Category Archives: Church

It’s Gap Time, So Step Up!

This morning I turned to the book of Ezekiel and came across a short outline I prepared years ago. That 5-point outline directed me across the page to a verse that has, in the past, been what you would call a “life verse.”

And I sought for a man among them, that should make up the hedge, and stand in the gap before me for the land, that I should not destroy it: but I found none.

Ezekiel 22:30

Upon leaving the church where I last pastored, I’ve been forced to do some self-examination. Being completely honest, there are still some things I need to improve. With humility and prayer, I will seek God’s help in those areas.

Regardless, now is not the time to accept defeat or wonder about my abilities – NOW is the time to step up and stand in the gap. That is true for all of us!

I will probably preach a sermon this coming Sunday based on this passage of Scripture, so I won’t go into much detail in this post. However, I feel it important to encourage you (and myself) to remember that God isn’t looking for the perfect soldiers; all He is asking for are WILLING ones.

Unfortunately, all it takes is for us to receive one discouraging comment or critical observation to make us abandon our posts and our weapons, thereby leaving just enough of a gap through which God’s judgment can enter and destroy the very ministries and individuals we supposedly love.

Do your own study of Ezekiel 22, particularly verse 30, and then see how you can use the following outline to create your own sermon.

5 Ways to Stand in the Gap

  1. Answer the Call
  2. Be a Warrior
  3. Look for Broken Places
  4. Pray for God’s Mercy
  5. Don’t Give Up

Lord willing, this coming Sunday on my YouTube channel I will address this subject and use this outline. Join me for the premiere at 11 a.m. Eastern.

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How to Know if You Should Not Go Back to Your Church

The Hissy Fit

Back in 2013 a pastor had a “hissy fit” during the Sunday morning service. I don’t know how to define “hissy fit,” but when you see one, you know it.

You can do a search of my blog posts by typing “hissy fit” in where you see the little magnifying glass. That will take you to the post I wrote addressing the abusive rant made by a pastor, Dr. Jim Standridge. I don’t want to make it easy on you by simply leaving a link because if you really want to find out about it, you’ll look for it. Otherwise, I don’t want to add fuel to a fire that has already simmered.

But it was the sermon by Dr. Standridge that I remembered while doing a sermon/teaching series at our church and online on Discord (FaithChatt).

Emotional Abuse

Before I go any further, if you do watch the sermon by Dr. Standridge, understand that there are some out there that applauded what he did. I, for one, think what he said was shameful, reprehensible, and illegal, to be honest.

Yet, this sermon provided context for understanding how there are not only different denominations, but different pastors and congregations within those different denominations. And no matter what the label, if the environment is abusive, one should leave – now.

But Anthony, how do I know if my pastor or my church is abusive? I’m glad you asked.

In one quick google search I found multiple lists of warning signs and red flags one can look out for when abuse is suspected. One of those lists was provided by Safehouse.org. That list (which I will share) does not specifically address religious institutions, but it might as well. The similarities are obvious.

So, if you notice any of the following signs of emotional abuse in your church, LEAVE! Don’t go back. Don’t feel guilty. Don’t try to reason with your pastor or leadership, just WALK AWAY!

5 Signs of Emotional Abuse

  1. They are Hyper-Critical or Judgmental Towards You (in the following ways)
    • Put you down in front of others
    • Humiliate you or embarrass you
    • Use sarcasm or “teasing” or “jokes” to make you feel badly about yourself.
    • They always have an opinion about what you say, do, or think
    • Upset if/when you don’t agree (e.g., how you dress, how you spend your money, who you spend time with, what you are interested in)
  2. They Ignore Boundaries or Invade Your Privacy
  3. They are Possessive and/or Controlling
    • The abuser may try to restrict your behavior through unreasonable jealousy such as
      • Monitoring your actions
      • Constantly calling or texting when you are not around
      • Getting upset when you want to spend time by yourself or with family or friends alone
      • isolating you from other people in your life and/or activities you enjoy or work
      • Demanding access to your phone, email, or social media accounts
  4. They are Manipulative
    • Withdrawing affection when you’ve done something “wrong”
    • Ignoring or excluding you
    • Guilt trips
    • Making you doubt yourself
    • Denying something you know is true
  5. They Often Dismiss Your Feelings

So, there ya’ go. Any of this strike a nerve, ring a bell, sound familiar? If so, LEAVE THAT CHURCH!

Sheep should never be abused by other sheep or especially their shepherd. Find another flock.

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What Are You Expecting This Morning?

Sunday morning, that is.

By the time you read this, it could be any day of the week. But I am writing this on a Sunday morning. As a matter of fact, it’s not long before Sunday school will begin, followed by the morning worship service at our church.

