Tag Archives: Christianity

Barnabas Baker: That’s Not My Name, But It Would Be Nice

Preaching Through Acts

This is my fourth time preaching/teaching through the book of Acts, and yes, I’m still learning things. Even though it’s all been over Facebook on Sunday evenings, it’s still been exciting (especially chapter 12 – I’ll included a link at the end – you should watch it).

But one person stands out to me, especially at this time in my ministry. How he is described is what I am lacking in my own life. When I read of him and preach about him, I am convicted. Wouldn’t it be nice if people thought my name was different than what it is?

Every pastor, to one degree or another, should be more like Barnabas. Yes, I want to be seen as a reflection of Jesus, but Barnabas was certainly that. So, if they every forget my name, Barnabas Baker would work.

Barnabas

Barnabas was a Levite from the country of Cyprus who became a follower of Christ. He was a generous man, a godly man, and one whose name fit his personality; he was the “son of consolation” (Acts 4:36-37).

Barnabas was the type of guy that truly cared about people and wanted to see them succeed. He was more than just a team player; he was a motivator, the kind of man who would step down from the pedestal so that someone else could shine. As a matter of fact, it was Barnabas who introduced Saul (Paul), the former persecutor of Christians, to the church at Jerusalem (talk about having someone’s back!).

But in preaching through chapter 11 of Acts, I came across a description of Barnabas that left me very convicted. The way Barnabas was described should be how we are described: good people, full of the Holy Ghost, and full of faith (11:24).

A Good Man

The first thing said about Barnabas was that he was “a good man.” Now, a lot of people think they are good people, but not all are. As a matter of fact, there’s no other place in Acts where Luke describes a person as “good.” Only Barnabas gets that distinction.

Being described as “good” meant that he was a man with whom no one could find fault. He must have been a man of strong character, a man who kept his word, and a man who would do anything for anybody, including give the last coin to one in need. He was the kind of man Jesus was talking about when He said, “A good man out of the good treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is good” (Luke 6:45). Barnabas was genuine, the “real deal.”

Full of the Holy Ghost

Barnabas was also “full of the Holy Ghost.” What does that mean? Well first off, let’s think about the description of “full.”

The Greek word translated as “full” is one that meant not only to be filled up but filled up to the point of overflowing. Barnabas was totally yielded and filled with the Spirit, so much so that His presence spilled over onto others. The “son of consolation” was an encourager, just like the Spirit controlling and empowering him.

Full of Faith

Barnabas was not only full of the Holy Ghost but also of faith. Simply put, Barnabas was fully convinced and persuaded with what he believed to be true. There was no doubting, no hesitation, no reluctance, no hiding, no timidity. Barnabas was sure in the gospel of Jesus Christ, and that is one reason he was sent by the church in Jerusalem to see what was going on in Antioch of Syria.

The Result

Now, let’s look at what happened because of Barnabas’ character, his spiritual power, and his sure faith.

“Who, when he came, and had seen the grace of God, was glad, and exhorted them all, that with purpose of heart they would cleave unto the Lord. For he was a good man, and full of the Holy Ghost and of faith: and much people was added unto the Lord.” – Acts 11:23-24 

First, because he was a good man, he was not jealous of the good things happening in Antioch; he rejoiced that the grace of God had been poured out on the believers there!

Second, because he was full of the Holy Ghost, what was in his heart (as Jesus described) had to be shared, so he “exhorted” them and encouraged them in their faith.

Third, because Barnabas knew what temptations and trials could come, especially with the persecution following Stephen’s death fresh on his mind, he encouraged the new believers to be pro-active in their devotion to the Christ. He knew that the only way to have a strong faith is to purposefully “cleave unto the Lord.”

Fourth, many people were added unto the Lord! Because of the spirituality and faith and character of godly Barnabas, not only were new believers in Antioch strengthened, but many more people came to know Christ!

The Challenge

Here’s the thing. Why aren’t more people coming to a saving faith in Jesus? Why aren’t more of our churches encouraged? Why aren’t more Christians spiritually maturing in their faith? It’s because we don’t have enough men and women like Barnabas.

Be a good person! Seriously, be the type of man or woman that people can trust and rely on. Be the type of person that people can tell you care. Be generous, compassionate, trustworthy, and consistent. Be people of honor and character.

