Author Archives: Anthony Baker

About Anthony Baker

Husband, dad, pastor/preacher/teacher, musician, and Time Magazine's Person of The Year in 2006 (no joke!). Loves coffee (big time), good movies, and sarcastic humor. His tombstone will read, "I Can't Believe He Actually Said That!" Most importantly, a servant of the Lord Jesus Christ. All glory belongs to Him.

“Thankful” On My Mind

I woke up this morning

With “thankful” on my mind.

I opened my eyes to a dimly-lit room,

But I could see – I wasn’t blind.

The iPhone that awoke me

Cycled one or twice

Again I hit the snooze alarm

But I could hear it – that was nice.

Never enough sleep is common,

And getting out of bed is hard.

But I had a bed to get out of.

I slept in a bed, not the yard.

Pain in my foot as it hit the floor.

My aching body walked out the door.

But at least I was walking on my own two feet,

Out of a house – with a door – pretty sweet!

I woke up this morning

And I could be complaining

But even if I was only complaining

I should be thankful – I woke up this morning.

I just had “thankful” on my mind.

– A. Baker

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Filed under grace, Life Lessons, Thanksgiving

An Open Letter to an Average Disgruntled Church Member

Dear Disgruntled:

I noticed that coming to church has become something of a dying habit for you (well, to call it a habit might be stretching it a bit; habits do require some sort of consistency). From what I’ve heard, you’ve become disheartened and disillusioned with the whole church “thing.”

Is that true? If it is, my heart breaks for you. Believe me, there’s not a single church-related heartbreak or disappointment I haven’t already endured. However, there is something simple you can do to turn things around.

What you need to do is develop a Christ-like love for your brothers and sisters, then even the worst of disappointments will have a hard time turning your heart cold.

You could start by repeating the following statement over and over: “Because He first loved me… Because He first loved me…” Why? Because He first loved you (1 John 4:19)! Believe it or not, Jesus loved you long before you were loveable…long before you stopped breaking His heart on a daily basis…long before you became perfect and quit messing up.

Wait, you are perfect, aren’t you? No? Wow! And He loves you anyway?

Amazing, isn’t it?

So, if you would just try to love others the way Jesus loves you – faults and all – His Spirit would turn those tears of disappointment into healing streams of grace.

Then, if you’d keep your worship more vertically oriented and less horizontally irritated, there’d be a lot fewer things to complain about.

Loving and missing you,

An Average Pastor (without a jet) 

 

P.S. Service times haven’t changed, and no one has claimed your seat.

 

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Filed under Christian Unity, Church, grace, Struggles and Trials, worship, writing

A Pastor’s Worst Day

Every once in a while I try to share some down-to-earth insight into the pastorate, or ministry in general. Granted, my perspective is limited, being I have only pastored smaller, bi-vocational churches; therefore, I can’t speak for all my brothers who lead larger congregations (200+).

However, some things are pretty consistent with those who regularly stand behind the pulpit (or beside a table, if that’s your thing). Many of the stresses are similar, as well as the spiritual battles we must fight. Whether the battlefield be small or large, our weaponry and armor are the same (Ephesians 6:10-18), and so is our adversary (1 Peter 5:8).

Therefore, all things being equal as possible, I believe Sunday nights – not Saturday nights or Mondays – are the worst times of the week for a pastor. The following are two excellent reasons why I feel this way.

First, the pastor is his own worst critic, especially right after the sermon. After a long Sunday, he may find himself looking back and wondering things like… “Did I give it my best?” “Was I used by God?” “Did I preach in my own strength?” “Did I pray enough?” “Why did God call me?” or, “How much does a truck driver make?” 

Any pastor who cares about his preaching ministry will concern himself, to one degree or another, with the proper exposition and delivery of his sermon. But if he gets no “amen’s,” sees no conversions, rededications, or even a few approving nods, it’s not going to be long before the poor man will question his abilities, maybe even his calling. A lack of visible response can take the wind right out of a preacher’s sails.

Seriously, stop and think about it. If you were to build a small, wooden toy, you could hold it in your hands when finished, admire it, nod with approval, and say to yourself, “Good job! Well done!” Clean a dirty kitchen and how do you feel? A sense of satisfaction, correct? But when a pastor is done preaching, more often than not there is nothing tangible to show for it, especially if there is little feedback; the “well done” will have to wait till later.

So, since the “job” is never done, and much of the fruit of a man’s labor won’t be recognized until eternity, it’s easy to be critical of one’s self. Sunday nights are when we can be the most critical.

Secondly, a pastor expends a lot of mental and spiritual energy over the weekend, especially if he works another job during the week and preaches more than one sermon on Sunday. Believe it or not, some pastors (especially bi-vocational ones like myself) never – yes, I said “never” – get a day off. By the time Sunday night rolls around, you’re looking at a physically and spiritually drained individual, and Satan knows it.

