Wednesday, March 27, 2013


"And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely." (Revelation 22:17)

I truly chuckle when people think I'm a technically savvy person! I don't think I am! I did not use any computer at all until early 1993. That computer was at my church office and I began using it with many reservations. Our family got a computer at home in late 1994. I went on-line at my office in 1996 and at home in 1998. My first cell phone dates back to late 1999. Most of you know I still don't have a smart phone. I was very late coming to Facebook- I started on Facebook in December of 2010.

It took me at least a month to "get the hang" of Facebook. I added Facebook friends gradually- some people requested that I become their Facebook friend and I requested that certain people become Facebook friends with me. Something that has surprised me over the two years and three months that I have been on Facebook is that some of my Facebook friends have "unfriended" me! I was on Facebook for probably about a year before I realized you could be unfriended on Facebook! I am not sure why anybody unfriended me. There was at least one of those people that I tried to "refriend" but he did not accept my request. I have a personal friend who is also one of my Facebook friends who has unfriended a number of people and has been unfriended by a number of people. If he has an argument with someone or gets annoyed by a person's religious or political views, it's likely he will unfriend that person. Recently, that person told me, "I am thinking about having a new policy with my Facebook friends. If they post anything which includes profanity, I will remove it," (and presumably unfriend the person, as well). I must say, I thought a little bit about that one. Honestly, some of my Facebook friends post things which include pretty strong language. Some post links to sites I find quite offensive. A few occasionally post sexually suggestive writings. Some post religious or political opinions that I find troubling. I wish people would not post things which include swears, especially the "F word", and I wish people would not post sexually suggestive writings. I also get tired of angry and sarcastic political posts from both the right and the left. I could "go wild" and start deleting all sorts of posts from my Facebook friends and I suppose even unfriend about a quarter of my Facebook friends. I got to thinking about this today because a friend of mine who has very liberal political views posted a very left wing link that I became annoyed by.

Then, I thought about the flip side of what I'm writing about here. I post a fair number of links and thoughts, myself. I want my Facebook friends, if they respect me as a person, to read and consider what I'm posting, even if they find what I post offensive to their political or religious views. I think society is healthier when we are all free to bring matters that are important to us "to the table" and honestly think about and dialogue about them. This is what happened in ancient Athens, and Acts chapter seventeen tells us that the Apostle Paul went to Mars Hill to share and discuss Christianity in this fashion with the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers. Somehow I think Paul would have had a Facebook page, and I suspect he would not have been quick to unfriend people or reject people.

To the best of my knowledge, I have never unfriended anyone on Facebook and I have never removed any other person's post. I do ask my Facebook friends to think about some of what you post; especially the "F word"; and to think about whether what you're posting is edifying or destructive. I also hope you will at least "take a serious look at" what I post and that you won't unfriend me!

Sunday, March 24, 2013


"Then was brought unto him one possessed with a devil, blind, and dumb: and he healed him, insomuch that the blind and dumb both spake and saw.
And all the people were amazed, and said, Is not this the son of David?
But when the Pharisees heard it, they said, This fellow doth not cast out devils, but by Beelzebub the prince of the devils." (Matthew 12:22-24)

