Category Archives: salvation

Proper Fear and Persuading Others

Not long ago I preached a sermon to my congregation, the following text being one of several that I used.

Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade men…” – 2 Corinthians 5:11a

There is always talk about the fear of terrorism these days, yet very few talk about the fear of God. Why is that? After all, aren’t we commanded to fear the Lord? Isn’t it the wise thing to do?

The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom: and the knowledge of the holy is understanding.” – Proverbs 9:10

The problem is that we get so distracted by the common, temporal fears of this world forget about the eternal. Some of us are terrified of what others may find in our closets, but forget that God knows all. Our minds are so cluttered with all the stresses of this life that we forget about what comes after.

Both of the previous verses also talk about “knowing” and  the “knowledge” of God. In the first passage (2 Cor. 5:11a) the Apostle Paul is essentially telling the Corinthians: “Hey, it’s because we know who God is and what He’s capable of, not to mention the fact that we must all stand before Him one day (5:10), that we do our dead-level best to tell it to you like it is!”

In the second passage, wise King Solomon is telling anyone who will listen, “The more you know God, the better you’ll understand how life works.” Knowing and understanding who God is will produce produce fear: terror in His enemies; reverential fear in those who love Him.

Jesus said: “And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear Him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10:28). [emphasis added]

So, while ever-present bad news will tend to make us want to run and hide or take matters into our own hands, keep everything in its proper perspective. Those who serve the Living Savior; those who are reconciled to God by the atonement of the cross of Christ; those who were once strangers, but now have been made children of the Father, can find peace and rest in the fearfully omnipotent hand of our faithful Creator.

Wherefore let them that suffer according to the will of God commit the keeping of their souls to him in well doing, as unto a faithful Creator.” – 1 Peter 4:19 

The only ones who should be living in terror, in fear of what may come today or tomorrow, are those who have never known God, have forgotten God, or worse, mock Him (Romans 1:18-32).

When we persuade others to fear God in the proper way, they will come to know His love and love Him in return. Then, instead of living in terror, ironically, “perfect love casteth out fear” (1 John 4:18).

For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father.” – Romans 8:15 

Are you living in fear? Can you call God “Abba, Father” (Daddy)? A proper relationship will produce a proper fear; terror is the product of rebellion.

If you don’t fully understand what I’ve written, or if you’d like to know more about how to live in peace without terror, click on the Eternal Life tab at the top of the page and follow the instructions.

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Filed under Bible Study, God, salvation, Struggles and Trials

Who is Jesus? Key biblical, historical, and scientific evidence. — Opened Heart Ministry

The following post was written by Dr. Rob Oberto, but it is so worth sharing! I would encourage you to check out his blog and let him know I sent you 🙂


 

https://videopress.com/embed/e1FfLaZT?hd=0&autoPlay=0&permalink=0&loop=0

In this brief post I share with you the key biblical, historical, and scientific evidence that I have gleened from over 39 years of academic, professional, and personal study.

via Who is Jesus? Key biblical, historical, and scientific evidence. — Opened Heart Ministry

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by | October 10, 2018 · 8:58 pm

What Is a “Blessing”?

Earlier this week I posted a question on Facebook:

If I could offer you your choice – if you’d just come to church just once – of either $1,000 or a blessing from God, would you come?

I got a few responses, but one friend, Michael Wheeler, decided to probe a little, asking if I could define what a “blessing” actually is.

The answer seems obvious, but how do you define “blessing”? That word is thrown around with no real meaning. – Michael Wheeler

I gave a typical tongue-in-cheek response:

True. I know a thousand dollars would surely BE a blessing right now 

Michael followed that response with how that he had asked “countless pastors and laypersons who overuse that word to define it, but have never gotten a satisfactory answer.” He then went on to say that the use of the word “sounds good,” but carries with it “no real meaning.”  “Other than salvation,” he proposed, “we have no other ‘blessings’ or promised things over what unbelievers experience.

Well, in fun I replied to Michael Wheeler’s question with:

Do you even own a box of crayons?