Therefore, because our enemy is not stupid, he knows the best time to attack us, and that’s when we are tired and vulnerable. He is far less likely to defeat a man of God while he’s charging into battle or waging a righteous war against the forces of darkness; it’s when he’s coming down from a spiritual high, or when he’s depressed and down over a perceived failure behind the pulpit, that the preacher’s at risk. No, our Enemy is sneaky and stealthy; he lurks in the shadows, waiting for just the right moment when our guard is down and our frailties are exposed.

So why do I share this? Not for your sympathy or pity, that’s for sure. As the lyrics of a song go, “It’s a battlefield, brother, not a recreation room…It’s a fight and not a game,” so I am well aware of what I’ve gotten myself into (or, rather, what I’ve been called to do). The reason I share this is to encourage you to pray for your pastor…especially when the church services are over…when he’s tired…when the Enemy is most lethal.

Don’t wait until Sunday morning to pray for your pastor and his family.

Don’t wait until Saturday night to say a quick prayer that he’ll do “a good job” the next morning.

Start right now! Pray! Interceed for your spiritual leaders, for they watch for your souls and must give an account (Hebrews 13:17). Their challenges are unique, and the consequences of failure can be far-reaching and eternally catastrophic.

Brethren, pray for us. – 1 Thessalonians 5:25 

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Filed under Church, Depression, General Observations, ministry, Preaching

One Week After FBC Sutherland Springs, Will You Go to Church?

From my Facebook page this morning…

One week ago nearly half a congregation was murdered in church. Sadly, it won’t take a terrorist to scare people away, today – just the weather, the hard pew, or the encouragement to worship a God other than self. Frankly, any excuse will do. But I guarantee you one thing, I’d rather stand before the Lord one day as one of those in Texas than one who died peacefully while shunning the very commandment of God to “forsake not the assembling of yourselves together…”

Remember how your parents or grandparents used to tell you to clean your plate or eat your vegetables because there are starving children somewhere who would love to have what you’re eating? Well, there are millions who would love to have the freedom you enjoy to worship in a church without fear of being arrested, bombed, burned, beheaded, or shot by their own government. To waste the blessing you’ve been given is to dishonor all those who’d give their lives for what you care so little about…

And, frankly, it won’t go unnoticed when we all stand before the Savior and give an account, either.

Pastor Jacques Houeto in the middle of his burned-out church in 2015.

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Filed under Christianity, Church, worship

Manipulating the Manna

As we approach the Thanksgiving holiday here in America, I have been studying Exodus 16 and Numbers 11:6-8 for this Sunday morning’s sermon. Over the next few days, I would like to share with you some of the things I’ve learned.

When you have a spare moment, please read these passages (Exodus 15:22-23; Exodus 16; and Numbers 11, particularly verses 6-8) in order to become more familiar with the text from which I am gathering my thoughts.


Manna

After the children of Israel were freed from slavery in Egypt, it took only three days for some of them to start complaining. After only six weeks of freedom from bondage, the whole Israelite camp was “murmuring” against Moses – actually, against God.

Even after all God had accomplished for them, the Israelites were somehow afraid that the One who kept them from all the plagues that befell their slavemasters, the One who had just parted the Red Sea, could not take care of them in the wilderness. Right from the beginning, they began to complain, up until the point where they began wishing they were back in bondage eating the food of slaves.

As you can read in the text, even though God had already done so much, and even though His people were faithless and idolatrous (because covetousness is the same as idolatry – see Ephesians 5:5), the Lord God was faithful to keep His own covenant and miraculously provided food from heaven – manna.

Nevertheless, even though what God provided them was sufficient to meet their needs, over time they once again began to remember with fondness the foods of Egypt. Therefore, as they became weary of the manna – as miraculous as it was – they sought ways to change it, to manipulate it, and to shape it into something akin to what they missed from the years of their captivity.

Manipulating the Gospel

Do we not do the same thing today with the simple, yet wholly-sufficient gospel of Jesus Christ? Is it not sweet and pleasant enough?

When we are forgetful (forgetful of God’s mercy and grace); when we allow discontent to develop in our hearts; when we take our eyes off God; when we doubt His promises and provision; when we selectively remember the variety of lustful pleasures in Egypt that have tainted our palate; the simple, pure, wholesome things of God lose their appeal, leading us to mix and mash the “manna” with things that suit our particular tastes.

Unfortunately, all we end up with is something no one will find palatable or satisfying.

 


In my next post, I will share with you some actual statistics I uncovered regarding the miracle of the manna in the wilderness. Hint: You’ll need a “boxcar” to walk away with it.

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Filed under Bible Study, Theology

The Danger of Being Prepared

A Horrible Day

Last Sunday, as you’re aware, a horrible, horrible tragedy befell the little town of Sutherland Springs, Texas. A man possessed by demonic hatred, bent on murder, blasted his way into the small First Baptist Church and slaughtered nearly half the congregation, wounding most of the rest.

