Category Archives: Christian Living

Yes, I’m Still At It

“You Still Preaching?”

I don’t hear it too much anymore, but I used to hear it rather frequently. Family members, old friends, former acquaintances, and the average person I never wanted to see again would come up to me and ask, “Hey, you still preaching?”

Maybe it’s the thing to do. Maybe it is customary to ask a person if they are still doing what they were doing the last time you saw them. It makes sense. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve thought of asking:

  • “Are you still unemployed?”
  • “You still sick with that sickness thing?”
  • “You still married?”
  • “You still running off at the mouth about things you know nothing about?”
  • “You still planning to party with Hitler for eternity?”
  • Are you still as stupid as you used to be?

I just don’t get why people ask if I am still preaching. It’s like they think I’ll change my mind or walk away from the ministry, or something.

Some Statistics

In reality, it’s not that unreasonable to ask someone who once accepted the call to ministry if he is still preaching. Even though it sorta feels like an insult, I shouldn’t be surprised by other people’s shock. I mean, it has been 34 years since I made my calling public. I’ve known more than one who has walked away the first year.

If more people knew the statistics, few would ever enter the ministry. Stop and think about it, would you enter a career with the highest rate of heart attacks? Would you take out student loans for a degree that demands you work multiple jobs? Consider these sad facts…

  • 70% felt God called them to pastoral ministry before their ministry began, but after three years of ministry, only fifty percent still felt called.
  • 80% of pastors’ spouses wish their spouse would choose another profession.
  • 70% of pastors constantly fight depression.
  • 80% of adult children of pastors surveyed have had to seek professional help for depression.
  • 70% of pastors do not have a close friend, confidant, or mentor.
  • 80% of seminary and Bible school graduates who enter the ministry will leave the ministry within the first five years.

Still Preaching

Yet, I’m still preaching. It may surprise people who haven’t seen me in a while, but I’m still doing the Lord’s work and still following the call I first heard when I was 16. It may sound strange, but I can’t help it.

“But if I say I’ll never mention the LORD or speak in his name, his word burns in my heart like a fire. It’s like a fire in my bones! I am worn out trying to hold it in! I can’t do it!” – Jeremiah 20:9 NLT

“For though I preach the gospel, I have nothing to glory of: for necessity is laid upon me; yea, woe is unto me, if I preach not the gospel!” – 1 Corinthians 9:16 KJV

photo (16)June 11 was the anniversary of my father’s death. He died the week before Father’s day (just like my wife’s father did last week). Not long ago I went to his grave and placed my Bible on his tombstone. There, glistening in the sun, were the gilded words “Rev. Anthony C. Baker.”

“Daddy,” I said, “I’m still at it.”

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Filed under Christian Maturity, Church, Life/Death, ministry, Preaching, Relationships and Family

In My Father’s Honor

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 27 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 50 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.

On a side note, I do a radio program just like my dad did, but he used to record his sermons on a Radio Shack cassette recorder while I use an iPhone 7 with a Rode smartLav+ mic. Funny, the sermon below sounds just as good as anything recorded today!

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

Addressing iWorries With iPraise

First of all, I have no photos to upload and post.  If you want to call and talk about it, forget it.

Secondly, I am looking at a computer screen with 1 1/2 times the letters I’m actually typing.

Thirdly, the weeds are still there.

Fourth, I’m an emotional bag of nerves.

Will this be an inspirational post? I don’t know. It all depends. If you have a wonderful life where nothing out of control stresses you out, then you may think to yourself, “Man, I’m glad I’m not that guy.”

On the other hand, you may be in Zimbabwe and might think to yourself, “I wish my problems were as few as his.”

Nevertheless, here’s my story.

iProblems

Last night I went to bed and was going to set my alarm on my phone. When I plugged it into the charger, the charger port was broke. How/when did that happen??! I have no clue, but that has to be fixed…today!

I had photos I was going to upload for a post, but now I dare not turn on my phone and run down what charge I still have. Should there be an emergency, I will need to make a call. But now my wife can’t get ahold of me, and that’s a big problem – as you will see in just a second.

iBlind

And if the phone problem wasn’t enough, my glasses broke yesterday. I mean, I literally took them off my face and the dang things just fell apart! We’re not talking a loose screw, or anything – the frame broke!

If you want to know why that’s a big issue, let me just tell you the brand name of the frame: Silhouette.  Another expensive fix.

iNearly Cursed

Before my glasses fell apart in my hands, something else decided to up and die – the new lawn trimmer.

Look, I don’t have to mow the lawn surrounding our church, the fellowship hall, and the house we live in; someone else does that. However, that someone is a little bit older and has difficulty getting on and off his riding mower, not to mention trimming the grass around three structures and parking lots. So, in order to help out, while at the same time give me the satisfaction of doing something outside, I broke down and purchased a new trimmer.

