Observations from a Middle-Georgia Pastorate: Operation Re-Evaluate

Bethlehem Baptist Church
95 Bethlehem Church Road, Warthen, GA 31094

It’s Our Time

I know I am not going to be the first person to make this observation, but as I said on Facebook this morning, the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and crisis is this generation’s World War Two.

Make no mistake, this is a world war . . . a war for survival, both physically and economically, against a killer virus. But unlike wars of the past, this one is being fought on every continent – none are immune from its effects.

However, as tragic and scary as the upheaval may be, just like our forefathers did in the 1940’s, what we have is the potential to come together in ways thought impossible just weeks ago. Where less than a month ago people had no plan for how to survive a national crisis, now you see the creative minds working to solve difficult issues.

It’s not an easy thing to say, for it could be interpreted the wrong way, but as strange as it may sound, this crisis could be the best thing to happen to America since WW2. In so many ways it is forcing us to unite to fight a common enemy that cares nothing about politics, race, or religion – it just wants to destroy us. So, where petty ideological differences, even serious political and social ones have threatened to destroy our country in recent years, this virus – like Nazi German and Imperial Japan – is deadly and costly enough to force a re-evaluation of who we are.

And just think about it! What time in history would have been a better time to fight a war like this? We were created for such a time as this, and in this time we will be victorious.

It’s the Church’s Time

How often have you heard it said that the modern Church is irrelevant? How many times have you heard the complaints about living within our buildings’ four walls and never engaging people outside?

How many times has it been said that the modern, local church cares only about itself? How many churches, for real, exist only for those who walk through the door on Sunday?

COVID-19 is the wake-up call – no, more like the Pearl Harbor – that Christian churches across America have needed for a long time. We have had an Enemy waging war against us for ages, but we’ve been content living with the effects being on distant shores. Now, the fight has been brought to us, and even the old “home guard” is being activated.

Throughout the history of Israel and the Church, God has brought conflict, even foreign invaders, to shock His people out of complacency and lethargy. At times God called our enemies His “servants” to discipline us. And as we should be thankful God loves us enough to discipline us, it should not be too far of a stretch, then, to be thankful the “virus” has come at this time.

What of the Walls?

So, finally, here we are in a situation where the walls of the church don’t matter too much anymore. Oh, sure, we will get back to corporately worshiping together like we should, but what of the walls right now? Not only are they doing us little good, but they have no relevance to who and what the Church actually is or how it must operate right now.

Most local churches have operated on the model that worship, fellowship, community, bearing each other’s burdens, etc., happens only when people show up to the building, the campus, or wherever the bulk of the member choose to gather.  In other words, when you miss out on what happens at the church property, you not only miss out, but you get left out, ignored, forgotten.

All that has abruptly changed.

For the first time in the history of the Church, local congregations are being forced by a virus – not the government or a tyrant – to make “church” something other than simply attending a one-hour meeting while sitting on a pew.

For the first time in history, churches are now, for the most part, gathering online over the internet, not inside four walls.

For the first time in a a LONG time, local churches are going to have to prove their worth to the members. For if coming together on Sunday to hear a choir or listen to a pastor is all church is, many are going to wonder why they tithe or give offerings.

Frankly, this pandemic is going to open the eyes of a lot of people and make them ask the question: “Why do I even go to church?”

What is our answer going to be?


In my next post I will address ways that churches (including the one I pastor) can use this current crisis to turn us into the effective, healthy Church Body we should have been all along. 

Until then, make a phone call, do a video chat, and pray with a fellow believer. We must not forget each other, nor our need for fellowship.

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Apply the “Reagan Doctrine” To Your Wife, Also

Reagan’s Wisdom

Many of you may not have been alive when Ronald Reagan was President of the United States. I’m sad for you. He was a great leader and a great man.

Image result for ronald reagan trust but verify imagesWhen dealing with the Soviets, he wanted peace, but he also knew they being honest and transparent wasn’t a Russian characteristic. Therefore, when people wondered how we would be able to take the communists at their word when they said they would reduce their nuclear warheads, President Reagan wisely advised, “Trust, but verify.”

