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. Currently pursuing a Doctorate of Ministry. Most importantly, a servant of the Lord Jesus Christ. All glory belongs to Him!

Time to Exercise My 1st Amendment Right: I Will Tell You What I Believe

Unacceptable Fear

This morning, after I typed the name of the title and the heading just above, I took the picture you see: that of my laptop, a “Keep America Great” hat, and a painting called “Blue Tears” (one I did in honor of fallen police officers – just those who died in the line of duty by gunfire last year).

On this day, the day we celebrate the birth of this great nation, The United States of America, I decided to lay all my patriotic cards on the table, and then some. Hence, the picture of a pro-Trump (and pro-America) hat, along with an artistic statement of support for Law Enforcement (Police).

Unfortunately, because of the incredible threats of intimidation and backlash, along with the literal danger of physical harm, I have never posted a picture of this hat. But today, because I do not want to live in shame or fear, I will claim my right to tell you exactly what I believe with regard to this country.

Fear is unacceptable. Silence in the face of intimidation is cowardice.

What I Believe About . . .

Jesus

He was a literal, historic figure who was God incarnate, yet with a human nature. After being born of a virgin, He lived a sinless life as the “second Adam” and Lamb of God who would be crucified for the sins of mankind.  He is alive, today, after resurrecting from the dead in accordance with prophesy and His own promises. According to John 14:6, there is no other way to eternal life than through Him: the historically verifiable person who walked the shores of Galilee 2000 years ago and shed His own blood as a ransom and for an atonement that no other man past, present, or future could accomplish.

The cross of Christ is the answer for every problem in the world today. The gospel is the most important message we can share with every man, woman, boy, and girl in the world. And it is this gospel of Jesus Christ, as displayed in the inerrant, infallible Word of God, which is the same “good news” to every culture, every tribe, and ever person on earth, regardless of color or country.

But beyond that…

Police

There are far more good cops that bad ones. More people die every day from medical malpractice than all police acts of violence combined. Anyone marching in the streets calling for the end of hospitals? Every man and woman who put on an the uniform and shield (badge) deserve respect and honor until they do something to deserve otherwise. I #backtheblue.

Defunding Police.

I personally think this is one of the most ignorant and stupid suggestions of all time. Those who support this idea are about as bright and mature as the 4-year-old who thinks he’d be better off on his own without parents to keep him out of the cookie jar.

Black Lives Matter

Of course they do! And, to make it clear, I understand that for many what this means is that “black lives matter, TOO,” just as much as everyone else.

But when it comes to the Black Lives Matter organization founded by self-proclaimed “radicals” Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors, and Opal Tometi, I believe it is an anti-American, anti-nuclear family, danger to American and Western society, particularly the very freedoms every color of American fought and died for. I also believe the whole premise of this organization is built on the false narrative of “systematic and institutionally-sanctioned racism.”

President Donald J. Trump 

I didn’t vote for him in the primary election – I voted for Ted Cruz. However, I did vote for him over Hillary Clinton in the general election. Faced with the choice between what each promised they would do if elected, I knew I could not support Clinton.

President Donald Trump is NOT the greatest danger to American civilization and the safety of the world. For that honor all you need to do is look at those who topple monuments to historic figures who fought against slavery while supposedly protesting those who supported slavery.

Uninformed fools will cut off the very branch of the tree that supports them.

Hating 45 (Trump Derangement Syndrome)

Let’s be honest, folks. If you hate President Trump, it’s probably because you are either pro-abortion, hate any restriction to your sexual autonomy, want to silence any religious voice who disagrees with your sexual proclivities, or you simply believe the constant twisting by the main-stream media and radical-left celebrities who fear their sexual autonomy might be limited.  On the other hand, maybe you were so invested in electing the first woman president that the shock of losing broke your brain.

Grand Funerals

Being buried in a Bronze Promethean casket from Batesville ($24,000 min.) doesn’t make you a good person or erase the fact that poor decisions can have catastrophic consequences.

Confederate Monuments

Ironically, those who call for the removal of these monument are supported by the very Democrat party to which those who supported segregation and racism belonged. If they insist on tearing down Confederate monuments, then they should certainly include Democrat icons such as Pres. Franklin Delano Roosevelt (who interned Japanese Americans in camps), Pres. Lyndon B. Johnson (who used the n-word more often than “Jesus Christ”), and Sen. Robert C. Byrd (form Exalted Cyclops of the Ku Klux Klan).

But truth be told, it’s not about racism or trying to erase a painful past; it’s about erasing and eradicating who we are as a nation and replacing it with something radical, oppressive, atheistic, and Marxist.

