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!

What Are You Worth?

What would you die for?

What is so valuable that you would risk or even sacrifice your own life? Have you ever stopped to think about that? You should.

The typical things in life that are considered so valuable, when put in perspective, aren’t really worth that much. Even the most “priceless” treasures are not worth your life – or are they? Would you fight a thief for your purse or car? If so, you are saying those things are more valuable than your life, for you are willing to risk your life to keep them. It is how people die every day in the pursuit of, and the keeping of earthly possessions. Pretty foolish.

What about non-concrete items, such as pride? Some people are willing to fight to the death, or kill others, when insulted or “dissed.” Perception is NOT reality, just as integrity is not determined by opinion; yet, some would rather risk death than be wrongly perceived.

Is family worth risking your life?

My wife, two of our daughters, and me.

Really, there is no argument against this one. But on the other hand, society has a difficult time determining the value of life; one life is not as valuable as another if convenience or personal pleasure is at stake.

I would risk my life to protect my family, and if you doubt it, try to hurt them – I carry more than a big stick.

Many, however, kill their own children before birth.  It seems to me that society values gold more consistently than life itself.

Are you willing to die for what you believe?

Now this, I know, could open up a whole can of worms; but that’s OK. Just stop and think about it for a moment. Do you believe in anything so much that it is worth more than your own life? When your life is on the line, knowing the difference between what you believe and what is only opinion is of key importance. A martyr is one who would rather die for what he believes than deny it.

Is your faith worth dying for?  If not, then how much do you really believe?

How much is YOUR life worth?

Value is determined by what someone is willing to give for it, right? That’s typically the way it goes. So, if nothing on earth is more valuable than your life, does that make your life valuable? Well, maybe to you.

Think about it, to someone else your life might not be as valuable as their own. Would you value the life of a total stranger so much that you would offer your own in exchange? I mean, really? Someone may even be willing to give all of the world’s riches in order to obtain your life, but are you worth it? Who would even have that kind of wealth? That leaves you with nothing more than your sense of value compared to another’s; your worth against theirs.

Value is relative to the thing for which the buyer will exchange.  That’s a disturbing thought, isn’t it?

On the other hand, what if the Creator of the universe offered to die for you?

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. – Rom 5:8 NIV

That would make your worth INCALCULABLE! The King of Heaven, the Son of God, gave His own life in exchange for yours, even accepting your guilt and failures as His own, and payed the death penalty for sin on your behalf.

For he hath made him [to be] sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him. – 2Corinthians 5:21 KJV

That makes you valuable; Jesus unique. How many others have done what He did for you? Most of us would die for our children or spouse.  Some of us would die for a friend or maybe a good person.  But how many of us would give our own life to purchase the life of a stranger, much less a convict, drug dealer, murderer, etc?  Jesus did.

You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. – Rom 5:6-8 NIV

That’s the whole reason for Christmas, you know.  Jesus had to come to earth as a baby to grow into the Man that would willingly go to a cruel cross.  The gift of Christmas is the gift of life, purchased with the life of the Giver of Life. How ironic is that? How wonderful?

Let’s Review

  • Jesus Christ suffered the most excruciating death Rome could conceive, crucifixion…for you.
  • The Prince of Peace was shredded by a “cat of nine tails”…for you.
  • The King of Kings wore a crown of 4″ thorns…for you.
  • God became flesh so the world could know Him…including you.

Don’t believe the lies told to you by Satan, the culture, or your depressed emotions. Your life is of immeasurable worth because of the immeasurable price offered for it.

If you are worth that much, and if that kind of price was paid, don’t you think giving your life to Jesus is a fair exchange?

If you would like to know more about Jesus, and how he loves you and died for you, then call this number, 1-800-NEED-HIM. Or, if you would like to talk with me, just send me an email.  Your life is worth it.

 

This article was first posted 6/13/2014 and has since been updated.

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Filed under Christian Living, General Observations, Love of God, salvation, self-worth, World View

Weddings, Weddings, Weddings!

Ringgold, Georgia

Did you know that Ringgold, GA is the “Wedding Capital of the South”? Well, it is, and that’s because hundreds and hundreds of couples get married there every year.

