Don’t Ask for a Sign

Just a little while ago, feeling a little down and discouraged – it’s been a rough few days, spiritually speaking – I thought out loud to God, saying:

“Lord, is there anything I wouldn’t give to see something tangible with my own eyes? Something to encourage me. Something to increase my faith.”

Almost immediately I heard a still, small Voice speak to my conscience, “Then it wouldn’t be faith, would it?”

Yeah, it was convicting. Are His promises not enough? Should I be any less obedient to His revealed Word if I never have an epiphany? Is the illumination of the Spirit of any less value than a beam of light?

We walk by faith, not by sight (2 Cor. 5:7).

Without faith, it is impossible to please God (Heb. 11:6).

What I should be praying is, “Lord, I believe! Help my unbelief!” Then, following faith, God can use a “sign” as confirmation.

If the sign comes before the faith, then the product will not be true faith, for “faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Heb. 11:1).

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Filed under Christian Maturity, Faith, Depression

The First Thing This Morning

I woke up this morning and the first thing on my mind was our church, South Soddy Baptist. So many would have given up by now, but God won’t let me. What glory does God receive when a church closes its doors? Why would I want the enemy to pat his minions on their head for a job well done?

There are souls to be reached that other congregations can’t or haven’t. It’s not a competition, but it is most definitely a race! It’s a race to reach people with Christ before it’s too late! We don’t need fewer churches to accomplish the work, we need more! All hands on deck! It’s a race against the clock for the hearts and minds of Soddy Daisy, TN!

You may feel like God is wanting to use you, but you don’t know where. Pray about joining with us.

God may be speaking with you about giving to the Kingdom, but you want to know you’re generosity isn’t being wasted on mansions and million-dollar jets. Pray about supporting this ministry.

What can one little church do? Sometimes all you need are a pair of tweezers, not a team of doctors and an operating room. It’s really that simple. Small churches are the indispensable everyday tools God can use to “snatch out” the few.

But it’s those few for whom God sent His Son to die, just as much as for the many. The One who is worshiped in the “congregation” is also the Savior of the single “whosoever”: the one lost sheep, the one at the well, the one about to be stoned, the one in the chariot, the one in the tree, the one with the disease, the one who is waiting to see for the first time.

We are members of one Body, and when the whole body is healthy, all of us benefit. We are on the wall, doing the work, and we are sounding the trumpet (Neh. 4:20). We need your prayers and support.

Anthony

Visit SouthSoddyBaptist.org

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Filed under Christian Unity, Church

Just a Reminder to My Readers

As more people come to this blog/website, it is possible for some to read and interpret my words in the wrong way. Therefore, I feel I need to clarify some things, especially if you are new.

By the way, thank you so much for visiting!

First, I am a Christian. “Salvation is found in no one else [besides Jesus], for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).  I could go into a list of other Scripture, but I believe that Jesus is the only way to heaven.

Secondly, my eternal salvation is not dependent on my righteousness, but the the grace of a merciful God. “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:” (Ephesians 2:8).

Thirdly, my salvation is not is not based on anything I have done, or can do. “Not of works, lest any man should boast” (Ephesians 2:9).

In the simplest terms, I am a “recovering legalist” because I am still struggling with the scars of a theology that led me to believe God’s love was predicated on my obedience to a list of man-made requirements.

This is more of a rambling post, but what I am typing is what is on my mind at this moment. I don’t want anyone to think that I think that I am better than anyone else, for I know that I am nothing without Christ.

I do not write in order to condemn others. I write about the things with which I sometimes struggle. I write because I care. Sometimes I may get on a soap box, but I can’t totally help it – I am a preacher, you know. It is in my nature to call it as I see it, especially when the dangers of sin are obvious. “Now we exhort you, brethren, warn them that are unruly, comfort the feebleminded, support the weak, be patient toward all [men]” (1 Thessalonians 5:14).

