Tag Archives: Christianity

Leaving a Middle-Georgia Pastorate

When in ministry, full-time or not, there are moments when we must move from one field to another. Sometimes it’s planned and orderly, while other times we find ourselves making that move unexpectedly, or at least sooner than we planned. However, the one encouraging truth for those who love God and are called according to His purpose is that “all things work together for good.”

It’s a Romans 8:28 day every day!

Regardless, moving from one place to another is never easy, especially when you’ve grown to love the people and the place where you’ve been serving. That’s the current situation facing my wife and me.

The Ups and Downs

For the last three years (three years and six weeks, to be exact), we have been living and ministering in Warthen, GA at Bethlehem Baptist Church. The last three years have been anything but normal, but I do believe that’s been part of what has endeared us to the area. It was so nice to experience a genuinely small-town atmosphere, especially during COVID.

But don’t misunderstand me, there are downsides to living and ministering in a small community. For one, having to drive an hour and a half to go to the hospital or to a doctor for anything other than a sniffle got a little old. My wife and I would schedule our appointments and shopping on the same day so that we wouldn’t have to make multiple trips . . . three hours on the road for one appointment was insanity.

Another downside is the simple fact that everyone in a small community either knows everyone else or they’re related in some way. This makes talking with someone in secret nearly impossible. And for the love of all that’s civil, NEVER say anything bad about somebody unless you want everyone to know.

But everyone knowing everyone is also a sweet and wholesome thing, too! Sure, the slightest misspoken word can bring all hades down on one’s head, but everyone being in everyone else’s business can also prove beneficial when times are hard. The willingness to help each other out of a jam is not something you find as often in larger communities.

A Special Breed

However, when it comes to pastoring a small church in a small community, it takes a special breed of person to succeed. Evidently, I’m not that kind of person.

Small churches in small, rural communities more often desire a pastor who:

  • assumes the role of fun uncle, wise grandfather, or ever-present brother-in-law who stops by unannounced to see what’s for dinner
  • is always soft-spoken and deliberate with his words, never blunt
  • charms the non-attending church members into returning
  • says the most comforting things at all funerals (yes, even for the heathen)
  • has a working understanding of all outdoor activities, including, but not limited to, hunting, fishing, trucks, factory work, grilling, the military life, chainsaws, and deep-frying turkeys
  • and rarely preaches Greek and Hebrew-free sermons that are longer than 25 minutes.

So, does that mean that I’m not called to the pastorate if I’m not like the gentle shepherd above? Heavens, no!

Granted, if I’m to be honest, being told more than once that I’m not the “best pastor” led to some depressing days. Honestly, it stung. I even found myself doing some self-re-evaluations.

The conclusion was that yes, I’m called; I’m just different.

My Calling

Official George S. Patton portrait

I sometimes think of the World War 2 generals like Eisenhower and Patton. If you know your history, General Dwight D. Eisenhower and General George S. Patton were both super patriotic military geniuses, but their personalities couldn’t have been more different. One was a calm, calculated, diplomatic leader whose gifts and abilities led him to be selected as the Allied Supreme Commander during WWII. The other was a complicated, often eccentric, warrior who loathed cowardice and felt destined for glory on the field of battle.

I might be more of a Patton than an Eisenhower, just without the cursing and all the reincarnation beliefs. However, if there was any general with which I would aspire to be compared to, it would be General Robert E. Lee, a man of utmost loyalty and conviction who led an army of men willing to follow him into the mouth of hell itself. He was both a warrior AND a gentleman.

But I’m not called to be a general.

My calling is to preach and teach the Word of God without apology or intimidation. More than an itinerate evangelist, my calling extends to laying doctrinal foundations on which can be built the solid and grounded faiths which can withstand the strongest storms of life. So, this kind of teaching and preaching requires time with a congregation and cannot be achieved through one or two series of sermons.

I’m a Stirrer

What’s more, when I first arrived at Bethlehem Baptist, it wasn’t long before one of our deacons gave me the nickname of “Spoon”. . . because I had the tendency to “stir things up.” It wasn’t that I tried to cause problems or move too quickly; it was just my personality. As much as I believe in tradition, “the way things have always been” can be the enemy of souls and the waster of precious, irreplicable time.

When things are left to sit and settle for too long, the ingredients separate and lose their combined effectiveness. Sometimes stirring or shaking things up involves nothing more than reawakening the inherent abilities already present. Remember what Paul told Timothy?

Wherefore I put thee in remembrance that thou stir up the gift of God, which is in thee by the putting on of my hands.

2 Timothy 1:6

And let’s not forget the words of Peter.

Yea, I think it meet, as long as I am in this tabernacle, to stir you up by putting you in remembrance . . .
This second epistle, beloved, I now write unto you; in both which I stir up your pure minds by way of remembrance . . .

2 Peter 1:13; 3:1

Please don’t misunderstand me, I think it is important for every God-called pastor to show love and compassion to his flock by being there for them through the ups and downs, the joys and sorrows of life. However, there is a reason that in Acts chapter 6 the infant Church in Jerusalem was instructed to select the first official deacons. I like the way it reads in the following translation.

So the Twelve called a meeting of all the believers. They said, “We apostles should spend our time teaching the word of God, not running a food program. And so, brothers, select seven men who are well respected and are full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will give them this responsibility. Then we apostles can spend our time in prayer and teaching the word.”

Acts 6:2-4 NLT

Note, the apostles had no problem “running a food program” in the beginning. It only became a problem when it began to take away from their primary responsibilities: prayer and teaching the Word.

How We’ll All Be Happy

Don’t expect me to show up to your home unannounced.

Don’t expect me to visit you in the hospital if I don’t know you’re there.

Don’t expect me to stalk you and show up uninvited to all your activities. Invite me and I will come!

I mean, seriously, do you REALLY want me showing up when you least expect it?

That’s a job for a deacon 😉

Therefore, give me a place where I can pray, study, teach and preach the inerrant, all-sufficient Word of God, or as the apostle Paul would say, “the whole gospel,” and I will have found my happy place.

And I think you’ll be happy with me, too.

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Filed under Bethlehem Baptist Church, ministry, Preaching

My SECOND Watch Review: A Mission Opportunity

The Unknown

Folks, I don’t know if I will ever come close to even scratching the surface of the level of popularity others have gained over the last few years, but doing watch reviews for YouTube is fun!

I honestly don’t know how much of an impact I can make in such a crowded field, but it can’t hurt to throw my own 2 cents-worth of an opinion into the mix of decision making.

Will I become a star? I highly doubt it. Will I get monetized? Probably not. But will I have fun and make new friends as I talk watches and point people to the One who created time? Absolutely!

The Known

There’s a lot I don’t know, but I do know one thing: if I don’t do anything, I won’t make any kind of difference.

You see, I can point you all to multiple examples of where just being involved and vocal on Facebook and Instagram have led to Christian friendships and gospel conversations. I believe the same thing can be done on YouTube.

Most watch reviewers have separate channels dedicated for such. However, I’m going to do things a little differently. Instead of starting a whole new YouTube channel for my watch review videos, I’m going to include them on my personal YouTube channel – the one with all the Sunday morning sermons.

You see, if someone wants to receive notifications of my watch videos, they will also receive updates when I upload other videos, including live and recorded sermons. So, tell me, considering the popularity of watch review channels, some of which get hundreds of thousands of views, don’t you think it’s worth me sharing my thoughts about those ticking time pieces every once in a while?

I certainly do!

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Filed under hobbies, watches, Witnessing

Doctrine of Separation Anxiety

So many destructive teachings are nothing more than corruptions of actual truth.  One of those is the Doctrine of Separation, and I believe it’s doing more harm than good.

