Category Archives: America

Coronavirus Sunday: Turning a Virus Into Evangelism

Did you wash your hands?

Good evening, everyone! What a different day this has been! How many of you went to church, despite the fear that you might get sick and die?

As I typed that, I couldn’t help but think of all those in places like Nigeria where going to church on any given Sunday could get you killed by an AK-47 or a machete. I wonder what they think of our virus protection plans? Which do you think they would prefer, a bullet-proof vest or hand sanitizer?

Anyway, many congregations across the country and around the world decided to cancel meetings this morning. Others did what we did: we encouraged the vulnerable and sick to stay home, and we streamed the service live on Facebook.

Missions

What I found so wonderful about all this, however, is that by streaming our services to Facebook, then sharing them on other media platforms, what would have been local turned into global! Think about that for a hallelujah minute!

One can’t help but wonder if Satan was at one point dying from laughter, then the next moment throwing a demon across the room in a fit of rage. I hope so!

It’s like, “Oh, look at all those churches closing their doors over some silly little virus! We are shutting them down, now!” Then it was, “OH, MY PLACE! What are they doing now? Reaching the world with the gospel??”

The Videos

So, what I want to do for this post is offer you the opportunity to watch both our ENTIRE Sunday morning service, along with a video I did from my office this evening.

But just so you don’t miss it, there’s a lot that went on this morning in our church service. So, if you want to skip to that actual sermon I delivered on St. Patrick and missions (it’s a GOOD one!), go to the 41:30 mark.

That shirt made me look HUGE! 

If you think St Patrick was Irish, or that his favorite color was green, you REALLY need to listen to this sermon 😉

God bless, and have a Christ-honoring week!

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Will You Pray for Our Nation, Today?

Today is the day our President, Donald J. Trump, is calling all Americans to pray. One might find reasons to question the efficacy of those prayers, but one thing is true if nothing else is: humbling our knees before a Holy God is never a bad thing.

Today, when pride and hate are the words of the day, let this national day of prayer be a time to collectively humble ourselves under the mighty hand of God and show compassion on others as we pray for the Lord to stay this pandemic.

I am very grateful to our President for admitting that we are not gods, only humans in need of help from our Creator. Even though salvation is found in Christ alone, a humbled heart is much more likely to receive forgiveness and restoration than a heart full of pride and self-sufficiency. Even if many of those who pray will not pray to the God of the Bible, at least a humble nation is less likely to suffer immediate judgment.

Will you pray today? I am going to.

Thank you for your leadership, Mr. President.

Proclamation on the National Day of Prayer for all Americans Affected by the Coronavirus Pandemic and for our National Response Efforts

In our times of greatest need, Americans have always turned to prayer to help guide us through trials and periods of uncertainty.  As we continue to face the unique challenges posed by the coronavirus pandemic, millions of Americans are unable to gather in their churches, temples, synagogues, mosques, and other houses of worship.  But in this time we must not cease asking God for added wisdom, comfort, and strength, and we must especially pray for those who have suffered harm or who have lost loved ones.  I ask you to join me in a day of prayer for all people who have been affected by the coronavirus pandemic and to pray for God’s healing hand to be placed on the people of our Nation.

As your President, I ask you to pray for the health and well-being of your fellow Americans and to remember that no problem is too big for God to handle.  We should all take to heart the holy words found in 1 Peter 5:7:  “Casting all your care upon him, for he careth for you.”  Let us pray that all those affected by the virus will feel the presence of our Lord’s protection and love during this time.  With God’s help, we will overcome this threat.

On Friday, I declared a national emergency and took other bold actions to help deploy the full power of the Federal Government to assist with efforts to combat the coronavirus pandemic.  I now encourage all Americans to pray for those on the front lines of the response, especially our Nation’s outstanding medical professionals and public health officials who are working tirelessly to protect all of us from the coronavirus and treat patients who are infected; all of our courageous first responders, National Guard, and dedicated individuals who are working to ensure the health and safety of our communities; and our Federal, State, and local leaders.  We are confident that He will provide them with the wisdom they need to make difficult decisions and take decisive actions to protect Americans all across the country.  As we come to our Father in prayer, we remember the words found in Psalm 91:  “He is my refuge and my fortress:  my God; in him will I trust.”