The ultimate goal of this blog is to help others to see that even though God is Holy, His judgment was poured out on Jesus, His only begotten Son, who willingly sought to reconcile those who believe with His Father (Eph. 2:13-17; Col. 1:20-22). No self-imposed requirement, kept to the most minute degree, can save a man, nor make him any more loved. It was while we were yet sinners, that Christ died for us (Romans 5:8); not after we cleaned ourselves up and scored 100 on a list.

I do not want to argue with anyone. I don’t want to offend anyone, either. However, if you get offended by God’s written Word, then that’s between you and Him – don’t blame the messenger.

You may disagree with me at times. You may even disagree with me all the time. Just know that my prayers are that you will grow to love Jesus, God’s Son, the Savior of the world, because He first loved you (1 John 4:19). God sent Jesus into the world so that we might be saved from our sins. He didn’t have to, you know. It was because He loved us that Jesus did what He did. The proof of His love was shown on the cross. “In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him” (1 John 4:9).

Note:  If you don’t have a place where you participate in corporate worship (church), then I hope you would feel welcome at the place I pastor. As an under shepherd of God’s flock, I seek to lead and guide the best way I know how, understanding that I am totally dependent upon the power of the Holy Spirit to bring about any good.

Please pray for me. Put me on your prayer list. As I take a public stand, both on the internet and behind the pulpit, the powers of hell don’t like it, nor me. Pray that I will be able to show grace and love in the words that I write and preach, but also to be increasingly bold as this world continues to spiral downward into wickedness. Pray that God will be glorified in everything I say, write, and do.

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Filed under salvation, Preaching

Deleting Older Posts

Now that we are closing in on the end of another year, I’ve decided to purge my blog of irrelevant, dated, and potentially embarrassing posts.

Have you ever done such a thing?

One thing that makes this difficult to do is my desire to keep a record, a desire document my past in order to remember it, or at least pass it on to my kids and grand kids (if I ever have any).

But at some point I need to accept the fact that filling up my WordPress memory with posts that are never read or not worth reading is nothing short of hoarding. There is only so much memory, and I’m not paying for extra.

So, if you have ever purged your posts, what criteria did you use?

Leave a comment and let’s talk about it.

Blessings to you all!

 

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Filed under blogging

Corresponding With a Muslim About Jesus

A couple of months ago I was asked to visit (as a guest) a mosque here in Chattanooga. It was not my intention to debate anyone. For that matter, I did my best to avoid conversation. However, there was a man there who had met my daughter the month before and had discussed with her the divinity of Jesus.  When he found out that I was there this time, he came over and began to talk to me. In other words, he started it, not me.

Hammad used to go a Baptist church, but converted to Islam after reading the Quran. Later he wrote The Evidence, a small book meant to prove that Jesus was never crucified and that He never claimed to be God. When he sat down to talk with me, he was amazed to discover that I had actually read his book. He asked, “So, what did you think about it?”

“Honestly,” I replied, “I thought it had a lot of errors in it.”

A little taken aback by my forwardness and honesty, he said, “Oh, really? Like what?”

From that point I began to point out places in his work where he had misapplied Scripture and made unrealistic claims that were obviously contradicted by other passages in the Bible. I told Hammad that if he really wanted his arguments to carry more weight, it might be good for him to better learn the Bible he was trying to discredit and deny.

One particular claim he made was that none of Jesus’ disciples saw him crucified, therefore there were no actual witnesses. That is why, as he explained, Jesus appeared to the disciples – to prove to them that He was alive…that He had not actually been killed.

I said, “However, there were witnesses to the crucifixion, and one of those was an actual disciple. Jesus even spoke to him.”

“Who was that?” he asked.

“John. Jesus spoke to him and told him to take care of his mother, Mary, who was also there,” I replied.

“I’ve never read that before. Where’s it written?” Hamaad asked.

“In the book of John.”

“Really?” he said as he looked a little stunned. “Can you send me that in an email?”

“Sure,” I said. “I would be happy to.”

We agreed to correspond by email, therefore I sent him an email addressing some questions he’d asked. He sent an email in response, attempting to show me where I was wrong, using the Quran to prove it. He then went on to ask me to answer one question, if nothing else: “Where did Jesus ever say, ‘I am God’?”

