Monday, December 21, 2015


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

That verse comes from the Biblical account of the angel Gabriel's announcement to Mary that she would become the virgin mother of the Messiah.  It fits right in with this season, and it fits right in with this piece.  It was exactly one year ago today, on December 21, 2014, that my 1995 Subaru Impreza died!  The car had 270,911 miles on its odometer.  I can't help but think that the "911" was significant!

December 21, 2014 was a Sunday.  On that Sunday, my wife Mary Ann was directing the children's Christmas drama at Bread of Life Church, just like she did yesterday.  She stayed up in northern Worcester County the night before.  Early on Sunday morning, I got into the Subaru but there was no way it was going to start.  It's a long story, but I not only drained the battery that morning, but in the process of doing that, I "fried" the engine.  I was so disappointed!  My heart had been set on attending that Christmas drama;  then my "grown kids" Jon and Rachel were going to join Mary Ann and me at a restaurant for a nice Sunday meal.  Instead, there was no trip to Westminster, and although December 21 was the shortest day of the year, as it is every year, it was a long and sad day for me that began a long and in some respects; a difficult year.

There is no way I can explain all the "whys or wherefores" of this, but I moved into Jon and Rachel's apartment due to its convenient location to my answering service job.  I expected to be there for perhaps a week or two.  It ended up being four weeks.  I expected to be without a car for up to two weeks; instead, I went without my own car for five and a half months!  I have actually seriously considered writing a book about that experience entitled, "Five and a Half Months".  The one big problem with writing the book is time!   I would need quite a bit of time to devote to it, and I just have not found the time to do it.  I have come up with twelve titles of chapters for such a book, however, including, "A Month to Remember", "Lots of Snow and Lots of Tears", "Hyundai One and Hyundai Two", and "June 6, 2015". 

My son Jon believed with all of his heart and soul that I was going to be supernaturally given a great used car which would cost me nothing.  A couple of days after the Subaru's death, a guy I know who is a used car dealer bought a 1995 Saturn sedan at auction for a very low price and offered it to me at his very low price.  I agreed to this (despite what Jon had told me).  I spent almost a month waiting to get that car!  There was a problem with the car's Title.  Without a Title, there's no way the car could be registered.  I waited and waited.  There was all kinds of scrambling to some up with the Title, but ultimately my car dealer contact brought the car back to the auction and got his money back.  There were several cars that came my way for reasonable prices during that five and a half months, including "Hyundai One and Hyundai Two".  I came very close to buying some of them, but some of them "fell through" and in one case, after much prayer and thought, I decided to not borrow $1500. from a family member to buy a 1996 Saturn (not to be confused with the 1995 Saturn mentioned above).  One person I know was very skeptical when I said somehow was God was going to provide a car for me.  That person figuratively dumped a large bucket of ice water on my head in telling me me, "I'm a realist!".  I was haunted by those words for weeks, and I had to fight against them and struggle to keep believing God to take care of me.

It's a long story, but I was given a car in early June:  A 2001 silver Toyota Corolla.  It's truly a miracle car and I don't think I ever get into that car without feeling "choked up" and deeply thankful.  The most meaningful trip I took in the Toyota was with my son for his appearance on, "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire" (the taping was in July).  Ironically, that taping was in Stamford, Connecticut and the Toyota was a Connecticut car for its entire life history prior to my taking ownership of it.

This year, I not only attended the children's Christmas drama at Bread of Life Church, but I played a major part in the play!  Yesterday, I had a great time acting in that program, and my "grown kids" joined my wife and me at a restaurant for Sunday dinner.  We'd come full circle; a year had passed.  I had lots of fun in the play, but I kept contrasting it with last year's death of the Subaru.  I also felt "choked up" thinking of how good God has been to me.

My late mother literally spent half of her adult life deeply depressed.  I've also been afflicted with this malady.  She tended to think most people's lives were happy and carefree but that she was one of the few who suffered with pain, loss, heartache, and disappointment.  My many years in the pastorate taught me that for every person who leads an essentially happy and carefree adult life, there are scores and scores of folks who endure great suffering, hardship, and tragedy.  Few of us escape this stuff.  We easily forgot the years the Apostle Paul spent in dark, dank prison cells, and the severe beatings he endured for the cause of Christ.  And, many times we don't stop to think about the great suffering the Lord Jesus Christ endured for us.  My own life has included a large amount of loss and disappointment over the past six years, and I've known dark days.  But, I've got to tell you, that December 21 is a good day for me this year!  It's a milestone.  It's a reminder that, as my dear friend Dave Milley (who is now in Heaven) used to often proclaim, "Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning!" 

I entitled this piece, "Shortest Day and Longest Year".  Of course, that title refers to the shortest day of the year in 2014 and the long year of many challenges and ups and downs which followed it.  It might, however, be more appropriate to call it, "Longest Day and Shortest Year".  Sunday, December 21, 2014 was a long and disappointing day for me; in some ways, I feel like it was only yesterday, and now I have the perspective that God has been faithful and brighter days are ahead!

Monday, December 7, 2015


"...Can the blind lead the blind? shall they not both fall into the ditch?"  (from Luke 6:39)

Bradley Jay hosts a radio talk show during the "very early morning hours" on Boston's WBZ which is located at 1030 on the AM dial, and of course can be heard over the internet all over the world.  (The show airs from Midnight to 5 a.m. Eastern time.)  I have never listened to an entire broadcast of "Jay Talking" as it's formally called.  I sometimes hear the first few minutes, but most often, I listen from about 3:45 to about 4:30.  

Several times over the past few weeks, Bradley has brought up the topic of "religion".  His main focus has been stating "the parts of the Bible that man made up" as compared with "the matters that really came from God".  Most of my readers know I'm an Ordained Assemblies of God minister, and that prior to my Ordination, I was a seriously committed Christian layperson.  I will say bluntly that much of what Bradley has had to say has been "off the wall".  Lest anyone complain that I'm writing about Bradley Jay behind his back and that I should say all of these things to him, please be assured that I have.  I've actually written Bradley Jay two letters over the past few months, and I've sent them to him via U.S. mail.  In the letters, I address various matters he's brought up on the show, including religious matters.  He has not responded.  In fact, as bothersome as it is to hear an arrogant and self-appointed guy give a completely absurd rendition of Christianity and the Bible  over the airwaves, the callers who respond to him usually make statements that are far more erroneous than anything he has to say!

Last night (or was it this morning?) he focused on the Ten Commandments.   Bradley proclaimed which commandments were from God and which commandments weren't from God.  No, there were not any lightning bolts that hit the 1170 Soldiers Field Road facility in Boston's Allston neighborhood around 4 a.m., but that's because God is a God of love, patience, and mercy!   Bradley eliminated "Thou Shalt Not Covet" as well as "Thou Shalt Not Commit Adultery".  Oh, and, the thing about not making any "Graven Image" got short shrift from him.  I thought it was comical that during the 3 a.m. hour he threw out "Thou Shalt Not Covet" but that during the 4 a.m. hour, he decided he liked "Thou Shalt Not Covet" after all, so that made it back onto the list of Commandments From God.   A female caller ran her mouth against "Thou Shalt Not Commit Adultery" bringing out the fact that a lot of Biblical characters did commit adultery (and hey, a lot of them did! ) but she had some wrong information.  She stated that Abraham had relations with a concubine and that this union produced the promised son Isaac.  Wrong!  Isaac, the promised son, was born of Abraham's wife Sarah during her old age.  (Yes, his birth was a miracle as she was long past menopause.) 

Lest anybody get the wrong idea, in some respects I do like Bradley Jay.  His best shows are the programs in which he talks about the international and domestic trips he has taken on his vacations, and the programs in which he's told interesting stories from his youth.  Regarding religion, Bradley's like most New Englanders:  He hasn't got a clue!   I honestly thought about calling Bradley and speaking to him over the air, but I was half asleep and would have preferred to have some notes in place in front of me to which I could refer.  I did not want to be made to look foolish by him.  One thing I would have said to him is that his conversation today reminded me so much of a conversation Jesus had with the Sadducees in Matthew chapter twenty-two.  The Sadducees did not believe in angels and the Sadducees did not believe in a resurrection of the dead.   I imagine that when they came to Jesus in an attempt to try to make Him look foolish, they must have sounded a lot like Bradley Jay!  The Old Testament Law stated that if a man died and his wife was childless, his brother was to marry her to raise up descendants for the deceased.  The Sadducees claimed that there were seven brothers.  Due to this Old Testament Law, each was married to her!  One would die, then she'd marry the next, then he would die and she'd marry the next, and so on!  It ended up that she was married to all of them.  Their Bradley Jay style question was:  In the Resurrection, who will she be married to, for she had each of them as a husband?   Jesus replied:

"...Ye do err, not knowing the scriptures, nor the power of God."  (from Matthew 22:29).

