Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Pastor nearly arrested for bank robbery

A pastor in southern Mississippi was nearly arrested for robbing a bank in September of this year.

After the Regions Bank was robbed, a bank teller ran outside to get the license plate number of the robber. She wrote down the number she saw on the car leaving the parking lot, and immediately called the police.

The police report came back that the car belonged to a local pastor, whom we will call “Pastor Steve” (not his real name). The police sent three units to his church, but he was not there, because he had gone to a senior adult meeting. Quickly, they sent five units to the senior adult meeting where they found Pastor Steve, and insisted on searching his car, but found no evidence of a robbery.

Meanwhile, the police went to Pastor’s Steve’s home to interview his wife. Armed with a description of the bank robber, who was in 30’s, they were surprised when a woman in her 60’s opened the door. At that point one cop turned to another and said, “You know, we may have the wrong person.”

It turned out that Pastor Steve had been at the bank right before the real bank robber, but the robber rushed out of the bank and drove away before Pastor Steve did. So when the teller came outside to write down the license plate number, the car she saw driving off was the pastor’s car, not the real robber’s car.

The mayor and police chief called and apologized to Pastor Steve, but the last laugh came when the pastor returned to his church after his traumatic day. He walked into his office and on the glass window of his church office, his staff had put a large “WANTED” poster with his picture and name, and the words, “Reward: $1.50.”

Aren’t you glad that God never makes mistakes like that? Police will make mistakes, doctors will make mistakes, and yes, pastors will make mistakes. But God never makes a mistake. As Abraham asked in Genesis 18:25: “Won’t the Judge of all the earth do what is just?”

Copyright 2010 by Bob Rogers.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

A cold baptism in Hot Coffee

When I was a pastor in the community of Hot Coffee, Mississippi, I did one of the coldest baptisms of my life.

A young couple had accepted Christ. It was a cold February day when they came to be baptized, and the baptistry heater was broken. Back then, I didn't wear waders in the baptistry. I had two pair of brown Hagar slacks, and after I got wet baptizing, I dried off and put on the other pair. So I knew I was going to get cold, too. I asked them if they wanted to wait until the heater was fixed. They said, "Naw, we've been swimmin' in a cold creek before."

So at the end of the service, we got ready. I descended into the water, and wow! it was cold, but I acted like there was no problem. After reading scripture, I turned to the man, who slowly stepped into the water from my right side. He, too, acted like the water was fine.

Since this was my first baptism in this church, I was not familiar with the faucet sticking out on my left side. As I brought the man up out of the icy water, I scraped his head on the faucet! Yet he joyfully arose from the baptistry, revealing no pain.

Next, his wife stepped into the water. When her feet touched the near-freezing water, she froze, too. I tugged at her hand to come. Reluctantly, and shivering from the cold, she came into the water. I baptized her, this time being careful not to rip open her forehead on the faucet. When she came up out of the water, she slung her long hair back and forth, opened her mouth as wide as possible, and shouted at the top of her lungs, "GOD! IT'S COLD!"

People were rolling in the aisles laughiung. I could see the tonsils of half of the congregation. That day I was glad we had baptism at the end of the service, because church was over!

I suppose somebody might say I shouldn't tell that story, because somebody is going to be afraid to be baptized after reading this (especially if I'm the one doing the baptizing!). Although baptisms are rarely as painful as that one, if you think about it, this story reminds us of what baptism is all about. Baptism is a symbol of the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus. Jesus died on the cross for our sins, and going under the water symbolizes our repentance from sin and our acceptance of Jesus' complete payment for sin. Jesus even asked his disciples, "Can you... be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with?" (Mark 10:38, NIV) He was using baptism as a symbol of death, asking them if they were ready to follow him to death, if need be. So although I don't want to make it as painful as my two friends experienced that day, the fact remains that whatever baptism we have can never compare with what Jesus experienced for us on the cross.

Copyright 2010 by Bob Rogers.

