn to hear the Lord and what He is saying to us! This will save us from a lot of heartache! In fact, Paul next had a vision of a man of Macedonia (northern Greece) saying, "Come over to Macedonia and help us!" and that's exactly what they did.

"Protocol" is the proper way things are done. Paul had a certain protocol when he went into a major city on a missions trip. He always went to the synagogue for several weeks and ministered. Usually, he'd gain a number of converts, but he'd also make a lot of enemies and be driven out of the synagogue and then would go and preach and teach somewhere else. Paul also seems to have especially been drawn to men. In verses 11-15, we see that at Philippi, a major city, there was no synagogue. This was very unusual. Instead, there was a group of women who met for prayer by the riverside, led by a businesswoman named Lydia. This was not typical. I wonder if Paul, Silas and Timothy wondered what had gone wrong...if they wondered, "What about the man Paul saw in the vision?" I wonder if they thought they had missed God's plan somehow. Honestly, I would have wondered about this stuff. It's said that New Englanders hate change. My experience is that's true. And, in New England churches, we often resist change, saying, "But we've never done it that way before!" Listen, I hate change! I'm one of the worst. I like to be very rigid and do everything a certain way. I remember that years ago I insisted on teaching my Adult Sunday School class exactly a certain way. I was not open to suggestions or change at all. Finally, a couple of people really pressed me to begin offering video classes and becoming more of a facilitator and less of a lecturer. Initially, I hated it. However, the class became much better, and we ended up doing a lot more of these type classes! I also like to have the same work schedule each week. I currently work a secular job where my work hours change each week! Do you think I like that? Well, I don't, but sometimes we have to be open to changes God wants to make in our churches and in our lives!

Would you be described as a "moody" person? I am ashamed to admit it, but I am often a moody person. I am still "under construction" in that area. At Philippi, there was a slave girl who was demon possessed. She brought her owners big money from fortune-telling. Scripture tells us she kept whining aloud day after day that Paul and his companions were servants of God who proclaimed the way of salvation. Well, they were, but Paul really didn't need or want this demon's endorsement. The Bible says that Paul became "greatly annoyed" and cast out the demon. Was Paul right to do this? I don't know. The bottom line is, it was something he did in an angry reactive manner. I can certainly understand that, but it backfired on Paul! The slave girl's owners were furious! I am not sure where Timothy was here, but Paul and Silas were arrested, brought before the city magistrates, beaten with many stripes and thrown in jail! How would you have reacted or felt here? Honestly, I think I would have been in the pits of despair. Amazingly, Paul and Silas sang hymns of praise to God! The other prisoners were listening. Hebrews chapter 13 verse 15 speaks of bringing the sacrifice of praise. Listen, anybody can sing songs of praise to God when thing are going great, but what about when you've been beaten and thrown in jail?! That's when it becomes the sacrifice of praise!

The portion of Scripture in Acts 16 verses 25-34 is very powerful! Suddenly there was an earthquake! All of the prisoners chains were loosed! There was a miracle here! Nobody escaped! I think the other prisoners were so freaked out they didn't dare move! Suddenly, the jailer drew his sword to kill himself! He assumed the prisoners had all escaped and Rome would have him executed. He couldn't have been more wrong. Humbly, he received Paul's Gospel witness, and he and his family "get saved" and baptized and he washes Paul and Silas' wounds! WOW! My friend Dick Germaine believes the man Paul saw in his vision was the Philippian jailer, and I think Dick is probably correct. The jailer changed his way of thinking, as Bob Dylan's song says. Yes, we need to "get saved" if we don't know Jesus as our Personal Savior and Lord. But many of us have "been saved" but we still think, live, act and function according to the world, the flesh, and the devil. We truly need to change our allegiance! We need to change our way of thinking! One of the most Godly men I have ever known was the late Norman Milley, Sr. During the Depression and during World War 2 he was faced with situations on his jobs where if he told the truth he would be fired. He always told the truth, and would supernaturally watch God change the heart of his bosses who would then not fire him! I wish all of you could have met and known him! Listen, we need more Norman Milley, Srs. in this hour!

I also could have called this, "Different Outcome". The ending here in verses 35-40 is not what we might expect. The city magistrates were alarmed to find out that Paul and Silas were Roman citizens (most people weren't citizens) and that they had been beaten and jailed illegally. They sent word through the jailer to depart in "peace". I can just about imagine the jailer smiling and waving the 1960s peace sign with his fingers! "Peace!" "PEACE!" That sounds good, right, peace? Actually, Paul said, "NO!" He said he did not intend to depart in peace at all! He felt like a big stink should be made about what was done to he and Silas. Does that seem strange to you? Listen, Ecclesiastes chapter 3 admonishes that there's a time to speak and a time to be silent. Each case is different and unique. We really need the wisdom of God for each situation in our lives. (James 1:5 says we can and should ask God for wisdom about the challenges and situations we face in life.) To use an expression of my late father, Gene Baril, the city magistrates were "singing a different tune" in the final verses of the chapter! Ultimately, after Paul expressing his feelings and concerns, they do leave Philippi. As far as practical application about "DIFFERENT ENDING" consider this true story from one of my Bible College professors. Brother Flokstra pastored in Southern New England, in fact. He told the story that one of his church members lost his job. The whole church interceded and prayed for a miracle that the guy would get his job back. How likely do you think it was that he'd get his job back? Amazingly, the guy did get his job back! However, several weeks later he was offered a much better job (a dream job) with a different company. Now, he had a problem. After taking his old job back and making a bunch of commitments to the company, he didn't feel he could just quit. So, he had to turn down the dream job. GOD had a dream job laid out for this man, but Brother Flokstra and the church twisted God's arm to give the guy his old job back. They really messed up what God wanted to do. Isn't that sobering? How we need to let the words of Isaiah 55:8-9 permeate our souls and spirits!


Thursday, December 26, 2013


"Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all long suffering and doctrine.
For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears;
And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables." (2 Timothy 4:2-4)

My son Jon gave me a wonderful birthday present this past September. Jon works at Framingham Public Library. It seems the library was getting rid of quite a few outdated periodicals which were taking up too much space. This included decades worth of Life Magazine. Over several days, Jon brought home several boxes worth of the Life Magazine issues which were being discarded. His birthday present to me was a copy of Life from the week I was born in September of 1954, and a copy of Life for that week in September for each year for eighteen years; and then some other issues of Life, as well.

Jon also gave a creative Christmas present to my sister Dianne from his Life magazine collection. Dianne is a huge fan of Lucille Ball, and particularly of the old 1950s "I Love Lucy" sit-com. For Christmas, Jon gave her the April 6, 1953 issue of Life. Desi Arnaz, Lucille Ball, and their children are featured on the cover. The title is, "TV's First Family". Dianne loved the gift. On Christmas Day in her living room, I found myself leafing through that issue and was absolutely amazed at what I discovered! This must have been the "Easter" issue that year. I was absolutely "blown away" by the Editorial and by a very prominent article. I can't imagine either of these pieces being proclaimed or published by modern secular media; and I especially can't imagine the Editorial being published, let alone written or even considered for use. This issue came out over a year before I was born. If anybody doubts how much our country has changed in sixty years, all you have to do is look through that April 6, 1953 issue of Life!

The editorial's title is, "The Churches of America". The subtitle is, "A Generation of Crisis Has Brought Them Not Only Members but a Stronger Faith". The editorial is long. It takes up an entire page, and in those days, the actual size of a magazine's page was huge by today's standards. The editorial begins by observing that just twelve days after his inauguration, President Dwight Eisenhower was baptized and joined the National Presbyterian Church of Washington, DC. Eisenhower had attended non-denominational chapel services throughout his military career, but had never publicly professed faith in Christ nor joined a church. He wanted to start off his presidency by doing these things. The editorial discusses the struggle within American Protestantism of the previous one hundred years or so between the theologically liberal modernists and the much more conservative and literal fundamentalists, but concludes that the church of the 1950s had come to a satisfactory balance between the two and was effectively proclaiming the Gospel. The final paragraph is powerful:

"The churches exist for one thing only; they have the ultimate evidence that each man's life and human history are alike meaningful. This evidence is the life, death and resurrection of the Son of God. At Easter church members review the evidence, and discover anew the deep, tragic, hopeful and eternal meaning of life. Others who sense that meaning, but are dissatisfied with their reasons, might well follow their President's example, and join a church."

The other "religious" feature of the April 6, 1953 issue of Life is a piece entitled "12 Great Preachers". An impressive black-and-white portrait of each man (yes, they were all men- this was 1953) is presented, as well as a paragraph about what made each of the twelve preachers great. I suspect the only one of the twelve who is still alive is Billy Graham. He was number 9 on this list, and was 34-years-old at the time. The entire list is as follows:

1. Dr. Louis Hadley Evans (Presbyterian)
2. Dr. Theodore P. Ferris (Episcopal)
3. Dr. Ralph Washington Sockman (Methodist)
4. Dr. Harold Thurman (Baptist) (a black man)
5. Rabbi Abba Hillel Silver (Jewish Reformed)
6. Dr. Norman Vincent Peale (Reformed Church in America)
7. Dr. George Arthur Buttrick (Presbyterian)
8. Dr. Robert James McCracken (Baptist)
9. Rev. William Franklin Graham (Southern Baptist)
10. Dr. Joseph R. Sizoo (Reformed Church in America)
11. Very Rev. Robert Ignatius Gannon (Roman Catholic)
12. Most Rev. Fulton J. Sheen (Roman Catholic)

How does our country (spiritually speaking) stack up with the United States of America of 1953? It's something we really need to think about as we stand at the threshold of 2014.

