Plowing the Corners In Soddy

Old VHS Tapes

Just the other day I came across a couple of old VHS tapes in my study. You do know what they are, don’t you?

The ink on the labels was so faded that I couldn’t tell what had been recorded on them. So, I took them back to the house and popped them into the old player to see what little bit of history had been archived.

To my surprise, one of the VHS tapes contained the recording of my father’s funeral back in 1991! It was a little disturbing at first, but I decided to watch some of it, especially since I didn’t remember much about what was said that day.

One of the men whom I had invited to speak was Evangelist John Mitchell, a former pastor of ours and a man who knew my dad well. During his short sermon in honor of my father, he gave an illustration that eloquently described him.

The Illustration

When describing my father, Bro. John Mitchell put it this way:

“What was Terry Baker’s real aspirations? I mean, what did he really want out of life? Well, Terry was satisfied, as few people are, with just doing little things for Jesus.

I heard the story one time of a fellow who had a couple thousand acres that he farmed, and he had these big John Deere tractors with 24-ft harrows. In other words, with one swoop with that tractor they would plow a 24-foot strip…it would take no time to get those big, huge fields done.

But there was only one problem: those fields were so big, when it turned around, it couldn’t catch the corners, and the corners were always left…and they had to get somebody to come in and do those corners because the ground was just as fertile and grew just as much in the corners as it did out in the middle.

It seemed like to me, knowing Terry 20 years, that he was satisfied in just doing the corners. He never did look for big stuff. He never was, all the time I knew him, disappointed in doing the little things for the Lord Jesus Christ. He felt like, as I do, it was just as important as that fellow out there with the big John Deere tractor…

Terry didn’t aspire to be somebody great with his name in the papers. He just wanted to do whatever he could for the Lord Jesus Christ. I would to God we had more Terry Bakers who had that type of attitude.”

In other words, my dad was content plowing the corners, for that was important, too.

My Corner

So, if my dad was here today (and I wish he was), I think he would be proud of me. Today is the 2nd anniversary of when I became pastor of a small corner in the big field of Hamilton County, Tennessee: South Soddy Baptist Church.

While others have been tasked by the Owner of the field to drive the big plows, He has entrusted me with this little spot – because the harvest is that important.

When I was younger I had aspirations of plowing larger plots of land, but that was when I thought it was MY field…my ministry, not God’s. But now that I’ve matured and learned to be more like my late father, a humble man of God, there is joy and contentment in doing the bidding of the One who called me to the work…

…even in the corners.

Photo credit: Haley Baker (visit SouthSoddyBaptist.org)

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Filed under Christian Maturity, Church, Family, Megachurch, ministry, Preaching

Why Some People Are Legalists

Every once in a while I think it is important for me to get back to the whole reason I started this blog: legalism within the Church. There are plenty of other people talking about Bruce Jenner, don’t you think?

In the following article I will attempt to:

  • define legalism, and then
  • give five possible reasons one might want to become, or remain, a legalist.

Defining Legalism

Before we look at why a person would want to be a legalist, let’s make sure we understand what legalism actually is. Below are a couple of good definitions.

The first one is from GotQuestions.org (which I recommend). I would advise reading the whole piece on their website. The following is an excerpt:

The word “legalism” does not occur in the Bible. It is a term Christians use to describe a doctrinal position emphasizing a system of rules and regulations for achieving both salvation and spiritual growth. Legalists believe in and demand a strict literal adherence to rules and regulations. Doctrinally, it is a position essentially opposed to grace. Those who hold a legalistic position often fail to see the real purpose for law, especially the purpose of the Old Testament law of Moses, which is to be our “schoolmaster” or “tutor” to bring us to Christ (Galatians 3:24).

The second definition can actually be found on Wikipedia. Believe it or not, it is a pretty in-depth article. Again, here is portion:

Legalism, in Christian theology, is a sometimes-pejorative term referring to an over-emphasis on discipline of conduct, or legal ideas, usually implying an allegation of misguided rigour, pride, superficiality, the neglect of mercy, and ignorance of the grace of God or emphasizing the letter of law over the spirit. Legalism is alleged against any view that obedience to law, not faith in God’s grace, is the pre-eminent principle of redemption…Legalism refers to any doctrine which states salvation comes strictly from adherence to the law. It can be thought of as a works-based religion. 