As expected (because Michael is usually a very serious kind of guy), he answered with:

Nope… Is that the extent of your definition of “blessing”?

That is when – after a brief distraction – I wrote the following:

No, not hardly. I got distracted by other things. I only asked that because sometimes I feel like you see things only in black and white – not as in truth claims, but in what you see. For instance, I never read fiction, but then I read “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe”…it added color to the pallet of my spiritual imagination. Lewis didn’t teach me any new truth, but he added shades of color to what I could already see.

Much of what I would call “blessings” are those moments when the Spirit opens the eyes of my understanding and allows me to see the beauty of a Truth in a new shade. In some ways, it’s like God takes me into His art gallery and amazes me with a new painting of the same scene. I’m speaking in terms of spiritual imagination, of course… the box of crayons.

We are blessed every day by the goodness of God. That goes for everyone who enjoys the providential care of the Creator (it rains on the just and the unjust). But we are also blessed in that we have a Father who not only gave us salvation but continues to give us bread instead of stones. He is the one who will one day bring us close to Himself and share with us that little white stone with a name on it only the two of us will know – that’s true intimacy. So, many blessings are no less than those moments when we enter into worship – corporately or privately – and sense the real presence of the Holy Spirit reassuring us of the truth that He will never leave us or forsake us, that His grace is sufficient for every need. I could go on and on.

If I had the time to sit down do a more meticulous study of the definition of “blessing,” I’m sure you’d find the result more satisfying to your particular taste. However, what I’ve just described for you is the practical and real-world look at how I see it. Simply put, many times getting a “blessing” may be nothing more than being brought the realization of how good, merciful, and gracious our Father is. If He throws in a thousand dollars, well, that’s a bonus.

Excellent answer,” wrote Mr. Wheeler.

That’s why I thought it would be worth sharing with you!

What do you think? How would you define a “blessing”? 

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God Did Not Create Another God

Would you take a moment and consider something?

When God created man, He didn’t create another God.

You might think that’s nothing new, but it is a very, very important truth – one that is rarely unpacked when discussing issues of sin and suffering.

There are people who wonder why God, if He exists and is so powerful and wise, created a free agent who could sin (break God’s law).

Others question why Scripture would suggest that Jesus was slain before the foundations of the world (1 Peter 1:19-20).

The answer to these questions and many more is that God did not create another God, only man.

God has certain characteristics that Man could never have simply because he was created. The most obvious are that he is not eternal, omnipotent, immutable, or omniscient. The most important is that Man, no matter how perfect he was at the moment of creation, was not holy as God is Holy.

If God were to create another like unto Himself, then God would not be God. If Man could be created, he couldn’t be eternal.

No matter what God created, His creation could never be Himself, and therefore not God.

God is eternally immutable, unchanging, therefore He cannot sin. On the other hand, Man is not eternal, nor immutable, so even from the beginning of creation, he had the potential, however remote, to sin. Therefore, even though God did not create sin, nor did He cause Adam to sin, sin was inevitable simply because God created a creature that was not Himself.

Why was it part of God’s plan that Jesus would be crucified, even before Adam even sinned? Because simply creating Man brought with it the inevitable possibility, the inevitable reality, that he would need to be redeemed – because he is Man, not God.

In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him. Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. – 1 John 4:9-10 KJV

Simply put, the only way sin could have been avoided would have been for God to never create any being capable of freely communing with Him. If he had created a robot, a machine, then sin would not have been inevitable. But since Adam was given the freedom to choose, a will, and since he was not God, the inevitable required an Emmanuel.

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Three R’s and Revival

On Wednesday, June 15, 2010 (over 8 years ago) I preached a short message from Isaiah 57:15 entitled “Three R’s and Revival.”