Sunday, December 15, 2013


"But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves." (James 1:22).

A few days ago, I pondered the results of a sad and terrible event: The massacre of so many innocent ones a year ago at Newtown, Connecticut. Such events are deeply troubling. I thought about how one young man left such a negative and catastrophic legacy. In some ways, he was very similar to Lee Harvey Oswald: A young nobody who perpetrated an evil act which ironically made him famous but who was dead very shortly afterward. I pondered that, and then I wondered: If one person could cause such an evil event which devastated and hurt so many, what could be the outcome of one person who determined to totally live for God and do good? And, what about a bunch of people who would purpose to do that? There could be a very positive transformation to our society! The story is told that many decades ago, a preacher proclaimed, "The world has yet to see the great things that would be accomplished if one man would purpose to totally live for God." Humble shoe salesman D.L. Moody said, "I will be that man!" He became the greatest evangelist of the Nineteenth Century. His legacy includes Moody Bible Institute in Chicago.

There are two words of advice from two different Christians (which I've been privileged to hear) that have the potential to transform the world if followed and applied. Each was spoken by an ordinary layperson- a woman and a man. I don't have the permission of either of these people to quote them here- and I suspect they wouldn't want the publicity, anyway. I'm going to call the woman "Carla" and the man "Rocky". Carla has been an evangelical Christian for many years. She was a leader in the church I pastored, and she works as a schoolteacher. Rocky is an active layman in a large Congregational church. He runs his own blue-collar business and has a bit of a "biker" background. One time, about twenty years ago, Carla said this: "If every Christian would just seek the Lord and do what the Lord is telling them to do, ninety percent of problems in their churches would be instantly solved." Much more recently, about eighteen months ago, Rocky said this to me in a private conversation: "This is not a poor third-world country! It might be understandable that churches in poor countries can't pay their bills or that ministries there fail for lack of support. In America there's no excuse for this kind of stuff! Why should churches in our country close for lack of funds?! Why must pastors have to accept pay cuts or go without being paid?! Why should Christian schools have to close their doors each year due to lack of funds?! Why should Christian missionaries have to come home from the mission field each year due to lack of financial support?! THERE IS PLENTY OF MONEY IN THIS COUNTRY! Quite a few Christians have a surplus of money. There is just no excuse for any of this, and God is not pleased with us!".

I totally agree with Carla, and I totally agree with Rocky. IF EVERY TRUE CHRISTIAN IN THIS COUNTRY WOULD SEEK THE LORD AND DO WHAT HE TOLD THEM TO DO (whatever that is), AND IF EVERY CHRISTIAN WOULD GIVE LIBERALLY AND SACRIFICALLY TO THEIR CHURCH, CHRISTIAN SCHOOL, AND MISSIONARIES, THE IMPACT WOULD BE ABSOLUTELY TRANSFORMATIONAL! One time, many years ago, I quoted Carla's advice. A middle-aged woman shot back this comment: "But that's not realistic!" And that's the problem. I've seen quality Christian schools, including the one my own kids once attended close their doors due to lack of funds. Missionaries have had to come home due to little financial support. Quality ministries have had to drastically cut back their efforts. Listen, do you think Satan and the forces of evil are cutting back on their efforts? NO!! They're stepping their efforts up in this hour!.

I don't have a pulpit anymore, and I get very, very few opportunities to preach. But this message is burning in my soul at this hour! Frankly, there are a number of material things I'd love to receive for Christmas, BUT far more than that, how I'd love it this Christmas if hundreds of Christians (maybe thousands) read this piece and before God purposed to follow Carla and Rocky's advice. And, I'd love it if they would share this piece with their Christian friends.

Wow. Imagine the impact that could me made. IT COULD HAPPEN.

Sunday, December 1, 2013


"Say to them that are of a fearful heart, Be strong, fear not: behold, your God will come with vengeance, even God with a recompence; he will come and save you." (Isaiah 35:4)

It's about 11:20 a.m. Eastern Standard Time. I'm sitting at the five-year-old iMac computer at my grown children's apartment. I'm sipping a delicious cup of hot coffee- not a nice porcelain cup, but one of those throwaway cups you get at fast food restaurants. After what I'd experienced this morning, I felt I deserved a cup of McDonald's coffee, and it sure tastes good! I'm a planner. When I was pastoring a church, I was such a planner that I supposed I nearly drove people crazy. We Pentecostals like to "leave room for the Holy Spirit" to move in our services, but I had everything about the service planned out; I guess in case the Holy Spirit did not "move"! I won't bore you with all the details, but in virtually every area of my life, I'm a planner. When I get up, I mentally rehearse what I'll be doing over the course of the upcoming day. This morning, early, I did that the same way I always do. Today, my wife Mary Ann was to be running an afternoon practice for the children's Christmas musical which will be presented in a few weeks. Part of my duty was to pick up my son Jon in Framingham. Jon attends another church but was helping Mary ANN with the practice today - both during and after the church service. I got to Framingham a little bit earlier than I'd expected, but Jon was ready to go.

"I just want to go on-line a little bit, first," I told him, "then we'll go."

I also let Jon know the church would be serving some kind of lunch right after the service for those who'd be staying for the rehearsal. "Maybe pizza!" I announced. (I guess I hoped it might be pizza!)

As I pulled the car onto Waushakum Street, I turned the radio on. The announcer on WGBH-FM was warning that treacherous driving conditions existed in central Massachusetts. He cautioned that portions of Interstate 290 in the Worcester area were completely shut down, and that driving was also bad on parts of Interstate 190 in Worcester County. Driving in Framingham was perhaps a little bit slippery, but overall the roads were good and the cars were moving along fine. We crossed the line into Southborough on Route 9 and the roadway was in good condition with cars driving at (I'd guess) the speed limit. I did wonder how the roads would be once we got onto Interstate 495 and traveled farther northwest. North Central Worcester County sits at a higher elevation than does the Framingham/MetroWest area. I wasn't really nervous. I'd say I was just a tad apprehensive.

Upon driving the old Subaru onto the Interstate 495 Northbound entry ramp, I will admit I did get a very brief and fleeting thought: "I wonder if I'm making a mistake!" At first, 495 seemed pretty "normal". I'd say traffic was moving along just a little bit slower than usual. In other words, everybody was driving at between 60 and 65 M.P.H. and nobody seemed to be speeding. After proceeding about five or six miles, I noticed the cars were drastically slowing down. There was a police vehicle at the side of the road with all lights flashing. Within a couple of minutes, I could feel the road's slippery surface under the car's wheels. The scariest part of the trip was driving over bridges. Perhaps you've seen those signs on Interstate 89 in Vermont which state, "Bridge Freezes Before Road Surface". Well, those bridges sure do freeze when the temperature is "border line" as it was this morning! A couple of the bridge surfaces were "really bad"! Just past the exit for Route 62, the traffic was greatly slowing down and there was the sense that this whole situation was just the place where a person didn't want to be today! Then, something I never would have expected to take place HAPPENED:

Suddenly, I saw what appeared to be a large white blur in my rear view mirror! It was, in fact, a large white S.U.V. rapidly moving to the right, and positioned at a ninety-degree angle to the rest of the traffic! I can only describe the sensation as fast, bizarre, and scary! "What a beaut!" I yelled, as though the driver was doing that deliberately. Of course, the driver was not deliberately driving in that fashion, but it was an instant reaction; and I really wasn't processing what I was saying. It was a lot like Peter on the Mount of Transfiguration suggesting that three booths be build there, one for Moses, one for Elijah, and one for Jesus. Scripture tells us that Peter stated that, not really aware of what he was saying.

As I've tried to remember what happened in those moments, ironically I saw the S.U.V. in the mirror just behind my Subaru, but then I saw it at the right side of the car and moving ahead of the car! It was all very fast! The white S.U.V. was in fact, skidding and slipping and out of control. It went behind the Subaru, then to the right of the Subaru, then I saw it just ahead of us slide right off the road surface, go slightly airbound, and land on its left side! In a way, it was all like watching it in slow motion, and in a way it was terribly fast. It was shocking and terrifying!

Some weeks ago, I posted an entry on my blog stating that if I ever came upon a highway accident, I would stop. I instantly thought of that blog entry. I didn't stop. There was a large flatbed truck driving just ahead of us. That vehicle pulled over to the side of the road, and I could see one or two other cars in my mirror stopping. I know if my daughter Amy (a nurse) had been in the car, we'd have had to stop. I don't walk well on ice, at all. I quickly reasoned that the last thing I wanted to do was pull over, get out of the car, and dramatically slip and fall. Others were stopping, and I figured they would handle the situation.