And where do many, if not most of them choose to tie the knot? The Ringgold Wedding Chapel. Go check out their website and read about its history, including some of the more famous names who’ve gotten married there (Dolly Parton and Carl Dean, George Jones and Tammy Wynette, Bob Harvey from Jefferson Airplane, etc.).

Anyway, I’ve been conducting weddings at the Ringgold Wedding Chapel for a few weeks, now. It’s been interesting, to say the least. 🙂

A Ministry

Some of you may think me crazy, or even a heretic, for agreeing to marry people in a wedding chapel. Believe me, I get it. There used to be a day when I wouldn’t do a wedding for anyone unless they first agreed to extended pre-marital counseling. Now, I marry people the same hour I meet them.

But why do I do it? You see, the people that come into the chapel to get married don’t just walk in and say, “Marry me!” No, they have to book the chapel and pay a fee, plus have all their paperwork in order. However, those that want to get married could just as easily go to a courthouse, but they don’t; they choose to be married by a minister.

If these couples are going to get married somewhere, no matter what, I figured why not seize the opportunity to present the Gospel to them through a ceremony that highlighted a biblical model of marriage? It’s not a perfect situation, but it’s a chance to plant a seed, if nothing else.

So, I wanted to share with you guys my wedding script. It’s what I read for each and every wedding, making adjustments as needed, sometimes adding more when appropriate. When the service is over, I give the couple the script I used (with their names written in the blanks) for a keepsake, Scripture references and all.

Wedding Ceremony

The Greeting

   Greetings, everyone! My name is Rev. Anthony Baker, and on behalf of __________________ and ________________, I would like to welcome you to this wonderful occasion.

   We are gathered together here, today, in the sight of God and all you witnesses, to join this man and this woman together in holy matrimony. It is holy because marriage was not invented in a court room or a judge’s chamber, but in ages past by God Himself. Therefore, it should not be taken lightly, but should be entered into reverently, advisedly, and in the fear of God.

   He is watching, and He will never forget the vows you two will be exchanging. And, not to leave anyone out, God also knows every one of you here as witnesses, and He will know whether or not you encourage and support this couple in the days and years to come.

   To Bride: ______________, are you willing to proceed with this ceremony? Answer: “I am.”

   To Groom: _______________, are you willing to proceed with this ceremony? Ans.: “I am.”

The Giving of the Bride (optional)

   Who gives this woman to be married to this man? Response: “I do,” “We do,” “Her mother and I do.”

Prayer

   Father in Heaven, Creator of all things, we thank you this day for your mercy and grace and for giving us the wonderful gift of marriage. Lord, please bless us with Your presence, bless the union of this bride and groom, and be glorified by all that is said and done today. In the matchless name of Jesus Christ we pray, Amen!

Statement of Marriage

   As I mentioned before, marriage was not created by men, nor was it ordained in a courtroom; marriage was created by God Himself. We know this from reading the second chapter of Genesis. There, God created Adam, then Eve, and brought her to the man. Adam then said of Eve, “This is now bone of my bone, flesh of my flesh.” Genesis 2:24 reads: “This is why a man shall leave his father and mother and bond with his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.”

   Marriage is the institution in which God ordains a man and a woman to come together in love, with undying commitment, as a testimony to others of God’s love for us.

   When times get hard, you don’t run away, throw in the towel, and say, “I quit!” Why? Because Jesus, as our example, said to His disciples, “I will never leave you” (Matthew 28:20; Hebrews 13:5). As a further example to us, even after all we did to Him, after all He went through, He still carried the cross – He gave His all.

   Marriage is more than a 50/50 relationship; it’s 100% both ways. But even when one of you doesn’t live up to the other’s expectations – it will happen  – true love carries the extra burden, forgives, shows mercy and grace. That is one reason why the apostle Paul tells us in the 5th chapter of his letter to the Ephesians, “Husbands, love your wives, just as also Christ loved the church and gave himself for her” (Eph. 5:25). The sacrificial love of Jesus was to be mirrored in the marriage relationship. To sum it up, Paul went on to say in verse 33: “…each one of you is to love his wife as himself, and the wife is to respect her husband.”

