Category Archives: Church

A Response, or Not a Response: That Is the Question

Not long ago I was involved in a back-and-forth comment thread with a subscriber named Stephen. Maybe you’ve read the comments. If not, they are still there and available for your viewing.

At one point I decided to end the back-and-forth commenting and commit to a post in which I would address the plethora of accusations and mischaracterizations Stephen was making. I even backed off from writing a great deal in order to focus on this piece. To be specific, 2 weeks ago I wrote:

“… I am going to take very seriously my responses to your questions, including your – let’s be honest – angry and mean-spirited attacks on my character and intelligence. Also, in order to achieve maximum transparency and allow for others to judge our arguments against the Word of God (our only source of authority), I will be copying and pasting the most pertinent of your previous remarks into a series of new blog posts.”

However, after reviewing eleven (11) pages of comments, and after being advised by several friends and relatives to stand down, I think it wise to keep my response “limited.”

The reason for keeping things confined to maybe just one blog post is that spreading out the discussion would risk the potential of getting off track. It would also potentially fuel a long-running debate that would prove worthless.

The Sermon

On Sunday morning, January 10, 2021, I preached a sermon from the seventh chapter of Matthew. Jesus said in the 24th verse: “Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock:” Note, the wise man whose house will stand through the strongest storm is one who not only hears the words of Jesus, but does them.

And what were the “sayings” to which Jesus was referring? They go all the way back to Matthew 7:1. From verses 1-21 there are seven (7) main points, the “sayings” of Jesus. You can find them in verses 1,5,6,7,13,15, and 21.

However, it was verse 6 that the Holy Spirit used to speak to my heart (and other social media users in the congregation). It was also this verse that was often quoted by those advising me to stand down:

Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you. – Matthew 7:6 KJV

Now, before anyone – including Stephen – gets offended, I am NOT calling anyone a dog or pig! Neither was Jesus.

The meaning of this verse has to do with giving things of great value to those who by nature will see no use for them and in turn, instead of thanking you, will continue with their attacks.

You see, swine cannot deduce the value of a shiny, costly, and rare pearl; all they see is something to munch on like a nut. It is not in their nature to appreciate rarity and beauty. Likewise, the one who is hostile to the Word of God, who refers to it as a “dead book” written by “fallible and evil men” is hardly going to appreciate any explanation he’s already deemed valueless and tasteless.

Therefore, I’m torn. Do I respond or not? Do I defend the Bible, the organized Church, pastors, paid ministers, even myself? Do I respond to Stephen’s over-generalized accusations?

Another question: Will it matter? When it is unlikely that Stephen will (if he’s still reading at this point) take the time to respond in a calm, respectful, rational, non-hateful, non-smart alec, humble way, what’s the point of investing hours of my valuable time into writing the likes of multiple research papers?

If the 11 pages of comments tell us anything, Stephen’s likely response will be to belittle my hard work and say as many atheists do when offered evidence of Intelligent Design: “That’s not evidence.”

It’s a tough, tough decision to make.

Who Is Stephen?

So, who is this Stephen person? Why take all this time to address his comments? What makes his arguments and accusations worthy of rebuttal? Why not simply say “whatever” and ignore or block him? After all, I normally block comments from people who are so disrespectful that they call me a “POS.”

I guess it’s because I know that others are reading the comments, too. I know that there are those who will never write anything but read what we write when we go back and forth. I know this because several have told me through email and in person.

It’s also a fact that Stephen is a real human being with real emotions, feelings, and a soul. Stephen also lives in a world where his actions and beliefs will ultimately affect others and possibly generations to come. And it would also be good to remember that Stephen is not alone in his beliefs; there are many, many others who think and feel the way he does.

Where there is one Stephen, there are others. Therefore, by taking the time to rebut false assumptions and dangerous theologies, we may or may not be able to affect a change in Stephen, but others may come to know the Truth.

My Observations

I guess it would be good at this point to offer some observations that I’ve made as I have reviewed Stephen’s comments from last year. Since you may have not read them all, the following summary will give you a better understanding of the tone and substance of Stephen’s comments, along with a better understanding as to why I feel addressing all his arguments might be fruitless.

