Tag Archives: Church

When Sheep Attack the Shepherd

Another pastor was asked to resign. Why? Because of moral failure? No. Because of unethical practices? No. Because of poorly performing his duties? No.

He changed some things. He wanted to do some things that the deacons didn’t. Oh, it didn’t matter what the congregation thought or what impact the pastor’s ministry was making on the community; he went afoul of the deacon body and was asked to resign.

Men … and I’m talking to all you deacons out there… you seriously need to go back to the locker room, sit down on the benches, and let your Coach – GOD – explain to you how the game is supposed to be played. He wrote the Rules, rules which are never to be overruled by your bylaws.

First, there is no place in all of Scripture where you will find justification for deacons running a church. The fact that so many do is a sad testament to how poorly the Word of God has been taught in so many of our congregations. If you really want to get specific, there are no biblical examples of committees making unilateral decisions, either. The ONLY biblical example is that of pastoral leadership with deacon support WHEN NEEDED. See the 6th chapter of the Book of Acts.

Second, should a congregation follow the biblical guidelines and select men to be deacons, they should only do so because the administration of resources meant to minister to the needy within the congregation has become too burdensome for the pastoral leadership and is thereby distracting from the study of the Word and prayer. There is NO biblical precedent for the pastoral leadership of a congregation to be in any way handicapped by the decisions of those elected to serve the congregation and assist the pastoral leadership. There is NO biblical precedent for committees within the congregation to have veto power over pastoral leadership, either.

Third, there is very little evidence in Scripture to support unlimited tenure for those who serve in the role of deacon. On the contrary, biblical precedent leans more heavily toward deacons serving only when there is a need, and only when the pastoral leadership deems it necessary (again, see Acts 6). There is even reason to argue that new deacons should be selected by the congregation and approved by the pastoral leadership every time there is a change in pastoral leadership (compare Acts 6 with 1 Timothy 3).

Fourth, there is no biblical precedent for deacons to be self-governed, mutually accountable, or convenable as a body. Doing so adopts a secular business model that may promote efficiency and manageable productivity, but it in nowise mirrors the pattern of congregational and pastoral oversight as found in Acts 6.

Fifth, the spiritual requirements of deacons (AND their wives) should be taken as seriously as that of a pastor.

Therefore, based on the above points, there is no more biblical support for a group of deacons – servants – to request the resignation of pastor any more than they would request the revocation of a fellow congregant’s membership within the local assembly of believers. It is not the role of the servant to negate the role of the one/ones served.

To conclude, in local congregations where the ecclesiastical structure is autonomous and limited (i.e., Baptist, etc.), thereby affording the body the right to elect the pastoral leadership deemed sent by God and affirmed by the Holy Spirit, beware how you treat the man of God. Although he be only a man, by your common vote you have affirmed before God and heavenly witnesses that he is to be your shepherd, subject to the Great Shepherd, and that you will submit to his leadership where it is biblical, and Spirit led. To conspire, undermine, and circumvent his leadership is to invite discipline from the one who sent the “gift” (Ephesians 4:11-12) to you.

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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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How to Know if You Should Not Go Back to Your Church

The Hissy Fit

Back in 2013 a pastor had a “hissy fit” during the Sunday morning service. I don’t know how to define “hissy fit,” but when you see one, you know it.

You can do a search of my blog posts by typing “hissy fit” in where you see the little magnifying glass. That will take you to the post I wrote addressing the abusive rant made by a pastor, Dr. Jim Standridge. I don’t want to make it easy on you by simply leaving a link because if you really want to find out about it, you’ll look for it. Otherwise, I don’t want to add fuel to a fire that has already simmered.

But it was the sermon by Dr. Standridge that I remembered while doing a sermon/teaching series at our church and online on Discord (FaithChatt).

Emotional Abuse

Before I go any further, if you do watch the sermon by Dr. Standridge, understand that there are some out there that applauded what he did. I, for one, think what he said was shameful, reprehensible, and illegal, to be honest.

Yet, this sermon provided context for understanding how there are not only different denominations, but different pastors and congregations within those different denominations. And no matter what the label, if the environment is abusive, one should leave – now.

