Category Archives: Relationships and Family

Topics related to how we deal with the people God has placed in our lives.

I Love to Tell THE Story (w/Benny Berry)

It was 2012

Back in 2012, I was the pastor of Riverside Baptist Church in Lookout Valley, TN. I was there from August of 2008 to October of 2016.

It was a mixed bag of good, bad, joyful, and tragic. During that year I was neck-deep in finishing my master’s degree, driving a school bus, preaching 3 different sermons a week, and dealing with a sick wife. What’s more, things were happening underneath the radar that would nearly destroy my family and cost my youngest daughter her life.

I don’t know why I am telling you this right now, because it has very little to do with what I wanted to do when I sat down. Actually, all I wanted to do was give a little context to a video I was going to link. However, it just seems like the words I’m typing are being guided. Maybe they’re just what’s on my heart and I need to get them off. I don’t know.

While I was pastor at Riverside, some very bad things happened (hopefully, one day, I’ll have the freedom to share more details). But one of the most painful aspects was finding out – at least being accused – that if I had not been spending so much time studying and working I might have been a better and more attentive father… The one making that accusation was evil and simply trying to make excuses for his own actions.

Yet, in some ways, it was true, which is what makes it painful. I was focused on trying to do things FOR the family and missed some critical times WITH the family. Since then, there has been forgiveness, but scars remain. Thankfully, I serve a God who can even work miracles with scars. He has some too, you know.

Like I said, I didn’t plan on writing this, but somebody evidently needs to read it. Your #1 ministry is your family, not your community, your job, or your church. There is no success in life, whether it be earning millions or having the largest congregation, that is worth losing your children to the enemy. Let me help you put things in order:

  1. God (your personal relationship with Jesus and your obedience to the will of God)
  2. Family
    1. Your spouse
    2. Your children
  3. Providing for your family (i.e., career, vocational ministry, etc.)

If you’ll look carefully, there’s a lot NOT on that list. What about hobbies? What about community service? What about politics? What about friends?

Oh, you can have those things, but if they break the above hierarchy of priorities, you’ll one day find yourself face-down in a pillow wet with regret.

But what if you’ve already made mistakes you can’t correct? Been there, done that, got the t-shirt.

Delight thyself also in the LORD, and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart. Commit thy way unto the LORD; trust also in him, and he shall bring [it] to pass. – Psalm 37:4-5

Today is a new day and the first day of the rest of your life. The race is not over, so finish well.

His grace is sufficient (2 Cor. 12:9).

Here’s the video I was going to share. It’s still my theme.

3 Comments

Filed under Family, Relationships and Family

I’ve Got a Mighty, Mighty Friend

Tough Times

All of us are living in tough and troubling times. For some of you, the road you’re on has far more bumps and potholes than the roads of others. Yet, all of us will agree that, wherever we are, the world is not getting any better.

Times are tough, and they’re only getting tougher.

But…

But, I have a Mighty Friend who is not affected by the whims of men or the winds of time. As a matter of fact, my Friend is the One who created man and started time.

Several years ago (2007) I wrote a song for my little girls to sing. Not long ago, while doing some stuff at church, I listened to a recording of the song …and shouted…literally, I kicked up my heels, pumped my fists, waved my hands, and shouted “Praise GOD!

Maybe you need some encouragement? Just read the lyrics I have included below, and if God is your friend, don’t worry (Matthew 6:30-34).

Mighty Friend

Well I may not be as tall as a building or strong as a big ol train
I may not be as smart as a scientist doing things I can’t explain
But I know the One who made the tallest mountain and can whip up a hurricane
And the very One who invented gravity says He even knows my name.
 
Well I may not know what’s comin’ in the mornin’, or what the day may bring
Good or bad, I’m not gonna worry, ‘cause Jesus knows everything.
So I’ll do the best with what God has given me as long as there is time
‘Cause the One that got the clocks a-tick’n told me it’ll all be fine.
 
