Category Archives: ministry

Friday Night Thoughts of Encouragement (1/25/19)

It’s Friday night in Pigeon Forge, TN, the place where Dolly Parton is famous, there’s snow on the Smokey Mountains, and legal moonshine is a hot commodity.

It’s also the place where every year at this time bivocational pastors and their wives come together for a wonderful and critical time of fellowship – the kind that says, “I know what you’re going through…you’re not alone.”

If you follow me on Facebook, you will notice that I shared some of the music and speakers live.

Below is a link to a powerful message, more like a charge to us pastors, by Dr. Randy Davis, President and Executive Director of the TBMB. (At one point I knock over my iPad – sorry)

But if you are a bivocational pastor in the state of Tennessee and you are not here, the real question is why aren’t you here?

I know that it’s not always easy to get away for a Thursday through Saturday, maybe even the Sunday, too. But my wife and I plan for this retreat every year because it is the highlight of the year for us. There’s barely anything else like it.

Unfortunately, so many pastors are loners. They think that getting together with other pastors is a sign of weakness, unless, that is, the purpose for getting together is a time to flex their preaching muscles or do anything that doesn’t include admitting you’re less than superman.

But I’m a little bit embarrassed for our own association of Baptist churches in our county. One association of Southern Baptist churches had only 12 churches, as opposed to my county’s 100+. Yet, that little association of SBC churches reportedly had 100% participation in this event, while only 3 pastors from churches in our association came! I was one of them!

They just don’t understand what they are missing!

To be honest, I came to this retreat with a very heavy heart and beyond discouraged. I was down, stiff, a little resentful, and a tad bit skeptical of whether or not this time the retreat would benefit me, my wife, or my church.

Then came the time for the first speaker to speak (at least the first one we were able to hear, because we came in a couple of hours after the whole thing started). He asked us all to turn in our Bibles to 2 Corinthians and stand as we all read the 1st verse of chapter 4…

Therefore, since we have this ministry, as we have received mercy, we do not lose heart. – 2 Corinthians 4:1 NKJV

Without exaggerating, I broke down into sobs before the last word of that verse was able to be read aloud. God knew exactly what I needed at that moment…and I would even bet money I wasn’t the only one.

After some more music and some more preaching to the preachers, I found myself at the front, right below the stage, in a conference room with a few hundred of my peers, on my knees before God confessing my lack of faith, my lack of wholeheartedness, and the pitiful state of my spiritual weaponry.

And I wasn’t the only one who did that; it was kneeling room only. I’m sure the carpet was damp with tears when all was said and done.

And that’s what I’m talking about: Pastors and their wives from all across the state of Tennessee, just regular folk who work jobs and pastor churches, getting real. Getting real with God, and with each other.

We are living in a time when godlessness is taking over. The last thing we need is a bunch of discouraged, downtrodden, scared shepherds trying to watch over the few sheep they do have as the wolves are emboldened.

What we really need are more ambassadors of Christ, spiritual warriors of the Cross, who realize that though they may be surrounded by an encroaching enemy, the battle is not over! Surrounded by an army nearly twice his size, the truth of King Hezekiah’s words should be an encouragement to us…

“Be strong and courageous; do not be afraid nor dismayed before the king of Assyria, nor before all the multitude that [is] with him; for [there are] more with us than with him. “With him [is] an arm of flesh; but with us [is] the LORD our God, to help us and to fight our battles.” And the people were strengthened by the words of Hezekiah king of Judah. – 2 Chronicles 32:7-8 NKJV

Tomorrow is the final day of this retreat, and I’m looking forward to the blessing. But I’m also more encouraged than yesterday to attack hell with a water pistol when I get back home.

With me is the LORD my God to help us and to fight our battles – I am not alone!

I am unwavering!

Advertisements

3 Comments

Filed under America, Christian Maturity, Christian Unity, Church, Faith, ministry, Preaching, worship

Things to Do In 2019: Avoid Whining and Complaining

I used to hear it said that the world hates a complainer. However, is the world not full of whiners and complainers these days?

The average SJW (social justice warrior) is nothing more than a pale-skinned, black-clothed, fit pitcher with unnaturally-colored hair and absolutely drunk on whine (see what I did there?).

Turn on practically any news station and all you will hear is complaining about something Trump did or didn’t do.

Say the wrong thing to the wrong people and off they’ll trot to the nearest complaint-filing station and whine and complain about how their feelings were hurt.

And, sadly, many Christians are no different; they live like the world in the world and then gripe and complain when the world around them treats them with contempt.

Aren’t we supposed to be different?