   _______________ and _______________, the greatest love of all, the truest love of all, is not a love that demands of each other, or expects of each other, but gives all that one has without any expectations. 1 John 4:10 (NLT) says, “This is real love–not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins.” Therefore, the greatest advice I can give is if you want a long-lasting, wonderful marriage, love each other more than yourself, for loving each other IS loving yourself.

The Vows

   _______________  and ______________, now that you understand something of the reason for marriage, are you ready now to confirm your commitment to each other, before God and these witnesses, by the saying of your vows?  Response: “We are.”

   Then please turn to each other and join hands.

   _______________ (groom), in taking ______________ to be your wife, do you so promise to honor, to love, and to cherish her in sickness as in health, in poverty as in wealth, in hardship as in blessing, until death alone shall part you?  Groom responds: “I do.”

   _______________ (bride), in taking ______________ to be your husband, do you so promise to honor, to love, and cherish him in sickness as in health, in poverty as in wealth, in hardship as in blessing, until death alone shall part you?  Bride responds: “I do.”

Do you have rings?

The Exchange of Rings

   You will now seal your vows “to honor, to love, and to cherish” by the giving and receiving of rings. I would like for you to look at your rings for just a moment. What you see is symbolic of two things. First, of course your rings are round. That symbolizes something that is never ending, a union that cannot be broken, and that is what your marriage should be.

   But secondly, I would like for you to think about the precious metal that these rings are made of. The metal is precious because it was hard to find and what it endured to become what you will wear. The metal in these rings went through a furnace, through testing, through times of purifying. Your marriage will also have times of trials and tribulation, times when you’ll be put through the fire. And when those times come, look at those rings you will be wearing and remember this: The longer you stay together, the more fires you endure, the more precious your marriage to each other will be.

  _______________ (groom), place the ring on ___________’s finger and repeat after me:

   Groom: “I, ________________, take you, ________________, to be my wedded wife to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health, until death do us part. Joyfully and willingly, I commit myself to you and to you alone.”

   ________________(bride), place the ring on _____________’s finger and repeat after me:

   Bride: “I, ________________, take you, ________________, to be my wedded husband to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health, until death do us part. Joyfully and willingly, I commit myself to you and to you alone.”

Prayer

   Gracious Father, we thank you for creating us in your image so that we might know You and what true love is. Through your power and blessing we ask You to enable these two to keep their vows and be renewed daily in their love and commitment to each other. In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.

Unity Candle, Sand Ceremony (Optional)

The Pronouncement

   _______________ and ______________, we have witnessed the pledging of your love and commitment to each other, and the sealing of your vows by the exchanging of rings. Thereby, under the authority of God’s Word, and in accordance with the laws of the State of Georgia, it is my privilege to pronounce you husband and wife!

_____________ (groom), you may kiss your bride.

Introduction of Newlyweds:  I now present to you Mr. & Mrs. ______________________.

 

Officiated by: Rev. Anthony C. Baker, M.Min.

So, what do you think of my wedding script? Feel free to use it if you want.

What do you think of sharing the Gospel in this way?

Would you word anything differently?

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Filed under Defending Traditional Marriage, Defining Marriage, ministry, places, Struggles and Trials

Cold As Hell

Welcome Winter

If you live in other parts of the country or the world, you may not understand the mind of a Southerner. On the other hand, there’s probably no “may” to it.

Sweet tea in Mason jars. It’s a Southern thing.

You don’t understand why we like sweet tea, grits, cornbread, fried okra (if it’s done correctly), banjos, guns, God, and an occasional jab at the North (those *@!% Yankees). But that’s OK, we love you, anyway, as our typical hospitality demonstrates.

But when it comes to winter… You guys up north REALLY don’t get us. Seriously. Anytime we get excited about snow, you talk about how much you can’t stand it. You even make fun of how we shut down our lives when no more than a quarter of an inch falls on the streets.

You really, really don’t understand.