Monday, May 10, 2010

How to smack somebody with an honest answer

On Tuesday mornings during the school year, I tell a Bible story to the four-year-olds in our church's child care center. Recently I was teaching the boys and girls about how God created the seasons.
I held up a picture of an apple tree that was beginning to grow leaves. The picture showed new flowers blossoming around the tree's trunk. "What season is this?" I asked. They shouted, "Spring!" Then I held up a picture of the tree with lots of leaves and green apples on it, surrounded by lush, green grass. I said, "Notice that the tree is getting apples now. What season is this?" They shouted, "Summer!" Then I showed them a picture of a tree with plump, red apples, but the leaves were turning red and brown, and many leaves had fallen to the ground. I said, "What is happening to the tree?" They said, "The leaves are falling, because it's fall!"
Then I held up a picture of a barren tree with snow on the ground around it. Before I could ask, they all shouted, "Winter!" Being in south Georgia where it rarely snows, I said, "In some parts of the world it snows in winter. And what happened to the tree?" One boy shouted, "It got naked!"
The Bible gives praise for direct honesty. Proverbs 24:26 (God's Word) says, "Giving a straight answer is like a kiss on the lips." Unlike grownups, who give evasive answers and speak in metaphors and euphemisms, kids just tell it like it is. We could learn from their example. Let's just make sure that our honesty is like a kiss on the lips and not a smack on the side of the head!

(Copyright 2010 by Bob Rogers.)

Monday, April 5, 2010

Snakes in a casket

You've heard of the movie, Snakes on a Plane. In Appalachia, some people put snakes in a casket.
Once I talked about this with a pastor who is from the Appalachian region of Virginia.
"We've got snake handlers up where I'm from," he said.
"Really?" I asked.
"Yep, we've lost two preachers to snake-bites."
If you're not familiar with "snake handlers," they are Christians who interpret Mark 16:17-18 to mean that they should show their faith by handling venomous snakes in their worship services. Often accompanied by loud, rhythmic music, they have been known to put rattlesnakes and copperheads on their heads, wrap them around their necks, tread on them with bare feet, or toss them to other worshipers, to see who has the Holy Ghost.
The pastor from Virginia proceeded to tell me that one funeral director in his area went to conduct a funeral at a church, and the members told him he needed to get up from his seat, because the box of snakes was under his pew. At that moment the funeral director realized he was in a "snake handling" church. I don't think it took him long to move out of their way.
The church member reached into the box, grabbed a snake to hand to another fellow, and then grabbed a second one for himself. He told the funeral director that he was going to put one of the snakes in the casket with the deceased. The funeral director said, "Then you be sure that you close the casket yourself."
This story reminds me of an experience that Jesus had with the devil. Satan was tempting Jesus to perform a great miracle to show off his faith, by jumping off the pinnacle of the temple. Satan even quoted scripture to justify this act, saying Psalm 91 promised that the angels would catch him before he hit the ground. Jesus' reply was to quote Deuteronomy 6:16, saying, "It is also written: Do not test the Lord your God." (Matthew 4:7)
It's not our place to tell God how to work. It's our job to listen to God tell us how to work. So if somebody tells you to prove your faith with some daring action, or if they tell you to test God's will by telling God what hoops to jump through and telling God what deadline he has to do it, remember the snake handlers. If you're going to test God like that, then be sure that you close your casket yourself.

Copyright 2010 by Bob Rogers.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

The Methodist who tried to be a Baptist

A Methodist pastor in Dalton, Georgia, asked a Baptist pastor if he could borrow his baptistry for a baptism by immersion. While Methodists commonly baptize by sprinkling, they also may immerse, and this Methodist pastor had a couple who had trusted Christ and wanted to go all the way under.
The Baptist pastor kindly agreed, and prepared his baptistry for the Methodists to use. He went back to check on things after they had used it, and he noticed water had splashed all over the place, in the changing area and even into the choir loft. So he asked the Methodist preacher, "What happened?"
His Methodist brother said, "Well, it was the first time I had done an immersion, and when I got in there to baptize the lady, I couldn't figure out where to grab her to put her under. I didn't want to touch her in an inappropriate place, so I grabbed her by the neck. She resisted, splashing water, but I got her under, and then I lost her in the water, and had to dive in to pull her up. In the process, water filled up my waders, so I had to climb out of the waders and leave them in the bottom of the baptismal pool, and I had to climb out dripping wet. I left the waders in the baptismal pool, so you can get them out when you want them. I'm not going back in there."
If you are wondering what great spiritual truth could possibly come out of that experience, here it is: you can't please everybody, so do your best to be who God made you, and don't worry about it. Whether you're a preacher or a parishioner, you don't need to try to be something you're not. God made you with your unique spiritual gifts. "A spiritual gift is given to each of us as a means of helping the entire church" (1 Corinthians 12:7, NLT). Find out what those are, and be your best at being you. If you're a Methodist, be the best Methodist you can be. If you're a Baptist, be the best Baptist you can be. Most importantly, be the best Christian you can be. And if somebody doesn't like who you are, that's their problem. Just don't grab them around the neck.

