Tag Archives: hope

My Verse. My Prayer. My Hope. 

“Be merciful unto me, O God, be merciful unto me: for my soul trusteth in thee: yea, in the shadow of thy wings will I make my refuge, until these calamities be overpast. I will cry unto God most high; unto God that performeth all things for me.”  – King David (Psalm 57:1-2)

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Filed under Christianity, current events, Depression, God, Struggles and Trials, worship

Escapist or Expectant?

As I was lying in bed this morning, shivering in the cold – the house is like a dadgum freezer – I proceeded to do an mental inventory. No, it wasn’t an inventory of all the things that need to be organized and packed for our upcoming move in a few days. I wasn’t even thinking about all the bills that need to be paid with money we don’t have (that’s a growing list too depressing to think about). Actually, it was a mental inventory of pain. 

It’s the last day of 2016 – this is the last post of the year – and with every day that passes I’m acquiring a new pain. As I lay there covered up, not wanting to get out of bed, I came to the realization that there was not one part of my body that didn’t hurt – literally. 

I’m not yet fifty years old, but I hurt from head to toe. Seriously, I’m looking forward to that “new body” the Bible says I’ll have one day. Maybe that is why I’m not as critical as I used to be of certain hymnals that have more songs about heaven than other, more weighty themes. Maybe it’s because I wake up and go to sleep with pain that I look forward heaven a little more than my younger, healthier theologians. 

One of the criticisms leveled at Christians is that we are “escapists” (i.e., those who care more about escaping this world than saving it). Sometimes we are accused of being so “heavenly-minded” that we’re no earthly good, all because we believe there’s a place to go after the cares of this life are over. Well, I’ve got news for everybody: I’m ready to go!!

No, I don’t want to die. No, I don’t want to give up on reaching the lost in order to selfishly escape to paradise. However, with each new day that passes by…with every New Year’s celebration that comes and goes…I’m that much closer to my faith becoming sight. …And no more pain. 

No, I don’t want to escape, but my expectations are pretty high. I’m looking forward to what God has in store for those who love Him… and believe it or not, that includes 2017. 

Happy New Year, my friends! 

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Filed under current events, Future, the future

Emotions of Christmas

Melancholy

Even though Christmas time is full of happiness and joy, there are also moments of melancholy. Just to be sure, I looked up that word and it actually means what I thought it did: “pensive reflection or contemplation.”

Every year that goes by we tend to lose people we love, and that includes pets, too. We lose people, animals, our hair, our smooth skin, and bunches of other things; yet there still remains a joy that’s unexplainable. At least that’s the way I feel.

Have you ever heard Mannheim Steamroller’s version of Silent Night? Every time I hear it I feel both melancholy and reverent at the same time. It also makes me really miss my dad.

Melancholy is also how I feel when I watch the following video I made 5 years ago. A few things have changed since then, the biggest of which is the loss of our little dog, Nugget. Christmas at the Baker home is not the same without him, and that is sad.

Worshipful

But even though I have my moments of melancholy pensiveness, I look forward to the holy, reverent, worshipful experience of a midnight Christmas Eve service. Honestly, if all we ever did was go to tonight’s service at First Cumberland Presbyterian Church in Chattanooga, that would be enough for me. Singing Silent Night in a cathedral-like auditorium at midnight while holding candles is chillingly awesome!

You see, no matter what we may have lost here on earth, because of Jesus we have everything in eternity to gain! When the world lay cold and dark, the Lord became flesh and light came into the world “with the dawn of redeeming grace.”

There are many reasons why some people find Christmas to be a time that brings sadness and pain upon the remembrance of loss. However, when we take the time to contemplate the wonder and glory of God’s grace, that He would put on flesh and be born in a manger, the great I AM, so that the lost might be found…

Thanks be to God for His unspeakable gift (2 Corinthians 9:15)! That’s Christmas! Because of that Baby born in a manger, melancholy may endure for a season, but JOY comes in the morning!

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Filed under Christianity, Christmas, Struggles and Trials, worship

Even Mondays Are Made By God

Today is Monday, but I guess you knew that.

Coffee always helps.

Coffee always helps.

How did you wake up? Was it with a sense of dread? Instead of turning off the alarm clock that woke you up, did you strike it like a mosquito that had been buzzing around your head for an hour?

I don’t like Mondays any more than you. As a matter of fact, Mondays are pretty rough. Mondays should be my day off, but I am (was) what they call a bivocational pastor; therefore, my alarm clock feels like a mosquito, too.

However, the Psalmist (David) says…

This [is] the day [which] the LORD hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it. – Psalm 118:24 

Today…this Monday…every Monday…this is the day which the Lord has made. As a matter of fact, He has made every day. So, what will we do? Will we bemoan the blessing of waking up? Will we cry “foul” even before we enter the game? Will we start the day with the expectation that Monday will be like every other Monday?

This day was made by God. He knows what He is doing. Nothing will come our way that God is not already planning to use for our good – for those who love Him.

Today you may face a storm that leaves you feeling abandoned by God. You may feel like the disciples who were out on the Sea of Galilee all night fighting winds and waves. You may think that your Savior has forgotten you. Just remember that even in the worst storm, on the worst day, Jesus knows where you are.

