Category Archives: Bethlehem Baptist Church

Statements, Services, and Studies: A Whole Day’s Worth

It is Sunday evening in Georgia,

and all I can say is that I’m glad I’m not in Atlanta. However, I’ve got a daughter, a son-in-law, and a granddaughter in Charleston, SC, and it’s bad there, too.

Honestly, I’m furious and sickened by the senseless thuggery and domestic terrorism that’s spreading havoc across the country. There’s no excuse for it. None.

Well, I’ve written about the subject of the protests and riots, already. So, what I’m going to do tonight is share the video that was my day.

The first video is from Facebook. I hope you can view it. I went live this morning before the scheduled morning service that had been recorded earlier.

The second video is of the service prerecorded for airing at 11 a.m. Unfortunately, I got the date wrong! 😩

The last video is from tonight where I was live from Augusta, GA. Even though it was originally on Facebook Live, I uploaded it to YouTube.  In this study I taught from Acts 9 while sitting in a hotel lobby.

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Filed under Bethlehem Baptist Church, Bible Study, Christian Maturity, Christianity, Church, community, current events, Preaching, Selah

Are You a Cracked Vase?

Have you ever had one of those times when you felt the Holy Spirit was at work, using you in a special, sorta like He’s-in-control-not-me kind of way?

Today was one of those days. 

Every day at around 2pm I do a live, short devotional  for our church members. That’s what the following video is, only uploaded to the church YouTube channel.

Have you ever felt that God can no longer use you? Have you ever felt like your best days of ministry are behind you? Are you a cracked vase?

This message is for you! 

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Meet the Wise Wife

This evening my wife joined me as we discussed Proverbs 30. She was nervous at the beginning. She didn’t trust me.

However, it’s not my job to embarrass people online while talking Bible stuff. Also, I prefer a happy life, ergo, “happy wife.”

But Valerie underestimates herself. She is pretty sharp. Actually, she is a wise woman. She had no reason to be nervous.

If you can get it to play, below is a link to tonight’s Bible study. It’s also a glimpse into our marriage 😉

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Preaching With Art (paintings, not the guy)

Art . . .

As many of you already know, I’ve really gotten into the whole painting thing. Well, watercolor, not oil paint or anything.

And since I’ve taken up the hobby of watercolor painting, I’ve learned a few lessons that can be applied to the Christian walk. Is it any shock, then, that I preached a sermon on the subject?

But now that I look back, it wasn’t just art that I preached about, the preaching and the video presentation used to share the message were also forms of art. Each one a gift or ability that improves the more you do it, especially with instruction.

The Finished Product

So, below is the video. It is an artistic presentation of art and the art of preaching within the context of a pandemic. If the video won’t play, try going to Bethlehem’s Facebook page @Bethlehembaptistwarthen.

BTW, the singers were thrilled to be able to get together after being away from church so long. And, if you live in our area, we sure could use some more musicians and singers. Just let me know 🙂

And for those of you who can’t seem to watch the Facebook version, here it is uploaded to YouTube.

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Filed under baptist, Bethlehem Baptist Church, Christianity, Church, Preaching

Observations from a Middle-Georgia Pastorate: Spiritual Warfare

Greetings from the land of kaolin, gnats, and pine tree farms! 

To begin, this COVID-19 lock down business (that’s an ironic word) is getting old. Really old. There aren’t any crowds protesting down our streets, but I know for a fact that the people are restless.

But unlike a lot of people who have been unemployed and out of work, I have been the opposite (thank God in heaven!). Seriously, I am blessed beyond measure, and like Dave Ramsey would say, “I’m better than I deserve.”

But make no mistake, even though to some it would appear that I have it easy – that any pastor these days has it easy – I don’t. As a matter of fact, I think I have been doing more than I ever did when things were “normal.”

For example, I still prepare sermons and teaching for Sunday morning and evening, and also Wednesday. However, on top of that I now do a live daily devotional/prayer time Monday-Friday in order to stay in touch with everyone.

