Category Archives: Life Lessons

Hiding In Plain Sight

Back in 2010 (Sept. 14th, to be specific) I wrote a post that later became the basis for a story in my book, Life Lessons from the School Bus. If you don’t yet have a copy (you can order one), the following story, “Stop #13,” can be found on pages 45-46.

I am no longer a school bus driver, but the truth of this story remains the same: Sometimes bad things can hide in plain sight.

The Story

As you can see in the picture, a typical school bus has two mirrors immediately to the left of the driver window (besides the convex mirror below). With mirrors everywhere, driving is made much safer and easier, even in heavy traffic. What you don’t see is what is on the other side of the mirrors.

(This picture at the very spot an accident could have taken place.)

I was beginning to exit a gas station directly across the street from another station, and a Hardee’s. I looked in every direction and checked my mirrors. Then, as I started to pull out, an 18-wheeler appeared out of nowhere…directly in front of me! It had been hiding behind the mirrors.

Take a look at the picture. Right behind the top mirror sat a Peterbilt. I never saw it. What saved me was taking my time and being cautious. Had I rushed on forward I may have pulled right into the path of that big truck. Only going slow and expecting the unexpected made the difference.

The Lesson

So many tragedies in life could be avoided if only we would take the time to “consider our ways.”

“Now therefore thus saith the LORD of hosts; Consider your ways” (Haggai 1:5 KJV).

Do we stop to think about where we are going? Do we take the time to make sure there is nothing hidden behind the obvious? Sometimes our judgment can be clouded by the determination to move forward with our plans. Wisdom understands that the Enemy loves to capitalize on things hidden.

For example, how many people have fallen into financial ruin because they rushed into a business deal or bought something too expensive? Many times there are dangers lurking in the fine print or hidden in words we don’t take time to understand. Even though the path may look clear, it never hurts to take one more look before proceeding.

Ironically, big dangers can hide behind the very things meant to point them out.

Route Suggestions

The following are a few suggestions to help you navigate the route of life:

  • Never get too comfortable behind the wheel.
  • Never make quick assumptions based on past experiences.
  • Never let someone rush you into making an uninformed decision.
  • Read Psalm 119:105…”Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.” How important is it to have a light when driving down a dark and unfamiliar road? Where does this verse say we can find light for the road of life?

The road of life can be a dangerous place, dear reader. Why not follow the One who not only knows the way but IS the Way?

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Filed under Christian Living, Christian Maturity, Life Lessons

Life Lessons from the School Bus #7 (Try the Spirits)

I’m no longer driving a school bus (I’m working with Aflac! Call me!), but I would still encourage you to buy a copy of my book and share it with others. Here is one of the 20 stories you’ll find. Enjoy.

“Stripped”

Bob “Apple” Smith, a bus driver for the county, has a lot to explain. A quick look at his bus will let you know why. It is stripped. Stripped of EVERYTHING!

According to Bob, shortly after dropping off the last of his children, he made a quick “personal” stop. It was during his “personal” stop, which took longer than he anticipated (probably due to the excessive amount of jalapeños Bob insisted to be put on his eggs for breakfast), that vandals supposedly stripped his 88-passenger ThomasBuilt bus.

“Once I was finally able to finish my business,” Bob said, “I went back outside and said, ‘I’ll be d—-d!‘” He went on to say, “Those little hoodlums worked quicker than piranhas on a pig!”

The Link

No wonder, Bob had parked his bus in one the most notorious places in town. For months the police have been answering calls from stranded motorist who could do nothing more than cry after doing their “personal” business. Fortunately, an unbelievable link may have been found.

After investigators did some research, Bob was not the only one who had eaten eggs at a particular diner on Downtown Street. It seems that more than one patron of “Slick Sam’s” had eaten eggs before having to stop just blocks away to make an emergency “deposit.” Coincidentally, those same patrons had their automobiles stripped.

