There are times when I preach that I look back on what I said and wonder, “Did I do a good job? Did I mess that up? Did anyone get it?”
Other times I feel like a failure. That’s actually not as uncommon as you might think, for if a poll was taken of pastors and preachers I believe you’d find that the results would confirm most ministers feel that way a lot. I would say that there are three main reasons for that: 1) we are our worst critics; 2) we rarely see a response to our calls; and 3) spiritual attacks from the Enemy.
But then there are those times when it seems the Holy Spirit just takes control and you just become a mouthpiece. Last night (Wednesday) was one of those kind of nights. If nothing else, God poured over me a spirit of boldness and authority and I courageously spoke what needed to be said.
Therefore, I want to share a link to the church Facebook page where the study from last night was aired live. It has NOT been edited for time or content.
Last night was the last night of our study through the Baptist Faith and Message 2000, and the subject was Article XVIII The Family.
My main points were that if we as Southern Baptists are going to say this is what we believe, then we should act like it. Secondly, if we truly believe what we say, then we should draw a line in the sand and declare the hill on which we will fight and die. The reason being that what we say we believe is in direct contradiction to the prevailing cultural sentiment, even our own government.
Our forefathers gave their lives to maintain doctrinal purity. They stood on principle and God’s Word when others called for them to compromise, to comply, and to cower. You’d better believe that what we could be facing with the new administration in Washington could very well test our convictions like nothing we’ve ever seen in our lifetimes.
So, what to Southern Baptists say they believe about the family? What do I believe? Well, sit back and join us for a study through the last article in the Baptist Faith and Message 2000.
Last Tuesday I told you that my daughter Katie was getting married that night. Well, despite my advice to walk away while there was still time, my Katie Bug, Katie Marie Baker, became Katie Marie Pearson.
Don’t get me wrong, as I stood there alone with her behind the paper-thin walls of the tent, waiting for the moment I was to escort her out into the open for the world to see, I wasn’t expecting Katie to walk away. No, her heart and mind were made up, unchangeable, set “like a flint” to walk that aisle and say, “I do.”
And man! Did she ever!
I have a few pictures, but I don’t want to share them with the world. What I would rather do is wait until Katie is able to share the professional photos that were taken of the wedding and reception. The only exceptions will be those you see here.
However, I do want to share with you a couple of other things, namely Gus (that’s my new son-in-law’s name) and Katie’s vows . . . and a video which we’ll get to in a moment.
In my years of pastoral ministry, I’ve performed over 200 weddings. That being said, I have never heard wedding vows more biblical and gospel-centered than the ones Gus and Katie shared. I was blown away! There was hardly any need to say anything else but “Kiss your bride.”
Therefore, if you don’t mind, I would like to share with you my daughter and son-in-law’s vows.
Katie Marie, from just our first few weeks working at Chick-fil-A, I knew our friendship would be a great one. Whenever I was near you, I felt a spirit of joy radiating from you, and there was no doubt where that joy comes from. God has gifted you with a joyous and bubbly personality, and it is one that I wanted to be around often. Today, I stand in front of our family and friends who have chosen to be witnesses to observe the covenant relationship I am making with you and God in marriage. I promise to spend every day I have on this earth with you dedicated and honoring this covenant we have made to each other before God. I promise to protect you and to provide for you and to trust God to do so when I cannot. I promise to love you, Katie Marie, my bride, as Christ loves us, the church, his bride. I will love you selflessly and sacrificially, and as I grow closer to Christ, my love for you will grow stronger. As the head of our household I promise to honor you as my equal in our new life together, and treat you with understanding as we begin this new journey. When hard times come, I promise to strive to exude wisdom and to point us, in our struggles, to the one that holds everything in his hands. Whether a disagreement, a concern, a crisis, that health, or anything that breaks us down, I will take it to God in prayer and seek his guidance. I promise all of these things with the hope for a future that leads us both toward Christ. It is my goal in this marriage to lead you with wisdom in the path God sets before us, and as Christ showed us by example, the best leaders are those who know how to serve. As we take the next step in our journey, I think it would be appropriate to make a reference to where it all began, and say, “Katie Marie, it will forever be my pleasure to serve you.”
Gus, From the moment I first met you, I knew there was something in you that I wanted. You were so loving and kind and warm and welcoming to anyone, and I wanted that to be in my life every day. Today, I am standing next to you in front of all of these people so that I can enter into a covenant relationship with you and with God in marriage. I promise to uphold this covenant for all of the days and nights that I live on this earth with you. I promise to be your helper and give you my time, my energy, and my focus, even if it is limited. I promise to let you be the head of the household and submit to the authority that God has placed within you to be the priest of our home. In the moments of hurt and shattered expectations, I promise to strive in showing God’s wisdom in my actions and reactions with Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. And, in the times when I strive too little, I promise to seek forgiveness. I promise all of these things with a hope for a future that leads us both toward Christ. It is my goal in this marriage to be the second violin to your first, and to trust your lead wherever you feel the need to take me.
What more would make me happy? That both of them had great incomes, perfect health, huge houses in which my wife and I could take up a room when we get old?