As we unite in prayer, we are reminded that there is no burden too heavy for God to lift or for this country to bear with His help.  Luke 1:37 promises that “For with God nothing shall be impossible,” and those words are just as true today as they have ever been.  As one Nation under God, we are greater than the hardships we face, and through prayer and acts of compassion and love, we will rise to this challenge and emerge stronger and more united than ever before.  May God bless each of you, and may God bless the United States of America.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, DONALD J. TRUMP, President of the United States of America, do hereby proclaim March 15, 2020, as a National Day of Prayer for All Americans Affected by the Coronavirus Pandemic and for our National Response Efforts.  I urge Americans of all faiths and religious traditions and backgrounds to offer prayers for all those affected, including people who have suffered harm or lost loved ones.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this fourteenth day of March, in the year of our Lord two thousand twenty, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and forty-fourth.

DONALD J. TRUMP

https://www.whitehouse.gov/presidential-actions/proclamation-national-day-prayer-americans-affected-coronavirus-pandemic-national-response-efforts/?utm_source=link

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I May Be Math-Challenged, But I Think I’ll Survive

Image result for coronavirus images

image credit: dshs.texas.gov/coronavirus/

I do not want to contract the coronavirus (COVID-19).

I do not want to die from the coronavirus.

But what are my odds of contracting or dying from the coronavirus compared to other things?

As of this very moment (it will grow by the time you read this), there have been 114,285 reported cases (world-wide) of coronavirus. Out of those, there have been 4009 deaths.

If you look carefully at the statistics, however, the worst risk of dying from the coronavirus, if infected, is not China; it’s in Italy. There the death rate is nearly 4.5%, while in China it is only a little more than 3%. Yet, so far in America, with only 24 deaths, the death rate is now 4.1%. Are we trying to catch up with Italy?

But death statistics don’t tell the whole story. The rate of infected persons per 1 million are 151.7 in Italy, while only 1.9 in America. That’s a critical statistic! You’re literally 80 times more likely to contract the coronavirus in Italy than America.

I don’t want to go to Italy – at least not right now.

But think about these annual death statistics (in America):

  • 88,000 people die from alcohol-related causes
  • In 2014, alcohol-impaired driving fatalities accounted for 9,967 deaths
  • Heart disease: 647,457
  • Cancer: 599,108
  • Accidents (unintentional injuries): 169,936
  • Chronic lower respiratory diseases: 160,201
  • Stroke (cerebrovascular diseases): 146,383
  • Alzheimer’s disease: 121,404
  • Diabetes: 83,564
  • Influenza and pneumonia: 55,672
  • Nephritis, nephrotic syndrome, and nephrosis: 50,633
  • Intentional self-harm (suicide): 47,173
  • Automobile accident (2019): 38,800

Folks, I’m not a math whiz, not like most of you. But if you simply look at the raw data, I don’t see what all the hype is about?

There are 328 million people in America. Of those 328 million:

  • 0.2% of the U.S. population will die of the flu
  • .012% of the U.S. population will die in automobile accidents
  • Only .000008% of the U.S. populations has, at this point, died from coronavirus (COVID-19)

In other words, if you go outside of your cave dwelling at any point this year, based on current statistics, you’re THOUSANDS OF TIMES more likely to die from a heart attack, cancer, the flu, or a terrible automobile accident than coronavirus.

As someone recently said, “You’re more likely to die from drinking Coronas than getting coronas[virus].”

Just live normally . . . unless you’re craving pizza in Italy. 