So, my question to you is this: What are you expecting this morning?

Unfortunately, so many people, particularly Christians, are not expecting anything. Oh, they are expecting to do something, maybe go somewhere, or maybe they’re just expecting a late breakfast in bed. But when it comes to worshipping their God in a congregation of believers, most don’t expect anything – they just go.

Why is that? Why is going to church on the Lord’s Day something to be taken for granted? Even more, why is it something to be taken so lightly that washing one’s car or pancakes are more important?

One big reason, like I just mentioned, is that they/we, for the most part – if not always – never expect anything to happen that hasn’t already happened week after week, year after year. Nothing.

Yet, when we go to church – WHEN we go to church – there is the distinct possibility to witness a genuine miracle, one that can directly affect each of us on an individual level. I’m not referring to “miraculous” healings or “manifestations;” I’m talking about being spoken to by the holy God of the universe.

Oh, you can stay home and watch TV or play with your kids, and those things are OK in and of themselves, but what you are going to miss is nothing less miraculous than the breaking of the loaves and fishes to feed 5,000. And you think catching a wide mouth bass is better than that?

I would encourage you to rethink your priorities, dear Christian. The God who saved you from hell is offering to you a special opportunity which cannot be duplicated or recreated afterwards. He wants you and the rest of His children to experience this together as a family.

Please, accept the invitation your Father is sending out. Accept it and expect to hear from Him.

Otherwise, do not expect much from God by way of joy and fulfillment when what you choose to do replaces a personal offer from Heaven.

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I Went to Pakistan (Part 3): Objectives Met

There were two main objectives that needed to be accomplished when I went to Pakistan. Those two objectives were:

  1. To verify all that I had been told about the work and ministry of Grace Charity Schools and Pastor Victor Sammuel was true.
  2. To encourage local pastors and fellow believers with biblical teaching and preaching.

For several years I’ve been the funnel through which many people have given lots of money to support Brother Victor and the ministry in Pakistan. People send me money via PayPal or check, then I send it to Victor via MoneyGram or Western Union. And as you can imagine, each time I would do this there would be someone wondering in what fashion I was being scammed.

Let’s be honest, funding an overseas ministry you’ve never seen in person is risky enough. However, in this day and age when people are losing their life’s savings to scammers every day, it’s no wonder I’ve been thought of as naive, to say the least.

On a side note, we are still trying to get an updated “Memorandum of Understanding” from the Pakistani government, and that is all that remains before Grace Charity Schools can be vetted by an organization called CAFAmerica.org. Once that is done, no more Western Union transfers will be necessary. But until then, I’m stuck with the hand I’ve been dealt.

But, again, that is the main reason why I felt it necessary to travel to Toba Tek Singh for myself. I needed to see what was going on so that I could show everyone else. As the photos below will show, I made it to the school (both campuses) and can testify that the work is legitimate.

The second objective, that being to encourage local pastors and believers, was met in a huge way! Not only did I get to speak at two separate pastor conferences, but I got to speak at several other places, including to a small congregation of believers in a tent right next to a brick kiln.

There are so many other things, but I don’t have the time at this moment to share them with you. However, keep coming back for more insight into this part of the world. What I have to say may surprise you 😉

God Bless!


Stay tuned for more. There’s a lot left to discuss 🙂

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Heaven is a Personal, Permanent Place!

I preached on Heaven this morning. Want to watch the sermon (and me singing a song beforehand)? Well, to borrow from a funny guy, here’s your video.

(Oh, btw, please pardon the choppy internet service)

Click on the picture to watch the video. Thanks!

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Go If You Can – You Don’t Want to Miss the Bread!

If you read my last post you are now aware that my wife has COVID-19. I may or may not have it, but I’m not showing any symptoms so far.

But what I want to ask of you is something simple, something anybody can do, just as long as they don’t have COVID.

Would you go to church tomorrow?

This is where I pastor, Bethlehem Baptist Church in Warthen, GA. 2 years and counting!

I know, it’s a lot to ask for some of you. It’s almost an impossibility for others. And, like a few who leave friendly comments on this blog, it’s a request that falls on deaf ears and hard hearts.

However, from my perspective, I’m wishing I could leave the house. I would LOVE to go fellowship with my brothers and sisters in Christ in person, not over Facebook Live. There is such a difference.

You may be thinking, “Why go to church when you can get all the teaching you need online?”

Well, let me illustrate it with a story…

Do you remember the stories in the Bible where Jesus fed thousands and thousands of people with just a few fish and a few loaves of bread? Oh, what an awesome story of God’s provision! What a miracle! Every time I hear it I get goosebumps, particularly when I consider the expressions on the disciples’ faces as Jesus kept breaking the bread and giving it out!

