Category Archives: worship

Sometimes I Feel Like a Failure

I am going to be very honest, as I’m sure you will appreciate: Sometimes I feel like a total failure.

You may have some impression of me, and that impression might be a good one. However, sometimes I see myself as a failure for not having accomplished a fraction of my stated goals, thereby leaving myself wondering, “Will I ever be able to do this?”

This morning has been difficult. It’s been a long time since any regular income has come in. And even though I felt sure I was supposed to be doing what I’m doing career-wise, it’s not put much money in the bank as of yet. I’m not talking about ministry; I’m talking about my work outside the pastorate (I’m bi-vocational).

So, I went to Blueletterbible.com and did a word search for “fail.” There were over 60 occurrences of the word, but two of them stood out to me.

The first one spoke of how David understood pain and doubt. He had questions about God’s compassion and promises.

Is his mercy clean gone forever? doth his promise fail for evermore? – Psalm 77:8

But then David went on to answer his own question by remembering what God has done and said:

Thou art the God that doest wonders: thou hast declared thy strength among the people. – Psalm 77:14

Then I came to the following verse:

When the poor and needy seek water, and there is none, and their tongue faileth for thirst, I the LORD will hear them, I the God of Israel will not forsake them. – Isaiah 41:17

I am poor and needy. We have more than a water bill. I can’t do this on my own! Much of the help that should come from man is missing, but I have a God who hears my plea and has not forsaken me!

All I have to do is cry out to him!

I will cry unto God most high; unto God that performeth all things for me. – Psalm 57:2

Lord, I am not a failure as long as there is still breath in my lungs and an opportunity for me to step forward to my Goliaths. My strength is small; my abilities are few; my vision is limited to the horizon, but You will not forsake me, and Your presence will go before me. You will get the credit for my successes, for Your name will be glorified as You help me stand, fight, conquer, and provide for my family (Deut. 8:18). I am not a failure because You are not.

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Filed under Christian Maturity, Depression, Faith, God, self-worth, worship

Some Thoughts On Work (Labor)

Labor Day

I am sure I’m not the only one who finds it a little odd that we celebrate a day by not doing what the day honors. Yet, on the very day we are supposed to give honor to labor, or work, we take a day off.

Oh, but you say, “It’s not about the celebration of work; it’s about celebrating the worker.” Yeah, if that’s true, then why not call it Laborer Day?

Nevertheless, I don’t really think there’s 1 in a hundred who will actually do anything to celebrate labor, employment, the worker, or anything of the sort. Even though every one of us should be thanking God if we have a job, our 9-5 will be the last thing on our minds as we enjoy our time off.

A Holy Day

But what if we Christians did things differently? What if, like with Christmas and Easter, we take a pagan holiday and turn it into a Christian holy day?

Celebrating the birth of Christ is a good thing, so we read Scripture about it, sing carols, and dress up like barn animals in church plays. Easter is the highest holy day because it’s the day we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the grave – without which our faith would be in vain.

Why not celebrate work, labor, our jobs, with a day that focuses on the spiritual and biblical truths relating to it? Why not celebrate and proclaim the holy aspects of labor?

A Holy Thing

It may be hard to get your mind around it, but work is a good thing. As a matter of fact, even in Heaven, there will be work to do (Revelation 22:3). The reason is that God is the one who created work (Genesis 2:15), and it was meant for our good.

Some people call what they do in the workplace secular. They tend to separate what they do at their job from what they might do at church or on the mission field. However, all work is holy if we are children of God, and all of our labor should be for His glory (Ephesians 6:5-9).

“The maid who sweeps the kitchen floor is doing the will of God just as much as the monk who prays – not because she may sing a Christian hymn while she sweeps, but because God loves clean floors. The Christian shoemaker does his Christian duty not by putting little crosses on the shoes, but by making good shoes, because God is interested in good craftsmanship.” – Martin Luther

Working Together

It may sound a little odd, but God is still at work, today. Yes, He rested on the seventh day after Creation, but He’s been at work in the hearts of men and women ever since. And what’s awesome is that for some reason He has chosen us to have a part in His work – not in the saving part, but in the gathering.

Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is abundant, but the workers are few. “Therefore, pray to the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into his harvest.” – Matthew 9:37-38 CSB

No matter what kind of work you do, you work for the Lord. No matter where you labor, you are in the fields for the Lord. And, no matter what kind of product you produce or service you provide, if Jesus is with you, the ultimate aim is to collect the produce of heaven – the souls of men.

