Category Archives: Christianity

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

An Important Afternoon Devotional: “Cancer Treatment”

On Monday afternoon I did a Facebook LIVE devotional for my church congregation. It became very personal and displayed more transparency than I intended.

But, you know what? Maybe that’s exactly what a lot of people needed. Honesty.

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Filed under Christianity, Family, Life/Death

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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Accepting Forgiveness vs Faithless Unbelief

Just this week I uploaded a daily devotional I do online to YouTube. Then, as I usually do, I posted it to our church’s Facebook page.

The subject of this video is that of accepting God’s forgiveness, even when we don’t feel forgivable.

I would love your feedback.

Sorry for the goofy-looking face 😉

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Filed under Bible Study, Christianity, Faith, Uncategorized

What Are the Five Solas, and Did Elvis Sing About Them?

‘O Sole Mio

When I am driving long distances, particularly when I’m alone (as far as I know), I sometimes sing aloud certain songs to keep me alert. Sometimes I sing songs I know well, and other times I make up lyrics to fill in the gaps for songs I know little of.

One particular song is “‘O Sole Mio,” or “It’s Now Or Never.” I will usually sing to myself and use the words interchangeably, adding in what I know of the chorus of “It’s Now Or Never,” then make up the rest from there. The whole idea is to sing loudly, operatically, in order to keep the blood and oxygen flowing, but sometimes my own lyrics crack me up, especially when I expand on the sexually predatory characteristics of Elvis’ version.

Credit: Wikipedia

Actually, the older (1898) Neapolitan song has nothing to do with the English-language hit recorded by Elvis Presley in 1960. ‘O sole mio actually translates into “my sunshine,” while It’s now or never translates into: “I’m so turned on by your looks that we should have a one-night-stand…I’m outa here come daylight.”

So why am I telling you this? I’m glad you asked.

Sole is the Italian word for “sun.” Luce del sole is Italian for “sunlight.” So, by way of a totally unrelated personal story, I want to segue into something that should be important to us all… I want to shine some luce del sole on the Solas 🙂

“It’s now or never . . .” (Elvis)

The Five Solas

Sola is the Latin word for “alone,” and for a practically 500 years non-Catholics (such as myself) have held five particular “solas” near and dear to our theological hearts.

1. Sola scriptura: “Scripture alone”
2. Sola fide: “faith alone”
3. Sola gratia: “grace alone”
4. Solo Christo: “Christ alone”
5. Soli Deo gloria: “to the glory of God alone”

What do they mean? Well, nothing Elvis Presley was singing about, that’s for sure. The following can be found on a great website whose link is already on my sidebar, GotQuestions.org.

Sola scriptura emphasizes the Bible alone as the source of authority for Christians. By saying, “Scripture alone,” the Reformers rejected both the divine authority of the Roman Catholic Pope and confidence in sacred tradition. Only the Bible was “inspired by God” (2 Peter 1:20-21) and “God-breathed” (2 Timothy 3:16-17). Anything taught by the Pope or in tradition that contradicted the Bible was to be rejected. Sola scriptura also fueled the translation of the Bible into German, French, English, and other languages, and prompted Bible teaching in the common languages of the day, rather than in Latin.

Sola fide emphasizes salvation as a free gift. The Roman Catholic Church of the time emphasized the use of indulgences (donating money) to buy status with God. Good works, including baptism, were seen as required for salvation. Sola fide stated that salvation is a free gift to all who accept it by faith (John 3:16). Salvation is not based on human effort or good deeds (Ephesians 2:9).

Sola gratia emphasizes grace as the reason for our salvation. In other words, salvation comes from what God has done rather than what we do. Ephesians 2:8-9 teaches, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”

Solo Christo (sometimes listed as Solus Christus, “through Christ alone”) emphasizes the role of Jesus in salvation. The Roman Catholic tradition had placed church leaders such as priests in the role of intercessor between the laity and God. Reformers emphasized Jesus’ role as our “high priest” who intercedes on our behalf before the Father. Hebrews 4:15 teaches, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.” Jesus is the One who offers access to God, not a human spiritual leader.