In others words, instead of telling the Russians we didn’t trust them (which is bad for relationships), Reagan essentially said, “Oh, I trust you! But things happen, so… Can you show us those pictures one more time?”

Verifying Valerie

So, as I was standing in the shower this morning, my dear wife, Valerie, peaked through the curtain and looked at my face with pity. She had just read the article that debunked the claim that the CDC said men should shave their beards during this COVID-19 crisis.

With the look of a sad puppy, Valerie tried to encourage me, I guess: “Maybe you should have checked the sources before listening to Facebook, huh?”

Standing there with shower water dripping off my naked face, I replied, “YOU were the one who told me the CDC had recommended it! NOT Facebook.”

Wellllllll,” said Valerie, slowly enough to give her time to formulate a response. “Maybe you start verifying your wife’s sources before you go and do something like this.”

It’s always the man’s fault, isn’t it?

Video Documentation

OK, so my thought was that if it had to be done, why not have fun doing it? Therefore, I took my iPhone into the bathroom and documented the process of shaving off what made me look smarter than I am.

After you watch it, tell me what you think of my impressions!

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A Time to be Born and a Time to Die

I was stunned when I understood what I was reading. The post I’m sharing came from David Welford, our precious friend in England. Please honor his godly mother by reading this.

Please pray for Rev. Ken Welford, David’s father.

Ebs and Flows...

My mother was born in 1933 in Aberdeen, Scotland. Two years before the start of the Second World War she and her mother relocated 600 miles south to Portsmouth, following her grandfather, James Robbie McDonald, who had moved to Portsmouth a few months earlier.

By moving south and into foreign English territory James Robbie McDonald set into motion a chain of events that resulted in his grand-daughter meeting my father some years later when Dad was based in Portsmouth while serving in the Royal Navy. I believe that God prompted James Robbie’s move south, and the set of circumstances that resulted in my parents meeting, falling in love, and remaining in love. There is of course photographic evidence showing that my father was a good catch, cutting quite a dashing figure in his naval uniform (almost as dashing as I was in mine!).

mum at 18 Doreen Helen Welford – Aged 18

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Coronavirus Sunday: Turning a Virus Into Evangelism

Did you wash your hands?

Good evening, everyone! What a different day this has been! How many of you went to church, despite the fear that you might get sick and die?

As I typed that, I couldn’t help but think of all those in places like Nigeria where going to church on any given Sunday could get you killed by an AK-47 or a machete. I wonder what they think of our virus protection plans? Which do you think they would prefer, a bullet-proof vest or hand sanitizer?

Anyway, many congregations across the country and around the world decided to cancel meetings this morning. Others did what we did: we encouraged the vulnerable and sick to stay home, and we streamed the service live on Facebook.

Missions

What I found so wonderful about all this, however, is that by streaming our services to Facebook, then sharing them on other media platforms, what would have been local turned into global! Think about that for a hallelujah minute!

One can’t help but wonder if Satan was at one point dying from laughter, then the next moment throwing a demon across the room in a fit of rage. I hope so!

It’s like, “Oh, look at all those churches closing their doors over some silly little virus! We are shutting them down, now!” Then it was, “OH, MY PLACE! What are they doing now? Reaching the world with the gospel??”

The Videos

So, what I want to do for this post is offer you the opportunity to watch both our ENTIRE Sunday morning service, along with a video I did from my office this evening.

But just so you don’t miss it, there’s a lot that went on this morning in our church service. So, if you want to skip to that actual sermon I delivered on St. Patrick and missions (it’s a GOOD one!), go to the 41:30 mark.

That shirt made me look HUGE! 

If you think St Patrick was Irish, or that his favorite color was green, you REALLY need to listen to this sermon 😉

God bless, and have a Christ-honoring week!

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Will You Pray for Our Nation, Today?