And when you read it or hear the story told from the Bible, the inspired Word of God, is it not sufficient to speak to your soul and minister to your spirit? Of course it is!

The same truths that Jesus taught the disciples and all those he fed (although the crowd didn’t understand), are the same exact truths anyone of us can learn through a studious reading of the biblical text. The same Holy Spirit who was there on the hillside is the same Spirit of God who will illuminate the passages we read and strengthen our faith.

But there’s at least one thing – one HUGE thing – that we will NEVER understand from the Scripture and the preaching of the truths found therein.

Do you know what it is?

We will never know what the bread and the fish tasted like! On top of that, we will never know what it feels like to go from being hungry to being stuffed with bread and fish that miraculously fell from the hands of Jesus Christ!

For THOSE experiences one had TO BE THERE.

And that’s the difference between online church services and actually being in the same room where the Word of God is blessed, broken, and distributed to the hungry of heart.

That’s why I say to go if you can.

You don’t want to miss the bread!

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Are You Glad?

Let’s go!

church glad to go

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A Mini-Commentary, Pt 5 (Ephesians 4:4)

I hope you all had a wonderful long weekend (here in America), because I sure did! Beside having a wonderful service Sunday morning, my family and I came together in Atlanta, GA, to attend a major-league baseball game between the Atlanta Braves and the Miami Marlins…and the Braves WON!…Twice in the same game!

Today, let us look at verse 4 in Ephesians 4. Keep in mind that the Body of Christ (the Church) may be one, but it contains individual parts, each part of an overall design, and each part performing a prescribed function. We will go deeper into that aspect a little later.

4:4 There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling.

See the source image

[There is] one body,

            Here the Apostle Paul, speaking of the Church as the unified Body of Christ, begins the first point in “Seven Particulars”[1], the culmination of the last making up three different triads. The first triad is that of “one body…one Spirit…one hope of your calling.” See also 1 Corinthians 12:13.

The second triad is formed from “one Lord…one faith…one baptism.” The third triad is found in verse six where, when describing God the Father, the seventh “particular,” he declares that He is “above all…through all…in you all.”

            Paul continues to use the analogy of the body to describe the importance of healthy unity. Unity in the body, especially peaceful unity (v.3) is critical for effectiveness. Although a human body be unified, all individual members working together for the common life of the body, if one member be sickly or “angry,” the rest of the body, however healthy, will ultimately be affected and the work of the body will be hindered. There are a great many truths associated with the Church being the Body of Christ on the earth, and here is no exception. But what Paul does in the next few verses is take both a wide-angle view and one that is microscopic: he speaks of the common unity we have as the Body, but he also stresses the importance of the individual member (v.7).

and one Spirit,

            What is a body without life? What is a body without a spirit that animates it? Similarly, what is the Body of Christ without the life-giving, resurrecting power of the Holy Spirit? Not only are believers part of one body, but they are also empowered by the indwelling Pneuma (the Holy Spirit; the breath of God). “For by one Spirit (Pneumati) are we all baptized into one body…” (1 Corinthians 12:13).

            It must be understood that without the presence of the Spirit, the Church would not be the living Body, Jesus Christ being the Head. Therefore, as the Body is united, and as it works, individual members will have different responsibilities, such as feet help the body to stand while the fingers grip the hilt and the arm swings the sword. Yet, all will receive their strength from the Holy Spirit. The same Spirit that flows through one part of the Body is the same that flows through another whose Head is Jesus Christ. “But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his” (Romans 8:9 KJV). See also 1 Corinthians 12:13.

even as ye are called in one hope of your calling;

            The unified, universal Church is one Body, has only one life-giving and empowering Spirit and only one hope: “the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:13 KJV). Those who have put their faith in Jesus Christ have a calling – a “vocation” – for which they have been called. Therefore, in everything we do, at home or at work or school, each believer has been issued a vocation in the Kingdom, and that is to point people to the only Hope of the World.

            It must be noted, however, that a careful reading of this part of verse four shows that “even as ye are called in one hope of your calling” is a phrase which helps modify the previous “There is one body, and one Spirit.” Notice how that Paul says that there is one body and one Spirit, “even as…” Therefore, a comparison is being made between the two phrases, which could even lend to the argument that there is not really a triad in this section, only a couplet modified by a couplet.

            So, what is really being said? How do we make the comparison between the two? The body needs a spirit to animate it, to make it alive; the “vocation” has only one “hope.”


[1] H. D. M. Spence-Jones, ed., Ephesians, The Pulpit Commentary (London; New York: Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1909), 147.

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A Mini Commentary (Pt. 4)

Are we having fun, yet!

I am!

