Tag Archives: Funeral

In My Father’s Honor

Remembering the Day

I woke up this morning and saw the sun, which is something my dad never got the chance to experience on June 11, 1991. Upon closing his eyes in death while working the night shift as a security guard, he woke to eternal day where the Son is the Light. What an awesome moment that must have must have been for him!

However, for me, it was a very difficult day 27 years ago. For that matter, it was a difficult day for many. He was only 46 at the time of his homegoing, but the impact he made on the lives of others will reverberate for many decades to come, and all of us were heartbroken when he left.

Tough, Yet Humble

My dad.

My dad.

Those who knew my dad before he became a Christian would testify to the fact that he was no wimp. He was a man’s man.

My dad could build an engine and race a car – including the kind in which he used to haul moonshine. He knew how to fight, fish, and fire a weapon; between him and my uncle Don (his brother), there weren’t too many men willing to be their enemies.

Yet, once he accepted Christ, he became the perfect example of gentleness, kindness, grace, and compassion. I know of no one any more humble than he was. (Oh, and when his brother finally became a believer in Jesus, the same transformation took place)

Preachers

My dad was also a preacher. He might not have been the most eloquent, but he loved the Word and he loved telling people about Jesus. Had he been alive today, he would have wept at the state of our nation, but he would have cared more about sharing the gospel with the homeless drunk under the bridge, the prisoner in the jail, or the disabled and orphaned teen in need of hope.

More than a man who’d kindly give you the shirt off his back, he’d find a way to tell you about a Saviour who bore a cross on His. If my dad was still alive, he’d still be preaching.

Still Fighting the Good Fight

Still Fighting the Good Fight

I am proud to say that I am carrying on my father’s legacy. I am proud to say that should the Lord allow me to live another 50 years, I will continue to preach the Gospel, stand for Truth, and love people the best I can. As a matter of fact, here is something I recently posted on Facebook.

Backbone, preachers…now’s the time for some honest-to-goodness, strong-as-steel, George S. Patton and John Wayne-like BACKBONE!

I don’t care if you’re Baptist, Presbyterian, Pentecostal, Nazarene, Methodist, or whatever…MAN UP!! Stand in the gap! Quit being a politically motivated, crowd-pleasing, purse string-tying wimp and PREACH THE WORD!

Check out what’s going on in the world and what’s coming to America. Do you think things are all going to turn out like a big Hillsong praise service if you keep preaching like Joel Osteen?! Folks, what we need now more than ever are some Elijahs, some John the Baptists, some old-school Billy Grahams, some D. L. Moodys, etc. We need more men of God who know the difference between the Word of God and a motivational speech!

Don’t try to be popular. Don’t try to be “cool” and “hip” with the younger generations. Quit fighting over the styles of worship if your congregation doesn’t even know HOW to worship! Forget trying to become more “seeker-friendly,” and just SEEK THE LOST! The world is going to Hell and we are greasing the skids.

Be real. Be humble. Be yourself. Love your enemies. But for the love of God, pastors and preachers, “Watch ye, stand fast in the faith, quit you like men, be strong” (1 Corinthians 16:13). In other words, take off the liberal mom jeans and put on some prophet-worthy overalls and get to work. 

His Voice

I wish all of you could have met my dad, Terry L. Baker. Like my wife noted when she heard a recording, “He sounds about as country as they come.” Fortunately for all of us, I still have a few recordings of his preaching.

Below is an edited version of a message my dad preached back in 1981. At that time he was doing a radio program on WMOC for a local children’s ministry.

On a side note, I do a radio program just like my dad did, but he used to record his sermons on a Radio Shack cassette recorder while I use an iPhone 7 with a Rode smartLav+ mic. Funny, the sermon below sounds just as good as anything recorded today!

Fittingly, the sermon from my late father, based on Deuteronomy 6:4-7, concerns how to raise a godly family. Tell me if you think he sounds a little like me 😉

All honor and glory be to my Father in Heaven, the One who graciously gifted me with an earthly father who loved Jesus and taught me how to do the same.

 

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Filed under Christian Living, Christian Maturity, Life Lessons, ministry, Parenting, Preaching, Relationships and Family

When I Die, Have Church!

Don’t Make Her Buy the Car Alone

My feelings are pretty raw at the moment. It was today that I presided over the funeral for the father of a 16-year-old girl. It broke my heart as I watched her weep over his casket. My own eyes filled with tears.

