Category Archives: ministry

Powerful Sales Video with Spiritual Application

Literally, no more than 3 minutes ago, I watched the video I’m sharing with you this morning.

Two days ago I got a phone call from a recruiter with the company behind the video and she promised to send me a couple of emails. In one of the emails was a link to this video.

Please don’t think I’m trying to sell you or recruit you into anything. Just watch the video below and see if you get the same reaction I did.

What a POWERFUL reminder that behind every smile is a story. For me, it is a powerful reminder that behind every face sitting in a pew (or on a cushy chair) in church, there is a life, a story.

Twenty years ago I was suicidal, taking lots of anti-depressants, and going to counseling multiple times a week. I came close to being admitted to a facility for my own safety. At the same time, I was going to church every time the doors were open, listening to the music and the preaching, doing my best to lie with my expressions.

How many other people do the same thing? How many people put up a front, build walls, and hide behind a false smile?

This video broke my heart for people: the lost, the broken, the hurting, the lonely, the scared, the abused, and the depressed.

It’s a reminder that every time I preach, every time I visit or knock on a door, every time I prayer-walk a street, there are little “stories” floating over people’s heads that only God can read.

They need Jesus to make their stories His-story.

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Filed under Depression, General Observations, ministry

It’s a Reality Show In the Making

Folks, I’m just going to shoot straight with you this Saturday morning. I only have a short amount of time to write this, so I’m just going to type it, post it, and not worry about the aesthetics.

Like the title of this post says, our life is like a dad gum reality show in the making. I don’t know who would sponsor it, and I don’t know who would watch it, but there’s more that happens to us in any given week than ever takes place on a TV reality show. The DRAMA! The TRAGEDY! The COMEDY!

The only problem is that what happens in our family, should it be made into a reality TV program, would be considered made-up, fake, or overblown just to get ratings. In other words, no one would believe it.

You may be reading this with a little smirk, thinking to yourself, “Yeah, right. It couldn’t be THAT bad, Anthony. Everybody’s got their issues.” Maybe, but consider what has happened in just the last couple of weeks.

  • After 14 months out of work (except for the occasional insurance commission), I finally got through all the red tape of getting my CDL (Commercial Drivers License) back in order to drive a school bus – that story is a book to itself. THEN, I only worked 2 days before Spring Break came – without pay.
  • Friday, the last day of Spring Break, I had a heart attack which required 4 days in the hospital and 2 stents. Now I can’t drive a school bus until I’m cleared by a cardiologist.
  • Our insurance through the Marketplace changed, so NONE of our doctors were covered – we had to find new ones. The only problem is that hardly any doctors or hospitals in our area take the new insurance! SOOOO, I’m having to wait 2 weeks to see a cardiologist.
  • The day before yesterday, in the morning, on the first day I was at home from the hospital, my mother (who stays with us) wouldn’t wake up. We had to call an ambulance. I had to take a nitro pill. She went to the hospital and didn’t wake up until 8 p.m.! We still don’t know why!
  • While at the hospital, I got a little too winded, so my wife said she would push me in a wheelchair. On the way to the van she flipped her knee scooter – the one she was riding because she had a broken bone in her foot and a fractured tibia from dropping my mother’s wheelchair arm on her foot – and fell in the hospital parking lot, doing more damage to her leg…now she’s in a full-blown cast.
  • Oh, she also broke her toe in the hospital where I was being treated. She closed the reclining chair she was sleeping on and it closed on her toe.
  • When my wife and I got the wheel chair out of the van, she pushed me (imagine how that looked) into the hospital where my mom was (they moved her from the ER to a room). As she was pushing me in, she looked down as we were going through the automatic doors. They opened outward, not inward, so she ran me right into them!

We’ve had little income, more bills than money to pay them, multiple injuries and illnesses, sermons to preach, people to visit, jobs that have been lost, arguments that have escalated, death that nearly happened, and people wondering what in the world we did to deserve all that’s been happening to us for the last 25 years.

YET… God is good, all the time.

But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us. [We are] troubled on every side, yet not distressed; [we are] perplexed, but not in despair; – 2 Corinthians 4:7-8 KJV

People look at us with wonder and ask, “How do you do it?” All I can say is that “He giveth grace.”

I don’t know why we have so much happen to us. I don’t know why it’s been so hard the last year and a half, especially. It could be that Satan is trying to attack us and defeat us. It could be that the Lord is testing us.

