An Important Afternoon Devotional: “Cancer Treatment”

On Monday afternoon I did a Facebook LIVE devotional for my church congregation. It became very personal and displayed more transparency than I intended.

But, you know what? Maybe that’s exactly what a lot of people needed. Honesty.

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Filed under Christianity, Family, Life/Death

Sunday Sermons (5/03/20)

Below are links to the sermon and music from Sunday morning and the Bible study I did live in the evening.

Both broadcasts were uploaded to YouTube. The morning service was pre-recorded, uploaded to YouTube, scheduled as a premier, and shared to Facebook.

The evening Bible study in Acts 7 was first done live on Facebook, then saved, then uploaded to YouTube. Fortunately, the in-out focus that usually accompanies the live video (because of our area’s SLOW internet) was not there!

If you are blessed, encouraged, or convicted by either, I would love to hear from you!

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Filed under Bethlehem Baptist Church, Bible Study, Christianity, Church, Preaching

Accepting Forgiveness vs Faithless Unbelief

Just this week I uploaded a daily devotional I do online to YouTube. Then, as I usually do, I posted it to our church’s Facebook page.

The subject of this video is that of accepting God’s forgiveness, even when we don’t feel forgivable.

I would love your feedback.

Sorry for the goofy-looking face 😉

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Filed under Bible Study, Christianity, Faith, Uncategorized

Tough Questions That Should Make Every Christian Think

Daily Live Stream

Every day at 2 p.m. I do a live devotional and prayer time on Facebook. This is in addition to Sunday morning, Sunday evening, and Wednesday night.

All total, I am either live or showing recorded content eight times a week. That’s way, way more than what I was doing before this pandemic forced everything online! But it’s all good.

His grace is sufficient for the challenge.

This Week’s Theme

The theme for this week’s videos was found in Exodus 23, verses 29 and 30. In those verses God says that He would not drive out Israel’s enemies all at once, only little by little.

God was capable of wiping out all of Israel’s enemies. He was more than strong enough. However, doing things as a matter of process was better for the land and God’s people (verse 29).

God could have given the children of Israel everything at once, but his desire for them (and us) was to mature through adversity. Even more, He wants us to become more and more sanctified (set apart for His glory and use) through the purging away of worldly idolatries that trap and destroy us.

Today’s Tough Questions

Lists to Live By: The Christian Collection: For Everything That Really MattersTherefore, This afternoon I pulled a book off one of my shelves and flipped through it until I found what fit the theme of this week’s devotions. In the book Lists to Live By: The Christian Collection For Everything That Really Matters I found on page 48 and 49 “20 Tough Questions.”

This afternoon I shared the first 10 with those watching live on Facebook.

  1. What specifically are you gong to work on in the next week to become closer to God?
  2. What do you feel is a little thing stopping you from getting closer to God?
  3. What is one thing you need to confess this week?
  4. When did you conquer sin this week?
  5. In what areas of your life do you find it easiest to compromise your standards?
  6. Does you faith point others to Jesus?
  7. What are you going to give Jesus in the next week?
  8. Can you give a recent example of a time you had to depend on God?
  9. Where do you know you need humility in your life?
  10. What would improve your prayer life?

As you can see, these are not easy questions for most people to answer. They weren’t completely easy for me, if you want to know the honest truth.

But the fact is, if we are not struggling, and certainly if we are not growing and maturing in our Christian walk and faith in God, then we cannot expect to claim the blessings awaiting in the yet-to-be-conquered “promised land.”

I’ll share the remaining “tough questions” in the next post.

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Filed under Bethlehem Baptist Church, Christian Maturity

What Are the Five Solas, and Did Elvis Sing About Them?

‘O Sole Mio

When I am driving long distances, particularly when I’m alone (as far as I know), I sometimes sing aloud certain songs to keep me alert. Sometimes I sing songs I know well, and other times I make up lyrics to fill in the gaps for songs I know little of.