So, when yesterday morning was the coldest day of the year so far, and when this morning’s temps were all the way down in the high 20’s here in Chattanooga, you folk not from here don’t understand how a guy like me could be giddy over being able to break out a fleece-lined flannel shirt in order to go outside and see my breath as I walked over crunchy, frost-covered fallen leaves.

You see, it’s like this: When you’re accustomed to frying in high heat and swimming in humidity, actually experiencing cold weather in winter is refreshing. And, yes, we are dreaming (and hoping, praying, etc.) for a white Christmas.

Any Cold Is Bad

However, there are some Southerners who hate any kind of cold. Many of them are the poor and elderly who don’t have the ability to fight off the low temperatures. They suffer during this time.

But then there are others who moved to the South to escape the cold winters of the north; they feel betrayed when it gets cold down here.

Finally, there are those who can’t be happy no matter what. They want to complain about anything and everything, hot or cold. As a matter of fact, more often than not it’s that type of people you will hear repeat a familiar descriptor about the weather:

“It’s cold as hell outside!” 

Describing Hell

“Hell” is a word that is used in describing a whole host of things (or, a whole heck of a lot of things… see what I did there?). Things are big as, hot as, loud as, messed up as, weird as, and sorry as hell. But on what do they base their adjectives? How much do they really know about Hell in order to draw a similarity that makes any sense?

I mean, if I was to say, “That ant is as tiny as Mt. Everest,” would that even compute? No, because Mt. Everest isn’t tiny.

Then why say something is as cold as hell? I mean, we know from the Bible that Hell is hot, but how hot exactly is up for debate; therefor describing something as “hot as hell” is within the realm of possibility, at least.

But “cold as“? Really?

On the other hand, Hell is described as a place where the residents will, despite the wailing masses crying out for a single drop of water, be completely and utterly alone. They will reside in a place without love, without compassion, without the gentle touch of a caring hand, without a single, solitary voice ever saying, not even once in a billion years, “It will be OK.”

Does that make you shiver thinking about it? It does me.

Maybe Hell is “cold” after all. 

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Filed under America, General Observations, places, Weather

The Master Is Still Playing

An Old Post

Today, a stranger payed me $80 for a 1/4 size violin. It was the one my youngest daughter tried to play when she was just a tiny crumb cruncher. It was sad to see it go, even though it wasn’t being used.

As I was looking for a post to republish (because I didn’t feel like I had the energy or inspiration to write anything new), I came across something I wrote back in November of 2013…

It was about a violin.

Without going into detail, several years ago a question was posed to me, one that has an unfortunate habit of resurfacing:

“Tell me one thing I do well!” 

Someone close to me asked that question. Have you heard one like it before? Have you ever asked it about yourself?

Well, the words were not the same, but recently I’ve experienced some discouragement, some feelings of worthlessness. Maybe it was more than coincidence that a man who didn’t feel like writing found an old post about a violin.

Maybe it’s more than coincidence you’re reading this right now.

Now, let us join the edited old post already in progress…

The Violin

But as I lay in bed remembering those words, the image of a musical instrument, a violin, came to mind. Then I thought of my guitar and other instruments; each one capable of making beautiful, worshipful music, but only in the hands of one with talent enough to play.

I remembered those words spoken by another and applied them to the violin. The violin asked, “Tell me, name one thing I do well?” All I could think to reply was, “Nothing.” What can a violin do on it’s own but rest in a case, sit on a shelf, or gather dust in a closet? In the hands of one with no skill, with other things to do, and with no love for music, the violin could even become a wearisome burden over time.

In the wrong hands the violin is “worthless.” It has no value, no worth, no ability, no projection, no tone, and no song on it’s own. Alone, it really can’t do anything.

The Master

Then, right on cue, another thought exploded in my brain: What are we but instruments in the Master’s hands?

We have no ability on our own. The violin never plays itself. The only way a musical instrument can ring out notes of joyous praise is when it is given life by the energy of the Musician.

But some may say, “I’m not a violin, a guitar, or anything like that.” Maybe so, but in the hands of a skilled musician even a trash can can bring an audience to its feet.

