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

Dining With the Most Important Person in the World

Outside of your family, who would you name as the most important person in the world? Let’s imagine you have been chosen to honor that person by preparing or by having a meal prepared for him or her.  Also, you are invited to dine with that person. Imagine the time you would spend pouring over the menu and making sure every detail was right and that the food was the best. Before you carried the meal and served it to this very important person, you tasted each dish.  Mmmm.  It tasted even better than you imagined.  It was so good, you went ahead and ate some, and even asked the cooks to eat some with you. It wasn’t because all of you were starving.  It was just because that meal smelled so good.  It was all of your favorite things to eat.  You couldn’t resist. After you finished, you put the lids back on all the food and put them in the warmer, and off you went to see the most important person in the world, hoping this person wouldn’t mind eating the leftovers. Without shame, you served this meal that way.   You opened all the dishes revealing that someone had already helped themselves to a sizeable portion of the meal. The serving spoons were not even washed.  The bread was almost gone.  The potatoes were cold.  How embarrassing would that be? No one should surpass God’s importance to us.  God asks us to honor Him by bringing something to honor him: time, abilities, volunteering, talents, part of our income. Instead of giving God our “first fruits,” and the... read more

A Template for Making this World a Better Place

It was a warm sunny day in Houston, Texas, on September 12, 1962. John F. Kennedy stood before 40,000 people in the Rice University football stadium to deliver a speech that helped launch American astronauts to the moon. Most Americans were not convinced that we should embark on such a bold endeavor or believed that it was even possible. But that day, John F. Kennedy began winning people over to the idea that America could put people on the moon in a decade. We forget how much opposition there was to this ambitious plan now because landing on the moon is such a proud achievement in American history. Less than a year later, Martin Luther King, Jr. stood on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial before 250,000 people to deliver his famous, “I Have a Dream Speech,” that helped move the Civil Rights Legislation closer to adoption and end the Jim Crow Laws. Both of these men were dreamers. They were optimists, and they dared to lead with courage. Nehemiah was such a man who lived about 450 B.C. He was the cupbearer to King Artaxerxes, King of Persia. He was a Jewish descendant of those exiled from Jerusalem after the Babylonians conquered it. Nehemiah learned of the dire circumstances in Jerusalem because the walls and the gates of the city were destroyed. When he heard about this, he could have said, “Ah, there’s nothing I can do.” Instead, the news broke his heart. He wept. He fasted, and he prayed. Nehemiah was a dreamer. He was an optimist. He believed he could help engineer an effort to rebuild... read more

Something That Can’t Be Taken From You

Not long ago, I needed to water some plants in my backyard.   Mia, my granddaughter, was over for a visit and she wanted to help. I felt a little bit like Tom Sawyer, handing that hose over to her, but I didn’t have to convince her that it wasn’t every day that a child had a chance to water plants. She took the job on with a smile.  I gave her instructions on where to point the water. But like most new things, it wasn’t long that the novelty wore off and she said, “Here P-Paw. You do it.” She was hot and tired of the heat, so she began to make her way to the house. She was about halfway there when I turned the hose in her direction.  To her delight, it rained a few drops on her head.  “Do it again,” she said.  It rained some more. “Do it again,” she said.  This exchange continued until she got an idea of her own. She wanted to have control of the water hose.  When she turned it in my direction, she laughed even harder.  But it didn’t just rain; it flooded on me. As I danced around trying to escape her surprisingly good aim, I was caught up in her laughter and the joy of the moment as I got wetter and wetter.  It was pure joy, innocent, spontaneous, and playful. After a while, she realized that I might be having more fun getting wet than she was using the hose, so she handed the water hose back to me and asked me to turn it on her. Before... read more

I Place My Life in this Hope

We have a golf cart at our church that the staff uses to move around campus on occasions. It can sit for several days, sometimes for a week or more before we use it. That’s long enough for wasps to find it be a suitable home for their home. Last week I told our office manager that I had some business in a couple of the buildings on campus. I had several items to deliver, and the cart was helpful. The last thing she told me when I picked up the key was to check the cart for wasps. I deposited the items in the back of the cart, did a quick look for wasps, and seeing none attempted to sit down in the driver’s seat. My butt had not even touched the seat before a wasp came off a hidden nest like a kamikaze and stung me on the tip of my nose. I said a few things unbecoming of a preacher and walked around, holding my face in my hands before I began to look for the nest that I had overlooked. My office manager must have heard my painful moans. She didn’t even have to wonder what happened. She came out of the door with a can of wasp spray. She was kind enough not to say what she had to be thinking: “I tried to warn him.” “Men, you can’t tell them anything.” Or “It’s his own fault.” I could have easily seen the nest had I taken the time to inspect the cart from all sides, but from the driver’s side, it was hidden.... read more

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

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