One particular song is “‘O Sole Mio,” or “It’s Now Or Never.” I will usually sing to myself and use the words interchangeably, adding in what I know of the chorus of “It’s Now Or Never,” then make up the rest from there. The whole idea is to sing loudly, operatically, in order to keep the blood and oxygen flowing, but sometimes my own lyrics crack me up, especially when I expand on the sexually predatory characteristics of Elvis’ version.

Credit: Wikipedia

Actually, the older (1898) Neapolitan song has nothing to do with the English-language hit recorded by Elvis Presley in 1960. ‘O sole mio actually translates into “my sunshine,” while It’s now or never translates into: “I’m so turned on by your looks that we should have a one-night-stand…I’m outa here come daylight.”

So why am I telling you this? I’m glad you asked.

Sole is the Italian word for “sun.” Luce del sole is Italian for “sunlight.” So, by way of a totally unrelated personal story, I want to segue into something that should be important to us all… I want to shine some luce del sole on the Solas 🙂

“It’s now or never . . .” (Elvis)

The Five Solas

Sola is the Latin word for “alone,” and for a practically 500 years non-Catholics (such as myself) have held five particular “solas” near and dear to our theological hearts.

1. Sola scriptura: “Scripture alone”
2. Sola fide: “faith alone”
3. Sola gratia: “grace alone”
4. Solo Christo: “Christ alone”
5. Soli Deo gloria: “to the glory of God alone”

What do they mean? Well, nothing Elvis Presley was singing about, that’s for sure. The following can be found on a great website whose link is already on my sidebar, GotQuestions.org.

Sola scriptura emphasizes the Bible alone as the source of authority for Christians. By saying, “Scripture alone,” the Reformers rejected both the divine authority of the Roman Catholic Pope and confidence in sacred tradition. Only the Bible was “inspired by God” (2 Peter 1:20-21) and “God-breathed” (2 Timothy 3:16-17). Anything taught by the Pope or in tradition that contradicted the Bible was to be rejected. Sola scriptura also fueled the translation of the Bible into German, French, English, and other languages, and prompted Bible teaching in the common languages of the day, rather than in Latin.

Sola fide emphasizes salvation as a free gift. The Roman Catholic Church of the time emphasized the use of indulgences (donating money) to buy status with God. Good works, including baptism, were seen as required for salvation. Sola fide stated that salvation is a free gift to all who accept it by faith (John 3:16). Salvation is not based on human effort or good deeds (Ephesians 2:9).

Sola gratia emphasizes grace as the reason for our salvation. In other words, salvation comes from what God has done rather than what we do. Ephesians 2:8-9 teaches, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”

Solo Christo (sometimes listed as Solus Christus, “through Christ alone”) emphasizes the role of Jesus in salvation. The Roman Catholic tradition had placed church leaders such as priests in the role of intercessor between the laity and God. Reformers emphasized Jesus’ role as our “high priest” who intercedes on our behalf before the Father. Hebrews 4:15 teaches, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.” Jesus is the One who offers access to God, not a human spiritual leader.

Soli Deo gloria emphasizes the glory of God as the goal of life. Rather than striving to please church leaders, keep a list of rules, or guard our own interests, our goal is to glorify the Lord. The idea of soli Deo gloria is found in 1 Corinthians 10:31: “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”

The five solas of the Protestant Reformation offered a strong corrective to the faulty practices and beliefs of the time, and they remain relevant today. We are called to focus on Scripture, accept salvation by grace through faith, magnify Christ, and live for God’s glory.  © Copyright 2002-2017 Got Questions Ministries

Never heard of the five solas of the Protestant Reformation before today? Well, I hope this shed some sunlight – luce del sole – on them for you 😉

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Filed under Christianity, God, grace, Martin Luther, Theology

I’m a “Bible-thumper,” Apparently

It’s been a while…

Yes, it has been a while since my youngest daughter, Haley, has heard me preach. However, this morning she was with my wife as thy watched the service from home.

Even before we left Soddy Daisy and South Soddy Baptist, Haley had started attending another, larger church several miles away. I couldn’t fault her, for she had grown up hearing me preach every Sunday. At least she would now be going to church on her own, not feeling obligated as my child to attend. That’s a good thing, right?