To be sure, it was not simply an act of rage against his mother-in-law, but an evil attack on the very institution she was supposed to be attending. The killer could have chosen any other place to commit murder, but he chose a church…during Sunday services…and came prepared to kill them all. He hated more than just his estranged relatives.

Last Sunday was a horrible day for Texas, but it was also a horrible day for the whole country; we all died a little that day; we changed.

The Aftermath of Debate

Immediately following the carnage – I dare say before the bodies of the slain were even cold – accusations began flying from every direction. One could even say that your’s truly got a little caught up in the accusatory stream. However, two main camps were, and still continue to be, the loudest: the gun control activists and those who are fighting to maintain gun owner’s rights. Now, I have my own thoughts regarding that debate, but even though it’s going to be the most reported, there are others worth noting, and one has to do with guns in churches.

Even before the murder of eight congregants, including the pastor, at Emmanuel A.M.E. Church in Charleston, S.C., I had been warning of larger-scale attacks on defenseless congregations. You see, it’s an under-reported fact that more people have been killed in churches throughout America since the 1990’s than all the school shootings combined.

Incredibly, even before last Sunday’s death toll, it was reported that over 690 people have died a violent death while on church or faith-based property since 1999.* And not counting the 27 at FBC Sutherton Springs, by “August 31 of THIS YEAR, we had already surpassed the number of VIOLENT DEATHS on Church and Faith-Based Property for ALL of last year (2016).”** Needless to say, getting killed at church is nothing new.

So, based on the statistics, increased hatred aimed at Christians (the most persecuted and martyred people in the world), and the typical soft-target demographic of churches, American congregations have thankfully now begun to prepare for the possibility of violence, and one of those ways is by facing the grim fact that stopping an armed killer may involve armed church members. What some view as sacrilegious, others are seeing as a God-given right and mandate to defend the innocent, as shepherds defend their sheep.

In my opinion, as the violence and threat of terrorism continue to rise, the debate over being armed for survival will narrow, and more churches will become harder targets, better prepared to defend themselves.

The Danger of Preparedness

But as we prepare our churches and faith organizations for the threat of violence; as we turn ushers and deacons into S.W.A.T.-like security teams; as we replace the “turn the other cheek” mentality with one of “go ahead, make my day,” there’s literally an even greater danger we may be bringing upon ourselves – PRIDE.

Don’t get me wrong, I am all for every church becoming a place where active shooters fear to dread. However, in all our preparing we must not go so far as to forget our Rock, our Fortress, our Shield, and our Deliverer. It is one thing to foolishly walk up to Goliath with nothing in hand, not even a sling and stone; but it’s a different thing altogether to assume, because of our training and marksmanship, our projectile will hit its mark without the grace of God.

In the 24th chapter of 2 Samuel and 1 Chronicles 21, King David sinned a great sin against God and did a seemingly innocuous thing – he numbered the people. In other words, he ordered a census of all the able-bodied fighting men so he could know how big of an army he had. But why was this so wrong? Why would that be a bad thing? Well, normally there would be nothing wrong with it, but David’s sin was that he thought power and protection could be calculated, even though Israel’s real Defender was God.

But David’s heart struck him after he had numbered the people. And David said to the LORD, “I have sinned greatly in what I have done. But now, O LORD, please take away the iniquity of your servant, for I have done very foolishly.” – 2 Samuel 24:10 ESV

My fear is that in an attempt to protect ourselves, our churches may go from being fearful to faithless. When we get to that point, no amount of guns in our churches could replace the protective hand of God, and no amount of firepower could hold back His judgment.

Then David said to Gad, “I am in great distress. Let us fall into the hand of the LORD, for his mercy is great; but let me not fall into the hand of man.” – 2 Samuel 24:14 ESV

Better to “prepare to meet thy God,” than be so “prepared” we forget Him.

*Source: http://www.carlchinn.com/Church_Security_Concepts.html

**Source: http://www.sheepdogsafetytraining.com

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Filed under Church, current events, Life/Death, politics

Living in Fear?

I’m been frustrated with so little time to sit and write – and I mean write, not talk-to-text in a moment of anxiety over something in the news cycle, or whatever.

So, since time is limited, reblogging something encouraging is a good way to keep things active.

Have a blessed and God-honoring day 🙂

BeautyBeyondBones

Jogging past the site of the Rental Truck Terror Attack on Halloween in Manhattan, I couldn’t help but shed a tear.

The flowers, piled high in memorial of the lives lost just last week, offered a constant reminder of the horror that befell those innocent lives and their loved ones.


Sadly, our country is not shocked by such violence anymore. I mean, not even a full week had gone by before another tragedy rocked our nation, this time, in Texas.

This type of narrative happens so often, I sometimes wonder if people have started to become numb to such horrific news.

Seeing the mourners pay their respects on the bike path in lower Manhattan, I was struck by how eerily low the number of runners and bikers were.  The once bustling foot and bike traffic, now stagnant, with almost a palpable absence.

Have we crossed the threshold? Have we succumbed…

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