How Thankful Are You?

Walking down the streets of Chinhoyi, Zimbabwe, I came across a few middle school-aged boys playing with toy cars and trucks. What made it so unusual was the toys they were playing with.

But I’ll get to that in a moment… keep reading.

If you will remember, Zimbabwe has between 8o% to 90% unemployment. Did you get that? Between 8 and 9 out of every 10 people are without a job. Do you have job? ANY kind of job? Well, then, you should be thankful, even if you can’t stand what you do.

But here’s another question… Do you play with toys you didn’t have to make yourself? Oh, sure, many of you are grown up big people and don’t play with toys, right? Yeah, I get it. But do you?

Right now there are probably some things you wish you had, but all you have right now is last year’s model. You are jealous of your neighbor and their new car, truck, or house. Your friend got a new smart phone. You feel like God has treated you unfairly because you can’t have what you REALLY want. Am I close?

Why not enjoy and be thankful for what you have? Frankly, most of the “problems” we have are what we call “first world problems.” What does that mean? It means that most of what you and I complain about are only the kind of problems the rich and spoiled of the “first world” countries can have.

Yes, we are spoiled brats when we complain about not having the newest iPhone, the new car, the newest video game, the next generation Glock, etc.

You see, here’s the thing… If you don’t have to make your own “toys,” you’re blessed way more than you deserve. And “blessed” might not be the best choice of words.

Below are some pictures of boys playing with the cars and trucks THEY made out of wire. They were having fun.





Still have something to complain about? Why not share in the comment section. Maybe we could all cry together.


Filed under America, General Observations, Life Lessons, Thanksgiving

“But Some Doubted”

Have you ever doubted? If you have you’re not alone. Sometimes it’s the wise thing to do. But did Jesus’ disciples ever doubt? Let’s find out.

Then the eleven disciples went away into Galilee, into a mountain where Jesus had appointed them. And when they saw him, they worshiped him: but some doubted. – Matthew 28:16-17

Many people have placed faith in Jesus only to lose that faith later, like when they find out the Jesus they thought they knew was not who he claimed to be. Are you one of those?

Believe it or not, even some of the disciples of the real Jesus found themselves doubting when they saw Him face to face after His resurrection. In the book of Matthew we read that on one particular occasion, after meeting up with the disciples at a pre-determined location, most worshiped, but “some doubted.”

Wait! How is this possible?! Weren’t these the same guys who saw Jesus appear to them when they were hiding, afraid for their lives (Luke 24:36; John 20:19)? Even doubting Thomas finally believed (John 20:28), so who were the the ones doubting in Matthew 28? Could it have been one of them? Possibly, or maybe even one of those who may have tagged along.

Here’s what I think happened. The disciples were gathered together, Jesus miraculously appeared, and before He could speak the crowd began to worship Him. Some, however, were a little skeptical; they had seen things before, including fakes, charlatans, and impostors. Who was to say what they saw was really Jesus Himself?

What convinced the doubters, then? I believe it was when Jesus spoke.

And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen. – Matthew 28:18-20 

It’s not like this was the first time Jesus appeared to the disciples, causing not only doubt, but also stark terror. Remember when He walked on the water?

And when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were troubled, saying, It is a spirit; and they cried out for fear. – Matthew 14:26

It took Jesus speaking to calm down the frightened boatmen…

But straightway Jesus spake unto them, saying, Be of good cheer; it is I; be not afraid. – Matthew 14:27

Is it possible that some of the disciples present when Jesus met up with them on that mountain had a right to be skeptical? I mean, hey, wasn’t Jesus himself who earlier warned the disciples that “false Christs” and “false prophets” would arise, deceivers so convincing that, “if it were possible, they [would] deceive the very elect” (Matthew 24:24; Mark 13:22)?

Matthew doesn’t exactly say what happened to those who doubted, but I have my suspicions. I believe it was when Jesus spoke that their doubts disappeared. On the other hand, if they still doubted, maybe they were only there for the bagels and mountain air.

