Category Archives: Christian Maturity

This Is Why We Struggle With the Enemy

Pastor, preacher, minister, Christian… if we feel like the Enemy is winning, like he’s not even intimidated, there’s probably a simple reason.Andrew Murray

Andrew Murray (1828-1917) was a South African preacher and pastor (of Scottish decent). But more than anything, he was a prayer warrior. Some of his theology may not sit well with all of some of us, but one thing is certain: this man had a heart for God like few others.

The following is from his book Living a Prayerful Life:

The Enemy uses all his power to lead the Christian – and above all, the minister – to neglect prayer. Satan knows that however admirable the sermon may be, however attractive the service, however faithful the pastoral visitation, none of these things can damage him or his kingdom if prayer is neglected. – Andrew Murray (p. 28)

I’m not going to lie – I don’t pray like I should. What a waste! What a sin!

I have preached some pretty good sermons and tried to do all the pastoral stuff, but how much more effective could I have been had I spent more time on my knees and less time at a desk?

What if I spent more time talking with Jesus than talking about Him?After all, the whole reason the disciples called for the selecting of deacons was so that they might first give themselves “continually to prayer…” (Acts 6:4).

Preachers, before you worry anymore about your outline for Sunday, your clever illustrations, or your Power Point, spend some more time prostrate before the throne. If we neglect earnest prayer, we’ll have no power, so what’s the point?

Battles may be lost on our feet, but they are won on our knees.

One finger pointing, three back at me.

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Filed under book review, Christian Living, Christian Maturity, Prayer, Preaching

Defining a Fool

April Fools Day

So, happy April Fools Day!…or, happy Atheists Day!…whichever you prefer.

You know, even though atheists think we are being smug and “snarky” by quoting Psalm 14:1, I believe the one who thinks there is no God really is a fool. But what I think matters little in the scheme of things; what matters is what God thinks.

That is why I came up with this list.

What is a Fool?

What is a fool?  Believe it or not, Scripture lists several characteristics of a foolish person. The following is not an exhaustive list, but it’s a good start.

So, why not do this Jeff Foxworthy-style?  

You might be a fool if…

  1. You are always right in your own eyes (Proverbs 12:15).
  2. You despise instruction (Proverbs 1:7; 15:5).
  3. You are unteachable (Proverbs 17:10; 23:9; 26:11)
  4. You’re always running your mouth, getting into trouble (Proverbs 18:6-7; 29:11).
  5. You are always trying to find yourself (Proverbs 18:2).
  6. You make fun of sin (Proverbs 14:9).
  7. You’re always meddling in other people’s business (Proverbs 20:3).
  8. You are a shame and a burden to your parents (Proverbs 17:25).
  9. You deny the obvious because the truth is inconvenient (Romans 1:18-22).
  10. You deny Jesus because you think the cross is foolish (1 Corinthians 1:18).

Don’t be a fool.

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Decaffeinated Christianity

Like vs. Love

I like coffee, but I wouldn’t say I love it. My wife and kids, on the other hand, are worth dying for. I love them. I only like coffee. I’m not going to jump in front of a moving train to save an espresso.

But there are times when I like coffee more than I like my wife. Every once in a while I want a cup of coffee more than a kiss or a hug. I still love my wife, but she won’t fit into the French press.

Now, it must be said that I also like tea. Thanks to the influence of certain English folk, my tea consumption has increased a thousand fold! Yet, tea is not coffee. Sometimes I want coffee more than tea. Sometimes tea needs to leaf me alone. There’s a big difference between loose-leaf anything and some medium roast Jamaican Blue Mountain. That’s real coffee, and I really like it.

What is Real?

But wait! That raises a question. What is real coffee? What is the difference between freshly brewed coffee and let’s say, uh, freeze-dried instant? Both are real, aren’t they?

Fake coffee. Whoever still drinks that stuff on purpose should be psychologically evaluated. Coffee is only coffee if it comes about as the result of gently ground coffee beans being caressed by steaming hot water. Chicory is of the Devil.

Instant coffee. It comes packaged in a jar, but it is made from real coffee. It may not taste as good as fresh-brewed, but it’s real, nevertheless. The worst instant coffee is still better than dandelion tea, believe me.

Nasty coffee. Even the stuff you find in a gas station, an army mess tent, or a crazy relative’s thermos is still coffee. Coffee is coffee, even if it tastes like road tar.

“Unleaded.” What I don’t understand is decaffeinated coffee. Sure, it tastes the same to most people, but why would anyone want it? Without the caffeine coffee is…well…it’s just not coffee. It has the look and taste, but no umph, no kick, no power.