Soli Deo gloria emphasizes the glory of God as the goal of life. Rather than striving to please church leaders, keep a list of rules, or guard our own interests, our goal is to glorify the Lord. The idea of soli Deo gloria is found in 1 Corinthians 10:31: “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”

The five solas of the Protestant Reformation offered a strong corrective to the faulty practices and beliefs of the time, and they remain relevant today. We are called to focus on Scripture, accept salvation by grace through faith, magnify Christ, and live for God’s glory.  © Copyright 2002-2017 Got Questions Ministries

Never heard of the five solas of the Protestant Reformation before today? Well, I hope this shed some sunlight – luce del sole – on them for you 😉

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Filed under Christianity, God, grace, Martin Luther, Theology

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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If We Could Only Comprehend!

This morning my prayer for you (and myself) will be the same as what the apostle Paul prayed…

I pray that he may grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with power in your inner being through his Spirit, and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. I pray that you, being rooted and firmly established in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the length and width, height and depth of God’s love, and to know Christ’s love that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. – Ephesians 3:16-19 CSB

Oh, that we might comprehend the width, the length, the height, and the depth of God’s love through Jesus Christ! If we could only even slightly comprehend the vast, expansive spread before us, mercy and grace for every need; the never-ending, eternal, infinite promise of his love and care; the heights to which we are raised, far above the lowly, humble truth of our natural condition and state; and the depths of Christ’s love – humble depths to which the love of God had to reach down in order to pluck us from the pit of sin… If we could only even slightly comprehend them!

Yet, through His strength (v. 16), and being rooted and grounded in His love (v. 17), it is possible! Hallelujah! Because He “is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us! (v. 20 NKJV)

This morning, and every morning, to God the Father be all glory in the church by Christ Jesus, to all generations, wherever they may be, forever and ever, “world without end” (v. 20).

And all the people said… “AMEN!!” 

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Easter 2020 at Bethlehem Baptist (COVID-19 edition)

If you didn’t get a chance to attend a Resurrection Sunday (Easter) service this morning, we made a video just for you!

I would love to hear from you after you watch and participate in worship – yes, we want you to worship with us!

Christ is risen!

 

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Filed under Bethlehem Baptist Church, Christianity, Church, Easter, Preaching, worship

“In the Cross” – A Sermon Outline

Today is Good Friday. The following is the outline I shared this afternoon on Facebook Live. It is based on the song “In the Cross” by Fanny Crosby. The idea is to be a question: How near are we to the cross?


“In the Cross” – A Sermon

For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel: not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect. For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God. – 1 Corinthians 1:17-18

1. Jesus, keep me near the cross,
There a precious fountain;
Free to all, a healing stream,
Flows from Calv’ry’s mountain.

What do you see when you are near the cross? To begin with, you’ll see BLOOD.

But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot: – 1 Peter 1:19

Christianity is a “bloody religion” because it takes sin seriously and sin requires a penalty – the death penalty.

Hebrews 9:22 – And almost all things are by the law purged with blood; and without shedding of blood is no remission.

Hebrews 10:18 – Now where remission of these is, there is no more offering for sin. (It is finished! Hallelujah!)

2. Near the cross, a trembling soul, [fear, repentance, humility]
Love and mercy found me; [this is a testimony]
There the Bright and Morning Star
Shed His beams around me.  (…I am the root and the offspring of David, and the bright and morning star. – Revelation 22:16)

“Unless you see yourself standing there with the shrieking crowd, full of hostility and hatred for the holy and innocent Lamb of God, you don’t really understand the nature and depth of your sin or the necessity of the cross.”
― C.J. Mahaney

“Before we can begin to see the cross as something done for us, we have to see it as something done by us.”
― John R.W. Stott

3. Near the cross! O lamb of God,
Bring its scenes before me;
Help me walk from day to day
With its shadow o’er me.

The Scenes: Matthew 27; Mark 15; Luke 23; John 19

The sheen of the golden pendent disguises horror of the mechanism.

More than a Shadow – It Must Be Carried

Matthew 16:24 – Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.

Luke 9:23 – And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.

Luke 14:27 – And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple.

4. Near the cross! I’ll watch and wait,
Hoping, trusting ever;

Till I reach the golden strand,
Just beyond the river.

Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. – Hebrews 12:2

Refrain:
In the cross, in the cross
Be my glory ever,
Till my ransomed (raptured) soul shall find
Rest beyond the river.

But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ…- Galatians 6:14a

And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses; Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross; And having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a shew of them openly, triumphing over them in it. – Colossians 2:13-15

Conclusion:

Can you see His outstretched arms? Can you see the blood flowing down? Can you see His eyes looking down? Does it affect you?

How near ARE you to the cross?

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Filed under Christianity, Love of God, Preaching