Do all things without murmurings and disputings: That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world; – Philippians 2:14–15 

How can we be “lights in the world” if all we do is gripe about the darkness?

You may have thought that when I said that I wanted to “avoid whining and complaining” that I meant the kind of whining and complaining that people do when they don’t get their way. If so, you are only partly correct.

Sure, I want to complain less about stuff and things, because, after all, living here in America makes me one of the richest people in the world! What have I got to complain about?

But what I’ve really got to watch out for is the type of whining and complaining that comes when one looks with disgust at a fallen, sinful world and yet does nothing to make a difference.

Dr. Tony Evans put it this way:

“You can’t blame things for being dark if the light bulbs aren’t working. So we’re complaining about the darkness when the bulbs aren’t working, and the Bible says that we are the light of the world.”

Jesus said that we are to let our “light so shine before men, that they may see [our] good works, and glorify [our] Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16).

If all we do is complain about what’s wrong and never shine the light of the gospel into the darkness, the darkness will never flee, it will be ever-present and grow darker, and we will wind up the antithesis of Philippians 2:14… we will find ourselves guilty, harmful, not acting like “sons of God,” and rebuked by the very crooked and perverse nation we complain about.

Lord, help me to be a light-bearing changer instead of a dim whit complainer. 

9 Comments

Filed under Christian Living, Christian Maturity, Christianity, current events, Future, ministry, Witnessing

Qualifications for a Pastor (and a reminder for the rest of you)

There are places in the Bible where the Apostle Paul describes the qualifications necessary to be a pastor (1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1:5-9).

But there are some additional characteristics I think every pastor should have if he wishes to survive until the next Easter service or deacons’ meeting… and believe me, I speak from experience.

This photo was taken at a bi-vocational pastor and wives retreat. These men were gathering around a fellow pastor who’s son who was a drug addict and missing.

Among other things, a pastor should have a thick skin, a broken heart, a humble spirit, and a hope that rests in the fact that Grace is there to pick up the pieces.

As for you, the congregations they lead, be reminded that the only perfect Shepherd was Jesus; the rest are human.

Pray that the light of Jesus will shine through the cracked vessel which is your pastor.

6 Comments

Filed under Christian Maturity, Faith, grace, ministry, Prayer, Preaching

Weddings, Weddings, Weddings!

Ringgold, Georgia

Did you know that Ringgold, GA is the “Wedding Capital of the South”? Well, it is, and that’s because hundreds and hundreds of couples get married there every year.

And where do many, if not most of them choose to tie the knot? The Ringgold Wedding Chapel. Go check out their website and read about its history, including some of the more famous names who’ve gotten married there (Dolly Parton and Carl Dean, George Jones and Tammy Wynette, Bob Harvey from Jefferson Airplane, etc.).

Anyway, I’ve been conducting weddings at the Ringgold Wedding Chapel for a few weeks, now. It’s been interesting, to say the least. 🙂

A Ministry

Some of you may think me crazy, or even a heretic, for agreeing to marry people in a wedding chapel. Believe me, I get it. There used to be a day when I wouldn’t do a wedding for anyone unless they first agreed to extended pre-marital counseling. Now, I marry people the same hour I meet them.

But why do I do it? You see, the people that come into the chapel to get married don’t just walk in and say, “Marry me!” No, they have to book the chapel and pay a fee, plus have all their paperwork in order. However, those that want to get married could just as easily go to a courthouse, but they don’t; they choose to be married by a minister.

If these couples are going to get married somewhere, no matter what, I figured why not seize the opportunity to present the Gospel to them through a ceremony that highlighted a biblical model of marriage? It’s not a perfect situation, but it’s a chance to plant a seed, if nothing else.

So, I wanted to share with you guys my wedding script. It’s what I read for each and every wedding, making adjustments as needed, sometimes adding more when appropriate. When the service is over, I give the couple the script I used (with their names written in the blanks) for a keepsake, Scripture references and all.

Wedding Ceremony

The Greeting

   Greetings, everyone! My name is Rev. Anthony Baker, and on behalf of __________________ and ________________, I would like to welcome you to this wonderful occasion.

   We are gathered together here, today, in the sight of God and all you witnesses, to join this man and this woman together in holy matrimony. It is holy because marriage was not invented in a court room or a judge’s chamber, but in ages past by God Himself. Therefore, it should not be taken lightly, but should be entered into reverently, advisedly, and in the fear of God.

   He is watching, and He will never forget the vows you two will be exchanging. And, not to leave anyone out, God also knows every one of you here as witnesses, and He will know whether or not you encourage and support this couple in the days and years to come.

   To Bride: ______________, are you willing to proceed with this ceremony? Answer: “I am.”