Racism

How do I define racism? Well, I believe racism is the belief that one particular “race” is either superior or inferior to another. What racism is NOT is the preference of one ethnic culture over another. It is NOT racist to be inclined to the characteristics of one ethnicity over another. Racial profiling is NOT racist if it is based on statistics, especially when the overall benefit to the profiling will positively affect every ethnicity.

Racism is sinful, unbiblical, and an affront to the very nature of our Creator God. Having “prejudices” for or against particular cultural norms is NOT being racist; it’s showing preference. However, you can be a racist and be prejudiced at the same time, but it should not be assumed that one is automatically a racist if he/she has certain prejudices. For example, I married a white woman because I am white and preferred (had a prejudice toward) women who have the same skin color and cultural customs as myself. That was not a “racist” choice.

It is NOT racist to note our physical differences, either. Just as long as our physical differences are not used as an argument to suggest that one “race” is inherently better than another. God has designed each of us, and there is nothing wrong with acknowledging the fact that we are not all physically the same. It is wrong, however, to suggest that one color of human should be subjugated to another, for we are ALL equal before God.

Gun Violence and Guns

The old adage is still true: “Guns don’t kill people. People kill people.” Anti-gun laws (which are in opposition to our 2nd amendment to the Constitution) do nothing to change the heart that pulls the trigger. That same heart can thrust a blade or swing a club.

“When was America ever great?”

When it acknowledged the right you have to publicly ask a stupid and uninformed question without fear of government retribution.

“America, America, God shed His grace on thee! And crown thy good with brotherhood, from sea to shining sea.”

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Filed under America, community, Culture Wars, current events, politics

Social Lockjaw and the Need for Cleansing Truth

Image may contain: Anthony C. Baker, sitting, eating and outdoor

Discussing the wonders of an ice cream cone with my granddaughter, Emma Louise.

Can We Talk? 

Do you remember Joan Rivers? That’s what she used to ask in her comedy routines. “Can we talk?” was her way of segueing into something off-color (can I say that?), a little risque, or otherwise uncomfortable.

Can we talk?

You see, one of the deadliest viruses going around these days has nothing to do with COVID-19. It’s a virus that could be called “Social Lockjaw.”

People are too afraid to have honest and open conversations. People are afraid, regardless their opinions, to open their mouths.

Interestingly, the causes and symptoms of Social Lockjaw are eerily similar to actual Lockjaw (i.e., Tetanus).

Tetanus (Lockjaw) is a serious and potentially life-threatening condition brought about when spores from a particular bacteria inter the bloodstream after some form of intrusive injury. The bacteria is most common in rich soil and can enter the body and the nervous system through a puncture wound or cut (like stepping on a nail or getting dirt in an open wound).

Penicillin will kill the bacteria, but one of the most effective actions one can initially take to stave off infection is to immediately clean and rinse the wound with clean water.

Interestingly, there is a vaccine, but it only lasts so long. Therefore, a booster shot is needed every 10 years.

When Tetanus takes control of a body, one of the main symptoms is a tightening of the muscles in the neck and lower jaw, causing a person to be unable to open his mouth.

When people are harmed, and when the dirt of the world is left in a wound that is covered and never cleansed by the pure water of Truth, death is likely to occur, if not silence.

And, ironically, those who have been inoculated in the past and have dealt successfully with past wounds, even they must be re-inoculated with the vaccine of Truth on a regular basis.

Bullying and Intimidation

Wounds come from all kinds of sources. The wounds of racism (personal and institutional) have lingered for generations, and the spores of the bacteria that kills will always linger in the soil. Those wounds must be opened in order to be cleansed, and some of that, unfortunately, is happening right now.

But other wounds come about by blunt force trauma, such as with bullying and intimidation, allowing the bacteria resentment and bitterness to be mixed with fear, thereby making it more difficult to cleanse. But the washing of the wound with Truth is desperately needed. Without it, the wounded will never open their mouths and the disease will win.

The absolute worse thing that any side of any argument can do is be allowed to be beaten down and silenced. Social Lockjaw is not the answer: it’s the symptom of a deadly illness.

The now normal bullying and intimidation by those of the Left-wing are shaming the rest of society into timidity and Lockjaw as they accomplish their goals through forced compliance. And the more we allow the pokes, the jabs, the unchecked piercing accusations, and the raised-fisted blows to all things civil, the more severe the symptoms of Social Lockjaw will become.

Unless we cleanse our wounds with Truth… unless we wash away the bacteria of fear and self-loathing from the puncture wounds of the past, the life of our society will be suffocated by our own closed mouths.

If you know the Truth, then you have every right and responsibility to speak it.  Or, die in silence.