But Anthony, how do I know if my pastor or my church is abusive? I’m glad you asked.

In one quick google search I found multiple lists of warning signs and red flags one can look out for when abuse is suspected. One of those lists was provided by Safehouse.org. That list (which I will share) does not specifically address religious institutions, but it might as well. The similarities are obvious.

So, if you notice any of the following signs of emotional abuse in your church, LEAVE! Don’t go back. Don’t feel guilty. Don’t try to reason with your pastor or leadership, just WALK AWAY!

5 Signs of Emotional Abuse

  1. They are Hyper-Critical or Judgmental Towards You (in the following ways)
    • Put you down in front of others
    • Humiliate you or embarrass you
    • Use sarcasm or “teasing” or “jokes” to make you feel badly about yourself.
    • They always have an opinion about what you say, do, or think
    • Upset if/when you don’t agree (e.g., how you dress, how you spend your money, who you spend time with, what you are interested in)
  2. They Ignore Boundaries or Invade Your Privacy
  3. They are Possessive and/or Controlling
    • The abuser may try to restrict your behavior through unreasonable jealousy such as
      • Monitoring your actions
      • Constantly calling or texting when you are not around
      • Getting upset when you want to spend time by yourself or with family or friends alone
      • isolating you from other people in your life and/or activities you enjoy or work
      • Demanding access to your phone, email, or social media accounts
  4. They are Manipulative
    • Withdrawing affection when you’ve done something “wrong”
    • Ignoring or excluding you
    • Guilt trips
    • Making you doubt yourself
    • Denying something you know is true
  5. They Often Dismiss Your Feelings

So, there ya’ go. Any of this strike a nerve, ring a bell, sound familiar? If so, LEAVE THAT CHURCH!

Sheep should never be abused by other sheep or especially their shepherd. Find another flock.

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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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We’re Only Human (but we’re called to be holy)

Dr. Anthony and Valerie Baker

For many years I was under the impression that pastors were closer to God than the rest of us church goers. My father, already my hero, was a pastor, so thinking that way probably came naturally.

However, over the past few decades of ministry I’ve come to realize there is very little in the average pastor that’s different from anyone else. We have our times of frustration, moments of self-doubt, and occasionally mess up. We don’t have all the answers, nor do we know all the questions to ask. We are only human. 

Yet, what is true for the pastor is true for everyone; we are called to be holy. In 1 Peter 1:16 we read, “…be ye holy, for I am holy.” This is impossible, of course, without Jesus Christ living within us. He not only makes us holy (set apart) by giving us His life, but His life lived through us makes us more and more like Him. The new life we have in Jesus, living and working through us, along with our obedience to the Word of God, not only sets us apart from the world; it makes us capable of reaching the world!

This week someone asked me, “How do you preach?” “Well, I don’t scream hell fire and damnation, if that’s what you mean,” I replied. “However, I call sin what it is when I need to,” I continued. “But the big difference is that I try to preach like I’m the one sitting in the pew.”

Look, if you think I look down from the pulpit with a holier-than-thou attitude, trust me, I don’t. As a matter of fact, it is only by the grace of God that I am where I am. He has called me and gifted me for a specific role, but that doesn’t make me a better person, only one whose house is made of glass (figuratively, of course). Just ask my wife and daughters.

No, because I’m a sinner saved by grace, the call to be “holy as I am holy” is as convicting to me when I preach it as when I’m in the pew on the receiving end. The difference between the congregation and myself, as with any pastor, is that I have been given the responsibility to share the message faithfully and boldly. God is holding me accountable.

This Sunday don’t think of your pastor as a man who’s “preaching” at you; think of him as a fellow servant of God trying to complete the task before him with faithfulness to the message, even if it preaches at him.

He probably needs it.

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What Are You Expecting This Morning?

Sunday morning, that is.

By the time you read this, it could be any day of the week. But I am writing this on a Sunday morning. As a matter of fact, it’s not long before Sunday school will begin, followed by the morning worship service at our church.

So, my question to you is this: What are you expecting this morning?

