Pastor's Pen
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July 13, 2016, 12:29 PM

How to Line Up Your Fourth Putt

How To Line Up Your

Fourth Putt


   I had a group of golfing buddies in another church I served and for a going away gift they gave me a book titled: How To Line Up Your Fourth Putt. The chapters are only about two to three pages with titles such as: When Trajectory Is Important On Short Putts; When To Chip From The Tee; How To Avoid The Water When You Lie 8 In The Bunker; Telling Jokes When Your Opponent Is In The Bunker; Crying And How To Handle It; How to Rationalize A 7-Hour Round; and my favorite, What To Do When You’ve Parred The Course By The 11th Hole. O.K., a couple more: How To Find A Ball That Everyone Else Saw Go In The Water; When To Blame The Caddie, and Why Your Wife No Longer Cares That You Birdied The 4th.

   I would suggest that everyone of us who play the game have experienced one or more of these situations! It gives you a feeling of lostness, aloneness, and sometimes failure. And the next time you are on the course, one of your buddies experiences what you did and you begin to think, “Hey, I’m not alone.” Several years ago, I was playing with three friends at Dornick West (Lake View) and one player was trying to hit his “third” shot out of a bunker and said, “I’m getting ready to play one of the finest courses in the country in a couple of weeks and I can’t get out of this little trap.” Been there! Done that! It’s a slipping feeling!

   Have you been away from God and God’s Word and maybe from church for a while? You feel a little eerie when you enter the sanctuary. But when it is all over you begin to think, “Wow! What a sermon I heard in the anthem.” The minister might have put you to sleep. Trust me, all of us who preach have had those Sundays. But you begin to think, “Where can I begin to get back into God’s word?” Even before you begin to think about going to a Sunday school class (where you might be called upon to read or answer a question), you want to know where to begin.

   I have been asked that question a number of times and here is where I suggest you begin: begin reading John’s Gospel in the New Testament. It’s the Fourth Gospel and is full of long conversations Jesus had with a variety of people. If you have a Red Letter Edition of the Bible, you will find a lot of red in John’s Gospel. The first chapter sets the stage for what’s to come in the other 20 chapters. John writes: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him … And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen His glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth” (John 1:1-3, 14). Give John a try, it could ignite something new in your summer reading! 07.10.2016

Dr. Rick Baggett is pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Ardmore (the church with the bells) and can be reached at:



June 27, 2016, 1:35 PM

Where Have You Been?




   I have a friend with the initials, Millard Ingram, and when I call to check-up on Millard and his wife, I say, “Millard, it’s Rick,” and often he says, “Where have you been?” I tell him that I have been working long hours and that usually gets a good laugh out of him. I share that little experience because I took a short break from writing this article and I’m truly grateful to those of you who have emailed me or called me and asked, “Where have you been?”

   “Where have you been?” has a biblical ring to it … can you hear it? “Waiting” is often mentioned in the Bible and in the English interpretation, this word is represented by two overlapping concepts: “to wait for” and “to hope in” someone or something. Waiting can be quite literal as in waiting for something or someone. In Genesis 8:12, Noah waits for the flood to subside.

   Another important and, I believe, a central focus on waiting is found in the Psalms! You hear it more often than not in the phrase, “to wait for the Lord.” In Psalm 25 we read, “Lead me in your truth, and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all day long” (v. 5). In Psalm 27 we read, “Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord” (v. 14). One of my favorites is Psalm 130, “I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in His word I hope” (v. 5). Eighteen times in the Psalms we read, “wait for the Lord.”

   Waiting for the Lord is an act of faith that God will hear your prayers or the prayers of the people in church and will act on their behalf. But “waiting” is also a term in complaint or lament verses that says God is distant. In Psalm 69 we read, “I am weary with my crying; my throat is parched. My eyes grow dim with waiting for my God” (v. 3).

