Tag Archives: faith

The Benefit of Darkness

Some people will insist that a Christian should never go through a dark time in his life. The idea is that “joy unspeakable” should empower a perpetual smile even in the middle of imminent doom.

What’s more, it’s the people in the Church who most often criticize the discouraged and depressed, treating them like whatever is bothering them could not be bad enough to challenge their faith, that is, if their faith was genuine.

It doesn’t help, either, when the rest of the world’s problems are weighed in the balance with ours. It’s like, “There are people being burned alive for their faith and you’re having a spiritual identity crisis?” It’s no different than saying, “If you think YOUR pain is bad, you should feel MINE.”

There’s songs and sermons galore about persevering through the storms of life and coming out stronger on the other side. There’s even much talk about joy in the midst of sorrow, about peace in the midst of spiritual attack. But what I don’t think I’ve ever heard is a recognition of the value or benefits of the “dark” times we may experience.

When I say I’m in “a dark place,” what does that mean? For different people it can mean different things, of course, but what do you typically think about? What do you associate with dark places?

I’ll tell you what I’ve seen in the dark places: anger, regret, sorrow, resentment, bitterness, resignation, self-doubt, self-hate, weariness, loneliness, helplessness, worthlessness, and a “deaf heaven” and “bootless cries” (to borrow from Shakespeare). It’s probably not necessary to tell you of the thoughts that accompany such darkness.

So how could there be any benefit to such darkness, such despair? How could there be any value to such moments? Well, I’ve wondered that, myself. Yet is our God not sovereign? If truly redeemed, am I ever out of His hand?

There exist rare and refined elements which offer solutions to problems yet to be discovered. In other words, there are things that, until they were discovered, we didn’t even know we had a need for them. Sometimes these things are discovered in the remains of previous failures.

I have come to believe that the strongest faith is produced in the dark, when all appears lost, when all efforts have failed, and when there’s nothing solid left on which to stand. Faith is then the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen.

The strongest faith can only be found, not in just weakness, but when there’s no strength at all.

When I’ve messed up so much and so many times that I’ve not even a single seed to plant in a dry field with no rain in sight, faith is the evidence of the crop to come.

The benefit of darkness is the failure of myself and the hope of Him who will not let me go.

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Filed under Depression, Faith, self-worth, Struggles and Trials

The Downward Spiral of Admitting Depression

Dear readers, now that the end of the year is upon us, I know that many people in the world aren’t feeling excited about tomorrow. I get it. Even as a believer and follower of Jesus Christ, I still feel an underlying sense of foreboding.

But what about all that stuff like “God is in control” and “God’s got a plan”? If that’s true, why feel down, discouraged, or depressed? And why, of all things, feel a sense of dread?

Well, all I can say is that if you feel both ways at the same time, you and King David (the Psalmist), a few prophets, and I have something in common.

Knowing that the Lord’s hand is not weak and His arm not short does not change the fact that you and I are living in mortal bodies affected by the constant onslaught of circumstances which drain us, both physically and mentally.

The sad truth is that even though you and I may believe there is hope, for our Hope is Jesus, we may still find ourselves battling the feeling of hopelessness.

Now, who am I to suggest how another comes to be in this situation? It’s hard enough to explain my own feelings, emotions, and circumstances, much less try to piece together the puzzle pieces of someone else’s life. However, I do want to attempt to validate what some of you might be feeling if you are at the point of needing help.

The problem with admitting you are depressed, especially to the point of danger, is that by doing so one risks making things even worse. Admitting depression often takes away the very things for which we fight to hold onto, the things that give meaning to our existence. Therefore, in order to maintain a sense of purpose and keep the light at the end of the tunnel lit, we hide the pain, hope to God things get better, and force our faith to the surface for others to see, essentially faking it, sort of, until we make it.

Why is this? I’m not a licensed therapist or clinical psychologist, but my best guess is because what we believe, albeit true, is always in a fight with perception, pride, physiology (and I didn’t plan on alliterating those points, but it would make a good sermon outline, wouldn’t it?).

Therefore, what do we do? We leak as little as possible without spilling our guts, just enough to put a few more gallons in the tank so as to make it through the desert.

Can you relate? If so, let’s encourage one another. God does still reign, His mercies endure forever, and because of His steadfast love and faithfulness we are not condemned.

Faking it till we make it isn’t really the best option.

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Filed under Depression

A New Halloween Sermon (Just in time!)

Good evening, friends. I know you haven’t seen a lot of me as of late, but video has become more of my mode of communication.

I want to get back to writing more, however, for it is with writing that we develop our thoughts.

Yet, I do want to share with you the sermon that I recorded for YouTube. I hope it gives you some food for thought.

God bless!

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Filed under Preaching

My SECOND Watch Review: A Mission Opportunity

The Unknown

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

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

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

The Known

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

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

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

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

I certainly do!

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Filed under hobbies, watches, Witnessing

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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Filed under abuse, Church, Uncategorized

It Is Appointed…

If one wanted a career in which he would regularly be around dead or dying people, several choices would come to my mind.

  • Soldier
  • Doctor/Nurse
  • Hospice
  • Foreign Aid Worker
  • Cop in Chicago
  • Members of any Clinton campaign

Yet, I wonder how many would include “Pastor” in a list like that? They should.

Last week I presided over the funeral of an older lady, a sweet lady who had suffered with a lot of physical issues. This coming Monday the story will be repeated. Sad thing, it won’t be the last funeral I conduct.

How many sick and dying people do you see in a year? How many of them ask, “Why is this happening?” or “Will you pray for me?” How many times have you been there when someone breathed their last breath? How many times have you heard someone say, “Why won’t Jesus just take me home?”

