Wednesday, June 15, 2016


[Note:  It should be obvious to all readers that the story in this posting is a complete work of fantasy!  Please use your imagination as you read it; but please don't receive its message lightly!  The story may be fantasy, but the message is one of utmost importance at this hour.]

"All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:" (2 Timothy 3:16)

The title I've chosen to both highlight and sum up the amazing experience of which I write has a double meaning.  For readers from around the Boston area, especially those familiar with Boston's Hyde Park and Readville neighborhoods, Paul's Bridge is a familiar landmark.  It's a very old stone bridge which spans the Neponset River between suburban Milton and the City of Boston's Readville neighborhood.  If you do an on-line search you can find more information about "Paul's Bridge".  The story here is not about the Boston landmark, though.  It's about the Apostle Paul (also commonly known as "Saint Paul") and an unforgettable visit I received from him!

One does not expect someone to just appear out of nothing and suddenly be sitting in your presence.  In fact, he not only appeared out of nothing, but the Hollywood director type chair in which he sat appeared out of nothing as well!  I'm not sure how I instantly knew this was Paul the Apostle, but I did.  He was sitting for the whole visit which lasted an hour or so.  He was short.  I'd guess he was maybe five feet five inches tall; perhaps less than that.  He was lighter complected than I'd have imagined.  His hair was part gray and part reddish brown; well, more brown than red.  He wore a full beard.  He wasn't completely bald.  There was a bit of hair on the top of his head, but he definitely was suffering from "male pattern baldness".  He greeted me loudly, crying out, "Paul, the Apostle, visiting twenty-first century Massachusetts!"

I marveled that he spoke English.  In fact, I marveled that he spoke English with what sounded like a Baltimore, Maryland accent.  I commented about that.

He laughed.  "Yes, this is what could be called a textbook Baltimore, Maryland accent," he proclaimed, followed by the exclamation, "Very good!"

I commented that I'd have expected him to be speaking in first-century Greek or Aramaic (the language Jesus spoke) or even Hebrew.  He shook his head, stating that it was important I understood what he had to say.  I was also surprised that he was wearing blue jeans, a Promise Keepers tee-shirt, and a pair of sneakers.

"Well, I wanted to look as I would have looked in 2016!" he laughed. 

I spent the next fifteen minutes or so quizzing Paul.  I asked him what many of you would probably consider very silly questions, but hey, how often does the Apostle Paul show up in your home?!  This was my chance to fire away with questions!   Incidentally, he refused to tell me exact meaning of his "Thorn in the Flesh" (from 2 Corinthians 12) and I was kind of disappointed about that.

The conversation turned to much more serious and pertinent matters.  Paul soundly rebuked me; well not just me.  He soundly rebuked virtually all of today's American Christians.  He told me we were "very soft, very lazy, and very clueless" about the times in which we live and the manner in which we live.  I asked him who he'd be supporting for President of the United States this year.  This is almost word-for-word what Paul had to say:

"Well, if that isn't the stupidest question!  You and your fellow believers sound like the Israelites in the days of Samuel of old when they wanted a king.  They wanted to be like all the other nations.   They failed to understand that God was their king.  They failed to understand that all men and women are fallible.  God reluctantly gave them Saul, for whom I was named.  (Readers may know that he had two names all of his life:  Saul was his Jewish name, and Paul was his Roman name.)  But it was never to be so."

I asked if it was wrong to vote and to be interested in politics.

"No, of course it's not wrong," he admonished, "But the believers of today have everything backwards.  They fight and argue to 'defend the Constitution' but they fail to realize that the Bible is far, far more important.  They wonder why the current choices seem to be so poor and inadequate.  The fact is, they're not praying for their leaders, nor for the people who aspire to be their leaders.  And, they're not living and praying with an attitude of humility and repentance.  It's true that Peter and I did not always get along!  Boy, did we have our confrontations!  But, how many of you know what it says in First Peter chapter four verse seventeen?  Read it!  And, don't just read it.  Remember what my friend James said in James chapter one verse twenty-two?  Well, ninety percent of today's believers have no idea what it says, but it challenges God's children to not just read and hear what the Bible says, but to do what the Bible says, for Heaven sakes; and I mean it:  For Heaven sakes!" 

He was yelling when he said that.  The next part is embarrassing and difficult for me to write:

"You know, Bob, you're so soft, man.  Have you ever been beaten for being a follower of Jesus Christ?  I was beaten many times!  Have you ever been jailed?  Also, many times.  You guys and gals today get into fights about what worship music you like and what worship music you don't like!  Would you like to see me throw up?  Because that's what I feel like doing when I see and hear things like that!  Do you think anybody cared what "worship style" Silas and I were using when we sang the praises of God in the jail at Phillipi after we'd been beaten with rods?!"