I came to Facebook somewhat later than most people I know did, but I've now been on Facebook for over two years. I started my blog, "The Blog of Bob Baril" back in 2006. In those days, although there were some very famous political blogs, a lot of people still didn't know what a blog was, and most people didn't know anybody who actually wrote a blog. Of course, seven years later blogs are extremely common and I know scads of people who write blogs of their own. When I was pastoring, some people were very critical of my blog because it was not strictly a "religious blog" nor a "Christian blog". Probably about half of the pieces I've posted on this blog (which was originally in the old "AOL Journals" and then moved to Google/Blogger a few years ago) have been Christian focused and typical of what you might expect a minister to write, but about half have been "anything but"! A number of years ago, I wrote a post slamming an airline I felt had not treated me right. Average people write things like that all the time, but I was told by some disappointed people that writing that piece was "beneath a minister of the Gospel", and honestly, maybe it was. I have written humorous and silly pieces. I wrote one piece about my favorite songs. I have written pieces about talk radio and about politics. On Facebook, just as with my blog, I have posted some very inspirational Christian writings and some just plain silly garbage. How many ministers perform comedy videos on youtube, and then promote this on social media? I HAVE!!In retrospect, I sometimes wonder if I would have been better off "acting like a minister all the time". Maybe. I did experience the closing of the church I pastored for many years and I have been essentially out of full-time ministry for three years, so maybe my critics do have a valid point. For better or for worse, that stuff is all out there in cyberspace and will probably be there (should the Lord's Second Coming tarry) long after I have passed on from this life.

Some of what I've written and posted has truly been drivel. Every once in awhile, though, I write something that is (I think) Godly, profound, and important. I wrote something like that last Friday and posted it on Facebook. This is exactly what I posted on Facebook:

"I am uncomfortable with people who 'have God all figured out'. We will NEVER have God all figured out because He is God! We DO get all sorts of helpful insight and direction from the Bible, God's Holy Word; but may we never become like Pharisees, condemning others and forgetting our own sins and faults. Something I often say is 'You can't put God in a box' and the longer I've been a Christian the more I've experienced how TRUE that is."

Some of you know that I was taken very physically ill just a little over a week ago. It was a very scary experience. Among other things the medical people were looking for after I was admitted to the hospital was cancer. I have been very blessed with good health. I was diagnosed as having a chronic lower gastrointestinal disorder. I do not have cancer. An experience like that does cause you to do a lot of thinking and reflecting and to realize how very little control you really do have over things! I will say that as I sit and re-read what I wrote on Friday I feel even stronger about it than I did then, and I feel so strongly about it that I hope whoever preaches my funeral someday reads the words of that posting because it's something I'd like to say to everyone present at my funeral someday. It's something I feel that passionate about! I can't tell you what triggered that statement off, but I did have a conversation with someone recently that so grieved me I felt I had to post those words. I have been a "born-again Christian" for over forty years. As much as I hate to admit it, at one time, I was very much a modern-day Pharisee. I was very much "holier than thou". I had become very self-righteous, condescending and judgmental. When I was in my twenties, I wrote one letter to the small town newspaper in Canton, Massachusetts criticizing the local Unitarian minister, and I wrote another slamming the behavior of a young man who wore a tee-shirt containing a large, profane slogan. I even wrote a letter to The Patriot Ledger(Quincy, MA) castigating Halloween trick-or-treaters.

Today, I'm embarrassed that I wrote that stuff and that it was published. (I don't know if it's also in cyberspace or not, but I don't even have the heart to look for it!) I also became a crusading right-wing Republican activist. In 1988, I displayed a "PAT ROBERTSON FOR PRESIDENT" sign at the exterior of my residence. I'm not quite as embarrassed about that as I am about the letters I wrote to newspapers, but the fact is, like so many on the religious right, I was furious with those who didn't think and behave exactly as I thought they should behave. My honest feeling was, "God wants these people to toe the line, and I do, too!" They were going to "toe the line" even if they had to be forced to do so!

It's ironic I felt that way because the message I was believing and proclaiming was a far cry from the Gospel of grace and mercy which led to my salvation in 1970! It was during the first few years of the 1990s that I gradually shed this kind of thinking; and I began to understand that such self-righteous thinking has nothing to do with the Gospel of Jesus Christ! I suspect many of my liberal friends are having a good laugh over this piece, as they say "Amen" and rejoice that I "saw the light" regarding my thinking. To my good liberal friends I say, "Not so fast!" My experience is that there is only one thing worse than a right-wing idealogue and that's a left-wing idealogue. I get so tired of the condescending and smug political postings on Facebook from both my right-wing friends and my left-wing friends. There's so much wrong with most of them at so many levels, but it's the liberal ones that are the most condescending and judgmental.

