Monday, April 29, 2013


"Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain.
And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible.
I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air:
But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway." (I Corinthians 9:24-27)

I think I've written about this before, but sometimes I am amazed at the songs that will just "pop into my head" seemingly out of nowhere! Several days ago, for some reason I started thinking about the Arlo Guthrie song, "City of New Orleans". I happen to love that song. It's such a beautiful "slice of Americana"! Two of my grown kids and I saw Arlo Guthrie at an outdoor concert in Framingham, MA several years ago and it was so great to hear him perform that song! As the song "played in my head" last week, the thought occurred to be that it would be neat to take a song like that and put new words to it about the Boston Marathon bombings but also about the hope for the future. The next day, I sat at the computer and wrote new lyrics to the song in less than a half hour. I posted the lyrics on Facebook, and send them out as an e-mail to a few close friends. I will admit I was annoyed with myself that I'd misspelled a word or two (I've now fixed that!) but I was really pleased to receive several very positive responses about my "new" words to "City of New Orleans"- which I am calling "Marathon of Boston". My friend Suzanne F. suggested that it would be exciting to get a professional singer to record the song with my new words and use the record sales and downloads entirely for fundraising for the Marathon victims. Honestly, that is a magnificent idea! It's true the "One Fund Boston" has already raised millions and millions of dollars, but the needs of the victims and their families will go on for decades and the costs will be astronomical. I would be so excited to see my words recorded as a song by a professional singer and all the proceeds going to help this effort. As much as I write blog postings and send mass e-mailings, I really am just a very simple guy from the Boston suburbs. Right now, I work a couple of very simple jobs,and live what some of you would find to be an amazingly simple lifestyle. I don't know a lot of "heavy hitters". I'd love to get in touch with Arlo Guthrie and ask if he would record "Marathon of Boston". I think lives in Berkshire County but I have no idea how to get in touch with him. Of course, there are all the copyright issues. I think Arlo Guthrie holds the copyright on "City of New Orleans" but I don't know that for sure. All that stuff would have to be worked out. Again, I'm a very simple guy without a lot of contacts.

But: I think of that concept of "Six Degrees of Separation" that many of us heard about a few years ago. It's the theory that each person is only six people removed from a very famous person, and sometimes it's not that much! For example, I know someone very well who personally knows someone who knows former President George W. Bush very well. I also know someone who knows a couple of the WBZ-TV reporters very well. I knew at least three people who personally knew former Governor (and Presidential candidate) Michael S. Dukakis. This is my thought. Of the 100-200 friends and acquaintances of mine who will read this, all of you have at least five people you could forward this link on to. It is very likely that you know someone who knows someone who knows someone who could make what I'm writing about here happen! The key thing is, to make this happen, you have to believe in this and forward it on and preferably endorse the idea in some way. I'm asking you to do that. Let's see what happens! Here are the words to "Marathon of Boston":

Running in the Marathon of Boston
Western suburbs, Monday morning chill
Fifteenth of April, multitudes of runners
Women and men, Twenty-six miles of trail
All along the eastbound odyssey - the race starts off with cheers and glee
And rolls along past houses, stores, and crowds
Passing fans so glad they came, led by thin and tall black men
Watched on media from everywhere in the world.

Patriots Day in old beantown, how are ya?
Say, don't you know me? I'm so thrilled to run
I'm the race they call the Marathon of Boston
I'll be gone twenty-six miles fore the day is done.

Eating Dunkin’ Donuts with my daughter down in Framingham.
Snappin’ pictures- hearing the crowds roar
A busy mom drops her baby’s bottle
Eatin’ crunchy candy from the corner store.
And the girls of Puerto Rico, and the sons of old Brazil
Cheer sisters and brothers running from far away
And, teenagers and their girlfriends too, smile and wave at skinny souls
And they wonder if they’ll conquer heartbreak hill.

Patriots Day in old beantown, how are ya?
Say, don't you know me? I'm so thrilled to run
I'm the race they call the Marathon of Boston
I'll be gone twenty-six miles fore the day is done.

Night time in the heart of downtown Boston
Not a crowd that anyone can see
Soundwaves shook the square that’s known as Copley
Acts of darkness, horror followed the glee.
Yes, for all the crowded people, it seemed like a bad dream
And the world stood still and heard the news
Violence hits us once again- cries and tears, a sad refrain
But these streets again will welcome runners’ shoes.