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Were the Democrats Better Than Jesus and Paul?: A Look At the State of the Union Sit-Fest

Politics

You know what they say, don’t you? “A pastor should avoid politics at all costs.” Or, maybe it’s, “Never talk about politics from the pulpit…or online…or at the dinner table…or with a friend…”

The reason is because I am called to minister to people of all political persuasions. It’s foolish to alienate potentially half the people I address by offending them with an opposing political view, ESPECIALLY if that political opinion has nothing to do with the Bible, particularly the Gospel.

But what am I to do when something happens in the political realm and Scripture has something to say? Do I remain silent? Do I avoid even the least offense? Do I say, “That’s only for you people to discuss on your own, not in church, and not with me”?

What if the Bible offers advice that could radically change the negative atmosphere of politics and actually bring our nation’s leaders closer together for the sake of our nation?

Well, it does!

Broken Legs

If you had the opportunity to watch President Trump’s third State of the Union Address (the one where Nancy Pelosi ripped up the paper she fumbled with for an hour), what you saw was a sad, sad sight: nearly all the Democrats had broken legs. It’s true! Hardly any of them could stand up for anything, even news that the state of the Union was great!

Oh, the Republicans in the room were quick to leap to their feet when they heard African-American unemployment was at an all-time low, but the party of 90% of blacks remained in their seats! You KNOW that had to be painful! Broken legs, I tell you.

And what about that time it was announced that we are no longer dependent on foreign oil (the thing that nearly crippled us back in the 1970’s)? What about the news that manufacturing jobs had increased (along with factories coming back to America)? What about the news of lowered prescription drug prices and fairer trade deals with China? For each one of these bits of great news, the Democrats remained in their seats, groaning from the pain in their broken legs, unable to stand and celebrate the common good of our country.

But was it broken legs? Or, was it nothing more than hurt feelings, bitterness, anger, hatred, and spite? What if they were thinking that any good news is bad news as long as Trump is still the President? What if they were unwilling to celebrate anything, or anybody (even a 100-year-old Tuskegee airman that got promoted to General), if it meant admitting Trump was responsible? Their broken legs (or angry feelings) were more important than the people who sent them to Washington.

Jesus and Paul

But I would like to direct your attention to a couple of different instances where both the followers of Jesus and the friends of the Apostle Paul found themselves in a similar situation as the poor, crippled Democrats.

In one case, John came to Jesus upset that there was “one casting out devils” in His name (Mark 9:38-40; Luke 9:49-50). He told Jesus [paraphrased], “We told him to ‘Stop it!” because he wasn’t part of our group.” How did Jesus reply?

Forbid [him] not: for he that is not against us is for us. – Luke 9:50

Then later, in his letter to the Philippians, Paul confirmed that there were some people preaching Jesus, but with selfish motives. Did he protest? Did he let his broken legs keep him in his seat? Not hardly!

It’s true that some are preaching out of jealousy and rivalry. But others preach about Christ with pure motives. They preach because they love me, for they know I have been appointed to defend the Good News. Those others do not have pure motives as they preach about Christ. They preach with selfish ambition, not sincerely, intending to make my chains more painful to me. But that doesn’t matter. Whether their motives are false or genuine, the message about Christ is being preached either way, so I rejoice. And I will continue to rejoice. – Philippians 1:15-18 NLT

Do the Democrats think they are better than Jesus and Paul?

The Common Good

Who are these people that go to Washington, D.C.? Are they not servants of the people who sent them there? Do they represent political parties alone, or do they each take an oath to defend the Constitution of the United States of America, the place where ALL Americans live, regardless their party affiliation?

Jesus and Paul understood that there were people out there who didn’t belong to their inner circles, some of which even had impure motives for what they were doing. Yet, both Jesus and Paul rejoiced that good was being done, nevertheless. People were being freed from demons in the name of Jesus, and people were getting saved after hearing the gospel preached by jealous, self-serving preachers.

Why is it, then, that the Democrats sat like they had broken legs when news of the common good was rampant? Why is it that they could not rejoice at an improved economy, decreased poverty, or lower drug prices that ease the burden of sick people in every political party?

