Just Return; He’s Looking for You!

This afternoon I did a live video on Facebook.

I normally do one, a short “Encouragement Time,” every weekday around 2pm.

The subject of today’s video was that of the prodigal son in Luke 15.


You know, I’m not perfect. Are you? Do you ever do things you’re ashamed of?

Do you ever sin? I do. I know perfectly well what it’s like to wonder whether God even wants to hear you confess and repent. I mean, really, hasn’t He heard it all before?

But the story Jesus tells of the Prodigal is one that displays the wondrous love, mercy, compassion, and forgiveness of the Father. Yes, the story is really more about Him than the wayward, muddy, starving son.

When the young man reached his lowest point, there in a hog lot, starving and alone, he remembered the goodness of his father.

When he came to his senses, he said, “How many of my father’s hired workers have more than enough food, and here I am dying of hunger! I’ll get up, go to my father, and say to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight. I’m no longer worthy to be called your son. Make me like one of your hired workers.'” – Luke 15:17-19 CSB

Because he had already spent his inheritance (he thought), and since he had treated his own father like he was dead, there was no reason to expect a “Welcome home!” However, he knew his father’s slaves had it better than what he had – which was nothing and no one. He’d have to take his chances.

So, when the broken and filthy young man returns, the reception he receives is more than he could have ever hoped for. Already looking for him, the father spots his son on the horizon and runs to him! No doubt expecting the worst, the son falls on his face and attempts to make the case for indentured servitude. Maybe this would keep his father from killing him outright.

Humble, prostrate in the dirt, not even looking up to see the tears in his father’s eyes, he expects – or rather hopes for – the customary foot upon his neck, the accepted symbol of becoming a slave. But, instead…

…the feeling of a bristly beard upon his ear…

…an arm on his back…

…a rough palm cradling the other side of his head…

…and tear-drenched kisses?? Not the sole of a sandal? KISSES! Yes, kisses on his neck!

More joyful to receive his son back home than determined to reclaim his honor, the exuberant father drowns out the pitiful son’s pleas and cries out, “My son has come home!”

Instead of putting his foot on the boy’s neck, the father had humbled himself and descended to the place where his lowly child lay in the dirt. Instead of justice, He showed mercy.

And then Amazing Grace called out for a party!

God is the Father. You and I are the Prodigal. No matter how far we’ve drifted or run, He is still looking and waiting.

Let’s go home.

2 Comments

Filed under Bible Study, Christianity, Family, God, grace, Love of God, Relationships and Family

Help a Budding Artist Bloom Into a Tree

Remember how I told you in an earlier post that I had started painting? 

Well, I would LOVE for you to check out the new page (here on this blog) called, “Take Home My Art!”

When I started getting requests for prints, I had to go find a place that would make them. But now that I have, I want to share them with you!

However, just to make it easy for you on a Friday, I will go ahead and copy the page content to this post.

Have a blessed weekend!

-Anthony


Welcome to
“The Pastor’s Brush”

I want to make prints of my paintings available to everyone!
(and maybe make a few dollars)
Therefore, as they become available, I will offer them here for you to purchase.

UPDATE! FREE SHIPPING in the United States!

International purchases will require additional shipping (please contact me by email before purchasing): pastoracbaker@yahoo.com

NOTE: I do not make these prints; they are purchased from iprintfromhome.com. Their professional work is top-tier and will not disappoint.  Click here for a description of Giclee prints. If you want something that’s going to look like the real thing, this is what you want.

Pricing:

Larger and Smaller sizes available upon request (Larger prints cost more; smaller ones cost less)
Matting and framing are available at a reasonable additional cost (provide by L.H. Carter at Warthen Custom Frames)

8.5 x 11 Somerset Giclee Print…. $26
Semi-matte Photographic…. $13.50
9 x 12    Somerset Giclee Print…. $28
Semi-matte Photographic…. $15
12 x 18  Somerset Giclee Print…. $40.50
Semi-matte Photographic…. $20
8 x 8      Giclee Print…. $20

Warthen Lane, Warthen, GA. A typical middle-Georgia dirt road. (11″x15″ paper)

Available in your choice of print size and quality, but I’d recommend the larger Giclee print.