Patriots Day in old beantown, how are ya?
Say, don't you know me? I'm so thrilled to run
I'm the race they call the Marathon of Boston
I'll be gone twenty-six miles fore the day is done.

Friends, help me with this project, please!

Wednesday, April 24, 2013


"...for when I am weak, then am I strong." (from 2 Corinthians 12:10)
"Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might." (Ephesians 6:10)

April 15, 2013 has now gone into the annals of my memory about as deeply as two previous dates: November 22, 1963 and September 11, 2011. In fact, I'd now rate it number 3, behind only those two dates. I will never forget it. My daughter Rachel posted a couple of photos of us on Facebook from that morning around 11:30, smiling and cheering on the runners in downtown Framingham. I look so happy and carefree and positive in those photos- having no idea what was coming later in that day! I'm a very emotional person. When I heard the news of the bombings and watched the initial reports on television, I was deeply affected by them. Later on April 15 I sadly commented to some friends, "I don't think we can ever have a Boston Marathon again. How could we?!" When I awoke on Tuesday morning, however, I felt very differently. After having slept on it, I thought, "We can't NOT have the Marathon next year! That's exactly what the terrorists want! We have to have it next year, and make it the biggest and best Marathon we've ever had and the biggest and best Patriots' Day we've ever had!" This was the inspiration for my blog post last week etitled, "April's Third Monday- Remember!".

It didn't take more than two or three days for a new slogan and logo to be born in the Greater Boston area. I don't know who coined the slogan or designed the logo, but the slogan is two words: "BOSTON STRONG!" and when you see it, there's usually a dark blue and red logo with the "B" design that you see on Boston Red Sox baseball caps. The "Boston Strong!" slogan along with expressions of hope and confidence regarding next year's Marathon have (sadly) produced very divided reactions in the community at large and especially within the evangelical Christian community of which I am a part. Last week a Christian layman I have a lot of respect for publicly expressed great displeasure and disagreement regarding President Obama's comments at the service in Boston last week.

"I can't stand that Obama!" my friend said loudly and angrily, "To say 'We're going to come back next year better and better!'? What is wrong with him? That man was bursting with pride!"

Several fellow Christians enthusiastically agreed with him. I was quiet. I did not watch the service in Boston on television. I've just seen a few brief clips of President Obama's remarks. I really didn't see much of a problem with them. I will say I have also heard a number of positive comments about President Obama's words last week from other evangelical Christian friends. A woman I know put a brief comment on-line saying, "Boston Strong!". It was met by what seemed to be a condescending rebuke from another woman who was trying to remind her that "pride goes before a fall". That little exchange created hurt and division, which is so regrettable. On the one hand, I have a number of evangelical Christian friends who have posted various "Boston Strong!" messages on Facebook. On the other hand, I've read some material on-line posted by local evangelical Christians who have said that what happened at the Marathon was God's judgment against America in general and Boston in particular- and that the people who are proclaiming "Boston Strong!" are stating that Bostonians are invincible and are really thumbing their noses at God and inviting further judgment and punishment. I can't help but wonder if all of this division just makes God weep!

At the risk of alienating a lot of Red Sox fans (and like most Bostonians, I love the hometown team) I was thoroughly disgusted by David Ortiz's blatant public statement that, "This is our #%//@&%#@#& city!" Really? There was nothing good or wholesome or helpful about that statment! I am sure David meant well but he just sounded like a foul-mouthed jerk! It's too bad former New England Patriots player Ron Burton is no longer with us, for he'd certainly have made some inspiring comments at this time and never degraded himself to talk like that!

I actually don't think "Boston Strong!" is a bad statement and I'm O.K. with it, but I don't think it was the best slogan to choose. When you're rushed after a horrific event, you're not in the best and most ideal frame of mind. I think of the days immediately following my brother's unexpected death thirty years ago. My parents, my sister and I were all in a state of total shock. My father had Eddie buried in his family's large plot at St. Joseph's Cemetery in Boston's West Roxbury neighborhood. Years later, my own parents bought a plot at Knollwood Memorial Park in Canton and that's where they are buried. My sister has often said she wishes Eddie had been buried in Canton like my parents, and I do, too. Had we had a few weeks to plan and think about it, the family probably would have purchased a plot in Canton for Eddie, but everything was so sudden and horrific that we did the best we could at the time. Similarly, I think if a month could have been spent thinking up a slogan and logo for the response to April 15's events, something better than "Boston Strong!" would probably have emerged. I'd have even liked "Boston Solidarity!" better, or "Boston United!". Still, as the saying goes, "it is what it is", and I think we should stop being so divided and judgmental over it.