Jon and I didn't scream or yell or anything like that. I just continued to drive along. I did begin to reflect, however. That S.U.V. was moving from left ot right in a fast, violent fashion which placed it directly behind my car. What if my car's position on the roadway was just slightly different? What if there had been a difference in timing of, say, two seconds? Had the S.U.V. slammed into the left side of the Subaru, it would have resulted in a very bad crash. I would almost certainly have been killed. Jon would have been either killed or very seriously injured. Two seconds. That's all the difference it would have made. Two seconds. Would I have even seen or been aware of what hit me? Probably not. There would probably have been an instant horrific impact and I would have been dead. It would have been about as fast and about as unexpected as part of President Kennedy's head being blown off, as most of us thought about and heard about during all the "Fifty Year Anniversary" telecasts last week. Dead. Instantly dead. Totally unexpected.

I recently told a friend that a Christian should always pray very briefly at the start of a drive. I don't always remember to do this, but just before I flipped on WGBH-FM, I had (internally) asked God to protect the car and give us a safe trip. Did that make the difference? I think it did. I took the exit for Route 117 and drove into Bolton. Route 117 was icy and the drive continued to be scary. I was most surprised, upon crossing into Lancaster, to find that road conditions were better. I fully expected them to be worse as we were traveling more and more to the north and to the west. It had occurred to me, following our near deaths, to phone Mary Ann and see how she was doing in her own drive up to Westminster and to discuss whether we should abort today's trips to church. I came very close to making the phone call, but I feared that if Mary Ann was on a particularly dangerous part of the journey and tried to answer my call, I could cause her to have a bad accident. I also wondered if having one hand off the wheel and talking on the phone would be a smart thing to do, and I quickly realized it would not be. As we approached the Exit for Route 13 on Route 2 Westbound, it was evident the road conditions were good there. I grabbed my phone, and noted there were four voicemail messages that had been left for me! The phone had been in the "vibrate" mode, and it was in a container in the dash area and not on my person. I was unaware that calls had come in. I drove off at the Route 13 exit and stopped in a parking lot. One of the messages was from Mary Ann, warning me that the roads were dangerous, that she was turning around, and that Jon and I should not make the trip. She had left that message over thirty minutes earlier. Boy, do I wish I'd have received that at the time of her call! Another message was from the pastor of Bread of Life Church saying Mary Ann was trying to reach me and that the roads were very bad in certain places. I managed to call each of them back.

Mary Ann warned that Route 2 in the Concord area had been a long sheet of black ice, with traffic struggling along at no more than 20 M.P.H. I knew I could not get back to Framingham on Interstate 495; nor could I get back on Route 2; nor could I try to take Interstates 190 or 290. This would prove to be challenging, but I took back roads from Shirley to Bolton to Hudson to Marlborough and into Framingham. I'm sure you can understand why I felt I "deserved" that McDonald's hot coffee when I got back to Framingham!

Only once before did I come this close to dying in a highway accident. In that incident (from late November of 1980) I was a passenger in a Cadillac that went completely out of control on Route 128 in Needham. The Cadillac was "all over the road" and narrowly missed several vehicles. How we survived that one, I don't know, except that it was a miracle of God! Today's driving event was about as bad. Some of you know that I've had off and on bouts with severe depression over the past several years. Like Paul in 2 Corinthians chapter 1, I have "despaired even of life" (Paul's exact words in verse 8). I am one of those people who tends to get very "blue" in December if I feel the holiday will just mean a month of stress and difficulty. Honestly, early this morning in prayer I said to the Lord, "I don't like the way this month is starting out at all. It's not seeming like this month is going to go the way I want it to. I am facing many challenges that I don't want." Yeah, I told God that- this morning! Think I'd really like to have been killed instantly on Interstate 495?!

Well, I wouldn't have liked that at all!

Is God telling me to rejoice this month, to focus on Him, to believe intently His promises, and to do all I can to reach out to others and be a vessel of honor for Him at this precious season? Yes, I think He is doing exactly that.

Yeah, two seconds made all the difference on this first day of December.

I'm humbled, and I'm doing a lot of thinking, and I'm thanking and glorifying God!

Sunday, November 17, 2013


"But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world." (Galatians 6:14)

In certain situations, a pastor's wife standing at the pulpit and opening up the Sunday morning service in tears could be a very bad thing. It could mean that things in the church are very bad; that her husband is about to resign; that a major fight or (even worse) a major church split has just taken place. It could mean that she's reached the end of her rope, to use a common expression. Yes, it could be a very bad sign. Well, the pastor's wife did open up the service in tears today at Bread of Life Church in Westminster, Massachusetts this morning, but this was not a bad sign; rather, it could not have been better news!

In all fairness, Janis Collette is not only "the pastor's wife". In fact, she is Ordained- she's The Rev. Janis Collette, and she's Associate Pastor of the church. And, she was crying tears of joy and appreciation this morning! I am really pleased to write this piece today because I'm at a unique vantage point to do so. A pastor or member of a pastoral staff really can't write a "puff piece" about the church at which they minister. This is because is appears they're just trying to promote themselves, their ministry, and the church where they minister. A church Board member also really can't write such a piece without being accused of practicing very subjective promotion of their church. While I'm a church member at Bread of Life, I'm not on the pastoral staff, nor am I a Board member there. But I am an Ordained minister and I do have a number of years of pastoral experience. Let me tell you, Janis and the leadership at Bread of Life indeed have reasons for shedding tears of appreciation and joy! Janis opened up reading a portion of the New Testament about the various ministries of the Body of Christ and thanking the church family for all their hard work this week in preparing for the church's annual Thanksgiving outreach dinner. She was moved to tears in thinking of how much work and love the church members have poured into this event. Listen, this dinner is really an impressive event. It takes extraordinary work and commitment from scores and scores of people in the church to make it happen. This year's dinner is taking place tomorrow in two seatings in the late afternoon and early evening. One seating is for Veterans. The other seating is for Senior Citizens. People do have to sign up in advance- strictly because the church can only handle about one-hundred-twenty per seating. But that's all the guests have to do is sign up. The rest is a gift from the church to the community. It's a way of thanking and honoring both Vets and Seniors. This morning, many "turkey roaster ovens" were seen at the side of one of the church's corridors. I remember that my mom had one of those turkey roaster ovens years ago, as did my grandmother. I honestly did not know they made them anymore. I haven't seen one in a long time, but I guess they do! A lot of turkeys have to be cooked for these dinners! In addition, teams of church members have showed up in various shifts over the past few days to peel potatoes and get all sorts of other food ready. There's a whole serving crew and a whole clean-up crew for tomorrow's dinner. Of course, there will be all sorts of kitchen workers, etc. It's a monumental undertaking. Honestly, I've felt guilty that I have not really been involved in a "hands on" way with this dinner. My wife and I live just outside the Boston city limits in the heart of Boston's suburbia. It's sixty-five miles one-way to church at Bread of Life. That can be difficult at times. I would love to be more involved there; and in many respects I do wish I lived within ten miles, or so, of the church facility. It wasn't much but I was glad to help an energetic group of mostly (but not exclusively) men "take up" the chairs after the service and roll out and set up the tables for the dinner. So many were working at this that it only took about twenty minutes to do!

I know. You're probably wondering why we attend church so far away. It's a long story, but when the church we pastored in Framingham closed in 2010, my wife suggested we attend church at Bread of Life in Westminster. It was forty miles from Framingham, but we very much liked Pastors Gary and Janis Collette, and we liked the fact that it was a very healthy and vibrant church of well over two hundred people. From our first Sunday there I've really loved the church. There were some weeks that for various reasons we visited other churches, but most Sundays we're at Bread of Life. Let me tell you, Bread of Life is not typical of most of today's evangelical churches. Many of today's churches have gone to music that is so loud it's unpleasant and you leave church with an earache! In many cases, it's so loud that you can't understand the words of the songs being sung. If the words of the songs were not projected on the screen you'd never know what they were! At Bread of Life, most of the songs we sing are quite up-to-date and there are several singers and musicians, including a drummer; but the music is never too loud! The worship teams also do a great job leading the church family into praise and worship. There's a trend today of pastors "dressing down". I'm showing my age of fifty-nine right now because I don't like that! I really respect the fact that Pastor Gary usually dresses up in a nice suit and tie. I see that as respectful to God and to the church family. There is not a "dress code" for the church family, however, and I think that's great. You can come all dressed up in fancy clothes, or you can come pretty casually dressed. Everybody is welcome! When I first attended an Assemblies of God church as a young adult, the big thing was the "altar service". It was not unusual for half of the people at church to come up to the altar area after the pastor's sermon- not only for "salvation" but for all sorts of reasons. I was not used to altar calls like that at the Baptist church I'd previously attended, and I loved it. Today, in most Assemblies of God churches it's like pulling teeth to get people to come up to the altar and spend time seeking the Lord in prayer. Some pastors will announce "the altars are open" and everybody kind of says, "that's nice" and goes home! I was stunned to see what I'd call "1970s style" altar calls at Bread of Life when I started attending there- and if anything they've gotten even better!