   To Groom: _______________, are you willing to proceed with this ceremony? Ans.: “I am.”

The Giving of the Bride (optional)

   Who gives this woman to be married to this man? Response: “I do,” “We do,” “Her mother and I do.”

Prayer

   Father in Heaven, Creator of all things, we thank you this day for your mercy and grace and for giving us the wonderful gift of marriage. Lord, please bless us with Your presence, bless the union of this bride and groom, and be glorified by all that is said and done today. In the matchless name of Jesus Christ we pray, Amen!

Statement of Marriage

   As I mentioned before, marriage was not created by men, nor was it ordained in a courtroom; marriage was created by God Himself. We know this from reading the second chapter of Genesis. There, God created Adam, then Eve, and brought her to the man. Adam then said of Eve, “This is now bone of my bone, flesh of my flesh.” Genesis 2:24 reads: “This is why a man shall leave his father and mother and bond with his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.”

   Marriage is the institution in which God ordains a man and a woman to come together in love, with undying commitment, as a testimony to others of God’s love for us.

   When times get hard, you don’t run away, throw in the towel, and say, “I quit!” Why? Because Jesus, as our example, said to His disciples, “I will never leave you” (Matthew 28:20; Hebrews 13:5). As a further example to us, even after all we did to Him, after all He went through, He still carried the cross – He gave His all.

   Marriage is more than a 50/50 relationship; it’s 100% both ways. But even when one of you doesn’t live up to the other’s expectations – it will happen  – true love carries the extra burden, forgives, shows mercy and grace. That is one reason why the apostle Paul tells us in the 5th chapter of his letter to the Ephesians, “Husbands, love your wives, just as also Christ loved the church and gave himself for her” (Eph. 5:25). The sacrificial love of Jesus was to be mirrored in the marriage relationship. To sum it up, Paul went on to say in verse 33: “…each one of you is to love his wife as himself, and the wife is to respect her husband.”

   _______________ and _______________, the greatest love of all, the truest love of all, is not a love that demands of each other, or expects of each other, but gives all that one has without any expectations. 1 John 4:10 (NLT) says, “This is real love–not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins.” Therefore, the greatest advice I can give is if you want a long-lasting, wonderful marriage, love each other more than yourself, for loving each other IS loving yourself.

The Vows

   _______________  and ______________, now that you understand something of the reason for marriage, are you ready now to confirm your commitment to each other, before God and these witnesses, by the saying of your vows?  Response: “We are.”

   Then please turn to each other and join hands.

   _______________ (groom), in taking ______________ to be your wife, do you so promise to honor, to love, and to cherish her in sickness as in health, in poverty as in wealth, in hardship as in blessing, until death alone shall part you?  Groom responds: “I do.”

   _______________ (bride), in taking ______________ to be your husband, do you so promise to honor, to love, and cherish him in sickness as in health, in poverty as in wealth, in hardship as in blessing, until death alone shall part you?  Bride responds: “I do.”

Do you have rings?

The Exchange of Rings

   You will now seal your vows “to honor, to love, and to cherish” by the giving and receiving of rings. I would like for you to look at your rings for just a moment. What you see is symbolic of two things. First, of course your rings are round. That symbolizes something that is never ending, a union that cannot be broken, and that is what your marriage should be.

   But secondly, I would like for you to think about the precious metal that these rings are made of. The metal is precious because it was hard to find and what it endured to become what you will wear. The metal in these rings went through a furnace, through testing, through times of purifying. Your marriage will also have times of trials and tribulation, times when you’ll be put through the fire. And when those times come, look at those rings you will be wearing and remember this: The longer you stay together, the more fires you endure, the more precious your marriage to each other will be.

  _______________ (groom), place the ring on ___________’s finger and repeat after me:

   Groom: “I, ________________, take you, ________________, to be my wedded wife to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health, until death do us part. Joyfully and willingly, I commit myself to you and to you alone.”

   ________________(bride), place the ring on _____________’s finger and repeat after me:

   Bride: “I, ________________, take you, ________________, to be my wedded husband to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health, until death do us part. Joyfully and willingly, I commit myself to you and to you alone.”

Prayer

   Gracious Father, we thank you for creating us in your image so that we might know You and what true love is. Through your power and blessing we ask You to enable these two to keep their vows and be renewed daily in their love and commitment to each other. In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.

Unity Candle, Sand Ceremony (Optional)

The Pronouncement

   _______________ and ______________, we have witnessed the pledging of your love and commitment to each other, and the sealing of your vows by the exchanging of rings. Thereby, under the authority of God’s Word, and in accordance with the laws of the State of Georgia, it is my privilege to pronounce you husband and wife!