Some might argue that if we were really so strong, the horrific events of last week would not have happened. The fact is, however, as the famous rabbi from Natick, Massachusetts once said, that bad things happen to good people. It is true that as a country in many respect we have pretty much ignored God and done our own thing, especially over the past forty years or so. We're a materialistic people. We tend to be an overconfident people. Yet, the generosity and kindness in the wake of the bombings has been heartening. My understanding it that over 200 million dollars has been donated for the victims so far! They need our prayers and our tangible support and will continue to need it for a long time.

In the Assemblies of God religious group to which I belong and serve as an Ordained Minister, we don't use the terms "diocese" and "bishops" as in many churches, but we do have "districts" and "district superintendents" (sometimes called "district pastors"). Our district is sort of "cutting edge" in that recently we started using the term "ministry network" to describe our district. The leader of our Southern New England Ministry Network is the Rev. Bob Wise. Bob is a very nice guy with whom I've sometimes strongly agreed on things and sometimes strongly disagreed on matters. I've never been so pleased with Bob Wise, however, as I was this past weekend. He put out an e-mail to all of our ministers encouraging that not only should our churches be full on the Sunday following the terrible Boston Marathon week, but that we should pray for the victims, for the grieving families, and pray for President Obama and the other political leaders as they attempt to lead us at this very difficult time. He also exhorted us to reach out in love to hurting people in our communities. To me, THAT should best exemplify "Boston Strong!" for evangelical Christians. We need to, "be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might," as that Scripture passage from the Book of Ephesians says. We need to pray. We need to love. We need to have the right priorities. We need to reach out to the hurting. We need to end petty and stupid divisions. Yes, I want to be BOSTON STRONG IN THE LORD!

Thursday, April 18, 2013


"Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints." (Psalm 116:15)

This post is one I originally posted in October of 2006. I called it, "A Man You'll Want to Meet". At that time, my good friend the Rev. Dr. Ivor Nicklin was scheduled to be our guest speaker on Sunday, Oct. 29 and I wanted people to learn about Ivor Nicklin and be there. Well, now if you want to meet Ivor Nicklin, you'll have to meet him in Heaven. Dr. Nicklin passed into his eternal reward on Sunday, April 7. His Memorial Service was today, April 18, in England. Dr. Nicklin had stayed in close touch with me. We received a very nice Easter card and note from him just a few weeks ago, and from time to time he phoned me. He will be missed. Incidentally, Ivor and his wife Margaret had a website which you'll want to check out. You can still order his Bible study materials, and the site includes a photo and biography. The website is at

Here is my October 2006 post:

It’s very hard for me to believe that January 2007 will mark twenty years that I’ve lived and pastored in Framingham.  Back in 1987, our church was located at Hartford and C Streets. Although it LOOKED like a church- actually it looked like a CHAPEL- our facility seated only 55 people, sat on a tiny lot, and had no parking lot.  It was in that little building, however, that I first met one of the greatest Bible teachers alive today.

I hadn’t been in Framingham much more than a few weeks before Claire, our volunteer part-time Secretary began speaking of Dr. Ivor Nicklin.  She raved about him being an outstanding speaker and teacher.  She explained that he was British and an ordained Anglican priest who traveled to the U.S.A. once a year to do a circuit of speaking at churches and Bible Study groups, mainly in the Northeast.  Under my predecessor, the Rev. Tom Gurney, Ivor Nicklin had spoken at the Framingham church several times.

Over the years, I’d heard people rave about various teachers and speakers.  I’d eventually hear many of them in person.  Usually, such speakers were “O.K.” but did not live up to their billing.  Nevertheless, at Claire’s urging, I booked Ivor Nicklin for a special Sunday night service when his U.S. booking agent phoned the church.