Mitchel Baptist Church, Mitchell, GA (original on 11 x 15 cold-pressed paper)

Available in your choice of print size and quality.

A reproduction of the 1953 baptistery painting that used to hang in Bethlehem Baptist Church, Warthen, GA. (original on 8 x 8 paper)

(A square painting) Available in multiple sizes and quality, but the photographic paper doesn’t look as good with this. I’d recommend the Somerset Giclee.

After the pine trees had been farmed in middle Georgia, not the Apocalypse. (9″x12″ canvas)

Available in multiple sizes of PAPER, even canvas!

There are multiple drawings, paintings, and photos of Bethlehem Baptist Church, but hardly anyone has focused on just the stained glass window in the front. The original painting is on 11 x 15 cold press paper.

 

This is a variation of the original stained glass window painting. Either one can be ordered in your choice of size and paper surface.

To Order:

For easy ordering, click on the PayPal link below and pay with a debit or credit card, or use your PayPal account.
Make sure to specify which painting, which size, and what type of paper in the “purpose” section.

Unless you want your print signed (LET ME KNOW WHEN YOU PAY), all orders will be drop-shipped from the printer and should arrive within a few days 🙂

PLEASE let me know if you have any questions.
My email is PastorACBaker@yahoo.com. You can even call me at (423) 645-8884.

Thank you!

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Filed under art

Did Death Come Calling? Start Deleting

This is probably going to be the most morbid thing I’ve written in a while, but people expect the unexpected from my writing.

When was the last time you scrolled through the contacts on your cell phone in search of a name, then all of a sudden stumbled across a person’s name who died years ago? To be honest, every time I look for someone in my contact list it happens.

But why are those names and phone numbers still in our phones? Why is it, if you’re anything like me, we find it hard to delete them?

Honestly, what do you need a phone number for if the person is dead? Have you given any thought to what might happen should someone get that number and accidently call you while your either driving or alone in a dark room at night? All of a sudden the face of a dead friend pops up on your screen as that special ring tone blares out, “Ah, Ah, Ah, Ah staying alive, staying alive!”

So, here’s a challenge that I’m going to make for all of us: If death came calling, and they answered, delete their number.

But when you do, how about let me know in the comments how many names you wound up deleting!

Creepy, isn’t it?

Update: I found 16 names. I can only bring myself to delete a few. I think, for me, it’s that I don’t want to forget.

8 Comments

Filed under community, General Observations

Good Intentions Don’t Trump Obedience

Good Sunday evening, everybody! Wow! What a day it has been!

I know, when you come to a blog, you expect to read something, right? I know I do. I mean, if I wanted to watch a video I’d log onto YouTube.

But the message that God gave me to preach this morning was a powerful one. I take no credit, for I was fearful of what to say just minutes before the preaching began.

You see, when I wan in Memphis this last week, a passage of Scripture was mentioned, and that was 1 Samuel chapter 15. Only one verse was talked about, but it was at that moment that the Holy Spirit seemed to nudge me, like He was saying, “Preach from this on Sunday.”

It was only when I started reading through the chapter, a familiar one at that, that I began to feel the heartache that Samuel must have felt. I began to see King Saul and the people of Israel in the faces of congregants to which I’ve ministered over the years. The overwhelming tragedy of the story of Saul and his disobedience began to bleed from the pages.

Before long, I took pen to paper and wrote out a simple outline from which I preached this morning.

“When Meaning Well Doesn’t Cut It”

When we do not fully obey God’s commands, we….

I. Delay Justice

II. Display Disregard

III. Deprive Blessings

IV. Deny Reality

V. Distress Those Who Care

Would you please take a few moments and watch the video below? Yes, I know, it’s longer than the typical YouTube videos we all get used to – or is it just me? But without any editing, without even wasting time uploading it to YouTube, what you have here is the whole morning service as seen on Facebook Live.