Gary and Janis Collette came to the Westminster church in 1992. The church there had been closed up for awhile. Under their ministry, it was opened up with only a couple handfuls of people. All I can say is, God has really blessed their church and ministry. Many Sundays there are close to three hundred people present, and it's growing. Now, please don't misunderstand me. No church is perfect. Churches are made up of imperfect human beings. We all have our "issues". We all make mistakes. Bread of Life Church is not perfect. But, Bread of Life is a church in which the people are very hungry for God and very obedient to God. Associate Pastor Janis Collette had a good reason to shed tears this morning. I stand in agreement with her and I rejoice in what God is doing at Bread of Life Church, and I only wish it were possible for me to be present for the dinners tomorrow!

Sunday, November 10, 2013


"And hast borne, and hast patience, and for my name's sake hast laboured, and hast not fainted.
Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love.
Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent." (Ephesians 2:3-5)

My last blog posting from a couple of weeks ago indicated it is likely I will be posting on my blog much less often in the future and that if and when I post, it will be pieces I feel are of importance and which are not likely to cause me embarrassment later on. This is such a piece. There is no question that what's on this post will seem irrelevant and foolish to some readers. I suppose they have the right to their opinions, but I make no apology for what I post here. We live in a day and hour which many have described as "post Christian"; that is, a day in which subjects such as God, the Bible, eternity, and right and wrong are mocked, laughed at, and scorned, and in which filth in speech and living is seen as not only perfectly O.K. but impressive and desirable. I absolutely reject the "post Christian" attitude and values of our day! At Bread of Life Church in Westminster this morning, we heard a truly great sermon by the Rev. David Arnett, the new President of Northpoint Bible College (formerly Zion) in Haverhill, MA. I'm not one to take sermon notes, but I made it a point to write down the exact words of one of his sentences:

"I want to walk in and not just talk about God's presence; I want to experience God's presence."

Arnett was lamenting the professionalism, predictability, and mediocrity which is the norm at services in many (most?) evangelical and Pentecostal churches in America today. I am ashamed to admit that I led many a service that was characterized by professionalism, predictability, and mediocrity. Granted, not all of them were; but too many services I led were this way. And, too many services I've attended are similar. (Thank God, services at Bread of Life are not typically of this fashion.) I want to be so careful how I write this because the last thing I want to do is to try to exalt myself. I will say I smiled as Dr. Arnett spoke those words, because as hard as it may be for some to believe, the kind of service where God is experienced DID happen on Friday night in downtown Framingham. I was most privileged to be a part of it. Did it happen because I was there? No; it happened possibly in spite of the fact that I was there, but a small group of people really did experience a powerful move of God in downtown Framingham on Friday night.

The service was a service of prayer and unity planned and promoted by "Churches United in Christ Ministries". That organization is very small at this point. It's the vision of Bob Gill of Framingham. Bob is a good personal friend of mine. An ordinary blue collar worker, Bob came to Christ in the 1990s. Bob felt called of God to the ministry and in 2001 began taking correspondence courses toward ministerial credentialing from the Assemblies of God's "Berean College of the Bible". It was a hard road for Bob, but in a couple of years' time he completed his ministerial courses. Today he is Ordained by a group headquartered in Alabama and he's a member of New Hope Church (Assemblies of God) in Marlborough. For several years, Bob has had the vision of getting pastors and churches together and seeing God move as a result of the prayer, humility, and repentance of diverse Christians from diverse churches. It's been a very slow and difficult road to get churches and pastors together, but on Friday night at the Brazilian "Philadelphia Baptist Church" across the street from Dunkin' Donuts in downtown Framingham around thirty people came together for a prayer service. The speakers included Pastor Murillo DaSilva who leads Philadelphia Baptist, Pastor Rob Woods of New Hope Church (Assemblies of God) in Marlboro, Pastor Dan Condon of the fairly new Meeting Place Church (Assemblies of God) in Framingham, Pastor Jesus Munoz of the Spanish-speaking Celebration International Church in Framingham, Pastor Gary Lee pastor of a small predominantly African-American Church in Randolph, Pastor Rob Paiva of Living Water Church in Marlborough, and me. Honestly, considering the fact that I pastored a church which closed and that my reputation has suffered, I questioned whether I should even have been included. I did share from Acts chapter twelve about the power of prayer and it seemed to be well received. I would be remiss if I did not mention another speaker who was layman Ron Sebastian from Faith Community Church of Hopkinton (formerly First Congregational Church). Ron has a heart for pastors and a tremendous burden to see a genuine move of God in our area. The impressive thing about the service was not the speaking, however, although each speaker was very good. The most impressive thing was the prayer time at the altar. The sense of God's presence was very powerful. Some of us have read from the history books about what revival services were like decades and centuries ago. A friend of Ron Sebastian's named Brad told me after the service that the second he walked into the building on Friday night he felt God's anointing there. It's controversial in some circles but several people were prayed for and were "slain in the Spirit" or as some say, "fell down under the power of God". I know that a lot of this behavior in other services and venues has indeed been forced and phony and I know that a number of people are skeptical about it, but all I can say is THIS WAS THE REAL THING. I have since learned that a couple of people have testified of genuine healings after having been prayed for on Friday night.

True, there were only around thirty people at the service, and it did not make the newspapers or television, but (no kidding) I saved my notes and printed order of service from Friday night because I believe it will be looked up in the future as having been such a significant event. Pastor Jesus Monoz boldly proclaimed (regarding revival in the MetroWest area) "It starts HERE TONIGHT!" I agree.

Pastor Rob Woods from New Hope Church in Marlborough posted this comment on Facebook on Saturday: "I thank God for the way He used Robert Gill to lead the Churches United In Christ service last night at Philadelphia Baptist Church. Praying with fellow pastors from different denominations and experiencing the power of God touch people was amazing. Father, do more! I pray for all the churches represented to see the move of God in their services like we saw His presence fall last night!"

The next "Churches United in Christ" prayer service is scheduled to be hosted by Living Water Church at 204 Main Street in downtown Marlborough on January 24 at 7 (snow date is January 31). You ought to mark that down on your calendar!

Sunday, October 27, 2013


"Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath:" (James 1:19)

It has been over two weeks since I have placed a post on this blog. Many of you know that's a pretty long time for me! I typically post something on the blog at least once a week, and I prefer to post something about every three or four days, if I can. I've got to tell you, I'm going through quite a time of deep soul-searching. I have considering stopping this blog all together- even considering deleting some or all of the posts. A lot of the "whys" of what I'm saying here are quite private- but I am struggling with the fact that I am a very, very emotional person and I can be a very, very impulsive person. Some have counseled me that at times I'm really "out there": way too open and way too candid. Let's face it; if you think of the famous "Emperor's New Clothes" story (which I think was written by Hans Christian Andersen) I would be they guy to say "You don't have any clothes on!" There wouldn't have needed to be a little boy to say that! I can be very blunt. During my years of pastoring, I found that very few people were neutral about my style, personality, and ways. Some found me very refreshing and absolutely loved the way I am; but many found me inappropriate, insensitive, self-absorbed and offensive. That's also true of my writings which include this blog.

My posts on the blog actually only get an average of 1, 2 or 3 comments apiece, and many get none. But I DO get comments e-mailed to me and spoken to me. As with my pastoring days, some are very, very positive, encouraging, and even exhilarating. But many are very negative and stress the danger and damage of, well, my inappropriateness, insensitivity, self-absorbtion and (in the opinion of some) foolishness. From my earliest days, I have "marched to the beat of a different drummer". I used to describe myself as "eccentric" but even that definition was viewed as very unwise by some so I toned that down to "unconventional". Now, if I had all of these characteristics that I have and yet had been used of God to lead and build a "decent sized" and relatively successful church, I guess I could say to people, "Well, look, there's a lot of merit in being the way I am!" Instead, the past few years of loss and embarrassment admittedly have caused me to do a lot of questioning about what I guess could be called "the way I am".

Things in my private life have come to a point in the past couple of weeks such that I've STOPPED, prayed, and reflected about this "stuff". I used to put out an informal personal "newsletter" to around twenty or so people every week. A couple of weeks ago, I did not put it out. Last week I DID, but saying I may not write any more of my newsletters and that if I do, it may only be a few times a year. I also have done a lot less on Facebook and a lot less e-mailing than I usually do. The ultimate decisions of what I will do about all of these matters has not been fully decided. I will say that it's likely I will post less often on the blog than I used to. At this point I don't think I want to stop it totally, but I do think I want each piece to be something important, edifying and meaningful and not something I'd be ashamed of later on.

I started "The Blog of Bob Baril" as an AOL Journal in early 2006. I was committed to treat it just as I would if I wrote a newspaper column. I posted three times a week. If I posted more often, I'd mark the post "Extra Entry". Only about a third of my posts in the first couple of years were "spiritual" or "religious" in nature. Most were secular, a few were political, and many were light-hearted. I got a lot of feedback in private that as a pastor I should be writing more pieces that were "Christian" in nature, so it has gotten to the point that probably 70% of my posts from the last five years could be described that way. AOL discontinued their Journals feature in late 2008; at that time, I switched the blog to Google/Blogger. We got a new computer in 2008 and around that time I had a problem posting properly. There are a number of posts from 2008 in which the font is WAY TOO BIG and very difficult to read. Somehow, this got straightened out by 2009, but there are still a number of posts from '08 that are too big and difficult to read.

Anyway, that's what is going on. I've also been working more hours per week in the past few weeks than I usually do, and that's given me less time on line than I had before. (Incidentally, I have not had a computer at home since March 2010 and I do not own a smart phone so every time I post it's at a library or on someone else's computer.) So, for what it's worth, that's what has been going on!

