Tag Archives: preaching

No Place for Favoritism

This past Sunday I delivered the fourth sermon in a series through the book of James. The text I covered was James 2:1-13.

If we would only heed the words of James, many criticisms of the Church would disappear.

Let me know what you think 🙂

Click on the picture for a link to the sermon audio.

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Filed under Christianity, Church, Preaching

What Is a “Blessing”?

Earlier this week I posted a question on Facebook:

If I could offer you your choice – if you’d just come to church just once – of either $1,000 or a blessing from God, would you come?

I got a few responses, but one friend, Michael Wheeler, decided to probe a little, asking if I could define what a “blessing” actually is.

The answer seems obvious, but how do you define “blessing”? That word is thrown around with no real meaning. – Michael Wheeler

I gave a typical tongue-in-cheek response:

True. I know a thousand dollars would surely BE a blessing right now 

Michael followed that response with how that he had asked “countless pastors and laypersons who overuse that word to define it, but have never gotten a satisfactory answer.” He then went on to say that the use of the word “sounds good,” but carries with it “no real meaning.”  “Other than salvation,” he proposed, “we have no other ‘blessings’ or promised things over what unbelievers experience.

Well, in fun I replied to Michael Wheeler’s question with:

Do you even own a box of crayons?

As expected (because Michael is usually a very serious kind of guy), he answered with:

Nope… Is that the extent of your definition of “blessing”?

That is when – after a brief distraction – I wrote the following:

No, not hardly. I got distracted by other things. I only asked that because sometimes I feel like you see things only in black and white – not as in truth claims, but in what you see. For instance, I never read fiction, but then I read “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe”…it added color to the pallet of my spiritual imagination. Lewis didn’t teach me any new truth, but he added shades of color to what I could already see.

Much of what I would call “blessings” are those moments when the Spirit opens the eyes of my understanding and allows me to see the beauty of a Truth in a new shade. In some ways, it’s like God takes me into His art gallery and amazes me with a new painting of the same scene. I’m speaking in terms of spiritual imagination, of course… the box of crayons.

We are blessed every day by the goodness of God. That goes for everyone who enjoys the providential care of the Creator (it rains on the just and the unjust). But we are also blessed in that we have a Father who not only gave us salvation but continues to give us bread instead of stones. He is the one who will one day bring us close to Himself and share with us that little white stone with a name on it only the two of us will know – that’s true intimacy. So, many blessings are no less than those moments when we enter into worship – corporately or privately – and sense the real presence of the Holy Spirit reassuring us of the truth that He will never leave us or forsake us, that His grace is sufficient for every need. I could go on and on.

If I had the time to sit down do a more meticulous study of the definition of “blessing,” I’m sure you’d find the result more satisfying to your particular taste. However, what I’ve just described for you is the practical and real-world look at how I see it. Simply put, many times getting a “blessing” may be nothing more than being brought the realization of how good, merciful, and gracious our Father is. If He throws in a thousand dollars, well, that’s a bonus.

Excellent answer,” wrote Mr. Wheeler.

That’s why I thought it would be worth sharing with you!

What do you think? How would you define a “blessing”? 

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Filed under Church, Love of God, salvation

Call It All James

This morning (Sunday) I am beginning a new sermon series through the book of James. It will be a verse-by-verse expository series and one that I’m excited about.

If everything goes well I will be posting recordings of the sermons on my “Sermon Archive” page. I’d like to post them on the same day they’re preached, but editing takes a little time, so give it a day or two (like Monday or Tuesday) before expecting to see them.

UPDATE: Click HERE to go to the Sermon Archive page.

One of the main themes – if not THE main theme – in James is the idea of enduring while having our faith tested. So many people get discouraged when their faith is tried by circumstances, yet James reminds us to “count it all joy” (James 1:2).

Another reason James writes is to offer practical instruction on displaying a living faith through what we do. James argues that “faith without works is dead,” meaning that a living faith does something.

So, in this upcoming series of sermons, as I try to exegete the letter of James to those “scattered abroad,” I hope you will be encouraged to keep your faith as you work it out for others to see.

If you don’t regularly attend a church, and if you’re a little skeptical of the big TV-type ministries, I would encourage you to visit the website of the church where I pastor. Go to http://www.SouthSoddyBaptist.org. It’s not a big website, but it’s growing in content – simple, basic stuff meant to encourage and keep things real.

Have a great Lord’s Day!

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Filed under Christian Maturity, Christianity, Church, Preaching, wisdom

We Preach Jesus! (A Revival Sermon In Africa)

Revival

It has been two years since I went to Zimbabwe. I went there to preach in a series of revival services in two different Baptist churches, both of which were started along with several others by Chinhoyi Baptist in Chinhoyi, Zimbabwe. Of course, preaching wasn’t all I did; I went with different pastors into various villages, visiting and praying with Christians, evangelizing those who’d never heard the gospel.

The other reason I went to Zimbabwe was to get revived myself. I needed this trip! And, praise be to God, it was life-changing!

Here are some photos from different services.

People starting to show up for church. River of Life met in a tent in a member's front yard.