The only problem for Mr. Smith is the additional time it would have taken to strip the large bus. Some are questioning whether or not there may be seeds of deceit at his “Apple” core. It was not long ago another driver, Margaret “Snoopy” Jones, overheard Bob say, “I am tired of this job, but I’m not going to quit without getting a medal.” Ms. Jones insists he was speaking code, meaning “metal” when he said “medal.” This is still under investigation, but questionable, however.  It seems that  Ms. Jones has a record of saying, “Bob was always the ‘bad Apple’ in the bus driver barrel.”

Life Lesson

For heaven’s sake, don’t believe everything you read.

A simple man believes anything, but a prudent man gives thought to his steps. – Proverbs 14:15 NIV

Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world. – 1 John 4:1 KJV

Sometimes things like this can be seen as funny (I hope), but many are sadly deceived in issues that have eternal significance.  The Bereans did not even take the Apostle Paul’s words at face value. They “tried” his words by comparing them to Scripture (Acts 17:10-11).  You see, no buses got stripped by vandals, and you could easily prove this by doing a little research. As matter of fact, the bus in the picture was stripped, but only for spare parts (it had an engine fire that made it too expensive to fix). But so many people will take anyone’s word, believe any hearsay, hold to any old rumor or fable, rather than take the “noble” route of the Bereans and “search the Scripture.”

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Filed under Life Lessons, Uncategorized, World View

Even Mondays Are Made By God

Today is Monday, but I guess you knew that.

Coffee always helps.

Coffee always helps.

How did you wake up? Was it with a sense of dread? Instead of turning off the alarm clock that woke you up, did you strike it like a mosquito that had been buzzing around your head for an hour?

I don’t like Mondays any more than you. As a matter of fact, Mondays are pretty rough. Mondays should be my day off, but I am (was) what they call a bivocational pastor; therefore, my alarm clock feels like a mosquito, too.

However, the Psalmist (David) says…

This [is] the day [which] the LORD hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it. – Psalm 118:24 

Today…this Monday…every Monday…this is the day which the Lord has made. As a matter of fact, He has made every day. So, what will we do? Will we bemoan the blessing of waking up? Will we cry “foul” even before we enter the game? Will we start the day with the expectation that Monday will be like every other Monday?

This day was made by God. He knows what He is doing. Nothing will come our way that God is not already planning to use for our good – for those who love Him.

Today you may face a storm that leaves you feeling abandoned by God. You may feel like the disciples who were out on the Sea of Galilee all night fighting winds and waves. You may think that your Savior has forgotten you. Just remember that even in the worst storm, on the worst day, Jesus knows where you are.

When the time is right you might even get an invitation to surf the waves of adversity (Matthew 14:27).

So, rejoice! Be glad! Seize the day! It’s been custom-made for you!

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Filed under Christian Living, current events, Faith, God, Life Lessons, worship

Were You Spiritually Attacked?

Have you ever stopped to wonder whether or not you were under spiritual attack? Have you ever stopped to wonder what a spiritual attack actually is?

Let’s think about it for a moment.

We humans are made up of both spirit and flesh, and it is well understood that the flesh wars against the spirit. Sometimes a spiritual attack can come from our own fleshly desires; it doesn’t have to be from outside influences.

I believe there is an Enemy who wants to destroy our souls and thwart any effort to build the Kingdom of God. Certainly, any effort on his part would be considered a spiritual attack, no matter from which direction it comes. However, much of what wars against our spirit comes from the selfish desires we often refuse to battle.

The apostle Paul said that the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak, but don’t let that statement for you. The flesh is weak when it comes to temptation, yet when it is the tempter it can be very, very strong.

Too often we give Satan and his minions far more credit than they deserve. More often than not the most dangerous enemy to our spirit is our own flesh. If you don’t believe me, then why else would we need to crucify it daily?

Focus on building up your spirit through prayer, faith, and obedience to Christ’s commands. Then remember that you put on the whole armor of God, not only to wage war against the Prince of Darkness, but also the petty, whining, selfish, lustful, envious flesh in which you reside.

You’re under more spiritual attack than you realize.