That night proved to be difficult at first.  6:30 (service time) arrived and there was no Dr. Ivor Nicklin to be seen.  We sang choruses, I led congregational prayer, and announcements.  Ultimately, I was nervously starting in on jokes when Nicklin arrived almost one hour late.  I’m very punctual, and I especially don’t like when guest speakers arrive late, so that was not a good beginning.   Dr. Ivor Nicklin was not the typical Assemblies of God church speaker, if there is such a thing.  He wore dark clothes and a clerical collar, and large rimless glasses.  He looked like he came out of “Central Casting” to be cast as either an Episcopalian priest, or even more likely, a Professor of Theology.  I slipped Nicklin a card asking him to limit his talk to 35 minutes.  When he opened his sermon he pleasantly (but bluntly) in a VERY British accent dramatically announced, “I’ve been told I have THIRTY-FIVE MINUTES!”  Wow.  This was going to be uncomfortable.

It wasn’t.

When I’m right, I’m right, and when I’m wrong, I’m wrong.  That time I was wrong.  Ivor Nicklin turned out to be one of the finest, most interesting, and most entertaining speakers I’d ever heard!  His Biblical and theological knowledge was “way up there”...definitely Ph.D. level stuff- but he was funny, and interesting, and yet VERY practical.  I could have listened to him all night.  In reality, I think he spoke about forty-five minutes that evening.  After the service, I noticed he’d arrived in a Pontiac Grand Prix coupe with Rhode Island plates, and had “planted it” right on the church front lawn!  What a character!  My wife and I went out with him to Friendly’s in Saxonville (when there was a Friendly’s in Saxonville) and had a delightful time.  I had to apologize to him about my reservations about him.

Since then, I’ve had Nicklin in at least a dozen times in the various locations were our church has met through the years, and I’ve loved every time Dr. Nicklin has been with us.

If you’re anywhere in the Framingham area on Sunday, October 29, you’ll want to come to our 10:30 a.m. service at 32 South Street (off Route 135) to hear Dr. Ivor Nicklin.  It doesn’t matter who you are.  As Billy Graham would say, “You may be Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, or no religion”- but you’ll enjoy Ivor Nicklin.  If you’d like more information you can e-mail me at either  or

“Study to shew (“show”) thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.”  (2 Timothy 2:15)

Tuesday, April 16, 2013


"It is of the Lord's mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not.
They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness." (Lamentations 3:22-23)

My father, Eugene A. "Gene" Baril, would be 90-years-old if still alive. He was born on December 1, 1922. His truly was the "greatest generation"! What Dad learned at Mechanic Arts High School in Boston as a teenager was a far more comprehensive course of studies than most young people in college tackle today. His generation learned to recite great poetry.Dad was a very "macho" guy, but he recited a lot of poetry and recited it well. I can't tell you how many times I heard him recite Ralph Waldo Emerson's "Concord Hymn". The opening stanza goes like this:

"By the rude bridge that arched the flood,
Their flag to April's breeze unfurled,
Here once the embattled farmers stood,
And fired the shot heard round the world."

Yesterday, April 15, 2013, was a legal holiday in Massachusetts (and in Maine). I can't tell you how many people asked me, "What holiday is it?". I got tired of answering. People from outside New England asked me, and I guess that's somewhat understandable. People who live in Massachusetts asked me. That is something I cannot understand! April's Third Monday is a very, very important day in the history of Massachusetts and in the history of the United States of America. It's "Patriots' Day!" This marks the start of the American Revolutionary War, where fighting broke out on April 19, 1775 at Lexington Green in Lexington, Massachusetts and at the Old North Bridge in Concord, Massachusetts. This was also the day that Paul Revere and William Dawes made their famous rides shouting, "The British are coming!". (Congressman Mike Capuano made reference to this in a short speech in Congress yesterday, but mistakenly gave the year as 1776. It was 1775.) My father, like all good members of the "greatest generation" knew April's Third Monday is Patriots' Day! After so many people asked me what holiday it was and I gave a history lesson to a few, I decided I was going to write a fun piece on my blog about Patriots' Day and people's ignorance of it. That was before the terrorist attack at the Boston Marathon. Today, I am writing not a fun-filled piece; rather a piece from the deep sorrow in my heart. It makes me sick and disgusted that seemingly "nobody" knows what Patriots' Day is about any more, and it makes me even more sick and more disgusted that the wonderful, family-oriented, joyful and festive Boston Marathon was turned into a day of terror and carnage!

