Category Archives: Life/Death

How to Avoid Marrying a Snake-Handling Preacher

Pastor Coots

Let me start off by saying that I am not going to be writing about the biblicality of taking up serpents during a church service. The purpose of this post is not to run down and disparage anyone’s heartfelt religious belief. I’m not here today to call someone an idiot for doing something that is clearly foolish – that could be another post for another day.

Right now let’s just pray for Cody Coots. I mean, just four years ago his father, the former pastor, died (age 42) after being bitten by a rattlesnake – only five minutes after being bitten in the hand during a worship service.

Now, the young Pastor Coots – the still-living pastor of Full Gospel Tabernacle In Jesus Name Church – is recovering from a near-fatal bite to the ear from a rattlesnake (click HERE to see the video). Sadly, there must have been sin in his life, the fact made unfortunately obvious right when a bunch of cameras from a world-famous news organization were filming.

That must have been a bummer. We really need to pray for him and his health, and his family.

But, like I said, this post isn’t about Pastor Coots’ religious beliefs or health – it’s about his poor sweet wife and all the other ladies out there who might be concerned with marrying a snake-handling preacher.

Don’t Let Love Be Blind

What I want to do for now is offer a little advice to the lovelorn, the lovesick, and those blinded by love. You see, what really got me about the story of Pastor Cody Coots is what his wife, Tammy said:

“Me and Cody didn’t talk about religion until after we got married and all I said is, ‘God, what did I get myself into?'” (source: The Sun)

Excuse me? 

Pastor Cody Coots

You were introduced by a relative, then you immediately fell in love, but you didn’t know anything about what he believed? You had no idea he went to a snake-handling church?

I mean, seriously, Tammy, what did you do for dates. go out hunting Copperheads? You visited his garage and saw cases of snakes, and thought what? Or did you even visit his home? Didn’t you think it wise to visit your prospective groom’s church just once before walking down the aisle? During the wedding rehearsal, did you think the rattling sound was from a wedding present?

Why only after you got married did you ask, “God, what have I gotten myself into”?

That being said, I feel obligated to spare future Tammy’s from the fear of losing one’s husband to the venom of a faith-testing rattler from heaven.

6 Ways to Avoid Marrying a Snake-Handling Preacher

  1. Visit His Church. If you are a religious person, even in the least bit, never marry anyone without working through where you stand on spiritual issues. It is never a joke to be unequally yoked.
  2. Eat a Lot of Spaghetti. I have a feeling that the right kind of food could open up a deep conversation. Ask your potential groom, “Honey, I love the way you manipulate that noodle; it’s sorta like handling a snake…you don’t handle snakes, do you?”
  3. Go to the Zoo. Take your man to the zoo for an afternoon getaway. Enjoy yourself as the two of you admire God’s creatures. Then, guide your potential mate into the reptile exhibit and say, “Oh, sweetie, look at all those beautiful, holy, God-honoring testers of our faith!” If he replies with an “AAAAAMEN!” and wishes he could just grab one out of the aquarium and start preaching… head to the exit and call an Uber.
  4. Have a Bible Study. I know this might sound too obvious, but how about go to the local ice cream shop, get yourself a root beer, and open up your King James Version to Mark 16:18, then ask: “If this was real beer, and if it was spiked with strychnine, if I had no sin in my life, could I drink this while holding a King Cobra and still live?” If he looks at you like you’re a crazy cat lady on meth, you might have a keeper.
  5. Ask About His Parents. It’s been said that if you want to know what your future spouse will look like in 20 years, look at his parents – or in this case, his father. Ask what his dad does for a living. Ask if his father is still alive. If his father is dead, ask how he died. If he died by snake bite, ask if it happened while his father was screaming incoherently into a hot microphone while ear-splitting gospel music was blasting from speakers on the stage.
  6. Marry a Southern Baptist or Presbyterian. Enough said.

Well, I hope this helps. There’s no need for you to get into a marriage only to say the first Sunday, “God, what have I gotten myself into?”

Commentssssssssss would be nicccccccce 😉

Advertisements

6 Comments

Filed under Faith, Humor, Life/Death, Marriage, Theology

My Last Words?

Worthy Drafts?

This evening I was exploring the “draft” file to see if there was anything I could edit and post. I clicked on a few titles of unfinished works, but more often than not the posts were only titles, nothing else. Then I came upon the following draft written all the way back in March of 2011: “My Last Words.”