Be filled with the Spirit! Do you know what it means to be completely filled with the Holy Ghost of God? It means there are no little rooms, closets, or boxes in your heart where there is written a note to God which says, “Private! Hands off!” Every are of your life – every secret part – should be yielded to and controlled by the Spirit of God. Otherwise, you are self-controlled and rebellious, and thereby powerless.

Be full of faith! Grow your faith. Study God’s Word. Know why you believe what you believe. Don’t be a coward! If you are shy or feel intimidated to share your faith with others, ask yourself why that’s so!

Would you be afraid to warn your neighbor a murderer was crawling through his bedroom window? Would you be afraid to yell “fire!” if flames were engulfing the rooms of a hotel where people were sleeping? It’s only because you are NOT full of faith that you are not bold; you have doubts the fire is real and the murderer really means to harm.

You and I need to be more like Barnabas.

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Filed under Bible Study, Faith, Preaching

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

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

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

What Was It Like, The Night Before?

Wells Branch Community Church: Austin, TX > Despair and the Key ...

 

Just imagine … the night before the resurrection.

Tomorrow is Easter, the day that we celebrate the risen Lord, Jesus Christ. But here it is the night before, the night before the celebrations, and few of us have any idea of the sense of total despair the followers of Jesus must have been experiencing on this night – the night before.

For three and a half years his disciples had followed Him around, listening to His stories, His parables, and His prayers. They had witnessed miracle after miracle which should have confirmed to them His claims to be the Messiah. Yet, just two days ago they witnessed the supposed Son of God, the “resurrection and the life” (that’s what he told Mary and Martha, you know, on the day He raised Lazarus from the dead), betrayed, beaten, falsely convicted, and tortuously crucified.

Then, after his tormentors had done all they could do, Jesus died. It was pretty obvious to all who were present.

It grew dark and the earth shook violently, as to add insult to injury, for even creation sensed the tragedy of it all.

They saw Him buried.

Some ran…some huddled as they hid…would they be next?

What of the “Kingdom” the Jesus had spoken of?

What good were the words “he that believeth on me shall not die, but have everlasting life” if the one saying it could be unjustly convicted, abandoned by heaven, and left to die in the most disgraceful and painful way? How could HE make such a promise if HE could die?

It was the night before, just like tonight, yet there was no anticipation of worship services or egg hunts – only the expectation of another sunrise without the Son.

They were afraid…broken…discouraged…faithless…confused…angry…directionless…without hope…

They were totally unprepared for what was about to happen, because the last thing they were thinking of was that this was…

the night before.

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You’re Never Too Old!

We may be 230 years old, but that doesn’t stop us from streaming at high speed!

Join me on Facebook LIVE as I lead us in worship each Sunday at 11 and 6, Wednesdays at 6:30, and also every weekday around 2pm.

Bethlehem Baptist Church, Warthen, GA.

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It Is Well! Thank You, Jesus!

When Horatio Spafford looked out across the place where his daughters drowned in a ship wreck, can you even imagine the emotions flooding over him?

What pain! What horrible, sickening emptiness! What incomparable sorrow!

scenic view of the sea

Photo by Skitterphoto on Pexels.com

Yet, no doubt trembling, with tears wetting his cheeks, he was warmed by the peace that passes understanding and composed the words to one of the Christian world’s most beloved hymns… “It Is Well With My Soul.”

This morning, a friend on Facebook forwarded me a link to some Nashville studio vocalists and their unbelievable rendition of “It Is Well,” all done on their cell phones!

Let me tell you, like some old preachers used to say, “If that doesn’t light your fire, your wood is wet!”

I couldn’t keep still, couldn’t stay seated, and couldn’t keep quiet. It became a hanky-waving, hand-clapping, “thank you Jesus” time.

Now, why don’t you watch and listen and see if your fire will light … unless your wood is too wet 😉

Just click on the link, below. It will take you to the News4 story and video.

https://www.wsmv.com/news/a-group-of-nashville-studio-singers-perform-an-epic-cell/article_2245fbf8-6eb2-11ea-9be3-db6cec04c8f3.html?fbclid=IwAR2tCvOTX679FWc06y-gLBqjr_KbtWZQiPY-FbYPCA-JLY58lM_Ok4mULRI

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8+ Ways Small Churches Could Be Better than Mega-Churches

The Survey

In a recent study conducted by the survey pro’s at TheRecoveringLegalist.com, pastors from both large and small congregations shared why they thought a small church could be better than a big one.

