Tag Archives: Legalism

Things to Do In 2019: More Mercy, Compassion, and Grace

I Broke the Law

Oh, I know what you’re probably thinking. Being that I am a Christian, a preacher, and “the recovering legalist,” by breaking the law you think I’m referring to something of a spiritual or biblical nature, like eating pork, or smoking a cigar.

No, I literally broke the law! Like as in a statute recorded in a City Hall – the kind for which a police officer can arrest someone.

What did I do?

Well, this morning I drove my daughter Katie to where she is student teaching in Dayton, Tennessee. She directed me off the main highway and through a part of the town where I rarely visited.

As I came to a 4-way intersection, I looked all over for a stop sign, then up for a traffic light, but I saw nothing (which I thought was odd), so I proceeded cautiously, looking to my left, then right.

That’s when I saw the bright red light. I had just run a red light! I’m a professional driver – I don’t do that kind of thing!

And when you’re in a little 2-horse town, that’s NOT a good thing to do, especially when there’s a budget crunch!

So, why didn’t I see the light? It wasn’t where I expected it to be – nowhere close. It was on the other side of the intersection, about 6-ft off the ground. I just didn’t see it until I crossed the intersection and there it was on my right, shining at me through the passenger-side window.

Breaking Our Laws

Thankfully, there was not a police car anywhere close. I can only hope there were no traffic cameras, or else I’m going to have to pay a fine, for I did, in fact, break a law, and ignorance is no excuse.

But how often do people break OUR laws? And by that I mean the kind of regulations and legalistic standards we all have; the kind that lead us to judge others’ spirituality based on how they dress, the tattoos on their face, or what’s in their glass at the restaurant.

Even when our standards of conduct and demeanor are biblically justified, what if the other person just missed the light at the intersection? What if they never read that verse?

When you have the time, I would encourage you to read or re-read the whole chapter of Romans 14.

If the truth be known, much of the time we find ourselves judging others based on OUR laws and regulations, not the ones the Lawgiver has written. So, in reality, who are we to hold them accountable? It’s not our job.

Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand. – Romans 14:4 ESV

This year I want to criticize less, be less judgmental, and show a little more mercy, compassion, and grace.

I know that’s what I would have wanted when I ran that red light.

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Filed under Christian Maturity, Christianity, Do not judge, grace, legalism

Who Was that Young Man?

I saw a picture of a younger me and wondered what ever happened to him.

Oh, I know what happened to him! He learned what it was like to fall flat on his face, fracture every thing worth treasuring, and fail in his efforts to fix it all with God.

In short, he learned the hard way what Grace was all about.

I’m glad he did.

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What Underground Churches Don’t Worry About

In a sermon I preached not long ago, I made mention of the fact that you never see “First Baptist,” “Methodist,” or “Community Non-Denominational” plastered above an underground church. When all one wants to do is worship God without being imprisoned or killed, denominational distinction is one of the least of their worries.

That led me to think of other things that an underground church might not worry about:

  • The color of the carpet
  • The font on the church bulletin
  • Whether or not they sing a hymn or a praise song
  • Whether or not the pulpit is made of wood or etched glass
  • Cassette tapes or CD’s
  • Bible Versions
  • Post-graduate or seminary training
  • Projection screens
  • Padded pews
  • Pews
  • A family activity building
  • Gold or silver communion accessories
  • How long the worship lasts
  • What people wear
  • Parking
  • Youth activities
  • Revival Meetings

No, I don’t think underground churches ever have time to worry about all these things. They are more concerned with fellowship, encouragement, prayer, reading God’s Word in any version they can get their hands on, and staying alive.

Yet, it would seem we think we are closer to God than the underground, persecuted church because, after all, we have more things to worry about.

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. Jesus  (John 17:20-21)

Maybe we should concentrate more on what really matters…”that the world may believe.”

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Filed under Christian Living, Christian Unity, God, legalism, Uncategorized, worship

What to Wear to Church?

Clothing

Recently, I was asked to be the guest speaker at a larger, more contemporary church. Out of respect for each other, the pastor of that church and I jokingly discussed what I should wear. You see, he never wears a suit, while sometimes I do. His congregation has become more “contemporary,” while my congregation remains more “traditional.” So, to make me comfortable, the pastor told me whatever I wanted to wear was fine.

Therefore, I wore shorts and flip-flops… Just kidding.

The way I dress to go to church may not be the way you dress. My style may not suit your tastes, nor yours mine. But the fact of the matter is that you do wear some kind of clothing to church, correct? Well, have you ever wondered if what you wear to church is appropriate?

Some people have asked that question.

Below are some of my thoughts on the subject.

Keep It Simple

If you are planning to attend a worship service where God is supposed to be the center of attention, don’t dress like a clown! Don’t dress like you are going to a movie premiere in Hollywood, either (that could get expensive in a hurry, not to mention scare the kids).

Some cultures believe people should come to church in clothing that could damage someone’s retina. Gettin’ “fancied up” is what’s expected. But it’s this type of clothing, in many cases, that draws attention to the congregant, not Christ. My advice is to stay away from neon suits and flashing bow ties. Church clothing should be a covering, not a calling card.

Show Respect

Some people think it is totally appropriate to wear enough jewelry and feathers to keep pawn shops in business and all geese naked. Others think it is completely acceptable to look like a drunk that slept in an alley all night (no offense to the drunk). Neither shows a sense of respect. The first steals glory from God, while the second implies the place where we gather to worship is no different than anywhere else.

Think about it this way, for example. Receive an invitation to tea from Queen Elizabeth and show up looking like you just got out of bed and never took a shower. Unless you’re a bonafide rock star, security personnel may escort you to a private room to “get acquainted.” Therefore, if dignitaries of earthly kingdoms demand respect, why shouldn’t we offer it to our Heavenly King?