But what’s more, because we do not have a team of people to help with production, nor the dedicated technology, recording and editing a Sunday morning service, then making sure it uploads to either Facebook or YouTube, can take H O U R S!!!

. . . No joke, this last Sunday-morning service took around 5 hours to record and edit, then a painful 6 hours to finally get it uploaded! The whole time I couldn’t sleep because I was too nervous. YouTube failed twice (after 2+ hours uploading each time), then I had to wait for Facebook to see if it would work.

Our internet is sad. Our upload is literally no better than dial-up. That’s why whatever I record has to be done at the lowest reasonable resolution. It’s frustrating.

But to the point of why I am writing, all of this activity takes a toll on one’s nerves – and one’s spirit.

As I have mentioned in previous posts, I struggle with depression. Years ago (around 20) I had it pretty bad, even to the point of nearly being committed for my own safety. These days I do OK, even really well, because I’ve learned better how to anticipate triggers, I finally agreed to take a mild anti-depressant, and I FINALLY got a couple of hobbies! Yay me!

However, Satan knows our weaknesses. His minions are always watching, always taking notes, and they know better than we do where and when is best to attack. For me, it’s usually when I am tired, physically and mentally drained, and discouraged in any way.

So, what do you think it’s been like the last couple of months?

The clearest example came on Thursday, May 7th, the National Day of Prayer. Because there was no way a bunch of people could come together in one place to pray, all prayer gatherings had to be done on the web. So, what I did was go live at noon that day, and using a guide published by the SBC, I led prayer for the “seven centers of influence” in our nation.

An hour and 15 minutes later, I was done. I think I stayed on Facebook Live for another few minutes, then called it a day. By 3pm I was overcome with a heavy sadness that I couldn’t explain.

The unexplained “sadness” lasted till Friday.

I was under attack, plain and simple.

You see, you can’t expect to punch a hornet’s nest and walk away unscathed. Storming beaches may conquer territory, but it’s always bloody for both sides. So, how could I have expected to publicly go against nearly every realm of demonic influence in our nation and not feel some affect?

Photo by Maria Pop on Pexels.com

Spiritual warfare is real. It’s no joke. And now that we small-town preachers have been given the opportunity to preach and teach the gospel online every day, we are firing mortars into the camps of spiritual enemies we’ve never encountered before.

And if you don’t know about artillery, unless you move your cannons around, after a few rounds a smart enemy will be able to triangulate your coordinates and return fire. I figure that’s what must have happened after I prayed for a solid hour live online.

What are your thoughts?


Below are two videos. The first is from yesterday (Sunday) morning. I would encourage you to watch it, especially if you are a woman, for even though it was Mother’s Day, the sermon was for all women.

Also, because our church musicians and praise team have not been coming to the recordings (and I don’t know how to do all that Zoom stuff), my wife and my mother and me took on the role of “praise team.”

We made a joyful noise 🙂

This next video is from Facebook. It is the LIVE prayer time I had on Thursday. See for yourself what I prayed. Do you think I’m crazy? Why else would I have been sad for no reason? Was it simply a case of physical and mental fatigue? Or, did I stir something up in the Enemy’s camp?

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Filed under Bethlehem Baptist Church, Christianity, Church, Depression, Preaching

Sunday Sermons (5/03/20)

Below are links to the sermon and music from Sunday morning and the Bible study I did live in the evening.

Both broadcasts were uploaded to YouTube. The morning service was pre-recorded, uploaded to YouTube, scheduled as a premier, and shared to Facebook.

The evening Bible study in Acts 7 was first done live on Facebook, then saved, then uploaded to YouTube. Fortunately, the in-out focus that usually accompanies the live video (because of our area’s SLOW internet) was not there!

If you are blessed, encouraged, or convicted by either, I would love to hear from you!

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Tough Questions That Should Make Every Christian Think

Daily Live Stream

Every day at 2 p.m. I do a live devotional and prayer time on Facebook. This is in addition to Sunday morning, Sunday evening, and Wednesday night.