Honestly, if they keep their vows – and I’m pretty sure they will – I wouldn’t ask for anything more than that.
But the story Jesus tells of the Prodigal is one that displays the wondrous love, mercy, compassion, and forgiveness of the Father. Yes, the story is really more about Him than the wayward, muddy, starving son.
When the young man reached his lowest point, there in a hog lot, starving and alone, he remembered the goodness of his father.
When he came to his senses, he said, “How many of my father’s hired workers have more than enough food, and here I am dying of hunger! I’ll get up, go to my father, and say to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight. I’m no longer worthy to be called your son. Make me like one of your hired workers.'” – Luke 15:17-19 CSB
Because he had already spent his inheritance (he thought), and since he had treated his own father like he was dead, there was no reason to expect a “Welcome home!” However, he knew his father’s slaves had it better than what he had – which was nothing and no one. He’d have to take his chances.
So, when the broken and filthy young man returns, the reception he receives is more than he could have ever hoped for. Already looking for him, the father spots his son on the horizon and runs to him! No doubt expecting the worst, the son falls on his face and attempts to make the case for indentured servitude. Maybe this would keep his father from killing him outright.
Humble, prostrate in the dirt, not even looking up to see the tears in his father’s eyes, he expects – or rather hopes for – the customary foot upon his neck, the accepted symbol of becoming a slave. But, instead…
…the feeling of a bristly beard upon his ear…
…an arm on his back…
…a rough palm cradling the other side of his head…
…and tear-drenched kisses?? Not the sole of a sandal? KISSES! Yes, kisses on his neck!
More joyful to receive his son back home than determined to reclaim his honor, the exuberant father drowns out the pitiful son’s pleas and cries out, “My son has come home!”
Instead of putting his foot on the boy’s neck, the father had humbled himself and descended to the place where his lowly child lay in the dirt. Instead of justice, He showed mercy.
And then Amazing Grace called out for a party!
God is the Father. You and I are the Prodigal. No matter how far we’ve drifted or run, He is still looking and waiting.
OH! Look! It’s my birthday! I am a whopping 53 years old today, and I’m excited! Why? I don’t know, but probably because I’m alive.
Yes, 53 years have passed since I was born in Chattanooga, TN. A whole lot of water has gone under the bridge since then.
But just last night, as we were heading home from Waffle House – that’s where we went for my pre-birthday dinner, I noted that, in reality, I didn’t do anything to be recognized for; my mother did all the work! She, of all people, should be celebrated!
It was long overdue, but I said, “I didn’t do anything on my own to be born; it was YOU who made the choice to have me … thank you.”
It was then that my wife said, “Then maybe we should not buy you a birthday present, but get your mom something!”
Ummm, nice, but it doesn’t work like that.
The OTHER Birthday
But then there was another birthday: the day I was born again. And the interesting thing about THAT day is that once again, similar to my earthly birth, the credit really belongs to a parent – my dad.
On a Wednesday night in September, 1973, I realized that I was a sinner in need of a Savior. Unfortunately, although I was convicted of my lostness, I didn’t know what to do about it. That’s when my daddy, my godly father, took notice and asked me what was wrong.
“I’m not saved…I’m going to hell!” I said.
“Do you want to talk about it?” he asked. I nodded.
Then, right in the middle of a song service at 34th Street Baptist Tabernacle, my dad I snuck off to a tiny Sunday school room with tiny tables and tiny chairs, and there he walked me through a classic “sinner’s prayer.”
I was gloriously and miraculously regenerated! I was born again! I was saved!
I can’t remember if I ever actually thanked him for that day, but because of that day I know I’ll get another chance.
Below is what is written in my dad’s tattered old Bible. My new-birth certificate 🙂
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. 🙂
At this point you’re thinking: “Who in his right mind would admit to being happy he saw a man die?” Well, without the proper context, only a sick man, that’s for sure!
But here’s the context: I was with a family from my church as a 51 year-old son, father, brother, and grandfather breathed his last breath, and I was able to rejoice with them in the hope of Jesus Christ.
Meeting Joey: the 1st Time
Joey and his dog, Willie
Several months ago, I was able to talk with Joey Armor for the first time. He was sitting on the tailgate of his truck, taking a break from welding. As we got to talking, he apologized for not coming to church more often, but he appreciated that I was the new pastor, and he hoped to become more regular. He also told me how sick he was.
Joey had battled with a lot of health issues over the last few years, and at that point he was not doing bad enough to keep him in bed. As a matter of fact, he was the type of person that not only avoided pain medication as long as possible; he never wanted to stop being active doing something, even if only a little welding here and there. The day I first talked with him, he was having a hard time breathing, but he was happy to be doing something he enjoyed.
Faith, Assurance, and Hope
The next few times I saw Joey Armor was in the hospital. It seemed that his body all of a sudden decided to give up, even though he was not willing to. The doctors had hope that he would recover, and for a little while it looked like he would, but it wasn’t long before things began to look dire.
The last few times I saw Brother Joey was when he was at home, a couple of times sitting in his recliner, a couple of times in his bed. On one occasion, I felt compelled to lead Joey through the plan of salvation. Because I had never seen him make a profession of faith, and since I could tell he was nervous about dying, I had to make sure he had an opportunity to accept Christ as his Savior.