Either way, I will not yield ground to the Enemy by giving up. I will not surrender my faith by doubting God’s goodness, mercy, and grace. I will not give up. I’ll keep getting up. I’ll keep pressing on.

I’m still not sure what I’m going to be preaching on tomorrow morning, but I can promise you one thing: The devil won’t like it.

God bless you all, and have a great weekend!

Go to church somewhere this Sunday.

Tell the networks we are ready to talk.

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Filed under blogging, Christian Living, Faith, General Observations, grace, Life Lessons, Life/Death, Love of God, ministry, Relationships and Family, Struggles and Trials

Pricey Tongue, Worthless Heart

Let’s take a look at the following verse from the tenth chapter of Proverbs.

The tongue of the just is as choice silver: the heart of the wicked is little worth. – Proverbs 10:20

Contrast

When we look at this verse, it is important for us to remember that there is a comparison/contrast being made. An “opposite parallelism” is being used to make a point that one thing is valuable, while another is worthless.

In this case, it is easy to notice that Solomon is contrasting “the tongue of the just” with “the heart of the wicked.” The tongue of the just person (the words that he speaks) is something beautiful and of great value, while the wicked man’s heart is just the opposite. But if we were to look a little deeper, there is more than meets the eye, or first impressions.

The Heart

What is really being contrasted are the hearts of both the wicked and the just. You see, what comes out of a person’s mouth is directly related to what’s in his heart. Proverbs 16:23 says, “The heart of the wise teacheth his mouth, and addeth learning to his lips.” In the book of James (3:11) we read, “Doth a fountain send forth at the same place sweet water and bitter?”

Essentially, you can tell what is in a person’s heart by what comes out of his mouth. Jesus said, “It’s not what goes into your mouth that defiles you; you are defiled by the words that come out of your mouth.” – Matthew 15:11 (NLT)

Do you like to tell dirty jokes? Then there must be lust in your heart. Do you always talk hateful? Then there is hatred (and maybe murder – see Matthew 5:21-22) in your heart.

Do you ever talk about God? About Jesus? About your love for Him? If not, maybe He’s not in there.

On Display

Do you realize that your heart is on display? No, I don’t mean that your chest cavity is transparent, nor do I mean that everyone can see your bloody, beating heart muscle. That’s sick!

What I do mean to say is that there is no hiding what is in your heart; because your words, the words from your mouth, tell the whole story.

Maybe we should listen to ourselves. Maybe we should ask others to tell us what they hear. Maybe we should be like King David and pray this prayer…

“Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O LORD, my strength, and my redeemer.”– Psalm 19:14

 


The above commentary was first published in my other blog, Proverbial Thought. It can also be found in Proverbial Thought: Your Daily Word of Wisdom from Proverbs (Parson’s Porch, 2014).

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Filed under blogging, Faith, Life Lessons, ministry, Theology, wisdom

I Was Interviewed – Or Was I?

Good Friday, everyone! I hope today will be the start of a great weekend for you.

Phoned In

I just wanted to share some thoughts with you guys, whoever might be interested, regarding some recent interviews I’ve had.

Let me be clear, I am perfectly happy to stay right where I am as pastor of South Soddy Baptist Church. Now, don’t get me wrong, it would be great if this little church could grow, even by a few people. But I’m happy to stay here and work my tail off as long as this is where God wants me.

That being said, recently several churches have contacted me and asked if I’d be willing to be considered for the position of pastor. Again, I’m NOT looking to leave where I am, but I felt it would be wise to at least have a conversation with these different churches just to make sure I wasn’t missing God’s direction.

Because the churches that have contacted me have been out of town, each one has elected to do conference-style phone interviews, their pulpit search committees on one end of the line, me on the other.

However, what concerns me…which is what this post is going to be about…are the questions these pulpit committees are asking – or NOT asking.

Weak Questions

What I have been experiencing from these pulpit search committees are questions that are rather weak, vague, and easy to manipulate. By “manipulate” I mean that they are questions that by their very nature tell me what the answer should be.

For example, before I participated in any of these interviews I did my research on who these people were. That’s only smart. So, if I were to have been asked questions about worship style, what version of the Bible I use, or even denominational polity, all I would need to know is apparent on their websites and social media accounts. If I had wanted to, I could answer their questions just like they were expecting.

But beyond that, the typically weak and vague questions are ones that inquire about my family, how well I work with committees, how long my average sermon is, and am I willing to visit people in the hospital.

Should you be one of the committee members of one of the churches that have interviewed me, whether on the phone or in person, please understand that I’m not mocking or deriding you – I’m simply concerned.