Unfortunately, so many people, particularly Christians, are not expecting anything. Oh, they are expecting to do something, maybe go somewhere, or maybe they’re just expecting a late breakfast in bed. But when it comes to worshipping their God in a congregation of believers, most don’t expect anything – they just go.

Why is that? Why is going to church on the Lord’s Day something to be taken for granted? Even more, why is it something to be taken so lightly that washing one’s car or pancakes are more important?

One big reason, like I just mentioned, is that they/we, for the most part – if not always – never expect anything to happen that hasn’t already happened week after week, year after year. Nothing.

Yet, when we go to church – WHEN we go to church – there is the distinct possibility to witness a genuine miracle, one that can directly affect each of us on an individual level. I’m not referring to “miraculous” healings or “manifestations;” I’m talking about being spoken to by the holy God of the universe.

Oh, you can stay home and watch TV or play with your kids, and those things are OK in and of themselves, but what you are going to miss is nothing less miraculous than the breaking of the loaves and fishes to feed 5,000. And you think catching a wide mouth bass is better than that?

I would encourage you to rethink your priorities, dear Christian. The God who saved you from hell is offering to you a special opportunity which cannot be duplicated or recreated afterwards. He wants you and the rest of His children to experience this together as a family.

Please, accept the invitation your Father is sending out. Accept it and expect to hear from Him.

Otherwise, do not expect much from God by way of joy and fulfillment when what you choose to do replaces a personal offer from Heaven.

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Perfection Not Required

Jesus Said…

“Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican.”

“And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner.” – Luke 18:11, 13

The Perfect Candidate

Imagine that instead of the temple, a Pharisee and a publican walked into a pastoral search committee meeting.  They walk in, introduce themselves, and compare resumes.

pharisee and publicanWhich one do you think would be offered the position? I believe it would be the one who meets the average preconception of what every Christian fit for service should be. I believe the Pharisee, the one with the perfect resume and appearance, would be the first considered.

But God doesn’t use perfect people; He uses REAL people. Unfortunately, there are many men and women in the church who feel inferior and useless because of their sinful and broken pasts. They are the people who sit on the pews, week after week, doing all they can to be faithful in life, but are forbidden to hold positions in the church.  They are much like the Publican, men and women who know they have failed in the past, but want to be forgiven and start new.  

Genesis of Dysfunction

A while back I read through the book of Genesis in a couple of sittings.  Reading a book of the Bible that way, especially in a different translation, can help you see the story from a new perspective.  This time I was just astounded at how messed up these people really were!  There was so much “stuff” going on that if it were today, it would make an episode of Jerry Springer look tame!

Consider, if nothing else, the sad story of Jacob, Leah, and Rachel. This was a seriously messed up family with real marital problems.  At one point, Leah and Rachel get into a jealous argument over a son’s mandrakes.  Just imagine you were a marriage counselor and listened in to the following story…

Reuben went out during the wheat harvest and found some mandrakes in the field.  When he brought them to his mother, Leah, Rachel asked, “Please give me some of your son’s mandrakes.”  But Leah replied to her, “Isn’t it enough that you have taken my husband?  Now you also want my son’s mandrakes?

Well,” Rachel said, “you can sleep with him tonight in exchange for your son’s mandrakes.”  When Jacob came in from the field that evening, Leah went out to meet him and said, “You must come with me, for I have hired you with my son’s mandrakes.”  So Jacob slept with her that night. – Geneses 30:14:16 HCSB

Check this out…

  • Twice Abraham told other people that his wife, Sarah, was his sister so that he would not be harmed.
  • Joseph’s brothers hated him and sold him to traveling salesmen.
  • Jacob and Esau were seriously at odds.
  • Leah, poor thing, kept trying to have children so that her husband, Jacob would love her.

And there’s more!

  • Jacob’s father-in-law, Laban, got him drunk on his wedding night and gave him the wrong wife – on purpose.
  • The son’s of Jacob (founders of ten of the tribes of Israel) lied to a bunch of men about making a covenant, then proceeded to slaughter all of them after they had convinced them to be circumcised.

It just goes on and on.  Messed up, I am telling you! MESSED UP!

