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.
You may have heard Paul Harvey's modern day parable of the Christmas story, which was first broadcast in 1965. The first time I heard the story, I was a little boy driving around in our family's station wagon with my father. I recall that this simple yet profound story made a big impact on me. Perhaps you might share this parable, which is aired every year at 12 noon on Christmas Day on stations that run Paul Harvey's program, with others.
First Baptist Church of Rincon and Springfield are coming together to perform "The Nativity" Symphony at the historic Mars Theatre.
Author Harriet Richie relates an incident in her family's life that revealed to her the true nature of Christmas: Following their church's Christmas Eve service, Harriet's family decided to stop somewhere for a late-night breakfast. The only place open that late on Christmas Eve was a truck stop off the nearby interstate.
Do you want to do something this Christmas season that is just plain old-fashioned family building and fun? Sit down all together and watch "It's a Wonderful Life."
Sometimes we don't know what to truly appreciate in life.
If I had to describe how I could tell a Christian just by observing interactions, as in a business meeting, I would probably say I could see the fruit of the spirit in the person's kindness. In many ways, sheer kindness is often the mark of a person living as a Christian.
Christians often feel an obligation to pray for those who need assistance, both individually and corporately. Church congregations therefore regularly pray for members and extended family and friends who are struggling. Each church handles such prayers differently, but they usually involve some sort of prayer list.
The pastor of St. Boniface Church, Father Ba Thong Nguyen, also known as Father Martino, had a vision to bring all of the church's Faith Formation children and their parents along with members of the congregation to Veterans Park in Springfield on Sunday to pray for all of the souls who have given their lives for the nation.
By the time you read this, election day will have passed and, barring a runoff, the constant bombardment of negative campaigns will subside, at least for a year. I have come to believe that the fact that any person would spend someone's hard-earned dollars to do nothing but call their opponent a liar should immediately disqualify them from office. But that's just me, and I could be wrong.
Before the kids in their costumes head out the door to get bags full of candy, St. Luke's Episcopal Church has a special treat lined up for them.
In life, extremism often ends in a multitude of problems. I find the same is true when the Gospel is presented.
The German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote, "When Christ calls us, he bids us come and die." Bonhoeffer, citing the words of Jesus, bid Christians to count the cost of discipleship. For Bonhoeffer, this death was literal; for most other Christians we are called to die to our former selves.
The bizarre and horrible renditions notwithstanding (i.e., Roseanne Barr, Michael Bolton), most people can at least sing the national anthem. Or, I should say, they can sing what they believe is the national anthem. After all, most folks have been to enough civic events and ballgames to have memorized it.
I've got to wonder if Sherriff McDuffie, just as his head hits the pillow at night and he's about to drift off to sleep, ever reviews the events of the day and just busts out with laughter. It's got to happen on occasion.
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