People starting to show up for church. River of Life met in a tent in a member’s front yard.

image

Worshiping Sunday morning at Dolomite Baptist.

Worshiping Sunday morning at Dolomite Baptist.

Lively and energetic African worship at Chinhoyi Baptist.

Lively and energetic African worship at Chinhoyi Baptist.

Being introduced at Chinhoyi Baptist.

Being introduced at Chinhoyi Baptist.

The Final Service

The final service in which I preached was at Chinhoyi Baptist Church. It was a celebratory farewell service where all of the churches which had hosted our team of three (Dr. Eddy Rushing, Marshall Kellett, and myself) came together as one. And man, was it a service!

The honor was mine to be selected to preach the final service, and what an honor it was. Dr. Rushing and Bro. Kellett were responsible for personally leading scores of people to Christ during this trip, so who was I to be the one to preach? Nevertheless, they asked me, and I jumped at it!

The beginning of the service was full of extremely lively music and dancing – not something the average Baptist in America is used to 😉 When all of that was over, the music shifted to hymns. Dr. Rushing and Bro. Kellett both gave stirring testimonies before the final hymn “Higher Ground” (sung in the native language of Shona) set the tone for the sermon to follow.

Oh, Rev. Luckmann Chiasaru was my interpreter for this service, and man was he good! He even sang with me! Awesome!

Chinhoyi Baptist Church in Chinhoyi, Zimbabwe. This congregation hopes to plant a total of 50 new churches in 10 years. They're well on their way!

Chinhoyi Baptist Church in Chinhoyi, Zimbabwe. This congregation hopes to plant a total of 50 new churches in 10 years. They’re well on their way!

The following was recorded on an iPhone 6s, then edited on Audacity. I wish it could have been a better recording, but it was all I had. I pray it is a blessing 🙂

CLICK HERE for link to the audio of “We Preach Jesus!”


I went to Zimbabwe to get revived – and I did. Now, if you’d let me, I’d love to come share a little of what God’s given me over the last 2 years with your congregation.

You can reach me at pastoracbaker@yahoo.com., or call 423-645-8884.

 

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Filed under baptist, Countries, Preaching, worship

I’d Like to Share What I Have

This will be quick.

If you or your church is in the planning stages or considering scheduling a series of “revival” meetings, I’d love for you to keep me in mind.

Don’t get me wrong, I love doing what I do as Pastor of South Soddy Baptist Church. However, I am also available to preach and share my passion for God and His Kingdom with you and your congregation. Silver and gold have I none, but what I do have I’d love to share…I have a story of hope, courage, faith, and the One who will make all the difference – Jesus!

Sometimes it helps to hear someone who is stirred up in order to get stirred up 🙂

You can email me at PastorACBaker@yahoo.com

God bless!

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Filed under baptist, Church, ministry, Preaching

So, you want to be a pastor?

With so much being posted on social media these days, even those in ministry have available to them a plethora of helps, lists, and general advice from experienced clergy folk.

Much of what is shared on Facebook and Twitter are written by the “pro’s” in ministry research like Thom S. Rainer, or long-time veterans of ministry like Joe McKeever. What rarely gets shared are articles and posts written by ordinary guys like me – probably because we aren’t professional authors or researchers.

Last week I had the opportunity to hear a friend of mine preach at a church that is considering him for the role of senior pastor. Therefore, I want to share some helpful hints from an old-school, bi-vocational, small-church, in-the-trenches pastor with no access to research teams, only personal experience, and some common sense.

Hopefully, my friend (and others) will find the following 10 points helpful.

10 Words of Wisdom for Those Entering the Pastorate

  1. Get a biblical education. Seriously, it doesn’t matter if the school is only a rag-tag, non-accredited hole in the ground, get an education from someplace that will teach you how to study the Bible by making you study the Bible. Those who call a seminary a “cemetery” are nothing more than illiterate bigots who should be avoided – unless you want to show them how to get saved.
  2. Listen to your wife. I know, sometimes wives have actually been the reason men have left the ministry. However, a good, godly wife will offer you insight that no one else can. She really does have an intuition that sees what our eyes can’t. She is also going to be the only one in the church you can trust 100%
  3. Don’t think every sermon needs to be alliterated. Guys, not every sermon is best delivered with four points, all alliterated with a certain letter or phonetic sound. Sometimes the best way to outline your sermon is just go with the way the Scripture leads.
  4. Be a sheepdog. Do whatever it takes to arm yourself with the knowledge necessary to protect not only those in your church but your own family. Be prepared to fight – literally – for those you love. Always be on the lookout for wolves in sheep’s clothing, especially sexual predators. Believe me, I wish I’d prepared better.
  5. Draw your lines in the sand early on – the earlier the better. Don’t wait for church trouble to draw your lines in the sand. Don’t wait until you are in a struggle with disagreeing leadership before you say, “This is the way it’s going to be.” Start early by saying that…be the thermostat, not the thermometer.
  6. Learn to preach without notes. There’s going to come a time when you need to preach and you won’t have time to prepare an outline. There is going to come a time when you are asked to preach a funeral or a revival service, and all you will have is your Bible. Read it…learn it…know it…and be able to preach from it without a man-made crutch.
  7. Check your pride. The day you go up to the pulpit all cocky, that’s the day you will be an utter failure. Ascend to the “sacred desk” with your knees shaking under the weight of the seriousness of what you’re doing and you will come down humble, but confident God’s Word will not return void. As long as you are humble and dependent on God, that’s when even the most basic of sermons can shake the foundations of hell itself.
  8. Don’t grow too dependent on technology. Men, there may come a day when we don’t have the internet, iPads, microphones, and projection screens. At any moment you could lose one or all of those things, so learn to prepare and to preach like the great warriors of the past – because history has a tendency to repeat itself.
  9. Love your family more than your ministry. You’ve probably heard it said before, but it’s true; your family is your first and most important ministry, not the congregation you serve. Don’t lose your wife or kids for the sake of any church.
  10. Never stop studying and learning. Even if you go to Bible school and seminary, never think you’ve learned enough. Always be learning, reading, researching, and studying. If George Washington Carver could squeeze all he did out of the lowly peanut (to the glory of God), imagine how much you will be able to find if you keep digging deeper into the Holy Writ!