Amen and amen!

That's Bradley's problem, and the problem of those like him.  They greatly err, not knowing the Scriptures nor the power of God.  Bradley thinks life should be a matter of people just being good and doing good.  In this month in which we celebrate the Nativity, I wonder if Bradley has any idea why God sent His Son into this world?  A thorough reading of the New Testament reveals that only perfect people go to Heaven.  The purpose of the Ten Commandments, in fact, was to show us, how far short we fall; that we are sinners; that we have failed; that we can't and don't measure up.  They were to show us that no matter how good we are, it's never good enough.  Jesus Christ came to pay the penalty for our sins- to be our Atonement.  If we put our trust in Him, then due to His righteousness and not ours, we go to Heaven when we die.   (See Galatians 3:24 which tells us the Law was our "schoolmaster" [or "tutor"] to bring us to Christ.   See also Ephesians 2:8-9 and John's Gospel 1:12.)

To Bradley Jay, I would say:  Stick to the travel/vacation stories!  If you want to discuss the Bible,  have someone like your friend "Father Brian" on to discuss the Bible with you.   And, Merry Christmas!

Saturday, November 7, 2015


"For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost."  (Luke 19:10)

Yesterday in the late afternoon I was driving along Beaver Street in Framingham heading toward the Sherborn town line when I received a text message from my daughter Rachel.  I certainly will not read, compose, or send text messages while driving, so just after crossing into Sherborn, I pulled into the Sunshine Farm ice cream stand parking lot to read the text.  Shortly after I'd read the message and sent a reply a slightly heavy-set woman with a determined look on her face walked to my car and up to the driver's side window.  I couldn't understand why this woman was approaching me.  Honestly, this was a woman that I would have referred to as "an old lady" just a few years ago, but she was probably only five or six years older than I am!  (When you reach sixty-one, it's interesting that your perspective on who qualifies to receive the labels "old man" or "old lady" definitely changes!)  I fully expected her to say something like, "You're not allowed to park here when the ice cream stand is closed!"  I was wrong.  She was quite flustered.  The woman announced to me that she was lost, that her G.P.S. had just quit functioning and that she was trying to get to Route 135 and had no idea how to do so.

I almost directed her toward the Dennison crossing area of Framingham where she could pick up Route 135, but I asked her where she was going.  "Natick Center" was her reply.  I knew sending her to Dennison crossing would be a long and circuitous way to get her to Natick Center.  "Do you know how to get to Route 27?" I asked.  Her reply surprised me.  She told me she lives right off Route 27 but had no idea how to get to Route 27 from where we were.  (Of course, she could have lived off Route 27 in Acton or in Sharon for all I knew, so maybe her response wasn't really so strange after all.)   I then told her I was heading toward Route 27 and that she should follow me.  I then added, "Once we get to Route 27, I'll be turning right, so don't follow me at that point." 

"Why not?!" she asked, seeming quite confused. 

I explained to her that I would be heading south toward Medfield and that she would need to turn left onto Route 27 to head toward Natick Center.  The "old lady" (you'll understand in a moment why I've now decided to call her that) got into an old black Toyota Corolla parked a few spaces to my right and to follow me in my old silver Toyota Corolla.  She drove slow and I do mean slow!  I take a lot of teasing from people for being a slow driver.  This woman drove much slower than I do!  She was driving so slowly that she kept disappearing out of my rear view mirror.  At one point, I had to stop so she could catch up!  Finally, we made it to the intersection with Route 27.  I put on my right turn signal, hoping she would get the hint, and she did.  She blew her horn as sort of a thank you, and went in the opposite direction on Route 27.

As I continued on toward Medfield, I thought about that lost lady.  The way she approached me was a bit awkward and inconvenient.  She was pretty clueless about where she was and about how to get where she needed to go.  She was way too slow in following me, which made things a bit frustrating.  I took her as far as I could, and I hope she did get to where she wanted to go.  Well, in our Christian lives, God sometimes sends (spiritually) lost people to us.  Many times, our encounters with the are awkward or inconvenient.  They may think they've got things together, but often these lost people are clueless about God and eternal life.  Sometimes we do get lost people to "follow us", that is to accept our direction and instruction.  But many times, they progress at a very slow rate which is frustrating for us.  Often we take them "as far as we are able".  We hope they "get to the destination" God has for them.  The bottom line is, we ever can't turn our backs on those who are geographically lost nor on those who are spiritually lost!  God expects us to help to them!

Thursday, October 1, 2015


"For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?"  (Mark 8:36)

Where will you be one hundred years from tonight?  Undoubtedly, many reading this will think they will be dead and will just have ceased to exist.  Their body may be l laying buried in a grave someplace, or at a mausoleum, or their body may have been cremated and their ashes scattered to the wind.  In fact, the soul, that part of each of us that lives on past death into an afterlife will be in existence somewhere one hundred years from now.  It may be in a state of eternal bliss or it may be in a state of eternal torment, but it will be in conscious existence in either one of those states.

Yes, I really believe that.  I will admit that after the small church I pastored was closed in early 2010 and after some tremendous losses for our entire family, including the residence where we'd lived for over twenty years, I went through some times of very deep despondency.  There were months of me being numb- just numb.  Life seemed surreal and unfair.  I walked through a very emotionally dark time.  At times, I just sat and stared and asked myself, "Do I really believe all this stuff?"  That was the painful question I grappled with over and over again.  In Philippians chapter four, the Apostle Paul writes of his own life experience,  "I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need."  (Philippians 4:12).  Honestly, I'd often struggled to understand that verse and now I was faced with it "up close and personal".  Paul indicated that his testimony was if everything in life was just great, he was joyful and praising the Lord, and if things in his life couldn't be worse, well, he was also joyful and praising the Lord.  That was very difficult for me to accept.  I would never have "signed up" for what has happened in my life and in my family members' lives over the past few years.  However, I've come to a genuine answer to my question of, "Do I really believe all this stuff?".  I can say that I really do!   I celebrated my sixty-first birthday just a couple of weeks ago.  The past few decades have just flown by!  My own parents each died in their seventies.  I suppose the actuarial tables would say I've got around eighteen more years to live, and that's it.  This life and all that goes with it is so fleeting.   James 4:14 indicates that life is as a vapor or a mist- it quickly appears and it's quickly gone.  I'm amazed that so many of the people who prepare so thoroughly for retirement, and for the possibility they will be placed in a nursing home and need long term care; so many of those same people make absolutely no preparation for eternity.  They don't even give it a thought.

This past March, I had the difficult experience of being called upon to lead the funeral service of a two-month-old baby.  What a difficult task!  I suddenly remembered the words of my late Uncle Raymond from many years ago.  He told the story of the death of his sister Irene.  She died from diphtheria in 1915 at the age of seven.  Her funeral service was at St. Joseph's Cemetery in Boston's West Roxbury section.  Uncle Raymond remembered a horse-drawn hearse and a white, child-sized casket.  He also remembered my grandfather (who died before I was born) sobbing uncontrollably.  I told the audience of mourners in March of 2015 that despite all of the advances in science and technology over the past hundred years, the feeling and the loss and the grief are no different. 

In a sense, one hundred years is a long time, but most historians will tell you it's really just a turning of a page, and not long at all.  I was a first-grader fifty-five years ago.  The Kennedy-Nixon election happened that autumn.  Today, probably most of the Americans who were alive at that time have passed on.  I'm really not trying to be morbid!  I believe we should truly "live every day", that is make the very most of every day of our lives.  When opportunities come our way, we should take advantage of them.  I had a great time joining my son on a popular national television game show recently.  (It was recorded in July and will air this month.)  Yes, many "fun things" can come our way and we should enjoy them, but we must never completely forget the brevity of life and our responsibility to God. I work two pretty humble jobs at the present time.  It's very different from being the noted and respected, "Pastor Bob Baril"!  One of those jobs is handing out flyers at a "big box store".  As I did that today, I stopped a woman who'd come into the store with a propane tank.  It was a previously used tank that she wanted re-filled.  She was completely unfamiliar with the law that propane tanks are never to be brought inside public buildings like that!  It seemed right to her to bring that tank into the facility.  It was wrong.  Both Proverbs 14:12 and Proverbs 16:25 speak of a way that seems right to a man but that leads to death.  So many people say, "Well, I believe this or that."  They expect that it really doesn't matter what they believe when it comes to spiritual matters; that God will just say that it's O.K.  It's just not so. 