Powerless

Decaffeinated Christianity is the same way. It looks like the real thing. It smells like the real thing. It tastes like the real thing. For crying out loud, it even outsells full-strength, real Christianity 10 to 1! People love it! They wear t-shirts promoting their favorite brand. Yet, decaffeinated Christianity is no better than decaffeinated coffee without the Power.

You should know this, Timothy, that in the last days there will be very difficult times. For people will love only themselves and their money. They will be boastful and proud, scoffing at God, disobedient to their parents, and ungrateful. They will consider nothing sacred. They will be unloving and unforgiving; they will slander others and have no self-control. They will be cruel and hate what is good. They will betray their friends, be reckless, be puffed up with pride, and love pleasure rather than God. They will act religious, but they will reject the power that could make them godly. Stay away from people like that! – 2 Timothy 3:1-5 NLT

What are you drinking?

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

I’ll Tell You What I Want, What I Really, Really Want

Spice Girls

Do you remember the Spice Girls? Here today, gone tomorrow girl band from the U.K.? They were the ones that made famous the song “Wannabe” (I’ll spare you the video).

What was the catchiest part of the whole song? The part that went “Tell me what you want, what you really, really want. I’ll tell you what I want, what I really, really want.” As a matter of fact, just for fun, here’s a link from the movie Chicken Little. The pig and chicken characters do a pretty good cover.

Honestly, I am not totally clear as to what the Spice Girls wanted. I wouldn’t know a “zigga” from zagga. On the other hand, I bet what they wanted was not what poor Job (in the Bible) wanted, but we’ll get to him in a minute.

Heaven

Have you ever thought about what you would want to see most in Heaven? Assuming Heaven will be your home after this life (don’t assume – eternity is too long for a mistake of that nature), what would you want to see first? Tell me what you want, what you really, really want.

Do you look forward to walking on a street of pure gold? Are you excited about seeing things that can hardly be imagined, much less described? What about gates of pearl? An emerald sea? Do you really, really want to meet all the saints of old, including relatives who have gone on before. Angels? A mansion?

Job

Do you remember Job? He was the guy in the Bible (with the book named after him) that lost everything he owned, including his wealth, family, and health. He even lost his friends, especially if you consider all they did was accuse him of wrongdoing.

Job wound up in such a state that his own wife even begged him to just curse God and die (Job 2:9). Job was a miserable wreck of a man who had every reason to want to go to Heaven. Yet, what Job really, really wanted to see first was not golden, bejeweled, or even a thing…He wanted to see God.

Remember, what you want tells a lot about your heart. Instead of wanting to exchange his suffering for a new body; his poverty for wealth; his loneliness for a reunion with loved ones, all Job wanted was to see God with his own eyes, in his own flesh. This was his hope and desire all wrapped up in one.

For I know [that] my Redeemer lives, And He shall stand at last on the earth; and after my skin is destroyed, this [I know], That in my flesh I shall see God, whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not another. [How] my heart yearns within me! – Job 19:25-27 NKJV

What we fail to think about is that when we see God, all the other joys of Heaven will have to seem secondary! God, the highest of all that is good and lovely, the depth of Whose attributes can never be plumbed, will one day look into our eyes in a moment of total realization, understanding, and belonging. What else could compare? Sure, there will be other things in Heaven, but who will care if it takes a million years to get around to some of them?

Tell me what you want. What do you really, really want.

Do you want Heaven, or Him? There is a difference.

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Filed under Christian Maturity, Future, God, salvation, the future, Uncategorized, worship

Objectives for My Life

If a fruit fly was asked to submit a list of things he’d want to accomplish in life, it would probably be pretty short and sweet.

If he could write, it would go something like, “Eat, procreate, and die.”

I am not a fruit fly. Yet, back in 2012 while in seminary I was asked to provide a list of my personal ministry objectives. Wasting no opportunity, I wrote a blog post about them and even incorporated them into my resume (where they remain to this day).

But as I was reviewing them this morning, I realized they were points that defined something more than just ministry: they are my life!

Ministry (including preaching, teaching, counseling, etc.) is more than just a job, a career, or a chosen field of service; it is my calling, my personality, my way of life. It’s who I am.

The following “objectives” shouldn’t only describe the things I want to accomplish; they should be a description of the man God has molded me to be.

The only question, then, is how well am I being ME in the context in which I’ve been given?

When people say “Just be yourself,” it’s good to know who yourself is.

My ministry objectives:

  1. To bring glory to the name of Jesus Christ in all that I do,[1] and all I go through.[2]
  2. To “give attendance to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine,”[3] and “to prayer, and to the ministry of the word.”[4]
  3. To affect future generations yet to come as children are grounded, parents become responsible, singles are emboldened, and the aged get a second wind.[5] [6]
  4. To be known as a humble and consistent husband and father whose household serves the Lord;[7] [8] a forgiven sinner who understands grace;[9] and a fearless soldier of the Cross[10] who never compromises the truth.[11]
  5. To promote the preaching and teaching of the Gospel in every part of the world.[12]

Update: Literally, just minutes after I posted this, a friend sent out a group text (which I received) that included the following sermon by Tony Evans. Awesome.

http://subspla.sh/x7f9wq9

Confirmation 🙂


[1] Psa 19:14 – Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O LORD, my strength, and my redeemer.