So, there you have it. Do you have some words of wisdom you’d like to share? Why not write them in the comment section below? I’m sure we all could benefit from our collective experiences.

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Filed under ministry, Preaching

Preach Civility At the Very Least!

To be honest, I’ve had people tell me that I preach too much politics from the pulpit. Some of them have been members of churches where I pastored, and some of them have left to find other places to worship (presumably). But if you think I’m going to apologize at this point, you’re mistaken.

I have nothing to apologize for (not even for ending this sentence with a preposition – which I despise, by the way). Despite what the complainers may say, I don’t stand behind a pulpit and tell people whom to vote for or what party to which they should belong. When the subject needs to be addressed, or especially when it falls in line with a topic within an expositional study of Scripture, what I do is address the issue from a biblical position so that believers know what the Bible has to say. After all, if the Word of God is to be our rule and guide for life, shouldn’t it guide the way we act as citizens?

During the last presidential election cycle I never once told anyone to vote against Hillary Clinton and for another candidate. However, I did not hide what I believed would happen, specifically to the churches of America, should Hillary Clinton be elected president, and I based that entirely on her statements and precedent set by the past administration. But at the same time (and I have the recording to prove it), when preaching through the book of Acts, I came to the passage where Paul dealt with an oracle that had a “pythian spirit” and warned against the dangers of electing a man who considered Paula White a spiritual counselor.

The fact of the matter is that, as a shepherd, a pastor has the responsibility to not only preach biblical truth but to apply that truth in the context of the lives of the congregation. After all, why teach of the “sufficiency of Scripture” if I don’t practice what I preach by offering Scripture as a guide for every-day decisions? Especially when those decisions can have a real and tangible bearing on the future of the whole congregation!

Yet, there will be those who disagree with me. They will condemn any preacher like me who dares address any subject that might overlap with an official party platform. Even the appearance of disagreeing with a politician’s actions or beliefs will be used as an opportunity to say that I’m too political.

Is it too political to preach against slavery?

Is it too political to preach the dignity of humanity as the result of being made in the image of God?

Is it too political to preach that women and men are of equal value, not only before God but in the Church?

Is it too political to preach that Jesus loves children and doesn’t want them – or widows – to starve?

Is it considered too political to preach against killing infants in the womb? Evidently.

Is it too political to preach against infidelity, lying, immorality, etc.? Depends. If it’s about Donald Trump, then it’s all good.

Is it too political to call for prayers of peace? To pray for our leaders? During the Trump administration, evidently yes. Now, if I were to be like another pastor who said, “God d**n America!”, that would be just fine.

But I digress.

What about civility? What about praying for our leaders? What about loving our enemies? What about giving our enemies food when they are hungry and something to drink when they thirst? Again, that’s all too political if you don’t support same-sex marriage, abortion, transgender scout leaders, sex education in kindergarten, and anything else that winds up falling under the liberal left’s rainbow umbrella.

But now we have elected officials and public media calling for harassment, abuse, and even harm against anyone remotely connected with the current administration. Does the Bible have anything to say about that? And, if the Bible does address these issues in clear and blunt language, isn’t it worth preaching?

Bless them that curse you, and pray for them which despitefully use you.  – Luke 6:28

I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, [and] giving of thanks, be made for all men;  For kings, and [for] all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty.  For this [is] good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour;  Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth. – 1 Timothy 2:1-4

Recompense to no man evil for evil. Provide things honest in the sight of all men. If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men. Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but [rather] give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance [is] mine; I will repay, saith the Lord. Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head. Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good. – Romans 12:17-21

I guess if Jesus and Paul said it, it must be too political.

But I don’t preach politics; I preach the Word.

I charge [thee] therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom; Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away [their] ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables. – 2 Timothy 4:1-4

That’s the real reason people get upset. I really hate it for them. I really do.

But I have a charge, and I must give an account to God, not man. So, I will preach.

Would to God we had more pastors who’d do the same.

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Filed under America, politics, Preaching, Uncategorized