Sadly, evangelical Christians are often our worst enemies!  So often we embrace extreme right-wing politics and then we try to  jam it down everybody's throats!  That's such a turn-off to people.  And, it's nothing like Jesus Christ!  It's nothing like the Lord Jesus Christ would ask or expect of us!  Sometimes we're unkind, cruel, or insensitive.  I'm glad that 99% of the evangelical Christians I know do not support the tactics of the crowd that holds up those cruel signs indicating God hates homosexuals, etc.  (In fact, God doesn't hate them.  He "so loved the word" -see John 3:16-  and that includes homosexuals.)  Even so, that crowd has pushed a lot of people away from God and too many of us don't agree with them, but we aren't vocal enough about that.

I like the song, "100 Years" by Five For Fighting.  It chronicles a life from age fifteen to age one hundred.  I "received Jesus Christ as my Personal Lord and Savior" and was "born again" at age fifteen.  And, today at sixty-one, I guess I'm closing in on one hundred.  I've seen and experienced miracles.  My sister and I laid hands on our tax accountant over thirteen years ago and prayed for his miraculous healing.  He was seriously ill with cancer.  In fact, he was checking himself back into the hospital as soon as that appointment was done.  We were meeting with him about settling the estates of my parents who'd died within weeks of each other in 2000.  My motives were selfish.  I didn't want this guy to die in the middle of that estate settlement process!  A few months later, Jim the accountant told me over the phone that he'd been miraculously healed!  He credited me with the healing, and I firmly corrected him, telling him Jesus Christ was the healer!  Today, he's living in South Carolina and continues to enjoy good health.  Yet, our brother Eddie collapsed in 1983, 
existed on life supports for just a few days, and died.   Of course, we prayed much for him.  I don't know why I've seen some like Jim healed and some like Eddie not healed, but it doesn't stop me for praying for miracles.

There's a beautiful old hymn, Blessed Assurance which speaks of a Christian's story and song of rejoicing in life in Jesus every day.  That's been my testimony through very good times and very bad times.

In closing, I ask you the very important question I opened with:  Where will you be one hundred years from tonight?

Saturday, September 26, 2015


"Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord:" (James 5:14)

Many years ago when my father was a drivers' license Examiner for the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles, the Examiners gave applicants an oral test based on the driver licensing manual. Immediately following that oral test, they administered a road test.  This was circa late fifties and very early sixties.  (This was changed by the late 1960s so that applicants first took a written test to get their Learner's Permit, then at a later date, took their road test.)  On of my father's favorite practices upon administering the oral test was to ask applicants the meaning of various (yellow, diagonal) road signs.  His favorite signs read, "FROST HEAVES" and "FRESH OIL".  In case you don't know the meaning of these signs, FROST HEAVES are common in New England roadways in late winter and early spring.  The freezing and thawing of the ground often causes asphalt roadways to crack, split, and pitch such that there are chunks of roadway at various angles.  This makes for a very bumpy surface to drive upon.  The condition can become very dangerous, causing drives to lose control and have accidents in certain extreme cases.  FRESH OIL refers to the fact that a construction crew has applied a petroleum based asphalt/bituminous sealant to the road.  This is done for various reasons, but usually has to do with preventing water damage to the road.

I suppose most of us would picture "fresh oil" being more like the stuff one pours from a quart container into a funnel, which guides the flowing oil into the car's engine.  I've learned the hard way that not having enough oil (fresh or otherwise) in the engine can lead to all sorts of serious problems.  My 1995 Subaru which "died" last December had numerous problems, but the major reason for its death was that on the morning of December 21, 2014, it was very low on oil.  I've been told that although Toyota Corollas are very good cars, for some reason they tend to burn a lot of oil and it's something the driver has to "stay on top of" lest there be regrettable and needless problems ahead.  In the slightly more than three months that I've had the car, I've had to add oil a few times.  This past Sunday morning on the way church, what to my wondering eyes did appear, but the dashboard's oil warning light flashing a few times.  I was wearing a dress shirt and dress pants, and really didn't want to deal with the oil issue at that point, but I stopped at a gas station, purchased a quart and poured it into the engine.  (For readers who are thinking, "A quart is not enough in that case"; I know that.  I added another quart on the next day, but I was in a hurry.)  A few weeks earlier when I was purchasing oil for the car, I also bought a plastic funnel.  It is honestly not the best funnel.  It's an "all purpose" funnel which is, I think, designed much more to use when pouring gasoline additives into the gas tank or fluids into difficult to reach parts of the engine.  I learned that you can't just "stand" or "position" this funnel into the oil fill area.  You really have to hold the funnel with one hand and pour the oil with the other.  Well, I was in a rush!  I poured the oil too fast and (you guessed it) a glob of the oil backed out of the funnel, spilling into several places.  What a mess!  I grabbed for a roll of paper towels I had in the car.  I was so glad I did not get any oil on my clothes, but I was only able to do a quick and careless cleanup job of the oil and my hands were an oily mess.  I keep the funnel in a plastic bag, inside a plastic storage container in the trunk. Of course, the plastic bag and funnel were all oily.  I like things neat and clean, and this situation was anything but neat and clean!

I guess there has been some spiritual growth in my life!  Twenty years ago, that spill of "fresh oil" and all of its consequences would have absolutely ruined my morning and even my day.  I was not particularly happy about it, but I stopped at a fast food restaurant, went into the bathroom, and gave my hands a good washing.  I met Mary Ann at Marian High School where she had gone earlier, we went to church, went out with our grown kids to celebrate three birthdays, and over all had a good day.

I'm a person who tries to be neat, clean, and orderly (and who often fails miserably in those areas) so it was very much on my heart to try to clean up the mess from Sunday.  I did buy a second quart of oil and put that into the engine- carefully!  I used many paper towels, doing all sorts of wiping and cleaning.  I got out a jug of windshield washer fluid and ran some of that through the funnel.  On my way back from throwing away some of the used paper towels (I was doing all this at a supermarket parking lot) I thought that I'd really like a small bottle of water and considered buying one.  Suddenly I looked on the ground, and just a few feet from my 2001 Toyota was an almost full small bottle of spring water!  My, the Lord provided!  I made good use of that water.  Then, I sort of smuggled the funnel and some paper towels into the bathroom of a fast food restaurant. I ran hot water through the funnel and gave it a thorough cleaning in the sink, and I thoroughly washed my hands.  It felt good to put the funnel away in a clean, new small plastic bag inside the large plastic storage container.  As far as I was concerned, all was right with my world again!

Now, why am I telling you this story?  It's a true story, but as I've thought about it, it's also sort of a parable.   Most conservative New Testament scholars believe that the mention and usage of oil in the Bible is a picture of "type" of the Holy Spirit.  One such passage about this is the Parable of the Ten Virgins in Matthew chapter twenty-five, but there are in fact many passages that apply.  For any church to truly be a "New Testament church", that is a church (frankly) the way God wants it to be, there needs to be a lot of oil;  there needs to be a great openness to the moving of the Holy Spirit.  Why are there so many churches in our day that are essentially dead or nearly dead?  It's because there is very little or no moving of the Holy Spirit in those churches.  Many years ago, people in Assemblies of God churches and other Pentecostal churches could confidently proclaim, "Well, that's not true of our church.  We are open to the moving of the Holy Spirit in our church!"  Sadly, today, there are even Assemblies of God churches and pastors that are not really open to the moving and working of the Holy Spirit.  This is because when the Holy Spirit does move in a mighty way, things can get very unpredictable and uncomfortable.  It can even become "somewhat messy".   Now, please don't misunderstand me!  I'm not advocating that churches turn into three ring circuses with people "swinging from the chandeliers" and "bouncing off the walls" and where all kinds of unbiblical behavior is taking place!  No!  First Corinthians chapter fourteen verse forty tells us that in church everything must be done decently and in order.  Too many of us, however, want to control things.  We want to play church.  We want things to be safe and predictable.  Honestly, sometimes when I was pastoring, I was guilty of that.  I know there were times that I "quenched the Spirit" because I just didn't want to have to deal with all the ramifications which would happen if I really let the Holy Spirit have His way.  There were Sundays that I was anxious to get to a restaurant or watch the Patriots game.  I don't know if I will ever pastor a church again, and I may not, but let me tell you that if I do, things will be different.  How sad when a church is "almost out of oil"!  In the case of an automobile, the engine will become permanently damaged.  That happened with my 1995 Subaru.  Again, sometimes things may get a little messy when the Holy Spirit is allowed to move, but those are the times when the pastor and elders are to set things in order, to "clean things up" as it were, with solid direction and instruction from the Bible, God's Word.