When the devil acts like a bully, putting on a scary show
Before you run away and hide in a corner there’s something you need to know
The One who spoke the world into existence is standing by your side
And if you look close the devil’s knees are shakin’ cause he knows he’ll lose the fight
 
Chorus:
Cause I’ve got a Mighty, Mighty Friend who watches over me
And He’s the Mighty, Mighty Savior who died to set me free
Well I may not be the greatest at anything, but this one thing is so
The God that is the greatest at everything loves me, this I know.
 

© 2007, Anthony C. Baker (BMI)

Katie is going to hate me for doing this…

…but I am going to include the recording I was talking about. This was recorded back when she (Katie, the one on the far left) was only 10 or 11 years-old. It’s not Nashville quality, but it’s precious. So, as so many people say before they sing in church, “Don’t listen to how we sing, just listen to the words.”

“Mighty Friend”

Katie, Valerie, Alicia, and Haley

 

4 Comments

Filed under Faith, God, music, Relationships and Family

Adultery and Saints: What Ephesians 5 Says

Credit: Unknown

A word of advice:

When you pound the pulpit, make sure your fist splashes in tears.

That’s the way I felt this past Sunday when I preached a difficult sermon on adultery. I had to “pound the pulpit,” but my heart was broken for those who really need to repent.

You see, I know that there are those of us who’ve been affected by unfaithfulness or been unfaithful. Maybe you’ve even experienced the pain and devastation that divorce brings.

Some of you reading this have stumbled, fallen, and now would do anything to turn back the clock and erase the steps you took that led to failed relationships. If you could go back, you’d never be the “prodigal.”

You are not the primary audience for this sermon.

No, this sermon is mainly meant for those who think sexual sin is just something natural, excusable, and no big deal. Most importantly, t’s a wake-up call to those who may have been deceived into thinking their eternity is secure.

It’s a sermon that I hope God will use not only to restore some wounded relationships, but open the blinded eyes of the lost to the Light of salvation.

Listen and Share

I’m so tired of seeing marriages fail, people hurt, and children suffer. It doesn’t have to be!

I’d like to invite you to listen to the sermon I preached this past Sunday (Feb. 16, 2020) at Bethlehem Baptist Church. I hope it will encourage you to strengthen what you have, avoid temptation, and, if you feel inclined, examine your relationship with Jesus Christ.

And, if it’s a blessing to you, share it with someone.

To listen, click the “Sermon Audio” box, or just click HERE for “Adultery and Saints: What Ephesians 5 Says.” 


Oh, one last thing! … If you make it all the way to the end of the recording, you’ll get to hear my wife admit to the whole congregation that she needs to be a better wife! 🙂  No joke!

And I didn’t know it was coming!

3 Comments

Filed under Culture Wars, Defending Traditional Marriage, Defining Marriage, Divorce, Family, Marriage, Relationships and Family

Unrepentant Adultery and the Christian: Can the Two Co-Exist?

Gotta Say It

Have you ever been in a room full of people… maybe even a few… and they were talking about something… something you’re passionate about… and they were either arrogantly boasting like they knew what they were talking about,  or they were talking like there were no answers to the subject at hand… or, even worse, they were completely off their rocker with their conclusions?

And, if you’ve ever been in a room like that, have you ever gotten fed up to the point where you couldn’t take it anymore, stood up in your chair, and belted out, “OK, I gotta say something!”?

Well, that’s what I’m doing right now…

I’ve gotta say something.

Good and Bad

Today is Valentine’s Day (happy Valentine’s Day to you). It’s a day that, for me, always comes with a mixed bag of emotions and thoughts. For one, I’m glad we have a day that promotes the good things about being “in love” and the valuing of other people, especially women. For the record, it’s a holiday that is banned in several Muslim countries, including the Muslim districts of others, all because it’s considered a Christian holiday and overvalues women. Think about that for a second.