All total, I am either live or showing recorded content eight times a week. That’s way, way more than what I was doing before this pandemic forced everything online! But it’s all good.

His grace is sufficient for the challenge.

This Week’s Theme

The theme for this week’s videos was found in Exodus 23, verses 29 and 30. In those verses God says that He would not drive out Israel’s enemies all at once, only little by little.

God was capable of wiping out all of Israel’s enemies. He was more than strong enough. However, doing things as a matter of process was better for the land and God’s people (verse 29).

God could have given the children of Israel everything at once, but his desire for them (and us) was to mature through adversity. Even more, He wants us to become more and more sanctified (set apart for His glory and use) through the purging away of worldly idolatries that trap and destroy us.

Today’s Tough Questions

Lists to Live By: The Christian Collection: For Everything That Really MattersTherefore, This afternoon I pulled a book off one of my shelves and flipped through it until I found what fit the theme of this week’s devotions. In the book Lists to Live By: The Christian Collection For Everything That Really Matters I found on page 48 and 49 “20 Tough Questions.”

This afternoon I shared the first 10 with those watching live on Facebook.

  1. What specifically are you gong to work on in the next week to become closer to God?
  2. What do you feel is a little thing stopping you from getting closer to God?
  3. What is one thing you need to confess this week?
  4. When did you conquer sin this week?
  5. In what areas of your life do you find it easiest to compromise your standards?
  6. Does you faith point others to Jesus?
  7. What are you going to give Jesus in the next week?
  8. Can you give a recent example of a time you had to depend on God?
  9. Where do you know you need humility in your life?
  10. What would improve your prayer life?

As you can see, these are not easy questions for most people to answer. They weren’t completely easy for me, if you want to know the honest truth.

But the fact is, if we are not struggling, and certainly if we are not growing and maturing in our Christian walk and faith in God, then we cannot expect to claim the blessings awaiting in the yet-to-be-conquered “promised land.”

I’ll share the remaining “tough questions” in the next post.

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I’m a “Bible-thumper,” Apparently

It’s been a while…

Yes, it has been a while since my youngest daughter, Haley, has heard me preach. However, this morning she was with my wife as thy watched the service from home.

Even before we left Soddy Daisy and South Soddy Baptist, Haley had started attending another, larger church several miles away. I couldn’t fault her, for she had grown up hearing me preach every Sunday. At least she would now be going to church on her own, not feeling obligated as my child to attend. That’s a good thing, right?

So, yes, it has been a while since Haley has sat in a room when I preached. The closest she’s been in a year was today, and that was a bedroom, not an auditorium. I do miss her.

Notice any difference?

This afternoon, no more than an hour ago, I asked Haley, “Did you notice any difference in the way I preached today compared to at Riverside or South Soddy?”

Have you ever received a comment that you couldn’t quite tell it’s meaning? In other words, have you ever been told something that could be interpreted as either a good thing or a bad thing, and you just didn’t know how to take it? And have you ever received one of those kinds of comments and not wanted to go deeper for fear it might have actually been derogatory and not complimentary?

That’s the kind of feedback I got from my daughter. I didn’t know how to take it.

“Uhh, well, you’re more of a Bible-thumper,” she said with a cool, matter-of-fact tone.

It’s hard to describe the feeling I got when she said that. At one moment I was both hurt and indignant; sad and elated; depressed and emboldened.

“That could be a good thing, I suppose” was my reply.

Bible-thumper:

  • an evangelist or other person who quotes the Bible frequently, especially as a means of exhortation or rebuke. – Dictionary.com
  • an aggressively zealous advocate of Christian fundamentalism. – Merriam-Webster
  • Used as a disparaging term for a Christian, especially a fundamentalist or evangelical Christian, considered to be overly zealous in haranguing or censuring others. – TheFreeDictionary.com

Or, maybe it’s not. 