Thursday, October 10, 2013


"Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new." (2 Corinthians 5:17)

"You can lean something from every person!" I can still hear old Pastor Lloyd Westover preaching that with intensity from his pulpit back in 1976. "And that guy digging a ditch, you can learn something from him !" How right Pastor Westover was! (I'm calling him "old Pastor Westover" but at the time he preached that, he was probably only about six or seven years older than I am now!) Some of us would like to think it's the great intellectuals- the highly educated and accomplished people that have lessons to teach us and important things to say to us; sometimes they do. But, many times, it's the most ordinary blue-collar person who makes a statement that impacts you to the core of your being and you never forget it. That's true of Jimmy Peters (not his real name) and the example of the guy who hung the door wrong.

Jimmy Peters was only a superficial friend of mine, at best. Really, he was an acquanitance of mine. Ironically, I knew his parents first, and I knew his parents much better than I knew Jimmy. Jimmy professed to be a born-again Christian, but he was certainly not your "garden variety" evangelical! Jimmy came from a Roman Catholic background. He parents "got saved" when he was around twenty-three years old. Jimmy was big, a muscular guy. He would be described as "macho". He sported several tattoos and he was not a person to walk away from a physical confrontation. He tended to be proud and opinionated. Yet, Jimmy was very intelligent. I'd guess he certainly had a higher I.Q. than I do. He experienced a lot of tragedy and pain in his life. I don't want to write too much about that as it's possible someone reading this who knew him or his family could be deeply grieved by this. I don't know for sure, but my understanding is that Jimmy Peters died several years ago. He was married and he had a son and a daughter who'd each be over thirty today.

As I write today I'm going back in my mind to a Sunday afternoon about twenty-five years ago. Jimmy, his wife and his kids, had come to visit our church's Sunday morning service and we had them back to our home for Sunday dinner. As dinner was being prepared, Jimmy and I were standing and talking near the back door looking out to the yard. Jimmy was doing most of the talking and I was listening. He began to share some observations and disappointments he had about life. It really bothered Jimmy that people, both Christian and non-Christian, almost always focus on the worst points about a person and define a person that way. Jimmy worked in construction, so he used this as an example:

"Let's just say I become a really good builder, and I mean a really good builder! I built all kinds of fantastic buildings. In fact, I'm such a good builder that I put up a building comparable to the Taj Mahal! I won't be remembered as the guy who built the building that's comparable to the Taj Mahal, though." Jimmy lamented. "Now, let's say I'm just having a bad day- for whatever reason. A lady calls me up and asks me to do a simple job; to come and hang a door for her. I'm just having a bad day. I'm not myself. I go there and I hang the door wrong. I will never be known as the guy who built the building comparable to the Taj Mahal. I will be known for the rest of my life as 'the guy who hung the door wrong'!"

I don't remember what my response to him was. In fact, I don't think I had much of any response. I have often thought of that quote. I have often played Jimmy's conversation from that Sunday afternoon over and over in my mind. The sad thing is, he's right. That's how we tend to define people. That's how we tend to remember people. In the way sharks go after blood in the water, we zoom in on people's faults and we magnify them. We define people by their worst flaws. I wish I could tell you that I have never done this, but the fact is, as I think about my adult life, I have often done this. It's so destructive. It's so wrong. And it's so not like Jesus!

I am so ashamed of all the times I've been the one critically characterizing a person as "the one who hung the door wrong!" The factor that's made me really sad and disturbed about this is not that I have done it to others, however. I am very ashamed to say that the factor that's made me really sensitive to this is that it's been done to me. When it's you that's "the guy who hung the door wrong", it's just not very funny.

I read a friend's Facebook post today which exhorted the readers to not sit wallowing in regrets but to "move on". Of course, that post is correct, and it is good advice, but when you're constantly reminded that you're "the one who hung the door wrong" it can be very difficult to "move on". Yes, we sometimes make it very, very difficult for other Christians who are trying to "move on".

In my forty-three years of being a "born-again Christian" I don't think I've ever been more aware of what a flawed person I am (and that I have been) than I am right now. I realize I am nothing without the Lord, Jesus Christ. Nothing. Yes, at one time there was the pride in being "Pastor Bob Baril" and having professional and social recognition. I loved that. I guess I felt like I really deserved it. I know differently, now. I wish I could promise here that I will never make a blanket statement or judgment about another person, essentially labeling him or her as "the one who hung the door wrong". I know I'm flawed. I know in a moment of stupid inattention and pride, I may well do that. I just hope that as soon as God brings to my attention the wrong judgment I have dished out, I will get on my knees and quickly repent! And, I hope and pray I will more and more recognize "Taj Mahal builders" and less and less see and point out those who have "hung the door wrong". Thank you, Jimmy, for your very wise words.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013


"But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ:" (Ephesians 4:15)

It's strange and amazing that brief and seemingly unimportant conversations and life situations can profoundly affect a person. That is the case regarding a little clear plastic pen and pencil container. The story dates from the early 1960s- I'm guessing 1962. I was about seven-years-old at the time. My father and brother Eddie were both outstanding mechanics and outstanding handyman. Both Gene and Eddie could repair anything. Not only did each have great mechanical ability, but each had the mind of an engineer. Now, as for me, I had almost no mechanical ability whatsoever, and I still am very challenged in these areas. When he wasn't functioning as a uniformed law enforcement officer, my father was most frequently found in work clothes doing some project around his house and property in Canton, Massachusetts. He built a wall- most of which is still standing today. He built an outstanding custom made wooden fence with the most solid cement and stone base (which holds up the metal posts to which the wood is attached) that I have ever seen. My Aunt Milly used to say these projects would go on to be a "memorial" of him; and indeed, they have.

It wasn't only big projects that Dad did, however; there were small ones, too. One day he called all of the family into the kitchen. There, he pointed out a small project he'd just completed. Dad had taken a small clear plastic pen container- it was, perhaps, five inches by two inches- and had screwed it onto the side of the wooden cabinets in the kitchen. I must say a word about these cabinets. The house was built in 1958. I am not sure where Dad found the cabinetmaker, but the kitchen cabinets were custom made by an outstanding craftsman at the end of his career. The guy actually died just a short time after he'd built them. The sight of the plastic pen holder attached to the side of the wooden kitchen cabinets looked, well, tacky to me! I loved my father, but there were also some great differences between Gene and his son Eddie. Eddie had a gift for knowing aesthetic beauty. Eddie was very masculine, but could have been an interior decorator. He knew just what furniture looked right; just what colors looked right; just what materials looked right. Eddie knew what looked classy and what looked, well- tacky! Dad sadly had no such gift. His taste in furniture and colors and materials and things like that was, well, to use a word I used about myself in this piece "challenged"! When he bought a brand new 1963 Dodge Dart station wagon, Dad installed the cheap metal tissue holder he'd previously had in his 1951 Plymouth sedan and 1948 Chrysler convertible. I don't know how old that tissue holder was- it looked like it was from 1937! It looked terrible. Yet, he installed it under the dash- just below the glove box area of the '63 Dodge Dart. Yes, Gene Baril did things like that! Did a cheap clear small plastic container containing a couple of pens which was attached to a classy custom made kitchen cabinet look much better than that tissue holder in the Dodge Dart? Well, not much better!

Dad called the family in because he was very proud of what he'd just done.

"What do you think?" he asked excitedly, "Now when you need a pen to jot down a phone number or a message, you can just open the case and there's always a pen there!" As I recall, everybody else liked it.

"NO," I said definitely, "I really don't like it."

I don't remember exactly what my father said to me, but as I recall, it wasn't pleasant! From my point of view, he was asking for an opinion, and I gave him an honest answer. I thought that was what he was looking for. Of course, that was not what he was looking for! It was a stinging and embarrassing and uncomfortable experience for me. As you can tell, I never forgot it. I learned to, yes, lie many times when people asked me things such as, "How do you like my new car?" or "Doesn't this haircut look great?" or "Isn't this the best restaurant you've ever eaten at?" Why do we do that? We ask people, "What do you think about this?" or "How do you like this?" but if they answer honestly, we are hurt and angry. Honestly, this is one of the toughest areas to deal with in evangelical Christian circles. "Nice" Christians lie all the time about matters like this. On the one hand, you don't want to hurt people, but on the other hand, you don't really want to lie! That incident with the little clear plastic pen and pencil container attached to the cabinet in 1962 was a defining moment for me- it was sort of a rite of passage- that of learning to "play the game" or be ridiculed and rejected, and it really doesn't make me feel very good writing about it even now.

My father wasn't all wrong, here! What I did not tell you is that attached to that wooden cabinet end, as well, was a 1958 red Bell telephone wall mount phone! My parents hadn't had it mounted on the actual wall, rather, it went on the cabinet. That was also a bit tacky, I suppose, albeit quite functional. The little plastic pen container only lasted about a year or two. There was a tendency for pens to easily fall out of it when it was opened up. There was also, of course, the tendency to lose the pens and leave the container empty. My father ended up getting a round pen holder- about the size and dimension of a "medium hot coffee cup" at McDonald's. This container could easily hold about fifteen pens and pencils, and if jammed, it could probably hold about forty. It was made of a cheap metal, and covered with some sort of imitation leather, as I recall. There was a brass hook that you attached to the cabinet, and then a hole in the container to hang it onto the hook. That container was there for at least thirty-five years! My sister now owns the house and she's done a magnificent job remodeling and updating the living space. There was no need to get rid of those magnificent custom cabinets, so she had them refaced. The wall phone and pen holder were eliminated! Today, there's a modern cordless phone on the counter. I'm not sure how my father would react to these changes, but I think my late brother Eddie would approve!