I responded with two back-to-back emails, the first one dealing with the authority of Scripture, the second being the one I’m including in this post.

Yes, it’s long, but it’s here if you want to read it. Who knows, you might find something interesting in it.

Please pray for Mr. Hamaad. Pray that he will come to a better understanding of the faith that he left, that he will actually come to know Jesus as his Lord and Savior.


Greetings,

In my last email, I primarily focused on one thing: the veracity and authority of the Bible. I hope you understood it was not my intent to be offensive in any way, only to point out the differences between you and me, primarily that we have very different opinions of the Bible and the Quran. I hope it was helpful. It will certainly have a bearing on the subject matter of this email, that’s for sure.

There were some other questions you asked, and there were other issues in your book on which I disagreed, but I guess one question you asked me to address is surely one of the most important: Did Jesus ever claim to be God? It’s along the same line as the question Jesus asked His disciples in Matthew 16:13: “Whom do men say that I the Son of man am?

I am well aware that one of the cornerstones of your faith is the shahada: “there is no god but Allah, and Muhammad is the messenger of Allah.” I’m also aware of John 17:3, a passage Muslims typically use in an attempt to show that Jesus denied being God.

But aside from John 17:3, which could be debated at another time, I believe you issued the challenge to show anywhere in the Bible where Jesus actually spoke the words, “I am God.”  You were confident that I would never be able to provide you with those exact words, and rightfully so, for those exact words are not found in the New Testament.

However, I would like for you to consider the fact that even though Jesus never spoke THOSE exact words, He did say other words that carried the same meaning, thereby supporting the conclusion that Jesus did in fact believe and say that He was Divine, and Muslim interpretation of John 17:3 is out of harmony with the whole of Scripture.

But again, if at this point you are looking only for those three words – “I am God” – then nothing I say will be helpful. If you have already determined that you will reject similar statements that carry the same meaning, then I guess what I’m writing is futile. However, I will do my best to give you an answer to what you requested.

To begin with, I would like to take you back to the Old Testament, back to where the Messiah was foretold. Before Jesus was ever born, he was spoken of in terms that were nothing short of shocking: He would be “God with us.”

In Isaiah 7:14 we read the prophecy that the promised Son would be born of a Virgin and called “Immanuel.”

“Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.” – Isaiah 7:14

That this verse was speaking of Jesus was confirmed by Matthew when he recorded the words of the angel of the Lord as he comforted Joseph regarding Mary’s pregnancy:

Matthew 1:23 – “Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.”

If Isaiah 7:14 wasn’t clear enough, Isaiah 9:6 states that the coming Messiah “shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.”

Now, stop and think about that verse for just one moment. Who besides God could be called God? There is no other God but God, correct? Who besides God could be called “everlasting”? Even if this verse was not prophetically speaking of Jesus, is there any other person who could fit the bill? Who else besides God is uncreated (“everlasting”)?

Speaking of “everlasting Father,” what is a characteristic of God that no one else can have? There are several attributes that are unique to God (omnipotence, omnipresence, omniscience, etc.), but just looking at this one thing, only God can be eternal, correct? Only God has existed before time was created. Only God has always been, always in the present, eternal.

You asked me to show anywhere Jesus said, “I am God.” Well, based on the above verses, it would seem, then, that a clear example would be found in John 8:58

“Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am.”

Speaking to the Pharisees, Jesus was clear enough to cause them to pick up stones to kill Him. In the present tense and indicative mood He made it crystal clear He was more than a man, more than a prophet, but actually the eternally existent, the “I am.” What did God say to Moses from the burning bush (Exodus 3:14)?

I Am that I Am…

The Pharisees knew exactly what Jesus meant when He said that, and that is why they wanted to kill Him.

Again, I believe that what you wanted from me was to show anywhere in the Bible where Jesus actually made the claim or said the words that He was God, correct? However, would you accept any other verses in the Bible that claim it for Him? For example, there is the classic passage of John 1:1-3. There, Jesus is referred to as the Word of God who was “with” God and “was” God.