So, yes, it has been a while since Haley has sat in a room when I preached. The closest she’s been in a year was today, and that was a bedroom, not an auditorium. I do miss her.

Notice any difference?

This afternoon, no more than an hour ago, I asked Haley, “Did you notice any difference in the way I preached today compared to at Riverside or South Soddy?”

Have you ever received a comment that you couldn’t quite tell it’s meaning? In other words, have you ever been told something that could be interpreted as either a good thing or a bad thing, and you just didn’t know how to take it? And have you ever received one of those kinds of comments and not wanted to go deeper for fear it might have actually been derogatory and not complimentary?

That’s the kind of feedback I got from my daughter. I didn’t know how to take it.

“Uhh, well, you’re more of a Bible-thumper,” she said with a cool, matter-of-fact tone.

It’s hard to describe the feeling I got when she said that. At one moment I was both hurt and indignant; sad and elated; depressed and emboldened.

“That could be a good thing, I suppose” was my reply.

Bible-thumper:

  • an evangelist or other person who quotes the Bible frequently, especially as a means of exhortation or rebuke. – Dictionary.com
  • an aggressively zealous advocate of Christian fundamentalism. – Merriam-Webster
  • Used as a disparaging term for a Christian, especially a fundamentalist or evangelical Christian, considered to be overly zealous in haranguing or censuring others. – TheFreeDictionary.com

Or, maybe it’s not. 

I guess it hurts, coming from my little girl. I just hope she can see beyond the delivery of the sermon to the Truth of the message.

Decide for Yourself

Should you want to decide for yourself, feel free to watch the attached video from this morning’s streamed service.

(Please excuse the poor video resolution, but in this part of the country the upload speed is only 3-6 Mbps, so I have to set my iPhone to the lowest setting, which is 720p.)

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Filed under Bethlehem Baptist Church, ministry, music, Southern Baptist, worship

Cabbage: It’s Where Babies Come From

It’s Friday, and I know you all are looking forward to a wonderful weekend, especially those of you (and us) in Georgia who are looking forward to slowly getting back to work.

Well, as most of you know, I don’t drive a school bus anymore, but years of driving left me with some stories – OH, the stories!

Here’s one that might bring a smile to your face – and help you explain the “birds and the bees” to your kids. 

The following story is from a few years ago.


Bus Stories

If you didn’t know by now (I don’t know how you wouldn’t), I am a mild-mannered school bus driver by day…I can’t tell you about what I do at night – it’s top secret.

Because I drive a school bus, I am privy to many things children will talk about when not around teachers or parents (they seem to think I can’t hear – I’m too focused on the road, you know). Most of what they talk about is mundane and full of drama (especially with the girls), but sometimes their conversations DEMAND that I insert my two cents.

However, it is rare to hear my elementary kids (grades K-5) talk about “the birds and the bees,” especially when the words they use are ones like “egg,” “sperm,” etc. Therefore, what was discussed today was destined to be turned into a blog post.

Not Supposed to Know

I was just driving, looking ahead at the road, when a 5th-grade girl (let’s call her “Sue”) sitting in a seat right behind me uttered the words “sperm,” “egg,” and “sex” in the same string of words. I am only assuming the string of words were put together in the form of a sentence, but the key words stood out above the rest she used. Immediately my eyes looked up to the rear-view mirror.

Blah blah sex blah blah blah sperm and egg, blah blah blah, isn’t that right?” Sue asked a male student across the aisle from her.

Looking at Sue’s reflection in my student mirror, with a combined look of shock and inquisitiveness, I asked, “What in the world are y’all talking about?”

“Oh…yeah…we’ve been learning stuff in 5th grade…probably stuff we shouldn’t know at our age,” Sue replied. Then she called upon a 5th-grade boy (let’s call him Jack) and asked, “Isn’t that right, Jack? Tell Mr. Baker what we were learning about in class.”

Like a typical boy with little on his mind, Jack at first responded with a “Huh?” Then he went on to say, “Yeah, we talked about sex, and where babies come from, and all that.”