   In the New Testament, “wait” has the same meaning as in the Old Testament, such as to wait for someone or something. And I would suggest that “waiting” also has theological and spiritual meanings.  Do you remember the time, in Matthew’s Gospel when the disciples of John the Baptist come to Jesus and ask, “Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another?” (11:3). This question is, of course, is about waiting for the Messiah that is the center of much of the Gospel’s theology. Most scholars agree that this is the central theme of Matthew, to show that Jesus is the Messiah. Here is how his gospel begins, “An account of the genealogy (beginnings) of Jesus The Messiah …”

   I have some friends who are impatient when it comes to this “waiting on the Lord.” But waiting on the Lord and the coming again of God is clearly a spiritual endeavor that requires patience and growth. I get and hopefully give some strength and patience every Sunday when I close the worship service with these words: Go in peace, and serve our Lord with gladness. And remember, out of the goodness of God you and I were born. And out of the mercies of our Lord Jesus Christ, we have been forgiven.

Comfort one another with these words. And, remember, He goes with us, He promised. He said, “I will be with you always, even to the end of the age.”

Dr. Rick Baggett is pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Ardmore (the church with the bells) and can be reached at:



May 26, 2016, 9:19 AM

"Make Judea Great Again"


“Make Judea Great Again”

Mark 1:14-20


   For some of us, the conditions in the Gospel of Mark are somewhat analogous to the current political situation in the United States as different presidential candidates debate one another, offer new plans, and present competing visions in seeking our votes in the Democratic and Republican primaries. Imagine someone in Jesus’ day wearing a hat that reads, “Make Judea Great Again!” Well, just a thought.

   Have you ever known anyone who didn’t carry on the family business? I mean someone who went to college and decided not to come home and go to work in the family store.  We have no idea how many generations the Zebedee Family had been fishing on the Sea of Galilee, but it was quite likely a lot more than four. In that culture and country, like in many today, a small family business can be handed on not only through generations, but through centuries. It’s safe and secure; people know what they’re doing. If times are hard, the usual answer is simply to work a bit harder.

   But then along came the young prophet-type from Nazareth, and told James and John, and their neighbors Peter and Andrew, to drop it all and follow Him. And they did. Imagine, walking by the seashore and asking fishermen to drop it all … leave the family business and follow a totally different track.

   Only when you think a bit about the sort of life Peter, Andrew, James and John had had, and the totally unknown future Jesus was inviting them into, do you understand just how earth-shattering this little story was and is. Leave everything you’ve known, all your security, your family (the family solidarity was hugely important in that culture), and follow Jesus.

   I want to suggest that the way Mark tells the story sends echoes ringing back through the Scriptures, the larger narrative of God’s people. “Leave your country and your father’s house,” said God to Abraham, “and go to the land I will show you.”  Abraham, like Peter and the others, did what he was told, and went where he was sent. Mark is hinting to his readers that the old family business of the people of God is taking a new turn, and is calling a new people to a new adventure. And the name of this new adventure is “The Kingdom of God.” To be continued. 05.22.2016

Dr. Rick Baggett is pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Ardmore (the church with the bells) and can be reached at:



April 19, 2016, 10:20 AM

All You Need is Love, Love.........Love is All You Need



All You Need is Love, Love

Love is All You Need


   Do you remember that old, but great, Beatles song “All You Need Is Love”? “ Love, love love.

Love, love, love. Love, love, love … There’s nothing you can do that can’t be done … Nothing you can sing that can’t be sung … Nothing you can say but you can learn how to play the game … It’s easy … All you need is love … Nothing you can know that isn’t known … Nothing you can see that isn’t shown … Nowhere you can be that isn’t where you’re meant to be … It’s easy … All you need is love … Love is all you need …”

   There is a bit more to the song and you can interpret it in many ways. I choose to take it back to Jesus … it’s easy … In another way He said, “All you need is love.” Listen to how Jesus said it to the disciples just a few hours before He was arrested.

   “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you … I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last, so that the father will give you whatever you ask him in my name. I am giving you these commands so that you may love one another.” (John 15:12-17).