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Filed under America, Culture Wars, current events, politics

Barnabas Baker: That’s Not My Name, But It Would Be Nice

Preaching Through Acts

This is my fourth time preaching/teaching through the book of Acts, and yes, I’m still learning things. Even though it’s all been over Facebook on Sunday evenings, it’s still been exciting (especially chapter 12 – I’ll included a link at the end – you should watch it).

But one person stands out to me, especially at this time in my ministry. How he is described is what I am lacking in my own life. When I read of him and preach about him, I am convicted. Wouldn’t it be nice if people thought my name was different than what it is?

Every pastor, to one degree or another, should be more like Barnabas. Yes, I want to be seen as a reflection of Jesus, but Barnabas was certainly that. So, if they every forget my name, Barnabas Baker would work.

Barnabas

Barnabas was a Levite from the country of Cyprus who became a follower of Christ. He was a generous man, a godly man, and one whose name fit his personality; he was the “son of consolation” (Acts 4:36-37).

Barnabas was the type of guy that truly cared about people and wanted to see them succeed. He was more than just a team player; he was a motivator, the kind of man who would step down from the pedestal so that someone else could shine. As a matter of fact, it was Barnabas who introduced Saul (Paul), the former persecutor of Christians, to the church at Jerusalem (talk about having someone’s back!).

But in preaching through chapter 11 of Acts, I came across a description of Barnabas that left me very convicted. The way Barnabas was described should be how we are described: good people, full of the Holy Ghost, and full of faith (11:24).

A Good Man

The first thing said about Barnabas was that he was “a good man.” Now, a lot of people think they are good people, but not all are. As a matter of fact, there’s no other place in Acts where Luke describes a person as “good.” Only Barnabas gets that distinction.

Being described as “good” meant that he was a man with whom no one could find fault. He must have been a man of strong character, a man who kept his word, and a man who would do anything for anybody, including give the last coin to one in need. He was the kind of man Jesus was talking about when He said, “A good man out of the good treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is good” (Luke 6:45). Barnabas was genuine, the “real deal.”

Full of the Holy Ghost

Barnabas was also “full of the Holy Ghost.” What does that mean? Well first off, let’s think about the description of “full.”

The Greek word translated as “full” is one that meant not only to be filled up but filled up to the point of overflowing. Barnabas was totally yielded and filled with the Spirit, so much so that His presence spilled over onto others. The “son of consolation” was an encourager, just like the Spirit controlling and empowering him.

Full of Faith

Barnabas was not only full of the Holy Ghost but also of faith. Simply put, Barnabas was fully convinced and persuaded with what he believed to be true. There was no doubting, no hesitation, no reluctance, no hiding, no timidity. Barnabas was sure in the gospel of Jesus Christ, and that is one reason he was sent by the church in Jerusalem to see what was going on in Antioch of Syria.

The Result

Now, let’s look at what happened because of Barnabas’ character, his spiritual power, and his sure faith.

“Who, when he came, and had seen the grace of God, was glad, and exhorted them all, that with purpose of heart they would cleave unto the Lord. For he was a good man, and full of the Holy Ghost and of faith: and much people was added unto the Lord.” – Acts 11:23-24 

First, because he was a good man, he was not jealous of the good things happening in Antioch; he rejoiced that the grace of God had been poured out on the believers there!

Second, because he was full of the Holy Ghost, what was in his heart (as Jesus described) had to be shared, so he “exhorted” them and encouraged them in their faith.

Third, because Barnabas knew what temptations and trials could come, especially with the persecution following Stephen’s death fresh on his mind, he encouraged the new believers to be pro-active in their devotion to the Christ. He knew that the only way to have a strong faith is to purposefully “cleave unto the Lord.”

Fourth, many people were added unto the Lord! Because of the spirituality and faith and character of godly Barnabas, not only were new believers in Antioch strengthened, but many more people came to know Christ!

The Challenge

Here’s the thing. Why aren’t more people coming to a saving faith in Jesus? Why aren’t more of our churches encouraged? Why aren’t more Christians spiritually maturing in their faith? It’s because we don’t have enough men and women like Barnabas.

Be a good person! Seriously, be the type of man or woman that people can trust and rely on. Be the type of person that people can tell you care. Be generous, compassionate, trustworthy, and consistent. Be people of honor and character.

Be filled with the Spirit! Do you know what it means to be completely filled with the Holy Ghost of God? It means there are no little rooms, closets, or boxes in your heart where there is written a note to God which says, “Private! Hands off!” Every are of your life – every secret part – should be yielded to and controlled by the Spirit of God. Otherwise, you are self-controlled and rebellious, and thereby powerless.