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Filed under Christian Living, Christian Maturity, Depression, Faith, Life Lessons

Bio Request Fulfilled

Website On the Way

We are in the process of developing a new website for our little church. If you are curious, the company we are working with is ZaoMedia. Give Scott Grizzle a holler and tell him I sent you 🙂

Anyway, Mr. Grizzle sent me an email asking for my bio to add to the upcoming site. After some hard thinking and prioritizing, I came up with what you see below and sent it to him.

I struggled with what to say. Wouldn’t you? I mean, it would have been great and all if someone else had written it, but whom? My wife? My daughters? They’d probably collaborate and come up with something like:

“Pastor Baker is a native Chattanoogan who loves to write, study, and preach to people. He never spends enough time with his wife and daughters, nor does he take out the trash on a regular basis. He cleans his plate at church functions, but he rarely washes his plates at home. Oh, he’s a great preacher and all, but you don’t know him like we do!” 

The best bio would come from the dog. If we had one of those translators like the kid had in the movie “Up,” then I’m sure it would read something like:

Jack with his beloved cheetah.

“Pastor Master is the best! You will like him much much much! He feeds me, pets me, goes out in the rain with me, let’s me stay close to him when it thunders, and lets me ride with him in his big car on Saturdays! He is the best man in the whole world, and he will give you treats when you pee…outside, that is!”

But, like I said earlier, I had to write my own bio for the website. Therefore, to the best of my ability, I came up with something that hopefully will give people the impression (should they actually read this) that I’m not an “ivory tower” kind of guy, just a sinner saved by grace. If not for the cross of Jesus and the grace of God, I’d be nothing.

The Bio

Pastor Anthony Baker is a native Chattanoogan, having called the area his home for all but the seven years he and his family spent in Kentucky. Now back in Soddy-Daisy, he’s all about rebirthing this historic church and reaching our community for the glory of God.

For decades Pastor Anthony was bound to a life of legalism, self-righteousness, and pride, but then the Lord graciously humbled him, taking everything away except his loving wife and sweet daughters. Nearly 20 years ago he hit rock bottom, learned what it was like to fail, and finally began the long process of growing deeper in faith and walking closer with Christ.

At one point Pastor Baker battled depression, alcohol, and suicide. Even now, life is not always easy, if ever. However, unlike those earlier days when he looked down his nose at other’s hurts and struggles, these days he can look into the eyes of the broken, disillusioned, and discouraged and say with compassion, “I’ve been there, got the t-shirt, but Jesus made the difference…Now let’s walk down this road together.”

Throughout the years Anthony has pastored churches in East Chattanooga and Lookout Valley, toured with several Christian music groups, and authored two books. He has always been the type of pastor who’s worked other jobs in order to support his family (bi-vocational), so he’s well aware of the struggles of normal life.

Anthony is married to Valerie (almost 25 years) and together they have three wonderful daughters: Alicia Westbrook (Josh), Katie, and Haley.

Pastor Baker attended Chattanooga State, UTC, Hopkinsville Community College, Western Kentucky University, Temple Baptist Seminary, and Covington Theological Seminary where he also is an adjunct instructor. He holds a Masters in Ministry and is currently pursuing a Doctorate in Ministry.

Hopefully, the new website will be up and running in a couple of weeks. When it is I’ll link all of you to it 🙂

Meanwhile, keep our little church (South Soddy Baptist) and my family in your prayers. 

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Filed under baptist, Church, legalism, Life Lessons, ministry, Preaching

Different Metal, Different Furnace

Without a doubt, there is someone who needs to read this today. I know I did.

The refining pot is for silver and the furnace for gold, But the LORD tests the hearts. – Proverbs 17:3 NKJV

Gold or Silver

In case you were not aware, there is a difference between gold and silver (Well, duh!). Seriously, there is a difference between the two, and that fact should not be taken lightly. Gold is gold, and silver is silver. Obvious stuff, right?

Well, sometimes the obvious is profoundly important.

Gold is extremely valuable but is soft and pliable. Silver is not as valuable per ounce but is nevertheless a harder precious metal. Gold is highly sought after and coveted; silver is more common but is still critically important for a wide range of applications, everything from electronics to medicine.