I wonder if you've got any "Legacy of a Little Plastic Pen and Pencil Container" stories from your own life, and I wonder how you deal with the, "What do you think?" and "How do you like?" questions.

Sunday, September 29, 2013


"Death and life are in the power of the tongue: and they that love it shall eat the fruit thereof." (Proverbs 18:21)

Yesterday morning, I posted this little story on my Facebook page. It brought seven comments within thirty hours. I have been very busy (TOO busy!) over the past few days to post my my blog, but I decided to post this one on the blog, too. It reminds us that we really need to stop and think about how we impact young children, and about the people who teach young children! Incidentally, my first-grade teacher left that particular job after that year (1960-1961). Over twenty years later, her son was tragically killed. After reading the story, I got her address (I don't remember how I got it) and I sent her a condolences card and note. I never received any response from her. I guess I was not too surprised. Here is my story of a memory from first grade:

When I was a first-grader, I was a very skinny and very shy little kid. At the November parent-teacher conference, my teacher, Miss A. expressed concern that I NEVER raised my hand in class. My father later gave me a big "pep talk" about this. He COULD be very strict, but on this one, he wasn't. He gave me a really encouraging talk about the need to raise my hand in class. This was very difficult and very challenging for me. The next day, the teacher was giving a lesson which called for a LOT of class participation. Many kids were raising their hands and responding. This was my big moment. At one point, it took all I could muster to get my hand in the air, and then to give my response when called upon. At the end of that lesson, Miss A. said the following, "You ALL did VERY WELL with that- EXCEPT Bobby! He only raised his hand once; he might as well have NOT raised it at all!!" Something happened recently which brought that memory flooding back to me. It's one of the most stark memories of my childhood. Bottom line, we need to really THINK about what we say to people and how we react to them. There is a Bible verse which speaks of "life and death" being found in the the words we speak. In a way, sharing this is almost as hard for me as was raising my hand on that 1960 day, but it's just something I felt I needed to do today...

Sunday, September 22, 2013


"And when I passed by thee, and saw thee polluted in thine own blood, I said unto thee when thou wast in thy blood, Live; yea, I said unto thee when thou wast in thy blood, Live." (Ezekiel 16:6)

One of my favorite films is "The Apostle" starring Robert Duvall. I think it was released in 1997. It's about a very dynamic evangelical preacher who commits murder, flees to another state, successfully starts a church- encouraging and inspiring a group of mostly poor and minority folks in a small community; and who ultimately is arrested and imprisoned. My fellow "born-again Christians" typically are very divided in their thoughts about this film- half absolutely loving it, and half absolutely hating it. I love the film. In an early scene of the movie, the Rev. "Sonny" Dewey (played by Duvall) and his mother (played by June Carter Cash) are traveling outside Ft. Worth, Texas in an impressive Lincoln when they come upon the scene of a bad automobile accident which has happened probably no more than five or ten minutes earlier. One car is off the road. Inside is a young man and his wife- both are badly injured; the wife appears to be dead or very close to death. Dewey pulls over, grabs his leather bound Bible, walks down an embankment to the car, and quotes the above Bible verse from Ezekiel. In what may be the most moving scene of the entire film, Dewey gives a very short "pep talk" to the couple, urging them to "accept Jesus Christ as Personal Savior" and become "champions" for the Lord. A police officer tries to stop Dewey from doing this, but he persists. Upon getting back into the Lincoln, Dewey and his mom begin driving away, praying for the couple. Instantly and unexpectedly, we're again shown the interior of the injured couple in the damaged car; the woman who appeared to be dead is moving. The viewer is left to believe that the preacher's bold declaration of Ezekiel 16:6 and exhortation was honored by God who brought life back into the young lady! I have heard actor Robert Duvall speak about this. He said he knew of a devout Christian woman who literally used to proclaim that verse from Ezekiel to victims of catastrophic accidents and pray over them. He based that scene on her actual actions. I was so moved by Duvall's words that I memorized Ezekiel 16:6 determined to do the same thing in the event of encountering such a horrific accident situation.

Yesterday, in the late afternoon, I was driving along a rather rural section of Route 27 in Medfield, Massachusetts about a mile from the Walpole town line. Suddenly, I noticed cars stopping in front of me, and several cars pulled to the side of the road on each side of the roadway. Then, I noticed something on the highway itself. Actually, there were two "somethings". There was a damaged bicycle in the middle of the road, and to the left of it, there was a man- probably in his forties, laying in the roadway. To my surprise, there were no emergency vehicles or personnel present. This couldn't have happened any more than five minutes earlier. I immediately thought of Ezekiel 16:6. I rolled down my window. My daughter is a nurse, so when she encounters accidents like this, she stops and renders aid. I'm proud to say that she has truly been a hero in her actions at several bad highway accidents. I was instantly debating whether to stop or not. I reasoned that when Amy stops and gets out, she does so as a nurse who knows exactly what to do. In my case, I have no idea what to do medically for an injured person! Yet, I thought of Robert Duvall in the film. I realized I could pull over, walk over, quote that verse, and pray for the victim with God's love and authority. Then, like Duvall in the movie, I could drive off and pray in the car. As I drove directly by the man, I saw that his head was injured and there was blood. It was not a pleasant scene. I heard one woman telling someone she had called 911 for help. I came within the proverbial sixteenth of an inch of stopping. Part of me really wanted to pull a Robert Duvall here. Part of me wondered if I'd just get in the way and cause a problem- if I really wanted to help this guy or if I was on a ego trip. I was already "praying in tongues" softly. I was slowing up, and about to stop. Next thing I knew, I didn't. I kept going. I did quote Ezekiel 16:6 aloud in the car and I did pray fervently for the victim. I fully expected to see emergency vehicles coming, but to my surprise, that did not happen. I suddenly realized that I was almost into Walpole and that the ambulance and police cars would be coming from the opposite direction.

I do not what the outcome of yesterday's accident was. I did an on-line search and could not find anything about it. Ironically, today in Bill Shattuck's Adult Sunday School class at Bread of Life Church, a guy in class pointed out that we tend to be much too shy and reserved about just praying out loud in public and that we really should not care what people think about it. I know there's a balance to this stuff. There is that whole thing about "don't cast your pearls before swine" that comes from the Synoptic gospels. We have to use wisdom. But the guy's comment really made me think. Did I do the wrong thing yesterday? Should, I have stopped, quoted the Scripture, and prayed a short prayer aloud? In retrospect, I absolutely think I should have. This is kind of scary to put out there in public because I know God will hold me to it, but the next time I encounter a situation like that, I will get out of the car and do what I should have done on Saturday!

Thursday, September 19, 2013


"For with God nothing shall be impossible." (Luke 1:37)

Today, September 19, 2013, is my 59th birthday. I've been doing a lot of personal reflecting during the past couple of days. The past year included some serious challenges- especially medical challenges. I've been blessed with extraordinarily good health for most of my life. For me, the year that I was 58 was a reminder that I'm not a kid anymore. It included two cataract surgeries, and emergency surgery for a detached retina. The scariest event of the past year was being rushed to the hospital in the middle of the night with blood pouring out of my bottom. Sorry for being so graphic! At that time, a number of diagnostic possibilities were being considered by the doctor, including cancer. I was well aware I could have cancer and that my days on earth could be seriously numbered. In fact, I was diagnosed with Crohn's Disease, which is a nuisance and inconvenience in many ways, but is treatable with diet and medication. I am thankful that I am alive for my 59th birthday. I decided that on my birthday this year, I wanted to publicize and promote something which is very important to me. It would be my "birthday wish" as it were. There are honestly about ten matters I seriously considered writing about, but after deep thought, I've settled upon what's in this piece.

Now, this may seem like a very bizarre statement to make, but of all the poems I've ever heard recited during my lifetime and of all the poetry I've read during my lifetime, I think the most significant one is, "There Was a Little Girl" by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, which my very literary minded mother used to frequently recite. It goes like this:

There was a little girl,
Who had a little curl,
Right in the middle of her forehead.
When she was good,
She was very good indeed,
But when she was bad she was horrid.

There are many, many people I've know in life who were like that: when they were good, they were very, very good, and when they were bad, they were horrid! There are also many things I've dealt with in life that are like that, as well: when they were good, they were very, very good, and when they were bad, they were horrid!

If you can just kind of "slow it down" for the next few minutes- not skim reading this, but really soaking it in, and giving it some thought, well, I think that would be "very, very good"!