_____________ (groom), you may kiss your bride.

Introduction of Newlyweds:  I now present to you Mr. & Mrs. ______________________.

 

Officiated by: Rev. Anthony C. Baker, M.Min.

So, what do you think of my wedding script? Feel free to use it if you want.

What do you think of sharing the Gospel in this way?

Would you word anything differently?

6 Comments

Filed under Defending Traditional Marriage, Defining Marriage, ministry, places, Struggles and Trials

Remember the “Least of These” this Cyber Monday

A few years ago I made a lot more “Monday Monkey” videos than I do now. Sadly, as I look back, I can see how much my girls have grown up!

The following video is a good example.

In the video below you will see my youngest, Haley, doing her part to help the “least of these,” a freezing puppet next to a tree…and I wasn’t exactly warm, either.

Remember, Christmas is not about getting; it’s about giving. God gave Jesus Christ unto a world who didn’t deserve Him, and that supreme act of love (both on the Giver and the Gift’s part) should be reflected in our giving.

This Christmas, why not give something of value to someone in need, someone who won’t expect it. Then, take the time to talk about the Greatest Gift ever given to mankind.

Seriously, ask the Lord to give you the opportunity to share Jesus with someone; He will make it happen.

This is Katie and Haley, now. Both are seniors: Katie, 22, in college (5th year), Haley, 18, in high school!

5 Comments

Filed under Christmas, Love of God, ministry, Witnessing

Street of the Week Commercial

With the help of my daughter, Katie, I put together a new little commercial to promote our “Street of the Week” initiative.

We’ve been doing this for a while, so I know it’s really a blessing to people. Sure, we really want to grow the numbers in our little church, but there’s also a need for Christians to show love to their communities, and this is a non-confrontational way to do just that.

Now, when we go out and pray on a street of the week, we don’t just prayer walk – we try to meet people. But what they don’t expect is for use to give them a bag of homemade cookies and only ask if there’s something we can pray about.

It’s soft evangelism, in a way.

If we can show people we really do care, no strings attached, then maybe they will want to talk about eternal things. But that’s a door the Holy Spirit has to open.

Why don’t you give this a try in your hometown? If you want to know more about the specifics of what we do, I’d be happy to share them with you. Just email me or leave a message below.

Like I say at the end of this video, if you would like to make donations to help in this work (or any other that we are trying to do at South Soddy Baptist), you can go to the church website (SouthSoddyBaptist.org) and make a tax-deductible donation via the “Donate Online” link at the top of the main page.

Blessings!

 

4 Comments

Filed under Church, ministry, Prayer

Praying for the President

Why can’t more Christians be like Pastor Brunson and pray for the President?

How many times do folks like myself have to remind fellow believers that even if you dislike the man, Donald Trump is the President of the United States, and we are therefore instructed to petition God on his behalf, to pray for him when he might not even recognize his needs, and to thank God for him.

Don’t believe me?

First of all, then, I urge that petitions, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for everyone, for kings and all those who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity. This is good, and it pleases God our Savior, who wants everyone to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. – 1 Timothy 2:1-4 CSB

Notice the “why’s” attached to the above commands:

  • So that we may lead a peaceful and quite life.
    Tell me, how in the world is throwing civility out the window helping things? Is our nation peaceful and tranquil? Heck, no! And why not? Could it be that many Christians are guilty of allowing Satan to use them as tools to stir up strife?
  • So that we lead a quite life of godliness and dignity.
    Oh, tell me, how much godliness is there in forcing people out of restaurants and threatening constant incivility? Where is the dignity in screaming at the sky and clawing at the doors of the Supreme Court?
  • It pleases the Lord.
    Newsflash: Rioting in the streets and burning police cars does not please the Lord. Sending hate mail does not please the Lord. Creating an atmosphere of chaos and incivility – even anarchy – does NOT please the Lord.
  • For the sake of the gospel!
    Yes, we are to pray for our leaders so that we might live peaceable, godly, and dignified lives in order that the good news of Christ might be shared with those for whom Jesus died, and that those for whom He died might be saved.

If that’s not enough, and you can’t think of anything good to say about President Trump, Jesus Himself leaves you with no excuse for the hatred and violence.

But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust. – Matthew 5:44-45 KJV

Some of you can’t believe that any Christian would support Donald Trump. Frankly, I couldn’t believe that any Christian could support Barack Obama, the man more hostile to the Church than any other president in history.

But I can tell you this without blinking an eye: I prayed for President Obama.

We should be praying for President Trump, too.

30 Comments

Filed under America, Christian Living, Christian Unity, community, current events, ministry, Prayer