When the time is right you might even get an invitation to surf the waves of adversity (Matthew 14:27).

So, rejoice! Be glad! Seize the day! It’s been custom-made for you!

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Filed under Christian Living, current events, Faith, God, Life Lessons, worship

Resigning to Trust My Shepherd

Most of the time I can enter the title of a post before I begin to write it. In this case I don’t know what to call it. All I know to to do is start writing and let things fall into place.

That’s sort of where I am in life, right now; I don’t know where I am going, but I had to get going to find out.

Old News

By the time you read this post, someone in my former congregation will have read aloud my formal resignation as Pastor of Riverside Baptist Church – at least I hope they read it…all of it. It took me a couple of hours to craft it, all 1,026 words worth, and some of the words were painful to write. However, it had to be done.

Themes

In my resignation letter I focused on two main themes. First, it was important to note that the Church, including the local body of believers I pastored, did not belong to any of us; it belongs to Jesus Christ. Secondly, I stressed the importance of effective leadership: both the need to have it, and the willingness to accept it.

If either one is dysfunctional with either party (the pastor or the congregation), tension will grow…even worse, the power of the Holy Spirit will fade.

Feels like…

Therefore, based on several reasons, I had to accept the fact that my leadership was no longer effective, thereby necessitating a change, however painful and scary it may be. Unfortunately, it feels like a divorce (even though I’ve never experienced one). Maybe I could say it feels like a death, but that’s not really true – I have experience that kind of loss many times.

What it does feel like, however, is a missed opportunity…an “Oh, well” moment. I guess that’s why it’s called a “resignation.”

More to Do

Nevertheless, I will share with you the closing words of my resignation letter, for they express something that is more important than anything else – God is still sovereign! He’s got this! None of this caught Him by surprise, for He already has been working to make things new.

If you will remember, the Mission Statement of Riverside is as follows:

Reach the Lost, Rescue the Perishing, and Restore the Wounded for the Glory of God.”

Continue to reach the lost… We will. Endeavor to rescue the perishing… We will. And especially today, seek to restore the wounded, heal divisions, and move forward with grace and forgiveness… We will.

Pray for Us

Please, please, pray for my family and me as we seek to follow God to the next field of service, wherever that may be. Please pray for my former flock that they will find a more suitable shepherd and follow his leading.

Also, please pray that I will be able to put in to practice the lessons I have learned over the last eight years, thereby being able to replace the “missed opportunity” feeling with assurance that all things work together for good, to them that love God and are called according to His purpose.

After all, there are still plenty of lost, perishing, and wounded out there.

 

Now I know how to title this post 🙂

 

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Filed under baptist, Christian Maturity, Christian Unity, Church, Future, Life Lessons, ministry, Preaching, the future

I Saw a Steeple

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“I Saw a Steeple”

I saw a steeple pointing high, lifting my eyes upward.

I felt the pulling of strings inside, calling me homeward.

Inside the doors were welcome sounds, voices full of joy I heard.

And when the Word of God was read, I went forward.

Not a preacher’s hand to shake, or to drop a dollar in a plate,

But in humble, broken, desperation seeking needed consolation

That the upward, homeward consecration wasn’t over.

Assurance was the welcome sound; the Spirit’s Voice I heard.

So from my knees I stood repaired, repented, marching onward.

– Anthony Baker

 

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Filed under Christianity, Church, poetry

Standing Sure In a Crumbling World

imageOriginally written in 2014, I’m re-posting this in memory of the innocent lives lost in France on Thursday.

World Events

Let’s get real for a moment, shall we? The world seems to be coming apart at the seams right now. Russia and Ukraine are fighting; Israel and Hamas are fighting; ISIS is trying to take over the world; airplanes are crashing or being blown out of the sky; new diseases are popping up everywhere; and more former Disney child stars are choosing to cry out, “I don’t want to be a role model!” while exposing their bare behinds.

Face it, the world is going to hell in a hand basket and Toto has already jumped.

But seriously, as bad as the world is, it’s not like we have Nero for a president. Oh, but wait! America isn’t the only country in the world, you know, and Christians are being killed as often today as they were in the first and second centuries (along with anyone who refuses to yell “Allah Akbar!” as he beheads his sister).

Life Goes On

But even as we look around at a world in turmoil, does that mean we must forget about living? Sure, the temptation might be to down a bottle of Prozac and curl up in a ball, all the while waiting for the first warhead to hit your town.

However, kingdoms rise and fall and nations come and go, yet children still need moms and dads, strangers still need a kind word, and the way we live is still important.

As a matter of fact, right before another group of people’s world was about to be turned upside down, Jesus Christ gave some timeless instruction on living from a hillside (The full text can be found in Matthew, chapters 5-7). His words still apply today. Below are a few excerpts:

“Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.”

“Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.”

“Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.” 

“Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” 

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

“Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.”

“Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” 

Jesus then concluded his sermon with the following encouragement…

“Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock: And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock.” – Matthew 7:24-25

Though the world might be falling apart, we don’t have to. 

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Filed under America, Christian Living, current events, the future