[2] 1Pe 1:7 – That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ.

[3] 1Ti 4:13 – Till I come, give attendance to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine.

[4] Act 6:4 – But we will give ourselves continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the word.

[5] Jos 4:21-24 – And he spake unto the children of Israel, saying, When your children shall ask their fathers in time to come, saying, What [mean] these stones? Then ye shall let your children know, saying, Israel came over this Jordan on dry land. For the LORD your God dried up the waters of Jordan from before you, until ye were passed over, as the LORD your God did to the Red sea, which he dried up from before us, until we were gone over: That all the people of the earth might know the hand of the LORD, that it [is] mighty: that ye might fear the LORD your God for ever.

[6] Pro 22:6 – Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.

[7] Jos 24:15 – And if it seem evil unto you to serve the LORD, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that [were] on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.

[8] 1Cr 15:58 – Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.

[9] 1Ti 1:15 – This [is] a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief.

[10] Mar 8:34 – And when he had called the people [unto him] with his disciples also, he said unto them, Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.

[11] 1Ti 4:16 – Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine; continue in them: for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee.

[12] Act 1:8 – But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.

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Plowing the Corners In Soddy

Old VHS Tapes

Just the other day I came across a couple of old VHS tapes in my study. You do know what they are, don’t you?

The ink on the labels was so faded that I couldn’t tell what had been recorded on them. So, I took them back to the house and popped them into the old player to see what little bit of history had been archived.

To my surprise, one of the VHS tapes contained the recording of my father’s funeral back in 1991! It was a little disturbing at first, but I decided to watch some of it, especially since I didn’t remember much about what was said that day.

One of the men whom I had invited to speak was Evangelist John Mitchell, a former pastor of ours and a man who knew my dad well. During his short sermon in honor of my father, he gave an illustration that eloquently described him.

The Illustration

When describing my father, Bro. John Mitchell put it this way:

“What was Terry Baker’s real aspirations? I mean, what did he really want out of life? Well, Terry was satisfied, as few people are, with just doing little things for Jesus.

I heard the story one time of a fellow who had a couple thousand acres that he farmed, and he had these big John Deere tractors with 24-ft harrows. In other words, with one swoop with that tractor they would plow a 24-foot strip…it would take no time to get those big, huge fields done.

But there was only one problem: those fields were so big, when it turned around, it couldn’t catch the corners, and the corners were always left…and they had to get somebody to come in and do those corners because the ground was just as fertile and grew just as much in the corners as it did out in the middle.

It seemed like to me, knowing Terry 20 years, that he was satisfied in just doing the corners. He never did look for big stuff. He never was, all the time I knew him, disappointed in doing the little things for the Lord Jesus Christ. He felt like, as I do, it was just as important as that fellow out there with the big John Deere tractor…

Terry didn’t aspire to be somebody great with his name in the papers. He just wanted to do whatever he could for the Lord Jesus Christ. I would to God we had more Terry Bakers who had that type of attitude.”

In other words, my dad was content plowing the corners, for that was important, too.

My Corner

So, if my dad was here today (and I wish he was), I think he would be proud of me. Today is the 2nd anniversary of when I became pastor of a small corner in the big field of Hamilton County, Tennessee: South Soddy Baptist Church.

While others have been tasked by the Owner of the field to drive the big plows, He has entrusted me with this little spot – because the harvest is that important.

When I was younger I had aspirations of plowing larger plots of land, but that was when I thought it was MY field…my ministry, not God’s. But now that I’ve matured and learned to be more like my late father, a humble man of God, there is joy and contentment in doing the bidding of the One who called me to the work…

…even in the corners.

Photo credit: Haley Baker (visit SouthSoddyBaptist.org)

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Filed under Christian Maturity, Church, Family, Megachurch, ministry, Preaching

Are You Doing Any Quiet Construction?

Just across the street from the parsonage and the church where I pastor, there’s a house being built where an old one used to stand.

Every morning, and throughout the day, one can hear all kinds of noises coming from that direction, like hammers, saws, and a few unknown tongues. Theses are the common sounds associated with construction.

But what you will not be able to hear are the painters, the finishers, the electricians, and the plumbers doing their work. The loud noises made by the initial builders and framers might be signs something is happening, but much of what must be done before the house is usable happens on the inside … in the quiet.

Meditate on that truth for a while.

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