But to be fair, most people that I would label legalists do not believe salvation is earned by works of any kind (at least if they’re Baptists). No, the vast majority of legalists to which I refer (and to which I used to belong) use a system of rules and regulations to determine spirituality, spiritual growth, and favor with God and other believers.

Legalists believe, as a whole, in the redemptive work of the cross, but set a universal standard which defines holiness for all who claim Christ, regardless of cultural or societal considerations. To the legalist, anyone who behaves or believes differently than his perceived standards must not be “right with God.

So, what would make a person want to be, or remain, a legalist? The following five reasons are ones which I have observed throughout the years.

5 Reasons for Being a Legalist

1) Some people don’t know any different.

When I was growing up, I did not know anything different than what I was exposed to in our small churches, missionary conferences, revivals, or Christian schools. Even though I believe that most of what I was taught was doctrinally sound, I was not allowed to examine different viewpoints, even those of other Baptists (specifically if they were anything other than “Independent, Fundamental,” etc.) Many are still in this situation. Tragically, they are content with their ignorance. They refuse to consider the fact that they may be wrong on a particular point.

Even when Scripture is plain and simple, because of the secluded nature of certain groups, legalists would rather stick their heads in the sand than risk being wrong. Being wrong might make someone else, even another denomination, right about something. Heaven forbid!

2) Some came from an unholy lifestyle and now seek to redeem themselves (or their consciences).

Some people are so ashamed of their past that they go overboard in trying to live a life of holiness. They see in their past a link between so-called “worldly activities” and their fall into depravity. In an effort to show they are no longer the person they used to be, and in order to avoid temptation, they strictly avoid certain activities deemed “worldly.” Sadly, even though they mean well, they project their own weaknesses onto others, therefore expecting others to abide by the same level of austere living or be seen as worldly. However, in many cases, appearances are not what they seem. The very ones who are so legalistic in some areas of life wind up being the ones with the biggest weakness in that area. Their overbearing attitudes, in many cases, may only be the big doors hiding skeletons in their closet.

3) Some desire to be controlled, to be told what to do.

As strange as it may sound, some people don’t like to think for themselves, nor do they like being responsible for their own choices. It is sort of like people whom I have seen that were once under a totalitarian government: when they no longer had a dictatorial system telling them what to do, they either lost all control or had no motivation to do any good.

Legalistic churches provide the lazy or immature Christian a list of “do’s and don’ts” so that he/she doesn’t have to search the Scripture for guidance. It is much easier this way. If the pastor says something is wrong and that God would not approve, then that’s it – end of discussion. Having a list is safe and doesn’t require much thought. Essentially, the legalist would rather be a marionette than mature.

4) Some may want to control others.

Freedom is dangerous. Freedom allows for movement and change. Freedom allows for the individual to be led by God in a specific direction that may or may not be God’s will for another. Freedom takes power away from those who would want to control others for their own edification or gratification. On the other hand, legalism keeps the sheep under strict control by encouraging tattling and fear of being ostracized.

There are pastors, well-intended men, who would rather their people live under a specific set of guidelines than question long-held, man-made traditions. These leaders are afraid to lose their congregations to the world, but also to other churches. They may even find comfort in controlling others due to their own inadequacies. Much like emperors and dictators, they manipulate weak Christians in order to maintain their little kingdoms. Rarely do they admit weakness and often micro-manage every aspect of ministry. Legalistic leaders have to be in control.

5) Some people are more afraid of God than in love with Him.

So many people that I have known (and used to be like) were more afraid of losing their relational standing with God than anything else. Legalism tends to give some the assurance that God is pleased with them.

I wonder how it really was for Enoch as he walked with God. Many modern preachers are quick to make the application of Enoch’s walk with God to the way we act in this world, but they make little of the relationship implied by the narrative (Genesis 5:24). In reality, very few lists would even be needed if one had an abiding relationship with Jesus Christ.

angry godTo the legalist, God is not a friend: He doesn’t laugh…He speaks in Old English…and He holds a grudge because of what it took to buy the sinner’s salvation. When one thinks of God as always looking for an opportunity to send judgment, then being legalistic is the safest way to go. No one wants to be hit with a lightning bolt, you understand.

So, are you a legalist? Why, or why not? Are there any reasons I missed?

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Filed under baptist, legalism

Are You Glad?

I am!

church glad to go

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Filed under Church, worship

Are You Doing Any Quiet Construction?

Just across the street from the parsonage and the church where I pastor, there’s a house being built where an old one used to stand.