The Answer?

I really don’t have an official answer; I can’t see inside their hearts. However, we could rephrase the question and ask John and the concerned Christians in Philippi why they had problems with people doing the right thing?

Maybe John thought: “Hey! That guy with the orange hair is casting out demons in Jesus’ name!

Maybe the Philippians said: “Dear Paul, there’s a guy over there who said bad things about you, even called you names, and he’s telling people about Christ!

All we know for sure is that both John and the Philippians were wrong for not clapping their hands, as both Jesus and Paul made clear.

Therefore, if the nation as a whole, both the just and the unjust, felt the rain of prosperity as the result of an orange-headed, egotistic outsider, not celebrating the common good makes the Democrats who refused to stand appear petty, childish, and motivated by something other than the people’s best interests.

Maybe they need to hate President Trump less and love our country more.

NOTE: If you don’t like what I just wrote, simply print it off and rip it in two.

Image result for pelosi rips

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Just Being Honest On Facebook (and now WordPress)

Today is Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. I had some things to say live on Facebook.

But I do look funny without my glasses.

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Observations from a Middle-Georgia Pastorate: Church History and #50

The History Room

Does your young, newborn of a 20th century church have a history room? Probably not.

The last church I pastored was considered “historic,” but is was only founded in 1946, not even the 1800’s. It didn’t have a “history” room, only a file cabinet.

But this church (Bethlehem Baptist) was founded in 1791! Therefore, it has a “history room” where old church records are stored. And let me tell you, reading the minutes from a church business meeting held 230 years ago is a trip!

How Times Change!

One of the things that rarely gets discussed in modern churches is church discipline. I mean, it’s very rare that a church member gets called to the carpet for sinful behavior these days, much less barred from fellowship or excommunicated. Yet, spend some time in the history room here at BBC and you will find out that things were a LOT different 200 years ago.

I hereby submit, for your edification and entertainment, selected readings from the minutes of Bethlehem Baptist Church.

  • Jan. 1, 1791:  “Excommunicated Robert.” That’s it. Nothing else was recorded!
  • May 20, 1791:  “Restored James Spratley to full fellowship.” Well, at least something positive happened.
  • June 6, 1792:  “Church met in conference . . . Stephen Renfroe is brought on trial & gains fellowship. ‘The church still seems divided concerning a pastor & 12 of the members rise & declare themselves grieved with the calling of Benjamin Thompson as pastor. Confusion & death is like to take place.‘” Ummm, that doesn’t sound good!
  • Sept. 28, 1792: “Ch. met in conf. Nothing of note came before us. Love seems to abound.Let’s hope so!
  • April 27, 1793: “[Bethlehem Baptist Church] met in conference. No business presented. Br. Baker, his wife, & negro join us by letter. (Br. Baker later becomes Pastor) Nothing unfinished. Love abounds.” It’s about time, don’t you think?
  • March 14, 1794: “David Wilborn is censured by Sister Taylor for injustice in measuring corn.” Where did the love go?
  • June 14, 1804: “Took under consideration the conduct of James Blunt & it being made plain… Alexander Smith confessed to drinking too much. Sister Little complained that Br. James Taylor had run off a part of her land. Neal, Walker, & Edmund May (Mayo?) to reconcile matter.”
  • March 18, 1815: (One month after the War of 1812) “Friday before the 3rd Sunday in April set apart as a day of thanksgiving to God for the aversion of impending danger & the return of his mercy towards us as a nation in delivering us from Wars & bloodshed & restoring peace in our country.”
  • Jan. 15, 1820: “Br. Manning & Barber to cite Jeff & wife (colored) to attend next conference to answer for some charges alleged against him viz: dishonesty & preaching without leave of the Church. Sister Molly a woman of color, dismissed by letter. She formerly belonged to David McCard.” Seems a “negro” had been preaching without permission. He justified himself by saying he’d never been told not to. Then, two months later, the church met and decided, “As to Jeff’s preaching, the ch. thinks proper for him to lay down the practice of taking texts to advance doctrine from, but recommended him to use the gift in public of singing, prayer & exhortation.” Ah, yes! Those colored people sure knew how to sing, didn’t they?

