Tag Archives: Funeral

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

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Filed under America, music

Appetite for Comfort

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

A Little Time Off

Change of Plans

I was in the process of writing a post for today, a post dealing with the U.S national holiday, Labor Day. But then I got a phone call, and plans changed.

Not long ago I received a phone call from my cousin. He told me that my uncle, my father’s brother, had passed away. This was a terrible blow.

So, if you, my readers, wouldn’t mind, I would like to step away from The Recovering Legalist for a little while. I will still work on preparing posts for ProverbialThought.com, however, being that it is a daily devotional.

William (Don) Baker

Most of you may have never met my uncle Don, but you would have liked him. He was a very gentle, Jesus-loving man. But this wasn’t always the case. Just like my dad was before his conversion, my uncle was a tough-as-nails, hard-living, straight-shooting outdoorsman with a proud moonshine-running past. He was a man without fear, considering at one point he kept in his living room nearly 200 deadly snakes (Rattle Snakes, Copperheads, etc.).

My father, Terry Baker, was my uncle’s younger brother. Terry became a believer in the 1960’s, and then accepted the calling to preach. He always prayed for Don and invited him to church, but to my knowledge only went with him one or two times. My dad never gave up on my uncle.

Then, just a few years ago, the man who wouldn’t have anything to do with God or church found himself at death’s door. Beside a hospital bed he gave his heart and life to Jesus, and the change in that old sinner’s life was dramatic.

The Mission Field

My uncle lived on a hill just above the Tennessee River in an area called Suck Creek. Our family had lived there for several generations. And it was there on the river that my uncle spent most of his time fishing and conversing with not only the Lord, but anyone who passed by.

The river was his “mission field.” He told me how that once his health declined to the point he couldn’t get around, about all he could do was ride his 4-wheeler down to the river bank. There he would sit and fish, feed the ducks, and witness miracles.

On more than one occasion, as he told me, he would be sitting there fishing when a total stranger would walk up to him. Many times the people would be feeling hopeless, considering divorce, or even suicide. Without having to go anywhere he would tell these people about how God changed his heart and gave him a love he never knew existed. He would tell them how Jesus loved them and could give them the same kind of peace he experienced. And in one case, even the town drunk came by – and got saved.

Shouting Down the Roof

One thing my uncle Don told me a couple of years ago was this: “The thing I regret most is that I didn’t get saved earlier…I could have heard Terry preach, and we could have shouted the roof down together.

I sent my uncle cd’s of my preaching and singing. I know that he listened to me when I preached on the radio. But I know that it wasn’t the same. I am not my dad.

Joy Comes in the Morning

But all is not lost. Because of the promise of eternal life in Jesus Christ we have Hope.

“Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. … That as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord.” – Rom 5:1-2, 21 KJV

“Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” – 1Cr 15:51-57 KJV

I am looking forward to the funeral service this week. I don’t look forward to it because I have lost a loved one, but because of the hope we will all share. It will be a time to be reminded that this life is short and that tomorrow is never guaranteed. But it will also be a reminder that when the dark night is over, along with all the pain, “joy comes in the morning.”

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Filed under Future, Preaching, Relationships and Family, Theology, Uncategorized, worship

“One Man’s Sunset; Another Man’s Dawn”

Over a two-week period, just over 20 years ago, things started to get a little weird.

I can’t recall all of the moments that led up to me concluding something bad was going to happen, but a couple stand out above the rest.

The Revival Service

It was in June of 1991. The church that I attended was having a week-long series of meetings. My mother and father did not attend the same church as I did, but on the last night of the revival, which was a Friday, my dad came. The evangelist preached on heaven that night, and said something that hit me like a brick. He said, “Heaven will never be real to you, until there is someone there you want to go see.”

The Movie

In that very same week, my family went to see a movie. It was a new animated film called An American Tail: Fievel Goes West. In one particular scene, an old hound dog, the retiring sheriff, sat watching a sunset with the little mouse, Fievel. The legendary actor, Jimmy Stewart, speaking as Wylie Burp, said to Fievel,

“Just remember, Fievel – one man’s sunset is another man’s dawn. I don’t know what’s out there beyond those hills. But if you ride yonder… head up, eyes steady, heart open… I think one day you’ll find that you’re the hero you’ve been looking for.” – Wylie Burp

The moment he said, “one man’s sunset is another man’s dawn,” I felt a chill and a heaviness that took breath. I knew my dawn was coming.

Sunset

Early on Monday morning, June 11, 1991, while working 3rd shift as a security guard in a high-security nuclear facility, my dad felt sick. He asked a cleaning person which bathroom was clean, then went in, took off his gun belt, bent over a sink, and died.