Remember the part of the story where a small bottle of spring water was actually provided for me to help with the oil cleanup?  That's the kind of thing I'm talking about!  A great verse about this subject is:

"That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word,"  (Ephesians 5:26).

Yes, please don't be afraid of "fresh oil"!

Sunday, September 13, 2015


"Knowledge puffs up, but love edifies."  (from I Corinthians 8:1 New King James Version)

I heard it once again as I listened to a radio talk show late on Friday night, September 11, 2015.  A zealous Christian phoned in and spoke over the airwaves.  I assume she thought she was being used as an instrument for God and that she'd been a great witness for Christ; and perhaps even that she'd put the host and his listeners in their place.  Nothing could have been further from the truth.    

The radio program was Nightside hosted by veteran broadcaster Dan Rea on Boston's WBZ AM 1030 radio.  (WBZ's nighttime signal gets into thirty-eight states and six Canadian provinces.  Plus, it can be accessed pretty much anywhere on earth over the internet.)   Dan chose an excellent topic for the final two hours of his September 11 program:  He asked listeners to call in and share where they were on September 11, 2001 and what their memories are of that day.  The good news is that Dan did receive several very good calls on Friday evening, but the bad news is that the first three or four calls sounded as if they came in from mentally ill listeners in another dimension!  And, that very first call of the evening was the one by the Christian zealot.

The caller did not have a September 11, 2001 story.  She began by ranting and raving that, "It's all in the Bible!"  She continued on by saying that most of the hijackers on September 11, '01 were Iranians.  Dan quickly interjected that they in fact were not Iranians, and that most of them were Saudi Arabian citizens.  That correction seemed to "go in one ear and out the other" to use the tired old expression.  The woman prattled on and on about the Bible having all the answers to everything and the importance of standing by Israel.  Dan Rea tried to have a conversation with her, but his efforts were hopeless.  Dan referred to the Bible as "a book", and as amazing as this may sound, that phrase affected his caller like spraying gasoline onto a fire!  She immediately protested that the Bible is not a book!  (Boy, the last time I checked, it sure looked like a book to me!  In fact, my understanding is that "Bible" literally means "book" !)  The caller yelled, "The Bible is the Word of God!".   Well, for any seriously committed Christian, including me, The Bible is the Word of God, but it's also definitely a book!   Dan asked the caller what particular denomination she belonged to, and she insisted she is "a Christian".  At one point, she did use the term, "born-again Christian".  (Listen, I call myself a born-again Christian, but by the time the call was over I was so embarrassed and uncomfortable!)

I've been an evangelical Christian (also known as "born-again Christian") for forty-five years.  I hate to admit it, but in my younger days, I did some things which were almost as foolish and inappropriate as that woman's call to WBZ.  I wrote some letters to newspaper's editorial pages which now embarrass me. (One was against Halloween.  I still am not a big advocate of Halloween, but I'd just never write a letter like that to a newspaper today.   I did not hesitate to make simplistic arguments nor did I hesitate to put myself into some very embarrassing positions in the name of "defending the faith" or "being a spokesman for God".)  There are even some pieces from the first three or four years of my blog (circa 2006-2009) that I probably wouldn't write today.

I'd honestly like to teach a class on the dos and don'ts of public discourse for enthusiastic evangelical Christians.  I guess the problem is that the people who really need to attend such a class probably wouldn't!  It's possible that the lead-off caller on Friday night could have done a pretty good job if she'd have truly had a conversation with Dan Rea and treated him with respect, if she'd have contributed a good personal story about September 11, 2001, and if she'd have just admitted that the Bible really is a book!

I wonder how many listeners thought, "There goes another mindless, annoying, Christian zealot!  I want nothing to do with their God!"   And, that's the problem.  Such zealots honestly mean well, but they do a lot of damage.

The bottom line is:   Give it a lot of thought and prayer before you call a radio program, submit a letter to the newspaper, or post something on a blog or social media site.  No matter how well-meaning you are, you may find yourself doing much more harm than good!

Tuesday, July 7, 2015


"And they all with one consent began to make excuse. The first said unto him, I have bought a piece of ground, and I must needs go and see it: I pray thee have me excused.
 And another said, I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I go to prove them: I pray thee have me excused.
 And another said, I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come." (Luke 14:18-20)

Today, in a sense, I received an invitation from the grave.

I generally try to not keep "saved" e-mails for much more than five or six months.  I was going through and deleting some e-mails from January of this year.  There was an e-mail from mid-January entitled, "No Excuse Sunday".  It was actually not only an e-mail but also a Facebook invitation from Michelle Batista.  The invitation was to a special service at Connect Church in Ashland, Massachusetts.  That service's name had to have been chosen by their pastor- it's got a pastor kind of title, "No Excuse Sunday".  The church had a very special service planned for a Sunday in early February.  Generally, a church is going to plan something like a, "No Excuse Sunday" for either a winter Sunday or a summer Sunday.  Winter and summer are always the most difficult seasons for church attendance.  This past winter, a lot of church services were cancelled on a lot of Sundays!  When Connect Church planned that service, they did not know that February of 2015 was going to be probably the snowiest February since the famous blizzard of February 6, 1978!  I'd honestly like to know if Pastor Frye was able to hold services on that particular Sunday!

Now, why do I say the invitation was from the grave?   It's because Michelle Batista was murdered in mid-March of this year.  A number of people that I knew personally have died this year- more than has been the case in a typical year of my adult life.  Michelle's death was possibly the most difficult to have learned about and to have tried to "process".  I had worked with Michelle at the answering service job I have.  Many times, she sat directly to my left at the call center.  Michelle was very extroverted and talkative.  She had all sorts of conversations with me.  In the early days of working with Michelle, circa five years ago, about the last thing I'd have expected from her was an invitation to a church service!  I don't want to "speak ill of the dead" as they say, but that's just a fact.

I think it was about a year or a year and a half ago that there was a major change in Michelle Batista's life.  She not only embarked on a serious path of "recovery" but she received Jesus Christ as her Personal Savior and Lord.  Michelle did not suddenly become a nun or a theologian.  Her extroverted and sometimes quite comical personality continued.  (She once had the entire call center in stitches because she was convinced that the Fiat rental car she was driving was actually a make known as a "FLAT"!)  The conversations Michelle had with me in the year prior to her death were about the Bible, her church, and a discipleship class she was taking.  I remember telling her that was all really good stuff.

I'd forgotten that Michelle invited me to that "No Excuse Sunday" service.  Now, I didn't go, but before you throw your Bibles at me, I want to make it clear that I didn't plan to go only because I am committed to attending Sunday services at Bread of Life Church where I'm a member.  (And, honestly, I think that particularly Sunday in February may have been one of the Sundays in which church services were pretty much snowed out all over Massachusetts!)

It was sobering for me to read that invitation today.  Michelle died way too young.  She was just a tad older than my son Jon.  Her murder was such an evil act!  But, today, she's in Heaven with her Lord. 
The smartest thing Michelle Batista ever did was giving her heart to Jesus.  It made an eternal difference!  She won't be at Connect Church next Sunday nor will she be at Bread of Life Church or any other church on earth next Sunday.  She's singing with the angelic choirs in the Heavenly realms.  I did delete that e-mail of hers- after I read it and got a bit choked up.  I decided the best thing I could do is share that invitation from the grave with you today.  Summer is another difficult season for church attendance.  Every faithful pastor out there knows he or she will hear a myriad of excuses about why people are not in church this month.  I wonder: Will you be at church next Sunday?  And, even more importantly:  Do you know Jesus Christ as your Personal Savior and Lord like Michelle Batista did? 

Wednesday, June 3, 2015


"But when Jesus saw it, He was greatly displeased and said to them, 'Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of God.' "  (Mark 10:14  New King James Version)

 "And when the ten heard it, they began to be greatly displeased with James and John."  (Mark 10:41  New King James Version)

I've read Mark chapter ten countless times over the past four and a half decades.  I know that the tenth chapter of Mark's Gospel contains what many Bible scholars consider to be the "key verse" of the entire Gospel- verse 45, stating that Jesus, "...came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many".  I had, however, never noticed that one particular phrase is used twice in this chapter:  "greatly displeased".  Well, it's written that way in the New King James Version.  In the traditional King James Version, it says, "much displeased".  The New International Version translates that as one word, and the word is, "indignant".