Keep in mind, I might be 5+ months past shoulder surgery, but pulling the crank on a lawn trimmer is still not easy. So, after about 50 pulls I almost let loose a string of profanities, but I didn’t. Well… maybe a word or two.

iMiss’em

Then, on top of all that, my wife and youngest daughter just drove around the corner and out of sight as they are on their way out of town for 3 days. They are going to a conference in Knoxville, TN.

What’s wrong with that? Well, I absolutely hate it when my wife leaves town, especially with one of the girls. Why? Because they are out there somewhere and I can’t protect them. I’m also pretty clueless when my wife isn’t around to manage things.

It’s sorta kind of crazy, I guess. It’s no big deal for me when I leave town for something, but when my wife leaves town I can’t even sleep at night.

iPraise

So, as I was writing down all my first-world problems, I couldn’t help but be reminded of a scripture passage – literally, it came to mind as I stepped away to let the dog out to pee:

In everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you. – 1 Thessalonians 5:18 KJV

No, that doesn’t mean I should be thankful my glasses, iPhone, and weedeater broke. But what it does mean is that I should be thankful that even in the middle of all this brokenness, Christ has a plan for me. Yes, even when things like these break.

I must remind myself that God ordains my footsteps, and it might just be that He needs my witness at a repair shop or return counter. If a broken iPhone allows me to talk about Jesus, wouldn’t that be great?

Then, right after I thought of the above verse from 1 Thessalonians, another verse came to mind:

Don’t worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. – Philippians 4:6-7 CSB

No, I can’t always be there to watch over my wife and daughters, but God is there. They are in His hand. He can watch over them far better than I can.

If I keep that in mind I might just get some sleep.

 

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Filed under Faith, Relationships and Family, Struggles and Trials, worship

What’s Your Life Worth?

Someone needs to read this. Is it you?

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? Then 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. Foolish, frankly.

Even more than concrete items, some value their pride more than life. They 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 thought of wrongly. So many have yet to learn that what people think of them does not determine the reality of who they are.

From the perspective of family, I would say that most believe life is worth risking life. If my loved ones were in danger, then it would be natural to put my life on the line. Really, there is no argument against this one. But on the other hand, society is very fickled when it comes to how it determines the value of one life. One life is not as valuable as another, after all. Life is not as valuable to some if convenience or personal pleasure is at stake.  I would die for my children, but many kill their own children before birth.  It seems to me that values gold more consistently than life itself.

What about beliefs? 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 will die for what they believe, rather than deny it.  Is your faith worth dying for?  If not, then how much do you really believe?

But here’s one more thought…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 you of incalculable worth! The King of Heaven, the Son of God, gave His own life in exchange for yours, even accepting your guilts and failures as His own, and paying 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. That makes Jesus pretty unique. How many others have done what He has 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; and how wonderful?

What is your life worth?  It was worth the Messiah suffering the most excruciating death Rome could conceive.  It was worth the Prince of Peace being shredded by a “cat of nine tails.” It was worth God becoming flesh so that we could know Him.  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.

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Filed under Christian Living, General Observations, salvation, self-worth, Uncategorized, World View

The Mother’s Day Song: A Tradition Lives

Learn It, Love It

Honestly, I’ve written some fairly decent songs over the years, but one of my favorites (at least in the month of May) is “The Mother’s Day Song.”

Therefore, I want you to listen to this song again. Seriously. It’s a tradition.

Learn it, love it, and then share it with your own mother or mother-like substitute. You could, I suppose, sing it to yourself while imagining Carly Simon somewhere near saying, “I bet you think this song is about you.” And you wouldn’t be vain, either! You’re a mother! You deserve it!

(Note: If you did not catch the humor in the above Carly Simon reference, you’re probably too young to be a mother…or you didn’t click on the above link, duh!)

Read Them, Love Them

Now, it’s not because I’m being lazy, it just that last year’s post was a pretty good one, so why try to top it this year? I’ll just give you a link and you can read what I wrote for Mother’s Day last year on this blog. (As a bonus, scroll through the comments and you’ll get to see me play and sing it live.)

“If I Were a Mother”

However, if you haven’t read what I wrote about my mother and grandmothers on ProverbialThought.com, check out this link.

“Honoring Mothers”

My mother is still with us, but my grandmother (her mother) is now in a nursing home and rarely knows who I am. I have to admit, it’s hard to watch her in that condition.

Then, just yesterday, I found out that my mother has stage 3 kidney disease (as if she didn’t already have enough wrong with her). Point is, appreciate what you have while you have them.

My mother (Marie) and grandmother (Lorene Cagle – now age 96) last year.

So, happy Mother’s Day, everyone! Sing the song!

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Filed under music, Parenting, Relationships and Family

Barriers to Church Growth #7

A very revealing study was done, leading to a book detailing how 300 churches went from declining or dying, to growing. In Comeback Churches, written by Ed Stetzer and Mike Dodson, there is a list of 30 different barriers to church growth. Having received permission from the publisher (B&H Publishing Group), I would like to discuss a few of them.