The Boston Marathon is very special to me and my family. We were so thrilled that our first grandchild, Benjamin Robert Julian, was born on Patriots' Day of 2011. On Thursday, April 18, he will enjoy his 2nd birthday. Ben lives in Springfield, Missouri, but he will ever be connected by family heritage to Boston, and that special birthday is something we consider so cool! Prior to Ben's birthday, the Marathon was still a very special event to us. We lived in Framingham for twenty-four years. My daughter Rachel and my son Jon still live in Framingham. For at least half of those years, we attended the race in downtown Framingham. I was always so thrilled to be part of this world class event! My kids would laugh at me as I yelled and cheered on runners. Many will wear labels which indicate their name or home state or country. I would bellow out, "Susie, GO Susie"! or "Italy, ALL RIGHT, Italy!". I'd spend at least a couple of hours doing that. Most years we stayed even to watch a lot of the "stragglers". "You can DO it!" we'd yell, "Keep going!". I loved that Marathon. I considered it one of the highlights of my year. During the past few years I've had a secular job and had to work on Patriots' Day. I didn't like that, but even so, I'd slip over to the course on my morning break and spend at least twenty minutes cheering for the runners. I did that yesterday. Rachel met me at the Routes 126/135 intersection and for twenty minutes we cheered on the runners, ate Dunkin' Donuts pastries, and she shot some happy video of us with her cell phone.

Yesterday was the one-hundred-seventeenth Boston Marathon. Boston is considered the oldest, greatest, and most famous of all Marathon races. It's run by the Boston Athletic Associaton, the B.A.A. I've had friends who run in the Marathon. Yesterday, my friend Michelle McElroy was running to raise money for the Framingham History Center. Her birthday was Saturday. On Facebook, I wished her a Happy Birthday and best regards for her Marathon run. Many run to raise money for charities. The Jimmy Fund and Dana-Farber cancer research hospital are two of the most popular. You usually see planes towing signs overhead. The mood is so festive. It's a day that you're just so happy to be alive and so happy to be a native of Greater Boston and there for that special event.

Yesterday, I worked at the answering service until 3 p.m. I then took a short drive to Rachel and Jon's apartment. It was there that we heard the television reports of explosions at the finish line. Ever sense, I've been torn between not being able to get enough of the coverage, and then feeling so sad, so disgusted, and so overwhelmed at what happened that I'd have to turn it off. My poor radio and television sets have been made to go on and off many times as I try to digest all that has happened. I've commented to a number of friends and family that, "this has the feel of 9/11 all over again". It does. I feel so sad for the people who have lost loved ones and who have suffered terrible injuries. The Richard family of Dorchester has lost one child, another child is badly injured, and the Mom is badly injured. Dad was one of the runners. Ironically, my late mother's maiden name was "Richard". When that last name has no final "s" it's French-Canadian (usually from New Brunswick). Many of the Richard families from New Brunswick are related way back. My sister and I can't help but wonder if we might be very distant relatives of that family, and this only makes things sadder. The "pastor" part of me thinks of the families and individuals who will need counseling and practical support and love from the community for many years to come. As with Newtown, we grieve for these families.

Next year, Patriots' Day falls on April 21, 2014. In 2014, Easter is late, and so Patriots' Day falls on the day after Easter. I don't want one person asking me, "What holiday is it?" about Patriots' Day ever again! Listen, this is not just a Massachusetts holiday! This is not just a Maine holiday! This is not just a New England event! I don't care if your hometown is Skagway, Alaska, or Branson, Missouri, or Hubbard, Ohio, or Coral Gables, Florida! Patriots' Day is your holiday, too! I'm not saying the whole country should get Patriots' Day as a day off! I'm saying, April's Third Monday should be in the heart of every American! April's Third Monday should carry as much meaning for every American as does Thanksgiving Day or the Fourth of July! I mean that! It should be a day when we thank God for our country and our freedom! It should be a day when we remember those who have given life and limb for our country and our freedom! And, now, it should be a day when we remember the families who suffered terrible loss at that Marathon finish line!