   On first glance, this may seem like an easy command: “Love each other.”  It is easy to love our friends. They have our values; there is good chemistry. Friendship opens us up to vulnerability and sharing not just the good in our lives, but also our troubles.  It means that we share when our faith journey is strong and when we fail.  The fruit that we bear is that we show friends that even though we may have a good life, we often struggle and are not perfect.

   The harder part is that Jesus commands us, as His disciples, to love all people.  This is willful love. Equally important is that we are open to and loving in listening, responding, and helping whenever we can to the struggles of others.  We bear the fruit of opening our hearts and hands to all people.  Let’s be honest, there are some Christians we like, and there are some we don’t like. Even as a pastor of a church I have heard that there people who don’t like me. No matter what your situation is in life, we are called upon to love each other even when we don’t like each other. (Sounds like another Beatles song to me.) We need to love each other when at times we don’t like each other, because love is God’s command to all members of His family.

   The Bible passage begins and ends with the command of “Love one another.”  This means it is not an option in our life. We need to make daily efforts to respond with love … regardless of how we feel … toward all people at all times.

    And doesn’t love really mean selfless service to others. How we can care for those around us? The extra time at the Soup Kitchen saying hello to the folks who enter those doors, helping an elderly person with their coat, and saying “Thank You” to our Sunday school teachers are all expressions of love. Being disciples in service to others is love too.  04.17.2016

Dr. Rick Baggett is pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Ardmore (the church with the bells) and can be reached at:



April 12, 2016, 2:58 PM

You Can Come Back From.............




You Can Come Back From …


   The cartoon was “Dennis the Menace.”  The scene is bed-time prayers. He’s kneeling. He has his hands folded. He’s looking heavenward. He has on his pajamas, cowboy hat, cowboy boots, and his six-shooter is strapped to his side.  The caption under the cartoon reads: “I’m here to turn myself in.”

   Have you ever felt like Dennis? Here is a painfully powerful word. It is the word: Failure. I would imagine that most of us reading this article have somewhere in life faced academic failure, or spiritual failure, or moral failure! Failure is a word that has the power to turn us red inside and outside.  The game was over. The roaring stadium was now silent, empty of fans. The coach entered the locker room. Helmets down on the floor, jerseys pulled off and piled in a wash bin.

“I just want you boys to know that I am real proud of the way you played this night,” he said. “Real proud. We didn’t win, but we did prove to a lot of people what we could do. It was a moral victory.”

   On the way out, a lineman turned to the quarterback and asked, “What’s a moral victory?” The quarterback said, “It’s what a coach tells you when you lose the game. It’s what a coach says to a team when he knows it’s his last season. It’s not who won or lost, but how well they played the game.”  Vince Lombardi

 was right: “Show me a guy who really believes all that stuff about failure not being failure and I’ll show you someone who has played too long without a helmet.”

   Failure … it’s that sinking emptiness in the stomach when you look down the list of grades on the exam. There are your initials, at the bottom.  Failure! You know, the Bible is full of people who fail. That tells us two things about the Bible. Number one, God inspired it. If you or I had been writing it, we would have covered up all those failures!  It also tells us that the God who wrote this Book is a God of grace. It is just a blessed reality that God works with broken and wounded people.

  Take what happened to Peter before the resurrection of Jesus and after the resurrection.

Before, Peter denied knowing Jesus three times. And following the resurrection, when Jesus met the disciples on the sea shore, Jesus said to Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you truly love me …” “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you”.” Then three times, Jesus told Peter “Feed my sheep.” (John 21:15-19). Peter had a problem and Jesus was there to help him get over it by forgiving him.

   I asked a counselor once, “How long does it take somebody to get over a problem?” His answer, “About as long as they take to get in.” Three times Peter failed, three times Jesus asked, “Do you love me?” I hope you can believe with me that God is more interested in where you’re going than where you’ve been! You can come back from failure and become so well that you bring glory to God even by how you live in the now and in the future.

   Failure is a painfully powerful word. But could I suggest a more powerful word … forgiveness. I believe that the most therapeutic idea in the world is the forgiveness of sins. Trust in Jesus.

Dr. Rick Baggett is pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Ardmore (the church with the bells) and can be reached at:



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