Tougher Questions, Please!

Whether it’s me being interviewed or someone else, my advice to these churches – maybe even yours – is to ask tougher questions that demand answers grounded in solid theology and backed with Scripture.

In the last several interviews I’ve never – not once – been asked questions like the following:

  • Describe the time surrounding and leading up to, including the actual moment of your conversion.
  • What are your views on the divinity of Jesus Christ and the doctrine of the Trinity?
  • What is your belief regarding the sufficiency of Scripture?
  • How do you think you meet the requirements of a “bishop” as found in Paul’s letters to Timothy and Titus?
  • What do you think the Bible says about marriage?
  • Do you regularly view pornography, and if not, how do you avoid it?
  • Do you have a time you regularly spend with the Lord outside of sermon prep?
  • How is your marriage?
  • What books are you reading right now?
  • Do you believe in a literal Adam and Eve, heaven, and hell?
  • Why do you even want to be a pastor in the first place?

Just to be clear, I pastor Baptist churches, and Baptist churches select their pastors differently than other denominations. Baptist churches are autonomous, therefore (except in rare exceptions), we do not have a standard prerequisite for how pulpit search committees select and vet their candidates.

However, all I’m asking is that at the very least … should I be contacted again … could you make the questions a little more challenging, please? I really do need the workout.

I promise it’ll be fun 😉

Thank You! 

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Filed under baptist, Church, ministry, Preaching

Objectives for My Life

If a fruit fly was asked to submit a list of things he’d want to accomplish in life, it would probably be pretty short and sweet.

If he could write, it would go something like, “Eat, procreate, and die.”

I am not a fruit fly. Yet, back in 2012 while in seminary I was asked to provide a list of my personal ministry objectives. Wasting no opportunity, I wrote a blog post about them and even incorporated them into my resume (where they remain to this day).

But as I was reviewing them this morning, I realized they were points that defined something more than just ministry: they are my life!

Ministry (including preaching, teaching, counseling, etc.) is more than just a job, a career, or a chosen field of service; it is my calling, my personality, my way of life. It’s who I am.

The following “objectives” shouldn’t only describe the things I want to accomplish; they should be a description of the man God has molded me to be.

The only question, then, is how well am I being ME in the context in which I’ve been given?

When people say “Just be yourself,” it’s good to know who yourself is.

My ministry objectives:

  1. To bring glory to the name of Jesus Christ in all that I do,[1] and all I go through.[2]
  2. To “give attendance to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine,”[3] and “to prayer, and to the ministry of the word.”[4]
  3. To affect future generations yet to come as children are grounded, parents become responsible, singles are emboldened, and the aged get a second wind.[5] [6]
  4. To be known as a humble and consistent husband and father whose household serves the Lord;[7] [8] a forgiven sinner who understands grace;[9] and a fearless soldier of the Cross[10] who never compromises the truth.[11]
  5. To promote the preaching and teaching of the Gospel in every part of the world.[12]

Update: Literally, just minutes after I posted this, a friend sent out a group text (which I received) that included the following sermon by Tony Evans. Awesome.

http://subspla.sh/x7f9wq9

Confirmation 🙂


[1] Psa 19:14 – Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O LORD, my strength, and my redeemer.

[2] 1Pe 1:7 – That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ.

[3] 1Ti 4:13 – Till I come, give attendance to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine.

[4] Act 6:4 – But we will give ourselves continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the word.

[5] Jos 4:21-24 – And he spake unto the children of Israel, saying, When your children shall ask their fathers in time to come, saying, What [mean] these stones? Then ye shall let your children know, saying, Israel came over this Jordan on dry land. For the LORD your God dried up the waters of Jordan from before you, until ye were passed over, as the LORD your God did to the Red sea, which he dried up from before us, until we were gone over: That all the people of the earth might know the hand of the LORD, that it [is] mighty: that ye might fear the LORD your God for ever.

[6] Pro 22:6 – Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.

[7] Jos 24:15 – And if it seem evil unto you to serve the LORD, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that [were] on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.

[8] 1Cr 15:58 – Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.

[9] 1Ti 1:15 – This [is] a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief.

[10] Mar 8:34 – And when he had called the people [unto him] with his disciples also, he said unto them, Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.

[11] 1Ti 4:16 – Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine; continue in them: for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee.

[12] Act 1:8 – But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.

