The Blog of
John Michael Helms
Pastor, First Baptist Church, Jefferson

I Need to be More Like My Dog

I Need to Be More Like My Dog Our thirteen-year-old Labrador Retriever, Dixie, died a couple of years ago. We loved our dog! She was a part of our family when our boys were teenagers. After she died, it was the first time in almost 30 years that we had no children and no pets in the house. After two years, I had grown content living with my wife alone. Alas, my wife said one day, “I really would like to have a dog again.” So what does a husband do? He does the only thing a sensible husband can do. He gets a bird dog, so he has another reason to go hunting! We are now three months into our new dog experience. My wife seems less enamored with our dog than I had hoped. Puppies have bad habits that are easily forgotten in the infatuation stage of having a dog. Yet this dog has already proven to be a great teacher. Despite his small bladder and great desire to chew on anything that makes his gums feel better, here’s something important I’ve learned from our dog, my wife and I named “River.” Our dog wants to be where we are. River has learned that we are the ones that will care for him, feed him, love him, groom him, protect him, and give him companionship. He’s never far from us. Even after we let him run outside, soon he’s at the door, wanting to be with us—and where it’s cool, of course. Even as I train him on birds in the field, he never wanders far from... read more

Without Compassion, We Lose Our Humanity

I have spent a lot of time in Liberia, a country on the Western coast of Africa. I wrote a book about a 12-year civil war that devastated that country. There has been unspeakable savagery through the years, but there has also been Christ-like sacrifice, like the compassion and sacrifice of Napoleon Braithwaite. Napoleon worked for the Minister of Health in Monrovia, so he was well schooled about Ebola, a disease of severe internal bleeding that is spread through infected body fluids and is frequently fatal. Napoleon was also well schooled in the Liberian way of life, a life of suffering and hardship.  His first wife died during childbirth. His second wife died because of a lack of medical care.  During the war, the rebel soldiers invaded his home and took everything he owned. They even removed his toilet. However, throughout the war, Napoleon and his third wife raised a family of eight children, and he preached hope to his people. After graduating from the Liberian Baptist Theological Seminary, he became the pastor of Peaceful Baptist Church in the early 1980s. One September morning, a very sick woman knocked on his door and asked to use his phone to call an ambulance. She knew he was one of the few people around who had a phone. An ambulance was called, but she was told they could not respond. Knowing the risks of what he was about to do, he put the woman in his car and drove her to a hospital. He knew he would be able to make it through the various checkpoints along the way. Napoleon’s compassion... read more

The Church is a Hospital for Sinners

Mahatma Gandhi is one of the most respected leaders of modern history. Despite being a Hindu, Gandhi admired Jesus and often quoted from the Sermon on the Mount. Gandhi’s rejection of Christianity grew out of an incident that happened when he was a young man practicing Law in South Africa. After studying the Bible and teachings of Jesus, he was attracted to the Christian faith and seriously explored becoming a Christian. He decided to attend a church service. As he went up to the steps of a large South African Church, an elder barred his way at the door. “Where do you think you’re going, kaffir?” the elder asked. Gandhi replied, “I’d like to attend worship here.” The church elder snarled at him, “There’s no room for kaffirs in this church. Get out of here, or I’ll have my assistants throw you down the steps.” From that moment, Gandhi decided to adopt what good he found in Christianity, but he never again considered becoming a Christian if it meant being part of the church. Once when the missionary E. Stanley Jones met with Gandhi he asked him, “Mr. Gandhi, though you quote the words of Christ often, why is that you appear to so adamantly reject becoming his follower?” Gandhi replied, “Oh, I don’t reject your Christ. I love your Christ. It’s just that so many of your Christians are so unlike your Christ.” (storiesforpreaching.com) One of the Church’s greatest problems is poorly representing the Christ we profess to serve. Our judgmental attitudes towards others, while we have sin in our own lives, is clearly seen and turns people... read more

God Speaks Through Whomever God Wishes

Standing beneath a tent beside a freshly dug grave on a very hot May afternoon, I listened to the granddaughter of the deceased read the 23rdPsalm. After sharing how she would remember her grandfather, she comforted her family with words beyond her years that indicated she understood grief. She was pastoral in her delivery, with compassion in her words and tone of voice. The way she described God being present with us in our suffering resonated with me. I had never met this young woman, but I knew she had gifts of ministry. Later, when I spoke to her, I discovered she recently graduated from Campbell UniversityDivinity School in Buies Creek, North Carolina. She said that she been able to preach on a couple of occasions. I wondered, had she been a man, would she have been given more opportunities to preach by the time she graduated? Al Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky, stirred the pot again recently when he said he said that women should not be allowed to “preach in the church gathered for the Lord’s worship.” So, it seems that what this young woman was doing out by the graveside was acceptable, according to Mohler’s standards. Yet, if she had said this in the church on Sunday morning, behind a pulpit in the role of a preacher with a “Rev.” before her name in the bulletin, and especially if she had been called to preach as the congregation’s pastor, that would not be OK in his view. Mohler parses his words carefully because he doesn’t want to offend people like... read more

Maintaining a Healthy Approach to News Consumption

When I was a boy, my grandfather worked twelve hours a day pushing dirt with a bulldozer.  When he came home, he was tired to the bone. After he ate his supper, he collapsed in a chair, pulled off his boots, and sat down and watched Walter Cronkite share what had happened in the nation and world that day.  Then he would listen to the local news.  After that, he’d turn to the local paper to fill in the gaps. Before Pop died, cable television was on the scene.  Being confined to his home much of the time, he was watching a steady diet of 6-8 hours of cable news per day.   It seemed that the more he watched, the angrier he became about politics and about living in this country. Rare was the time we got together that he didn’t get off on some political topic that had gotten under his skin from cable news.  If he were still alive today, I’m convinced it would be even worse. I see this often in people I meet, especially those that are retired and find a lot of time to watch television.   However, you don’t have to be retired to be overdosing on the news.  Regardless of which station you choose, if you do not watch the news in moderation, it’s not good for you. Today, more than ever, much of the news is presented with some bias.  Most networks have an agenda.  When news is used to shape the minds of people around a political agenda, good journalism can be compromised to some degree. We cannot get to a point where we are afraid to hear the truth or ask... read more

Spark Some Laughter In Your Life

Susan Sparks is a breast cancer survivor.  A nurse where she was tested for cancer told her that the Lord would take care of her. Susan reacted with sarcasm, “I think the Lord should have started a little earlier in taking care—like a couple of years ago when these cells started growing!” When the nurse put her arm around Susan and once again assured her that the Lord would take care of her, Susan rolled her eyes and said, “He has never had breast cancer, so I seriously doubt that he has any idea of how to ‘take care’ of this!” In her book, “Laugh Your Way to Grace,” Susan is refreshingly transparent about the anger she felt when she first learned of this devastating news. Anyone diagnosed with cancer or any disease can understand her pain and anger.  But Susan soon learned that her path to healing wasn’t found in her anger.  She began to rise above her pain and transcend her grief through the power of humor. She remembers drinking out of a coffee mug that said: “My Oncologist Can Beat Up Your Oncologist,” and she had a magnet on the refrigerator that said, “Cancer—it’s not just an astrological sign anymore.”  I think the saying would have been funnier if it had ended with these words: “it’s just an ass.” Soon humor became the sieve that allowed her to see, hear, and bear the truth. I saw a video of a parent trying to feed a baby, but the baby wasn’t having the food from the jar. So the parent dangled an ice cream cone in front of the... read more

Support Bricks for Ricks!

Archives