The Missionary

A while back I visited a church where a missionary was speaking.  I really enjoyed hearing what he had to say, but was disappointed with his prayer card.  Listed on the back, along with his statement of beliefs, was the “doctrine of separation.”

Practiced within the more independent and fundamental branches of Christianity, the Doctrine of Separation is mainly derived from 2 Corinthians 6:17: 

” Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you…”

The idea is that if one group does not agree with another in all areas, then association is considered sinful, or at least liberal.

Ironically, during his sermon the missionary spoke of how good it was to be able to talk to a Charismatic believer in Mongolia.  He spoke of how good it was, in a land where few missionaries frequented, to find anyone to talk to that was a Christian.  But when it came to working together… that was a different story.

In Romania

Years ago, in 1992, I was given the opportunity to travel to Romania for a month.  Long story short, in order to do some first-time evangelical work in a small village, two other young men and myself were blessed to find a young interpreter who wanted to help us.

Actually, the teenage interpreter was helping a Pentecostal church group which was rebuilding grain silos during the day. When he was free in the evening, he helped us go out and distribute Bibles, tracts, and even witness and preach.  He even helped us make friends with the Pentecostal group.

Ultimately, this unexpected encounter led to unplanned cooperation, and the Church of God group paid the interpreter so he could work with us Baptists to get out the Gospel! Because of this, around 80 souls came to accept Christ as their Saviour in one week!

Back in the USA

When I got back to the U.S., thoughts crossed my mind about how Baptist missionaries could develop ways to work together with other Christian missionaries in third-world countries, especially where the work was great.  Pooling local resources and manpower for mutual benefit seemed something totally logical to me… but not to BIMI, the mission agency with which I had traveled.

Unlike Southern Baptist missionaries, Independent Baptist missionaries have to raise their own funds to reach the field.  To me it seemed that being able to work with other Christians to accomplish like goals was a no-brainer, but not according to the Doctrine of Separation to which BIMI held true, as do most Independent Baptists with which I have been acquainted.

Cooperation

The belief that Christians cannot work together, worship together, or evangelize together to reach a common desired goal is crazy.  There are areas that make Baptists (of which I am) different from other denominations, and rightfully so.  These differences, however, are more often than not of little eternal significance.

Baptists believe in baptism by submersion, for example, while Presbyterians normally do not.  Is that worth saying that when it comes to winning the lost for Christ that we must remain separate in all things?  Even if a friend of mine is a Calvinist (which I am not), does that mean that it’s wrong to walk down a street with him as we both preach salvation through Jesus alone?  I like what article XIV of the 2000 edition of the Baptist Faith and Message has to say on the subject:

Members of New Testament churches should cooperate with one another in carrying forward the missionary, educational, and benevolent ministries for the extension of Christ’s Kingdom.  Christian unity in the New Testament sense is spiritual harmony and voluntary cooperation for common ends by various groups of Christ’s people.  Cooperation is desirable between the various Christian denominations, when the end to be attained is itself justified, and when such cooperation involves no violation of conscience or compromise of loyalty to Christ and His Word as revealed in the New Testament.”

When it comes to the legalists and the Pharisaical crowd that promotes separation to the extent of mutual exclusion, finger pointing and self-glorification (i.e., “I am right with God and you are not, because you don’t believe the same as me.”), maybe isolation isn’t that bad.

More people than not, I truly believe, think that working together for the greater good of the Kingdom is biblical.  Only a small minority of so-called “fundamentalists” within the Christian faith feel otherwise.  However, the problem is not so much that we believe that working together is good as long as there is no compromise, it’s getting us to actually DO it.  Let the “separatists” stay separate if they wish, but let the rest of us unite, where possible, and do the work of the Body of Christ.

Say what you will about the “herd mentality,” but it is the loners that the lions and wolves look for first.  There truly is strength in unity.

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Filed under baptist, Christian Unity, Independent Baptist, legalism, Uncategorized

Biblical Cooperation, It’s a Family Thing

Southern Baptists (I am one) believe that where there is no risk of theological compromise, we should seek to cooperate with fellow believers in Christ when seeking a common goal. We are supposed to be about doing the work of the Kingdom, not just our own church or denomination.

However, there are others who preach a “Doctrine of Separation” that forbids cooperation of any kind, even with members of the Body of Christ, when even the slightest difference is observed. It is with this unbiblical “Doctrine of Separation” that I take exception and want to dispel.

Therefore, I want to acquaint you with the following article I wrote in an effort to help promote biblical unity within the Church. It can also be found under a tab at the top of the main page.

Feel free to share the body of this post as you see fit. I simply ask that you include the source.


“The Doctrine of Separation Examined”
By: Anthony C. Baker, DMin

Introduction

During most major holidays, especially Christmas and Thanksgiving, it is customary for families to gather around a table to share a traditional meal. And, when looking around the typical table, it is not uncommon to find relatives, people who would normally never speak to each during the rest of the year, smiling and enjoying themselves. They do this because at the head of the table sits the patriarch or matron of the household, the one who brought them into the world. Out of respect for the parent, even the estranged siblings attempt to fellowship in peace. Sadly, this is not the case with many children of God.

The Doctrine of Separation, based on 2 Corinthians 6:17, has led many to avoid other believers, their brothers and sisters in Christ, despite the expressed desire of their elder Brother (Jesus) that they “be one” (John 17:11). Therefore, this paper will attempt to show that even though it is Christ’s desire for the family of God to be one, the doctrine of separation, as generally applied, is resulting in unnecessary, even destructive division, especially with Baptists. However, even though the author’s intent is to shed light on the divisive tendencies associated with the misuse of a particular teaching, in no way does he intend to promote the darkness-inspired synchronistic tendencies of the modern church; biblical unity within the family of God is the ultimate goal.

Definitions

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If one were to ask the average church member to define the Doctrine of Separation, or if one were to Google the term, the answers would initially be quite similar in nature. What most professing Christians believe is not much different from the rest of American society, simply because the term is associated with the oft-debated Establishment Clause within the first amendment to the United States Constitution.  There, the Constitution states that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion…” Therefore, when questioned, this is typically the first thing that comes to the mind of the average churchgoer. When asked if one is familiar with the Doctrine of Separation, if the response is “yes,” the definition is usually linked to the separation of church and state, a political issue.

However, there are some within the body of Christ that not only know how to define the Doctrine of Separation but take that definition to extremes. They use it to bolster a sectarian mindset which excludes from fellowship any that differ, even in the slightest way, and have gone to great lengths to separate from others who do not strictly observe certain “fundamentals” of the faith.

So, to begin with, let us look at some definitions. By doing that we may better be able to determine if the Doctrine of Separation is properly being applied by certain Baptists who refuse to co-operate with others.

What is the Doctrine of Separation? The Doctrine of Separation is a teaching based primarily on one verse found in 2 Corinthians. Below is the verse (17) in its immediate context.

“Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? And what communion hath light with darkness? [15] And what concord hath Christ with Belial? Or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? [16] And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? For ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in [them]; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. [17] Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate [emphasis added], saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean [thing]; and I will receive you (2 Cor 6:14-17 KJV).”

The idea is that in order to maintain a right relationship with God one must separate oneself, or “come out from among” anyone, or any organization, that would seem to be in accord, friends with, or even remotely associated the “unfruitful works of darkness.”

The Doctrine of Separation can be divided into two separate categories: ecclesiastical and personal. In order to understand how specific this doctrine can be, it might be helpful to read how one Independent Fundamental Baptist (IFB) church defined ecclesiastical and personal separation in its doctrinal statement published on its website.[1] The following is a word-for-word copy of their definitions, and it is typical of most Baptist separatists.