It was seven years ago, and I don’t even remember what kind of surgery I was about to have. All I know is that I did not die; I survived. Actually, I don’t even know if I had the surgery. I just can’t remember.

But reading the words of this post disturbed me. It almost sounds like what a suicide letter would sound like! So much regret! So much hopelessness! So much self-pity. So little victory!

Therefore, with even more transparency than I’m used to, I’m going to let you look into my past, into my mind and heart, right before believing the worst would happen. Then, I’m going to do something else…just in case.

My former last words…

I am going to have surgery tomorrow. I don’t know if I will survive. I have been having strong feelings that I won’t. I am scared, but not too much. I just pray that God takes care of my wife, Valerie, and the girls.

I have not lived much of a life. I have not been many places, or seen many things. My education has been limited and of little value. I wish that I could have studied and applied myself more early on, instead of doing fruitless things and chasing fruitless relationships.

I miss my dad, and long to see him again.

My wife could have done much better than me, for I have not provided for her, or my children, the way they deserve. She deserved a man who could take care of her emotionally and monetarily. I have done neither. I have failed her in many ways.

My children have not had the best dad, either. I have not intentionally been abusive, but I have hurt them many times with my words. They didn’t deserve that. I hope they will forgive me.

I hope that my girls will grow up to fear the Lord and live for Him, much like I have tried to do, but have failed. They have a hard life ahead of them, and without faith in God, there will be no hope.

I could say a lot more, but I hope that God will be glorified in my weakness. Maybe something I have said and done in my life will prove to have had some lasting value once I’m gone.  I pray my wife finds peace and is taken care of. I pray my daughters find godly men. – Written 3/3/2011

Like I said, I’m glad I didn’t die in that surgery, and I’m very happy those were NOT my last words! However, should something happen to me before the sun rises, allow me to write what I’d prefer to be my “last words.”

To all concerned…

Valerie, you have been the greatest gift God has given me apart from salvation. Without your love and unending support and faithfulness I would have never become the man I am today. Your joy and faith, despite innumerable ills and disappointments, have filled my life with a beauty that transcends the temporal. Your gentle eyes inspire me. Your laugh energizes me. Your love humbles me. Your very presence comforts me, especially in the night when you’re beside me. Despite what you think about yourself, you are a godly Proverbs 31 woman worthy of praise. You’re the ruby in the setting of my life.

Girls, I’m proud of all of you! Each of you are specially gifted and called by God to glorify Him in unique ways. Don’t compete with each other. Don’t ever be jealous of each other. Always love each other, despite your differences. Put God first in your lives, before relationships, family, career, money, or even yourselves. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom – seek God and be wise! Never settle for a man who simply loves you; expect more! Find a man who loves Jesus first, then treasures you. You won’t regret it.

Mom, I love you. Becky, I love you, too. I wish we all could have spent more time together as a family down here. However, one day we will be reunited, along with daddy, and the dissappointments of the past will fade away along with the feelings of being apart.

God has been so good and gracious and merciful to me! If I have any regret, it’s that I haven’t praised Him enough. Hasn’t He been good? Yes, He has! All the time! Keep telling people about Jesus, even without me. Without Jesus what would we have? Without our hope in Christ there’d be no hope of seeing each other again, so thank Him in the congregation of unbelievers and believers alike! Let them know the reason for the hope that is within you.

If these truly end up being my last words, don’t weep for me too long. Rise up, look to the future with expectation and excitement! Joy comes in the morning!

Make my funeral one to remember. Have church! Worship! Sing! Shout! Get a man of God who can preach the infallible Word of God and let him loose! If the gospel isn’t preached with joy, passion, praise, and power at my funeral I’ll find out about it and personally ask God to disable evey game app on all your phones! If the Word isn’t preached over my casket you’ll never play word games again 😉

Finally, don’t forget to read your Bible, pray, move on with your life, know God still has a purpose for you, and become a better shot!

I hope these aren’t my last words, but if they are, I love you! See you in a little while!

My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness… All other ground is sinking sand.”

 

7 Comments

Filed under Life/Death, Relationships and Family, Struggles and Trials, worship

Yes, I’m Still At It

“You Still Preaching?”

I don’t hear it too much anymore, but I used to hear it rather frequently. Family members, old friends, former acquaintances, and the average person I never wanted to see again would come up to me and ask, “Hey, you still preaching?”