The survey sample was made up of pastors from various denominations, from different parts of the country, and consisted of men from my personal contact list – and my wife.

It was a VERY scientific survey – sorta.

The Question

I had my own thoughts, but I wanted to know what other pastors thought. The question I posed went something like this:

“I’m doing a quick, non-scientific survey for a blog post (no names will be mentioned). Can you give me 1 or 2 reasons why a small church could be better than a big church?”

Within moments I received multiple replies through text, email, and Messenger. It took them very little time to respond, like it was something they didn’t even have to think about.

The answers they gave were practically the same.

The Answers

If the answers from the pastors in the survey I conducted mean anything, it would seem that smaller churches are the place to be if you want to be:

  1. Known by name;
  2. Have intimate relationships with others;
  3. Have a pastor who misses you when you’re not there; and/or
  4. Experience more accountability.

Other answers suggested that in larger churches it is harder to keep track of what is being taught in “small groups,” while in smaller churches everyone is more on the same page. But overall, the most common reason given for smaller churches being better than bigger churches was knowing and being known by others in the congregation.

As a matter of fact, what the pastors in my survey said echoed the hopeful and encouraging words of Karl Vaters’ article “Why Small Churches Are the Next Big Thing.” Speaking of Millennials, he said:

“[There’s] growing evidence this new generation will bring the greatest opportunity for small church ministry in 2,000 years.

Why? Because, as the first generation with a majority born and raised outside traditional marriage, genuine relationships and intimate worshipwhat small churches do best—will matter more to them than it did to their parents.” [emphasis added]

(Note: The above article was from 2014. Vaters wrote a follow-up piece that’s worth reading.)

So you see, even though larger churches do offer a LOT – unlimited numbers of ministries in which to get involved; professional-quality childcare; servant pastors for every niche; and the best technology money can buy – many people are beginning to rediscover what makes the community of a small, loving congregation so special.

But Wait! There’s MORE!

Should you conclude that relationships, accountability, and being able to talk with your pastor without an appointment are the only qualities a small church can offer, think again!

There’s more! Much more!

Here are 8 simple ways small churches could actually be BETTER than larger ones:

1. Parking Spaces. Why should one have to search ten minutes to find a parking place within walking distance to the trolley you must ride to get to the front door?

Small churches have plenty of parking; usually no further than a hymnbook’s throw away.

2. No Auditions Necessary. Forget having to try out for the choir, the praise team, the annual play, the children’s musical, or the worship orchestra.

If you can sing, play an instrument, or read a line – or even if you can’t – there’s always a place for you in a small church, at least in the choir.

3. No Training Necessary. So, you want to run sound? You want to operate the lights? You think you have a desire to operate the recording equipment? Well, you’d better have a resume and a list of references if you want to do any of that in a big church.

Seriously, they can’t let just anyone with a desire operate a $25,000 camera or push the buttons that link to the network satellite feed.

But in a small church? HA! With just a little instruction and a few notes, you could be adjusting the mics and pressing “record” in no time!

4. The Best Seating Anywhere. If you come in late to a service at a big church, no kidding, you might need binoculars to see the holes in the pastor’s jeans.

But in a small church, well, the back row might as well be in the reserved section! Compared to a mega-church, the back row in a small church is practically within spitting distance of the preacher.

5. Genuinely-Experienced Childcare. Do you have small children? Do you care about them? Why let Buffy or Bianca watch your crumb cruncher while you worship? Why not trust them to the experienced, floppy-armed grannies that’ve raised more kids than a champion goat farmer?

Who better to make sure your young’uns act right and learn about Jesus than a few ladies who’ve washed out more than a few mouths with Ivory soap? [Disclaimer: Washing out mouths with soap is no longer approved]

6. Free Interactive Technology Museum. Bigger churches are all about the newest, most advanced technology. Smaller churches, on the other hand, rarely have the funds for regular upgrades.

Small churches are like free interactive technology museums where in some places you can listen to both the preacher AND the local radio station at the same time!

7. Food, Food, and More Food. Go to a large church and you’ll find plenty of opportunities to eat. They have Wednesday night meals, socials, finger foods, and all kinds of stuff before Sunday School (morning Bible study). Some large churches even have coffee bars and sit-down restaurants on campus!