Several years ago I used to be in the funeral pre-planning business. Even to this day I firmly believe making funeral preparations in advance is a very wise and loving thing to do. That was especially evident this week when I talked with the 16-year-old who had to handle all the arrangements for her deceased daddy. She literally had no idea what to do.

Do you have children? Would you force your teenage daughter to buy a new car… after a couple of hours of sleep… an emotional wreck… and whatever she purchases, if she makes a poor decision, spends too much money, or does anything she regrets, too bad – no returns?

Well, forcing your teenage daughter to handle your funeral arrangements after you die is not much different from forcing her buy a new on the worst day of her life. How is that being responsible? How is that taking care of those you love? It’s not! And that is why I want to make it very clear right now what I want for my funeral.

My Wishes

The following is not meant to be an official funeral pre-arrangement, but it will give you an idea of what I want to take place after I die. My wife and children, should they outlive me, will obviously have the right to do whatever they desire, but the following is what I want, if possible, to take place.

  • Music. I want good music. I don’t want canned music from the funeral home’s collection; I want LIVE music! The only exception to the live music would be a recording of Building 429 singing “Where I Belong” somewhere in the service. I will leave it up to my family to call on the groups that I want to be there, but I want God-honoring, Spirit-filled, praise-filled music that sets a tone of victory and celebration.
  • Preaching. Yes, I want somebody to preach. And when I say “preach,” I want somebody who’s fought a few battles, spit in the eye of the devil, experienced amazing grace, and is unflinching in presenting the life-changing, soul-saving Gospel of Jesus Christ. I want someone who will be able to open up the Holy Writ and let it fly. But I don’t want some guy who’s all emotion; I wan’t someone who can rightly divide the word of Truth. My life is a testimony to God’s amazing grace, and I want someone who can tell what that’s all about.
  • Shouting. Friends, today I instructed my youngest daughter to have at least one Church of God lady standing by (with a $50 retainer, if necessary) to belt out a few hallelujah’s and praise God’s if the crowd gets too quiet. I would be very disappointed to find out the people at my funeral were sad, downtrodden, mournful, and blue. Seriously! Rejoice in hope! Shout with joy! Give glory to God! Make my funeral a celebration of salvation! A celebration of Jesus! I want some hankey-waving, chandelier-swinging, back-of-pew running, excitement in the place 🙂
  • Shout at my casket. No joke, I want everyone in the place to face the casket and yell my name. Then, I want you to wait. Why? Because I want you to hear the silence – because I won’t be there! Yell my name and see if I’ll respond, then make it known that what’s in that casket is nothing more than an empty shell; Anthony’s not there – he’s gone!
  • Bag Pipes. There’s just something special about “Amazing Grace” played on bag pipes. That’s what I want at the cemetery.
  • An Invitation to Accept Jesus as Savior. Folks, I’m a preacher. What else would honor my memory more than to have someone be born again at my funeral? It happened when I preached at my father’s funeral back in 1991, so shouldn’t I hope for the same at mine? You see, therein lies the hope…the joy…the expectation…the comfort…the consolation…the peace that passes all understanding.

If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable. But now is Christ risen from the dead, [and] become the firstfruits of them that slept. – 1 Corinthians 15:19-20

For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive [and] remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive [and] remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore comfort one another with these words. – 1 Thessalonians 4:15-18 KJV

When I die, put away the timer, tell the funeral director to go eat lunch or dinner, and… JUST. HAVE. CHURCH!

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Filed under Christianity, Church, Life/Death

Appetite for Comfort

It’s been nearly 5 years since I was “Freshly Pressed” on WordPress. This was the post that earned the honor. I hope it doesn’t make you too hungry for more 😉 

Comfort Food, That Is

There are some things in life that we always go back to when nothing else seems to do. It’s called comfort food.

Comfort food is the stuff that you want to eat when you’re depressed, when you’ve lost a limb, or when you’re girlfriend informs you that all along she has been an alien from Jupiter, and now she wants your brain to take back to her daddy.

Comfort food brings back fond memories of childhood and the “good-old-days” (unless you were a starving refugee), when Mom could make you feel better with nothing more than a spoonful of lard and some corn meal.

Comfort Central

Here in the southern United States we have a custom: when somebody dies, we eat.