Ecclesiastical Separation. We believe that we must stand up against and separate from all Apostasy, Liberalism, Modernism, Ecumenism, Charismatic influences, Neo-Orthodoxy, Neo-Evangelicalism, and Neo-Fundamentalism, as well as all groups, mission boards, organizations, churches, and cults that would compromise, cooperate and fellowship with such that do not uphold the historic Christian fundamentals of the faith as expressed by the Bible. II Corinthians 6:14-7:1; I Thessalonians 1:9,10; II Timothy 3:1-5.

Personal Separation. We believe that every Christian is to keep himself unspotted from the world, and in so doing must deny various practices, sinful habits, and worldly dress; and that a proper standard and example must be raised to the lost world and to weaker Christians. James 1:27; I Peter 2:11; Romans 6:11-13.

Notice that the call to be separate must include separation from both groups and individuals. It calls for strict standards of conduct and dress, prohibitions against working with other denominations, and an implied understanding of what exactly is correct behavior. The problem that arises, however, is when certain practices, habits, and dress are dictated by the church, not a Spirit-led conscience freed by grace. One man’s standard must then be applied to another, thereby legalistically judging him either fit for fellowship or to be labeled as “liberal” or “modern.” The application of this doctrine can become very legalistic, and below are three concerns which should be brought out.

Issues of Concern

First, the issue that causes most concern with the author is that in no place does the above standards of separation make an exception for the fact that sometimes members of the same family do not always agree. To totally separate one’s self from other believers, only because they have a different understanding or conviction for what constitutes “worldly dress” or “sinful habits” is a sin in its self. So often members of churches that prohibit women from wearing pants, for example, look at others who do with contempt. They do so because they believe that their own “dress code” is less “spotted by the world,” and thereby spiritually superior to the one which would allow “modern” and “liberal” dress. The author can vividly remember times from his own past when, all because a particular pastor’s wife was seen wearing pants to an evening service, the offending pastor and wife were deemed “liberal” and “not right with God.”

Another problem with the above list is that it does not take into account that many churches that do subscribe to conventions and associations, which may be liberal, are still autonomous and actually hold to the key fundamentals of the Baptist faith. And this is a key issue. There are certain fundamental truths of Christianity which cannot afford to be compromised, for if they are, then the compromiser can no longer be considered an orthodox Christian. What are the fundamentals of the faith that are non-negotiable?  According to Ed Dobson, Ed Hindson, and Jerry Falwell, there are five fundamentals that are at the heart of Christian Fundamentalism: 1) the inspiration and infallibility of Scripture; 2) the deity of Christ (including His virgin birth); 3) the substitutionary atonement of Christ’s death; 4) the literal resurrection of Christ from the dead; and 5) the literal return of Christ in the Second Advent. Don’t the separatists understand that within the community they are trying to reach there may be a congregation from a different denomination which still holds true to the above fundamentals?

Thirdly, there is the interesting fact that the fifth fundamental, one of the key beliefs of orthodox Christianity, the belief in the literal return of Jesus Christ (the second coming; or as some would define it: the Rapture) was never used by Paul as a litmus test for fellowship. What many have never stopped to notice is that in two specific instances the Apostle Paul dealt with believers who thought that the resurrection had already taken place (see 1 Cor. 15:12; 2 Thess. 2:2-3). In neither of these situations, Paul encouraged separation. “The Corinthian Christians were told in a clear, unmistakable command to ‘remove the wicked man from among yourselves’ in their assembly,” said Robert Lightner in A Biblical Perspective on False Doctrine in reference to the man guilty of immorality in 1 Cor. 5:13.[2]  He went on to point out that the “saints at Thessalonica were told also to ‘keep aloof’ [withdraw, KJV] from every brother who leads an unruly life…” Yet, “interestingly when Paul wrote to the same Christians in Corinth and Thessalonica concerning two specific doctrines which were being denied…he did not command to separate.” Why is it, then, that if such a key fundamental was believed back then, and Paul did not command the church to separate, do fundamentalists find it necessary to break fellowship with and label “liberal” and “modernistic” those who have a different view of eschatology?

Baptist History

Baptists (especially those of the IFB persuasion) are famous/infamous for their sectarian, separatist stands. Yet, even though they may be the largest group and the one to be featured more predominately in this paper, they are not alone. Within every denomination of believers, there are separatists. As a matter of fact, there are more denominations of Christianity in America than anywhere else in the world, and many of them were formed when separation was thought the only means to preserve orthodoxy. Each of these groups claims a biblical mandate (2 Cor. 6:14-17) to “come out from among” those who seem to be going in the wrong direction. The problem, however, lies not only in the ability to define but in the application of the doctrine. A careful look at the Scripture passages they use, especially in light of other words from the Apostle Paul and Jesus, show that separation from members of the same family may be necessary in extreme cases, but every attempt should be made to maintain fellowship at the Father’s table.

Baptists have had a long history of separating on the basis of key doctrinal issues, and for this we owe them a great debt of gratitude. Long before arguments over dress codes and Bible translations, the Anabaptists put their lives on the line over the issues of baptism, the mass, and an ecclesiastical, state-run church. They were the first separatists, for no longer could they accept the position of the Reformers. Unlike great men such as Luther, Calvin, and Zwingli, the Anabaptists would have no part of a church that taught unbiblical doctrine. They felt the state church was a fallen church, and from such only separation was appropriate. In February of 1527, in a document called The Schleitheim Confession, Michael Sattler wrote:

“We are agreed [as follows] on separation: a separation shall be made from them and from the wickedness which the devil planted in the world: in this manner, simply that we shall not have fellowship with them [the wicked] and not run with them in the multitude of their abominations . . . To us then the command of the Lord is clear when He calls upon us to be separate from the evil and thus he will be our God and we shall be His sons and daughters.”[3]

In modern times, Independent Baptist churches were founded in the second half of the twentieth century as a response to a growing trend toward liberalism and ecumenism that was begun a century earlier by men such as Hegel (1770-1831), F. C. Baur (1792-1862), Frederick Schleiermacher (1768-1834), and Ernst Troeltsch (1865-1923).[4] No longer was there a mother church from which to separate, as did the Anabaptists from the Reformed church (reformed, but not completely separated from the ecclesiastical ways of the Catholic Church). Now the call was sent out for all those who held true to the Fundamentals to separate themselves from those within. Those with liberal leanings were to be marked and avoided (Rom. 16:17-19). The peak of resistance toward modernism from “fundamentalists” came in the 1940’s and 1950’s with the rise of the Billy Graham and the New Evangelicalism. It was at this time so many militant steps were made toward separating from the world, worldliness, and any modern approach toward evangelism, especially if it involved working together with those who may have differed on a belief or two, especially when it came to music and Bible versions. Billy Graham did, and still does bear the brunt of many senseless attacks.

Billy Graham, the Enemy

If a poll were taken today asking people who they thought was the most important and influential religious leader of the last fifty years, one name would probably rise to the top – Dr. Billy Graham. Actually, the Barna Group recently did conduct a study of Americans and found that nearly twenty percent of adults identified Reverend Billy Graham as the “most influential Christian leader in the U. S. today.”[5] Ironically, however, it was Billy Graham, along with other Christian leaders such as J. Vernon McGee, Howard Hendricks, and W. A. Criswell (all conservative giants), that biblical separatists accused of “building bridges of compromise and apostasy by their middle-of-the-roadism.”[6]  Was Dr. Graham perfect? Did he make the best judgment calls in every situation? Of course not, and pity the man who thinks he is strong enough to stand in the places Dr. Graham has stood without succumbing to the flesh. Yet, it was considered unconscionable for Christians to try new methods of outreach, or work with leaders of other denominations, in order to reach greater crowds with the life-changing gospel of Jesus Christ.