Just a thought.

Beware of Legalistic Standards

However, whatever you wear, don’t be too quick to judge another person’s spiritual condition by what they wear. Only God knows the heart.

Who art thou that judgest another man’s servant? to his own master he standeth or falleth. Yea, he shall be holden up: for God is able to make him stand. – Rom 14:4 KJV

Sadly, I have been around many believers who consider one style of clothing a sign of spiritual maturity, while another style a sign of spiritual waywardness.  And you know what’s funny? It doesn’t matter which side of the spiritual tracks, there’s always somebody looking at another thinking, “They’re not right with God.”

Legalism cuts both ways, dear friend. For example, I have been to churches that ridiculed any woman who wears pants, or a man who never tucks in his shirt. On the other hand, I have been in congregations that blatantly condemned all dress and tie-wearers as right-wing, self-righteous, fundamentalist, nut jobs. In both cases, someone judged another’s spirituality based on outward appearances, alone. In both cases, one group’s set of standards were being used as a guide to what is mature spiritual behavior, and what is not.

That’s LEGALISM.

Context, Context, Context

Ultimately, how you dress should be determined by the context of your community. Small, rural congregations might not feel comfortable dressing for church in the same way a metropolitan First Baptist may. Similarly, churches in depressed economies may adopt different dress codes than upwardly mobile societies. The key is to be respectful, honorable, and considerate of the holy moment at hand. Whatever fits that bill is good enough.

Just keep this principle in mind:  Grace accepts, Maturity develops, and Love constrains.

Don’t make appearances the only thing about which you’re concerned. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is far too important a message to be drowned in petty arguments about whether it is appropriate to dress up for church, or go dress-casual. Many people in the world have to worship Christ underground – literally. Dress codes are the least of their worries. Additionally, the drug addict who needs hope and help may not have any clothes left that he hasn’t already sold to get high. The single mother of five that walks into your church may have barely enough energy to survive, much less do her hair.

Do all things to the glory of the Lord, but keep things in perspective, OK?

My brothers, as believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ, don’t show favoritism [or be legalistic]. Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in shabby clothes also comes in. If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, “Here’s a good seat for you,” but say to the poor man, “You stand there” or “Sit on the floor by my feet,” have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts? Listen, my dear brothers: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him? – Jam 2:1-5 NIV

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Filed under baptist, Christian Living, Christian Maturity, Christian Unity, Culture Wars, Do not judge, Independent Baptist, legalism, Southern Baptist

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

Why Should We Pray Before Meals?

I don’t know if there are any reliable statistics on the subject, but I would guess that there are still a good many who still pray before they eat. What about you?

Personally, I try to say a short prayer before every meal I eat, sometimes even before something like a sandwich in between regular meals. I call it “saying the blessing,” but you may call it something else, like “returning thanks,” “saying grace,” etc.

Whatever we call it, I’d bet most of us either do it regularly or at least occasionally.

But this past Sunday morning I delivered a sermon which addressed the reasons for praying before a meal, both good and bad – yes, there are bad reasons. Below is both an outline (which didn’t like being translated to WordPress for some reason) and the recording of the actual sermon (which may vary slightly from the outline).

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this subject, so leave a comment. It would be MUCH appreciated 🙂


Click on the picture to listen.

Do You Pray Before Meals? Why?

     Illustration: Boy asking why dad thanks God.

I.       Bad Reasons

a.       Simple Habit… Matthew 6:7 – But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking.

b.      Superstition… Acts 17:22 – Then Paul stood in the midst of Mars’ hill, and said, Ye men of Athens, I perceive that in all things ye are too superstitious.

                  i.      Definition of Superstition: “…a belief or practice resulting from ignorance, fear of the unknown, trust in magic or chance, or a false conception of causation.” (Merriam-Webster.com)

ii.      Earn favor (Ephesians 2:8-9)

iii.      To make it healthy/less harmful (Wrong idea of “blessing”). It’s not an incantation!

II.       Good Reasons (Should go without saying that we should imitate Christ)

a.       Thankful Heart… Ephesians 5:20 – Giving thanks always for all things…  1 Thessalonians 5:18 – In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.

                   i.      “Dark Side of Abundance”

“Those of us who live in prosperous regions of the globe and have never known food scarcity perhaps don’t feel much awe in it… God is kind not to give us heaven, yet. We would not appreciate more than a fraction of it.” –  John Piper

“Complaining about the food we have is a luxury very few have experienced in world history. If we lack gratitude, repentance is the only appropriate response.” – John Piper (https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/why-we-pray-for-our-meals)

ii.      False Assumption of Righteousness… Psalm 37:25 – I have been young, and now am old; yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread.

III.       Recognition of the Provider (1 Chronicles 29:10-13)

a.       Who He Is

b.      That He Provides

IV.       To Be a Witness… Acts 27:35 – And when he had thus spoken, he took bread, and gave thanks to God in presence of them all: and when he had broken it, he began to eat.

           Illustration: Chuck Colson praying at a diner while on a book tour.

1 Corinthians 10:31 – Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.

1 Timothy 4:4-5 – For every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving: For it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer.

NOTE: Sometimes we should pray AFTER a meal.

Deuteronomy 8:10 – When thou hast eaten and art full, then thou shalt bless the LORD thy God for the good land which he hath given thee.

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Filed under Christianity, Food, legalism, Prayer, Preaching

A Sermon On Legalism

You can go to other posts I’ve written and read why some people choose to be legalists. This, however, is a message I preached this past Sunday morning.

Maybe some of you will find it encouraging or helpful.

Click here to listen to “Romans 14: A Sermon On Legalism”

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Filed under Christian Maturity, Church, legalism, Preaching