Tag Archives: Church

It’s Hard to Write when Your Friend Dies

It’s nearly 10pm on a Saturday night, and I’m a pastor who has no energy for anything right now, especially to write. But this afternoon a friend died, and I have to write something.

Dr. David Self, the Associational Missionary for the Washington Baptist Association (Georgia), knows now what his faith was for – he sees what has been made sight.

Honestly, I have known others who’ve died after contracting COVID, but David was the first one who was a personal friend. I’m having a difficult time with it.

Oh, there are so, so many more people in this part of Georgia that are far more devastated by this loss than me. My loss is nothing like that of his wife, Kathy, or the rest of his family. It sure shook my world when my own father died, and I saw how it affected my mother and sister. So, I know this is harder for them than for me.

But if one thing remains, it’s my faith. The same faith the David Self had. The same that his family has, as evidenced by the Facebook post from his daughter, Kelly Self Carter.

My favorite hymn is “The Solid Rock.” To paraphrase the lyrics, my hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness, not the recovery of health to those for which we desperately pray.

Before I learned of David’s passing, I had called for a gathering of folk to pray for him in the parking lot of our Associational Office. But before 10 minutes had passed after putting out the call on Facebook and over texts, I was told he died. He may have already been gone when I sent out the first message. But I went, anyway.

As I told another pastor, “Even if God didn’t heal David, He’s still worthy to be praised!” If it were not for the Lord, prayer would be useless and death would be inevitable. But it’s not! There is hope, and not only in this life, but when this life is over – because it will be, one day, COVID or not.

Consider the words of Job after he had lost everything but his life and his grieving wife…

Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return thither: the LORD gave, and the LORD hath taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.

Job 1:21

Would David had died anyway, despite our prayers? That’s not for me to say, but it was always right to pray. Just read what King David said after losing the first child he had with Bathsheba…

He answered, “While the baby was alive, I fasted and wept because I thought, ‘Who knows? The LORD may be gracious to me and let him live.'”

2 Samuel 12:22 CSB

We don’t know what God is doing, for His ways are higher than ours, and so are His thoughts (Isaiah 55:9). Therefore, being commanded to pray for each other, we pray – and we trust the One to whom we pray.

And what perfect timing! As if God wanted me to affirm the truthfulness of the previous sentence, I just got THIS from a friend on Facebook Messenger…

Please take a moment to thank your sweet church folks for all the prayers for my Cody when he was so sick from covid. He was able to come by our house for a little bit today and I was FINALLY able to hug my son!!! I thought I was possibly going to lose my boy… but sweet Christian people, who don’t even know us, prayed for God to intervene and heal him. Today I received the hug I wasn’t sure I ever would have again. ❤️

Rhonda Altum Barnette

We are all going to miss Dr. David Self. However, “we do not sorrow as those who have no hope,” for the hope that David had is the same that we have – that I have – and that’s in Jesus Christ. Our day will come, COVID or not, and on that day our faith will be made sight, as David Self is experiencing this moment.

Please go to church somewhere in the morning.

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Sunday’s Sermons from the Back Porch

Good Monday morning! I pray you are doing well and are excited for what God has in store for us, today!

I know, it’s a Monday.

I know, there are a lot of sad things going on in the world.

But, you know what? We can still find encouragement in God’s Word! That is why I want to share with you the Facebook videos from yesterdays messages I preached from my back porch.

Why the back porch? Because we had cancelled in-person services last week because of COVID-19 cases. Hopefully we will be back together as a congregation this Sunday.

In the morning sermon I preached from Ephesians 1:3-7 and outlined 5 benefits that come with being “in Christ.”

In the evening video I continued our study into the the book of Romans. Good stuff. Really good stuff 😉

Please pray for those who are sick.

Please pray for the poor souls in Afghanistan.

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Go If You Can – You Don’t Want to Miss the Bread!

If you read my last post you are now aware that my wife has COVID-19. I may or may not have it, but I’m not showing any symptoms so far.

But what I want to ask of you is something simple, something anybody can do, just as long as they don’t have COVID.

Would you go to church tomorrow?

This is where I pastor, Bethlehem Baptist Church in Warthen, GA. 2 years and counting!

I know, it’s a lot to ask for some of you. It’s almost an impossibility for others. And, like a few who leave friendly comments on this blog, it’s a request that falls on deaf ears and hard hearts.