No, true to their heritage, fundamental, independently-minded Baptists could only see a devaluing of key, non-negotiable doctrines in favor of a more ecumenical approach to evangelism. So, from these men, especially Dr. Graham, fundamentalist Baptists broke fellowship. Even today, after all the souls that have been won to the Lord, there are Independent Baptists who still think Billy Graham is a liberal enemy of the church. For example, in 1992 this writer personally witnessed a Baptist pastor chastise a Romanian couple in their home (both of whom lost their engineering careers as a result of being publically baptized for their faith in Jesus) for nothing more than having an LP recording of a Billy Graham crusade. This arrogant American pastor would have never sat across the same table with Dr. Graham, or fellowshipped with those who did.

United Baptists

Not all Baptists have sought to separate, however. Some have sought to come together in unity for the cause of Christ. It is common knowledge that there is strength in numbers, and when it comes to Christian congregations, co-operation can lead to expanded ministry and encouragement. Even though the IFB churches in America have gained a reputation for being separatists, other Baptists have put aside minor differences for the common good, much like the family that seeks peace at the dinner table for the Father’s sake.

The Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) makes up the largest Protestant denomination in North America. But in Canada, there is the Convention of Atlantic Baptist Churches who struggled for years before three separate denominations (the Maritime Convention of Maritime Baptists, the Free Baptists of New Brunswick, and the Free Baptists of Nova Scotia) formed the United Baptist Convention of the Maritime Provinces in 1906.  For a while, at least since the late 1800’s, many denominations had been pursuing unification, such as with the Canadian Baptists.[7] But there was and is a difference between the conventions, a difference worth noting. Baptists in America hold tenaciously to one of the most cherished fundamentals of Baptist doctrine, the autonomy of the local congregation. Canadian Baptists, on the other hand, possibly because of their monarchal heritage, allow the convention some control over the local congregation. For example, in order to be licensed and ordained to pastor a church in the NABC, the candidate must complete mandatory studies at a specific Canadian seminary, Acadia Divinity College.[8]

Most Independent Baptists consider conventions (like the SBC) to be unbiblical precisely because of their belief that all conventions assert control over local congregations. However, this is not the case with all, as seen above. For better or worse, many Christians felt that a unified Church was better than a divided one.  However, the practical result was a watering down of fundamental beliefs in order to keep from offending those seeking unity.  Strict standards of morality, which had been the norm for so long, were beginning to loosen; biblical inerrancy was being questioned, and mass evangelism was on the rise. The question of what was considered “essential and non-essential” came to the forefront of discussion. And even though attempts have been made by the author to co-operate in a community ministry with an IFB church, all efforts have failed. Because of the Doctrine of Separation, because it is believed unbiblical to co-operate with other believers who do not hold to all of the “fundamentals,” division continues.

Ecumenism

One of the great enemies of the Fundamentalists is Ecumenicalism. One of the big reasons, as could be inferred from previous reading, is that those who seek to unify the church as a whole, in many cases, want to compromise on key doctrines essential to Christianity, such as biblical inerrancy and the divinity of Christ. However, one ecumenical author made an astute observation that can tie directly into the discussion of “biblical separation.” In The Unfinished Reformation, Charles Morrison wrote how that he noticed a tendency by separatists to use the Bible to say what was “biblical” without actually proving it literally so. He said that “anything, however trivial or fantastic or commonplace, that one could dig out of the Bible by however ingenious a manipulation of its texts and words was claimed to be authorized by Christ, and was made constitutive of a church ‘founded on the Bible.’”[9]

Much of what divides believers and congregations is based on teachings supposedly founded on Scripture and considered “biblical,” yet, in reality, are only based on culture or personal opinion, or even worse, misinterpretation. One good example is the belief that a church “founded on the Bible” should expect its men to wear pants and its women to wear dresses. Anything different would be considered rebellion to God’s commands found in the Bible. Anyone found in rebellion should, therefore, be marked and avoided. Yet what does the Bible actually say? “The woman shall not wear that which pertaineth unto a man, neither shall a man put on a woman’s garment: for all that do so [are] abomination unto the LORD thy God” (Deut. 22:5). Here the Bible is used to enforce a cultural style. Nowhere does Moses say a woman should wear a dress and a man should wear pants. All it says is that the man and women should dress in ways that “pertaineth” to their respective gender. In other words, a woman should look like a woman, not a man, and vice versa.

Family of God

The family of God is much bigger than one denomination. Before there were conventions and associations, there was the church. Before the Anabaptists, the Calvinists, the Arminians, and the Modernists, there were believers who loved the Lord and worshipped in one accord. They weren’t known for their building programs or bus ministries. They didn’t split over the color of the carpet or whether or not the pews were padded; they just wanted to stay alive. Why is it that so many put such a high priority on denomination, rather than unity? Does unity have to be synonymous with compromise? What kind of compromise is it to dwell in peace with a brother or sister in the presence of a loved earthly parent, even when differences are known to exist? Does compromise for the sake of fellowship change relationship? If a stranger were to sit at the mensam gratias (Latin, “table of thanks”), would his presence at the meal change the blood flowing through his veins? No, it would not. And striving for unity in the family will not change the relation of the true child to that of the Father. Therefore, when and if we find a brother or sister in the same family of Christ, should differences we have, however striking, prohibit us from attempting to share in some common way?

In Chattanooga, Tennessee, the churches of like faith in one community have met together every year for a Thanksgiving service. The author has participated in these services on multiple occasions. However, what has been lacking is any participation from the local Independent Baptist churches. Their absence is always noticed, and the message received is that all who are gathering must be those who would “compromise, cooperate and fellowship with such that do not uphold the historic Christian fundamentals of the faith as expressed by the Bible.[10] Their conspicuous absence sends a message that says, “We are more spiritual than you.” Their continual refusal shows the community at large that denomination is more important than family, fellowship, and the opportunity to show the world that we can be one in the Spirit, for that is where genuine unity exists.

The Prayer of Jesus

Jesus made it very clear, as recorded in the book of John, that He wanted the world to see believers come together in love. In a special moment Jesus even spoke of Christians today when He said, “Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; that they all may be one; as thou, Father, [art] in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me” (John 17:20-21). Our unity within the family of Christ is to be a form of evangelism, “that the world may believe.” And how arrogant are we when, in the face of an actual prayer of Jesus, we say that fellowship is impossible? First, where did Jesus mention the name of any denomination or association? All he spoke of were those in his presence and them “which shall believe on [Him] through their word.” Second, has there ever been a prayer of Jesus unanswered? Did Jesus pray “that they all may be one” in vain? The day may come when He has to force us to drop our labels and institutional names in favor of a discrete and secret meeting place underground. There, with no $20,000 sign flashing out front, the true family of God may have to get back to the way it was before the King James Version was printed.

Early Church Example

Francis Schaff, in volume two of History of the Christian Church, relates the following description of a people unconcerned with denominations, unaware of the “fundamentals,” but always ready to live in such a way that others knew they were not of this world. Quoting an unknown author describing the church in the early part of the second century, he writes:

The dwell in the Grecian or barbarian cities, as the case may be; they follow the usage of the country in dress, food, and the other affairs of life. Yet they present a wonderful and confessedly paradoxical conduct. They dwell in their own lands, but as strangers. They take part in all things, as citizens; and they suffer all things, as foreigners . . . They are in the flesh, but do not live after the flesh. They live upon the earth, but are citizens of heaven . . .They love all, and are persecuted by all. They are unknown, and yet they are condemned . . .They lack in all things, and in all things abound . . .They are cursed, and they bless.[11]

Why is it that we cannot try to emulate that kind of spirit? Does anyone seriously think the same description could apply to the Christian church of today?

