Everyone loves Christmas. Trees, lights, presents, songs, parties, and meals make Christmas a very special time every winter. But for Christians, Christmas is really only significant in light of Easter. The manger reflects its glory only in the witness of the empty tomb.
It's a good bet that church pews will be more packed than usual these next two Sundays. Local congregants and pastors will likely struggle to remember the names of those who come to pray and sing next to them on Palm Sunday and Easter Day. Once again, it is time for the CEO ("Christmas and Easter Only") crowd to emerge. My perspective on such folks is perhaps unique, stemming from a conversation I had years ago.
Among the many revelations I've had over the past decade in my ministerial experiences in Effingham County are the following truths: (1) there are many people with real needs in our community, and (2) I am incapable of discerning exactly who they are.
In Christianity, hell is often characterized as a realm in which God or love is completely absent. The great Russian writer Fyodor Dostoyevsky may not have been far off when he said, "I am convinced that the only hell which exists is the inability to love."
As my wife and I close in on 30 years of marriage, I suppose we will naturally look back and thank God for His care in our life together.
Can't you imagine the following conversation with a local youngster?
A few months ago, my teenage son Alex was competing in a national weightlifting competition outside St. Louis. The morning of his competition, I decided to forego the predictable hotel breakfast for fresh-cooked food at an omelet joint within walking distance.
Jamie Coots, pastor of a Middlesboro, Ky., church, died recently following a worship service in which he was handling snakes. I'll give you three guesses on the cause of his death.
By now, you have seen many articles, news reports and columns about the passing of Jeffrey Rollins, the beloved pastor of Springfield Baptist Church for 25 years. And if you knew Pastor Jeff, you certainly understood the adjectives used to describe him - caring, selfless, loving, gracious, encouraging, giving and supportive. Many have added that they feel privileged to have known Jeff.
It was a good question.
On Friday evening, Jan. 24, I was walking into Strickland Funeral Home in Springfield when I met my colleague Pastor Bob Rogers from First Baptist Church of Rincon walking out. We exchanged pleasantries, as we always did, and then parted. I remember thinking as I walked into Strickland's, "Bob doesn't look so great. I wonder if he's OK." I regret not turning back around and asking him exactly that.
The parishioners of St. Boniface Church in Springfield hosted their seventh annual ecumenical supper Jan. 19 as part of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. All Effingham County churches and clergy were invited to attend.
The past few weeks, I have presided at more funerals than I have in any six-month period in my ministry. In so doing, I have witnessed grief so deep that I have been shaken, humbled, and reminded how quickly life changes. The story of Horatio Spafford came to mind more than once over these weeks.
First Baptist Church of Rincon will present its annual Christmas musical, "The Heart of Christmas," on Sunday at 6 p.m.
First Baptist Church of Rincon will host the annual Rincon Community Thanksgiving Service on Sunday at 6 p.m.
The parable of the laborers in the vineyard (Matthew 20:1-15) underscores the truth that God's love can be received by people extremely late in life. Many a pastor has seen death-bed conversions; they are possible and do sincerely occur.
We are fortunate to live in a county rich with churches offering different opportunities for people to worship. Yet, we must be humble and honest enough to realize that often people who walk through our front doors see very imperfect organizations, and unfortunately that can turn them off to the whole idea of organized religion and church.
The television series "House of Cards" is an American political drama based on a BBC miniseries of the same name. The opening of season 1 set the stage for what were we to witness as the background of the political sphere. In that episode, congressman Frank Underwood (played by Kevin Spacey) kills a suffering dog with his bare hands while telling the television audience that sometimes we must "do the unpleasant thing, yet the necessary thing." And from then on out, the audience experiences the utter ruthlessness of politics as it is portrayed behind the scenes.
I make eggs for breakfast just about every morning, depending on how our chickens are feeling. And I have finally learned that if I talk too much between the time I take the eggs out of the pan and dig in at the table, my eggs will get cold.
Sadly, one indicator of Effingham's family-oriented growth has succumbed to economic pressure, and I for one will miss it. As some in the county may already know, Baibry's Coffee and Café in Rincon has closed its doors for good.
Training in Children Worship and Wonder, an exciting way of doing faith formation with children, will be held at Guyton Christian Church from March 13-15.
Of all the biblical prescriptions and proscriptions Christians often feel they struggle with, the commandment to forgive has got to be in the top three. Who among us doesn't feel even the least bit inadequate when considering these words from Colossians 3:13: "Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man has a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye"?
This morning, as I was getting off I-95 at the Abercorn Extension exit, I came across a person asking for a handout. You can call them panhandlers or street people, I suppose; the Bible just calls them beggars.
This past week I spoke with a friend about encountering failure. His business was going south, and I reminded him of the many people who were able to use failure in a positive way, indeed some that would tell you their later success was precisely due to their experience of failure.
Recently, a little boy met Pope Francis and told him that he was sad over his dog dying. The father of the Roman Catholic Church reportedly told the boy that his companion will be waiting for him in heaven.
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