Category Archives: Church

Are You a Cracked Vase?

Have you ever had one of those times when you felt the Holy Spirit was at work, using you in a special, sorta like He’s-in-control-not-me kind of way?

Today was one of those days. 

Every day at around 2pm I do a live, short devotional  for our church members. That’s what the following video is, only uploaded to the church YouTube channel.

Have you ever felt that God can no longer use you? Have you ever felt like your best days of ministry are behind you? Are you a cracked vase?

This message is for you! 

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Filed under Bethlehem Baptist Church, Christianity, Church, ministry, self-worth

On Church Gatherings (a copied vent from a daughter who should be writing more often)

Folks, my middle daughter Katie has been sharp as a tack, as of late. At one point I asked something like, “When did you start using your brain?”

Anyway, she just updated her Facebook status with the following opinion piece. I was so impressed, how could I not share it?

When you’re done, show her some love, will you? Enjoy.


I have an opinion with which you might not agree. I have come to discover that I do not hold to the same values and morals of the masses, and that is quite expected as I am a believer in Christ.

My opinion today is thus:

Church gatherings are LESS LIKELY to spread the virus than going to Walmart.

Katie Marie

The people who want to gather in these churches wear masks and spread out while they are there. Families sit together while friends sit several pews away. After each meeting, I know that, in my church at least, most people leave promptly while a group of designated individuals disinfect the pews and all surfaces that may have been touched, including and not limited to the podium.

The people who are at risk stay home. The people who have children usually stay home. But when you go to the grocery store, you will find people who don’t wear masks, or they wear masks with their noses sticking out, therefore projecting to society their ignorance.

Furthermore, you have individuals who wear gloves inappropriately and cross-contaminate everything as they use gloves in the store, touch their phone, put the phone to their face, take the gloves off, touch the INFECTED PHONE again in their car…… all the while feeling as if they have done something well. In actuality, all they have done is further the pollution the world suffers from every day. Where is that glove going? Not in recycling, I’m sure. It’s going to either pollute the ground or it will pollute the ocean (WHICH, FOR YOUR INFORMATION, produces more oxygen than the trees).

So, KAREN, gather. Go to church if you feel like it. Just be smart. Be safe. Think through your actions.

But hope all the while the people who still shop for nonessential items in crowded stores will cease fire on the church’s doors and quench the fires that burn the buildings to the ground because of the so-called “hypocrisy.”

– Katie Marie

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Filed under Church, coronavirus, current events

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

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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Observations from a Middle-Georgia Pastorate: Webinar Weary

Webinars

Up until a month ago, I knew nothing of Zoom or Microsoft Meetings. But now all I hear about are links to webinars and digital meetings every day. As a matter of fact, I am typing this sentence while listening to a webinar with over 200 pastors (mostly from Georgia) attending.

There’s only so much water I can drink from a fire hose.

So, as I wrote in the title, I’m webinar weary. I don’t even have the time enough to watch them all, much less attend then all when they’re live.

Nevertheless, I must say that I am absolutely grateful for the resources being offered. Actually, and I’m not the only one who’s made this observation, I think I feel more connected to my peers in ministry than ever before! I feel far less alone than at any time in the past, and all I’m doing is viewing a computer screen!

The key is that it’s live . . . and we’re all in this together.

Working Again

But if you have been watching the news as of late, the big story is that Gov. Kemp is allowing Georgians to return to work. Not that everything is going to be like it was before . . . oh, no! However, there’s a lot of good people down here who not only want to get back to work, but NEED to get back to work!

What are my thoughts on the matter? All I know is that people are dying from a virus, but people are also dying from suicide at increased rates, people are going bankrupt, families are under stress, children are being abused, people are entering the ranks of the homeless, and some people are starving.

The great leaders of the world make the hard decisions that some people won’t like, while others will praise them. It’s rarely, if ever, a win-win. The best one can hope for, as in this case, is to do the best with the information you have and leave it in the hands of God.

Worshiping Again

For me, the most challenging question is when and how will we re-open church? When and how will we start gathering again as a congregation? The questions and the obstacles are numerous to the point of exhaustion.

Yet, I was put here for such a time as this. God knew what was coming when He sent me here. So, the best I can do is pray, do the best with the information I am given, and then leave the rest in the hands of God.

Live streaming has its benefits, but nothing can fully replace meeting together in person, even if 6ft. away.

I’m getting weary of webinars.

“Bethlehem Baptist at Sunset” Water color and pencil (Anthony Baker)

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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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Filed under Bethlehem Baptist Church, Bible Study, Christianity, Church, ministry, Preaching, worship

Bible Translations, Wisdom Literature, and Daddy-Daughter Conversation

If the title of the post wasn’t enough to intrigue you, what else can I do? 

As everyone knows, churches aren’t able to have normal services these days. That is why whatever we do is either being shared live on Facebook or YouTube, or else we are pre-recording content to be shared at regular service times.

Well, this past Wednesday my daughter Katie and I sat down and discussed Proverbs 26. It was such a blessing for me, mainly because we don’t get to see our children that much anymore. On top of that, she’s getting married, soon.

If you have a few minutes, why not watch the attached video? Besides talking about a few key passages in Proverbs 26 (especially verse 10), I share my thoughts on Bible translations, especially my personal reasons for not being KJV-only.

But before some of you get upset, let me go ahead and set the record straight. I believe in the verbal plenary inspiration of the Word of God. I also believe that it is without error (in the original manuscripts) or contradiction.

Yet, for the most part, I still use the KJV when I study and preach. I would just encourage you to listen to my full, heartfelt explanation of my beliefs on the matter. Even though there’s a few of you who disagree with me on this subject, I hope you will understand that I still hold a very high view of Scripture. It is the final, revealed Word of God.

Have a great weekend, everyone! And if you want to join us live on Facebook this Sunday, look up @BethlehemBaptistWarthen at 11 a.m. 🙂

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Filed under baptist, Bethlehem Baptist Church, Bible Study, Church, Family

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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Filed under Bible Study, Christianity, Church, Faith, God, Love of God, Preaching, worship

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