Tag Archives: Church

Statements, Services, and Studies: A Whole Day’s Worth

It is Sunday evening in Georgia,

and all I can say is that I’m glad I’m not in Atlanta. However, I’ve got a daughter, a son-in-law, and a granddaughter in Charleston, SC, and it’s bad there, too.

Honestly, I’m furious and sickened by the senseless thuggery and domestic terrorism that’s spreading havoc across the country. There’s no excuse for it. None.

Well, I’ve written about the subject of the protests and riots, already. So, what I’m going to do tonight is share the video that was my day.

The first video is from Facebook. I hope you can view it. I went live this morning before the scheduled morning service that had been recorded earlier.

The second video is of the service prerecorded for airing at 11 a.m. Unfortunately, I got the date wrong! 😩

The last video is from tonight where I was live from Augusta, GA. Even though it was originally on Facebook Live, I uploaded it to YouTube.  In this study I taught from Acts 9 while sitting in a hotel lobby.

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Filed under Bethlehem Baptist Church, Bible Study, Christian Maturity, Christianity, Church, community, current events, Preaching, Selah

On Church Gatherings (a copied vent from a daughter who should be writing more often)

Folks, my middle daughter Katie has been sharp as a tack, as of late. At one point I asked something like, “When did you start using your brain?”

Anyway, she just updated her Facebook status with the following opinion piece. I was so impressed, how could I not share it?

When you’re done, show her some love, will you? Enjoy.


I have an opinion with which you might not agree. I have come to discover that I do not hold to the same values and morals of the masses, and that is quite expected as I am a believer in Christ.

My opinion today is thus:

Church gatherings are LESS LIKELY to spread the virus than going to Walmart.

Katie Marie

The people who want to gather in these churches wear masks and spread out while they are there. Families sit together while friends sit several pews away. After each meeting, I know that, in my church at least, most people leave promptly while a group of designated individuals disinfect the pews and all surfaces that may have been touched, including and not limited to the podium.

The people who are at risk stay home. The people who have children usually stay home. But when you go to the grocery store, you will find people who don’t wear masks, or they wear masks with their noses sticking out, therefore projecting to society their ignorance.

Furthermore, you have individuals who wear gloves inappropriately and cross-contaminate everything as they use gloves in the store, touch their phone, put the phone to their face, take the gloves off, touch the INFECTED PHONE again in their car…… all the while feeling as if they have done something well. In actuality, all they have done is further the pollution the world suffers from every day. Where is that glove going? Not in recycling, I’m sure. It’s going to either pollute the ground or it will pollute the ocean (WHICH, FOR YOUR INFORMATION, produces more oxygen than the trees).

So, KAREN, gather. Go to church if you feel like it. Just be smart. Be safe. Think through your actions.

But hope all the while the people who still shop for nonessential items in crowded stores will cease fire on the church’s doors and quench the fires that burn the buildings to the ground because of the so-called “hypocrisy.”

– Katie Marie

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Preaching With Art (paintings, not the guy)

Art . . .

As many of you already know, I’ve really gotten into the whole painting thing. Well, watercolor, not oil paint or anything.

And since I’ve taken up the hobby of watercolor painting, I’ve learned a few lessons that can be applied to the Christian walk. Is it any shock, then, that I preached a sermon on the subject?

But now that I look back, it wasn’t just art that I preached about, the preaching and the video presentation used to share the message were also forms of art. Each one a gift or ability that improves the more you do it, especially with instruction.

The Finished Product

So, below is the video. It is an artistic presentation of art and the art of preaching within the context of a pandemic. If the video won’t play, try going to Bethlehem’s Facebook page @Bethlehembaptistwarthen.

BTW, the singers were thrilled to be able to get together after being away from church so long. And, if you live in our area, we sure could use some more musicians and singers. Just let me know 🙂

And for those of you who can’t seem to watch the Facebook version, here it is uploaded to YouTube.

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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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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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Observations from a Middle-Georgia Pastorate: Webinar Weary

Webinars

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

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

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

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

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

Working Again

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

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

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

Worshiping Again

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

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

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

I’m getting weary of webinars.

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

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Four Simple Tips for Watching Church Online

Hey everybody! Unless you attend drive-in church services, the only alternative is attending worship online. And if that’s what you do, here are four (4) quick tips for making the experience a better one.

1) Let your presence be known! Say hello, or something. If you like something said, do a “like” or “love” thing. Emoji’s are the new “amen!”

2) Try to act like you are actually in church. In other words, try to take this time seriously, because it is. But don’t get me wrong, you can still wear your pajamas and chomp on your Fruit Loops, but don’t get too distracted or else you might miss a word from the Lord for you.

3) Participate as if you’re really there. Worship in such a way that gives God the honor He is due. Don’t worship less at home than you would in front of other people in a fancy building.

4) Pray for those ministering; it’s not easy singing and preaching to a lifeless camera.

And since we’re talking about online church, below are links to the Facebook Live videos I made today.

The first video is from this Sunday morning. It starts off with my mother and me playing some music. Afterwards, my wife and mother and me sing a praise song. Then, as I explain in the video, my mother does something very rare – she sings the melody of a song (I then sing the chorus). . . . And by the way, considering my mother has pancreatic cancer, this was a special moment for me.

Oh, and the white board was a last-minute idea that could have been done better. It’s a learning process.