Be full of faith! Grow your faith. Study God’s Word. Know why you believe what you believe. Don’t be a coward! If you are shy or feel intimidated to share your faith with others, ask yourself why that’s so!

Would you be afraid to warn your neighbor a murderer was crawling through his bedroom window? Would you be afraid to yell “fire!” if flames were engulfing the rooms of a hotel where people were sleeping? It’s only because you are NOT full of faith that you are not bold; you have doubts the fire is real and the murderer really means to harm.

You and I need to be more like Barnabas.

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Filed under Bible Study, Faith, Preaching

Will the Real Jesus Please Stand Up?

It’s Time for Boldness

Dear friends, now, maybe more now than ever, it is time for those who know the Truth to be bold as lions.

I will not argue over perspectives, for each has his own. I will not sit here and pontificate over another’s life experiences and what fears they have, for each has their own.

However, it is my RESPONSIBILITY to speak out when doctrine, theology, especially the doctrines of Jesus Christ are being attacked and polluted without rebuttal. Folks, the words of Paul to Timothy are just as true today as they were 2,000 years ago.

Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine; continue in them: for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee.” – 1 Timothy 4:16

Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine.” – 2 Timothy 4:2

So, when the head of the BLM of Greater New York says on national television that Jesus was “…the most famous black radical revolutionary in history…” and uses that false teaching to justify violence, it’s time we say condemn the torpedoes and go full speed ahead.

Bad Theology/Bad Praxeology 

Praxeology is the “study of human action and conduct.” What we see being carried out in the streets of America is conduct based on bad theology and fueled by bad Christology (theological interpretation of the person and work of Christ).

I am firmly convinced that our actions as humans, especially how we treat others or respond to their actions towards us, can be traced back to our theological, especially our Christological beliefs – whether we think we have any or not.

As pastors, there can be no greater responsibility than to boldly and unapologetically proclaim the biblical and historical Jesus Christ of Nazareth, His true mission, and our dependency on His atoning work on the Cross.

“Who do men say that I, the Son of man, am?” 

That’s the question asked by Jesus of his disciples. The answer Peter gave was, “Thou are the the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

That is what the following sermon I delivered this past Sunday morning was about. I would encourage you to watch and share.

“Will the Real Jesus Please Stand Up?”

I do apologize for the less-than-HD quality. The internet where we are is so slow that we have to upload at 520p in order to get anything done the same day. We pray for fiber optics!

 

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Filed under America, Bethlehem Baptist Church, General Observations, Jesus, Preaching, Southern Baptist

God Did Not Create Another God


Would you take a moment and consider something?

When God created man, He didn’t create another God.

You might think that’s nothing new, but it is a very, very important truth – one that is rarely unpacked when discussing issues of sin and suffering.

There are people who wonder why God, if He exists and is so powerful and wise, created a free agent who could sin (break God’s law).

Others question why Scripture would suggest that Jesus was slain before the foundations of the world (1 Peter 1:19-20).

The answer to these questions and many more is that God did not create another God, only man.

God has certain characteristics that Man could never have simply because he was created. The most obvious are that he is not eternal, omnipotent, immutable, or omniscient. The most important is that Man, no matter how perfect he was at the moment of creation, was not holy as God is Holy.

If God were to create another like unto Himself, then God would not be God. If Man could be created, he couldn’t be eternal.

No matter what God created, His creation could never be Himself, and therefore not God.

God is eternally immutable, unchanging, therefore He cannot sin. On the other hand, Man is not eternal, nor immutable, so even from the beginning of creation, he had the potential, however remote, to sin. Therefore, even though God did not create sin, nor did He cause Adam to sin, sin was inevitable simply because God created a creature that was not Himself.

Why was it part of God’s plan that Jesus would be crucified, even before Adam even sinned? Because simply creating Man brought with it the inevitable possibility, the inevitable reality, that he would need to be redeemed – because he is Man, not God.

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. Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. – 1 John 4:9-10 KJV

Simply put, the only way sin could have been avoided would have been for God to never create any being capable of freely communing with Him. If he had created a robot, a machine, then sin would not have been inevitable. But since Adam was given the freedom to choose, a will, and since he was not God, the inevitable required an Emmanuel.

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Filed under Christianity, God, grace, Jesus, salvation

Father’s Day, Wednesday (and maybe a bonus)

I Just Don’t Feel Like Wri

Honestly, I just don’t feel like writing. I couldn’t even finish the header! I don’t know what’s come over me.

One possibility is that COVID-19 has thrown schedules to the wind. Because of that I’m not in the office for longer periods as often.

So, with only a laptop or my phone (which I’m on right now), it’s a lot of work to clean off my reading and drawing/painting table to set up my computer. Maybe I’m just spoiled. Or lazy.