“People think of giving as being for their own honor.”

Therefore when thou doest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth: That thine alms may be in secret: and thy Father which seeth in secret himself shall reward thee openly.” – Matthew 6:2-4 KJV

I don’t have a problem with buildings, wings of buildings, rooms, sanctuaries, pews, or stained-glass windows being named in honor of people. It’s when those people give money in order have their names put on those things.

One of the most commonly used complaints against the church is, “They only want your money.” Just throw a rock into any crowd and the chances are high that you’ll hit a disgruntled, self-proclaimed atheist who thinks that way.

But even though most churches aren’t all about money (if they were, then why are so many struggling with tight budgets?), there are some folk within the church that like others to know how much money they have. These are the ones who pay the bills, and everybody knows it.

Jesus spoke of those who give just to be seen. I know people like that. They don’t give anonymously, heaven forbid. No, they hold a new conference and write an over-sized, four-foot-long check to the church, while posing for the camera.

These are the people who think they have more say-so in the congregation of believers. They think they have earned the right. Some even give in order to purchase titles, such as “prophet.” What’s worse, that very practice is applauded within a particular denomination. How sad.

What we need are more people who are willing to give because they love the Lord, not praise. I love the scene in Facing the Giants where a wealthy man gives the coach a new truck. Then he looks over at his son and says something like, “Don’t you say a word.” Now THAT’S what I’m talking about!

God gives to us so that we can give to Him. When it is money that we give, it is to be for His glory, not ours. So, if you want recognition, why not wait a little while for the kind that will come from your Heavenly Father?

The praise of men is worthless, if not simply envy in disguise. 

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Filed under Christian Living, Christian Maturity, General Observations, Uncategorized

Barriers to Church Growth, #6 (Selfish Prayer)

A very revealing study was done, leading to a book detailing how 300 churches went from declining or dying, to growing. In Comeback Churches, written by Ed Stetzer and Mike Dodson, there is a list of 30 different barriers to church growth. Having received permission from the publisher (B&H Publishing Group), I would like to discuss several of these.

People think of prayer as being for themselves (Matt. 6:5).

“And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.” – Matthew 6:5

Recently I preached from Romans 12:1-3 and verse 12. There is a great need for prayer that is not self-centered, but sacrificial and “other” focused.

The Hypocrite Prayer

It should always be considered a great honor to be called upon to lead a congregational prayer. When this happens, what is not needed is a long, drawn-out speech meant to make everyone else think the one praying is practicing for an oral theological exam. However, there are those who use this opportunity to do almost that.

How many times have you been in a church service when some “godly” gentleman was asked to give the closing prayer, the result being you fell asleep and hit your head on the pew in front of you? Many times the reason for a prayer like that is simply to make the one praying sound righteous. Is that not what the Pharisee did (Luke 18:11)? His intent was to be heard of men, not God.

On the other hand, if the intent is for God to hear, do we think He is going to be impressed with our seminary-level language? More often than not, when somebody goes on and on in a public prayer, God is no more impressed than the people in the audience…nobody is fooled. Fancy words can never hide a faulty character.

The Selfish Prayer

What I believe is more dangerous than the hypocritical prayer is the prayer that focuses only on one’s personal needs, not the needs of others. The reason these prayers are dangerous is that they cause us to be narrow-minded and self-centered. They are the opposite of sacrificial prayer.

Does anyone seriously think that Christians pray as much as they should? And when we do pray, how often do you think we pray for the needs of our neighbors, our friends, or even our enemies before we “name-and-claim” our own desires? My friends, this is a barrier to church growth. The lack of prayer is far more deadly to the church than the few who “stand in the corner of the streets” to be heard.

Sacrificial Prayer

In the first verse of Romans 12 the Apostle Paul begs us to “present [our] bodies” as living sacrifices. “Living sacrifices” don’t care about self, only the glory of the One to whom the sacrifice is made. And when we are transformed by “the renewing of [our] minds,” we have the mind of One who would lay down His own life for the sake of others.

When we look further down into this chapter it becomes obvious that we not to think of ourselves as better than others, but to minister to their needs as our own. With that in mind, when we come to verse 12, what kind of prayer should we be continuing in?

When we become more like Christ, our prayers become more like His. We don’t know every prayer Jesus prayed, but of the ones we have a record of, how many included requests for better jobs, a better car, a nicer home, better health, etc? More often than not, He prayed for the Church, for unity, for His Father to receive glory, for His Father’s will to be done.

How awesome it would be if we all spent more time on our knees in prayer? How powerful would it be if we sacrificed our time in prayer for self and focused on others within the body? What would happen if we would just spend time praying, not just for our own congregations, but for the Church, the body of Christ?

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