Maybe it’s the thing to do. Maybe it is customary to ask a person if they are still doing what they were doing the last time you saw them. It makes sense. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve thought of asking:

  • “Are you still unemployed?”
  • “You still sick with that sickness thing?”
  • “You still married?”
  • “You still running off at the mouth about things you know nothing about?”
  • “You still planning to party with Hitler for eternity?”
  • Are you still as stupid as you used to be?

I just don’t get why people ask if I am still preaching. It’s like they think I’ll change my mind or walk away from the ministry, or something.

Some Statistics

In reality, it’s not that unreasonable to ask someone who once accepted the call to ministry if he is still preaching. Even though it sorta feels like an insult, I shouldn’t be surprised by other people’s shock. I mean, it has been 34 years since I made my calling public. I’ve known more than one who has walked away the first year.

If more people knew the statistics, few would ever enter the ministry. Stop and think about it, would you enter a career with the highest rate of heart attacks? Would you take out student loans for a degree that demands you work multiple jobs? Consider these sad facts…

  • 70% felt God called them to pastoral ministry before their ministry began, but after three years of ministry, only fifty percent still felt called.
  • 80% of pastors’ spouses wish their spouse would choose another profession.
  • 70% of pastors constantly fight depression.
  • 80% of adult children of pastors surveyed have had to seek professional help for depression.
  • 70% of pastors do not have a close friend, confidant, or mentor.
  • 80% of seminary and Bible school graduates who enter the ministry will leave the ministry within the first five years.

Still Preaching

Yet, I’m still preaching. It may surprise people who haven’t seen me in a while, but I’m still doing the Lord’s work and still following the call I first heard when I was 16. It may sound strange, but I can’t help it.

“But if I say I’ll never mention the LORD or speak in his name, his word burns in my heart like a fire. It’s like a fire in my bones! I am worn out trying to hold it in! I can’t do it!” – Jeremiah 20:9 NLT

“For though I preach the gospel, I have nothing to glory of: for necessity is laid upon me; yea, woe is unto me, if I preach not the gospel!” – 1 Corinthians 9:16 KJV

photo (16)June 11 was the anniversary of my father’s death. He died the week before Father’s day (just like my wife’s father did last week). Not long ago I went to his grave and placed my Bible on his tombstone. There, glistening in the sun, were the gilded words “Rev. Anthony C. Baker.”

“Daddy,” I said, “I’m still at it.”

8 Comments

Filed under Christian Maturity, Church, Life/Death, ministry, Preaching, Relationships and Family

My Thoughts On the Suicide of Anthony Bourdain

I’m not going to try to be fancy with this post, so I’m not going to worry about font size, layout, pictures, links, etc. All I’m going to do is sit here at the keyboard and write.

Read it if you want to, but nobody’s forcing you. What I’m about to write may offend …no, it WILL offend some people… so consider this a warning. Go click on CNN’s coverage of all this if you want to feel all warm and fuzzy.

3…

2….

1…..

Just the other day I heard of Kate Spade’s suicide by hanging. Then, a little while ago, the notification popped up on my phone telling me Anthony Bourdain had committed suicide. All I could do was shake my head.

I’m still shaking my head.

I just came from the funeral of my father-in-law. It was not the most pleasant of experiences, as most funerals are not. His death was not a result of suicide, however, and yet it was still a source of grief for his family.

But those who commit suicide seem to not care too much about what happens in the hours after the body is found. They rarely seem to care what happens to the family in the next 12 hours, 2 days, or the rest of their lives. I tend to wonder how many family funerals those who commit suicide have ever attended.

I wonder how many have heard a mother, spouse, or especially a child cry out over the casket, “Why did you leave me?” And to think, it WAS a choice.

Like was said in a post I reblogged just a few moments ago, there is nothing brave about suicide. I used to think that the only reason I could not actually find the courage to pull the trigger to blow the top of my own head off was that I was a coward, which only added to the self-pity and lies that I was worthless. But it wasn’t cowardice that kept me alive; it was the innate sense of intrinsic human value that crept up from my sub-conscience  and screamed, “I want to live!” It was also a still, small Voice that whispered into my ear, “I still love you, no matter how much you want to hate me.”

I read that suicide rates have gone up 25% in general, and 30% in some states. It’s sorta becoming the “hip” way to die. But why? What are the reasons for wanting to kill one’s self?