Are there things in life that cause you to become "greatly displeased"?  One of the greatest frustrations of my job as an answering service operator is the high number of people I speak to each day that are "greatly displeased"!  They will become "greatly displeased" because their doctor's office is opening five minutes later than usual, or because their prescription is not at the pharmacy as was promised, or because they forgot that today was their doctor's day off.  Well, to be accurate, I think I'd use the N.I.V. term and say they become "indignant"!

It's interesting that the instances of great displeasure expressed in verse 14 and (just reversing the 1 and the 4)  in verse 41 are so different!  In the first situation, people wanted to bring their little kids to Jesus so He could place His hands upon them and bless them.  Jesus' disciples were unhappy about this and essentially took the position of telling the people to take their little brats and get lost.  Jesus was not happy about that!  Jesus became "greatly displeased" or "much displeased" or "indignant" about it.  He stressed that he wanted the little kids to come to Him because their simplicity and innocence demonstrates the nature of the Kingdom of God.  In the second situation, Apostles James and John came to Jesus asking if they could be big shots when the Messianic Kingdom is established on earth; they requested the number two and three positions, respectfully.  Jesus gave them a brilliant answer (I'll let you look it up and read it) and pretty much put a lid on that issue.   Well, the other ten apostles were unhappy about James and John's request.  They  became "greatly displeased" or "much displeased" or "indignant"!  I don't think they became upset because they were so loyal to Jesus.  I think they became upset because each of them wished they'd thought of asking that request for themselves before James and John did!  All of the rest of them wanted to be second in command to Jesus in His Messianic Kingdom, or at the very least, third in command, but certainly no lower!  

Do you see how different the apostles' thinking and priorities were from the thinking and priorities of Jesus Christ?  

That really stood out to me today as I read Mark chapter 10!

What causes you and me to become "greatly displeased"?  Are we more like Jesus, or are we more like the ten jealous, resentful apostles?

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

THE $2800 MAN

"For all these have of their abundance cast in unto the offerings of God: but she of her penury hath cast in all the living that she had."  (Luke 21:4)

Today I overheard a conversation which deeply moved me.

I was at a fast food restaurant grabbing a very quick lunch during a hectic day.  I was not deliberately trying to eavesdrop.  Rather, I heard the conversation at a table directly across from me, clearly.  At that table was a middle-aged woman in a nurse's smock and a guy about my age who was dressed like a typical blue-collar worker.  They were not together; they'd run into each other at the restaurant and were quickly catching up on things.  The nurse shared that her father just died a couple of months ago.  He was seventy-two and had been quite ill. 

She said he'd told his doctor and nurses that he wanted to be made comfortable but realized he was near death.  They honored his wishes.  He'd told everyone, "I just want to go home to be with the Lord."  That caught my attention.  The nurse spoke of her father.  Her parents had been divorced since she was a child, but were on friendly terms.  He'd lived in a simple apartment.  He had very little in this life, but he was very committed to the Lord and to his church.  She said that after his death she discovered that not long before his health situation became life-threatening, he'd written a check for $2800 to his church's missions account.  She was amazed he'd done that, because he had so little in life.  She commented that the donation just expressed the kind of man he was and the values he had.

I was so touched and blessed by that story.  My eyes are watering up as I write this. I don't know that man's name.  I don't know his daughter's name. He was nothing in this world.  But, I know he was known in Heaven!  I'd like to see the reception he received when he passed into the arms of Jesus!

As I walked out the door of that establishment, I so sensed the presence of the Holy Spirit.  I've been going through a lot, lately, and at times I've slipped into a little bit of self-pity.  I sensed the Holy Spirit saying to me, deep in my heart, "I wanted you to hear that conversation.  Don't ever forget the kind of person that I truly value!"

That guy gave $2800 to his church's missions fund.  The world would tell him he's an absolute fool.  God says, he's a true winner!  The Bible verse above speaks of a widow who gave a very small financial gift, but it amounted to all the money she had so it was in fact the greatest gift of all!  That $2800 man was a modern version of that widow!  I had to share that with you today!

Friday, May 22, 2015


"...I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it."  (from Matthew 16:18)

I had a very interesting and pleasant memory this week that I want to share with you.  This goes back to my days of pastoring the small and struggling church which was known as First Assembly of God of Framingham.  I pastored that church for over twenty years.  During that time, the church owned a couple of different properties and met in several rental facilities, as well.  The bulk of my pastorate, however, was at the former United Auto Workers union hall located at 32 South Street (behind the Chicken Bone Saloon's property).  The church bought that property in 1994.  That would be a story in itself, but I want to stick to the subject at hand:  The "real church" is not a building.  The "real church" is the people; the Body of Christ.  First AG Framingham was little and it struggled, but there were a number of people whose lives were touched and blessed and changed through the ministries of that little church.  My memory was about a woman that I will call, "Julia Carroll", which is not her real name.

Julia Carroll and her young grandson attended our church for a year or two during the early 1990s when our church met at Walsh Middle School.  She'd been a member at a respectable and theologically liberal Protestant church in Framingham for years.  Then she'd "gotten saved" and attended a medium-sized "charismatic" church.  Julia was attracted to our little church because some people she knew were attending and had invited her to visit.  She was a character and her little grandson was a handful.  Julia was someone I'd call "eccentric".  (Some of you know that I've been known to call myself "eccentric", too!)  At times she was loud and opinionated and made some very controversial statements.  Yet, Julia had a great sense of humor and was likable.  After a period at our church, Julia sort of moved on.  She went back to the respectful liberal Protestant church because it had services and programs that were beneficial to both she and her grandson, and because she had a history there.   However, once in a great while when we were having a special speaker or a special service, Julia would surprise me by showing up at our church.

I don't know exactly when Julia's last visit to First Assembly of God of Framingham took place.  I'm guessing it was around 2006 or 2007.  She walked in on a Sunday morning to a very plain and ordinary service.  I hadn't seen her in at least five years, so her visit was a great surprise.  Julia seemed to particularly enjoy everything about the service:  the music, the sermon, the people... really everything!  Several minutes after the service had ended, Julia came right up to me and happily gave me a word from her heart.  This is what she said:

"I know this is a small church, and I think it will always be small.  However, it serves a very important purpose.  Today, I needed to meet with God and be refreshed.  I came here, and that has happened!  I want you to know I think this church will always be there," she said, "it will be a place where people can come to when they are hurting and just need to be in the presence of God and receive from Him."

I don't think I ever saw Julia Carroll after that.  If she's still alive, she's got to be eighty, and maybe older.  I thought a lot about her words.  I didn't like her pronouncement that our church would "always be small", but I felt quite honored that she thought of little First Assembly of God of Framingham as a place where a hungry soul could truly meet God.

Many of you know that I went through several years of great despondency and confusion following the March 2010 closing of that church.  At times, I thought of Julia Carroll's words.  It seemed that they were unfulfilled and even wrong.  But that's not the end of the story.

A couple of years after First Assembly of God of Framingham was closed up, the Assemblies of God opened a new church in Framingham called:  Meeting Place Church.  In one sense, it's new, but in another, it carries on where First Assembly of God of Framingham left off.  It's not usually considered proper for a former pastor to attend the church where he previously pastored.  [An exception would be a retired pastor who becomes "Pastor Emeritus".]  I had wanted to visit Meeting Place Church sometime, but I hadn't wanted to bother the pastor or the church or cause any sort of problem.  On the very first Sunday of 2015, I was staying at my grown children's apartment in Framingham and I decided to walk over to Meeting Place Church for their service.  [Well, I learned they don't call their services "services", they call them "meetings"!]  I was delighted with what I found that day!  It was a small group of maybe thirty people, most of whom were dressed pretty casually.  The meeting room was pleasant, warm, and had a definite "welcoming" feeling to it.  The music was not a "big production" but there was good, sincere worship.  The sermon was practical and "down to earth".  At Meeting Place Church I encountered a place that was small, and where the presence of God was.  I encountered a place where I could meet with God and be refreshed.  Does this sound familiar?

Yes, I thought about this today.  Julia Carroll's words have proven to be absolutely true, accurate, and even prophetic.  The United States Marines have that motto: "Semper Fidelis" or "Always Faithful".  Well, perhaps the motto of Meeting Place Church should be, "Semper Ibi" which is Latin for "Always There"!  I'm pleased to share my pleasant memory with you.  If you live in the Framingham, Massachusetts area, I encourage you to visit Meeting Place Church sometime soon.  Their Sunday worship meeting is at 10:00 a.m.  They're located at 63 Fountain Street which is in a professional and industrial complex on Farm Pond and very close to downtown Framingham and Route 135.  The church's entrance is on the Farm Pond side.  There's plenty of parking.