Every morning, and throughout the day, one can hear all kinds of noises coming from that direction, like hammers, saws, and a few unknown tongues. Theses are the common sounds associated with construction.

But what you will not be able to hear are the painters, the finishers, the electricians, and the plumbers doing their work. The loud noises made by the initial builders and framers might be signs something is happening, but much of what must be done before the house is usable happens on the inside … in the quiet.

Meditate on that truth for a while.

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Filed under Bible Study, Christian Maturity, General Observations, Prayer

Abortions, Not Roses

Unbelievable

It’s now been 5 years ago that the former president of Planned Parenthood, Cecile Richards, was suggesting gifts for Valentines Day, and I feel the story is worth repeating.

I really appreciated it, too, because, as a guy who wants to impress his girl, every little suggestion for something new can help.

So, what did Ms. Richards suggest? What did she share on her Twitter account that we men needed to know? What, pray tell, are we supposed to go out and purchase this year?

Roses? Candy? Diamonds? A new car? Tickets to the opera? A new dress? A year’s supply of lipstick? Dinner at Tavern on the Green? A Ruth’s Chris gift certificate? A singing candy gram? A day at the most expensive beauty salon? A exotic vacation to Hawaii?

abortionistNo. According to Cecile Richards, the one thing that EVERY woman REALLY needs for Valentines Day is…no joking…an ABORTION!

Interesting…don’t you think? I wonder how that would work? Maybe it would go like this…

“Sweetie, you’ll never guess what I got you this year for Valentines Day!”

“OH! I’m so excited! What is it my dearest?”

“Are you sitting down? I bought you an abortion! Isn’t it great?!”

“AAAHHH! You are SOOO sweet! You knew that little parasite that started growing inside of me after we had pre-marital, un-protected, lust-driven sex was going to hamper my hedonistic desire for consequence-free pleasure, didn’t you? I knew you cared.”

“Hey! Don’t mention it! There’s a lot more where that came from. So, once you survive having that blob of non-human cells ripped out of your uterus, let’s forget all about all that free contraception we’re being offered, and just go for it! What do you say?”

“You really know how to treat a woman, don’t you?”

God help us! Have mercy on us! 

Lord in heaven, open Cecile Richards’ eyes to the murderous lunacy that is her idiotic suggestion!

Wouldn’t a box of chocolates and a dozen roses be a much better suggestion?

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Filed under Abortion, Culture Wars, current events, General Observations

Lean Not On Your Inner Counselor

I would encourage you to listen to the short sermon I just recorded for the radio. I posted it to Proverbial Thought, first. I’m sharing that post here for you.

Proverbial Thought (& More)

The following is a sermon I just recorded for radio. It will be broadcast on Sunday, Feb. 17, 2019 at 2:45 pm (Eastern).

I would appreciate your prayers, both for those who might listen and for myself.

God knows what we all go through, and just like the three Hebrew children in the fiery furnace, He is walking with us, whether we recognize Him, or not.

If you have a moment, listen to this short sermon covering Proverbs 3 and Psalm 13. If it is a blessing to you, share it with someone else who might be going through a difficult and trying time.

https://anthonycbaker.sermon.net/main/main/21329008

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Happy Birthday, Valerie!

Before I say anything else…

Before I post another, well, post…

Before I write about things that matter little to me in the big scheme of things…

Before another minute of this beautiful (and seriously rainy) day is wasted…let me say,

valerie“Happy Birthday!” to my lovely wife, Valerie (named after Valentines Day).

She is the sugar that makes my life sweet.

She is my sunshine on a cloudy day.

She is my anchor when I start to drift.

She is the unflinching lover when I don’t even love myself.

She’s cement that holds this family together.

She’s the warrior that fights on her knees.

She’s the one who regularly reminds me that there is One who has everything in control, even when I want to throw in the towel.

She’s the one who never gives up, always tries one more time, and considers “it all joy.”

I’ve not given her the life she really deserves, but I know one day God will reward her for all she sacrificed for me.

Happy birthday, Valerie! I LOVE you!


Once again I’m gonna share this video with a song I wrote several years ago just for her. I hope you enjoy it.

But please! Somebody pass this song on to a country star so I can make enough money to buy her something nice for our 25th anniversary…

seriously, I’m a starving song writer (BMI), so hook me up.

Happy Birthday, Valerie! I love you!

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Filed under current events, music, Relationships and Family