Lest this piece "go all over the place" and I really don't want to do that, I'm now bringing back primarily to my Christian friends. It's so very grievous that so many people really think they have God all figured out! One of our professors at Central Bible College (who later taught for many years at the Assemblies of God Theological Seminary), Dr. Benny Aker, refused to teach any Systematic Theology classes! Dr. Aker would teach Greek, Hermeneutics, and any Bible class, but he believed for man to have broken theology (that is, the "Study of God") into an academic discipline which was studied and taught systematically was very foolish indeed! Benny Aker is absolutely right!

Devout Christians harangue that "God would never choose a woman to be a leader", but what about Deborah? They harangue that God would not want utterances in other tongues to take place during church services, but what about First Corinthians chapters twelve and fourteen? They harangue that God can never use anyone who has been divorced, but what about the Rev. Charles Stanley? They harangue that God would never use a young person to correct an older person, but what about the advice Paul gave to young Timothy who, although Timothy was a very young man, was a leader and a pastor? It goes on and on. Think you have God all figured out? You don't. I don't either!

Wednesday, March 13, 2013


This post appeared as the March 12, 2013 entry on Mary Agrusa's blog entitled, "The Thought Just Occurred to Me". I was very impressed by what she wrote for her post entitled, "Pastors Aren't Toilet Paper". Here, Mary Agrusa shares some very important observations and truths that I believe every evangelical Christian needs to seriously think about. She writes what most pastors would love to write but could never get away with saying or writing!

Mary's blog is found at:

The elders who direct the affairs of the church are well worthy of double honor, especially those whose works is preaching and teaching. 1 Timothy 5:17

Pastors and toilet paper serve an important function in our lives; both help clean up the messes we make. Unfortunately, like toilet paper, pastors are often discarded after use. Here is the problem; pastors aren’t toilet paper.

It’s normal for ministers to counsel people outside the confines of their congregations. When dealing with sensitive issues, this offers an additional level of privacy. Pastors recognize the temporary nature of these arrangements. They pour themselves into helping the individuals knowing full well the relationship will end sometime soon. That’s expected. What happens oftentimes is this. People in the church under the pastor’s care develop serious problems. The pastor spends enormous amounts of time and energy helping these congregants navigate the difficult storms of life. Hours are spent listening, counseling, praying with and for these folks and then…poof, they disappear. Emotionally drained, the pastor is left alone without as much as the courtesy of a phone call or personal visit to say, “I’m leaving.” Many times they learn about the person’s departure second and third hand.

I’m not suggesting that ministers use pastoral counseling as a means of recruiting and maintaining church members. The shepherd’s responsibility is to care for the flock. Sheep don’t go out looking for a new shepherd; they won’t follow an unfamiliar voice. People aren’t always that smart.

There are times when leaving a fellowship is the right decision. My pastor shared with me that at times God gives him a heads up that a change is coming. This doesn’t make a person’s departure any easier, but having the assurance that it’s God’s will for both parties lessens the pain. When people disappear without a trace, it hurts. Pastors have feelings too. Knowing people will use them and walk away comes with the territory, but it doesn’t make it something they can just shrug off.

Paul wrote Timothy that those who serve in responsible positions in the church, specifically those who preach and teach, deserve double honor. Pastors fit in that category. Part of showing honor is extending courtesy and respect. Pastors don’t want people to leave, but its part of life. If you feel it is time for you to go, don’t vanish into thin air. Tell your pastor, in person, that you’re going. They may not agree with your decision and even try to talk you out of it. That’s just part of being in a relationship. Ultimately the choice is yours alone to make. Letting he/she know will help make your leaving a little bit easier and will keep the lines of communication between you both open. Sometime in the future you may need them again. Unlike discard toilet paper that is gone forever, you’ll have a “clean sheet”, so to speak, to start fresh.