The sermon starts at around the 15:30 mark.

I’d love your feedback, especially if God spoke to you in some way.

(Please forgive the video quality)

2 Comments

Filed under Bethlehem Baptist Church, Christianity, Preaching, worship

A Tale of Two Birthdays

Happy Birthday to ME?

OH! Look! It’s my birthday! I am a whopping 53 years old today, and I’m excited! Why? I don’t know, but probably because I’m alive.

Yes, 53 years have passed since I was born in Chattanooga, TN. A whole lot of water has gone under the bridge since then.

But just last night, as we were heading home from Waffle House – that’s where we went for my pre-birthday dinner, I noted that, in reality, I didn’t do anything to be recognized for; my mother did all the work! She, of all people, should be celebrated!

It was long overdue, but I said, “I didn’t do anything on my own to be born; it was YOU who made the choice to have me … thank you.”

It was then that my wife said, “Then maybe we should not buy you a birthday present, but get your mom something!”

Ummm, nice, but it doesn’t work like that.

The OTHER Birthday

But then there was another birthday: the day I was born again. And the interesting thing about THAT day is that once again, similar to my earthly birth, the credit really belongs to a parent – my dad.

On a Wednesday night in September, 1973, I realized that I was a sinner in need of a Savior. Unfortunately, although I was convicted of my lostness, I didn’t know what to do about it. That’s when my daddy, my godly father, took notice and asked me what was wrong.

“I’m not saved…I’m going to hell!” I said.

“Do you want to talk about it?” he asked. I nodded.

Then, right in the middle of a song service at 34th Street Baptist Tabernacle, my dad I snuck off to a tiny Sunday school room with tiny tables and tiny chairs, and there he walked me through a classic “sinner’s prayer.”

I was gloriously and miraculously regenerated! I was born again! I was saved!

I can’t remember if I ever actually thanked him for that day, but because of that day I know I’ll get another chance.

Below is what is written in my dad’s tattered old Bible. My new-birth certificate 🙂

Thank you, Mom and Dad.

5 Comments

Filed under Faith, Family, Parenting

Just Be Thankful You’re Alive!

Sunrise over Chattanooga

As I Was Reading…

As I was reading the book of Lamentations (not the happiest of reads), I read a verse I’d like to share with you.

Why should any living person complain, any man, because of the punishment for his sins? (Lamentations 3:39, CSB)

What does this verse mean?

Simply put, if you have been punished for your sins by a Holy God … and you’re still alive … you have nothing to complain about!

Seriously, so often we gripe about the circumstances we endure, yet those circumstances are often the result of our own sinful decisions.

But isn’t it a wonderful thing that we are so loved by our heavenly Father? Because he is rich in mercy, He does not pour out on us the punishment we deserve.

We are alive! We should be grateful!

Let us search and try our ways, and turn again to the LORD. Let us lift up our heart with our hands unto God in the heavens. – Lamentations 3:41-42

Did You See the Sunrise?

There are so many things in this world we could complain about. So often those who complain the most are the ones who have the most. But if there’s anything worth rejoicing about, it is the fact that we serve a God who is rich in mercy.

We don’t deserve anything good, no matter how small or insignificant; we deserve judgement.

However, if I just turn back one page in my Bible I can read verse 22, where it says, “Through the LORD’S mercies we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not.” And, thankfully, they are new every morning!

If you are reading this, then you are alive!

Why not take a moment and praise Him?

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Filed under Bible Study, God, grace

Controversial Tuesday: A White Man Speaks

It’s Controversial

Just think about where we are right now… It’s controversial for a white man, a Caucasian, a human with less melanin in his skin to speak out about almost anything, especially issues revolving around the very color that makes him controversial.

It’s controversial to say that “all lives matter.” It’s controversial to ask why there’s no “white national anthem” to be played at professional ball games. It’s controversial to even suggest that law and order should be maintained instead of rioting being the common response to anything … well, … controversial.

But even the word “controversial” is controversial, now that I think about it. It carries with it the idea of public disagreement and disputation. Yet, what is the common reaction to anything disagreeable or worthy of dispute? Conversation? Deliberation? Compromise? Debate?