It had only been since Friday the 8th that I had heard that message about heaven. That Monday was when heaven became more real than I could have ever imagined. My dad, Terry L. Baker, went home to be with his Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. He surrendered his badge, took off his gun belt, and laid down – literally.

Dawn

As the sun rose over the horizon, I sped my 280z toward the hospital. When I got there, I asked for my dad, but was led to a room where my mother was sitting. In a sobbing cry she looked up to me and held out a little plastic bag containing my father’s personal items. She said, “This is all I have left…” That was the exact moment when I found out. That was the exact moment it became dawn.

It may have been my dawn, but it was one of the darkest moments in my life. My dad and I were terribly close. We worked together, played together, worshiped together, and preached together. In the week before my daddy died, I went up to him and told him that I really felt like something was going to happen. He told me that he would outlive my grandchildren. But in case he didn’t, I had to make sure of one thing – would I preach his funeral?

The Funeral

Some people could not understand how I did it, but I did preach my dad’s funeral. You see, I was 24, but I had accepted the call to preach when I was 16. My dad had been a pastor, a lay preacher for years. It may have been just guy talk at the time, but in a moment of male-bonding my dad and I agreed that whoever died first, for whatever reason, the other would preach the funeral. That is why I asked my dad that question. I needed to be sure he was serious. His response was, “Of course. I wouldn’t have it any other way.” So I did.

My dad presided over a lot of funerals, and he even carried in his Bible a sermon that he used more often than not. The title of the sermon was “The Times I Need Him Most.” So, from his own Bible, from his own outline, I preached his funeral. And unlike I usually do today, I even gave an altar call. Believe it or not, right there to my left, beside the casket, a friend of the family came down to the altar and asked Jesus to come into his life. Never once had my dad led a person to the Lord when he preached a funeral sermon, but this time was different.

The Family Car

There will always be those who think the following is crazy; only coincidence: but God showed up in the limousine as we went to the grave yard. As soon as I got into the car, I asked the driver, who was a Christian friend, to turn the radio on. I wanted to hear some encouraging music. When he did, the DJ on WAY FM out of Nashville played a song by Wayne Watson, The Ultimate Healing. Right after that, the DJ came on the air and said, “I know we usually have songs pre-planned according to a particular format, but I just really feel led by God to play this next song – I don’t know why.”  The song was Where There is Faith, by 4Him. The second verse goes like this:

There’s a man across the sea
Never heard the sound of freedom ring
Only in his dreams
There’s a lady dressed in black
In a motorcade of cadillacs
Daddy’s not coming back
Our hearts begin to fall
And our stability grows weak
But Jesus meets our needs if only we believe

CHORUS
Where there is faith
There is a voice calling, keep walking
You’re not alone in this world
Where there is faith
There is a peace like a child sleeping
Hope everlasting in He who is able to
Bear every burden, to heal every hurt in my heart
It is a wonderful, powerful place
Where there is faith

Today

Today I went to the grave where my father’s body is waiting for a trumpet to sound. I am comforted in the fact one day we will see each other again (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18). But in the meantime, I must carry on in the task that I have been called to do.

I went to the grave, and even though I know my dad is not there, I read Proverbs 4 aloud. What better words could have been said in remembrance of a committed, consistant, caring, God-fearing, humble father? They were words that I wanted to say out loud because they were being fulfilled.

“He taught me also, and said unto me, Let thine heart retain my words: keep my commandments, and live. Get wisdom, get understanding: forget [it] not; neither decline from the words of my mouth.” – Prov. 4:4-5

“Hear, O my son, and receive my sayings; and the years of thy life shall be many. I have taught thee in the way of wisdom; I have led thee in right paths. … Enter not into the path of the wicked, and go not in the way of evil men. … My son, attend to my words; incline thine ear unto my sayings. Let them not depart from thine eyes; keep them in the midst of thine heart. … Let thine eyes look right on, and let thine eyelids look straight before thee. Ponder the path of thy feet, and let all thy ways be established. Turn not to the right hand nor to the left: remove thy foot from evil.” – Proverbs 4:10-11, 14, 20-21, 25-27

Dad, I just want you to know that I am still in the fight. I haven’t given up. I wasn’t a fly-by-night wannabe, but a real man of God. My Sword is still sharp. My aim is still true. I even have some “arrows” in my quiver that you will meet one day.

Don’t worry, even though I know you won’t – I will keep pressing on and fighting the good fight, until the time of my own sunset. Then, when this life is over, I hope I can stand there beside you when Jesus says to you, “Well done.” You did good, Daddy. I’ll make you proud.

Your loving son,

Rev. Anthony C. Baker

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