Jesus answered them, I told you, and ye believed not: the works that I do in my Father’s name, they bear witness of me. But ye believe not, because ye are not of my sheep, as I said unto you. My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. – John 10:25-28

It was never Jesus’ plan to convince to the world of who He is by physically appearing to everyone. As a matter of fact, Jesus told Thomas, “because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed” (John 20:29).

The Word made flesh (John 1:1) gave us His Word (the Bible). So, when in doubt, read and listen to His voice.



Filed under Apologetics, Christian Maturity, cults, Faith, God, worship

An Impromptu Invocaton

Last night (Monday night) I went to a political fundraiser, which was also a campaign kickoff meeting. It was for a local mayoral candidate and current Chattanooga City Councilman, Larry Grohn. I went because I was invited by a Facebook friend whom I wanted to meet in person, and also because I wanted to hear what the candidate had to say.

Here in my city we are fortunate to have some good leadership. No matter what political party, most of the people in leadership are decent people with the good of our city at heart. Are they perfect? No. But none are Clinton or Trump, either (thank God!). Nevertheless, I wanted to hear good reasons why I should vote for Mr. Grohn, not for the incumbent.

Upon entering the meeting hall downtown I was greeted by the candidate’s wife. Once I told her who I was and why I was there, she said to me, “The person you need to be speaking to is my husband…let me introduce you to him.” She did, and that led to a very interesting conversation which must have lasted around 5 minutes. Thankfully, some of my questions were answered.

After speaking with Councilman Grohn, I went to the food bar and filled my little paper plate with chicken nuggets, celery, a few little tomatoes, and a cookie. After that I got my glass of unsweetened iced tea, found a seat at a table, and began a nice theological/political conversation with some very intelligent college students.

Shortly before 7 pm, the time when the speaking part of this meeting was to begin, I felt a tap on my shoulder. Someone whispered in my ear, “Pastor Baker,” so I turned around.

“Pastor,” the candidate himself said, “would you be willing to give the invocation tonight?” I don’t know if I looked surprised, or not, but my eyebrows must have raised as I was asked this question. I mean, seriously, who was I that he should come to me and ask me to open up his campaign’s inaugural event with prayer? Yet, what was I supposed to do, say “no”?

“Sure,” I replied. “I’d be happy to.”

“Thank you, Pastor,” he then said. “We want to start things off right, you know?”

“Absolutely,” I said with a nod.

Next, as I stood up, from behind me came the campaign manager. He thanked me for being willing to give the invocation at such short notice, then proceeded to tell me the order in which I was to do what. Then he said, “Say whatever you want to say…if you want to say anything…then pray…it’s up to you, just say whatever you want. Thank you for doing this.”

Yes, I was asked to pray at a political event and was given complete freedom to say whatever I wanted to say. And they didn’t know me from the man in the moon! Unbelievable!

So, when the time came I walked up to the microphone set up in the meeting hall full of people and cameras and introduced myself. The next thing I did was remind everyone of how and why Benjamin Franklin called the continental congress to stop what they were doing and pray to the Almighty for His help. I then said (to paraphrase myself):

“We are just men and women, and none of us are perfect. And just like those men back then at the founding of our nation, we have our flaws, and we need help – we need outside Help. So, let us now call upon Almighty God.”

I then prayed, beginning with a quote from Proverbs 29:2, “When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice…” I didn’t pray a prayer of blessing for the candidate, nor did I attempt to give the impression that my prayer was a form of support. Actually, the prayer that came out of me felt like it was not even me speaking, for it was full of authority and “otherness.” I felt like I was in the presence of the One who did not take sides, but was the One before whom all knees must bow. Therefore I said:

“If this man for whom these people have gathered here to honor be a righteous man…may all things done here tonight not be for our aggrandizement, but for Your glory…in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.”