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.” – John 1:1-3

You know, many like yourself argue that Jesus was a created human being, not eternal. However, the above verses plainly state that all things were made by Him, and nothing that was made (and that would include any created being) was made without Him. Verse 4 of the same chapter goes even further to make this truth clear: Jesus was not just a man; He was the light and life of all men, which necessitated His pre-existence.

“In him was life; and the life was the light of men.” – John 1:4

And besides the many other places, the Book of Revelation makes it pretty clear Jesus was way more than just another prophet:

Behold, he cometh ewith clouds; and every eye shall see him, and they also which pierced him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him. Even so, Amen.  I am Alpha and Omega, hthe beginning and the ending, saith the Lord, which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty” (Rev. 1:7-8).[i]

For that matter, it is in Revelation 1:17-18 that we read where Jesus Himself spoke of His death and resurrection: “…Fear not; I am the first and the last: I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death.”[ii]

The “I Am” statements…

Now, if you will notice, just like in the last verse, there are a lot of places where Jesus claimed “I am…” this or “I am…” that.

In seven passages John records the well-known “I Am” sayings where Jesus describes himself using a graphic metaphor: “I am the bread* of life*” (6:35, 41, 48, 51); “I am the light* of the world” (8:12; 9:5); “I am the door of the sheep” (10:7, 9); “I am the good shepherd*” (10:11, 14); “I am the resurrection and the life” (11:25); “I am the way, the truth, and the life” (14:6); and “I am the true vine*” (15:1, 5).[1]

In each one of these statements Jesus was doing a lot more than illustrating with metaphor; He was declaring fact. Jesus didn’t say that He was just a door, or a way, or a light; He claimed to be THE Door, THE Way, THE Light. He emphatically declared that He was THE Truth and THE Life.

By declaring these things, Jesus was saying that all other “truth” was subordinate to Him. He was saying that there was NO other way – no path, no road, no pilgrimage, no hajj – to God but through Him. But even more, He was declaring that He was more than the One who spoke or demonstrated truth; He WAS Truth! The same applied to all the other “I AM” statements.

The “Truth” Claim…

If Jesus had never once said the exact words “I am God,” He essentially said the very same thing with the “I Am” statements. Why? Let’s just consider the word “truth.”

The Bible does not provide a systematic account of the nature of truth in either its theological or philosophical dimensions. Nevertheless great prominence is given to the idea of truth in Scripture because God is the God of truth (Pss 31:5; 108:4; 146:6) who speaks and judges truly (Pss 57:3; 96:13). God is the God of all truth because he is the Creator, and it is impossible for him to lie (Heb 6:18).[2]

If Jesus had been only a man, there would have been an element of untruth in Him. As a matter of fact, 1 John 1:8-10 states that if we say we have no sin, then we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. Even worse, if we say that we have not sinned, we make God a liar, and his Word is not in us! How, then, could Jesus have claimed to be “the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6)?

What man, even a perfect man, could be the actual embodiment of Truth? Only God, who took on flesh, could claim such a thing and not be a total liar.

Like I said in the last email, all that I’ve just written will carry little weight unless you believe that the Bible is the inspired Word of God. If you approach it as flawed, misinterpreted, corrupted by men, and superseded by the Quran, then does it really matter what Jesus said? If your only accepted record of Jesus is found in a book that was written long after the Gospels, over 400 years after the last book written by John (around 90 A.D.), what does it matter what Jesus said in the Bible? He could have plainly said “I AM GOD!” a thousand times, but it wouldn’t matter to you, would it?

Think about it… You trust the words of a denier of the divinity of Jesus over the record of His own words and those who actually walked with Him.

The only logical way for you to prove to me that Jesus is not God, or at least that He did not claim to be God, is to show it to me in the cannon of Scripture. And as I have just now written, that will be a difficult challenge, indeed.

Please forgive me if I have in any way offended, for I am not fully versed in what is appropriate and what is inappropriate when discussing Islam with a Muslim. It is my hope that since you came from a Christian background, you can discern my intentions are genuine and in the spirit of love.