Today is the day our President, Donald J. Trump, is calling all Americans to pray. One might find reasons to question the efficacy of those prayers, but one thing is true if nothing else is: humbling our knees before a Holy God is never a bad thing.

Today, when pride and hate are the words of the day, let this national day of prayer be a time to collectively humble ourselves under the mighty hand of God and show compassion on others as we pray for the Lord to stay this pandemic.

I am very grateful to our President for admitting that we are not gods, only humans in need of help from our Creator. Even though salvation is found in Christ alone, a humbled heart is much more likely to receive forgiveness and restoration than a heart full of pride and self-sufficiency. Even if many of those who pray will not pray to the God of the Bible, at least a humble nation is less likely to suffer immediate judgment.

Will you pray today? I am going to.

Thank you for your leadership, Mr. President.

Proclamation on the National Day of Prayer for all Americans Affected by the Coronavirus Pandemic and for our National Response Efforts

In our times of greatest need, Americans have always turned to prayer to help guide us through trials and periods of uncertainty.  As we continue to face the unique challenges posed by the coronavirus pandemic, millions of Americans are unable to gather in their churches, temples, synagogues, mosques, and other houses of worship.  But in this time we must not cease asking God for added wisdom, comfort, and strength, and we must especially pray for those who have suffered harm or who have lost loved ones.  I ask you to join me in a day of prayer for all people who have been affected by the coronavirus pandemic and to pray for God’s healing hand to be placed on the people of our Nation.

As your President, I ask you to pray for the health and well-being of your fellow Americans and to remember that no problem is too big for God to handle.  We should all take to heart the holy words found in 1 Peter 5:7:  “Casting all your care upon him, for he careth for you.”  Let us pray that all those affected by the virus will feel the presence of our Lord’s protection and love during this time.  With God’s help, we will overcome this threat.

On Friday, I declared a national emergency and took other bold actions to help deploy the full power of the Federal Government to assist with efforts to combat the coronavirus pandemic.  I now encourage all Americans to pray for those on the front lines of the response, especially our Nation’s outstanding medical professionals and public health officials who are working tirelessly to protect all of us from the coronavirus and treat patients who are infected; all of our courageous first responders, National Guard, and dedicated individuals who are working to ensure the health and safety of our communities; and our Federal, State, and local leaders.  We are confident that He will provide them with the wisdom they need to make difficult decisions and take decisive actions to protect Americans all across the country.  As we come to our Father in prayer, we remember the words found in Psalm 91:  “He is my refuge and my fortress:  my God; in him will I trust.”

As we unite in prayer, we are reminded that there is no burden too heavy for God to lift or for this country to bear with His help.  Luke 1:37 promises that “For with God nothing shall be impossible,” and those words are just as true today as they have ever been.  As one Nation under God, we are greater than the hardships we face, and through prayer and acts of compassion and love, we will rise to this challenge and emerge stronger and more united than ever before.  May God bless each of you, and may God bless the United States of America.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, DONALD J. TRUMP, President of the United States of America, do hereby proclaim March 15, 2020, as a National Day of Prayer for All Americans Affected by the Coronavirus Pandemic and for our National Response Efforts.  I urge Americans of all faiths and religious traditions and backgrounds to offer prayers for all those affected, including people who have suffered harm or lost loved ones.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this fourteenth day of March, in the year of our Lord two thousand twenty, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and forty-fourth.

DONALD J. TRUMP

https://www.whitehouse.gov/presidential-actions/proclamation-national-day-prayer-americans-affected-coronavirus-pandemic-national-response-efforts/?utm_source=link

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Florida Flock Hires A Sheep-Eater for Shepherd

A Week of Blah (Health Update)

I have been feeling under the weather (sick) for most of the week. I went to the doctor just to make sure that I did not have the flue (or Coronavirus), and the test was negative. I just had a bad case of an acute stomach virus or food poisoning. That was good news, especially considering I was determined to speak at a funeral service on Thursday.

However, for the rest of the week I have been wiped out – no energy, thirsty, little appetite, and no desire for coffee (yeah, something’s really wrong). Every time I get up to do anything, I feel like I need to sit back down. It’s been miserable.