However, from my perspective, I’m wishing I could leave the house. I would LOVE to go fellowship with my brothers and sisters in Christ in person, not over Facebook Live. There is such a difference.

You may be thinking, “Why go to church when you can get all the teaching you need online?”

Well, let me illustrate it with a story…

Do you remember the stories in the Bible where Jesus fed thousands and thousands of people with just a few fish and a few loaves of bread? Oh, what an awesome story of God’s provision! What a miracle! Every time I hear it I get goosebumps, particularly when I consider the expressions on the disciples’ faces as Jesus kept breaking the bread and giving it out!

And when you read it or hear the story told from the Bible, the inspired Word of God, is it not sufficient to speak to your soul and minister to your spirit? Of course it is!

The same truths that Jesus taught the disciples and all those he fed (although the crowd didn’t understand), are the same exact truths anyone of us can learn through a studious reading of the biblical text. The same Holy Spirit who was there on the hillside is the same Spirit of God who will illuminate the passages we read and strengthen our faith.

But there’s at least one thing – one HUGE thing – that we will NEVER understand from the Scripture and the preaching of the truths found therein.

Do you know what it is?

We will never know what the bread and the fish tasted like! On top of that, we will never know what it feels like to go from being hungry to being stuffed with bread and fish that miraculously fell from the hands of Jesus Christ!

For THOSE experiences one had TO BE THERE.

And that’s the difference between online church services and actually being in the same room where the Word of God is blessed, broken, and distributed to the hungry of heart.

That’s why I say to go if you can.

You don’t want to miss the bread!

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A Mini Commentary, Pt. 15 (Ephesians 4:15)

Well, we are getting down to the end of this mini commentary. I do hope that it has been not only beneficial, but also a blessing in some way.

I will be posting today and tomorrow, but that will be all in the commentary on Ephesians. Next week I may take a few days to share another commentary I did, that being on Romans chapter 1. Considering I just started a new series through the book of Romans on Sunday nights, that might not be a bad idea 😉

Should you have any questions or suggestions, feel free to leave them in the comment section below. I’d love to hear from you.


4:15 But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ:

But speaking the truth in love,

            Here is where so many go astray: they speak truth, but not in love. We can only wonder how many good Christians have been wounded, crushed, or shipwrecked by loveless truth, that being judgmental, self-righteous legalism. Correction without love is no better than vengeance or sadism. Advice and instruction without love is more likely to imbed bitterness than wisdom.

            But let us notice the progression of the Apostle Paul’s thought, beginning from verse 11 until now.

He (Jesus) gave [gifts] (v. 11) … for the perfecting of the saints (v. 12) … for the work of the ministry (v. 12) … for the edifying of the Body of Christ (v. 12) … till we (both individually and corporately) attain maturity and stature, Christ being the Standard measurement (v. 13) … that we be no longer children (v. 14) … but may grow up [to be like Christ in all things] (v. 15).

            Notice that it is only after all that precedes in verses eleven through fourteen that we can come to the place where we know what and whom Truth even is, much less be able to speak it in love. We speak the truth in love when we are taught the truth about who we are and what it took for Jesus to spare us from the wrath of God. We speak the truth in love when we know who Love is and have a relationship with Him! We speak the truth in love after having been around the One who loved us when we were unlovable. We speak the truth in love because our hearts have been softened and conformed to the heart of Christ. We speak the truth in love as parents or guardians would warn their little ones of strangers.

Those who don’t speak the truth in love haven’t spent time with the Lover of their souls.

may grow up into him in all things,

            Here the sense is that of gradually growing stronger, gradually growing in size, or gradually increasing in likeness. In another sense it could be said that we are meant to grow into, by gradually adding and reproducing, the frame of the body pre-ordained by the Spirit-imparted blueprint found in the DNA of Christ’s blood!  

which is the head, [even] Christ:

            In both a metaphorical sense and a literal sense, the Church is the body of Christ. But make no mistake, as with us, the body is not the person. The Church is the Body of Christ; His hands and feet in this world. Yet, the body is only the tool of the brain, and that brain is in the head. Take away the head, and the body, mature or not, will die and rot.  In the same way, without our Head, the Church at most is a dead body flopping around as the nerves sense the last electrical impulses of life.

