Pastor John Baldwin
MDiv, MRE, MAR,
ThM Church History, Dmin
 
Senior Pastor at Berea Baptist Church, Rockville, Virginia
Pastor John grew up in Central, Virginia.  He is a graduate of Hampden-Sydney College where he earned a Bachelors in History and Religion.  He is also a graduate of Liberty University, where he earned a Masters of Religious Education, a Masters of Art in Religion, and a Masters of Divinity.  He is currently pursuing a Masters of Religion in Church History, and a Doctorate of Ministry with an Emphasis on Church Planting and Evangelism.  
 
John is married to his wonderful wife Juliet, and they have three sons: Tim, John, and Weston.  He has a passion for sharing the Gospel of Christ with everyone he encounters, and embraces the opportunities that each day brings to share the love of Jesus.   
 
His favorite verse is Romans 8:28—“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who[i] have been called according to his purpose.”

Total Abandonment

Total Abandonment
 
So Elisha left him and went back. He took his yoke of oxen and slaughtered them. He burned the plowing equipment to cook the meat and gave it to the people, and they ate. Then he set out to follow Elijah and became his servant.
1 Kings 19: 21
Have you ever wondered what the word “abandon” means? When we hear that word, immediately we step into a negative mind set. It doesn’t sound as though it could be encouraging or even lead to anything positive at all. And yet, today, we are going to recognize how positive total abandonment can be. According to the dictionary, Abandon is defined as “giving up completely (a course of action, a practice, or a way of thinking).” It’s a recognition of the futility in continuing the same course of action in life.
I happened to be walking across a bridge over the James River a few weeks ago. As I crossed over, I found myself reading the historical quotes of people during the end of the Civil War that were laid out on the boards on the bridge. In April 1865, the war was coming to an end, the city was burning, and uncertainty loomed ahead. One particular gentleman, Confederate Naval Secretary Stephen Mallory, ordered the men under his command to destroy the naval ships that the confederate government had been building in the shipyard near Richmond. They knew that there was no way to continue moving in the direction that they were going, and so they destroyed the only thing that they had known, so that they might find purpose ahead of them.
That quote (command that he gave) reminded me of the story of Elijah and Elisha in 1 Kings 19. Elijah was the prophet of God. The time had come when God was going to point out and set aside who Elijah’s successor would be as the prophet to the people of God. Chaos had erupted among God’s people, but now He was bringing about restoration. There was going to be a great season of rebirth and renewal. Elisha was going to be part of that restorative plan, but it was going to take a willingness on his part to look forward and trust.
Elisha was wealthy. He came from a background that was financially very successful. How do we know that? In chapter 19, Elijah comes to Elisha while he is working the oxen in the field. At first glance, that might not sound like a big deal. But we have to remember the time period and the culture. To have one set of oxen to work your field, clearly illustrated that person was wealthy. Yet, Elisha didn’t have just one set of oxen. He had 12. Not only was Elisha wealthy, he had more wealth than just about anyone around him. Elisha would never have to worry about anything financial in his entire life. It was almost sickening how much material wealth he possessed.
While Elisha is working in the field, Elijah simply walks up to him and throws his cloak over him. At that moment, Elisha had a choice to make. He had to decide if he would continue to follow down the path of life he was on right then, which no doubt would have seen tremendous wealth and material prosperity; or he would surrender to the path that God was laying out for Him, filled with uncertainty. In a split second he had to make a decision that would alter the course of his life forever.
Elisha chose the path of complete and total abandonment. He surrendered to God and followed Him, even with the reality of an uncertain path and an uncertain future. When he had the oxen killed and the plows destroyed, He threw away every possibility of retreat. He knew that He was going to follow God and His plan forever, or die trying. There was a trust that what God had for Him was going to guide him to the purpose for which he was born!
Today, too many of us are unwilling to throw away and destroy every possibility of retreat. We see the word Abandon, and we immediately head down a path of death and destruction, as though God had no idea what He was doing. We assume that when He asks us to live a life of abandonment, it will only lead to our demise. My friends, God is calling us forward, and that requires abandonment. We have to abandon our ways of doing things that stand in opposition to God. We have to be willing to move forward even if we don’t see a way of retreat! I want to encourage you to embrace God’s plan for your life. Live life with a total abandonment to your own ideas and thoughts and embrace the purpose for which you were created–to Glorify God.