On the other hand, Valentine’s Day is rife with the stereotypical misrepresentations of true love and overflowing with encouragements to sin. And by sin, I mean fornication, adultery, lust, envy, you name it. The worst part is that it’s a day when the sexual aspects of relationships are elevated above everything else, including fidelity, trust, compassion, and selflessness.

So, it’s because of the subject matter of the day that I come to you, dear reader, to vent my frustration and hopefully offer some common sense and biblical wisdom.

Too Many

Image result for divorce imagesIf there had been only one broken relationship, only one divorce, only one potentially devastated child come to my attention in the last couple of weeks, that would still be too many. Yet, just this week I’m looking at several couples and families being destroyed, or potentially destroyed, by adultery and divorce.

On that note, let’s get real and ditch the nice-sounding labels and socially-palatable descriptions of sin, shall we? Married people don’t have “affairs”; they commit adultery.

The word affair makes it sound like you’ve done nothing more than go out for a walk, picked up some coffee, then – oops! – somebody flirted! But whether or not you sipped a milkshake with somebody besides your spouse; looked at porn in order to get the affirmation your wife wouldn’t give; or told yourself he’d be better off with you than his wife, so you pushed his buttons until he undid yours… it’s ALL ADULTERY.

I’m seeing too many people who call themselves Christians shacking up, playing house, competing with spouses, sharing spouses, buttering up kids that don’t belong to them, and jumping under the sheets like it’s nothing more than a workout at the gym! Folks, it’s called fornication, adultery, greed, idolatry, and, if you want to be honest, murder (because you’re killing – putting “assunder” – what God has joined together).

What’s Even Worse

And get this! As if committing adultery wasn’t bad enough, there are those out there who do these things on a regular basis, then brazenly go to a place of worship!

Think about that… they are sexually active, committing adultery, and going to church together… in public… with no shame or regret. Does it ever occur to them that they are there to worship the Savior who died to save them from the wages of sin? That He bore their pet sin on the cross?

This is the very sin of which Jesus was speaking when he told the woman about to be stoned, “Go, and sin no more” (John 8:11).

And people wonder whether or not God is merciful! God killed Ananias and Sapphira for lying to the Holy Spirit (Acts 5), yet they use HIS house to play house? Do they think that God approves of this?

Blind, Hardened, and Lost

Why am I writing this? Because I am sick to my stomach. I’m heartbroken. People I love are playing with fire and risking the judgment of God.

I am fearful, also, because those who are doing these things are convinced they are right with God … saved, born again, going to heaven. They have assumed their ticket for the Glory Train has been punched, that their spot is secure, nobody’s perfect, and God is going to love them, anyway. Worst comes to worse, they will deal with the consequences when they come… then, when they are ready, “He is faithful and just to cleanse them from all unrighteousness.” …which, by the way, is the sin of presumption.

Dear friend, if this is you, I fear you’ve been blinded by the Enemy, your sinful heart has been hardened, and you are most likely lost without Christ and on your way to eternal destruction.

How Can I Say That?

Right now there are some of you who are probably thinking I’m some pulpit-banging, self-righteous preacher spitting and yelling at you. You might have a picture in your mind of a red-faced, polyester-suit-wearing, hateful wingnut pointing his finger at you and yelling “sinnerrrrr!” through gritted teeth.

But I’m not; I’m weeping for you! Because somehow, somewhere, you’ve forgotten some very important facts:

  • “But the man who commits adultery is an utter fool, for he destroys himself.” – Proverbs 6:32 NLT
  • “Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God.” – 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 NKJV
  • “Marriage [is] honorable in all, and the bed undefiled: but whoremongers and adulterers God will judge.” – Hebrews 13:4
  • “Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.” – James 4:4

You might also be convinced that since somewhere in the past you “got saved” or “became a Christian” that even if you regularly fornicate or commit adultery, your salvation is secure. If you are referring to “eternal security,” I believe in that!