Come to find out, Joey had indeed put his faith in Jesus, but he had come to the point where he was scared of what was to come. He had made some mistakes, not been perfect, and now he was facing death head-on. He needed to be reassured God did indeed love him and was faithful, as He always is, even when we are not.
Another time I took a communion kit, and with a deacon from our church I shared with him the elements and together rejoiced in the goodness of our Savior! We talked about Christ’s body and His blood, how each was given for us, and how by taking part in communion we proclaim his death until he comes (1 Cor. 11:24). Even though he could barely swallow anything (he even had a feeding tube inserted into his abdomen), he took the little piece of matzoh and the tiny cup of grape juice and consumed them both. It was a special moment, indeed.
Talking About Home
The last time I saw him before today, the Holy Spirit had placed in my heart the urgent desire to go talk with him about Heaven. Joey new he was going, and he knew it wouldn’t be that long. So, I wanted to go by and encourage him with the facts about the place he was about to see. He asked for his large-print Bible so he could read along with me.
First, I turned to John chapter fourteen:
“Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many mansions: if [it were] not [so], I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, [there] ye may be also.” – John 14:1-3
These verses deserved a little amplification, and I knew Joey would appreciate it. I focused on the words “mansions” and “place.” Jesus wasn’t telling Peter he would have a four-story house of gold in Heaven; Jesus was telling him not to worry, for even though he’d mess up by soon denying Him, there was already a place in His Father’s house prepared – a room of his own! Compared to here, that room might be a mansion. But how much more wonderful is the promise that God wants us to live in HIS house with HIM forever??
And when it came to the word “place” (τόποςtópos), heaven is more than spirits floating on clouds; it is more than a feeling; it is more than being absorbed into the infinite: Jesus said it is a PLACE! I said, “Just like Chicago or Atlanta, Heaven is a place just like any place on a map down here. It is a place, and you are going there!”
Next, I turned – we turned – to Revelation 21 and 22. There, within the verses of those chapters we read of a holy city, a heavenly city, that God has prepared for those whose name is written in the Lamb’s Book of Life. Joey listen as I read, awake, but with his eyes closed, resting.
I said, “Well, Joey, I guess it’s about time we get out of here and let you rest.” He nodded.
Then, with weak voice and a slight smile, Joey said,
“I’m looking forward to seeing what my Father has for me.”
Today, around 12 p.m., my brother in Christ, Joey Armor, exhaled one last time, only to inhale for the very first time the celestial air of his new home.
I am glad his family was able to be there. I’m glad I got to see him off.
He’s seeing what his Father has prepared for him, and even more importantly, he’s hugging Jesus.
I’m happy for him!
“O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” – 1 Corinthians 15:55-57
Back in 2012, I was the pastor of Riverside Baptist Church in Lookout Valley, TN. I was there from August of 2008 to October of 2016.
It was a mixed bag of good, bad, joyful, and tragic. During that year I was neck-deep in finishing my master’s degree, driving a school bus, preaching 3 different sermons a week, and dealing with a sick wife. What’s more, things were happening underneath the radar that would nearly destroy my family and cost my youngest daughter her life.
I don’t know why I am telling you this right now, because it has very little to do with what I wanted to do when I sat down. Actually, all I wanted to do was give a little context to a video I was going to link. However, it just seems like the words I’m typing are being guided. Maybe they’re just what’s on my heart and I need to get them off. I don’t know.
While I was pastor at Riverside, some very bad things happened (hopefully, one day, I’ll have the freedom to share more details). But one of the most painful aspects was finding out – at least being accused – that if I had not been spending so much time studying and working I might have been a better and more attentive father… The one making that accusation was evil and simply trying to make excuses for his own actions.
Yet, in some ways, it was true, which is what makes it painful. I was focused on trying to do things FOR the family and missed some critical times WITH the family. Since then, there has been forgiveness, but scars remain. Thankfully, I serve a God who can even work miracles with scars. He has some too, you know.
Like I said, I didn’t plan on writing this, but somebody evidently needs to read it. Your #1 ministry is your family, not your community, your job, or your church. There is no success in life, whether it be earning millions or having the largest congregation, that is worth losing your children to the enemy. Let me help you put things in order:
God (your personal relationship with Jesus and your obedience to the will of God)
Providing for your family (i.e., career, vocational ministry, etc.)
If you’ll look carefully, there’s a lot NOT on that list. What about hobbies? What about community service? What about politics? What about friends?
Oh, you can have those things, but if they break the above hierarchy of priorities, you’ll one day find yourself face-down in a pillow wet with regret.
But what if you’ve already made mistakes you can’t correct? Been there, done that, got the t-shirt.
Delight thyself also in the LORD, and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart. Commit thy way unto the LORD; trust also in him, and he shall bring [it] to pass. – Psalm 37:4-5
Today is a new day and the first day of the rest of your life. The race is not over, so finish well.
His grace is sufficient (2 Cor. 12:9).
Here’s the video I was going to share. It’s still my theme.