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Fix

 
There are several types of people in the world. When you start looking at Personalities, you see that there are Type A, B, C, and D people.
Type A people are go getters who are high achievers. They see challenges and embrace them.
Type B people are more relaxed and social. The enjoy relationships and are more consistent.
Type C people are perfectionists who love to abide by rules. They find fulfillment in obedience.
Type D people are sensitive to others and define themselves as being realists.
Looking at those four groups, you might have to ask yourself which groups you fall into.
Personally, I am the type A person who loves to work hard and embrace challenges. I like to see each obstacle as an opportunity, because I enjoy the chance to FIX what might be wrong. Maybe you have the same personality. Maybe not. Each personality is unique and each person is a gift from God, who has been created for a purpose.
When we examine the word FIX, what do we see? The word itself means, “fasten (something) securely in a particular place or position.” The idea is that something is out of place, and must be locked down, so that everything will function properly. If I fix the picture fastener on the wall, I am making sure that it does not move so that the picture will hang securely at the appropriate height. If I FIX my car, I am making sure that the knocking going on in my engine isn’t a loose nut or bolt that can cause some serious damage. We all understand those meanings. They make sense, because to fix something means to bring about stability and correction, so that problems are eliminated.
That same truth exists in our relationship with Christ. In the day and age we live in, with all that is going on around us, we find ourselves burdened. Life seems to be knocking us all over the place, and we are uncertain of the outcome. And the problems we face, can’t be FIXed by us. The Bible gives us some pretty clear advice on what to do at times like these:
You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you!
Isaiah 26:3
“Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise” (NLT).
Philippians 4:8
If you want to FIX something, FIX your eyes on Jesus, but He is where peace and joy begin.
And when we FIX our eyes on Jesus, what do we see—we see compassion and grace. We see hope and love. We see forgiveness and empathy. We see perseverance and patience. We see all of the things that we were created to be. The cure for all that ails us lies in the reality of who Jesus is. Let us surrender to that today, and not be overcome by fear or doubt. He will guide us through this time of uncertainty, so let us trust Him each and every day!
Challenge:
Begin by simply sitting in the presence of the King. Let His peace surround you as you acknowledge that there is nowhere else you would rather be! Seek nothing but His presence, and allow Him to fill you. Breathe in deep the hope that comes from being His child!
Then spend the next 5 minutes praying for ways that you might provide hope and comfort during the day today! Trust that He wants to use you, and allow Him that freedom.
Finally, do a few things to give hope. Here are a few suggestions!
a. Call or text five friends today to check on them and make sure they are doing ok.
b. Find an elderly friend or neighbor who needs groceries or a ride to the pharmacy and help them out.
c. Buy a gift card for a local business so that they can have a little assistance during this difficult time.
d. Go for a walk, or jog, or bike ride.
e. Pray. Trust. Love

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Darkness

Darkness
 
20 Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance.
John 20:1
 
I’m not a big fact of darkness. I don’t like hanging out in the dark, and I certainly don’t like sitting in relationship darkness. The most difficult time of the year from me is the winter—not because I don’t love the snow, Christmas, beautiful lights, or cooler weather; but simply because the days are so much shorter, and darkness seems to dominate!
 
Regardless of those facts, and even though I don’t like it, I still have to remember that God is working in the midst of it. I was reading in John 20 the other day. This is the part of the story where Jesus has died and been buried. It’s the first day of the week, Sunday, and Mary is on her way to the tomb. Jesus has been gone for a few days and nothing seems to be the same. In fact, to those who were following Jesus, the world has been turned upside down.
 