Whenever a loved one passes away, bites the dust, or essentially assumes room temperature for an indefinite period of time, we trot them off to a funeral home, and then bring in every kind of unhealthy food imaginable. We all know that when one is suffering a terrible loss, comfort food will help dull the pain. And if nothing else, it will help you get to where your loved one is a little quicker than a salad will.

A typical southern funeral home has a dining area. This is where the family and friends can go when they are tired of standing around in the viewing room. They instinctively know that in that room is food which will make them feel better.

Serious Comfort

Well, not long ago my only blood-related uncle went home to be with the Lord. His body was taken to a funeral home in a place called Whitwell (pronounced “Wutwool“), Tennessee. And it was there that the funeral home staff did something that it does for all their families – serve homemade pinto beans.

Now, don’t be fooled, folks. These are not your ordinary beans. These are about the best pinto beans you will ever put in your ever-loving mouth! Served with some homemade cornbread, these beans made me tear up (no joke) as I remembered my granny, my dad, and a much, MUCH simpler life down on the river.

What makes these pintos so special is that they were soaked for 24 hours in water, then slow-cooked the next day in a crock pot with several slices of thick bacon. Of course, there’s more to it than that, but there are secrets to keep.

A Holy Command

Why do we prepare such food for funerals? Seriously? For one thing, sometimes it is hard to find the right words to say when someone is hurting. That’s when people do what they can, and many times the only thing they can do is prepare good food. Hurting people need to be cared for, and this is one way to show it.

Comforting one another is also something we are commanded to do. 1Thessalonians 5:11 tells us to “comfort yourselves together, and edify one another.” And speaking of the hope of resurrection we have in Christ, the Apostle Paul said in the same letter, “comfort one another with these words” (1 Thess. 4:8).

But what happens when words are hard to find? Make a pot of seriously savory pinto beans and cornbread. Tears of heartache may turn into tears of culinary joy.

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Filed under Food, Relationships and Family

Another Funeral for a Stranger

If there is anything that is difficult in ministry, it’s conducting a funeral service. If there is any kind of funeral service that is more difficult than another for a minister, I’d have to say it would be either a close family member or a child.

However, even though doing the funeral for a friend or loved one may be painful, doing one for a total stranger has its own share of difficulties. That is what I am going to be doing today…again.

  • What would you say to encourage a grieving family as they look at you standing over the casket of their loved one?
  • How do you share in the grief and pain, the loss and sorrow, with a host of people you’ve never even met?

In just a couple of hours I will be standing in a funeral home, beside or above a dead body, looking at a room full of people with tears in their eyes, as they hear me speak about someone intimately familiar, but of whom I know little about.  What would you say?

How would you handle it?

This is how… With love, compassion, and tenderness, as one who has also gone through pain and loss, give them Jesus, because…”If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable. But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept.” – 1 Corinthians 15:19-20

It doesn’t matter who they are, even strangers need hope. Give them Jesus.

Update:

If you would like to hear the sermon that I preached (with private details removed), just click on the link below. You may find it interesting, instructional, and inspirational. 

If you are a minister, please note several things. First, I did not use a rigid outline. Secondly, I incorporated things going on in the “here and now.” Third, since I was not able to relate to the family through familiarity with the deceased, I related to the family by tapping into the shared experience of personal sorrow and loss (empathy). Fourth, I primarily focused on the Truth of the Word of God, our only source of eternal hope and comfort.

Easter sunrise 2015

Funeral Sermon for a Man I Didn’t Know

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Filed under Faith, Life/Death, Preaching

In My Father’s Honor

A Strange Day

Today is a strange day. I am alive.

Now, being alive shouldn’t be that big of a deal for most people, but it is to me, especially on THIS day. Today is the anniversary of my father’s death.

Anniversaries of deaths are not uncommon, either. But what makes today unique is that I am the same age that my dad was when he died. He was 46 – I am 46!

I woke up this morning and saw the sun, which is something my daddy never experienced on June 11, 1991 (well, I’m writing this ahead of time, so I hope I will). He woke up and saw the Son, which is something I still long to do.

Tough, Yet Humble

My dad.

My dad.

Those who knew my dad before he became a Christian would testify to the fact that he was no wimp. He knew how to fight, fish, and fire a weapon. Between him and my uncle Don (his brother), there weren’t too many men willing to go toe-to-toe with them.

