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."
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.
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.
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.
A 14-foot snowflake tree will adorn the First Baptist Church of Rincon float in this year's Rincon Lions Club Christmas parade, with 20 individualized snowflakes, one for each student killed in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newton, Conn., last year, said Bill Gammon, FBC Rincon associate pastor.
First Baptist Church of Rincon will be providing free dental and medical exams, free children's clothing and a free car wash as part of its annual fall festival Oct. 26 from 11 a.m.-4 p.m. There will be free medical exams (basic check-ups such as blood pressure and eye checks), a free car wash, free children's clothing giveaway, in addition to more traditional fall festival activities such as children's games and booths.
This past Monday, a young man came to see me at Armstrong. He was referred to me and my department in the College of Health Professions because he had been essentially kicked out of the professional health care program in which he was enrolled, and he was looking for a new major. He was simply told that he wasn't cut out for that job.
If you ask a local pastor the phrase he is most likely to hear when counseling a couple struggling in their relationship, my bet is that somewhere in the top three is the statement, "he (she) has changed."
In the book of Acts, chapter 8, we find the account of St. Peter witnessing to an Ethiopian eunuch, baptizing him and presumably sending the faith back with this new Christian to Ethiopia. Regular church-goers know the story. We can also presume that this convert was the forerunner of the Ethiopian church, which we rarely hear much about, at least not until recently.
One of my favorite radio personalities is the late Paul Harvey, who died in 2009 after 65 years in broadcasting. To me, Harvey was exceptional at getting to the heart of any matter in his topical broadcasts, called "The Rest of the Story."
Sometimes we pastors are humbled by the wisdom we find in others. We think that we, having been schooled in scripture, have a monopoly on wisdom. And then we hear someone speak on life and truth from a deeply personal experience, and we realize we have no such monopoly and our pontificating may be lacking something. Here is an example of a true account that leaves me feeling humble.
NBC's advertising of the "Today" show's Monday morning segment on prayer caught my attention. While the promotions were run continually and ad nauseum, at least they signaled a possible shift by the usually highly secular show toward an acknowledgement, if not appreciation, of things spiritual.