It may be on the kitchen floor,

Or in a busy store,

Or teaching, nursing, day be day

Till limb and brain almost give way;

Yet if, just there, by Jesus thou art found

The place thou standest is Holy Ground.

 – M. Colley (1939)

Labor is a holy thing, so let’s celebrate it with a holy day.

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Filed under ministry, Vacation, Work, worship

Even a Trash Can…

This is a blast from the past post, but it is a wonderful story that someone needs today. Maybe it’s you.

Saturday night, March 5th, 2011, was the day I said about a shiny, silver trash can, “I have GOT to get me one of THOSE!

For our daughter Katie’s 15th birthday, instead of a party, we bought tickets to see Chris Tomlin and Louis Giglio in concert. Chris Tomlin sang, and Louis (the “Laminin” guy from YouTube) Giglio preached. However, before Chris or Louis got up to do their stuff, a group we had never heard of took the stage. Their name? Rend Collective Experiment.

Well, I am not Irish, so maybe that’s why I don’t fully understand or appreciate Rend’s style. Frankly, it was a little weird, at first. But on the other hand, once my ears adjusted, the energy and emotion from the stage were too contagious to ignore. Thankfully, because the lyrics were projected above on screens, I was able to understand what it was that I was being compelled to sing along with. Did I say I’m not Irish? I’m not even lucky.  Anyway…

Drumsticks NOT included.

The worship experience was awesome, and I don’t use that word flippantly. I really felt the Spirit of God move, especially in my own heart, and Sunday was evidence of that. Saturday night brought renewed strength and encouragement in the faith that overflowed from the pulpit as I preached. But one thing, in particular, stood out and has been forever sealed in my memory – the silver garbage can.

I kid you not, along with all the other instruments I expected to see a live band play, like guitars and drums, a girl with more enthusiasm than a hummingbird at the sight of a bird-feeder was whacking away on a tin trash can – a garbage can. And I am not joking when I say that I am surprised the can was as tough as it was because she beat the lead out of any alloy it was made of.

I had never seen anybody play a trash can, before; yet, after an initial period of jaw-dropping amazement, my immediate thought was, “How could I get one of those in the church choir?” “Who could I get to play it?” Really, other than rhythm (which is critical), what do you need by way of musical talent to play a tin can? All you need is a willingness to make a……WAIT……

A JOYFUL NOISE!

O come, let us sing unto the LORD: let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation. – Psalm 95:1 KJV

Some are piously thinking to themselves, “How could God have been glorified by a stinking garbage can? What rubbish!”  But God never said a joyful noise had to be made on a pipe organ, did He? When did God ever say he couldn’t be glorified by a trash can? But talk about the pot calling the kettle black – Praise our Father in Heaven!WHAT ARE WE that WE should be given the opportunity to sing praises unto the King of Glory? WE are nothing but “filthy rags!” If not for His mercy, we would still be in our sins.

But we are all like an unclean thing, And all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags; We all fade as a leaf, And our iniquities, like the wind, Have taken us away. – Isaiah 64:6

But PRAISE THE LORD, He has chosen to use us to bring glory to His name! Just like that old trash can the girl on stage was pounding with a stick, if God chooses to use us, He can put us in just the right place, just the right context, to bring out of us a new and joyful anthem of holy celebration. Even though the world says a trash can is fit only for garbage and filth, God can take the most humble of things and elevate them to the heights of a heavenly choir! HALLELUJAH!

But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, [yea], and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are: That no flesh should glory in his presence. … That, according as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord. – 1 Corinthians 1:27-29, 31 KJV

“How do you tune it?”

I was so blessed with that trash can that I looked over at my wife and said, “I have GOT to get me one of THOSE!” Then I looked over at my daughter and said, with the best Irish accent I could muster, doing an imitation of Rend Collective’s drummer, “That was GRRRET!” If God can use even a trash can, I know He can use you and me. Now the only question I have left, being a bassist, is “how do you tune this thing?

 

 

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Filed under Do not judge, General Observations, God, legalism, self-worth, worship

What Underground Churches Don’t Worry About

In a sermon I preached not long ago, I made mention of the fact that you never see “First Baptist,” “Methodist,” or “Community Non-Denominational” plastered above an underground church. When all one wants to do is worship God without being imprisoned or killed, denominational distinction is one of the least of their worries.