Again, the following bullet points contain Stephen’s actual comments and are contextually accurate. In no way have I cut and pasted his words in order to frame him in a negative light. His comments can speak for themselves.

  • Derogatory Ad Hominem Attacks are Common – I counted at least 22 personal swipes at my character or the character of others who joined conversations. With only assumptions and obvious bias as his foundation, Stephen was quick to use the following derogatory descriptors, to mention a few…
    • Hireling
    • “…the honest [pastors] have left the world of religion.”
    • legitimate” pastors don’t “carry the labels, nor were they employed in religion.”
    • “The cognitive dissonance required to sit through a sermon and not puke is astronomical. But then as we all know, the psychopath target the weak.
      Perhaps your time would be better spent pontificating to your flock Mel. I don’t have much patience for manipulators.”
    • “…you chauvinistic POS.”
    • “…2 bit evangelical religious leaders such as yourself.”
    • “A couple of 2 bit religious business owners about their own agenda is what the both of you are.”
    • “As for your religious business, Baptists are no different than any other denomination or non denomination, it’s all a business, whether you manage it or own it, it’s all witchcraft.”
    • “…why don’t you mind your own family instead of perpetuating religious business that abuses children and those who are weak minded?”
  • Does Not Believe the Bible is the Inerrant, Inspired Word of God
    • “…not bound to a book…”
    • “My authority is Jesus Christ, not a dead book.”
    • “I do like the bible as it contains many truths and reliable testimonies.”
    • “As for Where to fine Jesus” words, they’re everywhere but mostly I find them within.”
    • “I know you disagree all those who belive the infallible, final authority or the word of God must. Their whole faith lies in their belief in the bible. Almost as if, God ceases to exist if the bible has errors.”
    • “The Jesus of the bible can be many different images to many different people and yet you seem to think a unique revelation is wrong?”
    • “…but God is not confined to a book written and compiled by man.”
    • “God has not stopped revealing Himself to men, He doesn’t need a bible to reveal Himself.”
    • “The bible is subjective…”
  • Stephen has a strong dislike for Pastors and Preaching.
    • “I’ve had my fill of men who claim to have the truth.”
    • “God’s people are everywhere, there’s absolutely no need to pay or put up with pontificating just to hang out with them.”
    • “Instead of preaching about ‘leading by example,’ it’s time to start doing it.”
    • “You must assume your position … [use] a couple of bible verses to justify your authority and put me into submission … You must maintain dominance so as to not look weak before your flock.”
    • “Jesus never spoke of giving pastors or to His people.”
    • “Any religious leader would have a hard time justifying their position without Paul’s writings so I understand your desire to bind people to the bible.”
    • “The standards you perceive from the bible are for you, they’re not meant to be legislated and forced onto other, especially if they don’t affect you.”
    • “And there’s no way preaching the Gospel should be a paid position. Jesus is the model of what the Church should be, not Paul.”
  • Stephen has a strong dislike for organized religion.
    • “There is absolutely no difference between the world and those who attend and adhere to organized religion.”
    • “I’ve tasted the paint religion paints with, and will not be painted with that brush. So I’ll continue to paint with my broad brush.”
    • “Though most of my mentors never spoke His name or had any part in religion, they lived Christ.”
    • “…I don’t do religion.”
    • “No bibles, no church, just faith in God.”
    • “As for the church model you justify, this model is found no where in the bible.”
    • “…I’m not a believer that acts is the model for the Church. The Church are those who belong to Christ. We are a living organism and not an organization.”
  • Stephen has made some potentially dangerous ontological and theological statements about Jesus.
    • “When we stand before Jesus Christ, we will then know the Truth.”
    • “I don’t profess Jesus as the only way to God, people can figure that out for themselves. I profess Jesus IS God.”
    • “My authority is in Jesus Christ, not a dead book.”
    • “…Jesus Chris revealed Himself to me and taught me that in fact, my conscience was Him speaking to me.”
    • “After reading the bible 5 times cover to cover, I still wasn’t sure who Jesus was, but He had mercy on me and revealed to me, the scriptures are accurate in their testimony of who He IS. Much like Peter, flesh and blood did not reveal it to me, but my Father in Heaven.”
    • “The Jesus of the bible can be many different images to many different people and yet you seem to think a unique revelation is wrong?”
    • “I don’t recall Christ condemning either the woman caught in adultery or the woman at the well. Nor did He defy from doing what they were doing.”
    • “I hope I’ve made my profession for Jesus Christ alone loud and clear as I learned this from Jesus Christ Himself. This Truth was learned by many and some recorded it. And some of those testimonies were compiled and put in a book that we now call the bible. Fallible men to who’m God revealed Himself to. Go has not stopped revealing Himself to men, He doesn’t need a bible to reveal Himself.”