Modern technology and social media is like that. When it's good, it's very, very good, but when it's bad, it's horrid! I am aware of the power and blessing of modern technology. I'm writing this piece in cyberspace- I'll "post it" in cyberspace and I'll promote in using social media. Many, many more people will read it and be exposed to it than would ever have done so just a couple of decades ago. But, listen, there's so much we've lost due to this runaway technology! I have two (frankly humbling) part-time jobs right now. I know many of you know I work at a telephone answering service, but not so many of you know that I also hand out flyers a few hours a week at a "big box store". I find the latter job very depressing. It's not that I mind handing out flyers- I actually enjoy it! No, it's the number of people who walk into the store mesmerized by their (stupid) smart phones. They're staring down and inattentive as they're trying to navigate and push a shopping cart along. They're yelling things into the air at some invisible person (looking like mental patients!) and you do notice there's a "bluetooth" or some other such device enabling them to do this. It's all so rude, so intrusive, so distracting, and as I just wrote: so stupid!!

For some reason, I remember my 25th birthday very vividly- on September 19, 1979. I wonder if I had miraculously been transported forward in time on that day, from 1979 to 2013 what my reaction to "the future" would have been. The automobiles would all have seemed much more aerodynamic and much less "cool", frankly. The television sets would have looked ridiculous- FLAT and rectangular, albeit with much clearer pictures. But the thing of everybody walking around staring at some tiny box in the palm of their hand, squinting to read the screen or frantically typing ("typing??!!") onto it, and THEN some folks in very animated fashion talking and yelling into the air at nothing...well, it would have all been very scary and very depressing and going back to 1979 would have been very comforting; just like Dorothy returning to Kansas after her trip to the land of Oz!

I don't have his permission to use his name or give any personal information about this man, but I will call him, "Missionary John". Missionary John is an Assemblies of God "home missionary" (meaning a missionary to somewhere in the United States). He ministers to the Native Americans at a site in the west. When I was still pastoring at the small church in Framingham, MA, we used to have missionary guest speakers from time to time. We had Missionary John with us for a special Sunday night service. I think that was about nine years ago. I remember my wife and I taking him out for a meal at a local restaurant after the service. He was a very pleasant and a very friendly guy. Prior to our church's catastrophic financial condition, we used to send monthly financial support to a number of missionaries. I don't remember if we ever "picked up" John and his wife for monthly support, but I don't recall that we did. However, I was amazed that on every birthday and every wedding anniversary, there was not only a greeting card which would arrive in the mail from Missionary John- in addition, he'd handwrite (essentially) a letter in the card. Yes, he'd write at least ten sentences telling about what was going on with himself, his family, and his mission, and wanting to know how things were going with us in Massachusetts. Some missionaries do send e-mail newsletters and some send U.S. mail newsletters, but personal greeting cards with long, handwritten letters; well, nobody else did that!

You might expect that after the church was closed in March of 2010 and after I was out of pastoral ministry, those greeting cards and letters would stop, but they did not! They have kept arriving, on my birthdays, on my wife's birthdays, and on our anniversaries. We received an anniversary card and letter in August and I received a birthday card and letter a few days ago. Usually, I just kind of read it, look the card over, and think, "that's nice" and then, that's about it!

For some reason, after I read my birthday card a few days ago, I got kind of "choked up". It hit me that this missionary is not going to receive any financial support or any publicity from writing and mailing this card. It was just something he was doing out of love and care. I gave that a lot of thought! Lest you think this Missionary John is just sitting around in some tiny Native American village listening to native songs and smelling the aroma of peace pipes being smoked; in fact he is a teacher to the Native Americans who carrys a very heavy course load! He pretty much has "no time"! Yet, here he is handwriting a personal letter in a card to me, from which he is going to receive nothing!

This high-tech, "social media" society was supposed to give us much more free time- much more leisure time- much less stress and pressure. Instead, just the opposite has happened. Nobody has any time. Everybody is stressed out! Everybody is in a hurry! We're rude, irritated, and defensive! We've got no time for anybody! We've got no time for what's truly important! It's "funny" that the people of one hundred years ago had time to work 60 hours a week in factories, and yet had time to donate untold hours to charity work and to write long and beautiful letters to family and friends. These precious letters give tremendous insight about history to those who study history. When I was in Bible College in the late 1970s, I would use Sunday afternoons as a time to write letters to family and friends back home. Recently, my sister found some letters I'd sent home during that period. I was amazed at how "good" my penmanship was then, and how much thought and detail I put into the letters. I actually wrote them on special Central Bible College stationary which was sold at the school bookstore largely for the purpose of writing letters home to family and friends. In this day of smart phones and texting, would anybody write letters like that on a Sunday afternoon?! I doubt it! I am quite a writer, but I must confess that I write very few "real" letters anymore.

Missionary John really touched me this year. His handwritten card really touched me. I thought, "What if there was less of this high-tech foolishness and more people handwriting letters and greeting cards to those who'd appreciate them? What if we made a conscious effort to be a little less dependent on high-tech and social media and did more card sending and old fashioned letter writing?"

Listen, I'm not planning to stop e-mailing or get off Facebook, but I'm going to make a genuine effort to keep a lot of this stuff a bit more "at bay" in my life, and I'm going to make a conscious effort to set time aside and send cards and notes to friends and family. As "stupid" as that might sound, think about how we'd look to someone who'd travel here from 1979 to observe us! We need more Missionary Johns! How about it?! Is that a crazy wish?!

Thursday, September 12, 2013


"And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted." (Matthew 23:12)

On Monday evening, Pastor Mike Pinkerton "went home to be with the Lord" as we evangelical Christians like to say. Well, to say he "died" seems so stark, negative and final; and "passed away" seems like too much of a generic euphemism. I went on-line to try to find specific information about Mike: What day was he born? Where did he grow up? What are some things about his life or some accomplishments that I was not aware of? I could not find anything. There's not even an obituary posted on-line that I am aware of. I know that there will be a Memorial Service in honor of Mike Pinkerton at his brother-in-law, Pastor Phil McCutchen's church (Bethany Community Church in Mendon, MA) on Saturday, September 14 at 2:00 p.m. I am working on Saturday, so I can't be there; but I absolutely wanted to put something "out there" as a memorial tribute to Mike Pinkerton and to express my deepest sympathy to his family and friends. I know that when people's earthly lives end, there tend to be a lot of flowery, gushing, and poetic things said about them; many of which are exaggerated or just not true. What I write here about Mike Pinkerton may seem to be exaggerated or just not true, but I assure you that all of it is accurate.

I don't know what Mike Pinkerton's exact age was, but I would guess he was around age 61 or 62. I know he had several children- most of them are grown, but I believe the youngest is only around age 14. His widow, Judy, is a lovely and talented person. I cannot remember exactly when the Pinkertons moved into Massachusetts from Florida, but I would guess it was around 1998. I also do not remember exactly when I met them but I think it was at an Assemblies of God "Central Massachusetts Section" function. I do know that while my first impressions of people are usually quite incorrect, in the case of Mike Pinkerton, my first impressions were "spot on"! In ministerial circles, sad to say, I would often meet men (and women) who were overconfident, egotistical, and intimidating. Mike was nothing like that. Nothing like that! I was amazed that he seemed so simple, so warm, so sincere, so friendly, so "open", so unassuming, and so humble. There was nothing flashy at all about Mike. It was also very obvious that Mike loved God very deeply, loved his family very deeply, and very much wanted to reach out to hurting, needy people. He almost seemed like he did not belong in professional ministry. That may seem like a strange thing to write, but professional ministry can be very difficult. Pastors may have to deal with angry, selfish, and manipulative Church Board Members. They may have to deal with stubborn, rebellious people. They may have to deal with City or Town officials who frankly don't want a Pentecostal church in their community, and who certainly don't want a Pentecostal church putting up an impressive church building or exercising too much power and influence in their community. Admittedly, I was not the most capable person in dealing with the kinds of people and situations I am referring to here. Sometimes, the way I handled such situations was rather weak and unimpressive; and yet compared to Mike Pinkerton, I could be considered a very confident and capable leader. Mike Pinkerton pastored a struggling Assemblies of God church in central Massachusetts for a couple of years. He faced enormous problems and difficulties there, and ultimately the church closed. For a number of years, Mike worked at a secular job at the Bedford, Massachusetts V.A. Hospital, but he was always available as a guest speaker. I had him come to our (former) church in Framingham as a Sunday morning speaker at least once (perhaps twice) and I had Mike Pinkerton minister at our Men's Fellowship Group at least once. Honestly, Mike was not a flashy or dynamic speaker. Sadly, a minister's speaking ability is often the first and foremost item Pulpit committees look for in "calling" a pastor to their church. Mike's public speaking was at best average. Perhaps, it was a little below average, in fact. Yet, Mike always had some very rich and important matters to share from the Bible and about life. I happen to be a better speaker than was Mike Pinkerton. But Mike's very life "spoke volumes" as they say! As I reflect on Mike's kindness, compassion, love of people, love of God, and desire to reach out and help the hurting and needy, I feel (frankly) "like a jerk". Listen, in those areas, I would not have been worthy to get down and shine Mike Pinkerton's shoes! I so admired what a fine man and what a wonderful Christian he was, and I knew I fell far short of that!