“And eggs and sperm, right?” Sue continued.

“Oh, yeah, that too,” Jack confirmed.

“Well,” I said, shaking my head, “you’re probably right…you’re too young for that stuff.”

“And a…a….a….” Sue stuttered, trying to complete a word.

Asexual?” I questioned, attempting to complete the word she was trying to remember.

“Yeah! Asexual! We learned about being asexual, too,” Sue replied.

“Asexual” Advice

So, as you see, I was drawn into a conversation that grown-ups dread, especially when it comes to dealing with little kids that are not your own. Therefore, taking charge of the discussion, I immediately began to extend my wisdom on the subject.

“So, you know what asexual is, then?” I asked.

“Yes,” sue replied.

“Well, that’s what you should be…asexual,” I said. Sue tilted her head with suspicion.

“Yep, that’s what you need to be – asexual. That means you don’t need a boy; you don’t need to date anyone; you don’t need any of that –  just have babies all by yourself, or cut off your arm and in no time you have another you, just like a starfish. Simple.”

“I don’t think that’s the way it works, Mr. Baker,” said an incredulous Sue. Then she looked at Jack and asked, “What wrong?”

Jack, looking a little sad, then said, “I don’t want to be asexual…I don’t like asexual. That makes me sad.” Then he stepped off the bus.

Cabbages On a Tray

With a serious, yet “no duh” look I caught Sue’s eye in the above mirror and asked, “Do you really want to know where babies come from?”

“Sure. Where?” replied Sue.

I explained it this way…

You see, first of all, all that stuff you see on TV, all that stuff in the movies…especially that Rated-R stuff…all of that is fake; don’t believe it. All that stuff you see them doing is not real; men and women don’t really do all of that. 

Secondly, I have kids, so I know about these things. That whole “Stork” thing…that’s made up, too. 

Here’s the truth, OK? What happens is when a woman has a baby, she goes to the hospital to get it. She goes to a really nice, expensive room, where she gets really comfortable and waits around a while. They put her on a bed, lean her back, and then cover her up with a blanket, making sure she has everything she needs. Then, at some point, the doctors and nurses roll in a cart with a big tray on it. On that big tray is a bunch of cabbages.

What happens is when they roll in that tray full of cabbages, the woman is then given one choice, one cabbage, to pick. She picks the cabbage she wants, then they turn it over. Whatever baby is under that cabbage is the one she gets, the one she has to take home.

That’s where babies come from. You understand, now?

“Cabbages, huh?” asked Sue, her lips snarled up to one corner of her face.

“Yes. Cabbages.”

“Well, OK.”

“Oh, and Sue,” I said, as I was approaching her stop, “this means if your mom wants to have another baby, she doesn’t need another husband, either.”

Sue looked at me, head tilted, with a look on her freckled face that screamed “this oughta be good,” and then asked, “Oh, really?

“Absolutely!” I exclaimed. Knowing Sue’s mom is divorced, I went on to explain, “If she wants another baby, all she needs to do is call down to the hospital and order a tray of cabbages, and they’ll get one ready for her. Then she can just pick.”

Stepping down the stairs after the bus came to a stop at her street corner, Sue looked back at me with a smile and said, “Cabbages, huh? Have a great day, Mr. Baker…see you tomorrow.”

And THAT is how a bus driver explains the birds and the bees.

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Filed under current events, Humor, Life Lessons, Parenting, wisdom

Observations from a Middle-Georgia Pastorate: Webinar Weary

Webinars

Up until a month ago, I knew nothing of Zoom or Microsoft Meetings. But now all I hear about are links to webinars and digital meetings every day. As a matter of fact, I am typing this sentence while listening to a webinar with over 200 pastors (mostly from Georgia) attending.

There’s only so much water I can drink from a fire hose.

So, as I wrote in the title, I’m webinar weary. I don’t even have the time enough to watch them all, much less attend then all when they’re live.