This is Bob Baril writing; I posted this comment about what she wrote above on Mary Agrusa's blog: Mary, that is SO well said. I experienced being discarded like toilet paper many times as a pastor. Some people do just "disappear". Others tell the pastor but in the wrong time and wrong way. This was twenty years ago, but a woman called me out of the blue on a Saturday night to tell me that she and her family were leaving the church. I told her that informing me on a Saturday night over the phone was "tacky". She later contacted me to say she'd looked up "tacky" in the dictionary and that it meant "low class behavior". She was insulted. I just let it be, but frankly leaving a church and not speaking to the pastor at all about it, OR leaving a "hit and run" note on his desk, OR a surprise phone call at 9 p.m. on a Saturday is, well, TACKY!

Sunday, March 10, 2013


"Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered;" (Hebrews 5:8)

Today, I want to share a very powerful story that another minister published in one of his books a number of years ago. This one's a real gem. I used it as a sermon illustration several times in my preaching. The thing that makes the story a gem (and true Christians will undoubtedly discern this as you read it) is that is obviously is a story given by God and not a mere product of human imagination. The story appeared in one of the books by the late Rev. Bill Britton of Springfield, Missouri. The Rev. Bill died at least twenty years ago. He pastored an independent Pentecostal church in Springfield, Missouri. (I believe he was originally an Assemblies of God minister.) I've read a number of Bill Briton's books and heard some of his sermon tapes, although that was all over twenty-five years ago. Britton did hold to some controversial views, with which I do not agree. His eschatological beliefs (that is, his beliefs about the end times and the return of Christ) were very different from those of most born-again Christians, particularly his belief that an elite class of Christians will burst forth in the end times and will do great things for God. It's regrettable that Believers who hold to some unorthodox theological views can so often be marginalized and that so many of their really good and really helpful teachings are ignored and ultimately lost to the rest of the Body of Christ. One of my Professors at Central Bible College (Dr. Terry Lewis) used to encourage us to, "take the meat and leave the bones" when listening to sermons or reading books by Christian pastors. That's good advice! Yes, there were some "bones" in Bill Britton's teachings, but there was also a lot of meat. This story is definitely very "meaty"! I repeat the story as best as I remember it. If I have not represented the story with exact accuracy, I hope my readers and any of Bill Britton's friends, family, and followers will forgive me!

As Bill Britton expressed the story, God gave him a powerful vision one day while he was attending a ministers' convention. He was attending this event and suddenly God was giving him this vision like he was sitting and watching a movie! It must have really freaked him out! He just sat there and watched it. In the vision, Bill saw a team of horses hitched up to a coach. This was not some 1870s stage coach nor some 1840s wagon for a family heading west. This was a very expensive and very fancy coach- one that perhaps a very wealthy person of the 1700s or 1800s would own. There were several horses hitched up to it. The horses were beautiful, and impeccably groomed. They were about the best specimens of horses one could imagine. The coach and horses were stopped on a beautiful grass field. The driver of the coach was laying on the ground partially under the coach fixing something.

"Boy, that driver isn't too smart," Bill thought, "If a yellowjacket startled or stung one of the horses, they could suddenly bolt and he could be badly injured or even killed!"

The horses, however, stood perfectly still like statues. Then, Bill Britton noticed that off in the distance were two little colts. The colts ran up to and around the horses, trying to get their attention. Amazingly, the team of horses payed no attention to the colts. Then, a horse trainer with a whip showed up! He was no "horse whisperer"! He used that whip and drove the colts into a barn. Bill then saw a new scene. The trainer was whipping the colts and yelling commands. They were so unhappy. Their fun was over. At one point, the trainer turned his head. One colt decided to make a break for it and he did! Amazingly, the trainer did not go after the runaway colt. The other colt stayed.