Thankfully, there are those within the Baptist church who understand that the prayer of Jesus for unity was not just words. Thankfully, there are some out there that are striving to work with believers across denominational lines in an effort to reach the lost and dying, while at the same time recognizing there are doctrinal differences which must be taken into account. These people are not in the business of compromising Truth; they are in the business of fulfilling the Great Commission. One such group of people is the Southern Baptists.

Conclusion

If more IFB churches could be made aware of how conservative the SBC has become, maybe they would stop labeling them as liberal and start working more closely together. It is in the Baptist Faith and Message of 2000 that an encouraging statement is made which tempers the Doctrine of Separation. Under section fourteen, entitled “Cooperation,” the following words can be found:

Members of New Testament churches should cooperate with one another in carrying forward the missionary, educational, and benevolent ministries for the extension of Christ’s Kingdom. Christian unity in the New Testament sense is spiritual harmony and voluntary cooperation for common ends by various groups of Christ’s people [emphasis added]. Cooperation is desirable between the various Christian denominations, when the end to be attained is itself justified, and when such cooperation involves no violation of conscience or compromise of loyalty to Christ and His Word as revealed in the New Testament.[12]

Is this not what Jesus wants? Is this not the way the family of Christ should conduct its self? Oh that the body of Christ would come together in true, biblical unity! Even the “black sheep” of the family are welcome at the Father’s table.

One more thing…

Many who hold to a legalistic view of the Doctrine of Separation are regularly guilty of hypocrisy. How could this be? Consider the fact that many of the “separated” churches have active members, deacons, and pastors who are fully-participating members of fraternal organizations, such as the Masons and Shriners. The irony is that according to the writings of one of the “great” leaders and teachers of Freemasonry, Albert Pike (1859-1891), Christians regularly enter into binding agreements, oaths, and common works, even using the term “brother,” with men from any number of other religions, including that of the eastern cults! He said, “We belong to no one creed or school. In all religions there is a basis of Truth; in all there is pure Morality. And all that teach the cardinal tenets of Masonry we respect; all teachers and reformers of mankind we admire and revere.[13]

Family should come before fraternity, the Church before the Lodge; yet, how quickly some will deny fellowship with those clothed in the righteous of Christ, preferring unity with those wrapped in an apron.

Again, how ironic.

Footnotes

[1] Heritage Baptist Church, “Declaration of Faith,” http://www.heritageministries.com/doctrine.html

[2] Robert P. Lightner, “A Biblical Perspective on False Doctrine,” Bibliotheca Sacra (March, 1985), 20

[3] Ernest D. Pickering, Biblical Separation: The Struggle for a Pure Church (Schaumburg, Ill.: Regular Baptist Press, 1979), 52.

[4] George W. Dollar, A History of Fundamentalism in America (Greenville: Bob Jones Press, 1973), 8-11

[5] http://www.barna.org/culture-articles/536-us-lacks-notable-christian-leaders

[6] George W. Dollar, 280

[7] Daniel C. Goodwin, “Maritime Baptist Union and the Power of Regionalism,” Journal of Ecumenical Studies, 2004.

[8] http://www.baptist-atlantic.ca/documents/ProceduresForOrdinationBrochure.pdf

[9] Charles Clayton Morrison, The Unfinished Reformation (New York: Harper and Brothers, 1953), 209.

[10] Heritage Baptist Church

[11] Francis Schaff, Ante-Nicene Christianity: From the Death of John the Apostle to Constantine the Great [A.D. 100–325], Vol. 2 of History of the Christian Church (Peabody: Hendrickson Publishers, 2002), 9-10

[12] SBC, Baptist Faith and Message, 2000 (Nashville)

[13] Albert Pike, Morals and Dogma of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite of Freemasonry, (Richmond: L. H. Jenkins) 311

Bibliography

Dobson, Ed, Ed Hinson, and Jerry Falwell, The Fundamentalist Phenomenon: The Resurgence of Conservative Christianity, 2nd ed. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1986.

Dollar, George W. The Fight for Fundamentalism: American Fundamentalism, 1973–1983. Sarasota: Dollar, George W., 1983.

Goodwin, Daniel C. “Maritime Baptist Union and the Power of Regionalism.” Journal of Ecumenical Studies 41.2 (2004): 125+. Religion & Philosophy Collection. Web. 8 Apr. 2012.

Heritage Baptist Church. “Declaration of Faith.” http://www.heritageministries.com/doctrine.html (accessed April 9, 2012).

Lightner, Robert P. “A Biblical Perspective on False Doctrine.” Bibliotheca Sacra 142, no. 565 (January 1, 1985): 16­­­–22. ATLA Religion Database with ATLASerials, EBSCOhost (accessed March 17, 2012).

Morrison, Charles Clayton. The Unfinished Reformation. New York: Harper and Brothers, 1953.

Pickering, Ernest D.. Biblical Separation: The Struggle for a Pure Church. Schaumburg: Regular Baptist Press, 1979.

Pike, Albert. Morals and Dogma of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite of Freemasonry. Richmond: L. H. Jenkins, Inc., 1960

Schaff, Philip. Ante-Nicene Christianity: From the Death of John the Apostle to Constantine the Great [A.D. 100–325], Vol. 2 of History of the Christian Church. Peabody: Hendrickson Publishers, 2002.

Southern Baptist Convention. “The Baptist Faith and Message.” http://www.sbc.net/bfm/bfm2000.asp (accessed March 18, 2012).



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Filed under baptist, Bethlehem Baptist Church, Christian Unity, Relationships and Family

“My Dad Can Beat Up Your Dad” – a sermon

The following sermon was preached at Bethlehem Baptist, Warthen, GA, on Father’s Day, 2022.

Welcome and Intro

Good morning and happy Father’s Day!

Thankful to Be a Father

I can’t speak for anyone else, but I just want to say that I am thankful to be a father, and I’m so thankful that God gave me a good father on earth. My earthly father has gone on to be with the Lord, so I can’t introduce you to him. But if I could…my goodness, I am sure you would love him!

But today, I’m not going to reminisce about my earthly dad. Today’s gonna be about my Abba Father, God. …Opening Prayer

You know, I am so grateful that the Lord made me a dad. He gave me 3 beautiful daughters, two of which are here today…

But being a father has helped me to better understand, even if just by a little bit, the sacrifice that God made when He allowed His Son, Jesus, to be crucified.

Before I was a dad, it was impossible for me to understand a father’s heart. Therefore, it was impossible for me to understand the feeling of one of your children disobeying. It was impossible for me to understand what it feels like when children break your heart. It was impossible to understand the pain of having to discipline.

I was the type who would say “My children will NEVER do that” … or something like, “If my kid ever talked to me like that, well, I’d…” Then my daughters came along… That kind of changed things. Parenting is a lot different in person!

Being Tuff!

But when my girls were young, it was my responsibility to convince them that I was tough and could beat up anybody, particularly anyone they might date. As a matter of fact, for a long time I had the stipulation that before I’d give them away to some punk, I’d have to spar – fight – with the guy, first.

I don’t know how seriously they took me, but I do know that at least Katie told a few guys about it.

But let me tell you, I wasn’t joking! I felt like, if nothing else, it would be good to see what kind of guy would be watching over them when I wasn’t around. I guess the only reason Gus and I never sparred was because, “I pitied the fool!

I mean, he’s such a nice, caring, loving young man – why would I risk hurting him and scaring away the best offer she got?

But the whole reason I’m saying this is not because I want to talk about how tough I am… or what kind of award-winning fighter I was… how many boards I could break… how many people I sent away in tears …

NO! I brought all this up so that I could [dovetail] into a real “tough father comparison,” the kind we all experienced at some point when we were children…

“My dad can beat up your dad!”

There was the story of three boys talking about how talented their dads were. The first boy said, “My dad just wrote a few words on a piece of paper, sent it away, then somebody sent him $20 for it – they called it a poem.”