Nevertheless, I must say that I am absolutely grateful for the resources being offered. Actually, and I’m not the only one who’s made this observation, I think I feel more connected to my peers in ministry than ever before! I feel far less alone than at any time in the past, and all I’m doing is viewing a computer screen!

The key is that it’s live . . . and we’re all in this together.

Working Again

But if you have been watching the news as of late, the big story is that Gov. Kemp is allowing Georgians to return to work. Not that everything is going to be like it was before . . . oh, no! However, there’s a lot of good people down here who not only want to get back to work, but NEED to get back to work!

What are my thoughts on the matter? All I know is that people are dying from a virus, but people are also dying from suicide at increased rates, people are going bankrupt, families are under stress, children are being abused, people are entering the ranks of the homeless, and some people are starving.

The great leaders of the world make the hard decisions that some people won’t like, while others will praise them. It’s rarely, if ever, a win-win. The best one can hope for, as in this case, is to do the best with the information you have and leave it in the hands of God.

Worshiping Again

For me, the most challenging question is when and how will we re-open church? When and how will we start gathering again as a congregation? The questions and the obstacles are numerous to the point of exhaustion.

Yet, I was put here for such a time as this. God knew what was coming when He sent me here. So, the best I can do is pray, do the best with the information I am given, and then leave the rest in the hands of God.

Live streaming has its benefits, but nothing can fully replace meeting together in person, even if 6ft. away.

I’m getting weary of webinars.

“Bethlehem Baptist at Sunset” Water color and pencil (Anthony Baker)

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Filed under Bethlehem Baptist Church, Church

Vlogging About Blake’s Song

So, what are you REALLY saying, Blake?

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Filed under General Observations, Life/Death, music

Is It Perception Or Deception?

The Way We See It

If I have heard it said once, I have heard it said a thousand times, “perception is reality.” And if I have puked once…well, you know the rest.

What is it with man’s twisted view of reality and truth? Where do we get the idea that reality is what we perceive it to be? Is truth really relative to our own perception of the way things are? Just because a person believes something to be true doesn’t make it true, only believed.

Have you ever argued with someone who is color-blind over the color of a tie? Have you ever tried to convince someone dying of thirst that it’s not really water, but a mirage? Have you ever tried to convince a 3-year-old that germs are real and that hands need to be washed before eating? Some people think they know what they see, but they don’t.

Have you ever tried to argue with an ophthalmologist (eye doctor) about the letters on the wall? Yes, a “B” may appear to your flawed eyes as a “D”, but that doesn’t change what is on the wall.

Hot or Cold?

Sure, there are certain times when it seems like truth is relative, and here is a good example.

When my wife and I walk into a room, both of us will perceive a different sensation. If the temperature on the thermometer reads 70 degrees, then my wife is going to exclaim, “Why is it so hot in here?” On the other hand, I am going to say, “I think it feels fine.” I may, depending on how hot the temperature is outside, think that what my wife perceives to be hot is actually cool.

Both are correct based on our individual experiences and perceptions, but in reality the truth of the temperature is still 70, regardless of how we feel about it.

Clean Drunks

Several years ago I was unfortunate enough to transport a bunch of college kids to a party. It was unfortunate because long before some of them ever got on the school bus they had already been drinking.

The place they were going to was up a mountain. About 5 minutes into the trip, about the third or fourth curve, one girl decided to vomit on the window, down the inside wall, and between the seats. It was all liquid, all alcohol, and all nasty. A few minutes later she felt she was ready to go party some more, for, in her eyes, she was perfectly clean. The only problem was that we (everyone on the bus) could tell she was soaked…in other words, we weighed the “spirits.”

God Sees Everything

When it comes to self-perception, reality is what God sees. He not only sees the outside, but the heart is bare before Him. As the proverb says, a man may consider himself clean, which is his own perception of reality, but the Lord knows what’s really going on.

For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12).

It is foolish for men to try to justify their sinful, dirty actions before a holy God. It is foolish to depend on our own perception of what is right and wrong. Our eyes only want to see what makes us look good, not evil.

That is why we need God’s wisdom.

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Filed under General Observations, Life Lessons, voting, wisdom