Sunday night some dear folk at another church, Mt. Carmel Baptist, had me come forward, after I spoke, and laid hands on me and prayed. They prayed, among other things, that God’s hand of blessing would be upon me, and that His calling upon my life would be evident – a “man of God.” Then, last night, something about me caused a political candidate to trust a total stranger to give the opening invocation at such an important event.

That, my friends, was a God thing.


Leave a comment

Filed under America, God, politics, Prayer

Jesus Memes and the Comma-Challenged

imageIn a recent Facebook post a friend of a friend posted a meme created by John Fugelsang, the actor, Huffington Post contributor, and former co-host of America’s Funniest Home Videos (1998-99). The meme was posted in an effort to show how that Jesus Christ, if He were politically active in today’s America, would more likely be a liberal Democrat than a conservative Republican.

Mr. Fugelsang uses his meme (if he was actually the one who created it) to state ten assertions regarding who Jesus was and what He believed. For ease of reading and future commentary by me, I’ve listed them below (punctuation intact).

According to John Fugelsang (and, by extension, the friend of a friend on Facebook) Jesus was a:

  1. Radical nonviolent revolutionary
  2. Who hung around with lepers hookers and crooks;
  3. Wasn’t American and never spoke English;
  4. Was anti-wealth anti-death penalty anti-public prayer (M 6:5);
  5. But was never anti-gay, never mentioned abortion or birth control,
  6. Never called the poor lazy,
  7. Never justified torture,
  8. Never fought for tax cuts for the wealthiest Nazarenes,
  9. Never asked a leper for a copay;
  10. And was a long-haired brown-skinned homeless community-organizing anit-slut-shaming Middle Eastern Jew.

Before I go any further, I must address Mr. Fugelsang’s punctuation. You see, I am not a grammar Nazi, nor am I a punctuation prodigy, but sometimes a point can better be made if one would pay attention to the proper use of commas. For example, without commas it could be inferred that Jesus hung around with the hooks and crooks which belonged to lepers. As for “anti-gay anti-death penalty anti-public prayer,” that simply makes my head hurt.

Now, to the ten assertions…

Radical nonviolent revolutionary.  First, how many radical non-violent revolutionaries are there? I guess they exist here and there, but are they really that common? I mean, once you put radical and revolutionary together, specifically with the qualifier of “liberal,” how many are not violent? Jeez! However, that’s only based upon my own observations, so I’m happy to be proven wrong.

However, the question that ought to be asked first is: “Was Jesus really a revolutionary?”  I don’t believe He was. For one thing, most revolutionaries are focused on bringing about change within a political system – Jesus’ purpose in coming had nothing to do with any political system. Then secondly, it is clear from Jesus’ own words that He did not come to change or do away with anything, only to fulfill it.

“Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil.” – Matthew 5:17 KJV

[He] hung around with lepers, hookers, and crooks (punctuation added).  One of the biggest misconceptions about Jesus is that because He chose not to stone anyone for things like adultery (John 8:11) He must have had no problem with their actions. The problem with that assertion is that it totally avoids his command to “go and sin no more.” Yes, Jesus ate with the sinners, but that’s not to be construed that He “hung around” with them. Jesus came for a purpose, to “seek and to save the lost” (Luke 19:10), not to condone their lifestyles and avoid confrontation. No, Jesus ate with sinners so that they might be saved!

And when the scribes and Pharisees saw him eat with publicans and sinners, they said unto his disciples, How is it that he eateth and drinketh with publicans and sinners? When Jesus heard [it], he saith unto them, They that are whole have no need of the physician, but they that are sick: I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance. – Mark 2:16-17 KJV

[He] wasn’t American and never spoke English.  Except for the most diehard KJV-only-ist, and one who might never have had even the most basic of history lessons, most would agree. This is pretty much a given. However, the assertion being made is that Jesus is thought of by conservatives as being pro-American and anti-everything else, and that is mostly untrue and unfair. Sure, there are some kooks who believe America is the New Jerusalem, but there are others out there, such as Louis Farrakhan, who believe aliens live in a spaceship and are circling Earth as we speak. Neither represents the majority, I hope.