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Filed under Christian Living, Christian Maturity, ministry, Preaching, Uncategorized, World View

It’s Time for Backbone (An Open Letter to Preachers)

This morning I watched a YouTube video in which Todd Friel (Wretched Radio) declared: “The problem with today’s preachers; nobody wants to kill them.” His point was that the reason preachers from centuries ago were imprisonned or killed was their determination to preach truth regardless the culture’s feelings. Too often our modern preachers and pastors are afraid of offending.

It is with that sentiment that I penned the following open letter. We need to love desperately, but without compromising our message.


Dear Fellow Preachers,

Now’s the time – it’s actually past time – for some honest-to-goodness, strong-as-steel, George S. Patton and John Wayne-like BACKBONE!

I don’t care if you’re Baptist, Presbyterian, Pentecostal, Nazarene, Methodist, or whatever…MAN UP!! Stand in the gap! Quit being a politically motivated, crowd-pleasing, purse string-tying wimp and PREACH THE WORD!

Seriously, check out what’s going on in the world and what’s coming to America. Gentlemen, more than ever what we need now are some Elijahs, some John the Baptists, some more John Knoxs, some old-school Billy Grahams, some D. L. Moodys, etc. We need more men of God who know the difference between the Word of God and a motivational speech!

Don’t try to be popular. Don’t try to be “cool” and “hip” with the younger generations. Quit fighting over the styles of worship if your congregation doesn’t even know HOW to worship! Forget trying to become more “seeker-friendly,” and just SEEK THE LOST! The world is going to Hell and we are greasing the skids.

Be real. Be humble. Be yourself. Love your enemies. But for the love of God, pastors and preachers, “Watch ye, stand fast in the faith, quit you like men, be strong” (1 Corinthians 16:13). In other words, take off the liberal mom jeans and put on some prophet-worthy overalls and get to work!

You’ve got the pulpit, so use it! PREACH!

bible

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Filed under ministry, Preaching

Plowing the Corners In Soddy

Old VHS Tapes

Just the other day I came across a couple of old VHS tapes in my study. You do know what they are, don’t you?

The ink on the labels was so faded that I couldn’t tell what had been recorded on them. So, I took them back to the house and popped them into the old player to see what little bit of history had been archived.

To my surprise, one of the VHS tapes contained the recording of my father’s funeral back in 1991! It was a little disturbing at first, but I decided to watch some of it, especially since I didn’t remember much about what was said that day.

One of the men whom I had invited to speak was Evangelist John Mitchell, a former pastor of ours and a man who knew my dad well. During his short sermon in honor of my father, he gave an illustration that eloquently described him.

The Illustration

When describing my father, Bro. John Mitchell put it this way:

“What was Terry Baker’s real aspirations? I mean, what did he really want out of life? Well, Terry was satisfied, as few people are, with just doing little things for Jesus.

I heard the story one time of a fellow who had a couple thousand acres that he farmed, and he had these big John Deere tractors with 24-ft harrows. In other words, with one swoop with that tractor they would plow a 24-foot strip…it would take no time to get those big, huge fields done.

But there was only one problem: those fields were so big, when it turned around, it couldn’t catch the corners, and the corners were always left…and they had to get somebody to come in and do those corners because the ground was just as fertile and grew just as much in the corners as it did out in the middle.

It seemed like to me, knowing Terry 20 years, that he was satisfied in just doing the corners. He never did look for big stuff. He never was, all the time I knew him, disappointed in doing the little things for the Lord Jesus Christ. He felt like, as I do, it was just as important as that fellow out there with the big John Deere tractor…

Terry didn’t aspire to be somebody great with his name in the papers. He just wanted to do whatever he could for the Lord Jesus Christ. I would to God we had more Terry Bakers who had that type of attitude.”

In other words, my dad was content plowing the corners, for that was important, too.

My Corner

So, if my dad was here today (and I wish he was), I think he would be proud of me. Today is the 2nd anniversary of when I became pastor of a small corner in the big field of Hamilton County, Tennessee: South Soddy Baptist Church.

While others have been tasked by the Owner of the field to drive the big plows, He has entrusted me with this little spot – because the harvest is that important.

When I was younger I had aspirations of plowing larger plots of land, but that was when I thought it was MY field…my ministry, not God’s. But now that I’ve matured and learned to be more like my late father, a humble man of God, there is joy and contentment in doing the bidding of the One who called me to the work…

…even in the corners.

Photo credit: Haley Baker (visit SouthSoddyBaptist.org)

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Filed under Christian Maturity, Church, Family, Megachurch, ministry, Preaching