To that the second boy replied, “Oh, really? Well, my dad wrote 100 words, and somebody paid him $50 for it. They called it a story.”

A third boy heard all this and spoke up. “If you think that’s something, my dad’s got both your dad’s beat. He wrote some words down on a single sheet of paper and read it in church. It took 6 men to collect all the money.”

How many times did you ever get into something like that? It could’ve been that your dad was bigger, tougher, richer, smarter, faster, stronger, or whatever. Or, if you missed out on it as a kid, maybe you grew up and played the same game with other adults – my child is smarter than yours, or my child is more popular than yours.

Well, whether you played that game when you were young or not, that’s EXACTLY what we are going to be doing today!

Did you know that everybody has a father? I’m not talking about a man here on Earth – I’m talking about a different kind of father, a SPIRITUAL FATHER…one you are bound to take after, regardless.

I’d like us first to look at 3 different passages.

  • Galatians 4:6 – And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father.
  • Ephesians 1:2-3 – Grace be to you, and peace, from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ. Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ:
  • 1 John 2:1 – My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous:

Now, let’s look at the words of Jesus in John 8:44…

  • John 8:44 – Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it.

Everybody in this world has a father, and it’s either God or Satan. There are no other choices. You are either a child of God, or you’re a child of the Devil. You have either been born again and adopted into the family of God, OR you are still lost without Christ, a stranger and an enemy of God.

Now, I get it…some people don’t like their fathers and refuse to acknowledge them. For example, you might be unsaved, still lost, still bound for a sinner’s hell, but you say, Preacher, I’m not like my daddy the Devil. No, God is not my Father, but I’m still a good person!

My daddy (the Devil) has a horrible reputation: he

  • hurts people,
  • destroys lives,
  • lies, swindles, steals,
  • causes illness, abuses women, kills babies,
  • gets people hooked on drugs, starts wars, and all kinds of stuff… but NOT ME! I’m nothing like him!

But what did Jesus say in John 8:44? You are “of your father the devil, and the lust of your father you will do.” As long as you remain in Satan’s family, you are going to be like him.

But you know what, no matter how bad a person can be, there’s always gonna be somebody who defends them. It’s like, “I know my son robbed that liquor store, but he’s a good kid! He didn’t deserve to get shot!

And no matter how bad a father can be to his children, there are still going to be those who want to play the “my dad can beat up your dad” game.

The World ain’t no different.

So, let’s go there!

“Preacher, your Abba Daddy ain’t nothin’! My daddy can beat up your Father any day of eternity!”

Really? Is that so?

Yeah! And I can prove it, too! Even from your so-called Bible.

Really?? OK, then, prove it! Tell us how BIG and BAD your daddy is.

Well, 1st of all, He waged war in Heaven! He took a third of all the angels away with him, then he destroyed God’s perfect little paradise on Earth and got his first perfect people to sin.

Now, he is so powerful that he commands those angels (demons) to make people do whatever he wants, like possess people…

  • Matthew 8:28 KJV – And when he was come to the other side into the country of the Gergesenes, there met him two possessed with devils, coming out of the tombs, exceeding fierce, so that no man might pass by that way.

He possesses people all the time. And when he does, he can make them hurt themselves, cut themselves, have convulsions, blind them, or simply make them crazy.

He destroys marriages, breaks hearts of parents, starves children, makes leaders greedy, and talks millions of people your Father loves into suicide.

Ever heard of slavery, genocide, torture, poison, pornography, rape, abuse, murder, human trafficking, concentration camps, war? All my daddy’s ideas!

He can also influence nations, fix elections, and offer every kind of pleasure you can think of. He even offered Jesus prestige and power – He could have been ruler of the world! – if He would have only worshipped him.

Yeah, preacher man, I’d say my dad could beat up your weak, harp-playing, cheek-turning, wuss of a Father. For crying out loud, He couldn’t even stop humans from killing his Son! What a loser!

What would you say to that? I think I’d say something like this…

I’ve got to admit, Beelzebubba, that’s pretty impressive. I mean, seriously, if I were nothing more than a fool, I’d be convinced your daddy is invincible. He sounds scary, that’s for sure.

However, I’m still confident – yes, I am persuaded – I know that I know that I know my Heavenly Father can kick your lying daddy’s rear.

As a matter of fact, it wouldn’t be the first time, and it won’t be the last!

Oh yeah?? OH, YEAH!

The Holy Comeback

First things first: Let’s start with THE BEGINNING. As Bill Cosby famously said, “I brought you into this world, I can take you out.” Your daddy wouldn’t even be here without my Daddy creating him! He even gave him his first job! It was a good one, too, but your loser dad went and messed it up when he got a big head and said, “I will ascend unto heaven, I will set my throne above the stars of God...”

What an idiot!

2nd, That war in heaven you talked about? The only reason your daddy left with a third of the angels was because he got his tail handed to him. Jesus said in Luke 10:18, “I beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven.”  Gotta wonder how bad that hurt.

3rd, Yeah, your dad DID contribute to Adam and Eve sinning – got to give him that. But did you know that my Daddy was always a step ahead of yours?

A long, long time before your daddy played dress up in the garden, even before time began, he knew the moves Satan would make. It’s almost like my Father could look into the future, like He had a time machine, or something…but it’s better than that! He’s not limited by time and spaceHe created it!

Now that I think about it, it’s no wonder King David wrote so many songs about my Daddy, because He is worthy to be praised! How wonderful are all His works!

You know, a long time ago, your daddy came before my daddy and accused this poor guy named Job. Your dad couldn’t stand him because he seemed so perfect, so he sorta made a bet that he could make my Father’s servant curse Him. That’s when my Daddy came up with a phrase that Clint Eastwood used: “Go ahead, make my day.

Your old man couldn’t even whip a broken down, boil-covered, poverty-stricken human! Job NEVER gave in because even he knew your daddy wasn’t worth it. LOSER!

Now, granted, Job didn’t have it easy when your dad was messing with him, so he did have a lot of questions. But that’s when my Father gave him a lesson in reality. You know what reality is, don’t you? You don’t even know what a woman is!

In the book of Job, chapters 40 and 41, we read how…

  1. He laid the foundations of the Earth
  2. He created the measurements (the standards) to measure it.
  3. He hung the foundations of the earth on nothing.
  4. He shut up the seas
  5. He can make garments from clouds and cloth out of darkness
  6. He told the waves where to stop and go no further
  7. He causes the morning – He creates each sunrise
  8. He has walked the depths of the seas
  9. He opened the gates of death and hell
  10. He knows where light goes and darkness hides when the light comes
  11. He owns the treasures of snow and hail that fall to earth
  12. He cut channels for the overflow of rain and maid paths for the lightning.
  13. He causes it to rain
  14. He can even control the effects of the constellations; or even cause them to fly apart if He wants to
  15. He can number the clouds without weather radar.


Let’s get down to it, OK? Your dad is a conniving, selfish, prideful, hateful, pervert who lies about everything, including himself.

He probably never told you that my Father has never lost a fight and NEVER will. He has prepared a place for those He loves – His family – but He’s also prepared a place for your daddy.

The Battle Won

You see, your daddy was already beaten up by my Daddy a long time ago. It was the biggest beat down the world had ever seen! It was simply beautiful!!

It went down like this… My Dad came into the world that your daddy thought he controlled and was born as a tiny, week, helpless little baby child. Then, He walked around for 33 years as an easy target, but from the time He was a baby till He was 33, your loser daddy couldn’t lay a hand on Him. Not one! Then, to make it look more of a fair fight, my daddy held open his arms and said, “Go ahead, hit me.” Your dad hit and hit and hit. He beat my Daddy so badly that people said you couldn’t even tell He was human. Then, in what seemed like a fatal move, He simply laid down for the count.