Actually, the only think that we must be concerned with is whether or not our nation (whichever nation that is) is on the side of the Lord, for His Kingdom is not of this world.

When Joshua was near the town of Jericho, he looked up and saw a man standing in front of him with sword in hand. Joshua went up to him and demanded, “Are you friend or foe?” “Neither one,” he replied. “I am the commander of the LORD’s army.” At this, Joshua fell with his face to the ground in reverence. “I am at your command,” Joshua said. “What do you want your servant to do?” – Joshua 5:13-14 NLT

[He] was anti-wealth anti-death penalty anti-public prayer (M 6:5).  Oh boy. May I break this down into sub points? I mean, really, commas would have been helpful.

  1. Anti-wealth. I’d really like to know where Fugalsang got this. My guess is that he got it from passages like Luke 12:15 or Matthew 6:19-21. In the first Jesus warns us to guard against greed, while the second advises us to store up treasure in heaven, not down here where it can corrupt and/or be stolen. Even more, Fugalsang may be thinking of how Jesus is described as one having no place to lay His head (Luke 9:58), or that passage where Jesus says it’s easier for a camel than a rich man to pass through the eye of a needle (Mark 10:25).However, the fact is that it wasn’t wealth that Jesus had a problem with; it was greed, envy, selfishness, and faith in one’s own money and not in God.

    The reason Jesus spent more time with the poor than the wealthy was because the wealthy more often had hard hearts (much like today). The rich tend to put their faith in their possessions and positions more than in God, so why would they respect the One who divested Himself of the riches of heaven and humbled Himself, even to the death of the Cross (Philippians 2:8)?You see, Jesus wasn’t anti-wealth; He was concerned only with what men do with it (Matthew 25) and the condition of their hearts: “For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?” (Mark 8:36). For crying out loud, the Church is forever in debt to Christians who used their wealth (while remaining wealthy) to feed, clothe, house, and instruct the poor of the world. It was even a rich woman in Thyatira named Lydia who used her wealth to house the early Church in her town (Acts 16:14-40).

  2. Anti-death penalty. Again, this must be one of those derivations from John 8:11, the passage where Jesus rescued a woman caught in the act of adultery. The only problem is that this passage does not assert that Jesus disagreed with the law, but rather opposite. Jesus gave every opportunity for her accusers to carry out the death penalty which was prescribed by law, but none of them were able to stand without hypocrisy. Jesus knew they were trying to set Him up, not to mention the fact that there was an un-mentioned man involved. Jesus took the opportunity to take the Law beyond where it could go on its own and showed mercy and grace.
  3. Anti-public prayer (M 6:5). Seriously? First, you don’t abbreviate the book of Matthew with a capital “M”. I mean, there are other books in the Bible that start with “M,” such as Mark, Malachi, and Micah. I guess since we’re talking about Jesus we’re supposed to know the one to which he was referring.Secondly, to use Matthew 6:5 as a basis for condemning public prayer is to admit one has little understanding of context. The context in this passage of Scripture was one which dealt with pride and hypocrisy. Jesus was addressing those who did good deeds and prayed verbose prayers all for the purpose of being seen and praised by men. That is why He said of the hypocrites, “They have their reward.”

So, what is the assertion being made with this point? That people should not be allowed to pray in public? That freedom of speech should not include two Christian school football teams being allowed to use a public address system to say a prayer before a game? – Yes that just happened.

But was never anti-gay, never mentioned abortion or birth control.  The whole “anti-gay” thing has been argued over and over and much has been devoted to it, yet liberals will only hear what they want to hear; therefore, I will devote very little time to it in this essay. However, saying that because Jesus never mentioned abortion or birth control means these are non-issues and would have been no concern to Him is ludicrous. It would be just as easy to say that governments shouldn’t restrict unnecessary use of antibiotics because Jesus never mentioned Penicillin.