If you think being a pastor is all about Sunday morning worship (whatever that may look like for you) and afternoons of golf, you need to stop listening to Hollywood or your disgruntled neighbor. Real pastors are just like shepherds – we are with the flock from birth to death.

Now, when you think of all the other people on the above list (and I’m sure we could add more), which ones do you think regularly tell the people with whom they interact, “You are going to die”?

The soldier? Probably not. And for that matter, far more soldiers never see combat, much less see someone die as a result of their pulling of the trigger.

The policeman? Some of you may think so, but no. More often than not, police involved shootings happen too quick to even think about telling someone he’s going to die. It’s over in seconds.

The doctors and nurses? Only if they are asked, or maybe if it takes saying that in order to convince a person to accept treatment. It’s certainly not good bed manners to tell patients they’re gonna die.

Hospice workers? Honestly, of all the hospice workers I’ve met, I don’t think they would say something like that. It’s pretty obvious since they are there. They just want to make things comfortable and peaceful.

But pastors? Let me tell you, if a pastor/preacher doesn’t regularly remind you of your mortality, that you are certainly going to die at some point, then I seriously doubt his calling.

So, if you’ve never been told, “it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment” (Hebrews 9:27).

In other words, YOU will one day be put in a box, an urn, turn into shark poop, or something, but YOU are going to die. It’s only a matter of time, and that time has already been appointed.

Every time you see one of those pretty boxes with flowers on top, think about where you will be spending eternity when your body is one.

If you don’t know the answer, I’d love to talk with you about it. Email me at Pastoracbaker@yahoo.com.

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Filed under Life/Death, Uncategorized

Hide Thou Me

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

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

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

How different it is for the unbeliever.

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

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

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

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

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Filed under Christian Living, Future, God, music, salvation, the future, Uncategorized, World View, worship

The Night Before

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

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

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

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

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

They saw Him buried.

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

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

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

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

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

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

the night before.

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Filed under Easter

The Deadliest Vaccine Comes from Christians

First, a Rant

We are living in unprecedented times. The moment we think we have seen it all, something new comes around and throws everybody into a crazed frenzy. Most of those unprecedented things are the ripples in the sea of our society (actually, more like crashing waves) caused by COVID-19.

What started out as a virus that took off in China and spread around the world has gone from a “We’re in this together” event to brother-against-brother infighting, borderline-economic collapse, and governmental tyranny.

Yeah, we’re still in this together, but a lot of us are ready to get out. We are tired of our freedoms being assaulted by everyone from presidents, prime ministers, and politicians to governors, mayors, business owners, and even the run-of-the-mill Karen.

A year ago the most respected and honored citizens among us were our first responders. Nowadays they are being threatened, demeaned, and terminated for conscientiously objecting to being vaccinated. Heck, they’ve survived THIS long, so what’s the problem? You think they may get sick and die? Well, you’re essentially reaping the same consequence by firing them!

By the way, whatever happened to the mantra from the left, “My body, my choice”?

I Digress

Now that I’ve blown off a little steam, let’s move on to the subject in the title of this article: “The Deadliest Vaccine Comes from Christians.”

Everybody from the piously religious to the angry atheists have had something to say about COVID vaccines. However, regardless whether the disease kills you or one of the vaccines turns you or your children into three-legged frogs, there’s a MUCH WORSE vaccine running rampant . . . and it’s being developed and dispersed by Christians.

What is it?

Christians are inoculating unbelievers to the Gospel!

You do know how vaccines have traditionally worked, don’t you? They inject a dead version of a virus into a person so that his own body will develop antibodies to the live virus. That way, should the person ever come in contact with the real thing, his natural defenses will fight it off.

I want you to read the following words from the Apostle James:

“For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also” (James 2:26).

Listen, the world is going to hell in a handbasket and the majority of Christians either don’t think it’s appropriate to share their faith with others, or the “faith” that they are sharing doesn’t consist of a biblical worldview! This was shown in recent surveys published by Probe.org and an article in The Christian Post which covers the story. Unbelievably, as the title of the article in The Christian Post describes, “Nearly 70% of born-again Christians say other religions can lead to Heaven“!

But where the inoculation to the Gospel of Jesus Christ comes into play is when the average Christian (or the person who THINKS he is a Christian) lives a life around unbelievers with no evidence supporting his claim. Acting just like the unbelievers . . . engaging in the same behavior and enjoying the same things they enjoy . . . injects a dead faith (James 2:26) in them which inoculates them to the real thing.

The worst thing you can do, if you want to win your unbelieving friend to Christ, is to enjoy the sinful pleasures of the world with them while claiming to be a Christian. Whenever you finally make the bold move to show you actually care about their eternal soul, their natural defenses will fight you off with mocking laughs. Your “faith without works,” your “dead faith,” will have given them the ultimate antibody . . . .”Why? We’re no different from you!”

“Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.”

Jesus (Matt. 5:16)

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Filed under Christian Living, Christianity, salvation

I Believe in the Invisible Man in the Sky

The late Norm McDonald was being interviewed about his personal faith, during which he mentioned a conversation he once had with another comedian who’s going to have a lot to answer for when she finally kneels before her Messiah.

Sarah Silverman asked, “So, you believe in the invisible man in the sky?” Norm McDonald replied, “Uh, yeah, I do.”

There was no debate, or at least none that he spoke about. There was no attempt to reason with Silverman over his beliefs, the likes of which he admitted are rare in show business. I don’t know what McDonald’s actual theology amounted to, but at least he – at one point – was unashamed to wear the label of “Christian.”

Well, I just want to go on record as siding with the late funny man, Norm McDonald, by saying that I, too, believe in the Invisible Man in the sky.

No apologies.

“For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.” – Romans 1:16

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Filed under Christianity, Faith