Yet, once he accepted Christ, he became the perfect example of gentleness, kindness, grace, and compassion. I know of no one any more humble than he was. (Oh, and when his brother finally became a believer in Jesus, the same transformation took place)

Preachers

My dad was a preacher. He might not have been the most eloquent, but he loved the Word and loved telling people about Jesus. Had he been alive today, he would have wept at the state of our nation and where we are going. Above all, he would still be preaching, even harder.

Still Fighting the Good Fight

Still Fighting the Good Fight

I am proud to say that I am carrying on my father’s legacy. I am proud to say that should the Lord allow me to live much longer than my dad, I will continue to preach the Gospel and stand for Truth. As a matter of fact, here is something I recently posted on Facebook.

Backbone, preachers…now’s the time for some honest-to-goodness, strong-as-steel, George S. Patton and John Wayne-like BACKBONE!

I don’t care if you’re Baptist, Presbyterian, Pentecostal, Nazarene, Methodist, or whatever…MAN UP!! Stand in the gap! Quit being a politically motivated, crowd-pleasing, purse string-tying wimp and PREACH THE WORD!

Check out what’s going on in the world and what’s coming to America. Do you think things are all going to turn out like a big Hillsong praise service if you keep preaching like Joel Osteen?! Folks, what we need now more than ever are some Elijahs, some John the Baptists, some old-school Billy Grahams, some D. L. Moodys, etc. We need more men of God who know the difference between the Word of God and a motivational speech!

Don’t try to be popular. Don’t try to be “cool” and “hip” with the younger generations. Quit fighting over the styles of worship if your congregation doesn’t even know HOW to worship! Forget trying to become more “seeker-friendly,” and just SEEK THE LOST! The world is going to Hell and we are greasing the skids.

Be real. Be humble. Be yourself. Love your enemies. But for the love of God, pastors and preachers, “Watch ye, stand fast in the faith, quit you like men, be strong” (1 Corinthians 16:13). In other words, take off the liberal mom jeans and put on some prophet-worthy overalls and get to work. 

His Voice

I wish all of you could have met my dad, Terry L. Baker. Like my wife noted when she heard a recording, he was about “as country as they come.” Fortunately for all of us, I still have a few recordings of his preaching.

Below is an edited version of a message my dad preached back in 1981. At that time he was doing a radio program on WMOC for a local children’s ministry.

Fittingly, the sermon from my dad, based on Deuteronomy 6:4-7, concerns how to raise a godly family. Tell me if you think he sounds a little like me 😉

All honor and glory be to my Father in Heaven, the One who graciously gifted me with an earthly father who loved Jesus and taught me how to do the same.

 

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Filed under Christian Living, Christian Maturity, Life Lessons, ministry, Parenting, Preaching, Relationships and Family

No Greater Love

I have noticed that a lot of folks are already posting things about Memorial Day, so I thought I would go ahead and do the same.

The following post was first published last year, but it’s worth sharing once more. I’m even going to get Katie to sing the song tomorrow at church.

First Fallen

john-michael-sullivanSeveral years ago, just after the second gulf conflict broke out, the town I was living in lost its first son. On December 30, 2006, Sgt. John Michael Sullivan was killed by a roadside bomb. Only 22, he left behind a wife and baby who was born the day after Sgt. Sullivan died.

I will never forget the visitation at the funeral home. Soldiers stood guard at each end of Sgt. Sullivan’s casket. One soldier was a West Point cadet. Every thirty minutes they would rotate out, similar to the way the guard is changed at the Tomb of the Unknown in Arlington. The honor and respect was palpable.

“Not Here”

Folks in the southern United States don’t take kindly to disrespect – especially at the funeral of a fallen soldier. Sgt. Sullivan died while taking a friend’s place on patrol, which made him a genuine hero. He was a local boy. So, when it was rumored that protesters from Westboro Baptist Church were going to be protesting, blood began to boil.

patriot guardStanding guard outside the funeral home, standing shoulder-to-shoulder, were motorcyclists (over 200 hundred of them) holding American flags. They lined the street and sidewalks as far as anyone could see. Each one, wearing leather vests,  seemed as tough as the Harleys they rode.

