Baptism is a central feature of Christian faith. Therefore it is important that it be done correctly. My friend and mentor, Dr. John Killinger, tells the following story about a memorable baptism.

“Several years ago I was traveling in the Orient speaking to U.S. Air Force chaplains. One of them told me about his dad, a Baptist preacher who had organized a new church in the American northwest. A carpenter, his dad had also built the church himself. There wasn’t a lot of money, so everything was done sparingly and efficiently, including the baptismal pool. A local welder had fashioned an open-topped cube of steel which was deposited at the spot where the front of the sanctuary would be.

In American church life, most Christians are members of large congregations. However, most churches are small congregations. It sounds like a contradiction. I grew up in a small rural church and early in my ministry I served in small rural churches. My smallest had 18 resident members. I loved them dearly. I was still a student and that is one reason I am a cheerleader for small congregations.

When we pastors are young, our first opportunities are to serve in such churches. There is where learn how to become shepherds. They provide intimate, supportive places where we can begin to grow into effective ministers. They are patient with us. They accept and love us. They endure our fledgling efforts as preachers. Oh, they wish they had pastors like those they see on television and hear on the radio. Celebrity preachers who attract thousands inspire, but they don’t make house calls to the sick. Besides, folk in small churches can’t afford celebrity preachers.

Tuesday, 15 March 2016 15:40

Vote every time you get a chance

I sat down at my computer to write my weekly column and stared at the blank screen for a few minutes trying to think of an angle to write about. I don’t often have writer’s block, but it happens. Then the phone rang and I was reminded of the old adage: “The Lord doth provide.”

On the line was my brother, Lynn, who lives in New Hampshire. I have two brothers whom I love dearly, Steve and Lynn. Lynn mentioned that he had just been to vote in the local election. There were the usual candidates for local offices plus three pages of bond issues, etc. And, he said the office of dog catcher was on the ballot, too. Good old New England democracy at work!

Tuesday, 08 March 2016 16:11

Get well cards make me warm and fluffy

It’s great to be home after two very recent, serious hospitalizations. One of the joys is to be able to read tons of good wishes and get well cards from you dear readers. They are great medicine at a time like this! They are like the world’s greatest multi-vitamins. Some are deeply spiritual. Many are hilariously funny. All are inspirational.

Let me give you a few examples that knocked me out of the bed with laughter and lifted my spirits. And I’ll add a few comments.

Tuesday, 09 February 2016 16:12

True love is sharing the same spit can

You know me. I am a hopeless, old romantic. This time of the year something always reminds me that Valentine’s Day is nearing. This year it was a report about a Swedish woman who lost her wedding ring 16 years ago. It was a ring she had personally designed. Well, she recently found the ring in her garden. It had a carrot growing right through it! It was a sweet, touching story.

This got me inspired to write about romance, so pucker up! Here’s my story about true romance. It started more than 50 years ago when I was a young, country preacher. A nervous, rustic couple came to me requesting that I “marry” them. They wanted me to officiate at their wedding. Their names were Delilah Scissors and Cicero Fudd.

My story this week is set in the mid-1940s. I was a young boy at the time. Many of the men in my family were away serving in the U.S. military. How many of you are old enough to remember those years? Our mothers, grandmothers and grandfathers were holding things together here at home.

Consult your elders and see if they remember any of what I’m about to tell you. They may not know about this because, while it was not secret, it was not widely disclosed at the time.

World War II was raging at the time. As the war wore on, thousands of German and Italian prisoners of war were brought to America and placed in 700 prison camps in 43 states.

Brace yourself, folks, it’s presidential campaign time again! What that means is that many of the candidates are trying to get the so-called evangelical Christian vote. If you read my writings often, you are aware that I regard myself as a classical evangelical Christian. However, much of the political chatter we hear strikes me as neither evangelical nor Christian. It is the cynical effort by people seeking to use God for partisan political advantage. I regard this as an example of a violation of the biblical commandment against taking the name of the Lord God in vain. In short, trivializing the name of God. That’s why I get cranky about the way religion is used in political campaigns.

Now, I’m not saying faith is not related to politics. Quite the contrary. A person’s faith is related to every aspect of human life. But you know what I mean. One candidate speaking recently about his faith, said, “I have a great relationship with God.” That may very well be true. It would be great if a voter could ask what the Divinity thinks about the relationship with the candidate. In fact, I did ask that question and God declined to testify by invoking the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution.

Happy New Year! That cheery greeting has been in the air since New Year’s Day. It is beginning to wane now as we get into the winter blahs. The Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays are in our rearview mirrors. Days are short and the nights are long. Winter cold has moved in to stay for several weeks and we tend to struggle with the wintertime blues.

Most pastors will tell you that folks tend to experience more depression during this time of the year. It is time to pay the bills for all the celebrating that we’ve enjoyed. Wintertime ailments, sniffles, hacking coughs, aches and pains abound.

Sometimes New Year’s resolutions can be a lot like new automobiles. They can be shiny and fresh but they can depreciate quickly. They may have been impulse commitments. The newness can wear off in a hurry and they can fall into disrepair. Dent a fender and pride of ownership wanes. Before you know it, you are off to other things.

How many times have I resolved to have a slimmer waistline by March, only to get to April and discover that I missed my goal? Does that sound familiar to you? One thing I have learned is that there are two kinds of resolutions. First are those resolutions that I’ll call “result resolutions.” They are goals that I’d like to reach. Then there are what I’ll call “effort resolutions.” They are the things I am willing to do to reach those goals. For example, I’ll resolve to get slimmer. But it won’t happen unless I also resolve to eat less! Effort resolutions are the most important resolutions we make!

Tuesday, 22 December 2015 16:51

Holidays a time for new beginnings

Christmas and New Year holiday celebrations are great fun for all except those who are terminally grouchy. We all know a few folks who are like that. They are in need of professional help. I’m as serious as a heart attack, and I’m one who has had five heart bypasses and am on my third pacemaker. But I believe Christmas and the New Year will be sufficient to help most of us get through this tough time in our lives.

We are very anxious people at this moment. And when we are anxious, we are not usually at our best. Our judgment is impaired. We make poor decisions. We think thoughts that, in our stronger moments, we would not allow to distract us. We say things that do not truly represent our morality, our ethics, our values. This is because we are human and our humanity can sometimes cause us to weaken in the face of threats.

Wednesday, 16 December 2015 06:16

Eggs on a hubcap and smart puns

Y’all are smart readers. How do I know this? Because you love puns, particularly puns made by intelligent people. Whenever I pass along such a pun, I hear lots of groans. So, here we go again.

I got this from Professor George Hunter: A fellow was driving home for the Christmas holiday. He decided to leave early in the morning and stop later for breakfast. Eventually, he stopped at a diner. The waitress asked, “What’ll you have?” The traveler replied that he would like the eggs benedict with whole wheat toast, orange juice and coffee. When she returned with his breakfast he could not help but notice that the eggs benedict was perched on a hubcap.