It was as I was casually reading through Isaiah 57 that this verse grabbed me and wouldn’t let go. I was reading it on my iPhone, actually, in the NET version, and it went like this:

“For this is what the high and exalted one says, the one who rules forever, whose name is holy: “I dwell in an exalted and holy place, but also with the discouraged and humiliated, in order to cheer up the humiliated and to encourage the discouraged.” – Isaiah 57:15 NET

When I went back and looked at it, my eyes filled up with tears. I was impressed with this fact: The Holy One isn’t too good to sit down with the humiliated and discouraged!

God is humble.

Of course, He is! Just look at what He did! Jesus became flesh (John 1:14) and walked in our shoes. He allowed Himself to be humiliated and beaten, even crucified, although He had every reason to look down on us, being God (Phil. 2:6-7). The “High and Lofty One” became the “meek and lowly” (Matt. 11:29).

There was/is no pride in God.

The Three R’s

Isaiah 57:15 KJV – “For thus saith the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy; I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones.”

The three R’s that I see in Isaiah 57:15 are these: Reign, Realm, and Residence.

  1. I see the first one in the words “high and lofty.”
  2. The second one I see is found in the words “inhabiteth eternity.”
  3. The third “R” is located in the words “I dwell,” and “with him also.”

Reign

Earlier, in chapter 6, Isaiah said he “saw also the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up…” The “high and lofty” One is none other than a King. And not just any king, this is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, Jesus Christ. The same description is found in Revelation 4. In verse 2, John saw a throne “set in heaven, and [one] sat on the throne.” Who was the One that sat on the throne? Evidently, the same Person who was seen by Isaiah, because in both accounts the angels were crying out “Holy, holy, holy...”

God is not a man-made idol or idea formed in the human mind – He is “high and lofty.” He is “exalted” above every other creature, whether in heaven or on earth. “Thine, O LORD, is the greatness, and the power, and the glory, and the victory, and the majesty: for all that is in the heaven and in the earth is thine; thine is the kingdom, O LORD, and thou art exalted as head above all” (1 Chronicles 29:11 KJV).

Because He is king, there remain only two options with regards to His reign: you are either His subject, or you are His enemy. God does not operate like earthly kings and nations. We have allies; but not God. His kingdom demands total loyalty (every knee shall bow). Serving another king is not a good thing at all, for it will only result in His judgment. No king is greater than He. To serve another is to live in rebellion.

Realm

God is the One that “inhabiteth (inhabits) eternity.” This is His realm. His influence reaches not only across all known and unknown areas of the universe but across time immortal!

It was said that at one time the sun never set on the British realm. All over the world, there were colonies under the control of the throne of England. But even more impressive than that, God’s realm isn’t limited to the present rising and setting of the sun, it is in ETERNITY.

It is important to note something here. I am not opposed to reading different translations, but a good example of when a new translation misses the mark is changing the word “inhabiteth” to “rules/lives forever.” Of course it is true that God lives and rules forever; however, there is more to it than that. The word “inhabit” touches upon His eternally sovereign omnipresence. God/Jesus is not just king over the here and now, or the future, but over the past, present, and future at the same time! He inhabits eternity! There is nothing in the realm of time, no matter where it is, that is out of His scope of authority.

Stop and think about this, folks. Think about the practical application of the above statement. Let’s just say you need $100 tomorrow to pay a bill. Or, it could be $1 million, a billion – doesn’t matter. You could go to an earthly king and ask for help, but the king would be limited to the time frame in which you needed the money, the amount that he had, and the limitations of his realm. Not God.

I have seen money come in for a need that was desperate. God provided what was needed. But, when you look at the sequence of events, God started answering that prayer long before it was ever prayed – decades before! God is not limited by time, space, or anything. His realm covers it all. When George Mueller prayed for milk (for his orphanage), do you not think that God had already put in place the necessary sequence of events to make that milk wagon drop a wheel? It is not even out of line to think that He went back to when the tree was planted that provided the wood for the wagon.

Residence

God not only lives in the “holy place,” but He dwells with lowly man. His name is Emmanuel – God with us. But notice this, He only dwells with the humble, the contrite, the broken-hearted, the cast down, the weary, the needy (“God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble.” – James 4:6). Even though He could choose to stay in His high and holy place, far above the heavens (as most men would do, given the opportunity), He makes His bed right on the floor with the lowliest, shivering beggar.