The Bible passage I quoted at the start of this piece comes from Lamentations chapter 3. This was my devotional Bible reading chapter for today. Each December, I plot out what chapters of the Bible I will read throughout the coming year, and assign each chapter to a day. Today's is Lamentations 3. I had no idea when I picked Lamentations 3 for April 16, 2013 how appropriate it would be. Lamentations 3 is a tough chapter to read. It's full of "gloom and doom". But in the midst of that "gloom and doom" is that wonderful promise of God's compassion and mercy and faithfulness. That's what gives us the courage to go on when life is unfair and horrible! These are very appropriate verses for today!

I will never forget the first Sunday sermon I preached after 9/11. It was on Psalm 27. I told my church that after 9/11 nothing would ever be the same. I was proved totally wrong. After three weeks, everything went back to normal, just as if 9/11 never happened! How sick was that?! I don't want that sort of response to happen again- I don't want us to just go back to business as usual, taking our country for granted, taking God for granted, little sense of purpose, and "What holiday is it?"! No! No! A thousand times, no! April's Third Monday is a very special day! Remember! I encourage you to send the link to this piece to your friends. And, as long as you don't add to the words or subtract from them, I encourage you to print this out, to cut and paste it, and to do whatever you want to do in order to get this message out. Next Patriots' Day should be a very different one than they have ever been before! No American should ever be ignorant of what Patriots' Day is all about! And, as a minister of the Gospel, I want to add that it would be great to have every church full next Easter Sunday, and next Sunday for that matter!

Tuesday, April 9, 2013


"Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth." (2 Timothy 2:15)

A brand new overnight radio show entered the airwaves on the first week of January of this year as part of the also brand new CBS Sports Radio Network. In the Boston area, this program, "The D.A. Show" airs on CBS owned "98.5 The Sports Hub". I hear the last fifteen minutes of it usually two or three mornings a week when I have to leave the house before 6 a.m. to travel to work. The one feature I must admit I get a big kick out of is the "Epic Fail!". Each morning, just a few minutes before the show ends, the host plays the worst phone call he received during that particular show. It usually features a caller who does not make any sense or who is making an absurd argument. This would be a call where the person on the phone is arguing something such as Tom Brady should be a major league baseball umpire instead of a professional football quarterback; or that Larry Bird should have gone into politics instead of basketball; or that soccer should be declared America's national pastime. When D.A. announces, "It's time for the Epic Fail," you then hear the ominous sound of a loud announcer's voice with a slight reverberation in his speech saying, "EPIC FAIL!", and then the call is played. Don't ask me why, but yes, I find hearing the "Epic Fail" at 5:55 in the morning very entertaining!

A comical presentation of a strange call to a sports talk show is one thing, but trust me, no pastor wants his Sunday morning sermon to be an "Epic Fail"! In this piece, I want to share about a sermon I heard about recently that was indeed an, "Epic Fail". This is not meant to tear down any ministerial colleague, nor it is meant to exalt myself. I have no intention of naming who preached the "Epic Fail" sermon. I also want to acknowledge with shame that during my over twenty-five years of pulpit preaching, I have had more than one "Epic Fail" in the pulput! This is meant to challenge Christians to listen carefully to sermons and to carefully check out their content with God's Word to make sure what they're hearing is Scriptural. It's also meant to encourage ministers that we can't be too careful with preparation, accuracy, and presentation when it comes to sermons and preaching!

During Easter weekend I had to occasion to take a thirty-five minute car ride with my twenty-something son and daughter. They pretty regularly attend an Assemblies of God church in Boston's MetroWest suburbs so I was surprised to hear they'd visited a couple of other churches in the recent past. The church where the "Epic Fail" took place was a fairly good-sized charismatic church (do we still use the term charismatic church or it that too 1970s?! I don't know!). The church has been around for awhile, but the present pastor is trying to target the church to young people and "seekers". The style of dress has become very casual. Even the pastor's dress is quite casual. The congregants regularly sit and drink coffee during the sermon. My daughter was surprised that some of them sit at bar stools situated away from the sanctuary and have their backs turned but can still hear what is being preached! Both of my kids were surprised that so little was made of taking the offering that they had a hard time figuring out how and where to give. My kids, like most their age, usually do dress fairly casually for church. It wasn't for the reasons I've mentioned that they told me they'd never go back there. It was the sermon.