I am greatful that God is "Always Faithful" and that His Church is "Always There"!

Thursday, April 9, 2015


"Let all things be done decently and in order."  (I Corinthians 14:40)

This morning, my personal Bible devotional reading was from the Book of Leviticus.  I know what you're probably thinking:  "Leviticus?!  How boring!".  (A Messianic Jewish friend once got angry with me because on a radio broadcast I made the statement that "Leviticus is boring."  She was convinced I had greatly dishonored and disrespected God.  That was not at all my intention.)  It's true that everything in the Bible is important, and that includes the Book of Leviticus, but it's also true that just sitting and reading through the Book of Leviticus is usually a pretty "dry" experience.  I was pleasantly surprised, however, that this morning's reading was not at all boring to me!

The passage I read was Leviticus chapter 17.  It's about the right way and the wrong way to offer sacrifices and the right way and the wrong way to kill and eat meat.   Again, I know what you're probably thinking:  That seems like very irrelevant material, but there's an application and a principle from Leviticus chapter 17 that's actually very relevant.   God wanted sacrifices offered in a certain place and in a certain way, and He also wanted the whole matter of killing of animals [to be used for food] done in a certain way.  The chapter makes it clear that the matter of the details of offering sacrifices was especially important.  Anyone who independently offered a sacrifice- no matter how sincere that person was- would be cut off from the community!  Listen, there's a great sermon in this!  It goes back to the very early part of the Book of Genesis when Abel's sacrifices were accepted to God and Cain's sacrifices were not accepted.  God is very loving, and very caring, and has a wonderful plan for each one of us.  But God is not "loosy goosy" in how He operates!

One of the biggest mistakes people make when it comes to how they approach God is independence.  This is particularly difficult for Americans, for we greatly value independence.  As a kid, I was one of the few in school who had no trouble spelling "independence".  That's because I lived on Independence Street!  The street was named for Roger Sherman, a signer of the Declaration of Independence who had spent his childhood in that part of Canton, Massachusetts.  There's also a statue at the peak of the Rhode Island State Capitol building of "The Independent Man".  We Americans value independence, but when we bring that independent spirit to our experience with God it creates lots of problems!

I think we bristle when we hear that that God wants things done exactly in a certain way, but He does.  Perhaps my fellow evangelicals and Pentecostals are thinking, "You tell 'em, Bob; those theologically liberal churches that downplay the Bible and want things their way are 'off the wall'!".  What we evangelicals and Pentecostals so easily forget is how independent we often are in our own thinking and behavior!  Let's face it, Baptists and Pentecostals are probably more guilty of "church splits" and of starting "independent churches" than are any other Christians! 

And, honestly, I don't like to be "told what to do," either!  There's a big part of me that wants to be be independent from other Christians and even to be independent from God when His Word and the conviction of His Spirit makes me feel uncomfortable.  And, that's wrong on my part!

Two of the most controversial and provocative pieces I ever posted on this blog are a piece entitled, "Protocol" that I posted on November 26, 2007 and a piece entitled, "Church Protocol" that I posted on June 18, 2009.  The former especially sparked anger, and that greatly surprised me.  I guess it just illustrates what I'm writing about here- what the Lord really underscored to me from (of all places) Leviticus chapter 17. 

I remember an experience I had with a visiting preacher when I was pastoring.  I think it was about ten or eleven years ago.  He was a guy I'd known many years earlier.  The gentleman phoned me, told me he'd be in Massachusetts visiting family during a certain month, and asked me if I'd have him come and speak.  He told me frankly that the honorarium he'd receive would help cover the cost of his trip.  I was glad to help out and I so booked him to speak.  Prior to the service, I told him I usually recommend to guests that they plan to speak for no more than forty-five minutes.  I did say that if the Lord was particularly moving upon him in a certain way and he wanted to preach a couple of minutes longer, I would certainly be fine with that.  As soon as the guy got into the pulpit, he looked at me and he announced confidently to the congregation that, "The pastor gave me a time limit of forty-five minutes but I want to say right at the outset that I'm going to speak for as long as I want to!"

I hate to admit it, but I don't remember one other thing that he said!  He did speak for well over forty-five minutes.  He also manifested a completely independent and uncooperative attitude that day.  I was polite to him, but I never invited him back.

Listen, this piece is not meant to bash anyone.  As I wrote above, I struggle with my own very independent tendencies and I struggle with my own rebellious ways at times.  Leviticus chapter 17 really got me thinking this morning.  I may have grown up on Independence Street, but I think I can say with assurance that God is not a fan of "Independence Street" thinking!

Wednesday, April 1, 2015


"After that he poureth water into a bason, and began to wash the disciples' feet, and to wipe them with the towel wherewith he was girded."  (John 13:5)

On this Holy Week, I find myself thinking of some of the subtle difference between Catholics and Protestants. When you've spent time in each "camp" during your lifetime, it does give you an interesting perspective about some spiritual matters. For one thing, did you know Catholics and Protestants memorize slightly different versions of The Ten Commandments? Catholics have two "Thou Shalt Not Covet..." commandments, but no "Thou Shalt Not Make a Graven Image" commandment. ...Another difference is found on Holy Week. Tomorrow is "Holy Thursday" for Catholics and "Maundy Thursday" for Protestants. The Assemblies of God is not very "liturgical" so even in Bible College I never learned why it's called "Maundy Thursday" and what that means. Some years ago, I did a little research on the subject and learned that "Maundy" comes from the word "mandatum" or "commandment" (wow there's that word "commandment" again!). On that Thursday, Jesus humbled himself and washed his disciples' feet. This role was done by lowly servants, and it meant you came into contact with all kinds of disgusting stuff on people's feet! That night, Jesus told his disciples that they should all wash one another's feet. (That's found in John ch.13.) He also told them he was giving his disciples "A new commandment" to love one another. Catholics, using the term "Holy Thursday", tend to remember Jesus' suffering in Gethsemane and the significance of the Last Supper. Protestants do remember those events but choose to focus on the foot washing and the new commandment to love one another; thus calling it "Maundy Thursday".  Just thought I'd share that today!

Friday, March 20, 2015


"For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ."  (I Corinthians 12:12)

I fancy myself to be a pretty good writer but I'm at a loss as to how to begin this piece.  There really doesn't seem to be any "good" way to begin it, and yet my phrase:  "...I'm at a loss..."  is most appropriate because over the past few weeks there have been so many deaths which have rocked my world!  I feel like I'm living in a season of death.  Each time the phone rings I wonder if I'll hear that someone else has passed away.

These words may seem strange coming from a "Bible-believing minister" who truly embraces Jesus' words from the tenth verse of the tenth chapter of John's Gospel, 
"... I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly."
I truly believe that Jesus does bring abundant life and, in the words of the old Gospel chorus, "Joy unspeakable and full of glory".  Yes, I believe in all of that, but I'm also mindful of the shortest verse in the entire Bible which is found in the very next chapter, in John chapter eleven.  That verse is number thirty-five which simply says,  "Jesus wept."   Even Jesus wept at the grave of his dear friend Lazarus.  Yes, "Heaven's sounding sweeter all the time," as the old country Gospel tune proclaims, but the whole death and loss thing is, well, sad and painful.

Just two weeks ago, I conducted the funeral service of little David Magorian who died at the young age of two months.  It's only through the prayers of the saints and the anointing of the Holy Spirit that I was able to do that.  It seemed like hardly any time had had gone by when I was shocked to read the obituary of "Danny".  Danny was seventy-three-years old.  I think the last time I'd seen him was in 1995.  Yet, in the late seventies and early eighties he'd been a close friend of mine and I'd spent a lot of time with him.  Then, I was notified by a Facebook friend of the death of "Shirley".  Shirley was (I'm guessing) about "eighty-something".  She and her husband were living in Florida.  I had not seen Shirley in at least ten years, but back in the eighties I saw her almost every day.  She was the senior pastor's secretary at the large church where I served for several years as one of the assistant pastors.  Shirley was both a friend and a mother figure.  She truly had a great impact on my life.  