It wasn’t supposed to be this way. Jesus’ followers thought that He was going to be the one who saved them. Jesus was the messiah that they had longed for; the one they had prayed for; the one they had so desperately waited for. And yet just a few days earlier he breathed his last breathe. He had been wrapped and placed in the tomb that wasn’t even his.
 
From every conceivable and logical notion, the movement and change that Jesus had begun was laid to rest with Him in the tomb. His disciples were gathering in secret, unsure of what to do next. I can imagine despair and confusion overwhelmed every thought that crossed through their minds. And there was an uncertainty about the future and a fear that they might be next. Darkness swarmed them! Impossibilities overwhelmed them!
 
So often when life seems out of control and beyond comprehension we stop and settle into fear. The darkness causes us to pause and examine if we are truly stepping in the right direction.
Mary showed us how to respond in the darkness. On this morning, she made a choice. She returned to what she knew. She returned to the last time and the last location where she had seen her savior. She returned to where she knew He was, even if the circumstances were not what she thought they were to be. And she did all of that in the darkness.
Think about this. Mary was going to see Jesus. She had no idea He was alive. She had no idea that He had been raised. She had no idea that death had been defeated. She had no idea that there was any hope at all. She even knew that Roman soldiers were stationed at the tomb. What was she going to do when she got there? None of that seemed to matter. She moved forward in the darkness towards Jesus.
She set an example for all of us. Even in the darkness where there don’t appear to be any answers and logical understanding has bypassed everyone and everything, we are to trust in Jesus. He will bring us out of the darkness and into the light. He will restore our hope and bring joy to our lives. He will establish a peace in your soul that will not be moved. Embrace Him today! In the darkness move towards Him and He will change everything.

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Give a Hand, Not a Suggestion

Give a hand, not a suggestion!
 
This phrase slapped me right in the face this morning as hard as the cold wind coming off the river. There is no doubt we live in a pretty hostile age.
 
Everyone seems to be so negative to everyone else. It seems as if we can’t make a decision throughout our day that doesn’t get criticized or critiqued by someone else. Don’t get me wrong, sometimes I need a gentle reminder from a friend or a nudge by someone I trust to move me in the right direction. But so often it never happens that way!
 
On the flip side of that, we don’t have an issue at all in telling people how they have messed up! We are quick to give an action plan for recovery and improvement, without even taking the time to listen to why a person made a decision.
 
My point in all that is to say that we are all going to mess up. We are all going to make poor decisions. We are all going to do things that we wished we would could change. So let’s start extending a hand of grace and mercy and stop giving out complaints cards or suggestion emails.
Matthew 5:7 says, “blessed are those who are merciful, for they shall be shown mercy”. The next time you find yourself heading into negative town, pause for a moment and remember that the person you are talking to, no matter what job or position they might have, could be hanging on by a thread. Show kindness and mercy. I promise you it will change everything!

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Start a Fire

So Elisha left him and went back. He took his yoke of oxen and slaughtered them. He burned the plowing equipment to cook the meat and gave it to the people, and they ate. Then he set out to follow Elijah and became his servant.

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So It Begins!

SO IT BEGINS! We are here! You have battled for far too long and wonder if you will survive the fight. The weight of fear lingers, and you are seeking a glimmer of hope! Restoration is longed for! You may doubt it is possible! You may fear that you will never see it! You may feel that all is lost and life will continue down a path of confusion, doubt and despair! You stare at the challenges in front of you, and you have no idea how you will make it through them. Rest assured my friend, there is hope! Rest assured that these are the circumstances that God does not shy away from, because these are the times where we look to Him, and Him alone for Restoration! Let us walk boldly into the battle—“So it Begins!”
 
The purpose of these posts is to help us recognize how God is working in and through our lives!  We are in this battle together!  You are not alone!  Let us embrace each day as an opportunity to experience Him in an entirely fresh and new way!  Know that you are being prayed for!  

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