Now, Bill had another scene change in his vision and he knew in his spirit that several years had gone by for the horses. He saw the colt that ran away. To Bill's surprise, the colt was still a colt! There also had been a famine in the land. The grass was no longer lush. It was brown and dry. The colt looked emaciated. He was obviously having a hard time finding food. The other colt, however, fared much better. The colt who stayed was no longer a colt but rather a grown horse. That horse was now one of the horses pulling that expensive coach. The coach was the King's coach, and even in the worst times of famine, the King's horses had plenty of good food and first-class treatment. They didn't mind being perfectly disciplined.

That was the end of Bill Britton's vision.

In his book, the Rev. Bill Britton then shared what he believed is the interpretation of the vision. The two little colts represented two brand new born-again Believers,and the team of horses represented a group of mature Christians. So many times, brand new Christians are "hoppin' and boppin' around", quoting a few Bible verses, acting super-spiritual, driving everyone crazy, and seemingly having all the answers and believing that life with Jesus is just one big bowl of cherries in which you have lots of fun and never have any problems. The seriousness and solemnity of many mature Christians seems completely foreign to them. The trainer with the whip is the Holy Spirit. I know you may not have pictured the Holy Spirit that way, but for any of you who've gone through God's School of Hard Knocks (or are going through it right now) this may not be so difficult to understand! There are times when God seems very mean and unreasonable; when life seems unfair and too hard. Honestly, I've been there- even recently. There are times when you say to yourself, "This Christianity is not worth it! I had a better life when I was unsaved! How about if I just decide I'M OUTTA HERE?!".

Some Christians do decide just that. I hate to admit how many times I've been close to just "chucking it all". But then I remembered the words of Peter in John's Gospel when he resists the temptation to reject and leave Jesus Christ, saying, "Lord, to whom shall we go, for You have the words of everlasting life?"

The trainer did not chase the colt who ran away. If we reject the Lord and reject His calling on our lives, He will not chase us, either. But in times of spiritual famine, we will not fare well! We will not have grown! The smart Christian is the one who submits to the Lord's discipline (see Hebrews chapter 12) and who then experiences many privileges of ministry and close fellowship with God.

I am not just horsing around sharing this story! I felt impressed of the Lord to share it today. I hope it blesses and helps you!

Thursday, March 7, 2013


"But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept." (I Corinthians 15:20)

"It's the most wonderful time of the year!"

Most of us associate that line with an Andy Williams song about the Christmas season, which was also used as a clever Staples "Back To School" shopping theme song. I don't want so spend a lot of time on this, but for me Christmas is usually not the most wonderful time of the year. It means all kinds of financial pressure and social obligations. Sorry. But that's how I generally feel about it. Now, Easter, is very different! I think Easter is such a better holiday than Christmas- probably a thousand times better! It's true that at Christmas we remember the birth of Jesus Christ, and of course that is significant. It's really the BODILY RESURRECTION of Jesus Christ, though, that's significant! I know many folks see that as foolishness, but as the Apostle Paul writes, to us who are saved, it is the power of God! (See and compare I Corinthians 1:18.)

Most pastors of evangelical Protestant churches can't wait to deliver their Easter Sunday sermon. For most, it's considered the most important sermon of the year. I was very unusual when I was pastoring in that I preferred to have guest speakers for Easter Sunday rather than to preach. I would imagine no more than one percent of evangelical Protestant pastors feel that way! Honestly, I had five Easter Sunday messages: one from each of the four Gospels and one from the Apostle Paul's great Resurrection chapter, First Corinthians 15. After five Easter Sundays, I wasn't so sure what to preach on. I re-preached some of the sermons. I kind of tinkered with some of them, but pretty much I had those five Easter sermons and that was it! I also hated the feeling on Easter Sundays that I was expected to hit the equivalent of a grand slam home run from the pulpit. If all I hit was a single, well, it made Easter feel kind of mediocre. I came to really enjoy hearing other pastors' sermons. On at least twelve of the Easter Sundays that I pastored between 1987 and 2010 I had guest speakers in the pulpit. One of the best was my friend the Rev. Dick Germaine, somewhere around 2006. I remember that in 1997 we had a great Easter Sunday message by seasoned Assemblies of God minister Harvey Meppelink. I think I had Jim Spence from The Bridge House speak on an Easter Sunday, and a bunch of other fine people brought Easter sermons over the years, too. When I had a guest speaker, I'd get to relax and enjoy the sermon and enjoy Easter along with everybody else.