That led me to think of other things that an underground church might not worry about:

  • The color of the carpet
  • The font on the church bulletin
  • Whether or not they sing a hymn or a praise song
  • Whether or not the pulpit is made of wood or etched glass
  • Cassette tapes or CD’s
  • Bible Versions
  • Post-graduate or seminary training
  • Projection screens
  • Padded pews
  • Pews
  • A family activity building
  • Gold or silver communion accessories
  • How long the worship lasts
  • What people wear
  • Parking
  • Youth activities
  • Revival Meetings

No, I don’t think underground churches ever have time to worry about all these things. They are more concerned with fellowship, encouragement, prayer, reading God’s Word in any version they can get their hands on, and staying alive.

Yet, it would seem we think we are closer to God than the underground, persecuted church because, after all, we have more things to worry about.

Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; that they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. Jesus  (John 17:20-21)

Maybe we should concentrate more on what really matters…”that the world may believe.”

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Filed under Christian Living, Christian Unity, God, legalism, Uncategorized, worship

Even Mondays Are Made By God

Today is Monday, but I guess you knew that.

Coffee always helps.

Coffee always helps.

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

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

However, the Psalmist (David) says…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Don’t Be Skeerd

OK, so if you don’t get it, “skeerd” is “scared” spelled that way we say it sometimes in the South.

My Nightmare 

This week I was woken up by a dream – a bad one. In reality, I can’t tell you for sure if it was really even a dream – it might have been real. I was walking down a hallway (I don’t know where) when a deep voice spoke to me, almost speaking through me, getting my attention.

The hallway down which I was walking was lit where I was, but towards the end it was dark. I was walking toward the darkness. When the voice spoke, it said something like, “I’m here, too,” or “You’re not alone”… I just can’t remember. I looked to my left and there was a 3D shadow…a walking dark shadow of a body…walking beside me as I was walking, and it looked at me.

The next thing that happened was I fell to the ground and started saying, barely able to voice the words, “Help me, Jesus!”

Immediately I woke up.

Honestly, I was rattled. That scared me. My heart was racing.

Then I got mad. I hated being scared. I knew that “greater is He that is in me than he that is in the world!”

So I tried to go back to sleep so I could get back into that dream. This wasn’t over.

But the dream never came back.

Don’t Let These Skeer You

The dream I had reminded me of a post I wrote several years ago. In it, I made a list of things of which Christian should not be afraid. Below is an edited version, including an addition.

8 things of which a Christian should not be afraid:

Dracula, or any other vampire that stalks you through your window.

Just show them your cross. If that doesn’t work anymore, then quote Scripture. Of course, if you are a girl, then you’d be better off to just call 911, or better yet, shoot the idiot trying to act like a character from Twilight.

Disclaimer – DO be afraid of Vampire Bats. They have rabies. You may be alright when they bite you, but then again, you may be wishing your church family had something else to pray for…(I ended with a preposition, see?).

Atheists

If they prove that there is no God, no reason for faith, and no reason for the forgiveness of sin, then you have nothing to worry about. They can’t prove there is no God, you know, but if they ever did, then you are free to whack them in the head with the biggest hardcover KJV you can find. If there’s no God, then there’s no absolutes or basis for morality outside of what makes you feel good. Make yourself feel better when they take away your hope by knocking the grin off their face…they should understand.

Crazy worship styles and screens on walls.

No reason to fear these things, people. As long as the worship is from the heart and it IS true worship, not self-satisfying, self-glorifying entertainment, then God will be pleased. On the other hand, if church attendance continues to decline in this country, you won’t be able to afford the electricity needed to run the projectors and fancy sound equipment used by many praise bands. Where two or three are gathered together, there the non-electric bluegrass will be in the midst of them.

Disclaimer – For the record, I love bluegrass gospel. Sorry. Wait, I’m not sorry. Scratch that. I love bluegrass and want to see the words projected on screens in church for all to sing along….with.

Stray dogs that wander in through an open door and listen to the church service.

Had it happen. Didn’t mind. At least when the dog fell asleep he didn’t snore.

Week-long revival meetings.

Where have these things gone? All we see anymore are the 3-day kind, if not the weekend ones that include Sunday, but not Friday.