I’ll list for you some reasons why at one point I thought I wanted to die: anger, disappointment, revenge, weariness, hopelessness, shame, worthlessness, and a general sense of bruised pride. I wonder how many of those Anthony Bourdain felt were legitimate?

A few weeks ago I went to the house of a man who committed suicide and sat with the wife and daughter in the driveway as the police did their job securing the scene. The best I could tell, the gentleman was tired of being a burden on his family, so he shot himself in the head and left his wife to live with the burden of being a widow.

Was Anthony Bourdain tired of being a burden to someone?

I don’t know Anthony Bourdain, and I only watched a few episodes of his television program. I literally know less about him than I know how many slices of cheese are in the refrigerator. I have no idea why Anthony Bourdain committed suicide.

What I do know with certainty is that it didn’t have to happen. What I do know for certain is that it wasn’t the best option, nor was it brave, nor was it loving – not unless there were terrorists demanding he choose between his life or another.

Honestly, we’ve got to quit being so passive and coddling with the eulogies of those who off themselves. I would bet a dollar to a gold-plated donut that at Anthony Bourdain’s funeral no one will stand up and tell the A-list crowd attending, “Anthony acted like a damn fool when he did this, and now he’s added his name to the long list of cowardly fathers who abandoned their children to deal with a pain they’ll never outlive.”

No, just like so many other funerals I’ve attended, barely anything will be said to shock the crowd into cold, hard reality. All that will be said about suicide is something akin to: “What a tragedy. If you feel like you might want to hurt yourself, find someone to talk to.”

You know what needs to be done at every funeral or memorial service (especially those held on college campuses when a college student kills him/herself)? Show pictures of the crime scene! Show the horror!

Despite what some people think, there’s nothing glamorous about suicide.

Have you ever set foot in a room where someone has put a bullet through his head? I have. It’s nothing like what you see in the movies.

Have you ever heard the sound of real people screaming and crying while looking at blood-splattered walls and ceiling light fixtures broken by skull fragments? I have. Actors can’t make it sound that real. It will wound your soul.

Yet, so many will go on and kill themselves – by whatever means – thinking that it’s the best or only option. Some will do it to make a point by trying to hurt others. Some will do it in a moment of sadness and grief while thinking there’s no use in going on. And most will do it never having been exposed to or having been made to consider the true aftermath.

But before I close this long rant, I’ve got to end it with some hope.

Let me remind you of those reasons I listed earlier: anger, disappointment, revenge, weariness, hopelessness, shame, worthlessness, and a general sense of bruised pride. THIS is why I preach the Cross. THIS is why I preach Christ crucified and risen.

One of the songs played at the funeral today has a chorus that goes like this:

“And the old rugged cross made the difference/ in a life bound for heartache and defeat./ I will praise Him forever and ever,/ for the cross made the difference for me.” – Gaither Vocal Band

Angry? Go to the cross. Disappointed? Go to the cross. Weary and hopeless? Run to the cross. Full of shame and reproach? Fall at the foot of the cross! Got a problem with your pride being wounded or offended? Focus your eyes on the cross!

You want answers for how to deal with suicide? Go to the cross of Jesus Christ where the Savior of the world was slain – so you and I could have life, and have it more abundantly.

Satan is the enemy of the soul, and any thought of suicide is a suggestion straight from the pits of hell – and if you sniff you might just smell the smoke.

I don’t know why Anthony Bourdain committed suicide, but I’d have a hard time believing he did it while thinking about how valuable he was to his Creator. I’d venture to guess that traveling the world and seeing so many things did nothing but expand the void in his soul and compound the questions for which he had no answer.

Jesus asked, “For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?” ( Mark 8:36)

I thank God I’m alive. I thank God I have a Hope. I thank God for purpose. I thank God I’m loved. When He wants me to leave this world, He’ll take me. Until then I will live my life for the One who gave His life for me.

8 Comments

Filed under current events, Depression, Life/Death, Struggles and Trials

Have You Done a Self-Examination?

A Doctor’s Instructions

I don’t want to get too TMI-ish, but as we get older the doctors say we should do more self-examinations. Have you ever been told this?

Doctor visits can be depressing 😉

You ladies are regularly told by your physicians to check for unusual or suspicious lumps in certain places. We men are told the same thing, just not as often (it’s not a subject we’re comfortable with).