Nevertheless,

God told Abraham in Genesis 12:2-3: “And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing: And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.”  How is this even possible?  

If God can use Abraham and his family – with all their problems – to bless the nations, then He can use ANYBODY!


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Heaven is a Personal, Permanent Place!

I preached on Heaven this morning. Want to watch the sermon (and me singing a song beforehand)? Well, to borrow from a funny guy, here’s your video.

(Oh, btw, please pardon the choppy internet service)

Click on the picture to watch the video. Thanks!

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What Is Salvation, Exactly?

Sunday Sermon

This past Sunday I preached a sermon on salvation. It wasn’t a sermon calling people to salvation, although that was certainly a part of it; it was a sermon explaining what salvation actually is.

To help the congregation, I provided my notes with the intent to keep things moving along and to give everyone something to take with them. That’s what I’m providing for you in this post.

More than 5

As I told my congregation, there’s a lot more to what salvation is than what I could cover in only five points. However, the five points I do share in this outline are pretty important and worth noting.

When you get to the comment section, feel free to add more things that salvation is. As we who are saved know, the depths are limitless.


Opening Text: Acts 16:30 – . . . and brought them out, and said, Sirs, what must I do to be saved?

(Speak to the context of the Philippian jailor’s question)

But there are other questions people ask, like:

  • Does God still love me after what I did?
  • If I was really a Christian, why did I do what I did?
  • If I am a Christian, why can’t I stop sinning?
  • Can I still go to heaven?

First, Let Us Ask: What Is Salvation?

1. It’s a Legal Transaction

We must understand that a crime was committed, and a verdict has been issued: Sin is breaking of God’s Law, and judgment for that is the DEATH PENALTY.

  • Romans 5:12 – Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned:
  • Romans 3:23 – For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;
  • Romans 6:23 – For the wages of sin [is] death; but the gift of God [is] eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

BUT! Romans 5:6 – For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.

2. It’s an Appeasement of God’s Wrath: Propitiation

1 John 4:10Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son [to be] the propitiation for our sins.

Before we go any further, we need to understand something else: God is Love, but He’s also a God of wrath.

  • John 3:36 – He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him.
  • Romans 1:18 – For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness;

Of course, his anger is not an irrational lack of self-control as it so often is with humans. His anger [His wrath] is the … opposition of his holy nature to everything that is evil.[1] To turn away the wrath, the anger of God, will take more than a wave of the hand or any amount of apologizing on our part. On the contrary, Hebrews 9:22 – And almost all things are by the law purged with blood; and without shedding of blood is no remission.

(Propitiation: Turning away of anger by the offering of a gift.)

1 John 4:10… [He] loved us, and sent his Son [to be] the propitiation for our sins.

3. It Is Redemption

  • 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 – What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost [which is] in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.
  • Galatians 3:13 – Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed [is] every one that hangeth on a tree:
  • Hebrews 9:12 – Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption [for us].
  • 1 Peter 1:18-19 – Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, [as] silver and gold, from your vain conversation [received] by tradition from your fathers; But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot:

4. It Is a New Birth

  • John 3:3, 7 – Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. … Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again.
  • 1 Peter 1:23 – Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever.

5. It is a Limited Time Offer

  • Genesis 6:3 – And the LORD said, My spirit shall not always strive with man
  • 2 Corinthians 6:2 – . . . behold, now [is] the accepted time; behold, now [is] the day of salvation.)

So then, what is the answer to the original question?
What must I do to be saved
?

Is it simply believing there is a God? Answer: No.

James 2:19 tells us: “Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble.

Is it doing good, or at least more good than bad? Answer: No.

Ephesians 2:8-9 KJV – 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.

Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; – Titus 3:5 KJV

All one needs to do is …

Acts 16:31 “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved …”

Romans 10:9, 13 – That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. … For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.

John 10:28-30 – And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any [man] pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave [them] me, is greater than all; and no [man] is able to pluck [them] out of my Father’s hand. I and [my] Father are one.


[1] Walter A. Elwell and Barry J. Beitzel, “Propitiation,” Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1988), 1784.

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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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