But then I read a news story that injected some adrenalin into my veins and animated my limbs (at least my fingers). I knew I had to say something, the sooner the better. Anger overcame lethargy.

Florida Church Hires a Wolf

The headline of the story read like this: “Florida church members split after ‘registered sex offender’ returns to preach“.

ARE YOU KIDDING ME??? What kind of idiots would do such a thing? Are they stupid? Crazy?

No, actually, they are probably like so many other Christians who believe the right thing to do is forgive, and they’ve likely never experienced the fangs of a predator within their flock. Or, maybe they’re just the stick-a-fork-in-a-socket kind of dumb.

Click here and check out the video from this local Jacksonville news station.

A Must Read – Seriously!

The Amazon link may show a different cover, but this is the book.

Dear friends, wherever you are, I beg of you…I plead with you!.. order this book by Dr. Anna C Salter. My wife and I were given a copy several years ago by a family counselor who was tasked with helping us heal from the wounds of a sexual predator. As we read it, we both became physically ill, not simply from the content, but how we had been duped by a wolf in sheep’s clothing.

The reason why I became so angry when I read the story of how Mt. Ararat Baptist Church in Jacksonville hired a convicted sex offender is that they evidently don’t know what they are dealing with! They’ve never read a book like this! If they had, this guy’s name would have never been considered, not even for an outside gutter sweeper!

Tell Me, Why?

I don’t know what they used for justification, but those who suggested Rev. Darrell Gilyard as a candidate for pastor should be tarred and feathered for furthering the endangerment of children and women. His name should have never even been considered!

So, why is it that he was picked? Why did anyone vote him in? I can only guess, and here are a few that come to mind:

  • He’s a great, powerful preacher; he’s gonna have his weaknesses.
  • He never really did any of the things he was accused of or found guilty of. All were simply misunderstandings.
  • He did commit a horrible sin, but that was in 2009, and he has paid his debt to society. Are we to still treat him like he’s a criminal?
  • God is the God of second chances.
  • If Jesus Christ forgave him for his sin, then who are we to hold it over him?
  • He may have done those things in the past, but he is a changed man, now.

But let me tell you how it really is and should be (If you’re the soft-hearted type that can’t stand the sight of blood, look away; it’s going to get brutal.)

Reality

Sex offenders, rapists, pedophiles, and child molesters are predators. They do not change. They are never reformed. They will always have a taste for prey.

Oh, I know what some of you are thinking. You are shocked that a good-ole Baptist preacher like me would claim anyone is beyond the saving grace and changing power of the blood of Jesus Christ, right? Well, that’s not what I’m saying.

God can change anyone. Period. If the Word of God is true (and I believe it is), if anyone repents and accepts Jesus as Lord and Savior, he will become a new creature: a born-again individual with a new nature that seeks to please God, not the flesh (2 Cor. 5:17).

But how do you typically know when people have been changed by God, saved by His grace, given a new heart, etc.? Their testimony.

In other words, by their words and their works they testify to the change that has taken place. And who doesn’t love a good testimony story, amen?

The only problem is that every predator that infiltrates a church usually does it with a GREAT testimony. Then, before long, he/she is put in a place of authority with access to all the victims he wants, even if he has to groom them a little while before he feasts.

In the news video from Chanel 4 in Jacksonville, one of the pastor’s supporters (James Andrews) said something very telling. He said, “I forgave him.

Stop and think about that for just a moment, would you? What did this man have to forgive him for? What did Darrell Gilyard do to him? What does his forgiveness have to do with anything, really?

The first news story I read referenced another in which Gilyard was asked if he thought he’d changed.

“Of course I believe I have changed. But time will tell everyone if I have changed,” Gilyard told First Coast News in 2014. “I’m a believer in when you do something wrong, you pay the price. But do you pay the price forever?”

What the Hades?!! Is he really that ignorant? He evidently thinks we are.