But despite the awkwardness, all of us need to be reminded that it’s our responsibility to examine ourselves in between doctor visits. Fact is, embarrassing as it may be to discuss, a self-examination can mean the difference between life and death.

An Apostle’s Instructions

But as awkward as it is to discuss our bodies, the spiritual lives of people tend to be much more private and less likely to be examined. Yet, what does the Apostle Paul (a true Doctor of the Faith) recommend?

Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves. Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates? – 2 Corinthians 13:5 (KJV)

Or, as another translation interprets it…

Examine yourselves to see if your faith is genuine. Test yourselves. Surely you know that Jesus Christ is among you; if not, you have failed the test of genuine faith. (NLT)

Believe it or not, there are many, many people who think they are in perfect spiritual health, but in reality, they are terminal. Consider the following examples.

  • Bob goes to church every day the doors are open, including cleaning day.
  • Henry gives 20% of his income and 10% of his time to the church. If there’s a need, ask Henry.
  • Margaret goes to a fundamental church, uses the “right” translation of the Bible, and never wears anything but a long dress (except when she wears culottes to the beach).
  • Mary would never say a dirty word, tell an off-color joke, or even permit foul language in her presence.
  • Sharon put aside marriage and gave her life to helping orphans in the streets of Mumbai.
  • Frank and Karen have Bible studies in their home, take the kids to Sunday School, have gold crosses in every room, not to mention on their necks.
  • A rich young ruler has kept ALL the commandments (not just the big 10), even since he was a boy.

Are you like Bob or Mary? What about Sharon or Frank and Karen? Are the above people spiritually healthy, or could there be hidden cancer not yet removed?

Remember Ephesians 2:8-9? Works don’t save people; faith in Christ does. It’s not about the life you live; it’s Who’s life is in you.

My Advice

Look, I’m not an M.D. or an apostle, but if you’d like my advice, here’s what I have to offer.

  • Listen to your doctor and do what you need to – check for those lumps and things. Your life could depend on it.
  • Listen to the words of Paul and do a spiritual self-examination. Is your faith genuine?
  • Go to the top of this blog and click on the “Eternal Life” tab and consider what is written.

Don’t neglect the health of your body… or your soul.

 

6 Comments

Filed under Christianity, fitness, Life/Death, salvation

HELL…It’s Not Just a Curse Word

Believe me, it’s not an easy subject to discuss, even though millions of people every day use it as a curse word. However, if Jesus spoke more about Hell than He did about Heaven, don’t you think we should, too?

Some people accuse us preachers of making this stuff up in order to scare people. Others, like Bertrand Russell, reject Christianity because of Christ’s teaching on the subject. Nevertheless, it’s clearly biblical, and it’s clearly horrible, so how can we say we love people if we don’t warn them?

If you can spare the time, I invite you to listen to the sermon I preached this past Sunday morning. Should you become concerned about the fate of your soul, I would encourage you to go to the “Eternal Life” page on this blog for further information.

If you find the attached sermon helpful, please share it with someone who needs to hear.

Click on the picture for link to the audio.

 

3 Comments

Filed under Bible Study, Life/Death, Preaching

In Response to Another School Shooting

Our hearts break when we think of the students and parents and staff, but now that the dust is settling, and the political forces have already spoken out, I’d like to say something about the most recent school shooting.

It’s not a gun problem; it’s a heart problem.

I’ve heard all the gun control arguments, but regardless the Constitution or the right to defend oneself, the root of the problem is what should be addressed. The question should be “why?”, not “how?”

Why did this teenager want to kill his fellow students? Why did the other murderers, maniacs, and monsters want to kill people? We’ve had guns in this country long before Columbine. Heck, we used to have shooting clubs in the schools! But what changed in society? What changed in the heart of our culture?

You can take away all the guns, but you’ll still have a disease that’s going to find a way to steal, kill, and destroy. No law, no matter how strict, is going to turn a lawbreaker into a law-abiding citizen.

Until you address the heart and soul issues, your only solution will end up being totalitarian control.

When the law of God is written on the hearts of men, there’s no need for external restraints; the constraints are internal. But when the only law written on the heart is the law of Self, there’s no restraint sufficient to make a man love his neighbor.

5 Comments

Filed under America, community, current events, General Observations, legalism, Life/Death, politics, Struggles and Trials