Oh, my goodness, you should have seen the celebration. Out of the whole world, only 200 or so mourned my Daddy. The rest of the world and all the evil minions of your messed up dad partied like there was no tomorrow. But the thing is, your dad fell for my Dad’s plan and took the bait. And the best part of it all was that since my Dad wrote the rules for the fight, going down for the count meant the clock started at 3 days! 3 days later my Dad snatched the keys to death, hell, and the grave out of your dad’s quivering hands and walked victorious out of the temporary holding place they called a tomb.

Don’t you get it? For what, like 4,000 years or so, your dad planned and schemed to kill my Dad. He thought he was so smart. But your dad got played, Bruh! My Daddy beat up your daddy like no daddy has ever been beat before! And guess what, He’s going to keep beating him every time he comes around!

Illustration of my earthly Dad coming to my aid at K-Mart.

Back around 1990 I went out with a girl. I only went out with her once, and she never once mentioned that she had a boyfriend at the time. Like I said, we went on one date, no more, and all we did that night was go get something to eat and walk around a park and talk (which is when I realized I didn’t want a second date).

Well, fast forward to when I was at work the next day (I worked at K-Mart). While there, the girl’s brother came up to my counter in the sporting goods section and warned me that her boyfriend was really angry and was going to come by and beat my a**. Supposedly, he was a big guy. So what did I do? I picked up the phone and called my dad – the ex-bodybuilder, weightlifter, ex-moonshiner, and reserve Sheriff’s deputy who carried a Colt .357 magnum everywhere.

Funny how that when my daddy came to where I worked and sat in the parking lot, I wasn’t afraid of some bully one bit! All I had to do was make the call.

Church, don’t run in fear from the Devil; he’s just a lying blowhard who’s already been defeated by our Father in Heaven. However, when Satan starts threatening you, remember Who’s on your side! He’s always there.

1 John 4:4 – Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world.

Let us pray.

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“One Man’s Sunset; Another Man’s Dawn”+31

Over a two-week period, just over 31 years ago, things started to get a little weird.

I can’t recall all of the moments that led up to me concluding something bad was going to happen, but a couple stand out above the rest.

The Revival Service

It was in June of 1991. The church that I attended was having a week-long series of meetings. My mother and father did not attend the same church as I did, but on the last night of the revival, which was a Friday, my dad came. The evangelist preached on heaven that night and said something that hit me like a brick. He said, “Heaven will never be real to you until there is someone there you want to go see.”

The Movie

In that very same week, my family went to see a movie. It was a new animated film called An American Tail: Fievel Goes West. In one particular scene, an old hound dog, the retiring sheriff, sat watching a sunset with the little mouse, Fievel. The legendary actor, Jimmy Stewart, speaking as Wylie Burp, said to Fievel,

“Just remember, Fievel – one man’s sunset is another man’s dawn. I don’t know what’s out there beyond those hills. But if you ride yonder… head up, eyes steady, heart open… I think one day you’ll find that you’re the hero you’ve been looking for.” – Wylie Burp

The moment he said, “one man’s sunset is another man’s dawn,” I felt a chill and a heaviness that took my breath. I knew my dawn was coming.

Sunset

Early on Monday morning, June 11, 1991, while working 3rd shift as a security guard in a high-security nuclear facility, my dad felt sick. He asked a cleaning person which bathroom was clean, then went in, took off his gun belt, bent over a sink, and died.

It had only been since Friday the 8th that I had heard that message about heaven. That Monday was when heaven became more real than I could have ever imagined. My dad, Terry L. Baker, went home to be with his Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. He surrendered his badge, took off his gun belt, and laid down – literally.

Dawn

As the sun rose over the horizon, I sped my Datsun 280Z toward the hospital. When I got there, I asked for my dad, but was led to a room where my mother was sitting. In a sobbing cry, she looked up to me and held out a little plastic bag containing my father’s personal items. She said, “This is all I have left…” That was the exact moment when I found out. That was the exact moment it became dawn.

That’s my father and me on the front row. This was 1987 in Milan, Michigan.

It may have been my dawn, but it was one of the darkest moments in my life. My dad and I were terribly close. We worked together, played together, worshiped together, and preached together. In the week before my daddy died, I went up to him and told him that I really felt like something was going to happen. He told me that he would outlive my grandchildren. But in case he didn’t, I had to make sure of one thing – would I preach his funeral?

The Funeral

Some people could not understand how I did it, but I did preach my dad’s funeral. You see, I was 24, but I had accepted the call to preach when I was 16. My dad had been a pastor, a lay preacher for years. It may have been just guy talk at the time, but in a moment of male-bonding, my dad and I agreed that whoever died first, for whatever reason, the other would preach the funeral. That is why I asked my dad that question. I needed to be sure he was serious. His response was, “Of course. I wouldn’t have it any other way.” So, I did.

My dad presided over a lot of funerals, and he even carried in his Bible a sermon that he used more often than not. The title of the sermon was “The Times I Need Him Most.” So, from his own Bible, from his own outline, I preached his funeral. And unlike I usually do today, I even gave an altar call. Believe it or not, right there to my left, beside the casket, a friend of the family came down to the altar and asked Jesus to come into his life. Never once had my dad led a person to the Lord when he preached a funeral sermon, but this time was different.

The Family Car

There will always be those who think the following is crazy; only coincidence: but God showed up in the limousine as we went to the graveyard. As soon as I got into the car, I asked the driver, who was a Christian friend, to turn the radio on. I wanted to hear some encouraging music. When he did, the DJ on WAY FM out of Nashville played a song by Wayne Watson, The Ultimate Healing. Right after that, the DJ came on the air and said, “I know we usually have songs pre-planned according to a particular format, but I just really feel led by God to play this next song – I don’t know why.”  The song was Where There is Faith, by 4Him. The second verse goes like this:

There’s a man across the sea
Never heard the sound of freedom ring
Only in his dreams
There’s a lady dressed in black
In a motorcade of Cadillacs
Daddy’s not coming back
Our hearts begin to fall
And our stability grows weak
But Jesus meets our needs if only we believe

CHORUS
Where there is faith
There is a voice calling, keep walking
You’re not alone in this world
Where there is faith
There is a peace like a child sleeping
Hope everlasting in He who is able to
Bear every burden, to heal every hurt in my heart
It is a wonderful, powerful place
Where there is faith

Today

Today, my mother’s body is now resting beside my dad’s, but I am comforted with the knowledge that one day I will see both of them again (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18). In the meantime, I must carry on in the task that I have been called to do.

Several years ago, I went to the grave, and even though I knew my dad was not there, I read Proverbs 4 aloud. What better words could have been said in remembrance of a committed, consistent, caring, God-fearing, humble father? They were words that I wanted to say out loud because they were being fulfilled.

“He taught me also, and said unto me, Let thine heart retain my words: keep my commandments, and live. Get wisdom, get understanding: forget [it] not; neither decline from the words of my mouth.” – Prov. 4:4-5

“Hear, O my son, and receive my sayings; and the years of thy life shall be many. I have taught thee in the way of wisdom; I have led thee in right paths. … Enter not into the path of the wicked, and go not in the way of evil men. … My son, attend to my words; incline thine ear unto my sayings. Let them not depart from thine eyes; keep them in the midst of thine heart. … Let thine eyes look right on, and let thine eyelids look straight before thee. Ponder the path of thy feet, and let all thy ways be established. Turn not to the right hand nor to the left: remove thy foot from evil.” – Proverbs 4:10-11, 14, 20-21, 25-27

Dad (and Momma), I just want you to know that I am still in the fight. I haven’t given up and I haven’t compromised. I wasn’t a fly-by-night wannabe, but a real man of God. My Sword is still sharp. My aim is still true. I even have some “arrows” that used to be in my quiver; you will meet one day.