Let’s save some time and get straight to the big theological issue in the room: Jesus is the second Person of the Trinity, the Word of God made flesh, Emmanuel (“God with us” – Matt. 1:23). What was said about homosexuality in the Old Testament are actually the same position Jesus took, for He and the Father are One (John 1:1-2, 14; 17:11).  The only difference is that Jesus came to show that the strict requirements of the Law could only cause men to realize their own sinfulness in the light of Holy God, not save them. Jesus came to show God was merciful and wanted to graciously save men through putting their faith in Jesus. If you divest Jesus from His divinity then all you have is a crazy man who thought He was God and died for nothing.

As for birth control (speaking of contraception), there is no mention of it in the Bible, most likely because it was commonly understood that children were a gift from God (Gen. 4:1; 33:5) and the man with a “full quiver” was blessed (Psalm 127:5). With regard to abortion, it is God who gives life and considers us persons even before we are born (Psalm 139:13-14; Jeremiah 1:5), so I believe Jesus would have viewed elective abortion as murder. After all, it was Jesus’ own cousin, John the Baptist, who “leaped” in his mother’s womb when (Luke 1:41) when she greeted the pregnant Mary.

[He] never called the poor lazy. No, I don’t think He did. However, the Bible (the Word of God – See John 1) does say the following:

  • By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” – Genesis 3:19 ESV
  • For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat. – 2 Thessalonians 3:10 KJV

[He] never justified torture. That’s probably true – can’t argue with that. Of course, Jesus wasn’t a military leader who’s task it was to protect the lives of millions of his fellow citizens, either. Actually, Jesus was the One who gave His life so that others might live. Yet, He also said to be “wise as serpents and harmless as doves” (Matt. 10:16). We will all have to answer to God for our actions.

[He] never fought for tax cuts for the wealthiest Nazarenes.  This is actually correct! Jesus never did fight for tax cuts for the wealthy. However, it is equally true that Jesus never fought to reduce taxes, either – even for the poor. In Matthew 22:17-21 Jesus made it perfectly clear that we are to pay taxes when taxes are due, and that even goes for the least of us. He said, “Give unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.” Later, speaking to average Christians, the Apostle Paul wrote:

And for this reason you pay taxes, since the authorities are God’s public servants, continually attending to these tasks. Pay your obligations to everyone: taxes to those you owe taxes, tolls to those you owe tolls, respect to those you owe respect, and honor to those you owe honor.  – Romans 13:6-7 HCSB

[He] never asked a leper for a copay.  No, I don’t guess He ever did that, either; He just healed them. The last time I checked, neither Republicans nor Democrats are God (even though some think they are) and somebody has to pay somebody for adequate medical services (therefore, refer back to Romans 13:6-7…not just the rich should pay).

And finally, [Jesus] was a long-haired, brown-skinned, homeless, community-organizing, anti-slut-shaming middle eastern Jew.  Well, at least Mr. Fugelsang got the brown-skinned, homeless (technically speaking), anti-slut-shaming middle eastern Jew parts right. The rest, along with the usual lack of commas, he stereotypically got wrong.

Nazarenes (sometimes called Nazarites) were from Nazareth; Nazarites were those who took a vow not to cut their hair, drink wine, etc. Jesus never took a Nazarite vow. But, then again, Mr. Fugalsang is not a Bible scholar, only a political comedian who writes for the Huffpo and creates comma-challenged memes.


Filed under Abortion, America, Apologetics, Bible Study, Jesus, politics

Good Preaching?

Does preaching have anything to do with your decision?

There are many opinions as to what constitutes “good” preaching. Some prefer a preacher who spits and hollers, bangs the pulpit, and makes that little “huh” sound between every amplified phrase. Others prefer the professor/preacher who reads from a manuscript in a mono-tone, non-offensive, Winnie the Pooh-like voice. Either way, what we are talking about is delivery, not substance.

Does delivery matter?