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A Mini Commentary, Pt 14 (Ephesians 4:14)

4:14 That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive;

That we [henceforth]

            Henceforth is not a word we use very often these days, and it was not a word used by the Apostle Paul; it was added by the translators for clarification. But the truth expressed in the above three words is that staying the same in the Christian walk is not an option. And, glory be to God, Jesus is the One who can change even the vilest sinner into a saint! God gives us those who can preach and teach His Word so that we can grow spiritually, mature in the Faith, and effective parts of the Body (v. 16). It doesn’t matter from where we come; Jesus can change us!

be no more children,

            To the child, being childish is natural. To the adult, being childish is the sign of immaturity. There is nothing wrong or unnatural for a baby to want milk, but it is entirely unnatural and a sign of severe growth problems for one who is physically or apparently an adult to shun meat and vegetables. Unfortunately, many believers have never even felt the sensation of chewing!

tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine,

            The metaphor is that of a ship on the sea, taken up by one wave and crashed down by another, driven by the shifts of the wind rather than a solid rudder.  Without sound instruction, immature children (babes) in the Faith will be like little sail boats on the sea without any tools with which to navigate. They will bounce from theology to theology, doctrine to doctrine, movement to movement, without every really knowing where they are supposed to go.

            If all one cares to do is float about aimlessly for his entire life, then a rudderless boat will do just that. However, if a watercraft was built for a purpose, owned by One who sends ships across the treacherous seas rather than set them assail to drift, then a rudder, a guide, a means to navigate is critical! There must be rations, supplies, tools to mend torn sails, fuel for the engines (if applicable to this metaphor), and a weighty Anchor when we are told to “be still and know that I am God.”  Thank God for the gifts He has given to equip us! Thank God for the “fulness” of Jesus Christ!

            But this metaphor also applies to those who might be agitated, distraught, confused, torn, and about to sink. Many a soul is troubled from false teaching, bruised from the tossing back and forth, even the tossing through the night as worry and doubt deprive the poor one from sleep. Why would anyone shun the gifts to the Church? Why would anyone choose to be rudderless and without conviction on the tumultuous sea of relativism?

by the sleight of men, [and] cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive;

            We have the “gifts” (v. 11) for our “perfecting” (v. 12), till we all come into the unity of the faith and the knowledge of the Son of God (v. 13). We have them because we do not want to be tossed about and carried away with every knew (or old) wind that comes out of the mouths of deceivers. The waves and the winds are the metaphor, but what are the realities?

  • Sleight of men

            It might be difficult to deduce it from the King James rendering of the original Greek, but the Greek word translated “sleight” is the word κυβεία (kybeia G2940), pronounced koo-bi’-ah. Its meaning has to do with dice (cube) playing, rolling the dice, playing with “loaded dice” to cheat. It means craftiness and/or trickery, and implies anything that is meant to take advantage of another.

  • Cunning craftiness

            Craftiness, cunning, but also a specious wisdom (superficially plausible, but actually wrong; misleadingly attractive in appearance).[1] It cannot be said enough that what may sound good to itching ears may actually be a lie.

  • Lying in wait

            The rendering here is totally adequate to describe the above who both knowingly and without concern preach or teach false doctrine. Like predators; like snakes in the tall grass; like sharks just under the surface; like spiders in their webs; these thieves, abusers, and murderers of hope, peace, joy, and truth wait for those who are weak, unsuspecting, and most of all, unlearned and naïve. Satan, the father of lies, has bred and trained them to take down even the strongest prey, but how much more those who disregard or malign the gifts of God through Jesus by the Holy Spirit to the Church!


[1] Catherine Soanes and Angus Stevenson, eds., Concise Oxford English Dictionary (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004).

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A Mini Commentary, Pt. 12 (Ephesians 4:13)

I’ve been slightly busy and distracted, so I apologize for just now getting back to the commentary on Ephesians 4:1-16.


4:13 Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ:

            It is important to note how one thought builds upon another. Therefore, before we unpack Ephesians 4:13, let us take a moment to refresh our understanding of the Apostle Paul’s train of thought with an outline. Although each verse in this study could stand alone on its own truth, all are connected and work together like a healthy body.