Of all people, God should be the one who looks down His nose at us. He is the “lofty” One upon the throne. We are the helpless sinners. How ironic is it that the only ones who will not open the door of their hearts are the prideful? Pride closes the door to the King.

and Revival

He said “I dwell” in order “to revive.” It is the presence of the God who cares; the God who understands where we are; the God who makes His home with the “discouraged” and the “humiliated” that brings revival. Oh, to live without hope, without compassion, without a tender touch from a caring hand, brings death. But to have a King step down from His lofty position in the heavenlies, from the eternal, to a lowly place in time – that revives the heart.

The gulf that separated me from Christ, my Lord 
It was so vast, the crossing I could never ford 
From where I was to His domain, it seemed so far 
I cried “Dear Lord, I cannot come to where You are” 

CHORUS 
He came to me, He came to me 
When I could not come to where He was, He came to me 
That’s why He died on Calvary 
When I could not come to where He was, He came to me 

He Came to Me – by Squire Parsons

Don’t let pride shut the door to your heart when the King of Kings seeks to dwell with you.

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The Answer to a Jailer’s Question

The Philippian jailer trembling before Paul and Silas

Credit: Holman Bible Handbook

A jailer in the ancient city of Philippi once asked the Paul and Silas a question that is still being asked today: “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” (Acts 16:30)

Have you ever asked that question? Maybe the following post will provide you with an answer.

“Now is our chance to choose the right side. God is holding back to give us that chance. It won’t last forever. We must take it or leave it.” – C. S. Lewis

My Story

One day, when I was a boy, I took the chance. I placed all my eggs in one basket. The fate of my eternal soul, as much as I could grasp the idea, was placed in the control of a Man I had never seen in person, nor had heard with my ear, but I believed loved me and died for me.

Today, as a man, I can use words I never knew back then, such as justification, atonement, and propitiation. But the simple truth that led me to surrender my heart and soul to this Man can still be explained with simple words…words written thousands of years ago… “For God so love the world, that He gave…

What did God give?

Do you know what a gift is? Sure you do. It is something you give to another when you care. It is something you give with no expectation of payment in return. It is best when it is something that required some sacrifice, but it was a joy to purchase. It means even more when you know the gift was something needed, but unexpected.

A gift is something that is received. I know a man who has no more family, so for Christmas, he goes out and buys things for his self, wraps them, and places them under a Christmas tree. On Christmas morning, all alone, he opens them. How sad is that? Those are not real gifts – he bought them!

According to God, as written in His Word, the Bible, eternal life is a gift. That’s right, a gift. In the letter to the Romans, we read that the “gift of God is eternal life…” (Romans 6:23). God is offering it to you for the taking. He is offering it to you for free! But it wasn’t cheap; it cost him his Son.

God loved the world so much, that He gave his only begotten Son…” (John 3:16). Why did God give his Son? Well, so that you and I could be rescued from the eternal penalty we owe for our sins – our breaking of God’s laws. Our lies, our lusts, our broken promises, you name it: all of these things are sins. Each one deserved separation from a holy God. But God “so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son (Jesus), that whosoever [puts his whole faith] in Him, would not perish (be separated from God), but have eternal life.

Why did He give it?

All men and women have broken God’s laws. And even though you may have not actually committed murder, or robbed a bank, or abused a child, James 2:10 (RSV) says, “For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become guilty of all of it.” So, you see, we need a Savior. We need the Gift that God is offering. Won’t you accept it?

The whole verse in Romans (6:23) goes like this: “The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life, through Jesus Christ our Lord.” This is why C.S. Lewis said those words above. Eternal life is a gift, but it will not be offered indefinitely. You see, all of us will die, one day. Hebrews 9:27 says that it “is appointed unto man once to die; but after this, the judgment.” One day we must either give an account for our lawbreaking or rest in the fact that our account has already been settled by putting our faith in Jesus.