When Paul told Timothy to pay close attention to his doctrine (1 Timothy 4:16) and to “preach the word” (2 Timothy 4:2), content was the issue. However, if a sermon is poorly delivered, the efforts of the preacher could be nullified. If the hearer is distracted, bored, offended, lulled to sleep, or has his ear drums wounded, what is the point?

In my opinion, good preaching is preaching that contains solid, biblical content, but also keeps the audience engaged. One should never discount the importance of the power of the Spirit working through the weakness of men (1 Cor. 2:4; 2 Cor. 12:9). But, as ambassadors of the King (2 Cor. 5:20) who have been charged by our Sovereign to “compel” (persuade)  hungry souls to come to His table (Luke 14:23), shouldn’t how we say what we say be important?

It is reported that Abraham Lincoln preferred listening to preachers who looked like they were swatting at a swarm of bees. In a similar vein, I think it was Charles Wesley who said that a preacher should “put some fire in his sermon, or put his sermon in the fire.”

On the other hand, Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758) is said to have read his sermon “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” with a steady, monotone voice, as the audience screamed in terror at the thought of falling into hell. So, delivery shouldn’t matter?

It would make sense that those entrusted with delivering sermons should do so in a manner befitting the “greatest story ever told,” but does delivery make a difference? After all, some of the greatest public speakers of all time were tyrants (Adolph Hitler). Should delivery be an issue, or should we simply focus on truth?

What about you?

bibleWhat type of preaching style do you prefer? Has a particular style of sermon delivery ever caused you to tune out to what was being said?

Below is an example of me preaching. This sermon was delivered several years ago on a Sunday evening at Riverside Baptist (in the gym, while our auditorium was being remodeled). It was part of a series I did on the book of Ephesians and focused on the blessing of the Holy Spirit and the simple two word phrase, “but God.”

I’m interested in your feedback.


Filed under Preaching

An Attempted Crossing

I once saw a cat chase a chicken.

It chased it across a main road.

Through traffic they raced unhalted

Until they stumbled upon a dead toad. 

Like half of a Sunday school song

It was flat and wide, not deep. 

It hadn’t been dead for long,

And both of them started to weep. 

“Oh cluck cluck cluck!” went the chicken.

“Meow so sad!” went the cat. 

Then before their fruitless chase could continue, 

A minivan flattened them flat. 
The End


Filed under Humor, poetry, Uncategorized

In Honor of the Tim Kaine’s Statement Regarding Roe v. Wade

Tonight I laboriously watched the entire debate between VP hopefuls, Tim Kaine (D) and Mike Pence (R). I was so glad when it was over.

A friend on Facebook tagged me in a post and asked me what I learned from the debate, so I responded with:

“Nothing much, other than one candidate admitted he had a personal relationship with Christ, while the other obeys his church, sorta. Oh, and that Hillary Clinton had nothing to do with anything while she was in charge, but when she stays in Washington she’ll not do what she’s already been not doing, or something like that.”

As expected, both men tried to land well-rehearsed blows against the other’s boss, the majority of which were launched in rapid-fire repeat mode from the Democrat. As usual, the Republican tried to keep it nice, which never, ever pays off in the end.

But my most memorable moment came near to the end when Tim Kaine tried to respond to the truth that the Democrat party, including Clinton and himself, support the continued practice of partial birth abortion. Shortly after he started to pontificate over women’s rights, not the rights of the unborn, he said…

“We have some young people in the audience who weren’t even born when Roe [versus Wade] was decided, and this is pretty important.” Vice Presidential candidate, Sen. Tim Kaine (D)

I couldn’t help but laugh… with a laugh only a righteous indignation could produce. Then I shouted out:

“And there are millions more who were NEVER born because Roe was decided!”

I figured that was important, too.

So, in honor of Sen. Tim Kaine’s eloquent attempt to educate the young people who were so fortunate to have survived their mother’s womb, I offer the following… Just listen.

The Sound of BB’s


Filed under Abortion, politics