However, it’s one thing to mess up and give in to temptation, be remorseful, repent, and ask God to forgive you; but continually and willfully living in outward disobedience to God is something altogether different and is evidence you’ve never been redeemed. If you are truly a new creation, old things are passed away (2 Cor. 5:17), and what is “new” will want to “keep my commandments” (John 14:15).

The FACT, as stated in the above Scriptures, is that adulterers and adulteresses are ENEMIES OF GOD and WILL NOT inherit the kingdom of God!

In other words, those people who are not born again believers in Jesus Christ, but deceived souls whose nature has never been changed (which is evident by their unrepentant, unashamed, unabashed regular actions that fly in the face of God’s clear commands) will, unfortunately, go to hell.

Am I perfect? No. I don’t pretend to be.

Do I sin? Yes. But I regret it every time and try to avoid the next time.

Blatant rebellion is not what I’m known for; I’m not characterized by it. I have a new nature that fights with the lusts of the flesh in which I live (Rom. 7:14-25), but until this “mortality puts on immortality” (1 Cor. 15:54), the struggle will always be difficult and real. Temptations are around every corner these days.

But if you call yourself a follower of Jesus; if you know what God has said about marriage and adultery; yet, you continue in your sin, like it’s no big deal, you might do well to reexamine your salvation.

“Examine yourselves to see if your faith is genuine. Test yourselves. Surely you know that Jesus Christ is among you; if not, you have failed the test of genuine faith.” – 2 Corinthians 13:5 NLT

Because I care, I had to say something.

27 Comments

Filed under Christianity, Family, Marriage, Relationships and Family

Emma’s Birthday (and a guest post from a daughter)

Hey, folks! Check it out!

Today is my granddaughter Emma’s first birthday! Yay Emma!

But what I wanted to do for you (and her) is share what our daughter Alicia wrote on her Facebook page. I believe you will be blessed (and she won’t mind).

But let me tell you what, her first birthday party was the event of the year in Charleston, SC! I shudder to think what her Sweet 16 will be like!

But again, I hope you’re blessed with Alicia’s story.


One year ago today a beautiful baby girl was born into this world. Due to her prematurity she would be rushed to the NICU where she was cared for by amazing nurses and doctors. There she thrived with the love and nurture of strangers for ten days until we were chosen to be her parents. On January 16th, 2019 we got a call that flipped our world upside down and the journey it set us on has been amazing. We had waited so long to adopt that I was beginning to wonder if it would ever happen for us. I never should have doubted God because he taught me a huge (and expensive) lesson on patience and trust.

The day we met her there was a very special nurse that watched us from afar as we cried and held our little girl for the first time. She later came to us and told us that she had been rocking her earlier that evening and praying over her. You see, she did not know at that time that her birth mother had chosen adoption for her. All she knew was the circumstances of her birth and that she had not had any visitors for ten days. She later told us that the very day we came to meet Emma was the day she had been rocking and praying over her. She prayed for God to do something special in her life and to watch over her. To bring her love and a good home. Little did she know that God would provide just that the very same day! Not only did we cry seeing her that night, but this angel of a nurse said she cried too watching from afar as we met our daughter for the first time. Whew! That still makes me all wet eyed!

For seven weeks we went back and forth to the hospital every day to see our sweet girl. We fed her, cuddled her, bathed her and cherished our quiet time bonding with her. We were ecstatic to take her home the day after Valentines Day. We were nervous, but embraced parenthood. It has been about ten months since we brought her home. Ten blissful months. Yes, there was fighting, crying and exhaustion. We had a hard time adjusting to the roles of a working mom and a stay at home dad busy with school, but we did it. Somehow together we got through it and we wouldn’t have done it any other way. I wouldn’t trade those moments for anything in the world.. we finally have a baby girl!

