On Sunday evenings this spring, CNN is airing a new docudrama series entitled "Finding Jesus: Faith, Fact, and Forgery." The series is based on the book of the same name by David Gibson and Michael McKinley.
Even if you haven't stepped in a church in years, you likely know the story of the "prodigal" son. Just in case, here's a quick refresher: A rather wealthy landowner has two sons. One asks for his inheritance early (before his father's death, which was an even greater insult when Jesus told this story than it is today). His father obliges him, and the son takes off to live a life of partying.
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.
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.
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.
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.