Copyright 2010 by Bob Rogers.

Monday, February 1, 2010

When the Saints Go Marching In

I have been a New Orleans Saints fan ever since Ole Miss star quarterback Archie Manning was drafted by the Saints in the early 1970s. Like a Chicago Cubs fan in baseball, a Saints fan is a person who remains loyal through season after season of football failure.
For years, Archie Manning was the only bright spot in an otherwise bad football team. Some Saints fans were so embarrassed by their team that they began to cover their heads with brown paper grocery sacks, with holes cut out for their eyes to see. The media dubbed them "the Unknown Saints Fan." Still, they came to the games.
John Grisham referred to the losing record of the Saints in his novel, The Pelican Brief. He described a party going on in the French Quarter before the Saints game. Said Grisham, "because there would be nothing to celebrate after the game."
Over the years, some Saints fans believed they had to be God's team with a name like theirs. Others speculated that God was punishing them for using a religious name, and God would never allow them to have a winning team. Either way, fans at the Super Dome often included nuns and priests, and even a fellow dressed like Moses.
Then the team began to win, and Saints fans coined new football terms to celebrate, like "Geaux," "Cha-Ching" and "Who Dat?" "Geaux" is simply the word "Go" spelled with a French flavor. "Cha-Ching" has a story behind it. A New Orleans TV commercial poking fun at expensive fast food restaurants had a teenage clerk saying "cha-ching" as he rang up the wasteful spending of his gullible customers. So when the Saints started winning game after game, the fans started using the term "Cha-Ching" to celebrate them ringing up wins. Later, Saints fans began to boldly chant, "Who Dat Say Gonna Beat Dem Saints?" in defiance of anybody who thought they could beat their beloved team.
Now the irony has come full circle, as the New Orleans Saints have finally made it to the Super Bowl, and the quarterback of the opposing team, the Indianapolis Colts, is Peyton Manning, son of Archie Manning, the long-suffering former quarterback of the Saints.
But whoever wins this year in the Super Bowl, I am reminded of a greater truth for all of the true saints of God: that if you are a believer in Christ, you can remain hopeful and faithful through all your years of suffering, because you know that one day the saints of the Lord truly will go marching in, to win the victory in the Big Game at the end of time. Oh, Lord, I want to be in that number! And because of my faith in Christ, I know I will. Geaux Saints!

Monday, January 18, 2010

The church where people go when they leave Big Ugly

A church in rural Alabama is named "Original Church of God," but underneath the sign are the words "Number Two." This isn't the only church with an original name, however. Here are some other unique church names I've heard about:
Little Hope Baptist Church (in Little Hope, Texas)
Too Blessed to Be Stressed Church in Drew, Mississippi (relaxing place to worship, I'm sure).
Left Foot Baptist Church and Right Foot Baptist Church (the result of a split over foot washing in a town in Georgia).
The First Church of the Last Chance in Dade, Florida (better not wait until the last verse of the invitation to come forward at that church).
Flippin Church of God (in Northern Arkansas).
Accident Baptist Church (apparently not a Calvinist church).
The Holy and Overcoming Apostolic Church in the Name of Jesus Only (try to fit that on a church sign).
Rock Star Baptist Church, Brandon, Mississippi (I wonder if Elvis visited).
Big Ugly Baptist Church in Big Ugly, West Virginia (a visiting preacher said, "It sure is nice to be with you Big Ugly folks tonight.")
The Lovely Freewill Baptist Church in Lovely, Kentucky (where people go when they leave Big Ugly).
Thank God, a congregation is not defined by the name over their door, but by the Lord over their hearts! After all, whenever you find the words "church" and "name" together in the same Bible verse, the emphasis is on the name of the Lord, not the name of the church (see 1 Corinthians 1:2, James 5:14). So whatever the name of your church is, find one that honors the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, and God will bless it.

Copyright 2010 by Bob Rogers.