She has grown to be so fun, loving and so very sweet. The way she gets excited when her daddy walks into the room warms my heart and the way she looks for me across the room when she is starting to get nervous makes me melt. This feeling must be motherhood and I love it! I thank God for choosing us to be her parents and for entrusting us with her life. Happy First Birthday sweet Emma Lou! We love you so very much and are so excited to share our life with you!!!

Image may contain: 3 people, including Alicia Westbrook, people smiling, people standing

Alicia, Emma, and Josh Westbrook. I’m proud of all three of them!

5 Comments

Filed under Family, Guest Posts, Relationships and Family

Graduation 2019 and a Walk Through Musical Memory Lane

I haven’t been writing much, lately. It’s been pretty busy around here.

One thing that just happened was the graduation from college by my daughter Katie.

Katie’s first day at Bryan college was back in September of 2014 when we dropped her off at the dorms. I still remember getting back home, walking down the hall and looking into her freshly-painted, peach-colored, sparkly room, knowing those days were over. I cried a river as I leaned against her door frame.

The first picture was taken on that first day at Bryan. Here is myself, Haley (our youngest), and Katie, all sporting our brand new t-shirts to celebrate and remember the day.

Can you believe these are the same two girls?

Here is Katie with Dr. Stephen Livesay, the President of Bryan College.

Now, here’s the proud dad and mom with the graduate 🙂

So, Katie got a Bachelor of Science degree in Music Education and Vocal. She could always sing, and she can write some beautiful music. Let’s view some performance history on YouTube 🙂 See if you can tell how much she’s matured by the last one.

Here is a video of Katie back in November of 2011 (8 years ago). This was the first video of her singing I ever posted on YouTube.

Here is a video of Katie from December of 2012 singing an original, one of the first songs she ever wrote.

Here she is from before her college days in a high school talent show playing guitar (they won 1st place).

Now, the video is not the best quality, but here is Katie and I playing for her high school graduation banquet. Again, this is a song she wrote…and she’s playing the uke better than I played the bass.

This is her senior (college) recital in January of this year. I get to play with her at the very end – because I played for her when she first auditioned for a music scholarship…which she received 🙂

 

Which brings us to the last video – the one made tonight at a church in Soddy-Daisy, TN. Now that Katie is on her own, a college graduate, and living back in Chattanooga with her sister, Haley, I don’t get to perform with her anymore, nor hear her sing in church. So, it sure was a blessing to see this video of Katie doing a wonderful performance of “Breath of Heaven.

This is what loving the Lord, 6 years of college, a lot of prayer, and tons of perseverance will get you. I’m a blessed dad to have such beautiful and talented daughters.

7 Comments

Filed under Christmas, Family, music, Parenting, Relationships and Family, worship

10 Easy Tips to Spark Up Your Love Life (Conservative Evangelical Edition)

I’m still pretty busy getting settled, so I’m still re-posting some older posts. Here is a good one 🙂

Your Requests

Lately I have been getting a lot of requests* from my readers and random people I meet on the street. They have been asking things like, “Hey, Anthony! Why don’t you write a blog post that deals with relationships and dating?”

There have also been multiple married couples** across the country come up to me and point-blank beg me to share my thoughts on marriage, keeping the love alive, etc. Probably 25 couples*** specifically asked, “Can you enumerate a list of actions we as couples can take to ‘spark’ things up, but in a Baptist way?”

So, what else can I do but give my readers what they ask for, right?

Therefore, as requested, here are approximately 10 easy tips to spark up your love life – if you are a conservative Evangelical or Baptist, of course.