Anyway, to compensate a little, I wanted to share some more videos from this past week.

More Videos

Sunday was Father’s Day. The first video is of me preaching live on Facebook. The sermon is “How to be a God-like Dad.” I edited it for YouTube.

The Sunday evening video shows me in my office talking about Acts 11 and primarily Barnabas. This was a personally convicting lesson. I need to be more of a Barnabas.

On Wednesday I continued with our study of Nehemiah. I had a great time! Call it preaching 😉

Oh, today is George’s birthday! He’s 1 year old (7 in dog years)!

Getting ready to ride! Yes, I’m exercising 🙂

 

Let me know your thoughts 🙂

God bless you guys!

 

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Filed under animals, Bethlehem Baptist Church, Bible Study, Parenting, Preaching

Bachelor and Bachelorette Parties. Really?

Just A Thought…

It’s June, and weddings are all the rage. But so are bachelor and bachelorette parties.

Dear Christian, I want to ask a serious question. Why do you think it’s acceptable in God’s eyes to act sinfully? If marriage is holy, and to be with your love is the greatest joy you can hope to have, what last fling, what last wild night, what time of debauchery is to be treasured so much that it will be missed when you say your vows?

I do find it strange that people who have bachelor and bachelorette parties even commit to marriage. Have you not found the one true love to which none other can compare? If so, then what is there to capture in one last night of freedom that he or she hasn’t already replaced or proven more desirable?

If you are engaged to be married, dear Christian, you have already made clear your intent to be faithful, not only after marriage, but until that wonderful and holy day. Therefore, if what you do the night of your party is something you could never do as a married person, you already suffer from a misconception and non-biblical view of marriage.

 

 

 

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Filed under Alcohol, Christian Maturity, Defining Marriage, General Observations, Marriage, Uncategorized, Witnessing

I Succumbed to the Temptation

This is our dining room table.

Half of it is covered with my “stuff.” There’s my paints, paper, brushes, a candle for when I am reading, my coffee, magnifiers for looking at watches close up, my Bible, and my laptop.

I didn’t really have time to sit down to write, but the open computer and the longing for that tactile feeling of my fingertips clicking the plasticky, rubbery keys of the keyboard… You know, for the writer, it’s like a drug!

I’ve got reading to do – LOTS of it.

At 1 pm I am supposed to be somewhere.

There’s so many things to talk/write about, yet I just don’t have the energy (emotionally or physically) to do it.

But man, the feeling of that keyboard and the visual proof on the screen that creation is taking place…

I gave in. I’m here. Forgive me.

But I promise, should you want to visit for dinner (or supper), I’ll make sure the table has plenty of room.

I feel much better, now.

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In My Father’s Honor On Father’s Day

Remembering the Day

I woke up this morning and saw the sun, which is something my dad never got the chance to experience on June 11, 1991. Upon closing his eyes in death while working the night shift as a security guard, he woke to eternal day where the Son is the Light. What an awesome moment that must have must have been for him!

However, for me, it was a very difficult day 29 years ago. For that matter, it was a difficult day for many. He was only 46 at the time of his homegoing, but the impact he made on the lives of others will reverberate for many decades to come, and all of us were heartbroken when he left.

Tough, Yet Humble

My dad.

My dad.

Those who knew my dad before he became a Christian would testify to the fact that he was no wimp. He was a man’s man.

My dad could build an engine and race a car – including the kind in which he used to haul moonshine. He knew how to fight, fish, and fire a weapon; between him and my uncle Don (his brother), there weren’t too many men willing to be their enemies.

Yet, once he accepted Christ, he became the perfect example of gentleness, kindness, grace, and compassion. I know of no one any more humble than he was. (Oh, and when his brother finally became a believer in Jesus, the same transformation took place)

Preachers

My dad was also a preacher. He might not have been the most eloquent, but he loved the Word and he loved telling people about Jesus. Had he been alive today, he would have wept at the state of our nation, but he would have cared more about sharing the gospel with the homeless drunk under the bridge, the prisoner in the jail, or the disabled and orphaned teen in need of hope.

More than a man who’d kindly give you the shirt off his back, he’d find a way to tell you about a Saviour who bore a cross on His. If my dad was still alive, he’d still be preaching.

Still Fighting the Good Fight

Still Fighting the Good Fight

I am proud to say that I am carrying on my father’s legacy. I am proud to say that should the Lord allow me to live another 52 years, I will continue to preach the Gospel, stand for Truth, and love people the best I can. As a matter of fact, here is something I recently posted on Facebook.

Backbone, preachers…now’s the time for some honest-to-goodness, strong-as-steel, George S. Patton and John Wayne-like BACKBONE!