I'm about to share something here that very few people know. In 2005, I had applied for an employment position with the Assemblies of God in Springfield, Missouri. It's not important what that job was. Despite my overall lack of accomplishments in ministry, this particular position was one which I was amazingly qualified for and would have been a good fit for. In fact, I ended up being one of (I believe) 6 ministers who were seriously considered for the position. I was slated to be interviewed by a very important Assemblies of God official while I was out in Missouri bringing our daughter back to college. What happened was that just a short time prior to my scheduled interview, a candidate was interviewed who was so outstanding and so perfect for the position that they decided to hire him and not pursue any of the other finalists. (Just for the record, that candidate was far more qualified than I was and was really a perfect fit for the position. I had absolutely no bad feelings about what happened.) I write all this to say that if I had gotten that job, my heart's desire was that the church in Framingham "call" Mike Pinkerton to be the pastor! Mike and his family never knew that, so now I'm making that public. I felt that with his amazing concern and care for the hurting and needy, and the excellent personal connection he had made with the church when he ministered there, he'd be perfect to pastor there. If you do an on-line search for "Bob Baril" or "Rev. Robert E. Baril" you'll find "all kinds of stuff" as they say. My friend T.H. often speaks of people who are guilty of "shameless self-promotion" and I say now with a red face that I've often been guilty of "shameless self-promotion". In life, I've often felt marginalized. I also felt that the church I pastored was often marginalized. Like a teenager "tagging" brick walls in urban alleys, I was screaming, "I MATTER! NOTICE ME! OUR CHURCH MATTERS! NOTICE OUR CHURCH!" I must admit that when I study a chapter such as Philippians chapter 2 which speaks of the total humility of the Lord Jesus Christ, I realize that Jesus was not a self-promoter at all. He was not flashy. He did not call attention to Himself. Neither did Mike Pinkerton. So, I am not exaggerating when I write that Mike Pinkerton was very much like Jesus, and was far more like Jesus than I am. Here's what's sad: The flashy ministers...the self-promoters...the "charismatic personalities"...THEY are the ones who often get buildings named after them and who get big "write-ups" in Christian magazines and on-line after they die. (Listen, I'm not saying everyone who gets that sort of treatment is a flashy, self-promoter; Billy Graham will be honored that way, and he truly deserves it. It's just that too many heroes of the faith like Mike Pinkerton die and seemingly nobody knows or cares.)

When a great Christian dies, I am often very sobered, and I wonder, "Lord, who will take his or her place?" I am sorry I can't be at Mike's Memorial Service; but I ask sadly and with deep soul-searching, "Who will take Mike's place?"

Thursday, September 5, 2013


"God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth." (John 4:24)

Not long ago, I stumbled upon a strange on-line posting. It included a photo of the residence in Framingham, MA in which my family and I used to reside. (The photo had to have been taken about ten years ago.) Along with the photo was a short article promoting me as the pastor of a church which (supposedly) meets at that residence! (Now, I did pastor a church in Framingham for many years, but I never held church services at that residence!) The thing that really amazed me is that in promoting the worship services I (supposedly) was leading at that residence it stated that I "say mass" there every Sunday! I posted the link to that erroneous piece on my Facebook page with a blurb about how wrong and incorrect its information was!

Shortly after I'd posted about that on Facebook, I heard from my friend (and fellow Canton High Class of 1972 graduate) Ellen Ronayne. She said she'd recently read something about a Congregational Church in Quincy where the author incorrectly stated they had "mass" there! The ignorance of the most basic matters of religious practice, protocol, and decorum by today's average American is, in my opinion, appalling! I honestly wonder if it's the whole business of "taking religion out of the public schools" that's the cause of a lot of this stuff! Granted, in the pre-1963 days, maybe there was too much of the "establishment of religion" in public schools. I can still remember that in the earliest grades, we recited the Lord's Prayer; and Christmas was observed complete with carol singing. Maybe that was a bit extreme, but today's kids learn that "pilgrims are people who go on long journeys" and often learn little or nothing about the religious convictions of the Pilgrims and Puritans, or of Roger Williams and the reason he founded Rhode Island, or of the intricate details of the Protestant reformation, or of a number of basic Bible passages such as the 23rd Psalm that culturally we should all be familiar with, for that matter! So, modern Americans ignorantly believe any religious service for the masses is a "mass"- or at least that any religious service for anyone even remotely Christian is a "mass"!

If you go to Wikipedia and read their piece on "Mass (liturgy)" you'll get some great clarification on the subject. In fact, "mass" has nothing to do with the fact that religious masses are present! The word is from the Latin "missa" which means "dismissal". At the end of the mass, the people were to go out and live out the Christian mission on earth, hence the origin of the name. But "mass" is a term that is never used by most Protestants! It's mainly a Roman Catholic term, although it has been known to be used by Lutherans, Anglicans, and "western rite Orthodox" churches. (I don't have the space or time here and now to explain what a "western rite Orthodox" church is!) In order for a Christian religious service to be a mass it must include "The Holy Eucharist" (that is Holy Communion) according the Roman Catholic theology. Now, this may come as a shock, but not all Protestant churches observe Holy Communion every Sunday morning. Some do, but many do not. In the Assemblies of God, the church in which I'm Ordained, there are a few churches which have Holy Communion every Sunday, but I'd say at least 95% have Holy Communion only once a month. That's also true of most Baptist, Congregational, Methodist, and Nazarene churches. That practice of only once a month communion comes from reformer John Calvin who believed that having Holy Communion every Sunday caused believers to trivialize it. Calvin felt that having it monthly and making kind of a big deal about it would cause the worshiper to be much more serious and devout about Communion.

Now, of course, the Catholic Church believes in "The Holy Eucharist". In traditional Roman Catholic theology, the bread and wine actually become Christ's body and blood. In most Protestant churches, the elements are viewed as symbolic elements; nothing more and nothing less. A serious Roman Catholic would never think of Communion at most Protestant churches as "The Holy Eucharist"! And, a serious Roman Catholic would never think of a Baptist or Congregational or Methodist or Assemblies of God service as a "mass"!

I know that readers may think this all gets too confusing and complicated. Maybe it does. The Bible passage I opened with is from Jesus' conversation with the "woman at the well" in Samaria. She tried to "push her religion" on him, which was indeed pretty different from traditional Judaism, but Jesus steered things back to focusing on really worshiping God and having a relationship with Him. Anyway, I hope I have not "muddied the waters" here but if you're one who calls any Catholic or Protestant or Orthodox service a "mass" I hope this has been food for thought for you!

Sunday, September 1, 2013


"Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal:
But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal:" (Matthew 6:19-20)

I recently heard a highly respected professor from an ivy league school on a weekend morning radio program giving advice about saving for college and about not spending money foolishly. Ironically, even this man admitted to spending too much money on gadgets and having to have the latest and best of this and that which comes out on the market. This man, hailed as an expert financial adviser admitted that he lacked a certain amount of discipline when it comes to buying what many of us would call "adult toys". I couldn't help but wonder if he couldn't control his spending, how were the rest of us supposed to control our spending?! Our society is so enamored with having to have the latest and newest and best computer or car or television set or (especially) smart phone. What foolish priorities we have!

Early this morning, I was driving along Route 2 westbound in the Acton, Massachusetts area. On this drive, I saw a memorable Cadillac convertible. I am not certain of the model year, but I would guess the Cadillac was either a 1960, 1961, or 1962 model. I know it was not a 1959. The Cadillac I saw had tail fins, but the 1959 Cadillac had giant tail fins- the largest tail fins ever on an American car! No, it wasn't a '59. Frankly, I can barely tell the makes of any cars built since 1985, let alone the model year designations. To me, the cars from 1985 to today are often very generic and unexciting. So many years, makes, and models look bland and alike. The cars from about 1949 to about 1972 are from a golden age of styling when each year and make was a distinct work of art and craftsmanship. I'm one of those people who likes to go to car shows and "oooh and aaah" at the beautiful restored automobiles. This early '60s Cadillac convertible was certainly memorable. It was memorable for the wrong reasons, however! The car was being transported on a flatbed truck. The Cadillac convertible looked terrible! The car was painted a nasty green color- sort of a combination of emerald green and forest green. It was not a professional paint job- it looked like it was done by a 7-year-old! The roof was down. In fact, I think the roof was off! The windshield was smashed. It looked like somebody had hit it with a sledgehammer. The car was truly a hunk of junk. I'm not sure where it was being transported to. My late father would have said about it, "I wouldn't take it if you gave it to me!" Well, I wouldn't either!

Even as a little boy, I noticed cars. Had I seen that car on the road fifty years ago, in 1963, it probably would have been a sharp looking, shiny, impressive and luxurious Cadillac convertible. I would have been impressed to see it. My father never would have brought a car like that home for us to own. We really could not have afforded it. If he had, however, we'd probably have been drooling over it, and been begging to have a ride in the car with the top down. How ironic that today that car is a hunk of junk that almost no one would want. I suppose someone might buy it to try to restore it, but he or she would have my sympathy! That would be a very long and very expensive proposition.

Yeah, I thought about that Cadillac today. It made such an impression that I don't think I'll ever forget it. It left me wondering why we chase after material things, and why we love material things, when one day they will just be junk! How much time and energy of ours is put into stuff that doesn't matter- and when it comes to God and eternity- so many people just don't care!

Yeah, I thought about that Cadillac today and I thought about what does and doesn't really matter.