I would like to close this email by suggesting you ask for a copy of the late Nabeel Qureshi’s book No God but One: Allah or Jesus? Qureshi was a Muslim who converted to Christianity, but only after he was able to answer for himself the question you have asked me. You might find his perspective enlightening.

Thank you, again, for the opportunity to correspond, and happy Thanksgiving!

Respectfully,

Anthony Baker


[1] G. M. Burge, “‘‍I Am‍’ Sayings,” ed. Joel B. Green and Scot McKnight, Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1992), 354.

[2] Walter A. Elwell and Barry J. Beitzel, “Truth,” Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1988), 2108.

[i] The Holy Bible: King James Version, Electronic Edition of the 1900 Authorized Version. (Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 2009), Re 1:7–8.

[ii] The Holy Bible: King James Version, Electronic Edition of the 1900 Authorized Version. (Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 2009), Re 1:17–18.

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Filed under Apologetics, Christianity, God, Theology, Witnessing

It Will Be OK

I was lying in bed last night, setting the alarm on my iPhone, when it occurred to me that I have not been writing on my blogs very much lately.

Just a few minutes ago I thought it would be a good idea to at least go back to the archives and find something interesting or entertaining to repost, you know, just to keep the activity going.

But then I read a post from Wally Fry. He’s going through some tough stuff right now with a job loss and the impending death of this beloved father-in-law due to brain cancer.

Life can be hard. Devastating, to be honest.

But, even though what I’m about to say may not sound comforting on the surface, it’s a foundational truth that can help through times like this – times like a lot of us are going through right now: Others have been down this road before us, and they say, “It will be OK.”

What I know is that we live in a world that is broken by sin. One day it will be made new. One day all the answers we are looking for will finally be answered. On that day we will finally be able to understand what our finite brains are incapable of understanding, now.

One day the redeemed in Christ will stand in the presence of Holiness and look back on what God was doing through all these trials and say with utter amazement, “WOW!”

Until then, this is the day that the Lord has made; I will rejoice and be glad in it. It’s a choice I will make – by faith – that the One who created the day is with me in the day and will never leave me nor forsake me to its uncertainties and fears. I am not alone in the furnace. I’m not alone in the boat that seems to be sinking. I’m not alone in the field with not enough provision to feed the thousands.

And if you know Christ, neither are you.

It will be OK.

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Filed under Faith, Family, Life Lessons, Life/Death, Struggles and Trials

Guaranteed With Blood

Let it never be forgotten that although our freedoms – our true freedoms – are given by God, those who would suppress them are always on the offense and must be defended against.

Therefore, every freedom that we as Americans enjoy are freedoms which have been preserved, at one time or another, with blood. From the first drops shed by those brave souls in our fight for independence, to Maj. Brent R. Taylor, a reservist in the Army National Guard and the mayor of North Ogden, Utah who died on November 3 in Afghanistan, blood will always be the price.

Blood is the price of freedom. The truth is the same for Christians. Our freedoms as Americans have been secured by the blood of its patriots, while the freedom of the Believer has been bought by the blood of Jesus Christ.

That being said, the rights affirmed in the First Amendment of the United States Constitution – particularly that of the freedom of religion and the free exercise thereof – is one that is being taken advantage of less and less. A growing number of those who say they believe in God rarely take advantage of the freedom to assemble for worship without fear of government retribution.

In other words, on Veteran’s Day, a day when we remember and honor those who have fought for our country and for our freedom, one of the most important freedoms for which they fought will be treated like last week’s trash and thrown to the curb. And to think, it was bought with blood!

But even more, what about the blood of Jesus Christ? Our freedom from the bondage of sin and death was bought with His blood – blood that should have been ours – yet, how many of those who’ve been set free will gather together to celebrate the One who freed them?

Your freedoms have been guaranteed with blood, so why not treat them with the respect they are due? Exercise your right.

Photo taken today in front of the Catoosa County Courthouse in Ringgold, Georgia.

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Filed under America, worship