I don’t care if you’re Baptist, Presbyterian, Pentecostal, Nazarene, Methodist, or whatever…MAN UP!! Stand in the gap! Quit being a politically motivated, crowd-pleasing, purse string-tying wimp and PREACH THE WORD!

Check out what’s going on in the world and what’s coming to America. Do you think things are all going to turn out like a big Hillsong praise service if you keep preaching like Joel Osteen?! Folks, what we need now more than ever are some Elijahs, some John the Baptists, some old-school Billy Grahams, some D. L. Moodys, etc. We need more men of God who know the difference between the Word of God and a motivational speech!

Don’t try to be popular. Don’t try to be “cool” and “hip” with the younger generations. Quit fighting over the styles of worship if your congregation doesn’t even know HOW to worship! Forget trying to become more “seeker-friendly,” and just SEEK THE LOST! The world is going to Hell and we are greasing the skids.

Be real. Be humble. Be yourself. Love your enemies. But for the love of God, pastors and preachers, “Watch ye, stand fast in the faith, quit you like men, be strong” (1 Corinthians 16:13). In other words, take off the liberal mom jeans and put on some prophet-worthy overalls and get to work. 

His Voice

I wish all of you could have met my dad, Terry L. Baker. Like my wife noted when she heard a recording, “He sounds about as country as they come.” Fortunately for all of us, I still have a few recordings of his preaching.

Below is an edited version of a message my dad preached back in 1981. At that time he was doing a radio program on WMOC for a local children’s ministry.

Fittingly, the sermon from my late father, based on Deuteronomy 6:4-7, concerns how to raise a godly family. Tell me if you think he sounds a little like me 😉

All honor and glory be to my Father in Heaven, the One who graciously gifted me with an earthly father who loved Jesus and taught me how to do the same.

 

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Filed under Christian Living, Christian Maturity, Life Lessons, ministry, Parenting, Preaching, Relationships and Family

I Was Keeping a Covenant Before BLM Was Cool

24-plus Year Ago…

I was a new pastor. I hadn’t even been ordained a year. Yet, I had the opportunity to attend a once-in-a-lifetime historical event, the 1996 Promise Keepers Clergy Conference held in the Georgia Dome in Atlanta.

Maybe you remember when Promise Keepers was a big thing. There were a lot of positive aspects with the organization and goals, and certainly some negatives. But this conference was specifically held for pastors, and over 39,000 came from all over the country, even the world, to attend this 3-day event.

I still remember the breaks in between sessions when men would do one of two things: go to the bathroom or stand in line to call home on a pay phone. I was one of only a few that actually had a cell phone! The lines to the phones were longer than the ones to go pee!

Confession and Forgiveness

Nearly 25 years ago, there I was with pastors of every skin color and from all kinds of Christian denominations. For many like me, it was the first time ever attending an event of this magnitude. But it was also the first time I’d ever interacted with people who weren’t Baptist, or at least Church of God. And, above all, it was the first time for me to be around that many black preachers!

Oh, but there were pastors there, like I said, from every “race.” Literally, it was like “every tribe and nation” was represented at some point. There were even 200 Native American pastors present who’d – no joke – walked from reservations in the West just to attend this conference!

But one of the highlights of the conference was when an unscripted time of tearful, heartfelt confession was begun by Dr. Jack Hayford. At one point, while standing on stage weeping in front of these 40,000 men, he preceded to say the following (to the best of my memory):

“I want to confess my own sin of racism and soft bigotry. Yes, I am guilty. No, I never treated anyone of color differently in public, but there were times when in my heart I did. There were times when I could have driven through your parts of town, but I chose to take a different route. Did I think I was too good to drive through your communities? Down your street? I don’t know. But I didn’t want to see it. I didn’t want to face it. I wanted to ignore you and pretend you weren’t there.” [paraphrased from memory]

It’s been over 24 years, and there is no video and only a few pictures still around of this event. Therefore my memory of the details of when what happened is foggy. But what I do remember very distinctly is WHAT happened, even if I can’t remember in what order.

But I believe it happened like this…

After Jack Hayford had bravely stood on stage confessing his sin of soft racism, Rev. Raleigh Washington walked on stage to comfort Dr. Hayford. It was then that Rev. Washington said something like the following:

My brothers, you have just heard the heart of a dear man of God. He just confessed his sin before you and God, and asked us to forgive him. But let me just say, it’s time to do more than accept the white man’s apology; it’s time we confess our own sin of bitterness! Of unforgiveness! It’s about time we start FORGIVING!” [paraphrased from memory]

What happened next was chilling. I am serious when I say that what happened next was not normal, not natural, and totally of the Holy Spirit. Literally, like every African-American black man in the Georgia Dome had been cued by some heavenly angel, a single, deep-throated, rumble of a voice spoke out in unison,

“WE FORGIVE!”