Just think, if we went back to longer revival meetings, then……wait…..does anybody have revival meetings anymore? We must be too skeerd of having to get dressed up each night; miss some TV we could easily DVR for later; miss a ball game or party, or hear something from God that might convict us. THAT should scare our socks off.

Visitation

What is there to be scared of? Why do we hate knocking on doors, prayer-walking streets, etc.? As long as we’re not trying to sell anything, then most people are happy to meet someone who cares about them. Sure, there are the few vampires that don’t want you coming around, but most folks are at least cordial, at least here in the South. Folks don’t like being banged over the head with your Bible, but they do appreciate being greeted kindly and invited to someplace nice. Just invite them to the King’s house for a meet-and-greet (with a little sweet tea and love, they might just figure we’re not out to take their money).

Change

Some things remain the same, and they have stones above their heads. Now, when those things come back from the dead, you DO have something to be skeerd….of (one more preposition misplacement). Of course, it all depends on Who raises the dead, too. Are they being raised to “walk in newness of life,” or to eat the flesh of screaming movie-goers? Either way, just invite them to a homecoming dinner on the ground and they’ll be alright.

Bad Dreams

Yeah, nightmares are not fun. Heck, dealing with anything demonic is not fun, either. However, God is still God, even in your dreams. He is Sovereign, even over the thoughts and intents of the heart. Therefore, don’t be afraid to go to sleep, particularly if you know that the God who created sleep is ALSO with you in the dark.

The next time you encounter a walking shadow or monster of any kind, call out to Jesus for help – no joke. YOU decide how the dream is going to turn out by inviting Jesus – the Name above all names – to take over.

Darkness will flee and He will deliver thee.

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Filed under Christian Living, Christian Maturity, Culture Wars, General Observations, legalism, Witnessing, worship

We Preach Jesus! (A Revival Sermon In Africa)

Revival

It has been two years since I went to Zimbabwe. I went there to preach in a series of revival services in two different Baptist churches, both of which were started along with several others by Chinhoyi Baptist in Chinhoyi, Zimbabwe. Of course, preaching wasn’t all I did; I went with different pastors into various villages, visiting and praying with Christians, evangelizing those who’d never heard the gospel.

The other reason I went to Zimbabwe was to get revived myself. I needed this trip! And, praise be to God, it was life-changing!

Here are some photos from different services.

People starting to show up for church. River of Life met in a tent in a member's front yard.

People starting to show up for church. River of Life met in a tent in a member’s front yard.

image

Worshiping Sunday morning at Dolomite Baptist.

Worshiping Sunday morning at Dolomite Baptist.

Lively and energetic African worship at Chinhoyi Baptist.

Lively and energetic African worship at Chinhoyi Baptist.

Being introduced at Chinhoyi Baptist.

Being introduced at Chinhoyi Baptist.

The Final Service

The final service in which I preached was at Chinhoyi Baptist Church. It was a celebratory farewell service where all of the churches which had hosted our team of three (Dr. Eddy Rushing, Marshall Kellett, and myself) came together as one. And man, was it a service!

The honor was mine to be selected to preach the final service, and what an honor it was. Dr. Rushing and Bro. Kellett were responsible for personally leading scores of people to Christ during this trip, so who was I to be the one to preach? Nevertheless, they asked me, and I jumped at it!

The beginning of the service was full of extremely lively music and dancing – not something the average Baptist in America is used to 😉 When all of that was over, the music shifted to hymns. Dr. Rushing and Bro. Kellett both gave stirring testimonies before the final hymn “Higher Ground” (sung in the native language of Shona) set the tone for the sermon to follow.

Oh, Rev. Luckmann Chiasaru was my interpreter for this service, and man was he good! He even sang with me! Awesome!

Chinhoyi Baptist Church in Chinhoyi, Zimbabwe. This congregation hopes to plant a total of 50 new churches in 10 years. They're well on their way!

Chinhoyi Baptist Church in Chinhoyi, Zimbabwe. This congregation hopes to plant a total of 50 new churches in 10 years. They’re well on their way!

The following was recorded on an iPhone 6s, then edited on Audacity. I wish it could have been a better recording, but it was all I had. I pray it is a blessing 🙂

CLICK HERE for link to the audio of “We Preach Jesus!”


I went to Zimbabwe to get revived – and I did. Now, if you’d let me, I’d love to come share a little of what God’s given me over the last 2 years with your congregation.

You can reach me at pastoracbaker@yahoo.com., or call 423-645-8884.

 

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