Outline of Ephesians 4:1-12

  • “Walk worthy” (4:1-2)
  • With humility and patience (v. 2)
  • “Endeavoring to keep the unity…” (v. 3)
  • There is only one body, Spirit, Lord, faith, baptism, and one God and Father (vs. 4-6)
  • But (v. 7)
    • Every individual believer is given grace
      • According to the measure of the gift of Christ
        • That is why David said:
          • “When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men” (v. 8)
            • Parenthetical if/then statement inserted by Paul (vs. 9-10):
              • If Jesus ascended, then He must have first descended
              • Jesus descended, and it is He who ascended to “fill all things”
    • Grace gifts (vs. 11-12)
      • Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists, Pastor/Teachers
        • For the perfecting of the saints
          • For the work of the ministry
            • For the edifying of the Church

How, then, does this verse (v. 13) follow along in the outline? The first word “Till” picks up right after the prepositional phrase “for the edifying of the Church.” Although the three “for” statements (describing the reason for the gifts of the Apostles, prophets, etc.) fall under the subpoint of “Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists, Pastor/Teachers,” notice that each one is a subpoint of the other. Why? Because each one follows the previous and is dependent upon it. Therefore, verse thirteen must follow “for the edifying of the body of Christ.” The outline might continue like this:

  • For the edifying of the Church
    • Till
      • We all [arrive at; reach; attain] the unity of the faith
      • [We all arrive at; reach; attain] the knowledge of the Son of God
        • Unto a perfect man
        • Unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ

Tune in next time for more on Ephesians 4:13.

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Are You Glad?

Let’s go!

church glad to go

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A Mini Commentary, Pt 11 (Ephesians 4:12)

In order to better understand the context of the content of this post, make sure you go back and read the previous post on Ephesians 4:11.

4:12 For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:

Notice how that there are three (3) times the word “for” is used in verse 12. Notice how that each one precedes something that the above gifts from Christ to the church were to accomplish. Christ gave unto the Church, and not all at the same time, “some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors” (v. 11). It was the giving of the gifts and the working out of those gifts that the three objectives would be accomplished, including in the order in which they are mentioned. Let us now examine the following three prepositional phrases.

  1. For the perfecting of the saints
    Before the work of the ministry and the edifying of the body of Christ can reach its potential, the saints (saved believers) must be “perfected.” This does not mean that Christians must be perfect before God can use them. No, when Paul wrote about the perfecting of the saints, he used the Greek word καταρτισμός (katartismos G2677) which means to make someone completely adequate or sufficient for something, or completely equipped for a particular good work.[1]
    The gifts given by Christ – Apostles, Evangelists, Prophets, Pastors, and Teachers – equip us, train us, and encourage us.
  2. For the work of the ministry
    Once the saints (the Christians) are fully equipped for the work of the ministry, it is then necessary that they exercise their own gifts and demonstrate with good works the effectiveness of their equipping. Unfortunately, too many Christians have been taught and equipped, given everything need for good works, and yet have never done one thing outside of self-edification. But that is not the purpose for their equipping! The purpose for their equipping is to edify the Body, not one lone member.
  3. For the edifying of the body of Christ
    Edifying is the act of building something up. As the apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers equip us, we are to use what we have been given to encourage, teach, and generally contribute to the overall health of the Church.

[1] Johannes P. Louw and Eugene Albert Nida, Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament: Based on Semantic Domains (New York: United Bible Societies, 1996), 679.

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A Mini Commentary, Pt 6 (Eph. 4:5)

As we continue to work through this passage of Ephesians, think about where you’ve heard this verse before. How was it used? What was the point? Was it used as a tool to attack denominations? Was it used as a tool to excuse doctrinal error? Think about it as you read this part of the commentary.

As always, I’d be happy to hear your thoughts.


4:5 “One Lord, one Faith, one baptism,”

One Lord,

Here begins the second triad, that of one Lord, one faith, and one baptism.

Just as the Body of Christ, the Church, is not a self-existing, self-sustaining entity that can exist without the power of the Spirit. It is not free to do as it wills. What also unifies the Church is one Head, one Lord, and that is Jesus. He is in complete control by virtue of the price He paid, and He is the “one who is in charge by virtue of possession, owner.[1]

Jesus in our Lord, our Kyrios, our Master. All authority is His. All dominion is His. And the work and life of the Body is His, also. Therefore, anytime we say “our church” or “my church,” we should remind ourselves that what binds us together is not the confederacy of churches but the united body of the Church which belongs to the Lord, Jesus, and no other.

one faith,

            The “faith” that is spoken of here is not that of a particular dogma, catechism, creed, or religious convention. “It refers to the principle of faith by means of which all the saints enter into salvation.”[2] The Apostle Paul spoke of this faith earlier in the letter when he said:  “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: [it is] the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast” (Ephesian 2:8-8). What unites us as a body of believers is not our works, anything we have done, good or bad, but the same entry requirement: faith in Jesus Christ for salvation.