So, what do I do?

Does Stephen sound like a guy who’s going to respond with grace to someone who gets paid to preach and pastor a church which is linked to an organized religious organization?

If Stephen doesn’t care for the writings of Paul, what good is it to discuss the revelations Jesus made to him as described in the book of Acts and elsewhere in Paul’s letters?

If God has not stopped revealing Himself to men, and if the Bible (I capitalize it because it is a proper noun) is just a compilation of individual and subjective experiences, then to what Authority do I appeal?

If Stephen has already determined that all pastors aside from the “Good Pastor” are hirelings, manipulators, abusers, controllers, practicians of “witchcraft,” and “POS,” what makes me think anything I say, especially if I appeal to a “dead book” written by “fallible and evil men,” will have any affect? Will I only be casting my pearls before someone who cannot appreciate the value?

Personally, I don’t think anything thing I write, whether it be based solidly on the words of Jesus or not, would have any effect on Stephen. After re-reading his comments, it’s hard to imagine he will ever yield the possibility that anything I say could be correct.

HOWEVER, if you would like for me to offer a reasoned response to any of Stephen’s accusations or assumptions, please let me know in the comment section.

In Conclusion

I feel I’d be remiss if I didn’t leave you (and Stephen) with something positive. I’ve talked a lot about Stephen and his beliefs but let me close with a few things I believe.

  • There is only one way to God and that is through Jesus Christ (“I am the way, the truth and the life; no man cometh unto the Father but by me” – John 14:6).
  • I believe that Jesus was and is 100% man and 100% God (hypostatic union).
  • The Bible is our sole source of authority regarding faith and practice, and especially when it comes to understanding who God is.
  • The Bible is not a “dead book,” but “…[is] quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and [is] a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” – Hebrews 4:12 KJV
  • Scripture is not subjective and open to individual interpretation (Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. – 2 Peter 1:20 KJV).
  • There must be a point in one’s life when he goes from death to life, from lost to found, from dead to alive, from estranged to reconciled, from being a foreigner to a member of the Family, from being born in the flesh to being born again, from being the enemy of God to being called His friend. In order to be “saved,” there must be a time in one’s life when he recognizes his need of a Savior.
  • Pastors are gifts to the Church (Ephesians 4:11) and are allowed to be paid for their work (1 Timothy 5:18).

Anything specific I missed? Anything specific you’d like me to address?

If not, I guess I’m done with this project.

Stephen, I do pray that you will grow in a sincere and biblical relationship with Jesus Christ and grow deeper in your understanding and appreciation for the Bible, for it was Jesus Himself who said: “‘O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken: Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into his glory?‘ And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself.” – Luke 24:25-27

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My Last Post of 2020

Glad it’s over, but at least I’m better prepared for the next catastrophe. Amen?

Thank you, everyone. All of you who have read any of my posts, all of you are appreciated, even Stephen in Canada 😉

Tonight, at 6pm our time, we are going to be having a New Year’s Eve service. It won’t be a long one, nor will it be a traditional-like service. All I plan to do is read a verse or two from the Bible and ask if anyone would like to share a word or two about the past year. Then, as Jesus and his disciples did right before He was taken to be tried, we will have our version of the Passover meal: the Lord’s Supper.

Jesus said of the Passover meal, and by extension the celebration of that last supper we observe today, “Do this in remembrance of me.” Paul said that as often as we partake in the communion meal, we “proclaim His death” until He returns. I want to offer it tonight for both those reasons.