“From death to life”

Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life” (John 5:24 NIV).

Jesus also said, “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on him” (John 3:36 NIV). And to those that put their faith in Jesus, he said, “I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any [man] pluck them out of my hand” (John 10:28 NIV).

The apostle John wrote, “And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life” (1 John 5:11-12 NIV).

The Invitation

What can I say about the greatest gift ever, especially in a thousand words, or so? I can’t cover all the bases, answer every question, or defend every point – but I can offer you Jesus.

Have you been searching for meaning, for hope, for unconditional love, for eternal life? Give your heart to Jesus, confess your sins to Him, repent of the things that caused Him to have to die so that you could have life, and cross over “from death to life.”

For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord [Jesus] shall be saved(Romans 10:13).

You could even pray a prayer, in your own words, similar to this: “Dear Jesus, I believe you are God’s Son, and that you died for me, and rose again, that I might have eternal life. I know I have sinned, and I confess. I also confess that I cannot earn heaven on my own. I need You! Please take my life. I give freely give it to you. Be my Lord, and my God. Amen.

If you prayed this prayer, honestly, and from your heart, then I would love to hear about it! I am sure many others would love to hear about it, too! If you accepted God’s gift of eternal life, let the world know in the comment section below.

If you would like to talk with someone, there is a phone line open 24 hours a day. Call 1-800-NEED-HIM (1-800-633-3446). Someone will be happy to show you how to be sure you have eternal life. Don’t wait.

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“One Man’s Sunset; Another Man’s Dawn”

I wrote the following post in June 2011. Last night I got a Facebook Messenger notification from a man who had been fighting cancer and struggling with the idea of leaving his young son behind. He told me he found this post as he was searching for the source of the line that makes up the title.

Then he told me how much this post meant to him. What a blessing that was to me!

Well, I just thought I’d repost it for you guys, today. Reading it again brought back a few feelings. I hope you find it to be a blessing, also.

 


Over a two-week period, just over 20 years ago, things started to get a little weird.

I can’t recall all of the moments that led up to me concluding something bad was going to happen, but a couple stand out above the rest.

The Revival Service

It was in June of 1991. The church that I attended was having a week-long series of meetings. My mother and father did not attend the same church as I did, but on the last night of the revival, which was a Friday, my dad came. The evangelist preached on heaven that night and said something that hit me like a brick. He said, “Heaven will never be real to you until there is someone there you want to go see.”

The Movie

In that very same week, my family went to see a movie. It was a new animated film called An American Tail: Fievel Goes West. In one particular scene, an old hound dog, the retiring sheriff, sat watching a sunset with the little mouse, Fievel. The legendary actor, Jimmy Stewart, speaking as Wylie Burp, said to Fievel,

“Just remember, Fievel – one man’s sunset is another man’s dawn. I don’t know what’s out there beyond those hills. But if you ride yonder… head up, eyes steady, heart open… I think one day you’ll find that you’re the hero you’ve been looking for.” – Wylie Burp

The moment he said, “one man’s sunset is another man’s dawn,” I felt a chill and a heaviness that took my breath. I knew my dawn was coming.

Sunset

Early on Monday morning, June 11, 1991, while working 3rd shift as a security guard in a high-security nuclear facility, my dad felt sick. He asked a cleaning person which bathroom was clean, then went in, took off his gun belt, bent over a sink, and died.

It had only been since Friday the 8th that I had heard that message about heaven. That Monday was when heaven became more real than I could have ever imagined. My dad, Terry L. Baker, went home to be with his Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. He surrendered his badge, took off his gun belt, and laid down – literally.

Dawn

As the sun rose over the horizon, I sped my Datsun 280Z toward the hospital. When I got there, I asked for my dad, but was led to a room where my mother was sitting. In a sobbing cry, she looked up to me and held out a little plastic bag containing my father’s personal items. She said, “This is all I have left…” That was the exact moment when I found out. That was the exact moment it became dawn.