But seriously, how does any of that compare to what a bunch of church ladies can whip up for homecoming dinner on the ground? You rarely see Mexican cornbread, turnip greens, or creamed corn in a mega-church.

8. It’s Your Community. Large churches – the ones with huge TV ministries and social programs – are made up of people from all over the place; small churches are filled with your neighbors.

It’s in the small, hometown churches where people learn to shoulder up to each other through the hard times; where a pastor will attend your child’s graduation; where the funerals and weddings are no charge; and where someone always notices when you’re not there.

Seriously, I have nothing against large churches – every pastor would love his church to be one! However, most churches average no more than 80 members, and they are where the majority of solid, faithful, salt-of-the-earth Christians still attend.

So, are small churches really “better” than big ones? That all depends on where God wants you.

But if you don’t want to get lost in the crowd – or in the parking lot – a small church might just be what you’re looking for.

May I suggest one? 

Bethlehem Baptist Church (est. 1790)
95 Bethlehem Church Road, Warthen, GA 31094 Sundays at 11 & 6, Wednesdays at 6:30

For the record, we do have a modern audio and security system. Just saying 🙂

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Filed under baptist, Church, ministry, worship

Hell, Fire, and Damnation?

Preaching

Have you ever heard of “hell, fire, and damnation preaching”? Or, maybe it should be spelled hell-fire and damnation.” I don’t know. Either way, the meaning is pretty much the same: it’s hardcore, old-fashioned, pulpit-whacking, snot-slinging, hankey-waving, chandelier-swinging preaching that unleashes the fear of righteous judgment. Haaaymen!

Well, that’s really not my style, for the most part. Believe me, I can do my fair share of pulpit banging, but I’m not the type to jump across the stage like the legendary evangelist Billy Sunday. I’m more like the picture of me in the sidebar of this blog; I usually keep both feet on the ground … usually.

That being said, what most people expect out of a Baptist preacher like me when preaching on the subject of Hell is the yelling, spitting, and pulpit banging associated with “hell, fire, and damnation,” not a heartfelt plea with a reasoned argument.

On the other hand, when pleading for the souls of those facing eternal damnation, shouldn’t a man have a right to get emotional?

Jesus Believed

Today (Sunday, 02/02/2020), I preached a sermon on Hell. The title of the sermon was “If Jesus Believed In Hell, So Should We.”

Many people refuse to accept Christianity because of the doctrine of hell. Just the thought of a place of eternal judgment has led some to walk away from the faith, even to judge God as immoral or evil. The thought of a literal Hell was so repugnant to Charles Darwin that he wrote the following:

“Beautiful as is the morality of the New Testament, it can be hardly denied that its perfection depends in part on the interpretation which we now put on metaphors and allegories.

But I was very unwilling to give up my belief… Thus disbelief crept over me at a very slow rate, but was at last complete. The rate was so slow that I felt no distress, and have never since doubted even for a single second that my conclusion was correct. I can indeed hardly see how anyone ought to wish Christianity to be true; for if so the plain language of the text seems to show that the men who do not believe, and this would include my Father, Brother and almost all of my friends, will be everlastingly punished.

And this is a damnable doctrine.”― Charles Darwin, The Autobiography of Charles Darwin, 1809–82

Then there was Bertrand Russell, the philosopher who could not accept Christianity, believe it or not, because of Jesus!

“There is one very serious defect to my mind in Christ’s moral character, and that is that He believed in hell. I do not myself feel that any person who is really profoundly humane can believe in everlasting punishment. Christ certainly as depicted in the Gospels did believe in everlasting punishment, and one does find repeatedly a vindictive fury against those people who would not listen to His preaching…” – Bertrand Russell, Why I am not a Christian, 1927

Yes, Jesus DID believe in a literal place where the condemned spend an eternity in torment. Shocking, isn’t it?

So Should We

So, it only stands to reason that if Jesus – the Author and Finisher of our faith, the Word of God made flesh, the Way, the Truth, and the Life – believed and taught that there was a place called Hell, we should believe Him. Are you with me?

Therefore, even though I was in pain and taking meds for a broken and infected molar, and even though my tongue was hurting because I had severely bitten it on the same broken tooth, with all the passion and energy I could muster – but without jumping over anything – I preached what Jesus preached.

Hell is real, and you don’t want to go there.

Click on the picture for a link to the sermon.

Feel free to share your thoughts. 

 

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Filed under Christianity, Future, Life/Death, Preaching, Theology