one baptism,

            Here the translators transliterate the Greek words εἷς βάπτισμα (heis baptisma) as “one baptism.” Even though the words carry the meaning of being immersed into water, literal water baptism is not what is being addressed. This is a spiritual baptism, a placing of the believer in the Body of Christ. Only the Holy Spirit can do this. Paul referenced this “baptism” when writing to the Corinthians: “For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether [we be] Jews or Gentiles, whether [we be] bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit” (1 Corinthians 12:13).


[1] William Arndt et al., A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000), 577.

[2] Kenneth S. Wuest, Wuest’s Word Studies from the Greek New Testament: For the English Reader, vol. 4 (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1997), 96.

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A Mini-Commentary, Pt 5 (Ephesians 4:4)

I hope you all had a wonderful long weekend (here in America), because I sure did! Beside having a wonderful service Sunday morning, my family and I came together in Atlanta, GA, to attend a major-league baseball game between the Atlanta Braves and the Miami Marlins…and the Braves WON!…Twice in the same game!

Today, let us look at verse 4 in Ephesians 4. Keep in mind that the Body of Christ (the Church) may be one, but it contains individual parts, each part of an overall design, and each part performing a prescribed function. We will go deeper into that aspect a little later.

4:4 There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling.

See the source image

[There is] one body,

            Here the Apostle Paul, speaking of the Church as the unified Body of Christ, begins the first point in “Seven Particulars”[1], the culmination of the last making up three different triads. The first triad is that of “one body…one Spirit…one hope of your calling.” See also 1 Corinthians 12:13.

The second triad is formed from “one Lord…one faith…one baptism.” The third triad is found in verse six where, when describing God the Father, the seventh “particular,” he declares that He is “above all…through all…in you all.”

            Paul continues to use the analogy of the body to describe the importance of healthy unity. Unity in the body, especially peaceful unity (v.3) is critical for effectiveness. Although a human body be unified, all individual members working together for the common life of the body, if one member be sickly or “angry,” the rest of the body, however healthy, will ultimately be affected and the work of the body will be hindered. There are a great many truths associated with the Church being the Body of Christ on the earth, and here is no exception. But what Paul does in the next few verses is take both a wide-angle view and one that is microscopic: he speaks of the common unity we have as the Body, but he also stresses the importance of the individual member (v.7).

and one Spirit,

            What is a body without life? What is a body without a spirit that animates it? Similarly, what is the Body of Christ without the life-giving, resurrecting power of the Holy Spirit? Not only are believers part of one body, but they are also empowered by the indwelling Pneuma (the Holy Spirit; the breath of God). “For by one Spirit (Pneumati) are we all baptized into one body…” (1 Corinthians 12:13).

            It must be understood that without the presence of the Spirit, the Church would not be the living Body, Jesus Christ being the Head. Therefore, as the Body is united, and as it works, individual members will have different responsibilities, such as feet help the body to stand while the fingers grip the hilt and the arm swings the sword. Yet, all will receive their strength from the Holy Spirit. The same Spirit that flows through one part of the Body is the same that flows through another whose Head is Jesus Christ. “But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his” (Romans 8:9 KJV). See also 1 Corinthians 12:13.

even as ye are called in one hope of your calling;

            The unified, universal Church is one Body, has only one life-giving and empowering Spirit and only one hope: “the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:13 KJV). Those who have put their faith in Jesus Christ have a calling – a “vocation” – for which they have been called. Therefore, in everything we do, at home or at work or school, each believer has been issued a vocation in the Kingdom, and that is to point people to the only Hope of the World.

            It must be noted, however, that a careful reading of this part of verse four shows that “even as ye are called in one hope of your calling” is a phrase which helps modify the previous “There is one body, and one Spirit.” Notice how that Paul says that there is one body and one Spirit, “even as…” Therefore, a comparison is being made between the two phrases, which could even lend to the argument that there is not really a triad in this section, only a couplet modified by a couplet.

            So, what is really being said? How do we make the comparison between the two? The body needs a spirit to animate it, to make it alive; the “vocation” has only one “hope.”


[1] H. D. M. Spence-Jones, ed., Ephesians, The Pulpit Commentary (London; New York: Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1909), 147.

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