The thoughts of this piece were "germinating" in my heart and mind for several days when I sat down at a public library computer yesterday (Thursday, March 19) morning.  I was all set to start writing when I was jolted to learn that "Michelle" who'd been one of my co-workers at my answering service job had been shot to death by her boyfriend on Wednesday.  That news had such a profoundly sad impact on me that I just couldn't write what I'd been planning to write.   I don't want to share anything that might tarnish Michelle's memory, but let's just say Michelle and I were about as opposite as you could possibly imagine when I met her several years ago.  It was both my surprise and delight to watch the subtle yet real and positive changes in Michelle's life as she accepted Jesus Christ as her Personal Lord and Savior and began studying the Bible, attending a good church, and taking her responsibility and disciplines involved in her own "recovery" process very seriously.  No, I wasn't the one who led her to Christ or discipled her.  It's usually best for men to work with men and women to work with women at that stuff.  I will say that whoever led Michelle to Christ and was leading her in discipleship was a real hero in my book!  No, Michelle wasn't perfect, but watching her learn to walk with God was like watching a one-year-old learn to physically walk.  Sometimes they fall down and bump their heads or skin their knees, and maybe they cry a little, but they get up and they learn to walk and eventually they learn to run.  Michelle had a great life ahead of her.  That's why her murder at the age of thirty-one is so hard to accept.  But the great news in this tragedy is that she's with the Lord and I'll see her again one day.  The last time I saw Michelle was at the Framingham (MA) WalMart store just a few weeks ago.  As always, she gave me a big enthusiastic greeting, as though I was her best friend and the greatest guy in the world.  Honestly, I wish I could thank her for being so affirming and that I could congratulate her for making that important decision (as Billy Graham and his son Franklin would put it) to follow the Lord.  From Michelle I was reminded that the person who seems the least Godly can turn around and become extraordinarily Godly!  That's one important legacy she's left for me.  She may have been in the early stages of her Christian life, but she was an important and vital part of the Body of Christ, nevertheless.

Now, back to Danny.  In so many ways, Danny's life was a paradox.  I guess part of why I really connected with Danny is that people either absolutely loved him and considered him a great man of God or they couldn't stand him and considered him a persistent problem and annoyance.  As difficult as this may be to understand, Danny was both.  Danny came from a pretty rough background.  A nominal Catholic, he had no real relationship with God until a small group of born-again Christians "witnessed" to him in the mid-1970s and he gave his heart to Jesus.  Danny had one of those "Damascus Road" sort of conversions!  Suddenly he was reading the Bible all the time, preaching the Bible to friends, family, and co-workers constantly, up to his eyeballs in evangelical Christianity and driving everybody crazy!  There's a bittersweet aspect to the conversion of people like Danny.  They join a local evangelical church and pretty soon they're the first ones to show up and the last ones to leave every Sunday.  They arrive for every Bible study.  They even show up for every "church work day".   Danny and his wife Cathy began cleaning the church building where they attended (as volunteers) every Saturday.  The problem is, the Dannys can't understand why not all of the born-again Christians are as committed and enthusiastic as they are.  Then they can't understand why their brothers and sisters are not all as eager to pray or study the Bible.  After a couple of years, Danny became disillusioned with the church he'd been attending and he left.  Danny attended a few evangelical churches off and on, but his disgust with American evangelical churches became so strong that he pretty much stuck to Christian television and personal Bible study.  It may surprise you that I liked and appreciated Danny, but I did.  Of course, we did not agree about the importance of the Church.  As far as I'm concerned, and as far as the New Testament is concerned, each Christian is to be faithful to a local church and its ministries, whether he or she likes everything about that church or not.  Danny was (sadly) wrong about that area.  Yet, Danny who had been a very average, blue-collar guy went back to school.  He attended college for four years graduating with a B.A. degree, and then he went to graduate school and earned a Master's in Counseling.  Danny worked for years as a staff member of a recovery program.  He touched many lives and led many people to Christ.  He was a valuable member of the Body of Christ, albeit a disobedient and independent one.

And, then there's Shirley.  Shirley meant just as much to me as Danny did, but she was exactly the opposite of Danny.  Shirley was the epitome of a Christian woman who was committed to the local church "through thick and thin" as some would say.  She and her husband Dick were the types who'd show up for church no matter what!  They loved God and they loved the local church.  Most pastors would not hire a Member of their church to be their employed secretary.  This is because the secretary learns so many secrets of people in the church.  The secretary often knows what families are in crisis, what person is struggling with depression, or serious illness, or doubt.  The secretary may know of things that are going on in a church that even the Board members don't know about!  There are very few people who would have the maturity and character and Godliness to be able to (frankly) handle a job like that.  Shirley did, and she did it well.   I learned a lot from Shirley.  In my early days as an assistant pastor I was so naive and so, well, green!  There was so much "practical stuff" that she taught me!  For example, one day an older woman walked into my office.  I said "hello" and made small talk with the woman.  Later, Shirley came in to correct me!  "You didn't stand!" she admonished, "You didn't stand!"  She carefully explained to me that proper etiquette calls for a younger man to stand when an older woman comes into his presence.  I honestly did not know that.  I never forgot that.  I won't tell you all the faux pas that I was guilty of as a young assistant pastor, but Shirley made sure to set me straight, and I'm glad she did!  Please don't misunderstand.  Shirley always gave me respect as a minister and valued what I had to say about Scripture, etc.   Upon learning of her death, I wished I'd have thanked her for the impact she made in my life.  The next best thing is to public acknowledge her, as I'm doing now.  Yes, she too was a very important and vital member of the Body of Christ.

None of us is perfect.  We all need each other.  I learned from Michelle, I learned from Danny, and I learned from Shirley.  I benefited from kmowing them.  I'm sixty.  It seems like yesterday that I was in my middle twenties and just "getting my feet wet" in ministry.  The years have gone by so quickly.  In closing, I also remember another line Christians of yesteryear often used:  "Only one life, 'twill soon be past; only what's done for Christ will last!".

Sunday, March 8, 2015


 "And Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things:
But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her."  (Luke 10:41-42)

You may recognize that the above Bible verses are from the account of Jesus visiting the home of Martha, Mary, and Lazarus.  Martha was upset that Mary was not helping with meal preparations and household tasks, but Jesus essentially told her that sitting and listening to His teachings at that moment was the far more important thing to be doing.  Jesus was not condoning laziness or irresponsibility here.  Rather, He was giving an important lesson in priorities.

I want to be careful in sharing a fault of my father's here because some may interpret it as me being hostile and disrespectful to him and as not honoring him.  That's not the case.  I miss my father and I learned a lot from him.  He was so talented and gifted.  He was a pilot,  a law enforcement officer,  a mechanic,  and very much a leader and take-charge kind of person.  He had a great sense of humor and was a fabulous public speaker.  My father also often had some wrong priorities in his life.  He was the kind of guy that would be furious about a little scratch on the floor, or a tiny mark on the wall.  One of my siblings has said that no one ever got more upset about spilled milk than he did, and that's true.  A cup's spilled milk at the kitchen table would ruin his day and really set him off.  One would think the end of the world had taken place!  I wonder if this behavior had something to do with having lived through the Great Depression of the 1930s.  His family really didn't have it that bad during that time.  I'm told they were about the only family on their street that owned a car and had a telephone.  Nevertheless, the care and treatment of material things meant a great deal to him.  

Now, I'm not advocating that it would be great to be a slob and just dump milk and coffee and soda all over the place in one's residence!  I'm not saying that breaking windows and bashing holes into walls, and damaging furniture is a good thing.  But I am saying that there's got to be a balance with this kind of stuff.  My father could leave you feeling that the floor or a wall or a kitchen table were much more important to him than a person was.  I don't think that was his intention, but it contributed to him making me very nervous and not being particularly close to him.  Honestly, what tripped this thought off recently for me is that there's a friend of mine who constantly says to me, "Don't slam the DOOR!"  almost every time I open and close his car door.  I want to tell him that a jury of my peers who might hypothetically watch and listen to the door closing would overwhelmingly rule that I was not slamming the door and that he is overreacting;  instead I have just chosen to keep that thought to myself.  But each time he's said that, I've thought of my father and his (seeming) priority about material things, and that's been painful for me.

A number of years ago, I attended a prayer and fellowship meeting for pastors at one pastor's home.  The house was immaculate.  No, it was far more than immaculate.  It was sterile.  I actually attended several pastors' prayer and fellowship meetings at that home.  Each time, we were told to take our shoes off  upon passing through the front door.  The kitchen stove looked like it was a model stove at a department store.  It looked like nothing had ever been cooked on it.  The bathroom was perfectly clean.  Everything was perfectly clean.  It was too clean.   There was not a speck of dust or dirt anywhere.  One of my pastor friends who attended these meetings with me is also a professional counselor.  Following one of these meetings he commented to me, "The way their house is isn't normal."   He wondered if the pastor's wife had (perhaps) been the victim of a violent crime and this had led to such extreme behavior about having a perfectly sterile house.   We later learned that the pastor's wife had been the victim of a violent crime some years earlier.   I wondered how people from their church felt when they visited their pastor's home.  I wondered if they felt like I did as a kid when I accidentally made a mark on the floor or on the wall or spilled milk at the table.

