October 18th, 2017


It will not surprise anyone who knew her that almost 25 years ago, early in my pastorate, when we gave members an opportunity to write out their desires for their funeral so we could keep them on file, within a short time Shirley had submitted a detailed form for herself, her brother, and her parents.

One of her requests was that in lieu of a eulogy we would just read Scripture and sing hymns.  She listed eleven Scriptures (including several long passages) and about six different pieces of music.  With all that included, she also noted she wanted the service “short”!

She clarified on the form, however: “Whatever is desired by the family and pastors.”  I’m taking a little pastoral license to modify her request.  We sang some of her favorite hymns, and I will read at least a portion of each Scripture she requested, interspersed with a few brief comments.  In each case, I’ll read the Scripture first, because I want you to have a chance to connect it to Shirley’s life in your own mind. Read more »

October 16th, 2017

Soli Deo Gloria

Whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31).

1 Corinthians 10:23-11:1


Some weeks it’s harder

One of the challenges of preaching is that every week, ready or not, you have to present a message that you’ve got life and faith figured out. Some weeks it’s harder than others.

I like stories that end well. This week they were in short supply. For example, Linda and I went to the Carolina Panthers game Thursday evening. We wore our “Shaq Thompson” Carolina jerseys. I’m such a big fan I have a Carolina Panthers steering wheel cover and own Cam Newton socks my daughter just sent me. We don’t get to go to many games live because they’re on Sunday afternoon. The Panthers should have won with us watching live. They didn’t.

There were more serious stories this week. Read more »

October 9th, 2017

“My conscience is captive to the Word of God.” (Martin Luther)

2 Timothy 3:10-17


Sola Scriptura

Five hundred years ago this month, everything changed. An otherwise obscure and somewhat insecure monk challenged the status quo by posting 95 debate propositions on the door of the university chapel. At least that’s how the story has been told. Nothing has been the same since.

Take, for example, the Protestant principle, sola Scriptura, Latin for Scripture alone, or Scripture only. In its most literal sense, it means that all we need is the Bible to make any decision. In the sixteenth century, that was a critical corrective to the absolute power of the Catholic church. Part of the reason was that only about 10% of the German population could read and write in the early 1500s. The Bible as we know it had been around for a long time, but almost no one owned a personal copy and therefore the Church had to tell them what was in it. Then, as now, those who could read and interpret the Bible got some things right and some things wrong.  Read more »

October 7th, 2017

Meditation – Pastor Bob Thompson

Over 40 years in church ministry, I can count on one hand the number of pastoral care visits I’ve made outside the Atlantic states.  Someone has to be pretty special for me to find a way to connect across hundreds of miles.  Marilyn Woodall was pretty special.

The story begins in the fall of 2014.  Each year at

our church, the senior adults take a trip to the nearby mountains to enjoy the fall colors.  Pastor Lori generally organizes the outings, but when my wife Linda and I are able, we try to go along as well.

So it was about this time three years ago that we were loading up the church bus to head north toward Boone.  Marilyn Woodall had signed up to go, but she was uncharacteristically a no show.  We tried calling her – no answer.  Finally, after delaying the trip well past the arranged meeting time, we knew we had to head out.  We learned later that she had been in an automobile accident. Read more »

October 1st, 2017

“If God could use Jacob, he can use anybody!”  (E. V. Hill)

 Genesis 28:10-22

October 1, 2017

Alone, anxious, and afraid

What happens when life turns out exactly like you dreamed, and it’s somewhere between disappointing and terrifying?

That’s what happened to a man named Jacob and his mother Rebekah.  The two of them conspired to have all of the rights and blessings of Jacob’s older brother Esau, the firstborn, transferred to Jacob.  Their plan worked to perfection.  I don’t know if they ever thought about what would happen next.  Maybe that Esau would say this? “I’m so happy for you, younger brother!  Just think how blessed your future is going to be!  Isn’t our mother wonderful for working all this out?”  Not a chance.

Instead, Esau hated his mother and conspired to kill his twin.  And he could do it.  He was not only capable physically, but emotionally.  Now Rebekah and her Mama’s boy, the homebody tied to his mother’s apron strings, faced the terrifying prospect that Esau would recover that birthright and blessing by murdering his twin.  Jacob and his mother have exactly what they had worked half a century to achieve.  And it’s not what they imagined.  Instead, it’s horrifying.  Read more »