I guess it hurts, coming from my little girl. I just hope she can see beyond the delivery of the sermon to the Truth of the message.

Decide for Yourself

Should you want to decide for yourself, feel free to watch the attached video from this morning’s streamed service.

(Please excuse the poor video resolution, but in this part of the country the upload speed is only 3-6 Mbps, so I have to set my iPhone to the lowest setting, which is 720p.)

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Filed under Bethlehem Baptist Church, ministry, music, Southern Baptist, worship

Observations from a Middle-Georgia Pastorate: Webinar Weary

Webinars

Up until a month ago, I knew nothing of Zoom or Microsoft Meetings. But now all I hear about are links to webinars and digital meetings every day. As a matter of fact, I am typing this sentence while listening to a webinar with over 200 pastors (mostly from Georgia) attending.

There’s only so much water I can drink from a fire hose.

So, as I wrote in the title, I’m webinar weary. I don’t even have the time enough to watch them all, much less attend then all when they’re live.

Nevertheless, I must say that I am absolutely grateful for the resources being offered. Actually, and I’m not the only one who’s made this observation, I think I feel more connected to my peers in ministry than ever before! I feel far less alone than at any time in the past, and all I’m doing is viewing a computer screen!

The key is that it’s live . . . and we’re all in this together.

Working Again

But if you have been watching the news as of late, the big story is that Gov. Kemp is allowing Georgians to return to work. Not that everything is going to be like it was before . . . oh, no! However, there’s a lot of good people down here who not only want to get back to work, but NEED to get back to work!

What are my thoughts on the matter? All I know is that people are dying from a virus, but people are also dying from suicide at increased rates, people are going bankrupt, families are under stress, children are being abused, people are entering the ranks of the homeless, and some people are starving.

The great leaders of the world make the hard decisions that some people won’t like, while others will praise them. It’s rarely, if ever, a win-win. The best one can hope for, as in this case, is to do the best with the information you have and leave it in the hands of God.

Worshiping Again

For me, the most challenging question is when and how will we re-open church? When and how will we start gathering again as a congregation? The questions and the obstacles are numerous to the point of exhaustion.

Yet, I was put here for such a time as this. God knew what was coming when He sent me here. So, the best I can do is pray, do the best with the information I am given, and then leave the rest in the hands of God.

Live streaming has its benefits, but nothing can fully replace meeting together in person, even if 6ft. away.

I’m getting weary of webinars.

“Bethlehem Baptist at Sunset” Water color and pencil (Anthony Baker)

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Four Simple Tips for Watching Church Online

Hey everybody! Unless you attend drive-in church services, the only alternative is attending worship online. And if that’s what you do, here are four (4) quick tips for making the experience a better one.

1) Let your presence be known! Say hello, or something. If you like something said, do a “like” or “love” thing. Emoji’s are the new “amen!”

2) Try to act like you are actually in church. In other words, try to take this time seriously, because it is. But don’t get me wrong, you can still wear your pajamas and chomp on your Fruit Loops, but don’t get too distracted or else you might miss a word from the Lord for you.

3) Participate as if you’re really there. Worship in such a way that gives God the honor He is due. Don’t worship less at home than you would in front of other people in a fancy building.

4) Pray for those ministering; it’s not easy singing and preaching to a lifeless camera.

And since we’re talking about online church, below are links to the Facebook Live videos I made today.

The first video is from this Sunday morning. It starts off with my mother and me playing some music. Afterwards, my wife and mother and me sing a praise song. Then, as I explain in the video, my mother does something very rare – she sings the melody of a song (I then sing the chorus). . . . And by the way, considering my mother has pancreatic cancer, this was a special moment for me.

Oh, and the white board was a last-minute idea that could have been done better. It’s a learning process.

The second video was from tonight in my office. I start off planning to talk about Stephen’s sermon in Acts chapter 7, yet the Holy Spirit quickly led me in a very different direction. It’s worth watching (and it’s short!).

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