Many of you know that back in the 1980s,  I was on staff at Christian Life Center church in Walpole, MA.  The Senior Pastor, Dave Milley was a "stickler" about a lot of things.  Something he said shortly after the church moved into their new building in mid-1980, though, may surprise you.  It surprised me!   The building was new and nice and big and beautiful.  In one of the earliest services there, Dave Milley told the congregation that over the next few years there'd be stains on the carpets and marks on the walls and woodwork and the building would cease to be "perfect".  He said that was a good thing.  Coming from Dave Milley, that comment was a major surprise, but he added that it was a good thing because it would mean that people were coming to the church and people were being ministered to.  The price of that would be wear and tare on the building and its contents and that was good.   It was good because people and their souls are far more important than buildings.

If any of my grown children are reading this, they may be as surprised as I was when Dave made his statement all those years ago.  That's because I grew up to be a guy who was a lot like my father.  I, too, got very upset about spilled drinks and marks on the furniture and things like that.  Now, I wasn't quite as extreme as my Dad was, but I was a lot like him.  In my days of pastoring,  one thing I hated was when the Sunday School teachers and childrens' ministry people had kids using paste and glitter.  Oh, how I hated glitter!  There'd be glitter in the hallways and glitter in the church sanctuary and even glitter in my office for months after they used it.  I hated it.  I thought it made the church building seem sloppy and low class.  The people who ministered to the little kids thought that the impact on those little lives was far more important.   I have not pastored now in five years.   You know what? ... they were right.  If and when I ever pastor again, I will not care how much glitter and paste residue appears on chairs and floors and other items.  I really won't.  And, now that I don't  have my own residence, I have come to the the conclusion that if and when I do, I won't care if someone makes a mark on a wall or on furniture, or accidentally turns and breaks a lamp.  I remember one time a person visiting us in our apartment in Walpole "many moons ago" sat down on our couch and one side of it collapsed.   All I could keep saying is, "You broke my couch!"  Sounds a bit like, "Don't slam the DOOR!"  doesn't it?   I wonder if Jesus would have given me a "talking to" similar to the one he gave to Martha in the Bible story I referenced above.   I think so.

I know this piece could make some people upset.   I'm sorry if I upset you, but this is something we all need to think about!   David C. Milley was correct.  People and their souls are important.  That chair or piece of wallpaper or kitchen table or sofa can be replaced.  They're just material.  They're temporal.   It's people and souls and relationships with them that are far more important.

Sunday, March 1, 2015


"While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal." (2 Corinthians 4:18)

They say, "Things happen in threes".   I'm not sure I fully buy into that saying, but I did receive three sad reports this weekend which have left me in a solemn and reflective mood.

The first sad and stunning report was received from my daughter Amy who informed me that the two-month-old great grandson of Bill and Joanne Lincoln (who were active Members and lay leaders at First Assembly of God of Framingham, MA where I pastored for over twenty years) had suddenly and unexpectedly died.   Little David Joseph Magorian passed into Heaven on the morning of Saturday, February 28.  The family is understandably shocked and devastated.  I had a phone conversation with Bill Lincoln last night and with Joanne Lincoln this afternoon.  I tend to be a very verbal and animated person; but such news left me speechless.  It was only with the help of the Lord that I was able to speak words of comfort and wisdom to them.  I have been very blessed in that up to this point I've never had to conduct a funeral service of anyone under the age of twenty-one.  Let's face it; the death of a baby is devastating.

The second sad and stunning report came when I tuned into one of my favorite radio programs.  The show is called "Says You" and is heard on about one hundred public radio stations.   It's heard in Boston on WGBH-FM and in fact the show is based in Boston.  I guess "Says You" would be called a radio program for "word geeks".  It's a fast moving and thoroughly entertaining game show featuring some very colorful panelists, including Paula Lyons who was a consumer reporter on Boston television for many years.  "Says You" has been on the air since 1997.  I did not discover it until I picked it up one Saturday evening on my car radio as I drove from my job in Framingham to my (then) residence in Webster.  In those days, I was a particularly sad and grieving person.  That show was so interesting and so entertaining that it put a smile on my face and truly cheered me up.  I became a regular listener, either on Saturday evenings or on Sunday afternoons (when the show is rebroadcast).  The host, Richard Sher, really made that program what it was, with his delightful sense of humor and schtick.  "Says You" goes on location during each year and tapes programs in various locations all over America, but always does a few shows in Boston and New England.  It was a goal of mine to one day go to a live "Says You" event.   It's unusual for me to not listen to "Says You" for seven weeks in a row, but in fact, when I tuned in last night it had been that long since I'd heard it.  What a shock I received as I heard the opening announcement telling us that this was Richard Sher's last broadcast!  It was being done in his memory.   It turns out that sixty-six-year-old Richard Sher of Weston, MA passed away on February 9.  This weekend's broadcast was recorded before a live audience at Regis College in Weston in early January.   It was surreal listening to the energetic and comical Sher last night, knowing he died just about a month after that was recorded!  I've learned  that Sher had developed the show and wrote most of its material.  I'd love to have met him sometime and shook his hand.  Instead, the best I could do was post my condolences today at the "Says You" website.

The third sad and stunning report came this morning when I learned that Denny and Debby S. (good friends of my wife and me) who are Assemblies of God missionaries in Central America were victims of a very serious crime on Friday evening.  At the large church we attend in Westminster, MA, the service was opened with special prayer for Denny and Debby.   (Their photo was displayed on power point for all to see as we prayed.)  When I think of Denny and Debby, the words that come to mind are "Godly", "generous", "classy", "talented", "gifted", and "humble".  I don't have the words to express how sorry I was to hear the news of their suffering! 

Clearly, each of these situations needs prayer.  I've also found myself doing a lot of thinking and reflecting about each situation.  Regarding Richard Sher, it reminds us that we are never sure of tomorrow.  Any one of us could die at any time.  I'm also reminded that Richard Sher used his talent and personality to the fullest.  He really taught  a lot of "stuff" (which admittedly many would say was trivial) on "Says You".  He also brought some cheer and happiness to me during some very down times, and he probably did so to many others.  You know what, God wants us to use the talents He's given us and to touch the lives of others.  Richard Sher did that.  Regarding Denny and Debby, it's absolutely true that "bad things happen to good people".  Missionaries have suffered persecution and martyrdom going all the way back to the first century church.  This is something we don't like to talk and think about, but it's true.  Denny and Debby could be selfish and lazy Christians if they wanted to be.  But they have made a choice to follow and obey the Lord, no matter what the cost.  They're real heroes!  It's easy for me to think, "Well, I'm no Denny or Debby Seler!   I'm no hero!"  Yet, God calls me and God calls evry Christian believer to humility and service no matter what the cost.  Am I willing to serve the way Denny and Debby do?  I honestly need to do exactly that, no matter what the cost!  Finally, the loss of a baby is deeply painful.  As of this writing, I've been asked to conduct the funeral service.  I'm not sure exactly when that will be.  Such a loss is confusing.  We don't understand it.  I think of a great teaching C.D. that some friends sent me last year.  The Bible teacher on that C.D. said that Christians should never ask, "Why?"  That's the wrong question.  Instead we should ask, "What does this mean?"  and  "What must I do?"   I've never experienced the death of a child or of a grandchild.   My parents did.  Following the death of my brother Eddie in 1983, they were never quite the same.  But, I will say, there was a bit more vulnerability and sensitivity in each of them after that terrible loss.  The Rev. John DeBrine says, "Difficulty will make you either better or bitter."  Eddie's loss was terrible for all of our family, but in some ways, I think it did make all of us "better".  I think of the story of King David in the Old Testament.  His little baby was deathly ill.  King David fasted and prayed.  He was distraught.  Yet, the baby died.  The King's aides were shocked that following the child's death, David got up, cleaned himself up (we'd say "took a shower") and went about his business.  They asked the King how he could possibly accept the death so calmly when he'd previously been so despondent and upset.  The King essentially said, "I thought that perhaps my fasting and praying would result in the baby's healing.  But now that he's dead, he cannot come to me, but one day I will go to him." (see 2 Samuel 12:23).

This weekend, the sad reports came in threes.   I am a writer, so I thought sharing this with you would be a good thing, and I hope it was exactly that for you.