This year, I'm thinking: Bob Baril, you fool! You didn't appreciate the opportunities you had to preach on Easter Sunday!

Easter is a little early this year. It's in March- late March. I think it's best when Easter falls on the second Sunday of April, but the whole Easter calendar thing is a subject for another day. I haven't really preached for over a year. A few days ago I got to thinking about what I would preach if I were preaching on Easter Sunday. I admit that at times I was in a rut in my preaching. I now realize that I do not have to be bound by having five Easter sermons. In fact, as I really thought about it, I decided that if I were preaching on Easter Sunday this year, I'd include material from all of those portions of Scripture; from the Gospels and from First Corinthians 15.I would probably take my main text from First Corinthians 15, but I'd have five points to the sermon. No, it would not be an "eternal" sermon! I'd have five relatively brief points. I'd draw five thoughts from the Gospels and I Corinthians 15- one key thought from each chapter, and I'd wrap it up stressing how we need to allow the reality of the resurrection to transform our lives and the lives of those around us.

I'm not pastoring anymore, but at least I can think about that in anticipation of Easter. Preaching is a high calling. I knew that...or did I? I don't know if I will ever pastor again, but if I ever do, I think I will approach preaching with much more of a sense of the awe and privilege and responsibility of it. When I did pastor, I preached a lot of good sermons, and some very good sermons. I also had my share of bad ones. Something that amazes me is that I have never heard a bad sermon from the pastor I now sit under (Gary Collette at Bread of Life Church in Westminster, MA). Sometimes he's mispronounced a word or had a minor factual error, but most of the sermons I've heard him give are either outstanding or very good. There have been some "O.K." sermons, but never a bad one. For those of us who are preachers, that's something to think about. Honestly, although most of my sermons were good, over the pears that I pastored I preached probably five terrible sermons and probably twenty bad sermons. I guess there was at least one for every year! The worst sermon I ever preached was a topical sermon on the Fourth of July. I am amazed anyone showed up the next Sunday- it was THAT bad! Another time I promoted to the hilt a sermon called "Radical Christianity". I told the church they'd dare not miss it and that it would be one of the most important sermons they would ever hear. I felt all kinds of things I wanted to say that week. I was "all whipped up". But when it came down to pen and paper, I struggled. And, when I got up to deliver the sermon, it absolutely was weak and disjointed and completely fell flat! The sermon I implied would probably be the gem of my career, alas, goes down in the annals as one of those five terrible ones I just wrote about! No kidding, one male church member at least fifteen years my senior, came to see me after that and told me he was never so disappointed as he was with that sermon! (And eventually he left the church!) Another time I was preaching through the Book of Acts. I came to one chapter that I had a terrible time crafting into a three point sermon. It ended up being historical and factual, but totally boring and having no real objective. Somebody later said to me, "That sermon didn't seem to have any point to it!" For me, the scary thing is, it didn't!

Well, Easter is about Resurrection! I really love Easter! And thank God it's a day a preacher can forget about sermons that fell flat and were terrible and disappointed people and had no point to them! Easter is about resurrection! Easter is about new life in Christ! Easter is about a future and a hope! I'm not pastoring this year and I don't have a congregation to prepare a sermon for, but I can think about those five great Easter chapters and how they all go together and what a powerful message they present and how great is our God! Yes, Easter is a time for joy and for anticipation! Preachers, don't just pull something out of the file this year; ask God for a fresh message; and people, go to church this year expecting to meet with God in a special way!