No. If you dislike something or someone, the new normal is to riot, burn and break things, and kill cops in cold blood.

But I guess just suggesting that is controversial is controversial. Welcome to “Controversial Tuesday”!

Controversial Fear

So, now that we’ve open the floodgates of controversialness, let me dive into the rushing tide and try to stay alive amidst the foaming white (no offense) waves (because there aren’t black waves, even if I wanted to be politically correct).

As you are aware, the wisest people in the world act and play games for a living. One such game player, LeBron James, recently made a statement that was shared on ESPN’s Twitter feed.

If you can’t see the words in the link I shared above, Mr. James said: “We are scared as Black people in America. … Black men, Black women, Black kids. We are terrified.

OK, so let’s discuss it (like sane people are supposed to do). 

Why are people of color, specifically “Black” people, scared? From what I understand, the men, women, and kids are afraid of the police, right? Because all police are racists and can’t get enough of black men’s blood, right? That is the narrative the media is telling us, correct?

But here’s a bit of a news flash to which the African-American community should pay attention: A lot of white people are afraid of black people! Oh, and here’s something else…. because of the regular reinforcement of “black power” stereotypes, they have every logical reason to be! Add to that the senseless violence that has been perpetrated on white people and police in the name of “Black Lives Matter,” and what are white people supposed to think?

As a matter of fact, let’s look at where we are when considering the potential for incurring personal, bodily harm.

  • A black man or woman might be afraid that a policeman stopping them could lead to a misunderstanding, racial profiling, excessive force, unlawful search and seizure, false charges leading prison sentences, or maybe even death by asphyxiation or gunshot.
  • A white police officer now has to assume that any approaching black man could shoot him in the face for no apparent reason other than hate.
  • A black man or woman can wear garments featuring any and every anti-American, pro-revolutionary, Marxist, racially-provocative, or even blatantly racist image or statement without fear of being questioned due to the overwhelming intimidation factor BLM support has garnered in the media.
  • A white man, woman, boy, girl, or even toddler risks having eggs thrown at her head, drinks poured over them, being mercilessly beaten in the street, or simply shot for nothing more than wearing an American flag or MAGA hat.

So, who’s afraid, LeBron?

Fearing the Answer

What’s the answer to all this? How do we step back from all the violence on the streets? How do we restore a sense of peace that doesn’t assume danger anytime someone of a different skin color approaches us?

Well, random violence and killing police officers in cold blood is not the way to win an argument. Face it, people … black lives matter, but that’s because ALL lives have inherent value being that we are made in the image of God. Killing non-black lives in order to raise awareness that black lives matter is a failed strategy doomed to reap the opposite result.

But the real answer to the violence will probably require more than many are willing to sacrifice. It will require vulnerability, humility, and love. That’s terrifying.

Here’s the real answer: Forgive. 

If you truly want peace, no profiling, no baseless assumptions, and our children growing up colorblind (like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. wanted), then we are going to have to forget vengeance and seeking reparations; we are going to have to start with a new baseline: FORGIVENESS.

Right now we are headed in the direction of chaos, lawlessness, and a never-ending cycle of revenge and death. Ultimately, it will end, but how that will happen should be what truly scares us.

On the one hand, the very thing that the political Left accuses President Trump of wanting will actually come to fruition: tyranny. You see, at some point those in power will have to do what Rome did in order to stamp down insurrections… kill on sight. There will be no more trial by jury, just peace at the edge of the sword.

Think Tiananmen Square, or Russian “peacekeepers.” For example, when the Spetsnaz rolled into Moldova to restore peace after protests had broken out (I was 90 miles away when this happened), they didn’t use rubber bullets.

On the other hand, there is the example of the Waorani tribe in Ecuador (the “Auca” Indians whom Elizabeth Elliot reached with the gospel after they murdered her husband). At one point it was determined that every single man in the tribe who had died had died by the spear. Usually, it was as the result of revenge.