How one refines gold, compared with silver, is not the same. What’s more, the temperatures of the refiner’s fire is hotter for one than the other.

What R You?

When I read Proverbs 17:3 yesterday during a Sunday School class I teach, something obvious proved to be very profound: depending on how God wants us to be used, each one’s trial by fire will vary in intensity, the heat of which will determine what metal we are made of.

gold furnace

Source: The Australian

Unlike gold and silver, we are human; our qualities and usefulness change. Some days we are made of gold, while other days we are silver, but most of the time it is hard to determine which. That’s when the Refiner turns up the heat.

There is a lot to refining gold and silver. Not only is there heat involved, but various acids, too. Therefore, it should come as no surprise when God not only allows us to endure intense pressure (heat), but permits the caustic, painful situations of life to eat away the impurities within us.

God is the refiner of hearts.

Iron Man

But, you know what? Gold and silver, while both rare and beautiful, will never make good axes, swords, cannons, I-beams for skyscrapers, or bridges across raging streams.

Sometimes there are jobs that can only be done with iron.

Don’t feel special? Don’t think of yourself as gold-like? That’s OK! You’re important, too! As a matter of fact, the melting point of iron is nearly double that of gold.

You may think what you are going through right now is far tougher than anything a “golden saint” might deserve. Don’t lose hope; the fires forging you are instilling a strength that may be needed to wage war against the Enemy, support the heavy loads of many, or bridge the gap between understanding and ignorance.

Don’t curse the furnace. Let the Refiner do His work.

 

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Filed under Christian Living, Christian Maturity, General Observations, Life Lessons, self-worth, Struggles and Trials

What It Takes to Stay Married

Just married! Leaving the church with the most beautiful woman in the world 🙂

Today (June 18th) my wife (Valerie) and I have been married 24 years. Hard to believe we’ve been together that long. In reality, we’ve been “together” for 26 years, but the first two we were dating, then engaged.

Next year will be the big 25, and I don’t have any time to spare in getting ready for it. We went to Disney World on our honeymoon, and that’s where we want to go next year – with the whole family! Donations WILL be excepted…better believe it.

Anyway, as I was sitting here doing some reading and studying in order to answer a question about prayer from a fellow blogger, another question randomly popped into my head:”What has kept us married for 24 years, if not simply prayer?”

Well, prayer has been an indispensable part of the glue, that’s for sure, but there are other things, too. Therefore, this evening I’m going to share them with you in hopes of helping your marriage and strengthening mine.

But that’s not all! I’m starting with my list, then I’m going to bring Valerie (my wife) into this with her thoughts!

My List:

God. First and foremost. Without divine intervention, I’m sure Valerie and I would have either ended up divorced at some point…or simply dead. Don’t think I’m being facetious, either; I’m being very serious. There have been more times than I can count that the Lord has worked miracles, moved mountains, guided circumstances, and healed incurable wounds with the Balm of Gilead. If nothing else and no one else, we owe our marriage to the One before whom we made our vows.

Commitment. If you want to know a dirty little secret, there have been times when my wife has said, “The only reason you’re still here is because you made a commitment!” Well, yeah, that’s true. But you know what? Whatever happened to making a vow and keeping it? There will be times in life when the only thing that will keep you trudging through is your promise, your word. If your word means nothing, then you’re marriage will certainly fail.

Our Witness. You see, my wife and I are unashamedly Christian. Everything we do – we believe – should bring glory and honor to God. Even when there were difficult times, we still wanted other people to know about Jesus. Therefore, we have stayed together through the worst of times if for no other reason than to be an example of God’s faithfulness to us.

Faithfulness. It may seem like a no-brainer, but staying faithful to each other and guarding against unfaithfulness should be an every-day commitment. Don’t expect your marriage to last when you start sampling the water from other wells. And here’s a little FYI… when your spouse gets too thirsty, don’t think he/she isn’t going to be tempted by a fountain in the desert. Know what I mean?