Remember Jesus. If that is one thing we probably did not do enough of is think of Jesus during the last year. On the other hand, it is very possible that many people who never thought about God at all had their minds on things eternal. Did we as Christians take advantage of that opportunity? Did we think about life and death as much as those who were without hope?

I can’t help but think that the Church has been given a rare opportunity, at least a once-in-a-lifetime chance to offer Christ during a time of great uncertainty and questioning. For most of the past year we have seen something comparative to the Ethiopian reading a scroll he barely understood and we as Phillip being sent to answer his questions. How many of us have even considered the answers?

Proclaim His death until He comes. The second thing about communion is that by partaking in it we show that we have put our faith in the finished work of Christ on the cross. We believe that His blood was shed and His body was broken on our behalf, and that Jesus was buried only to rise again. And we believe, as He promised to rise again, He also promised to return. Therefore, we partake with a grateful and expectant heart as we proclaim to the watching world where our faith lies.


Before I go, I want to clue you in to the subject matter of my next substantive post. As some of you may have read, a man named Stephen has been leaving some pretty harsh and antagonistic comments here on the blog. I have honestly come close a time or two to blocking him. However, I’ve not been able to do that.

So, in a previous comment to Stephen, I said that I would like to take his accusations and false charges and answer them one-by-one. Unfortunately, a lot has happened over the last couple of months and I forgot to do so. However, I am in the process of compiling ALL Stephens comments going back to January of this year. From these comments I am going to pull specific issues and questions that I will attempt to address. Please pray that the Lord will use the material I post to open the eyes of blind and allow the hard-of-hearing to hear His voice.


May the joy of the Lord be your strength in 2021.

Put Jesus first in all you do.

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For Such a Time As This

As I woke this morning, names started coming to mind.

I would like to share them with you.

Of the following names, try to think what is common among them all.

Deitrich Bonhoffer
Jim Elliot
Joseph (the one with the coat of many colors)
Brother Andrew
Cory Ten Boom
Harriet Tubman
Frederick Douglass
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Casey Jones (the railroad engineer)
Todd Beamer (flight 93)
Abraham Lincoln
William Wilberforce (member of Parliament)
Sir Winston Churchill
Horatio G. Spafford (It Is Well With My Soul)
Rosa Parks
William Wallace
Davy Crockett, Jim Bowie, Col. William Travis
Oskar Schindler
Moses
Esther

If you haven’t figured it out, there may be other similarities, but all of these names have at least one thing in common: You would have never known them had it not been for their moments of adversity, the challenges forced on them, or the stands they took in the face of injustice.

Consider the words of Mordecai to a fearful and hesitant Esther:

Mordecai sent this reply to Esther: “Don’t think for a moment that because you’re in the palace you will escape when all other Jews are killed. If you keep quiet at a time like this, deliverance and relief for the Jews will arise from some other place, but you and your relatives will die. Who knows if perhaps you were made queen for just such a time as this?” – Esther 4:13-14 NLT

Dear friends, whatever the future of this country, God has us here “for just such a time as this.”

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Teaching Thru the BFM2000 Pt 1

The Scriptures

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The Ministry In Thessalonica

Tonight I went into full teaching mode with attitude!

Wow! I just LOVE Acts, and chapter 17 is one of my favorites.

Get a glimpse inside my Sunday nights as you watch this Facebook live edition of me preaching/teaching through Acts 17:1-9.

www.facebook.com/bethlehembaptistwarthen/videos/2893988174156335/

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Just Suppose if Jesus…

My Sunday-night sermon.

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An Open Letter to Pastors (and ministers) Delivering Regular Content During the Pandemic

Dear Pastors (and fellow Ministers)

As I write this, it is late Saturday night and I am thinking about my sermon for tomorrow. I’ve been looking at my notes, the Scripture, and thinking about the overall theme, paying particular attention to how I might be able to draw the sermon to a close. For some reason, I don’t know why, invitations have become more difficult for me in the last year or so.