It may have been my dawn, but it was one of the darkest moments in my life. My dad and I were terribly close. We worked together, played together, worshiped together, and preached together. In the week before my daddy died, I went up to him and told him that I really felt like something was going to happen. He told me that he would outlive my grandchildren. But in case he didn’t, I had to make sure of one thing – would I preach his funeral?

The Funeral

Some people could not understand how I did it, but I did preach my dad’s funeral. You see, I was 24, but I had accepted the call to preach when I was 16. My dad had been a pastor, a lay preacher for years. It may have been just guy talk at the time, but in a moment of male-bonding, my dad and I agreed that whoever died first, for whatever reason, the other would preach the funeral. That is why I asked my dad that question. I needed to be sure he was serious. His response was, “Of course. I wouldn’t have it any other way.” So I did.

My dad presided over a lot of funerals, and he even carried in his Bible a sermon that he used more often than not. The title of the sermon was “The Times I Need Him Most.” So, from his own Bible, from his own outline, I preached his funeral. And unlike I usually do today, I even gave an altar call. Believe it or not, right there to my left, beside the casket, a friend of the family came down to the altar and asked Jesus to come into his life. Never once had my dad led a person to the Lord when he preached a funeral sermon, but this time was different.

The Family Car

There will always be those who think the following is crazy; only coincidence: but God showed up in the limousine as we went to the graveyard. As soon as I got into the car, I asked the driver, who was a Christian friend, to turn the radio on. I wanted to hear some encouraging music. When he did, the DJ on WAY FM out of Nashville played a song by Wayne Watson, The Ultimate Healing. Right after that, the DJ came on the air and said, “I know we usually have songs pre-planned according to a particular format, but I just really feel led by God to play this next song – I don’t know why.”  The song was Where There is Faith, by 4Him. The second verse goes like this:

There’s a man across the sea
Never heard the sound of freedom ring
Only in his dreams
There’s a lady dressed in black
In a motorcade of Cadillacs
Daddy’s not coming back
Our hearts begin to fall
And our stability grows weak
But Jesus meets our needs if only we believe

CHORUS
Where there is faith
There is a voice calling, keep walking
You’re not alone in this world
Where there is faith
There is a peace like a child sleeping
Hope everlasting in He who is able to
Bear every burden, to heal every hurt in my heart
It is a wonderful, powerful place
Where there is faith

Today

Today I went to the grave where my father’s body is waiting for a trumpet to sound. I am comforted by the fact one day we will see each other again (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18). But in the meantime, I must carry on in the task that I have been called to do.

I went to the grave, and even though I know my dad is not there, I read Proverbs 4 aloud. What better words could have been said in remembrance of a committed, consistent, caring, God-fearing, humble father? They were words that I wanted to say out loud because they were being fulfilled.

“He taught me also, and said unto me, Let thine heart retain my words: keep my commandments, and live. Get wisdom, get understanding: forget [it] not; neither decline from the words of my mouth.” – Prov. 4:4-5

“Hear, O my son, and receive my sayings; and the years of thy life shall be many. I have taught thee in the way of wisdom; I have led thee in right paths. … Enter not into the path of the wicked, and go not in the way of evil men. … My son, attend to my words; incline thine ear unto my sayings. Let them not depart from thine eyes; keep them in the midst of thine heart. … Let thine eyes look right on, and let thine eyelids look straight before thee. Ponder the path of thy feet, and let all thy ways be established. Turn not to the right hand nor to the left: remove thy foot from evil.” – Proverbs 4:10-11, 14, 20-21, 25-27

Dad, I just want you to know that I am still in the fight. I haven’t given up. I wasn’t a fly-by-night wannabe, but a real man of God. My Sword is still sharp. My aim is still true. I even have some “arrows” in my quiver that you will meet one day.

Don’t worry, even though I know you won’t – I will keep pressing on and fighting the good fight, until the time of my own sunset. Then, when this life is over, I hope I can stand there beside you when Jesus says to you, “Well done.” You did good, Daddy. I’ll make you proud.

Your loving son,

Rev. Anthony C. Baker

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