10 Easy Tips to Spark Up Your Love Life

Men:

  1. Open the car door. I know, it may sound old fashioned, but the ladies really to like it when you open and hold the door to the car, especially when other people with bad marriages are looking. NOTE: Make sure you hold it open and watch your wife/fiance/date actually complete the task of getting all the way in before you turn your head and shut the door. Remember, it’s not your responsibility to notice the ooo-ing onlookers touched by your chivalry; that’s the female’s place…you don’t want to break her ankle.
  2. Buy her flowers. Christian girls adore God’s creation just as much as the nearest tree-hugging liberal. Therefore, don’t forget to buy your woman some flowers now and then. NOTE: Make sure beforehand if she is allergic to any particular specimen. Otherwise, make sure you have some anointing oil handy, along with someone who can demand that the spirit of asthma be gone.
  3. Choose the right restaurant. When your better half wants to go out to dinner, or when you suggest it, ask where she would like to eat. When she then says, “Oh, it doesn’t matter; wherever you want to go,” you softly say, “I think I would like to go to _______.” With what do you fill in the blank? The restaurant SHE likes, NOT where you would actually want to go.
  4. Tell her she looks beautiful. Married guys, right when you roll over in the morning and see your wife, tell her you love her AND “you look beautiful this morning!” No, she won’t believe you, but she will enjoy hearing it. Then, later in the day, say it again, right when she doesn’t expect it. NOTE: Don’t tell her she looks beautiful more than twice in the same day – she’ll know you’re up to something and the plan will backfire. Single guys, just tell her she’s “pretty” and save the rest for marriage.

Women:

  1. Tell your man you’re proud of him. In all seriousness, if there is anything a man wants, it is to be respected. Even if he’s been acting like an idiot and messing up everything he touches, let him know you are proud of him for trying. The last thing you want to live with is a bumbling idiot whose depressed, too.
  2. Brag on your husband. Don’t misunderstand, bragging on your husband is just the half of it. What you need to do to spark things up is brag on him to other women, and do it is such a way that he is not supposed to know what you said, but you “accidentally” let him find out. For example, send an email or text to your BFF saying something like, “God gave me the best husband any woman could ever dream of! I’m sorry your husband isn’t as wonderful as mine…#praying4u” Then, leave your computer on, or “accidentally” forward him a copy.
  3. Surprise him with tickets to a manly-man guy flick. Believe me, ladies, if you want to make your man feel special, accepted, loved, and adored, say to him, “Honey, guess what? I got us both tickets to go see Star Wars! Unless, of course, you’d like to go see The Day the World Was Saved by Blowing Up Stuff; I’d really like to see that, too.”
  4. Pick some flowers for him. First, you’d be amazed at how guys can be touched by something as sensitive and caring as you giving him flowers. But, keep this in mind – don’t buy them! Your man will be far less stressed if you don’t spend money on stupid stuff like flowers that are only going to die in a day or two, anyway. Pick the flowers and he will love them – and you!

TransGender & LGBT Folk:

NOTE: I can’t help you. However, see the United Methodist, Presbyterian (USA), Unitarian Church, Alliance of Baptists, and Ecumenical Catholic websites, to name a few, for further information. Or, just look for wherever the co-opted symbol of the rainbow is displayed.

For Couples (heterosexual, married, and not just living together):

  1. Pray together. Don’t just pray for each other; pray WITH each other.
  2. Go to church together. Don’t just go to church, however; sit with each other and worship together. NOTE: if you have children that seem to require the whole pew and it forces the both of you to separate and sit at either end, see my other post entitled “Spare the Rod, Spoil the Child.”
  3. 1 Corinthians 7:3-5. That’s all I’m going to say about that; you’ll need to look that up on your own.

BONUS: Spend the evening together at your local Lifeway Christian Book Store… oh, never mind… they closed all their stores. I guess you could pop some corn and sit in front of a computer and scroll through their website together.

Conclusion

The last bit of advice I can give is this: Put God first in your relationships and He will provide whatever you need to make it great and make it last.

 

* Not really.

**Again, not really. I’m joking.

***Ditto.

3 Comments

Filed under baptist, Christian Living, Defending Traditional Marriage, Faith, Humor, Relationships and Family, wisdom