My son said, "The pastor blatantly said, 'there is nowhere in the Bible that it tells you to mind your own business' and I wanted to get up and yell, 'oh YES there is!!'."

My son said the pastor was trying to make the point that Christians need to be in community but that he went so overboard on this he forgot what the Bible says! As my son put it, "There are a number of references in the Bible telling Christians to mind their own business!" And there are.

First Thessalonians chapter 4 verse 11 in the King James Bible says, "And that ye study to be quiet, and to do your own business, and to work with your own hands, as we commanded you;". It's a little bit easier to understand in the New King James Version and a better translation: "that you also aspire to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business, and to work with your own hands, as we commanded you,". And, as my son indicated, there are a number of other passages that teach the importance of minding your own business; that one is probably the clearest.

The pastor emphatically stated, "there is nowhere in the Bible that it tells you to mind your own business". He showed how, frankly, narrow-minded and short-sighted he was, albeit trying to make a point. There is no easy way to say it:


I remember something Dr. Terry Lewis once told our class at Central Bible College over thirty years ago. He was speaking at a ministers' gathering during the July 1969 weekend when the famous first landing of man on the moon was taking place. "How many of you preached that God would never allow a man to land and walk on the moon?" Lewis asked that group of Assemblies of God ministers. At least half raised their hands! "What are you going to tell your people next Sunday?" Lewis asked. They did not know what to say.

We preachers can preach and proclaim things as true in a most confident and cavalier manner; and yet we can be way off and wrong! I have done so.


How easily we forget the words of James chapter 3, verse 1 which say: "My brethren, be not many masters, knowing that we shall receive the greater condemnation." What that means is, "Don't be quick to become a teacher or preacher, knowing you'll be held to a much higher standard than others, and that you're responsible for how your life and speaking affects others." Acts 17:11 speaks of the Bereans who carefully searched the Scriptures when they first heard to Gospel preached to see if what was being proclaimed was accurate. What a great example for all of us!

I have not pastored a church since March of 2010 and I miss it very much. I have only preached a handful of sermons during the past three years and have not preached at all in over nine months. Even so, I was moved to give the story my grown kids told me on Easter weekend a lot of thought. If and when I pastor and preach again, by the grace and help of God, I don't want to have an "Epic Fail" in the pulpit. I think this is something we all need to think about; especially preachers!

Monday, April 1, 2013


"And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written. Amen." (John 21:25)

Last night was the Finale of the five part mini-series "The Bible" on The History Channel. (I understand that program will be repeated tonight at 8:00 Eastern on Lifetime.) "The Bible" was produced by Mark Burnett (famous for "Survivor" and several other shows) and his wife Rona Downey (who played Monica the Angel on "Touched By an Angel"). Each week's ratings were very good, and a couple of the episodes racked up what could be truly be considered blockbuster ratings. I saw all but about ninety minutes of the entire series. (Incidentally, it's being released on DVD and BlueRay tomorrow.)

My understanding is that the entire television series was filmed in Morocco on a pretty small budget. I was a little disappointed in some of the ways the producers portrayed the Bible stories, but overall I think they did a good job. My sister commented that she was very disappointed that there was nothing of the story of Joseph from the Old Testament. I am also disappointed they left that out entirely, but it had to very difficult to fit the entire Bible into just ten hours. Stories about Joseph of the Old Testament, Deborah, Gideon and others just did not make the cut. I got a chuckle out of the guy who played Abraham because I thought he looked like Ernest Borgnine! Many people who watched the part about Abraham going up to Mount Moriah to sacrifice Isaac were disappointed that Sarah followed them up there in the television show, because in reality that did not happen. I was surprised that Samson was played by a black man. In reality it is very unlikely that Samson was black. In all fairness, the guy who played Jesus (who did a good job, overall) was a bit too light-skinned and Gentile looking for me. The raising of Lazarus from the dead was nothing like it's described in the Bible. On the other hand, they did a good job with the Feeding of the 5000; and the crucifixion (very graphic) and resurrection scenes as well as the conversion of Saint Paul were very well done.

The series is meant to be an introduction to the Bible and not the last work on it. I am thrilled that so many people watched! Overall, I'd give the series a "B". On a positive note, it's one of the best things that's appeared on television in a long time!