You see, the Waorani culture had been locked in a centuries-old cycle of revenge killing that, according to some, resulted in every death being a homicide, not natural causes or old age. Yet, when they were introduced to the love of Christ, exhibited by the forgiveness Elizabeth Elliot, the cycle was broken!

(See: “Through Gates of Splendor” and “Beyond the Gates of Splendor”)

My advice to LeBron is to clear the court and start a new game: Forgive. 

I’ve spoken. I just hope somebody listens.

8 Comments

Filed under America, current events

Some Things I Will Remember, Even If the NFL Won’t

Nineteen years have come and gone, and many have already forgotten what happened on September 11, 2001, including the BLM-supporting NFL millionaires.

But I won’t forget.

Not only will I not forget, I will choose to remember.

I will remember…

  • that freedom isn’t free, and there are those who want to steal it.
  • that Christ came “to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to [them that are] bound;” therefore America is never more “Christ-like” than when its people shed their blood for the freedom of others, whether they love us, or not.
  • that it wasn’t secularists, militarists, or a bunch of Baptist preachers who crashed four aircraft on that day, killing thousands.
  • the Byzantine Empire and Constantinople – they weren’t converted to Islam through peaceful conversion.
  • who is considered the “Great Satan” and what countries are truly religiously intolerant.
  • the heroes who went back into those buildings to rescue anyone they could.
  • the heroes who fought back and said, “Let’s roll!”
  • the heroes who go into harm’s way for freedom every day.
  • that America was founded by men who knew God; who recognized the hand of Providence; and who knew when to bow a knee and call to God for deliverance.
  • that we (and all freedom-loving people) are in a life-and-death struggle between opposing worldviews – a war. Losing can’t be an option.

I will also choose to remember, and not forget, that America, no matter its current faults and flaws, is made up of a people, who, when push comes to shove, will take the fight for freedom anywhere in the world. We will also defend it. That’s who we are.

Yet, on the day before this anniversary, a bunch of over-paid pigskin passers decided to stay in the locker room while the anthem of the nation that made them rich was played.

I won’t forget that, either.

God Bless America!

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Filed under America, Culture Wars, the future, World View

Who Knew I Could Paint? God Did!

COVID Blessings

Remember what it says in the Book of James? “Count it all joy…” (James 1:2).

Or what about Psalm 118:24? This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.”

My point is that, yes, his whole virus thing has been tragic, but have there been no silver linings? Has God not been at work? Has all the time we’ve been forced to “be still” been worthless? No, God has been at work in ways we would have never slowed down enough for had COVID-19 not been thrust upon us.

As a matter of fact, even if you have been personally affected by the virus, stop right now and thank God for his love, his mercy, and His grace. Thank Him! Praise Him! He is worthy!

Blessed Art

One of the blessings that I received was the realization that I had a talent for painting. Now, I don’t claim to be a Michaelangelo or Bob Ross, but as of this point, a few people have actually given me money for my work, which not only shocked me but affirmed the gift God has given me.

And the art money pays for my watch hobby! No guilt!

But even more, I am finding that the things that I am drawn to paint resonate with others. In just the short time that I’ve been doing this, just a few months, I’ve heard so many comments like:

  • “That reminds me of home.”
  • “That will make her so happy.”
  • “Do you sell your paintings?”
  • “I would buy a print of that.”
  • “The Lord has blessed you.”

Below are a few paintings I have done and will probably have prints made, soon. (UPDATE: Click HERE for prints)

Mitchel Baptist Church, Mitchell, GA (watercolor on 11×15 paper)

A reproduction of the 1953 baptistery painting that used to hang in Bethlehem Baptist Church, Warthen, GA. (watercolor on 8×8 paper)

After the pine trees had been farmed in middle Georgia, not the Apocalypse. (9in x 12in canvas)

Warthen Lane, Warthen, GA. A typical middle-Georgia dirt road. (11×15 paper)

So what do you think? Isn’t that a blessing? I had no idea I could do anything like this until God forced me to sit in a house for a while.

Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth! – Psalm 46:10 (NKJV)

Sometimes what God does is force us to be still, the result being His name is praised throughout all the earth!

Think about how many sermons have gone out through all the world in the last 6 months!

And now there are people like me who have found new ways to give God glory!

Yes, I’m blessed. 

 

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Filed under art, coronavirus, worship

Labor Day – The Nature and Doctrine of Work

Let’s talk about work, shall we? Better yet, I’ll just share with you an amplified outline of a sermon I delivered last year.

And if you think reading this is work, just whistle!

What is it? (Work)

A. It Was Created By God. Note: God was the first to “work” when He created, and He set the example for us to follow in that He worked, then He rested. But God’s work and mand’s work were not synonymous in nature: God created what man was to tend. There are huge theological and anthropological implications to this truth: man does not create; he only tends.

B. It Was Perfect By Design (what to do and where to do it) but spoiled by sin (what he HAD to do and WHERE to do it).

  • Genesis 2:15 “And the LORD God took the man, and put (to settle down, to rest, to set in a certain place) him into the garden of Eden to dress it (till, work, service) and to keep (guard, keep in a certain state) it.”
  • Genesis 3:17-24 – See “In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread . . .”, and “sent,” “till,” and “thrust.” Still a requirement, but no longer “resting,” pleasurable service, or in a state unpolluted by the stain of sin.

C. It Is a Blessing. Ecclesiastes 5:12 – “The sleep of a laboring man is sweet, whether he eat little or much: but the abundance of the rich will not suffer him to sleep.”

D. It Is a Reformer. Ephesians 4:28 – “Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labor, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth.”

E. It Is Mandatory.

  • To ensure you eat. 2 Thessalonians 3:10-11 – “For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat. For we hear that there are some which walk among you disorderly, working not all, but are busybodies.”
  • To provide for your family. “But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel” (1 Timothy 5:8).

F. It Is a Peacekeeper. 2 Thessalonians 3:12 – “Now them that are such we command and exhort by our Lord Jesus Christ, that with quietness they work, and eat their own bread.”

What Is Expected? (Ephesians 6:5-9)

A. To Be Obedient. “(5) Servants, BE OBEDIENT to them that are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in singleness of your heart, as unto Christ;

B. To Be Genuine. “(6) Not with eyeservice [a person who appears to be actively fulfilling his duties, but only when someone is looking], as menpleasers; but as the servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart;

C. To Care. “(7) With good will doing service, as to the Lord, and not to men;

  • See also Colossians 3:23 – ” Whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men.”

D. To Be Fair. “(9) And, ye masters, do the same things unto them, forbearing threatening: knowing that your Master also is in heaven; neither is there respect of persons with him.”

What to Expect

A. Earthly Compensation. Colossians 4:1 – “Masters, give unto your servants that which is just and equal; knowing that ye also have a Master in heaven.”

B. Heavenly Compensation. Ephesians 6:8 – “Knowing that whatsoever good thing any man doeth, the same shall he receive of the Lord, whether he be bond or free.”

C. Fiery Evaluation.

  • If work is sacred, it’s not secular and separate from the spiritual life.
    • Created by God
    • Done for the glory of God
    • Meant to be a witness (Matt. 5:16 “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.”)
    • We must answer to our Heavenly Master for our earthly work (Col. 4:1)
  • Then every work, whether overtly religious or not, has spiritual ramifications and will be tried. 1 Corinthians 3:10-14
    • But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon.
    • (13) Every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire;
    • and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is. (14) If any man’s work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward.”

Conclusion

Where has God placed you? Where is the field in which you labor? What kind of laborer are you? What kind of boss are you? do you view your work, your job, as sacred?

“Just look at your tools…at your needle and thimble…your goods, your scales…everything our bodies do, the external and the carnal, is and is called spiritual behavior if God’s Word is added to it and done in faith.” – Martin Luther (attributed)

Jesus said in John 9:4 – “I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work.”

What kind of worker are you? Are you giving your best for the Master?

Do you whistle or whine? 

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Filed under Bible Study, Preaching, Work