You may not feel like you’re valuable. You may feel worthless. But don’t believe the lie of the Enemy! Your value is not determined by what you can do, or what you look like, or by what others think, but by how much the Master was willing to pay.

“For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect.” – 1 Peter 1:18-19 NIV

Dear friend, don’t let your inadequacies, your mistakes, or your disabilities make you feel worthless. Jesus Christ, God’s Son, thought you were worth dying for, and willingly shed His blood to purchase your soul.

In your own strength you may be incapable of anything but being a burden on others. But in the hands of the Master, your life can be an instrument of praise in the concert of the ages.

Don’t give up! The Master is still playing … and the audience may be ready to applaud.  

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Filed under Depression, music, self-worth, worship, writing

Remember the “Least of These” this Cyber Monday

A few years ago I made a lot more “Monday Monkey” videos than I do now. Sadly, as I look back, I can see how much my girls have grown up!

The following video is a good example.

In the video below you will see my youngest, Haley, doing her part to help the “least of these,” a freezing puppet next to a tree…and I wasn’t exactly warm, either.

Remember, Christmas is not about getting; it’s about giving. God gave Jesus Christ unto a world who didn’t deserve Him, and that supreme act of love (both on the Giver and the Gift’s part) should be reflected in our giving.

This Christmas, why not give something of value to someone in need, someone who won’t expect it. Then, take the time to talk about the Greatest Gift ever given to mankind.

Seriously, ask the Lord to give you the opportunity to share Jesus with someone; He will make it happen.

This is Katie and Haley, now. Both are seniors: Katie, 22, in college (5th year), Haley, 18, in high school!

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Filed under Christmas, Love of God, ministry, Witnessing

I Worship Me

I Am That Important

I could stay at home and get some more sleep… because, you know, it’s that important.

I could stay at home and watch some TV… because, you know, it’s that important.

I could sleep a little later, then make a special breakfast… because, you know, it’s that important.

I could stay at home, wake up later, make a light breakfast, then take a morning jog when there’s no rush… because, you know, it’s that important.

Or, I could just ignore the needs of my fellow believers; I could assume I’m never missed and my absence makes no difference; and I could just brush aside any biblical commands while I hold God hostage to my demands… because, you know, I am that important.

I am… kinda has a nice ring to it, you think?

Yeah, who needs to go to church on Sunday morning, anyway? Especially when I AM the one I worship the rest of the week.

“For men shall be lovers of their own selves…”  – 2 Timothy 3:2

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Filed under Church

Got Leftovers? God Wants Them!

The Meal

Yesterday for Thanksgiving we had a wonderful meal of green bean casserole. macaroni and cheese, rolls, cranberry sauce, deviled eggs, giblet gravy, pecan pie, sweet potato pie, and the all-important turkey and dressing.

We had to put an extra leaf in the table to accommodate everyone, but we had fun with the new turkey plates, fancy silverware, and the new tablecloth meant to be written on… yes, we signed our names.

But that turkey – oh my goodness! It was the largest turkey my wife has ever prepared! It weighed 20 pounds! Needless to say, we are going to be eating turkey for a while to come. Including what we freeze for later, there will be turkey sandwiches, turkey pie, breakfast turkey, and late-night turkey snacks up until Christmas.

Leftovers

Yes, one of the best things about Thanksgiving is the leftover turkey. However, not all leftovers are good. Sometimes leftover food should just be thrown away the next day, especially if it’s not properly stored.

When it comes to leftovers, it really all comes down to context, and that was the basis of a sermon I preached at Riverside Baptist Church (my former pastorate) back in 2015. Actually, the sermon I preached was divided into three major points, the Provisional Context, the Praise and Worship Context, and the Personal Context.

If you feel like God can’t use you because you’re too used up, too far past your prime, or yesterday’s news, why not take a few minutes to listen to the sermon I’m linking to below. The audio is not the greatest, but you should be able to understand it well enough.

Find out what God thinks about “Leftovers,” especially now that you’re going to be surrounded by them for the next month 😉

Leftovers (In Three Contexts): a Sermon by Anthony Baker

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Filed under Food, Preaching, self-worth, worship