Don’t worry, even though I know you won’t. I will keep pressing on and fighting the good fight until the time of my own sunset. Then, when this life is over, I hope I can stand there beside you when Jesus says to you, “Well done.” You did good, Daddy. I’ll make you proud.

Tell Mom we all miss her, too.

Your loving son,

Rev. Dr. Anthony C. Baker

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Filed under Family, Future, Life/Death, Preaching, Relationships and Family, salvation

Hide Thou Me

I was thinking of the words to an old hymn, Hide Thou Me

Sometimes I feel discouraged and think my life in vain,
I’m tempted oft to murmer, to grumble and complain;
But when I think of Jesus and what He’s done for me,
Then I cry, to the Rock of Ages, hide thou me.

There are times when the burdens of life get so heavy; when the struggles get so hard; when no matter what, we still worry; that we have to cry out to Jesus, “Hide me!” Thankfully, He does. Back around 1880 Vernon Charlesworth wrote, “The Lord’s our Rock, in Him we hide, A Shelter in the time of storm; Secure whatever ill betide, A Shelter in the time of storm.

How different it is for the unbeliever.

Where does the atheist turn when his world is falling apart? When all friends forsake him? When the doctors say, “I’m sorry, but we’ve done all we can do?” When someone sings “The Sun Will Come Up Tomorrow,” but he knows he won’t see it?”

Where does the unbeliever hide? In drugs? Alcohol? Meditation? Sex? Nietzsche? Nature (which he believes is nothing more than the product of random chance and void of meaning)?

Scripture (Revelation 6:16) speaks of a day when men who chose to run from the Rock will “cry to the mountains and rocks” to “Fall on us, and hide us from the face of him that sitteth on the throne…” Ironic, isn’t it?

Oh, “Rock of Ages, cleft for me, let me hide myself in Thee.”

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The Night Before

Just imagine with me… What would it have been like the night before the resurrection of Jesus Christ?

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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I Went to Pakistan (Part 3): Objectives Met

There were two main objectives that needed to be accomplished when I went to Pakistan. Those two objectives were:

  1. To verify all that I had been told about the work and ministry of Grace Charity Schools and Pastor Victor Sammuel was true.
  2. To encourage local pastors and fellow believers with biblical teaching and preaching.

For several years I’ve been the funnel through which many people have given lots of money to support Brother Victor and the ministry in Pakistan. People send me money via PayPal or check, then I send it to Victor via MoneyGram or Western Union. And as you can imagine, each time I would do this there would be someone wondering in what fashion I was being scammed.

Let’s be honest, funding an overseas ministry you’ve never seen in person is risky enough. However, in this day and age when people are losing their life’s savings to scammers every day, it’s no wonder I’ve been thought of as naive, to say the least.

On a side note, we are still trying to get an updated “Memorandum of Understanding” from the Pakistani government, and that is all that remains before Grace Charity Schools can be vetted by an organization called CAFAmerica.org. Once that is done, no more Western Union transfers will be necessary. But until then, I’m stuck with the hand I’ve been dealt.

But, again, that is the main reason why I felt it necessary to travel to Toba Tek Singh for myself. I needed to see what was going on so that I could show everyone else. As the photos below will show, I made it to the school (both campuses) and can testify that the work is legitimate.

The second objective, that being to encourage local pastors and believers, was met in a huge way! Not only did I get to speak at two separate pastor conferences, but I got to speak at several other places, including to a small congregation of believers in a tent right next to a brick kiln.

There are so many other things, but I don’t have the time at this moment to share them with you. However, keep coming back for more insight into this part of the world. What I have to say may surprise you 😉

God Bless!


Stay tuned for more. There’s a lot left to discuss 🙂

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I Went to Pakistan (Part 2) “Knowing”

There are always going to be people who question your plans. Not even the Apostle Paul was immune from the naysaying that came not from enemies, but from his most trusted companions. That’s not saying I’m anything like Paul, but I can sympathize with him.

When I made known my desire to go to Pakistan, as I said before, not one single person within my circle of friends and family approved. No, it was more like, “Yeah, riiiight.” And when they were not laughingly questioning my sanity, they were outright warning me that I would probably be killed or kidnapped – then killed.

But like when Paul knew that it was God’s will for him to go to Jerusalem, even though everyone advised against it (Acts 21:12-14), I knew that it was God who was opening the door for me to make this trip.

But how did I know? This is a question that deserves discussing.

How was I so sure that God was leading me to visit Pakistan? How could I be sure that it wasn’t my own desires, my thirst for adventure, or some deep-seated need to prove myself? Granted, the adventure was compelling and there was certainly a need to prove something about myself, but I also wanted to “prove” God!

As a pastor, people look to me for spiritual guidance. They look to me for answers regarding the Bible and how one’s faith can be applicable to life. Yet, when the rubber meets the hot asphalt, most Christians forget from where I power comes. The average Christian keeps the battle-winning Captain of the Lord of Hosts relegated to the cute stories told in Sunday School and forgets that He is still the Conquering King. Therefore, it’s no wonder they were worried for me – they were forgetting Whom they served!

I’ve been forced to put my God to the test in the past, and He was faithful as He promised. I’ve also witnessed Him supernaturally deliver me from a would-be killer who had planned to put a bullet in my head (while I was delivering pizza in Hopkinsville, KY). And, honestly, it’s because of these things, and others, that I kind of felt like young David when he was questioned about going up against Goliath (1 Samuel 17:34-37).

Friends, do you serve the living God that delivered David from the lion, the bear, and Goliath? Do you serve the God who delivered His people out of Egypt? Do you serve the God who opens prison doors? Do you serve the Mighty God who told Joshua, “Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the LORD thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest (Joshua 1:9)”?

If you do – if you serve the God of David, Daniel, Moses, Joshua, etc. – then maybe you can understand the frustration and indignation I felt. If this trip was being orchestrated by the true and living God, then I believed without a doubt that He would take care of me.

But once again, was this trip put on my heart by God, or was I just seeking a thrill?

I guess the answer is simple to me, but unless you know what it’s like to walk with the Lord for a while it might sound crazy. What it amounts to is a legal term I learned when my youngest daughter competed in mock trial – “preponderance of evidence.” In other words, knowing the will of God for one’s life rarely comes down to one thing or another, but a combination of things, even a culmination of affirmations.

Consider the following points:

  • There was definitely a need in Pakistan
  • I have been supporting a ministry for years, even risking my own reputation
  • A plea was made for me to come
  • There was a clear and distinct objective my going would accomplish
  • There had been much prayer
  • My original feelings were a big “NO!”, but my heart became burdened over time
  • A sense of urgency existed
  • Not going would only serve to relieve me of danger, but the ministry abroad would only suffer
  • Now, more than ever before, my position and reputation could prove invaluable to others in need
  • People were willing to give generously when they knew I was actually going.
  • My going would have a direct impact on life and death circumstances involving hundreds of children.
  • I was never, ever, not once afraid or intimidated, nor did I doubt that God would provide the means to do everything that needed to be done.
  • I wanted people to see the God we serve is still the God of the Bible and Joshua 1:9 still applies!

It wasn’t one thing; it was multiple things! And on top of all that, when we seek to walk in the Spirit, not in the flesh, His desires become our desires.

Delight thyself also in the LORD; and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart. Commit thy way unto the LORD; trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass. – Psalm 37:4-5 KJV

But there’s one more thing. God could have stopped this trip many times. I even asked Him to stop me from moving forward with it if it was against His will. Yet, doors kept opening and I could do nothing less than walk forward till they closed.


Stay tuned! Next time I will address the actual objectives this trip to Pakistan was meant to accomplish.

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