For a split second you could sense the shock and awe of what had just happened. Everyone instinctively knew what had just happened was of God. It was a miracle!

Then the dam broke.

Beginning with Jack Hayford, then Raleigh Washington, a representative of each people group came up on stage to confess and ask forgiveness for their own sins. To each one the auditorium replied with a rumbling “We forgive!”

Rev. Tom Claus, founder of Chief.org

Finally, wearing a the full headdress, Rev. Tom Claus walked onto the stage. The crowd of 40,000 drew quiet. Rev. Claus, a literal Mohawk Indian, began to spell out a grocery list of crimes and atrocities: the stolen land, broken treaties, and the bloodshed inflicted by the American government during the 1800’s.

He said, “If anybody in here has a right to be bitter, or to hate the white man, it is my people.” Who could argue?

But then, in what became the most emotional, so-thick-you-could-cut-it-with-a-knife moment, Rev. Tom Claus spoke words that would drive the modern Left completely off the cliff these days. He said,

“But, I forgive the white man. Because if it had not been for the white man, I would not know Jesus.[Yes, he really said that!]

Folks, nearly 25 years ago in the Georgia Dome in Atlanta, Georgia, I confessed and repented of any and every racist part of my life. I asked forgiveness. I was given forgiveness. And I, along with nearly 40,000 other pastors, covenanted with God and each other, with God’s grace, to never be the same.

How Much Is Enough?

Now, unfortunately, those who love to stir up contention and hate, for that is what they thrive on, are back at it. It doesn’t matter what one generation has done, they want to hold each and every consecutive generation guilty for the sins of their forefathers. Forgiveness is NOT an option.

They can say what they want to say about me, but despite what I used to be, God’s grace and the blood of Jesus Christ has cleansed me. On top of that, He opened my eyes and my heart and gave me a love for my fellow man, regardless our differences.

There was a time in my young life when I asked a legitimate, however uninformed question: “Why did God make black people different?” I never got a good answer, so I believed the bad answers.

Yes, I used to be a racist. Yes, I used to think I was better than other people. Yes, I even tended to think that blacks needed whites to be pulled out of poverty, out of the jungles, and into civilized society. Yes, I stupidly used to think black people were that way because of the curse God put on Ham.

But NO MORE! 

Over 30 years ago, when I started attending my first classes in college, I started to see the flaws in my earlier thinking about race. But that only came when I started being around people who looked different from me. It was only then that it became clear that we were all the same.

By the time I went to the 1996 Clergy Conference, I had already determined to combat bigotry and racism (I had even invited a black professor of mine – Dr. Jay P. Trimble – to speak before my wedding). The Clergy Conference and the Atlanta Covenant only sealed the deal.

That is why I sorta seriously resent modern attempts by Marxists disguised as BLM to punish me for my “white privilege.” This is why I resent being bullied into confessing I’ve been a racist all along and now need to support activist groups and give them money to pass laws to silence my voice.

I AM NOT A RACIST, and I’VE ALREADY BEEN FORGIVEN! 

After the ’96 conference was over, everyone who was there who actually signed their name to the Atlanta Covenant, we all received a small copy of the original – the one signed by those who spoke at the conference.

I still have that copy framed and hanging on my office wall.

I have typed it out so you can read it for yourself.

 


Atlanta Covenant
Clergy ’96 Conference

Our great and awesome God, in Your sovereignty You have brought us as clergy to Atlanta. You have met and dealt with us in powerful ways, You have been faithful with all of Your promises and loving toward us in all ways. We now stand before You broken and humbled, called to shepherd and pastor Your Church, believing that You are willing and ready to give a fresh outpouring of Your Holy Spirit on Your Church. Our eyes are focused on Your only Son, Jesus Chris, the perfector and finisher of our faith.

We acknowledge, confess and repent before You, that although we may not be guilty of all that is stated below, we are prompted by godly sorrow to repent because we as clergy have sinned against You (1 Corinthians 7:10-11).

Therefore, we enter into this Atlanta Covenant with You and with each other.