The second video was from tonight in my office. I start off planning to talk about Stephen’s sermon in Acts chapter 7, yet the Holy Spirit quickly led me in a very different direction. It’s worth watching (and it’s short!).

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This Is Why We Struggle With the Enemy

Pastor, preacher, minister, Christian… if we feel like the Enemy is winning, like he’s not even intimidated, there’s probably a simple reason.Andrew Murray

Andrew Murray (1828-1917) was a South African preacher and pastor (of Scottish decent). But more than anything, he was a prayer warrior. Some of his theology may not sit well with all of some of us, but one thing is certain: this man had a heart for God like few others.

The following is from his book Living a Prayerful Life:

The Enemy uses all his power to lead the Christian – and above all, the minister – to neglect prayer. Satan knows that however admirable the sermon may be, however attractive the service, however faithful the pastoral visitation, none of these things can damage him or his kingdom if prayer is neglected. – Andrew Murray (p. 28)

I’m not going to lie – I don’t pray like I should. What a waste! What a sin!

I have preached some pretty good sermons and tried to do all the pastoral stuff, but how much more effective could I have been had I spent more time on my knees and less time at a desk?

What if I spent more time talking with Jesus than talking about Him?After all, the whole reason the disciples called for the selecting of deacons was so that they might first give themselves “continually to prayer…” (Acts 6:4).

Preachers, before you worry anymore about your outline for Sunday, your clever illustrations, or your Power Point, spend some more time prostrate before the throne. If we neglect earnest prayer, we’ll have no power, so what’s the point?

Battles may be lost on our feet, but they are won on our knees.

One finger pointing, three back at me.

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Filed under book review, Christian Living, Christian Maturity, Prayer, Preaching

Easter 2020 at Bethlehem Baptist (COVID-19 edition)

If you didn’t get a chance to attend a Resurrection Sunday (Easter) service this morning, we made a video just for you!

I would love to hear from you after you watch and participate in worship – yes, we want you to worship with us!

Christ is risen!

 

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Observations From a Middle-Georgia Pastorate: Silencing the Ignorance

My Mistake

Let me start by saying that I was one of the ones who early on thought this whole coronavirus thing was nothing more than an overblown media gimmick. And, honestly, who could blame me? Since when have you been able to trust the main-stream media’s hyperbole?

Seriously, when you look at the raw numbers, flu is still killing way more people than this virus. Yet, I guess the real question is how many people would have died if measure had not been made to limit the spread? It’s really anyone’s guess.

But I’m not here to argue about the killing ability of COVID-19. I want to discuss how the responses are affecting our ability to worship.

10 Or Less

I can’t speak for every state and every town, but from what I have been seeing, most state and local governments have made it illegal for people to meet in groups any more than 10. There are some places that make it less than that. But, for the most part, it’s limited to 10 . . . and six feet apart.

Yet, what some are trying to say is that the government has no right to impose this restriction on houses of worship. They claim that what is going on is an attack on our First Amendment rights of free speech, religious liberty, and the right to assemble. But is it, really? I don’t think so.

Look, if our state and local governments were placing more restrictions on churches than other places, then I would be the first to yell “Foul!” However, how can we say that Christians are being targeted when weddings, funerals, birthday parties, ball games, bingo, dance parties, school – you name it – are expected to abide by the same limitations?

It’s not discrimination if everyone is treated equally.

Fundamental Right

Yet, there are pastors being arrested in their homes. Churches are being threatened with permanent closure. And, we know there are government leaders out there who would like nothing more than to shutter every church in the country. “Social distancing” has become their favorite weapon.

I thank God that here in Georgia we have a God-fearing governor. Gov. Brian Kemp has been very transparent with the purpose for his mandates and has made it abundantly clear that he in no way wants to hinder or infringe upon the people’s right to worship. It’s just that there’s a deadly virus going around right now, and it doesn’t care who it affects, pagan or saint. So, for right now, everyone, not just church people, are going to have to limit their exposure to other people and “shelter at home.”

The whole reason I’m writing this is because there are some church folk, some pastors, who are saying things like: “The government can’t tell us we can’t have church!” They are screaming in protest, claiming the government has no right to impinge on our fundamental right to “forsake not the assembly.”

However, we must also remember that government has a biblical, God-given responsibility, too!

“Let everyone submit to the governing authorities, since there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are instituted by God. So then, the one who resists the authority is opposing God’s command, and those who oppose it will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have its approval. For it is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, because it does not carry the sword for no reason. For it is God’s servant, an avenger that brings wrath on the one who does wrong.” – Romans 13:1-4 CSB

“Submit to every human authority because of the Lord, whether to the emperor as the supreme authority or to governors as those sent out by him to punish those who do what is evil and to praise those who do what is good. For it is God’s will that you silence the ignorance of foolish people by doing good.” – 1 Peter 2:13-15 CSB

So, now is a time when we need to remember each one of us has a role to play. As for government leaders, as long as they are about doing good and ensuring the safety of our citizens, as long as they don’t demand we violate any direct command from God or our consciences, then we need to obey the best we can … to “silence the ignorance of foolish people by doing good.”

Now, when the government gets too big for its britches and starts singling out places of worship (like China is doing), then we’ll have a reason to do more than stream our singing and preaching.

In the meantime, we are reaching more people now than ever before! I’m not complaining about that!

Myself and Dr. David Self (Washington Baptist Association) discussing Proverbs LIVE on Wednesday night.

 

 

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