But it’s not the Sunday morning sermon that concerns me – at least that’s not the reason for me writing this letter to you. It’s the content that you and I are expected to deliver to those watching on Facebook, YouTube, or whatever other streaming service you prefer.

I don’t want you to get tired of doing it. I don’t want you to get discouraged and give up too soon!

I don’t know about you guys, but I have been producing more Bible teaching since the pandemic began than any other time in my life! I literally post online content 6 days a week, twice on Sunday and Wednesday! That’s EIGHT original content presentations a week! Granted, what I produce during the week is not as deep as what I might deliver on a Sunday or Wednesday night, but sometimes it is deeper. Sometimes it could qualify for a full-fledged sermon. But is 8 times a week a little much?

Especially if you feel nobody is watching? Anybody with me?

Without a doubt we pastors are working harder than ever before. One reason I can say that with complete confidence is that we are, at the very least, using spiritual, mental, and emotional muscles we’ve never used before. We are in uncharted territory most days. That can drain a person.

Yet, what does your congregation expect out of you? How else are you able to stay in touch or connected throughout the week? I know this might sound self-serving or vain, but is what you are doing online partly due to the fact that you don’t want to appear as idle or taking advantage of the social distancing?

How many of you are beginning to question the efficacy of all the online content we are producing? How many of you are beginning to feel like you’re having little to no impact? I’m not going to lie; I’ve been feeling that way more often each day.

Nevertheless, what I don’t know is what God knows. What I am doing is the best I can with what I’ve been given. I am using every means possible to keep church (and all that’s involved with that word) in the lives of my flock. I’m doing all I can to make holy lemonade out of COVID-19 lemons. And only God knows what really happens on the other side of the computer or smartphone screen.

Though not exactly the same context, I am reminded of the following verse:

“And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.” (Galatians 6:9)

No farmer expects to make pie out of the fruit of his labor the day after he plants the first seed. Likewise, we don’t have any idea what this surge of biblical content is going to affect in the future: no one has ever had the opportunity to calculate the germination times.

We are planting and watering in fields where the Word of God has never been sown. We are flooding the airwaves and the internet with more of the Gospel message than at any other single time in history! And all that we are doing, all that we are sowing, and in all the areas and hearts where our ministry is reaching… Have we forgotten it is guaranteed to produce fruit of some kind? His Word does not return void!.

Maybe you didn’t need the reminder. Maybe it’s just me. But I just want you to know that we were put here for this time. What we do in this time will affect not only today, but tomorrow, too. We may never live to see the results of our plowing and cultivating and planting, but future generations may be feeding on the fruit decades after we have left the plow.

Don’t grow weary, gentlemen. Be encouraged! Stay strong! Keep up the good work!

Sometimes the only one in the field is the farmer. Keep farming while the weather permits.

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Let’s Talk About Moses and Righteousness

Been Busy

Someone whom you may know as Angel made a keen observation: I haven’t been posting much, lately.

Well, there is a reason why that observation is correct… It’s no more complicated than the fact that I’ve been busy, busy, busy.

And when I’m not busy, I’m usually just too dang tired to get my brain into writing gear. But I’m sure it’s just a phase.

Been Preaching and Teaching

But one thing that hasn’t slacked off is the time I have spent in front of an iPhone camera. Literally, the only time I am not recording and uploading preaching or teaching content is on Saturday. But it’s twice on Sunday, so…

Therefore, even though I’ve not been doing a lot of writing, I have been speaking. And that’s OK! I love it! So, when you have the time, I would encourage you to check out the following two videos. They are the latest that I have edited and uploaded to YouTube (and that’s work, too).

Oh, and I’ve been walking every day and doing my best to lose weight, especially for my daughter Katie’s wedding in October.

Love you guys!

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Observations from a Middle-Georgia Pastorate: “Visitation”

This is the view from my windshield as I was leaving the home of a church member.

Honestly, I miss the internet speeds of Gig City (Chattanooga), but you can have the traffic and the hustle.

This is where I belong, now.

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Very Glad to Be Back!

I just wanted to share the edited YouTube version of our first Sunday morning back at Bethlehem.

I was honestly thrilled to get back together, and maybe it shows 😉

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