  1. We covenant by God’s grace to honor Jesus Christ through worship, prayer and obedience to Your Word though the power of the Holy Spirit.
    • Where we have grown cold and distant in our communion with You, we wholeheartedly commit to pursue an ever-deepening relationship with You through worship and prayer. As You lead, we commit to fast and pray for revival or our own hearts, for our churches, and for the Church of Jesus Christ.
    • Where we have disobeyed you, we commit to be obedient to Your Word, regardless of the cost.
    • Where we have quenched Your Holy Spirit, we commit by God’s grace to keep in step with Your daily activity and leading.
  1. We covenant by God’s grace to pursue vital relationships with a few other clergymen, understanding that we need our brothers in ministry to help us keep this covenant.
    • Where we have resisted affirming, accountable relationships with other brothers, we commit to pray intentionally for these relationships and seek this support, never again to be a loner in ministry.
  1. We covenant by God’s grace to practice spiritual, moral, ethical, and sexual purity.
    • Where we have conformed to the world, we commit to place other gods before You no longer, the one true God.
    • Where we have excused our moral and sexual sin and been neither repentant nor broken, we now offer our bodies to You as living sacrifices and ask that You transform our minds and hearts by your Word and Your Spirit.
  1. We covenant by God’s grace to build strong marriages and families through love, protection, and biblical values.
    • Where we have neglected our homefronts as the first place of ministry, we covenant to recapture the hearts of our wives and children, by giving them the first priority in our prayers and schedules.
  1. We covenant and commit by God’s grace to Your calling to pastor Your people and to lead Your Church faithfully in fulfilling Your mission.
    • Where we have neglected our call, we wholeheartedly recommit ourselves to the ministry of prayer and the study of Your Word.
    • Where we have driven our people rather than led them, acting as if being a pastor was simply a job and not a holy calling, we commit and pray ardently and regularly with love for our flock, recognizing that You have called and place us in the church that we serve.
    • Where we have used our ministry as a platform for our personal gain, we repent and recommit ourselves to serving Your kingdom and the growth of Your people.
    • Where we have trusted yourselves and the programs of men, rather than seeking You and Your way, we commit to seek Your heart and direction for our churches.
    • Where we have lost confidence and passion in our preaching, we commit to feed Your people with Your Word faithfully and passionately.
  1. We covenant by God’s grace to reach beyond any racial and denominational barriers to demonstrate the power of biblical unity.
    • Where we ignored praying and working with fellow pastors of differing denominations and race, we commit to seek out clergy of differing denominations and races, intentionally pursuing relationships with them, praying and working together for the building of the Kingdom of God.
    • Where we who are Anglo have enjoyed the advantages that have come to us as a result of the teaching of white superiority against people of color, we confess this is as sin. With Ezra, Nehemiah and Daniel, we confess the sins of our forefathers, who disobeyed Your Word and at times stole, killed, enslaved, broke treaties, demeaned and lied to people of color, we now acknowledge and confess this as sin against You and repent of our sin, trusting that it will lead us to reconciliation and restoration with our brothers in Christ. We now want to do justice, love kindness and walk humbly before You; and we commit to learn so that we might teach and lead our people in the area of racial reconciliation.
    • Where we who are the clergy of color have become bitter and nonforgiving of our Anglo brothers, entertaining a spirit of retaliation and guarding our ministry against Anglo partnership, we acknowledge and confess our sin before You. Where we have not applied the principles of biblical reconciliation to other racial groups, we now acknowledge that this is sin against You and repent of our sin, trusting that it will lead us to reconciliation and restoration with our brothers in Christ. We now want to do justice, love kindness and walk humbly before You; and we commit to learn, so that we might teach our people in the area of racial reconciliation.
  1. We covenant by God’s grace to influence our world, being obedient to the Great Commission and the Great Commandment.
    • Where Your church has lost its saltiness and light in our nation, we covenant to lead Your people to seek God’s face for the healing of our land.
    • Where we have lost Your vision to reach all people groups with Your amazing, saving grace, we covenant to give to others freely what You have given us.
    • Where we have strayed from the Gospel of Christ, we covenant to preach with renewed passion and conviction the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

In total devotion to Christ as the Chief Shepherd of the Church, we commit ourselves to these things by the power of the Holy Spirit. To that end, we give our lives as clergy to pray, to prepare, and to minister for nothing less than a spiritual revival in Your Church, that Your body might increasingly become a bride without spot or wrinkle. We pray that together we might be brought to complete unity in You so that the world may know that You sent Your son, Jesus Christ, and that You love them as You love us (John 17:20-23). This this we pledge ourselves.

Those who were present and signed the Atlanta Covenant:

Bishop Phillip Porter, Bill McCartney, Randy Phillips, Henry Blackaby, David Bryant, Tom Claus, Tony Evans, Joseph Garlington, Jack Hayford, E.V. Hill, Max Lucado, John Maxwell, Bishop George McKinney, Jesse Miranda, James Ryle, Dale Schlafer, Joseph Stowell, Chuck Swindoll, Raleigh Washington, Glen Kehrein

 

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