He wasn't done.

"In fact I ended up being beheaded.  Yes, my head's on now; how'd you like to have met a headless Paul?!   Listen, were I ministering in America today I'd have little patience for people who can't make it out to church services, for people who can't make it out to prayer meetings, and for people who whine about the stupidest things!  Some say 'Church goes on too long';  have you ever read about the time I preached until Midnight and a young guy fell down from an upper story dead?!  And, I raised that young man from the dead!  You 'sweet little Christians' wouldn't have been able to do that; why?  Because you don't pray consistently and you don't believe!"

I felt myself turning red, and I looked down at the hardwood floor.

Suddenly his voice got very soft.  It was so soft I could hardly hear him.  I looked up.  Tears were streaming down his face.  He began to sob.  I actually handed him a paper towel!  I know it may sound a bit unspiritual, but he blew his nose.  Then he said in that very soft voice,

"Bob,  will you just remember my visit?  Will you tell people about it?   Will you tell them what I had to say?  And will you please tell them to read their Bibles?  And will you please tell them to stop all the focus on carnal issues that really don't matter?!  You want to have any kind of victory and influence in these days, Bob?  Well, remember Daniel and his companions!  You gotta be a Daniel and that goes for your fellow believers, too."

Instantly he was gone.  His director's chair was gone.  The paper towel was not gone.  It had fallen to the floor. 

He kind of was a bridge through time and through eternity.

If you don't like this, I'm going to say what I'm sure Paul would say:  Don't take it up with me, take it up with God!

Thursday, June 9, 2016


"The plans of the diligent lead surely to plenty,
But those of everyone who is hasty, surely to poverty."  (Proverbs 21:5 New King James Version)

The simple conversation quickly turned into an intense and shocking monologue.
It was at a laundromat, fairly early this morning.  One female customer began making small talk with the laundry attendant on duty who was also a woman.  It was the laundry attendant who launched into a disturbing rant.  

"A guy brought in a bunch of pennies and he wanted me to change them into quarters," she began. Quickly, she was yelling about her refusal to accept the pennies, but it didn't stop there.

"I hate pennies!" she went on, "No, I mean I really hate them!  I throw them away.  Anytime I have pennies, I throw them into the trash.  When I've found out my kids had any pennies, I've thrown them into the trash." 

It didn't stop there.  She continued on for at least a paragraph, laced with 'F-Bombs' and all sorts of blasphemies, profanity, and offensive language.  The level of hate she was manifested was amazing.  She mentioned that people have told her pennies are money and therefore should not be thrown away.  It was that objection which others have given to her regarding throwing pennies into the trash that made her the angriest of all.

I was so tempted to say something to her!  I wanted to tell her I'll give her a plastic container; that she can just deposit any pennies into it and once a month or so, I'll take them from her!  I also wanted to tell her that I understand that pennies can be an inconvenience, but that people who save them and bring them to the bank sometimes end up leaving the bank with tens of dollars, and occasionally even hundreds of dollars.

In the Assemblies of God, children bring in little plastic barrels filled with change once a month.  (That program is called "B.G.M.C.", which stands for "Boys and Girls Missionary Challenge".)  The money goes to missionary projects all over the world.  A number of years ago, my wife led the little church we pastored in a B.G.M.C. project to bring in pennies for a "penny weigh".  As I recall, it was boys against girls, and the side who brought the most pennies won.  I forget what they won and I forget who won, but I do remember that on the following day, Mary Ann and I wheeled an old-fashioned children's "red wagon" into the lobby of the (then) Shawmut Bank on Union Avenue in Framingham, Massachusetts.  The employees were very cooperative in helping us make the deposit.  As I recall, it was over $600. and that was from a very small church of under fifty in total attendance.

The attitude of that laundry attendant spoke volumes today.  To Mary Ann back in the late 1980s, the pennies were a wonderful tool to help the missionaries.  Eternity will reveal the many blessings that came from the large pile of copper coins.  To the laundry attendant, pennies (i.e. legal tender) are simply something to be thrown away.

This is really the classic example of:  One person's trash is another person's treasure!

What do you think?  Shall I print this out and bring it in to that laundry employee along with a shiny copper penny?  Do you think she'd just throw my article and penny away?

Please leave a comment or e-mail me!  I'm really interested in your feedback!  And if you want to give some pennies to your church for missions, I don't think your pastor will refuse that donation!