Let’s jump back into the deep water this morning and look at Ephesians 4:3. It’s all part of a short commentary on Ephesians 4:1-16 entitled,

“The Edification of the Body of Christ by the Gifts Given by Jesus to the Church.”

But hey! When you are finished reading today’s study, leave a comment and let me know your thoughts.

Tomorrow is the 4th of July, so I’ll be sharing a post relating to that subject, not this. But check back on Monday to pick it up again as we look at Ephesians 4:4.


4:3 “Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”

Endeavouring

            Here the Apostle Paul uses a word that adds urgency to the “vocation.” To endeavour (σπουδάζω, spoudazō) is to use make haste to do what you need to do. Even more, the sense of urgency implies that one should do everything he can as soon as he can and not waste time.

Or, as the Pulpit Commentary described, “Σπουδάζοντες is stronger than the A. V. ‘endeavouring,’ and denotes an object to be carefully and earnestly watched for and promoted.”[1] Consider how the same word is used in 2 Timothy 4:9 when Paul asked Timothy, “Do thy diligence (spoudazō) to come to me shortly.” And, again, in verse 21 of the same chapter, “Do thy diligence to come before winter…” We can sense the urgency. However, as much as the word could convey a sense of urgency, it can also point to great desire, like the heartfelt longing Paul expressed in 1 Thessalonians 2:17 where he said:

1 Thessalonians 2:17 KJV – But we, brethren, being taken from you for a short time in presence, not in heart, endeavoured[G4704] the more abundantly to see your face with great desire.

Considering how Paul used endeavoured in other places, it would be safe to conclude that the unity to which he is referring should not only be striven for with urgency, but with great desire.

To keep the unity of the Spirit

Photo by Daniil Ustinov on Pexels.com

            What does it mean to “keep” something? The word translated here can be used to describe keeping, watching over, or guarding something.[2] It could also be used with the meaning of keeping something in a particular state or condition. However, what needs to be stressed is that unity is not something that happens naturally, at least not in the spiritual body. When we seek our own devices, we cause disunity, strife, and internal conflict. Therefore, we must “endeavor” to watch over and guard our unity. The Enemy seeks to divide and conquer, but we are stronger when we are unified.

In the bond

            The word “bond” (σύνδεσμος sýndesmos, soon’-des-mos) is an important word to know, for used in the context of unity and the body, it refers to a joint or ligament that holds the individual members of the Body together. It is figurative language, yet it is fitting considering the Church is a living body, not simply a building. The joints are therefore flexible as well as strong, but like any other living tissue in a body, it must receive nourishment, and that must come from the life-giving Spirit.

Peace

            The unity of the Spirit is kept by the bond of “peace.” As with the human body, the spiritual body, both of local congregations and of the Church, are complicated structures with many members which act symbiotically to maintain a container for life. The Church contains the Spirit, and it must endeavor to maintain unity, an unbroken body, in order to keep it (like trying to keep a physical body in one piece in order to maintain the life of the body). And what is it that keeps the body together and working? It is the bonds, the ligaments. And what are the bonds, the ligaments, in this spiritual entity? They are peace. Peace is the bond, the ligament, that binds together the individual members for the work which the body was designed to do.

            Peace is the Greek word εἰρήνη (eirēnē) – Strongs G1515 – and can refer to either a “state of national tranquility” or “peace between individuals.” The effectual working of the Body of Christ (the Church) in the world desperately depends on healthy and strong bonds of peace, yet this unity is fragile and often neglected with most of the attention and energy directed members instead of what binds them.

“Unity is maintained by the Spirit. Unity is preserved as believers make peace with one another their major priority instead of acting selfishly for personal gain and honor. Our call is not to create spiritual unity but rather to manifest spiritual unity by relational unity. Paul calls for unity in the third verse and spends the next thirteen verses elaborating on it.”[3]


[1] H. D. M. Spence-Jones, ed., Ephesians, The Pulpit Commentary (London; New York: Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1909), 147.

[2] William Arndt et al., A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000), 1002.

[3] Max Anders, Galatians-Colossians, vol. 8, Holman New Testament Commentary (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1999), 149.

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Easter Sunrise Invitation

Hey guys, I hope you all are having a wonderful and blessed weekend! I am!

First, I went to the doctor this week and he prescribed for me some medication to help me get my sleep back in rhythm. Today, after just two days of back-to-back 8+hours of sleep (the first in literally years) I feel great!

Amazing what sleep can do, right?

But besides that, I want to share this video I just made and posted several other places, particularly Facebook. It’s an invitation to come visit with us for Easter, either in person or online.

If you can’t visit with us in person, yet you want to be a part, check us out live on Facebook both at 7am and 11am Eastern on Facebook at @bethlehembaptistwarthen.

I appreciate all of you. Eventually I will get back to reading all of your posts, too! I miss them.

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