A Well-Watered Garden. Keep the grass green on your own side of the fence.

Forgiveness. Folks, we all fail. My wife isn’t perfect, but I’m less perfect. As a matter of fact, I’m a regular mess. If we didn’t learn to forgive each other we’d both be in a world of continual hurt.

Putting the Other First. It might sound funny, but my wife and I have actually gotten into fights (verbally, of course) over trying to please the other one! “Where do you want to eat?” can spark arguments even when all you want to do is be thoughtful! However, pride, putting yourself first, and always wanting to get your own way will end in real disaster.

Children. I don’t want to get too deep into this one, but having children has done a lot for keeping us married 24 years. For one thing, my wife was a child of divorce, resulting in abuse, emotional trauma, and a lot of unfortunate baggage. The last thing we wanted our three girls to endure was another broken family. We had to break the cycle. You do a lot and endure a lot for your kids, you know.

Church families. I can’t stress enough how much belonging to and regularly attending a church has meant to us. So many times, when there was nowhere else to turn, God used our church families to come alongside us with love, compassion, and support.

Love. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not just talking about emotional fluff or sensuality; I’m talking about the kind of love that’s expressed as a verb. Love is not a thing; it’s something you DO.

Listen to Your Wife! Yeah, this is a guy’s responsibility, but it’s important. Men, listen to her. She has a lot more to say than you do, and you want to be the one she talks to when she’s concerned, hurt, lonely, angry, etc. Did you get what I said? YOU want to be the one she talks to. If you don’t listen to her, who do you think will? Oh, and take that “woman’s intuition” stuff seriously – it’s real.

Valerie’s List:

Patience. Anthony has more patience than me. Actually, he’s the most patient person I know – it’s both a blessing and irritating at the same time.

Empathy. Even when something doesn’t necessarily bother me, it hurts me to see my husband hurt. I hurt when he hurts, but when he hurts when I hurt, that makes me love him even more. When we empathize with each other we learn a little better to see things from the other’s perspective and feel their heart.

Understanding. Even when Anthony doesn’t understand something, he takes the time to listen and try to understand, which lets me know he loves me and makes me love him. Sometimes you have to try to see things from the other person’s perspective, which leads to a better understanding. There is always more ways to see the same thing, and marriage requires both of us to take a step back, at times, and imagine ourselves in each other’s shoes. Trying to understand the other by listening and putting yourself in their position is loving them.

Shopping. I don’t like to shop. I don’t like to clothes shop, Christmas shop, or anything like that. I don’t like grocery shopping most of all! I know it runs contrary to the stereotype, but I just don’t like shopping! But when Anthony says he’ll go with me shopping – even though I know he probably hates shopping more than me – it puts pep in my step and joy in my heart.

Doing things I like to do even though he doesn’t like to do them. Or, to put it another way, Anthony watches the “chick flicks” with me and rarely even complains – sometimes he even cries! There are times I’ll even say “yes” to the war movie. The thing is, once we start watching the other’s movie, we often find out we like it. It’s when the other one asks to participate in something that we should stop and think about how often the other person did something with us, even when he didn’t want to. Simply being nice and thoughtful can make a marriage last a long time.

Conclusion

My wife and I are not marriage counselors, but we’ve got a lot of marriage experience. We’ve also seen a lot of marriages fail when they could have lasted. All they would have needed was to do what we’ve shared above.

Marriage is tough. Marriage is work. Marriage is not for the faint of heart. But marriage is a gift. Marriage is a calling. Marriage is meant to be a symbol to the world of God’s love and faithfulness to us.

For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones. For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh. This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church. – Ephesians 5:30-32 KJV

If you’re married right now, know you are in the Enemy’s sights, and he wants nothing less than for you to fail in your commitment to each other. Hang in there. Be strong. Love each other with a Christ-like, cross-bearing love. Stay on your knees. Give God the glory.

Oh, and always have a sense of humor. Laugh.

And then you’ll have what it takes to stay married.

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Filed under Divorce, Life Lessons, Marriage, Relationships and Family