Like I said, things sure have changed in the last 200+ years, haven’t they?

And then there was #50!

So, with all this history, my curiosity got the best of me: I wanted to know where I fell in the lineage of pastors. How many had there been, and what number was I? When I figured it out, there had been 49 men who served a total of 56 tenures here at Bethlehem (a few had been asked to serve a second or third time).

That made me the 50th man to be pastor! Or as one deacon called my last night, the “golden boy.”

Portraits of pastors (mine isn’t up, yet). But this is only 20. 30 more are missing.

Yep, I’m the 50th pastor serving in the 57th tenure … and the second Baker. But THIS “Br. Baker” ain’t got no slaves!

“Love abounds.” For real.

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Pastors and Politics

I just want to take a quick moment to blog. By that I mean that I want to do what blogging used to be meant for: a web log of thoughts; a diary of sorts.

What thoughts do I want to record and share with the world? Politics. Specifically, pastors and the subject of politics.

The reason I want to simply “blog” is because I have not done any research, sourcing, or anything like that in order to craft a professional opinion piece. This is not meant to be an article worth publishing in a news paper or magazine. I have no links to news stories or pictures to share.

No, all this is meant to be is me sharing my thoughts off the cuff, unprepared, and dangerous.

You see, I have political opinions. I have my opinions about our President. I have strong opinions about the government and the direction we should be going as a country. Yet, as a pastor, my thoughts on these issues are considered taboo, off limits, no matter if they are spoken from the pulpit or elsewhere (and I’m speaking generically, not specifically about my current congregation).

It’s a strange situation to be in, actually. I mean, here we are, pillars in the community, men tasked with preaching truth without compromise, yet if we mention anything about conservative policies we think might better the community, we’re in danger of alienating people and running the risk of splitting a congregation!

It’s pretty sad, isn’t it? Shouldn’t the gospel apply to every area of life? Shouldn’t the teachings of Jesus Christ and the Apostles find application in the voting booth? It would seem so. However, I could preach about anything, even against same-sex marriage, and aside from the vitriolic response I might get from friends of the rainbow, the average church member would support me in my pastoral, prophetic role. Yet, talk about anything political that might hint of my personal persuasions and I’d likely be censured.

Do you ever wonder why this is? Do you ever wonder why it is that a pastor cannot talk about politics that same way he can about adultery, lying, anger, murder, hate, hypocrisy, abuse, weighted scales, and bigotry?

Think about it… there are people in Christian media and print, along with nationally-known religious personalities, who are taking full advantage of their platforms to say anything negative about our President, even to the point of calling for his impeachment. Yet, if the average pastor stood behind the pulpit and said, “I think we ought to pray for Donald Trump, that he should succeed and become a great President, for our country and the world’s sake,” he’d likely be labeled a fascist, racist, evil Nazi sympathizer.

Oh, I forgot. It’s OK to admit you pray for the President, but only if you’re Nancy Pelosi and your ultimate goal is his imprisonment.

Here’s the thing, though. In every congregation of believers in Christ there are going to be people who are members of different political factions, and that goes for everywhere. Yet, when it comes to issues of right and wrong, good and evil, and how we should live out our faith in the public arena, which includes the voting booth, if God’s sufficient Word cannot find application that should guide the Christian, if there are areas in life that cannot be addressed by Scripture for fear that it might offend the Christian or bruise his personal sacred cow, then is the revealed Word of God really all it claims to be?

Prudence soaked in love; wisdom granted by the Spirit; and a keen contextual awareness are key when considering when, where, and how we should address these topics. However, fear should never be the motivating factor that intimidates us into silence when God has a Word to say.

Those are my thoughts on this Friday afternoon.

God bless.

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