I won’t give names, but I heard a couple of high-ranking officials discussing the protesters. They knew Westboro’s hateful tactics and what typically went on at other funerals. So, in a whisper not meant to be overheard, one official said to another, “If those ———-‘s show up, just turn your back – let the guys outside handle them.”

Westboro never showed up. They must have gotten word.

More than Talk

Some people talk a big talk, but never walk the walk. Some people brag about what they would do in a given situation, such as combat, but never volunteer to prove it. But as Sgt. Sullivan lay there in his casket, no words were needed; his sacrifice proved his courage – and love.

Sgt. SullivanScripture says, “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). Others may say they love their friends, but the silent soldier in front of me didn’t have to say a word.

As I paid my respects, it struck me how this young man had essentially given his life for me, a stranger. Like so many other men and women we remember on Memorial Day, Sgt. Sullivan willingly took another’s place. He did what we could not.

The emotion I felt that day led me to write a song in Sgt. Sullivan’s honor. But it also honors of the One who gave His life so that we could be eternally free.

Here is “No Greater Love” as sung by my daughter, Katie (we just recorded it on the iPhone, so forgive the low quality).

(Note: Unfortunately, when I wrote the song, I didn’t know Sgt. Sullivan was actually 22. However, his mother, after hearing the song, told me it was OK.).

Links

http://www.fallenheroesproject.org/united-states/john-michael-sullivan/
http://freedomremembered.com/index.php/sergeant-john-michael-sullivan/
http://www.stripes.com/news/unit-remembers-dedicated-soldier-who-was-killed-just-before-his-son-s-birth-1.58888

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Filed under America, music

No Greater Love

First Fallen

john-michael-sullivanSeveral years ago, just after the second gulf conflict broke out, the town I was living in lost its first son. On December 30, 2006, Sgt. John Michael Sullivan was killed by a roadside bomb. Only 22, he left behind a wife and baby who was born the day after Sgt. Sullivan died.

I will never forget the visitation at the funeral home. Soldiers stood guard at each end of Sgt. Sullivan’s casket. One soldier was a West Point cadet. Every thirty minutes they would rotate out, similar to the way the guard is changed at the Tomb of the Unknown in Arlington. The honor and respect was palpable.

“Not Here”

Folks in the southern United States don’t take kindly to disrespect – especially at the funeral of a fallen soldier. Sgt. Sullivan died while taking a friend’s place on patrol, which made him a genuine hero. He was a local boy. So, when it was rumored that protesters from Westboro Baptist Church were going to be protesting, blood began to boil.

patriot guardStanding guard outside the funeral home, standing shoulder-to-shoulder, were motorcyclists (over 200 hundred of them) holding American flags. They lined the street and sidewalks as far as anyone could see. Each one, wearing leather vests,  seemed as tough as the Harleys they rode.

I won’t give names, but I heard a couple of high-ranking officials discussing the protesters. They knew Westboro’s hateful tactics and what typically went on at other funerals. So, in a whisper not meant to be overheard, one official said to another, “If those ———-‘s show up, just turn your back – let the guys outside handle them.”

Westboro never showed up. They must have gotten word.

More than Talk

Some people talk a big talk, but never walk the walk. Some people brag about what they would do in a given situation, such as combat, but never volunteer to prove it. But as Sgt. Sullivan lay there in his casket, no words were needed; his sacrifice proved his courage – and love.

Sgt. SullivanScripture says, “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). Others may say they love their friends, but the silent soldier in front of me didn’t have to say a word.

As I paid my respects, it struck me how this young man had essentially given his life for me, a stranger. Like so many other men and women we remember on Memorial Day, Sgt. Sullivan willingly took another’s place. He did what we could not.

The emotion I felt that day led me to write a song in Sgt. Sullivan’s honor. But it also honors of the One who gave His life so that we could be eternally free.

Here is “No Greater Love” as sung by my daughter, Katie (we just recorded it on the iPhone, so forgive the low quality).

(Note: Unfortunately, when I wrote the song, I didn’t know Sgt. Sullivan was actually 22. However, his mother, after hearing the song, told me it was OK.).

Links

http://www.fallenheroesproject.org/united-states/john-michael-sullivan/
http://freedomremembered.com/index.php/sergeant-john-michael-sullivan/
http://www.stripes.com/news/unit-remembers-dedicated-soldier-who-was-killed-just-before-his-son-s-birth-1.58888

4 Comments

Filed under America, music