  • The predator doesn’t tell the prey he is dangerous.
  • Time is not a luxury any church can afford when it comes to this.
    • Anna Salter interviewed a young deacon (only in his 20’s) who had been convicted of sexually molesting a young boy in his youth group. Before he was arrested for that, he was accused of other things, but he cleverly picked children with histories of lying, so no one believed them. By the time he was put away, he voluntarily confessed to 95 other victims. What did time tell?
  • Yes, for some things you DO pay the price forever. The girls you molested certainly will. And have you ever heard of Hell?
  • For the safety of your children, you can NEVER, EVER trust a convicted sex offender. Never. No second chances. None.

What Now?

So, what would I do if I were in the shoes of the folk there at Mt. Ararat Baptist? First, I would immediately fire Mr. Gilyand. I would not even allow him to preach a good-bye sermon. He had no business – NONE – even being behind the pulpit according to the books of Timothy and Titus.

After getting rid of Mr. Gilyand, the congregation of Mt. Ararat needs to re-evaluate what it was that made them approve of hiring a wolf to lead them, then repent and ask forgiveness from God. After that, never let the same people serve on any search committee again.

For everyone else, especially if you are a church leader, order Predators: Pedophiles, Rapists, & Other Sex Offenders: Who They Are, How They Operate, and How We Can Protect Ourselves and Our Children, by Anna C Salter, Ph.D.

Be sober. Be vigilant. – 1 Peter 5:8


If you would like for us to share our personal experiences dealing with a sexual predator within our (former) flock, my wife and I would love to talk with you. Comment below or email me at PastorACBaker@yahoo.com.

 

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I May Be Math-Challenged, But I Think I’ll Survive

Image result for coronavirus images

image credit: dshs.texas.gov/coronavirus/

I do not want to contract the coronavirus (COVID-19).

I do not want to die from the coronavirus.

But what are my odds of contracting or dying from the coronavirus compared to other things?

As of this very moment (it will grow by the time you read this), there have been 114,285 reported cases (world-wide) of coronavirus. Out of those, there have been 4009 deaths.

If you look carefully at the statistics, however, the worst risk of dying from the coronavirus, if infected, is not China; it’s in Italy. There the death rate is nearly 4.5%, while in China it is only a little more than 3%. Yet, so far in America, with only 24 deaths, the death rate is now 4.1%. Are we trying to catch up with Italy?

But death statistics don’t tell the whole story. The rate of infected persons per 1 million are 151.7 in Italy, while only 1.9 in America. That’s a critical statistic! You’re literally 80 times more likely to contract the coronavirus in Italy than America.

I don’t want to go to Italy – at least not right now.

But think about these annual death statistics (in America):

  • 88,000 people die from alcohol-related causes
  • In 2014, alcohol-impaired driving fatalities accounted for 9,967 deaths
  • Heart disease: 647,457
  • Cancer: 599,108
  • Accidents (unintentional injuries): 169,936
  • Chronic lower respiratory diseases: 160,201
  • Stroke (cerebrovascular diseases): 146,383
  • Alzheimer’s disease: 121,404
  • Diabetes: 83,564
  • Influenza and pneumonia: 55,672
  • Nephritis, nephrotic syndrome, and nephrosis: 50,633
  • Intentional self-harm (suicide): 47,173
  • Automobile accident (2019): 38,800

Folks, I’m not a math whiz, not like most of you. But if you simply look at the raw data, I don’t see what all the hype is about?

There are 328 million people in America. Of those 328 million:

  • 0.2% of the U.S. population will die of the flu
  • .012% of the U.S. population will die in automobile accidents
  • Only .000008% of the U.S. populations has, at this point, died from coronavirus (COVID-19)

In other words, if you go outside of your cave dwelling at any point this year, based on current statistics, you’re THOUSANDS OF TIMES more likely to die from a heart attack, cancer, the flu, or a terrible automobile accident than coronavirus.

As someone recently said, “You’re more likely to die from drinking Coronas than getting coronas[virus].”

Just live normally . . . unless you’re craving pizza in Italy. 

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